Ami jumped to her feet, dropping into a combat stance as the Reaper approached. The oppositely-aligned magic radiating out of the temple gates behind her exerted a mild repulsive force. No help from that side, at least for her. "Snyder! Get in there!" she shouted, waving with her left hand toward the open doors.
"But-" the redhead hesitated, taking a step backwards.
"NOW!" That finally got the desired direction, and she watched him hurry toward the building's interior. The priest was staring at the approaching demon, face pale and mouth agape. Snyder grabbed his sleeve and pulled him inside as he passed. "Don't just stand there! Wake the other monks! Sound the bells!"
Each of the Reaper's steps caused the surface of the ponds to vibrate as he stomped forward, scythe raised high and confident in his victory. "You can't run this time, you pathetic little worm! I will have your head!" The monster broke into a run.
"How rude!" Ami's heart was beating rapidly, and her lips were merely a thin, determined line as she concentrated on getting out of the situation alive. Behind the Reaper, the pillar of flame he had arrived in faded in intensity as the wind blew it apart, but it was still bright enough to illuminate the small park around the temple of the Light. The senshi's thoughts were racing. She didn't have her Keeper powers, which meant that she had no way to rapidly move herself around by possessing her creatures. Not that this method would have worked in the first place, as the city was not unclaimed territory, but it would have been nice to get out if things went wrong. Ami's reflections were cut short by the need to act as the looming form of her opponent barrelled down on her, mouth twisted into a vicious snarl.
Ami ripped off her cloak and dodged backward, throwing the grey garment over her opponent. She heard a whistling sound and felt cold metal graze her skin just below her right armpit. The scythe had passed underneath the arm still lifted from her throw, horizontally bisecting the floating cloak. Ami stumbled, but was fortunate enough that the upper half of the fabric hit its intended target, and the glowing yellow orbs set into the Reaper's face disappeared under the cloth. Even blinded, the monster continued its charge, lowering his head like a rampaging steer. The tactic would work too, Ami realised, if he slammed into her and trampled her under these bucket-sized armoured hooves! He was too wide and too close already to jump aside, so she did the only thing she could do, and ducked low. A desperate lunge forward, aimed at the gap between his moving legs, carried her behind him, but not before her thighs collided with the hard metal of the greaves covering the demon's knees. The Reaper, having expected a much harder impact, slowed down and brushed the annoying rag covering his face aside, twisting his barrel-like torso as his hooves skidded over the pathway.
Ami ignored the bruises already forming on her leg, only acknowledging the pain with a soft grunt. She had landed on her hands and knees, but couldn't afford to waste time on getting up. Instead, she kicked backward like a horse, her feet striking the enemy hard in the small of his back. Shapely legs that enabled improbably long senshi jumps extended and pushed against the beast's scaled back. As Ami was braced against the ground, she didn't move. The Reaper, however, was already going in the right direction. Despite being several times the weight of the slender girl, he was lifted a fewl centimetres of the ground and propelled onwards on a rather flat trajectory that carried him toward the temple's entrance. His eyes went wide in surprise, but he wasn't one of the most feared creatures in the world for nothing. The blade of his weapon flashed downward, letting out a metallic screech as it plunged into the ground. It trailed sparks as it ploughed through the stone, slowing down the demon holding on to it like an anchor. The manoeuvre prevented his bulky form from tumbling inside the sacred building, but he still stumbled when landing, which forced him to put his right leg over the threshold. Immediately, white light engulfed the limb, and dirty yellowish flames shot out from cracks that opened in the scaled skin. With a hiss of pain, the monster jerked the foot back into safety, eyes glowing amber in anger. With the same turning motion, he pointed his scythe at Ami, launching a ball of flame in her direction. The girl had already changed location and was circling to the left. Long lines of shadow centred on the fireball flitted over the courtyard as the projectile blazed forward. In its light, the wet red stain marring the blue fabric of Ami's gi was clearly visible for a moment, and then the fiery spell struck the left pond like a cannonball. Water fountained up in a high column, and sizzling steam spread from the impact point. The smell of boiling algea mixed with the stench of burnt sulphur into a nauseating concoction.
