“So, what about you? Are you gonna fight Lala…? Or the Master?”
Having just killed Longmann, Laladi turned her freezing gaze onto Maho and Yuuto. The murderous intent that rolled off her in waves made it clear what she would do should they answer positively.
“Of course not. What Longmann and his friends did? That was just plain unforgivable. Besides, we don’t want to fight against you. We’d be dead in no time.”
Furthermore, Maho thought to herself in secret; she was far from keen on fighting against the Master. She had friends among the recently deceased with whom she’d suffered through much and had still prevailed, but there was nothing that would ever move her into pardoning the massive death toll that was the result of their attempts to manipulate the ogres for their own gain. That wasn’t to say that she was completely impassive to the cruelty they had undergone in their final moments, but what she felt was not nearly enough to impel her to fight in their honor.
Yuuto’s mental state was terribly torn over the matter. Despite the betrayal he had suffered at the hands of Mary and Longmann, he couldn’t for the life of him bring himself to detest them.
They had tried to put an end to his life, and yet here he was, incapable of even calling them his enemies. His own kind and virtuous nature kept him from doing so.
“Yuuto. Look, that kindness of yours, it’s saved my life before. So, I’ll be straight with you. You’re just being naive right now.”
The girl’s voice called out to Yuuto when she saw how much he was suffering, kind in tone despite her biting words. She would rather not have considered just what would happen if Yuuto, in a fit rage brought on by Longmann’s and Mary’s deaths, rushed towards Laladi and the Master with his blade raised.
It was clear enough, of course – the Hero Party would suffer another loss if he did. Furthermore, Maho did not trust herself enough to say that she would remain of sound judgment should she see Yuuto attack the Master. That especially frightened her.
“Look, what Laladi did was cruel, that’s true. But she’s not the one who started this whole fight. If you’re angry at the Master or Laladi, then I’m sorry, but your anger’s misplaced.”
“…You’re right. I understand that, I do.”
Yuuto further responded to her with a slight nod. During her speech, Maho had intentionally forgone any mention of the fact that the Master and Laladi were still members of a dark guild. She hadn’t outright lied to the boy, mind. She had merely done what she could to recount, truthfully, what had happened.
“…Tche! Now Lala can’t kill them either.”
“I can hear you up there.”
The way Laladi vexedly clicked her tongue was audible despite her elevation, which seemed to stretch to the sky. Laladi was not one to mask her displeasure, and whatever disapproving looks may have come her way she would only counter with a mocking sneer.
“Alright, guess it’s time to stop with Lala’s Alraune form…”
Now realizing that she could not openly butcher the Hero Party down to their last member, Laladi wasted no time and began reverting back from her now monstrous form, largely intent on being showered by the Master’s praises. This, unfortunately, did not come to pass as barbarous howls resumed.
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One of the ogres who had been lying limply on the ground with one of Laladi’s thorns shoved through his gut rose to his feet, letting loose a roar as he did. Maho was close to the creature, her shock matched by her despair.
Ogres. Ferocious monstrosities that would not rest until everything around them was destroyed. Being left dumbstruck and paralyzed while so close to such an abomination was sure to make her the first victim of its wrath, Maho realized.
Contrary to her expectations, the ogre completely ignored Maho. Instead, it charged in a straight line towards Laladi. Was it possible that it was still acting on Longmann’s orders?
“Hmph. If you’d killed that magic user on your way, Lala would’ve been nice and just sent you flying… Alright, that’s it. Die… I mean, if you would.”
Laladi’s head shook from side to side, her expression one of boredom which made it clear that she was growing tired of dealing with these things. Countless plants of enormous size appeared in response to the force of her will, their arrival prefaced with loud tremors that shook the earth. Their vines flew at the ogre; their ends sharpened to a point.
The ogre managed to disregard the onslaught, defending against every blow. At times, he would wind his body with amazing grace and move out of a vine’s path, and at others, he would simply knock another tendril away with a swing of his club.
This alone would not have been inconceivable, given an ogre’s natural might. But that wasn’t all he was doing. Somehow, the ogre had managed to ward himself against all incoming blows without once ceasing his relentless lope in Laladi’s direction. This was only made worse by the fact that Laladi was now in her Alraune form, which made her plants and their attacks much stronger then they would have been in her more humanoid one. The utter ease with which the ogre knocked the vines away and weaved through them despite that made Laladi turn apprehensive.
“Well then, how do you like this?”
If the vines would not work, then she would have to resort to different methods of attack. She would instead rely on the plant she had used to dissolve the initial ogre that had crossed their path, the same plant that spewed its horrible acidic fluids.
The vines followed the ogre on his path before regurgitating the liquid. It was only right to assume that this attack, being guaranteed to make a direct impact, would put a stop to the ogre…
Laladi’s eyes went wide. In a surprising twist, the ogre, coming to the conclusion that he had no other avenue of avoiding the corrosive substance, had shielded himself with his arm and let it take the full blow in his place.
He had offered up the arm that wasn’t holding on to his club as a sacrifice and was now cannoning towards Laladi again. Even Laladi was caught by surprise at the display, and she raised a shout to voice her confusion.
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This monster may have posed a threat to Yuuto and the rest of the Hero Party, but to Laladi, it was meant to be as much of a threat as those weaklings were to her. And yet, the thing had fended off her first assault and then even gone so far as to avoid her second.
“What…?! This can’t be good…!”
