There were only a few scant hours left until morning.
“And that is the city?”
“I think so… Does it look like the one, captain?”
The question was directed towards the man in charge of the demonic envoys, one Captain Vader.
“Yes it is, m’lady. That was where we were attacked.” The demon turned to the dragon. “I believe you should be able to see it if you squint, ma’am. It’s the fancy building with two steeples.”
The poison had yet to fully leave his system, but he had accompanied the two nonetheless. He hadn’t felt right, pushing the responsibility off onto others.
“Can you sense him, Lefi?” asked Nell.
The dragon was capable of detecting anyone whose aura she recognized from several kilometers away, regardless of whether said individual was trying to hide. Knowing that drove the hero to pose the question, but Lefi only shook her head.
“I detect him not within the town.”
There were two possibilities. Either he had been transported elsewhere, or he was already dead.
Lefi took a slow, deep breath to gather her wits before looking around and determining that there were none just outside the walls. There would be no problems with executing the flashy plan she had in mind.
“Wait here. I shall be off.”
“Huh? Wait, Lefi, I want to he—”
“You will do no such thing,” said the dragon. “You must consider your position and relinquish this role to me. Worry not, I know well what must be done to conduct myself as a villain, for it is often that I am made to play the part.”
They were both well aware of each other’s concerns, both the ones that they held in their hearts, and those that required the consideration of their outward presentations.
“Thank you, Lefi,” said Nell.
“P-please don’t be too rough with them,” said Captain Vader.
It was the humans that were being made the subject of her wrath, but the demon couldn’t help but voice his concern. For her victims, he felt nothing but endless pity.
The day of the Supreme Dragon’s intervention was known as a day that began with a series of screams. The first to notice were Araella’s, the city’s, guards. The designated early risers among them yawned as they took over the nightshift’s role, only for everything to be suddenly lit aflame.
There was a popping sound, followed soon after by the roaring of fire. The grassy fields that surrounded the city were lit with flaming pillars that rose far into the sky. The sky suddenly became as bright as it would be in the middle of the day. The city’s populace took notice almost immediately, with many a person springing from their bed. They stood by their windowsills, awestruck by the veritable hellscape that greeted them from beyond the aether. Many sprang into action soon after, their fear their driving force.
“W-what the hell is going on…?”
“Shut the hell up and move if you don’t want to die! Araella’s already gone up in flames!”
“Wait, wait! Look over there, by the wall. The flames aren’t advancing!”
“Stop shitting me and ru—wait! It’s true! What the hell!? Is this supposed to be some kind of spell!?”
Oddly enough, the flames, which went on for miles upon miles, remained outside the city. They enclosed it, but never seeped within its borders. It was almost like they had a will of their own. The more observant citizens began asking questions, only to hear a voice.
“I have not the time or patience for games. I demand only an immediate, clear answer.”
It echoed straight into their minds. It was perfectly clear, even as the city burst into noise. Because it reached every last citizen, every living thing within the city’s walls.
“It is in this city that my husband was last seen. Where is it that he has been taken?”
Most had no idea what she was talking about. They began talking amongst themselves, confused, but those that knew reacted with a start.
“He appears as would a demon. I know well that those aware of what I speak need not any further description. If I am not to receive an answer, then I shall light this city aflame and reduce it to ashes.”
Only then was it finally noted.
There was a young woman, floating in the sky above, her form lit by the inferno engulfing the settlement. Knowledge of her presence spread like wildfire. One by one, dozen by dozen, they raised their heads and looked towards her.
But none dared to attack.
It was clear that the almost divine figure was the fire’s progenitor. The people could only stare in awe as they understood that it was judgement day, that it was not their place to defy her will.
“Have you no answer? I had thought that several had reacted to my words, but I see now that I was mistaken. I suppose that this is the end. Lament your silence and pay for it with your demise.”
She began to raise her hand, but a man rushed into the town’s square and shouted at her before any further action was taken.
Casting her gaze upon him, she, Lefi, slowly descended into the plaza.