Shielded from sight, Ami used the moment of reprieve to use her first and weakest attack. The already dark park became just a bit dimmer as the whitish fog blanketed out the light of the moon sickle in the sky above. The Reaper laughed humourlessly, his nose ring shaking from the movement. "Oh no. Fog. Whatever will I do now?" His scythe swung to the side, and another fireball whooshed from its tip, turning the bushes and trees where Ami had just been standing into a blazing conflagration.
"Eeep!" the blue-haired girl darted aside, wondering how he had managed to see through the magic.
"Did you really think the Dark Gods would send a hunter without a way to sense his prey?" the demon's growl mocked. Already, he was running in her direction, fast despite the injury to his leg. Above, the bell in the tower was starting to ring, sending deep brazen tones through the sleeping streets.
"Shabon Spray Freezing!" The blast of freezing bubbles shot toward the Reaper, who swerved to the side, ripping up the lawn with his hooves as he threw his heavy mass aside. Ami nearly went to her knees, so unexpected was the drain from using the spell. With blurring vision and feeling woozy, she hurried out of her current position, running toward the temple amidst a rain of burning leaves. Her heart was beating even faster now , and her hands were feeling clammy. Without the Keeper powers, even her senshi attack seemed diminished, and she was scared as never before, now that she knew what dying would mean for her. Getting to the temple seemed like her best hope for survival, even if she could feel the holy power radiating from it hindering her even now. Behind her, a burning tree crashed to the ground as the Reaper hacked it down with a single swing instead of going around it.
Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw movement from the open temple doors. The priest she had seen earlier stood in front of the lit doorway, rearing back his arm. Something glittering flew in a long arc and landed behind her. The footsteps of the Reaper that had been getting closer and closer stopped. Still running, Ami risked a glance back over her shoulder, just in time to see the demon tear through a warding that had formed a transparent, golden cylinder around him. With a grateful nod in the man's direction, Ami continued sprinting toward the structure ahead. Within the building, she could hear muffled shouts as people started to wake up. She would have been safe within, if she had only been able to only reach it in time. Unfortunately, advancing against the intrinsically hostile flow of holy power from inside was like swimming against a stream in that it required a lot of strength, and the Reaper was stronger than her and would catch up before she was out of reach of that scythe of his. Not an option. She reached the white-painted wall of the temple. A larger-than-life statue of an angel was kneeling right next to her position, and she hopped on top of its head and from there onto the inclined roof of one of the four side aisles protruding from the central dome.
Against her hopes, the Reaper wasn't deterred by the possibility of falling through the roof and to his doom inside the temple. She leaned backward against the shingled roof to let another fireball pass. It roared past overhead, radiating searing heat, and continued onwards into the night sky until it looked like yet another star. The red demon followed the senshi's path, though the statue's head shattered under his weight. With a great bound, the monster landed on top of the aisle's gable, sending a spray of shards clattering to the floor from his landing point. Ami was already running clockwise over the central dome, hoping to get its curvature between herself and the enemy. She rushed past alcoves and stained glass windows, formulating the beginnings of a plan, and ducked behind the figurine of some unknown saint riding a lion, barely able to make out the stomps of her pursuer over the din made by the huge bell in the tower above.
