A Critical Defeat
Lolicon. Even if she knew what that word meant, it took her a few moments to properly process what he had said.
Shirley’s knowledge of the word ‘lolicon’ was due to it being a topic commonly brought up at parent association meetings held at the school, a term used for sex offenders.
When she had heard about such people who were attracted to children sometimes trying to abduct, sexually assault and in the case of the worst of the worst degenerates, even kill said children at times, Shirley’s usually calm face had inadvertently twisted in anger.
Shirley will etch it onto her heart as many times as need be said that Sophie and Tio are like angels in her eyes. And such cute daughters would surely be an irresistible target for such degenerates. That was part of the reason why Shirley had put so much effort and time into finding ways and magical tools to protect them.
Eventually, however, she learned that lolicons who actually openly commit such crimes were a minority. In fact, until this day, no such lustful beasts had ever appeared before Sophie and Tio, and Shirley had even held out hope that her girls would fall outside of their ‘strike range’ before anything could happen.
However… If such a lolicon really has appeared before her daughters, then as a doting parent it would be fitting to say that man would become her mortal enemy.
Thus, the only thing that remained was for Shirley to strike down that foe in front of her.
In a flash, the Demonic White Sword covered the ground between them as if she had manipulated the very space itself to her whim. Crowley jumped backwards to dodge in reaction, but the tip of her blade sliced open the front of his neck.
But, that wound closed shut in less than a second, the newly bloodstained suit of his returning to its originally brilliant white in that same instant. Had he not been a semi-immortal, his corpse would have already become dust to the wind… It seemed that the pain of having his neck torn open hadn’t affected him like a normal human either, as he stood laughing slightly outside the reach of Shirley’s blade.
“Huhuhuhu… That speed of yours truly is magnificent. To be able to take me off guard before I can properly react, this is my first time seeing such a splendid display of swordsmanship.”
“…Do you have any other last words?”
But, Shirley didn’t care at all for his praise.
There was only one thought that ran through her mind right now… That head of Crowley’s, who so openly stated his desire to defile her daughters, just how best could she crush it?
She had long since passed the point of anger, her face a mask of ice. It was the face of divine carnage that she wore when the only thing that occupied her mind was the death of her opponent.
“Oho! Do not think the same trick shall work twice!”
The arcs of her blade drew a cross in the air. As those strikes intended to chop him into four pieces sliced through where he just stood, Crowley seemed to disappear entirely, suddenly appearing high in the sky.
It must have been a form of spatial magic. As Shirley looked up at Crowley, those all-seeing eyes of hers gleaming in the dark, the Phantom Thief grinned fearlessly.
“Not even a single opening… Well, of course, it is hardly befitting the gentleman thief to take the treasures’ guard head on. For now, I shall have to come up with a new ploy, so that on the next night of the summer solstice festival the Phantom Thief can show you what he really has up his sleeve.”
“The next, you say? Au contraire, you do not truly think such a thing exists for you, hm~?”
Just as the Crowley was going to toss yet another calling card at Shirley’s feet, suddenly a voice sounded out of the darkness, accompanied with four large sigils appearing in the air around the thief, each emitting a brilliant hot ray of light.
Crowley’s entire body bar his head was completely reduced to a rain of ash, his floating face carrying a pained grimace, before his body and costume completely regenerated in the next moment.
Those beams and sigils had all shined with a golden sparkle.
“My goodness, it has been quite some time, no? You wouldn’t be so senile yet to have forgotten my charm, have you, Arsene Crowley?”
“…My, my. To think that the biggest obstacle would take to the stage so soon before her cue. Mayhap you have a little bird singing you an unpleasant song?”
“Naturally, not that there is any need to obscure that songbird’s name. From the very day her escort began, Shirley and yours truly have been in contact through magic.”
The Golden Witch, Canary, grinned widely at the prey that had once escaped her snares so many years ago, the Phantom Thief, a hint of sadism on her lips.
The situation had been completely turned on its head. With Shirley fighting from the front and Canary supporting her in the rear, Crowley was caught like a rat in the trap against a duo that offered no escape or recourse.
“To think that the two most powerful adventurers of the guild should stand side by side against me… Why, I may truly be in a pinch?”
“A pinch? Hm~, I think that rather undersells it. To either be caught by me and become a subject in a few experiments I had in mind or be caught by Shirley and have your brain sliced apart in an instant, those are the two choices remaining to you.”
As a number of golden magic sigils lit up the sky behind Canary’s back, Shirley let go of the ceremonial blades she had been using until now and summoned Ig-Alima and Sul-Sugana with menacing silence, a whirlwind of magical energy crackling with red sparks causing her white hair to billow and wave like raging rapids.
Her thoughts moved to the alternate worlds that could be created through the combinations of those two swords, The Seven Heavenly Prisons. She would lock Crowley away in a world that could be bent to her whims, a place from which not even he could escape.
“Oho! I don’t think I can let that be!”
“Haa!? The arrogance to think that such petty magic could outdo my own!?”
Canary counteracted Crowley’s spatial magic with spatial magic of her own almost immediately.
For the witch called who stood above all other magic casters, to go up against anyone else trying to use her self-professed speciality was mere child’s play. Any true tactician would have given up trying to do that before they had even begun.
That was merely a fact. As great a mage as Crowley was, some might say even a master of spatial magic, that power of his still paled compared to Canary. At best, he might be able to hold off either Canary or Shirley alone for a short while.
“…What!? This presence…?!”
