Section 3: Oozing Malice
Her voice was cold, yet comforting.
Her eyes were sharp, yet kind.
Toslin. She appeared before me for the first time in almost four days. She laid me on the ground a little roughly before holding up her sword with the blade pointed downwards.
“Yeah, I know. It hurts right? Right now……I’ll make it easier for you.”
She aimed the point of her blade right at me, and she drove her sword down.
Immediately afterwards, my body bounced up off of the snow.
“Wha- the hell are you doing!!?”
“Lapris, it’s all right. Let’s wait and see.”
Saluena stopped Lapris before she could grab Toslin.
“C’mon, get out here. You useless shitty bastard who can only run and hide.”
Cursing under her breath, Toslin dug her sword even deeper……..into my shadow. The further in she dug, the more it felt as if someone were loosening a rope which was binding down my body, and soon I was able to take a breath. Eventually freedom returned fully to my body, and I could take in a long, sweet breath. And then, I finally got my voice back.
I jumped up to embrace her, but she stuck out her hand and pushed me away.
“Oh um, sorry. I’d be happy to give you a hug, but I probably smell a little funky.”
“…..sure……speaking of which, why…….”
“O-Oi Iris!! Your shadow!! Something’s coming out at your feet!!”
When Lapris told me to look at me feet, I turned towards where the moon was casting my shadow. But this shadow, there’s something strange about it.
“Wawawa, something’s coming out!?”
Taking a closer look, my shadow is giving off some kind of black smoke.
“A shadow spirit……. Then these things weren’t undead at all. Just corpses being puppeted around.”
Saluena called them shadow spirits, but I can’t remember ever hearing that name before. But Toslin nodded her head while drawing her blade out from the snow.
“Yeah. These things slip into people’s shadows and act like a parasite, stealing their victim’s freedom. They cant take control of corpses obviously, but in order to save themselves, they can take possession of a living host as well and control their body after killing them.”
“That’s messed up…….”
“*Cough Cough*……..Haa, haa…….. I-I see…… So then, that’s why Unicorn’s magic didn’t react…….”
My shadow stretches out across the snow-laden ground. And just a short distance away from where my shadow extends to is the wolf I had just cut down. Once they’ve gotten in, not even one of my magic circles would be able to stop them.
“You…….I’m going to make all of you pay for making my little junior suffer like that.”
A deep scowl etched itself across Toslin’s face as the figure of a shadow spirit oozed out from the fallen bodies of every single snow wolf.
“If you don’t have a body to manipulate, then you lot are all a bunch of small fries!!”
Toslin’s grip around her sword visibly tightened before she rushed forward, immediately closing the distance between her and the nearest shadow spirit.
The moon’s light shone off the blade as she swung her sword horizontally, cutting the spirit in half. No longer able to hold its appearance, the spirit broke apart and faded away, like smoke in the wind.
“Saluena!! Make sure none of them can step on your shadow as you move!!”
“I’m aware. So long as I understand what my enemy is, this battle won’t be a difficult one.”
When Toslin slew one shadow spirit, Saluena would slay her own. And then they moved on to the next one. And then the next one.
Saluena positioned herself so that the moon would always be in front of her and used her sword to mow down any spirits that would try to jump into her shadow.
In contrast, Toslin seemed to move around without minding where her shadow was at all. She was like a hurricane wielding her long, thick iron sword, turning shadow spirits into plumes of smoke one after another.
“As I thought…….there’s no way that woman’s an elf.”
“Oi, I can hear you!!”
Toslin’s ears, the defining physical characteristic of her race, twitched as she brought her sword down on the last remaining shadow spirit.
“…….phew, is that the last of them? There aren’t any that might still be hiding in those dead animals?”
“Yes, all the spirits controlling these beasts have vanished. However, that armor seems quite convenient.”
“Right? It doesn’t have much use when you’re going up against a dragon, but it has saved my life several times now during the last couple of days.”
Now that I think about it, Toslin’s armor was specially treated in order to reduce magic damage. Does that mean it also prevented the spirits from possessing her?
Ah, but……there’s something more important than that……
Staggering to my feet, I clumsily walked over as fast as I could, my field of vision getting blurry with the tears welling up in my eyes. And then…..I hugged Toslin.
“Like I said, right now I’m……..ah, seriously………this kid is……..”
“Thank you for saving me……Toslin! I so glad you’re safe…….”
One after another, I kept coming up with words that didn’t quite express how I felt. Relief, fear, joy, anxiety, a whirlwind of emotions are circling around in my heart, making it impossible for me to form a complete sentence.
“……..yeah, I’m sorry. I know how worried you must have been. Saluena too, sorry.”
Toslin hugged me back, patting my head to try and get me to calm down. But those head pats felt more nostalgic than anything else, and each time her hand touched my head, the tears pooling over and streaming down my cheeks only increased.
“You got anything to say to me?”
“Why are you here? Weren’t you going to Osnell?”
“Ah, that’s because……..”
I raised my face from Toslin’s chest and wiped away my tears. I then gave her a small summary of everything that had happened over these last four days since she seemed genuinely confused about a couple of things.