The Reaper didn't bother with slowing down to climb past statues or other such obstructions. Anything in his path was roughly shoved out of the way, and masonry plummeted from the roof to burst on the ground as he stalked his prey. Ah, there she was, that mop of blue hair behind the pompous rider statue had to be her. He charged, not noticing the slick sheen on the surface ahead before his hooves lost traction and slid out from under him. He attempted to stop his slide off the domed roof, and his hand gripped into the same grease that had caused the initial fall. With an angry roar, he fell off the edge off the roof, into the fog wafting below. Ami let out a breath of relief when she heard the thud that signalled his impact on the lawn below. She was fortunate that her fabrication charm was just a learned magical spell, rather than relying on the power of the dungeon heart. With a grunt of effort, she leaned with her back against the lion rider statue, pushing with her feet against the ascending curve of the roof. Under her efforts, the stone shuddered, then moved with a grinding noise, and finally toppled over the edge. An angry bellow from below informed her that it had hit the intended target.
Cautiously, she peeked down, revealing no more than the top of her head and her eyes as she looked over the brim. They widened when she saw that the pile of rubble was already moving, and the Reaper pulled himself out of it, baring his teeth at her. What did it take to put that thing down? Ami disappeared from his sight, continuing her flight. She could see sleepy-looking people arriving at the outskirts of the temple grounds, gesticulating excitedly at the fires, and felt like screaming at them to get away. They wouldn't have heard her over the noise of the chiming bell, though. Hmm.
A large piece of rubble that she identified as having belonged to the rider statue approached in a ballistic arc, impacting a jutting structure above her. It collapsed into an avalanche of tiles and fast-moving stones that intersected her path. She tried to jump out of the way, but one of the larger rolling pieces moving inside the dust cloud struck her shins, toppling her. She had to hold on tight to avoid being swept off the roof even as she was being pelted with debris. Darn it! How had the monster aimed that? He didn't even have line of sight! With quick but cautious movements, she started to climb out of the pile of shifting debris. One wrong move and it could resume its downward slide, taking her along. The stone dust getting into the cut in her side burnt like salt in the wound. Where was the Reaper? Spotting movement above, she looked up. To her great relief, the moving spot of red was not the monster's skin, but the bowl cut belonging to Snyder. He was holding a stoppered amphora in his arms and mouthing something at her, but she couldn't understand him over the ringing bell. He was gesturing downwards in her direction, though.
Ami cleared the last of the difficult terrain and gazed in the indicated direction. Some of the observers at the other end of the ground were pointing at her now with wonder or fright, having spotted the veil of dust fanning out from the landslide-like avalanche. Snyder's gesticulating became more frantic, and he tossed the amphora toward her, but his aim was off, and she had to jump after it to catch it. Barely after closing her hands around it, something large and crimson shot up from the dead angle directly next to the wall, and a scythe strike vertically parted the roof where she had just been standing. The senshi nearly lost her grip on the liquid-filled container from the surprise. Had the Reaper just jumped all the way from the ground up here in a single bound? He left her no time to be amazed. Kicking sideways even before he ripped his weapon from where it was lodged, he swept the legs out from under her, and pain blossomed in the back of her head as it struck the roof tiles. Dazed, she looked up as the monster stepped over her, lips pulled up in a satisfied grin.
"And so it ends," he stated. The scythe whistled toward her neck.
Cringing, Ami reflexively raised the amphora she was holding into the path of the blade. She held little illusion that the flimsy ceramic could stand up to the weapon, but it was better than just giving up. A scraping sound, and then a spray of liquid and shards splashed over her. To her surprise, it was cold, not warm like her own blood would be. Opening the eyes she hadn't known she had closed, she saw that the Reaper was staggering backward, unbalanced and dumbfounded by the sudden dissolution of his weapon into orange sparks. Oh, this amphora must have held the magical-item suppressing water that Snyder had once used on her, and the demon conjured his equipment! Recovering faster from the surprise than the monster, she sat up and reached forward, touching one of his hooves with one hand each. A mental picture and a quick focusing of mana, and she had fabricated two iron manacled around his ankles, connected by a thick chain. Ami threw herself aside, and an angry red fist cracked the roof tiles where she had just sat. Scrambling away from the monstrosity, Ami nevertheless had the presence of mind to continue using her fabrication spell as fast as her influx of mana allowed. A second chain, attached to the one tying the Reaper's legs together, rested between her hands, growing in length as she ran upward on the dome, toward the tower in its centre, where the swinging bell was producing a noise loud enough to make her bones and teeth vibrate.