But, at the moment that Canary had been distracted by Crowley’s magic, she had left a gap. A pitch black meteor, travelling at a speed far surpassing the sound barrier, took advantage of that opportunity as it ploughed straight into Shirley.
Shirley brought up her blades at the same time to block the impact. However, she underestimated just how much force was behind the sudden attack, as Shirley was blasted off the side of the castle.
“A dark… mounted lancer…!?”
Its true form finally revealed… No, it was more like she had finally perceived the true nature of that meteor as a massive black mount and its rider. Shirley had tried to stand her ground, but…
(It completely overpowered my defense… Kuh!)
As Shirley moved in midair, the trajectory of the pursuing lance shifted in mid-air. As if to completely control her movement, as Shirley thrust at the lancer with a counter-riposte the point of their spear caught the tip of her sword, driving her backwards with force.
Incredible strength coupled with amazing martial ability. As Shirley was completely driven out of the royal capital by the sheer force of this sudden attacker pressing their lance point against her blade, they travelled over a plain before gravity finally brought them down into a dense wood. Only then was Shirley able to free herself from that driving force, jumping backwards to fully behold her opponent.
“Snow white hair and two differing eyes… With blades the colours to match. I take it that you are the ‘Demonic White Sword’, Shirley?”
Only the moon and the stars illuminated the dark forest they faced one another in, yet that huge man’s black armour still gleamed out of the shadows, as he sat astride a dragon far larger than the tamed ones she was used to from the guild.
It was as if the man embodied the darkness that surrounded him. Aside from his entirely black plate armour that covered his body from head to toe, he also held a large black pavise on his left that was completely unadorned, forged only for the pragmatisms of battle. The tip of the massive lance he pointed at Shirley didn’t waver at all, no matter how huge it was nor accounting for the deep breaths of the giant dragon he rode upon.
For Shirley, the woman with the white hair who so often dressed to match, the fact that this man seemed like her exact opposite was not lost on her.
The present-day living legend… The warrior of the lance said to be a match for an army, the one who was praised as even being a match for the Demonic White Sword…
“The Black Saintly Spear, Marion…!”
“We may know each other’s names, but this is the first time we meet face to face, my nemesis! Now, en garde!”
The white and black became blurs of movement at the same time.
The thrust of the black lance interspersed with flashes of azure and crimson echoed through the forest and tore up the earth between them.
Yet moments before their clash, back at the castle, another development entirely was taking place.
“The Black Saintly Spear… I see, were you forewarned that Shirley would be assigned as an escort, so you also brought on some muscle?”
“Fufufu. All I needed to do was mention the possibility of fighting the Demonic White Sword and he answered the casting call straight away. That woman is far too troublesome to let run riot, wouldn’t you say?”
Truly, it may have made things difficult. She had tried to keep the matter of the escort request on a strictly need-to-know basis, but one way or another the news had made its way to Crowley’s ear. Ever since Marion and his mount had blown Shirley away from the battlefield in a burst of energy and power, Crowley had been grinning from ear to ear as well.
But, if you considered it from Canary’s perspective, Shirley had also managed to take Marion out of the fight by occupying him far away. If Canary could simply corner Crowley one-on-one like this, she would have her victory all the same.
“Well? How do you rate your chances now, you third rate sorcerer? All you need to do is defeat yours truly to see your wild aspirations become reality.”
The once clear night sky was now distorted by tears in the very fabric of space. Emerging from them, as if in response to the undisguised intent of the Golden Witch, barely contained rays of magical energy and blazing rocks swirled like a raging storm behind her.
With a mere wave of her fingers, she could unleash an apocalyptic hellfire down on Crowley that would reduce him to a fine red mist. Even if he tried to escape using spatial magic, that was useless against Canary’s unparalleled mastery of the craft.
“To defeat you… Well, when it comes to that gamble, the odds are truly long indeed.”
“All I wish to do is take those girls that are the true treasures of this dreary world away with me before the end of the Summer Solstice Festival. There is no need to fight either you or that sword demon at all.”
“Well then, what do you plan to do? You hardly think that I am merely going to sit back and watch, do you?”
Canary’s eyes narrowed.
“You may have escaped me once, but I will tell you now that there will not be a second time. No matter what that ability of yours might be.”
“Oh no, with sleight of hand and enigmatic tricks, to take centre stage and keep the audience enraptured is the true essence of the Phantom Thief! On this wonderful night, let me take you by the hand and show you a land of pleasant dreams!”
The gemstone that Crowley procured from his breast pocket shone like the sun, so bright it was hard to look directly at it. Canary avoided her eyes being burned by covering them with her arms, but when she looked again the familiar scenery of the night sky over the royal capital had completely disappeared.
“Channeling and containing an entire magical space within a medium as small as a gemstone? You were capable of such magic?”
She saw through the nature of Crowley’s sorcery instantly. At once, she began directing her golden magic sigils towards the gemstone he still held, prepared to completely destroy the key to this new prison.
But, just as she was about to snap her fingers and unleash hellfire, she suddenly heard the voice of a man behind her… One that she so dearly missed.
Canary’s descendants had spread all across the world during the past millennia. They had become receptionists, secretaries, adventurers and even demon kings.
The fact that she has such descendants could only mean that she once had a child herself. And that such a child could exist meant that there was also someone she once held dear.
She turned around slowly, her lips trembling. And as she did, she beheld a figure of a man who hadn’t left her thoughts for even a single day over the past thousand years.
The reason she had become a semi-immortal. Confused and upset by that man’s sudden appearance, her heart stormed between intense feelings of loathing and longing… Yet as they were, her mind and body were completely entrapped within this magical space.