Cold sweat ran down Laladi’s cheek. There was no doubt in her mind that, had she initiated this fight with her full strength just as she tended to do when fighting other members of her guild, she would have easily found a way to resolve the bizarre situation she found herself in. Her opponent, however, was just an ogre, and a wounded one no less – to put things simply, she had underestimated her opponent and had, therefore, failed to make the necessary preparations on the spot.
“Lala doesn’t care what happens to her, but the Master…!”
The ogre’s rage and agitation turned his already red skin several shades deeper as he continued to move, but even when at the mercy of such a spectacle Laladi’s thoughts immediately went to the Master’s safety rather than her own. She was used to fighting at the front lines, but unlike her, the Master had spent far too much time locked away in the guild headquarters.
It did not really matter how much vigor he might have had before all of that. At this very moment, she knew herself to be the more resilient of the two. Bearing that in mind, the thought of the Master being victimized by the ogre’s attack made her uncertain and anxious.
Reflected in Maho’s eyes was a scene of enormous flower petals engulfing the Master’s body until nothing was left. This was another of Laladi’s summoned plants. Anything that found its way inside its petals found itself blessed with a nigh-insurmountable defense that even members of Yelquchira would have great difficulty breaking through.
This type of plant played a particularly vital role in Laladi’s earlier plans, which involved stealing the Master away, keeping him confined, and then going on to live a life of pure decadence. The original article was much greater in size and possessed even more powerful defenses, but given the limited time she had, this was all she could manage to create.
‘Okay, the Master should be fine now. Now Lala just has to…’
All she had to do now was kill the ogre. That was all that went through Laladi’s mind as she glared at the creature, who was already getting much closer to her.
She summoned more plants, let even more vines whip his way. Of course, that much the ogre could easily dodge or blow away again, and she knew she could never inflict lasting and fatal damage that way. So instead, she called upon another plant entirely.
“This plant is really rare; you’re honestly not even worth bringing it out. But come on, have a taste.”
Laladi’s wide grin was in place. The plant she had summoned this time was of a much more deadly variety, with petals capable of releasing a highly poisonous mist.
This particular poison was a terrifying one. It only had to enter one’s body, and they would be on their way to meet their maker. Organs would fail, and then rupture – this poison brought a frightful death that took one from the inside. The Master was sealed away in the complete safety of her other plant, and she herself was immune to the poison’s effects, as all Alraunes were.
Maho and Yuuto were still in the area, but their deaths could hardly be avoided. Laladi decided that she might as well let them both die. With the thoughts running through her mind, it was clear that Laladi was already certain of her own victory, but….
There was a gleam in the ogre’s eyes. It paid no mind to the flowers that attacked him rapidly and without pause, instead rushing at full speed towards the poisonous flower. Several vines lambasted him in an attempt to hold him back, but it showed no awareness of its own wounds and continued zooming towards the flower.
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Then, only moments before the flower had a chance to pollute the air with its poisonous mist, he reached his goal and heaved his club, brought it down, and crushed the plant. Laladi had just lost her final chance of attack.
“T-This doesn’t make any sense! It’s just an ogre; it shouldn’t be this strong…!”
Now without any means of self-protection, Laladi watched the ogre as he came for another attack. Her tone implied that she was already close to her wit’s end. Letting her guard down should not have become an issue, the mere likes of an ogre could always be dispatched with much ado.
As proof, while it was true that she had lowered her guard in a fit of recklessness, it was already safe to say that the other four ogres had been soundly dealt with. If Laladi had forgone her usual conceit and immediately approached the matter with all her power, this battle would not have become such a problem.
There could be no qualms at this point to keep one from acknowledging that this ogre was a special case, but even he should not have lasted over a minute. And yet, here he was.
“Ah…! No, it can’t be…!”
Laladi’s voice was laden with sudden comprehension as her eyes became saucers. Her senses searched for a source of magic as best as they could. What she stumbled upon was seemingly small and barely perceivable, but it was nevertheless a magic she was well-acquainted with.
“Ah, ah, ah…!”
A network of veins popped on her forehead, and her petite form convulsed with wrathful tremors while a green miasma leaked from her every pore.
“It’s her! It’s that damned whore!”
Laladi did not shy away from vocally expressing her rage. The beasts and monsters that lived in the surrounding forests, picking up on the Alraune’s overflowing anger, promptly turned tail and fled as quickly as their legs could carry them.
The ogre did not run like they did. However, its body did jerk back as it flinched. The flinch had left a wide and fatal gap in the ogre’s guard, but Laladi no longer seemed to even register the ogre’s presence. She grew even more agitated, and her already wide-open eyes somehow found the leeway to widen further as a murky darkness melded into the grass-green miasma that oozed from her.
“It’s that red-headed, scruffy, cow-titted whore! Lala thought she was one of the quiet ones, but that sure didn’t stop her from trying to kill Lala! At a time like this, too! She never goes for the Master like this!”
“H-Hieh…! W-What?! What’s going on…?!”
The plant supporting Laladi writhed almost theatrically as the girl appeared to, from the point of the others there anyway, come to some sort of realization. Maho looked up at the girl in fright as the undulations continued in complete disregard of herself and Yuuto, who were still positioned nearby.
That wasn’t enough to make Laladi acknowledge them, however. Now that the Master was assuredly safe and sound, there were no other people whose well-being she would waste her time caring about. Besides…
“Damn it aaaaall…!”
Laladi looked to a spot directly below her. Standing there was the ogre. A vicious grin parted its lips, and its body was covered in too many wounds to count. The now smiling abomination seemed to be ecstatic that its prey was finally within arm’s reach.
With a mighty bellow, the ogre swung its club into the vines that sprouted from the plant which held Laladi aloft.