The cold air and the weights bouncing on her chest reminded her uncomfortably of the fact that she too had been wearing conjured equipment when the enchanted water had drenched her. The keyword being had, she thought with chagrin. However, trying to create clothing on her own body while she was running and jumping was inviting disaster. Staying alive was more important than fixing that problem right now. If she survived this, she would have enough time to feel mortified, she told herself with a blush. Behind her, the air flashed orange. The Reaper had just replaced his scythe. She had to step aside when another fireball rushed in her direction. It struck the bell, which was taller than even the horned reaper, and chimed like a gong under the blow. The sudden flare of the spellfire washing around the metal made Ami's pale silhouette stand out brightly against the darkness of the night sky, right next to the tower. The Reaper started hacking at the shackles restricting his movement, making sparks fly when the blade struck the thumb-thick links of the chain. He looked irritated rather than worried by the girl's efforts. This suited her quite well. She stopped elongating the chain in her hands, and instead focused on creating an arm-thick bar of metal. It went in through one window of the bell tower and out another, then circled back to the first one and out the second again so that it was wound solidly around the masonry. Then, the bar elongated and grew up vertically like an flagpole, until its top projected higher than the pointed tip of the tower. The metal looped once at the top, looking like the world's largest needle, complete with an eye in it.
If the Reaper was intrigued by her actions, he hid it behind shooting another ball of flame at her, which was side-stepped easily at this distance, even if its light exposed her for everyone who was looking up. No, focus! Ami threw the end of the chain. It went through the opening at the top of the pole. She caught it as it came back down, then approached the giant bell and attached the chain to it. At this point, the Reaper's expression went from irritated to alarmed as he finally realised what she was planning. This close, the bell's noise was near-deafening. The large cast-iron shape was hanging from a thick, wooden rail. Silently pleading the gods for forgiveness for the act of vandalism she was about to commit, Ami added some sawtooths to the inside of the ring the bell was hanging from. Now, it bit deeply into the bar holding it with each swing, and sawdust trickled to the sides. The blue-haired girl backed away, bringing the bulk of the tower between herself and her enemy. Now that all she had to do was wait, she quickly called on her magic to cover herself.
She had just finished the underwear when the wakened wood broke at the apex of the bell's swing. The huge instrument, carried by its own momentum, flew out of the tower, struck the cupola of the temple with an unprecedentedly loud ringing, and rolled down the increasingly steep slope. It caused an unbelievable amount of noise on its way to the ground and left an unroofed path in its wake. The chain attached to it went taut. The Reaper attached to the chain was ripped off his feet. As the bell bounced down the roof, the monster bounced upward, pulled by the weight attached to the other end of his shackles. "Oh, damn it all!" The bell struck the ground. The demon was tugged bodily into the air and swung upside down from the pole above the tower, like the world's ugliest red flag. He had even lost his scythe on the way up and raged, his voice echoing loudly in the sudden "Rargh! You will pay for this, Mercury! You will be the first victim I torture rather than slay! I still remember how delicate your body is from being in it! You will-"
Ami stepped out from behind her shelter and put an end to his tirade with three well-chosen words. "Shabon. Spray. Freezing." The additional exertion and stress from casting the spell, combined with the damage taken from the battle, was too much, and she fainted.
Ami's eyes opened. She was lying on her back, there was a wooden ceiling overhead, and she was covered by a warm blanket. She had also been expertly healed and felt none of the pain of her recent injuries. Through the barred window, she could see the colours of the sky take on the reddish purple tones of dawn just before sunrise. Wait, bars? She sat up, noting that she was wearing a drab grey smock, and looked around. Yes, she was on a pallet in a cell, one that was dusty from lack of use. The large magical ward inscribed into its centre seemed new, though. Its symbols reminded her of the amulet that she had been forced to wear in order to suppress her magic. A quick check on the status of her Keeper powers reassured her that she could leave whenever she wanted, so she didn't feel too worried. She quickly located Snyder, who was sleeping and unharmed.