He was the city’s governor, its lord and master.
“P-please! I understand that you are angry, but please calm dow—”
A glare cut him short.
“Choose your words wisely, human. Know that they shall decide this city’s fate, and that I care not for anything but the answer that I have requested.”
Her will was clear, conveyed through her eyes.
“I-I understand.” The governor took a breath. “H-he was taken to the capital! To Alshir!”
“Y-you traitor!” shouted another man.
“Shut up! You were about to get the whole city wrapped up in your mess! You never even mentioned that you wished to abduct a demon!”
“What are you saying!? Don’t you underst—”
Another glare silenced both men and cut their argument short. Their bodies were frozen, paralyzed. Cold sweat dripped down their brows as all their control was taken away. They couldn’t blink, nor even move the tips of their fingers. And it wasn’t just them. Everyone in the vicinity was subjected to the same treatment. Unable to bear the pressure, many sank to their knees and lost consciousness.
Humans weren’t nearly as sensitive to power as members of the other races. But they knew. They all knew that they were nothing but inferior, that they had laid their hands on what was meant never to be touched. They were completely overwhelmed. The difference was so extreme it fell far beyond the realm of reason.
“I care not for your circumstances or reasons.” She cast her gaze on the man that had labeled the governor a traitor. “You know better than him the situation at hand. Speak honestly. I am aware that it relates to the concept of human supremacy. If I am lied to, then I shall turn all to ashes, this city, or perhaps even the country in which it is contained.”
Lefi brushed her hand to the side and released the paralysis.
She had exposed him to just enough of her raw hostility to bring him to the edge of consciousness and death. There was not a sliver of resistance left in him. His face was pale, and he even began to cry as he yielded the answer.
“H-he’s being held captive in Alshir’s sewers.”
“For what reason?”
“Test not my patience,” she said. “Do you think that I will hesitate to act upon my threat? Your lives are meaningless to me, before his.”
“W-we were going to have him attack during the concert that was going to be held today… the one meant for relief and goodwill. T-the war may be on hold, but it isn’t over! If we can get a demon to launch an attack during an important event, we can kick the gears back into motion!”
“…So it would seem.”
It was an excellent way to break the goodwill that held the alliance together, but Lefi cared little for it. Her mind was occupied instead with the realisation that they had missed each other.
She was annoyed, but she held back her irritation and continued to question her quarry.
“When is it that this concert begins?”
“I-it starts in three hours.” The man began to laugh, to cackle. “Despair, demon! There is no time remaining! You cannot stop our plans!”
“If you believe that I am a demon, then you are but a fool.”
She clobbered him with her tail right as the confusion began to take hold. He flew into a wall, but she took no notice of his condition and turned instead to face the governor. Though his body had yet to recover from her intimidation, he did his best to press his head against the ground as he spoke, as quickly as his tongue-tied mouth could.
“I-It is I that bears the weight of this folly. The city has nothing to do with any of it. I was at fault for cooperating with them. Please, I beg of you, take only my life.”
Lefi clapped her hands together and extinguished the flames surrounding Araella’s walls. Darkness returned to the sky, and the heat that had come with the spell faded away.
“I shall do nothing of the sort. Your fate is for this country’s king to decide. Flee, if you wish not to atone for the capture of my husband.”
“I-I will atone, s-so please.”
Huffing, Lefi put her act to an end and took to the air.
“We have missed him! He was taken to Alshir!”
After shouting at the group awaiting her by the city’s gate, Lefi continued on her way without slowing or stopping. Sensing that something was wrong, the rest of its members quickly picked up the pace and followed after her.
“There is little time. I shall go on ahead!”
“Okay!” said Nell. “Alright Rir, go as fast as you can!”
The wolf replied with an enthusiastic bark
“Captain Vader, I know you’ve yet to recover. Don’t push yourself. You can get off if you don’t think you can handle it.”
“I don’t care if I can’t. I will,” replied the commander. “I will be filled with nothing but regrets, if I fail to see this through.”
And so, they set out. Back on the path they came.