“Great! Of course, the stones were a trap!”
“Who was the one that triggered them in the first place?!”
I bickered with Koujiro, whose sword had knocked against the ground. If I had to guess, a holy power from an outside source set off some kind of defense mechanism. Otherwise, it was too coincidental that it happened at the exact moment I heard that metallic clang.
The sudden release of miasma around us was another thing that made us worry.
“Regardless, it looks like we dragged out whatever was guarding the secret.” I gripped my knife as I waited to see what the armored golem planned to do.
Of course, it headed straight for the source of the strongest holy power. With a grunt, Koujiro brought up his sword in haste as the golem seemingly blipped right in front of him. Its movement was faster than Saki and I could anticipate.
Only Koujiro, with his massive equipment boosts, was able to track its movement. If it had gone for either of us two instead, our heads would have been rolling on the ground. Even with the golem swinging its own sword furiously, Koujiro managed to bring his own up to block it. However, each strike emitted a heavy shockwave as miasma and divine energies clashed and canceled each other out.
Saki was the first to get her head back into the fight. Despite her dislike of the foreign king, she knew where her priorities lay. Dealing a swift blow to the enemy while Koujiro kept it distracted was the necessary action to take.
As she struck the back of the golem, the mallet in her left hand unexpectedly bounced off and slipped out of her grip. Her eyes widened at the unexpected hardness of this enemy. In contrast to the ones she fought before, which shattered like a ceramic bowl struck with a hammer, a single indentation with a spiral of cracks formed where she hit. Some damage was dealt, but hardly enough to cause more than an irritated howl from it.
The armored golem turned around to face Saki, its sword ready to cleave her in two. Still shocked by the recoil rebounding through her hand, she was slow to act.
However, her body was pulled to the side as I dived into her. The blur of the miasma-laced sword sailed right over us. As we both hit the ground, I turned to the golem, the purplish glow of my eyes telling me a good place to strike.
“There!” I lunged forward and swung downwards from my sprawled position. Landing on the floor, my knife barely managed to stab through the top of its foot. “Saki, switch!”
Literally rolling over my stretched-out body, Saki used the remaining mallet in her right hand to hammer the handle sticking out of its foot. With a dull clang, the blade disappeared as it was nailed downward. The golem tried to pull its foot away, but it remained stuck to the ground. Her strike had glued foot and ground together, sealing its movement temporarily.
I looked up as a barrage of blue flashes struck the golem’s back from behind.
“ORA ORA ORA!” A loud set of cries accompanied the strikes as the armored body jostled left and right from the assault. The bright glimmers of a blade imbued with holy power sliced through the air.
I pulled out another knife and slammed it down on its other foot. Saki followed up and pinned the other foot to the ground as well.
“ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA!”
The blur of continuous attacks shook the surroundings. The vibrations hung heavily in the air. The sounds of battle cries and heavy impacts permeated throughout the entire cavern. Koujiro had unleashed his full fury upon our enemy.
“Take it down, Kujo-ro!” I cried out in support, ignoring the fact that he probably had no idea what I was referring to.
Regardless, the thick armor on the golem appeared to be wearing down. Visible cracks spread along its surface. Even though it was much stronger than the other golems, this one still couldn’t hold up to the might of several Electi.
Saki stood up and joined the assault after picking up her other mallet. Though she moved much slower, her dual mallet swings echoed more sharply and warped the golem’s body much more with each hit. With it sandwiched by continuous attacks from the front and back, the golem was essentially caught in a grinder.
“Take that and that and that!” Saki’s voice echoed.
“Wait, that’s not right. Saki, you should be yelling ‘Muda Muda’ repeatedly!” I joked.
Both fighters paused for a moment, wondering what the heck I was talking about. Apparently, only I thought of this as a ‘bizarre adventure.’ Luckily, the golem was so thoroughly thrashed that it couldn’t take advantage of this hesitation and retaliate.
Its previous armor was shredded, the shards scattered all around. What remained of its humanoid body appeared as if it had gotten in a fight with a woodchipper. Lastly, the miasma that spewed from it all but dried up.
The cage that trapped us had started to dissipate at some point during the fight. The timing of my joke couldn’t have been better. That was what I told myself proudly.
As the miasma receded from the circle where a glimmer of holy energy resided, I felt that light suddenly pulse below my feet.
“Eh? What now? Round 2?” I stammered in panic.
However, I saw no signs of movement coming from the demolished golem. Nor were there more cracks forming out of thin air without more beings crawling out from them. The pulsing below me grew and grew. Yet, the source of this rumbling seemed different, almost benign.
I wasn’t sure if the ground was tremoring, or if my own senses were distorted. All I knew was the expression on my companions’ faces. ‘Something’s calling for us.’
A blinding light flooded into my vision, causing me to close my eyes. When the sting from it subsided, I opened them to see a white mist all around me. I paced in a circle where I stood, sweeping at the fog with my knife to search for Saki or Koujiro, but the cloudiness continued beyond it.
“Where is this?” I called out to the endless haze.