"Oh, good, you are awake!" the voice belonged to a young woman in purple and white armour that looked more ceremonial than practical. Town guard, probably. "Did you really defeat a horned reaper on top of the temple? That is so cool! I- " she fell silent when Ami turned in her direction with eyes like pits of burning lava. "Err..." the girl backed away. "Charly! Edgar! The prisoner is awake!"
"About time," a gruff voice from down the corridor answered, and heavy footsteps approached. A portly man, too well-fed for his armour, trotted into view, holding a quill and a notepad. A younger man with his face full of freckles, who was also in uniform, preceded him and nearly bounced with energy. The family resemblance to the girl was unmistakable.
"Good morning. Um, why am I locked up?" Ami asked, keeping her voice polite.
"Well, you caused quite a ruckus this night, and the Mayor wants to know what exactly happened, so you are here for questioning. We can't have strange happenings without knowing what's going on, right? Besides, with all due respect, you are kind of creepy-looking. Father Barnas tells me that's probably not your fault, what with having some demon blood, but still. Those eyes... Ahem."
"I don't think you were supposed to tell her all that before asking questions, Charly," the boy said. "And ask her name first,"
"Sailor Mercury," Ami supplied, and the female member of the watch noted it down, but gave her an odd look.
"Oh, screw protocol. We don't get enough suspects to make memorising it worth the effort," the red-faced Charly replied. "Anyway," he refocused his attention on Ami, "there's a bunch of crimes you could possibly be charged with, though I doubt anyone would want to actually put you to trial for them after you saved the city from that monster. So don't worry."
"Well, there's unauthorised entry into the city."
Ami winced and nodded. She couldn't argue with that.
"Disturbance of the peace at night," the man continued reading from his list.
"That wasn't really my intention," she replied, folding her hands in her lap.
"Large amounts of property damage."
"I can pay for the repairs." Technically, it was her fault that the Reaper had shown up here instead of elsewhere. Besides, she could afford it, and having the gods of the good side angry at her instead of just antagonistic wouldn't do her any favours.
The man raised an eyebrow at the next item. "Indecent exposure."
Ami blushed and looked down "My clothing got damaged during the battle."
"Disfigurement of a holy site."
"Sorry, isn't that covered by the property damage one?" Ami asked, blinking.
"No, that would be your addition to the bell tower. The priests haven't figured out how to safely get the monster on top down yet without it getting loose and killing everyone."
"Oh. I will deal with that later," the senshi offered.
"Good, good. Oh, and here we have," he squinted a bit at the paper, and his voice sounded strangled as he blushed "One suspected incident of b-bestiality."
"WHAT?!" Ami gaped like a fish.
The three watchmen around the cell were all beet red, and the younger one explained "W-well, the demon ranted something about b-being 'in you'..."
"Wait, didn't Father Barnas say that the thing was most likely the progenitor of her line? Wouldn't that also make it inces-?"
"NOTHING LIKE THAT HAPPENED!" Ami shouted, blushing to the roots of her hair. "He meant possession! POSSESSION! Nothing else!"
"Oh, that's good. Err, I mean, it's not good, but- Argh, you know what I mean!"
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|Chapter 33: Oh Gods!||Chapter 35: Corruption?|
- While it's hard to possess an unwilling reaper, most of the blame for that accident lies with Ami's unfamiliarity with the possession spell.
More importantly, do you think she would be eager to do a brain-dive again after what the last one did to her? On a demon, no less?
- Horny is supposed to take her to a meeting with the Dark gods.
That's his way of saying he's supposed to kill her and send her to hell ;)