No answer came. At least, no words anyway. Rather, a single hand appeared through the whiteness and brushed against my cheek.
In a panic, I distanced myself from the abrupt gesture. I hadn’t even seen it approach until it touched me!
Down I fell, landing on my butt. I looked up to where the hand was, feeling as defenseless as a naked Koujiro. From within the pure clouds, a body came into focus.
First, the hand. And then, a face. The features upon it were fair, the eyes placid. Long tresses of purple hair dangled on either side. From what I could tell, the appearance was feminine in nature.
Like a girl reaching forward to calm a stray kitten, her gestures suggested that she meant no harm. Once again, her hand stretched forward, gingerly reaching toward my face.
Strangely, I didn’t resist. I was too mesmerized by the purple eyes that bore into my own, as if examining who I was. The lips slowly curled into a smile, one that was reminiscent of seeing an old friend. The feeling it invoked gave me a sense of nostalgia. The look one gave to someone returning home.
Why did I feel that way? I knew nothing of the person before me. None of their thoughts or intentions. Our meeting had merely lasted for seconds so far.
Why did it give off such a sense of comfort?
When her hand finally reached my face, the fingertips gently caressed the skin, lightly tracing my cheek down to the chin. She closed her eyes as if relishing that moment before her lips parted. A gentle song came from them, further enhancing the mystery of the moment.
The words were unintelligible to me, but still, a feeling of joyful calm and warmth followed. The notes lingered in my thoughts despite being unable to connect syllables to them. But just before I felt like I could grasp something from it, the lullaby ended.
I shot a look of query at her, realizing that I was previously lulled into a daze. The melody was soothing enough to make my gaze wander and my mind zone out. Its conclusion snapped me back to attention, only to catch her form retreating. Back into the fog and blurring out of sight she went, like an apparition.
As a final gesture, she placed her hand across her chest and gave a slight bow of the head. A single word of utterance escaped her lips. It was almost as if I was being thanked. Even if that were true, there was no one to confirm it. The mysterious lady was long gone.
And with the next blink of an eye, the whiteness suddenly disappeared along with her. I found myself staring right up at a beam of light. Immediately, the glare caused me to flinch and turn away.
I was back. Back in the cavern.
The sound of shuffling occurred at nearly the same time, as I realized both Saki and Koujiro had fallen out of a similar trance as I had.
“Did you guys…?” My voice trailed off as I studied their faces perking up.
“Some chick in a mist? If that’s what you mean.” Koujiro cleared his throat to shake off the lump lodged in it.
“Same for me….” Saki’s eyes were downcast. Her hand drew up to her face and touched the side of her cheek.
Seemingly, all three of us saw the same vision – a purple haired woman reaching out for a touch, a tranquil melody, and a sudden retreat. As we pondered what this meant, I noticed that the magical circle around us had calmed down.
I bent over and brushed the surface with my palm. The pulsing that we felt before lowered to not even a gentle hum. Whatever divine energies previously active here had gone into hibernation.
As if tempting fate once again, Koujiro lightly poked at the ground with his holy sword. This elicited an instinct to dash away from Saki and me, but fortunately, nothing happened. No alarms went off, and no distortion of the surroundings happened a second time.
Still on pins and needles, the three of us stepped away from that area, going back to harvesting Resonance Stones. I chucked many more of various sizes into the Item Box. There was never knowing what else Katalina could make with a healthy supply, and we were hesitant to come back anytime soon. Who knew if the golems would come back?
Macali could also make use of some more for their technology. Those communication devices, in particular, were a nifty thing to spread around. Though I could do without Koujiro contacting us on a whim, compromises would have to be made to continue our alliance. Dealing with his fatherhood troubles was a small cost for having the aid of a powerful fighter and the backing of a nation.
The walk back to the ship was tranquil unlike the initial trip. No more golems came after us. With such a casual jaunt through the island, I noticed how lush and serene the surroundings were now. Truly, it seemed like there were no other inhabitants than the golems that we fought.
That seemingly came to an end after the armored golem was taken down. I had hopes that it essentially acted as a final boss, liberating the island upon defeat.
However, what was our prize? What were these monsters guarding? The only thing we found were Resonance Stones and that divine circle. If I didn’t know any better, we had released a seal or something.
My steps slowed as I thought back to the purple lady in the clouds.
“Did we… trigger a world flag?” I whispered, too low for anyone else to notice.
It would be just my luck to have unleashed something new upon the world, right after we had defeated the last opponent that threatened our dear kingdom. I mouthed a prayer hoping that was truly not the case.
Still, it would likely keep bugging me until I found something more about the strange woman. But where to start?
The only thing I had to go on was…
My eyes lit up as I realized that I had heard something like it before.
On the lap of a holy maiden, the tranquil song that seemed to penetrate deep into my mind gave off a similar feeling. Even without knowing the words, a sensation of warmth and comfort bathed me at that time. Perhaps, the sense of friendliness and nostalgia had resonated with that experience.
Regardless, it seemed like I knew who to talk to next. My eyes turned towards the direction of Sanshiro as the coastline and our ride came into view.