Chapter 34: Battle in the Forest
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Now Tahiko was in a tough position. How was he going to overcome this challenge? The boy was absolutely not prepared for this in the slightest outside of wearing his armor. But that was all he had. No sword and he was already taken some damage. So how was he going to mount a counterattack?

Not to mention all of his friends were here. He wanted nothing more than to ensure their safety under these circumstances. Chisa most of all, since she hadn’t known about any of this while getting to know him. The boy was only just about to tell her the truth right before it forcibly came out to her.

What cowards these demons were. Always attacking the ones closest to him. They were clearly aware of who he was, and that he’d dedicate himself to protecting his loved ones, as well as the lives of innocents. Were they going to plan on killing the girls? Or perhaps, just try to take him out while leaving the rest, making everyone believe he had been attack by a wild animal. Then, no one would suspect a demon, and the ones who did know had no way of proving it to them.

Back to the action at hand, both Amasa and Fukuna listened to his warning and hid themselves by some trees, just overlooking the scene of battle. It was wise of them to do their best to stay out of danger for his sake. On the bright side, while he wasn’t a fan of them being so close in this situation, it did allow him to help narrow down where his opponent was. If they were too close to the demon, then surely they’d already would’ve been attacked. So this allowed him to focus better on specific points.

“I’m scared.” Chisa said, burying herself behind him. It was also fortunate that his friends had come along. Now at least, there was a safe spot for her behind his back. The girl didn’t dare run off to the other girls however, since that short dash would leave her open to a potential attack, and unlike with Tahiko, she would have no shot in dodging it.

Of course, with all that was going on. Even though the girl was scared witness for her life, she was more concerned about his in this moment. That monster clearly wanted him, and it had already connected a fair bit of attacks on him judging from his wounds.

Worst of all, he had no means of fighting back in this situation. While it was nice to have some level of defense thanks to his armor, the lack of his sword meant this situation was rather grave. Having that weapon was his only means of fighting while on this world. Normally, without that sword, he might try to conjure up some water to fight using his elemental skills, however in his weakened state, the boy couldn’t summon that up. The best he could do was take from existing sources, of which he couldn’t find any.

Suddenly, another dark bolt launched out towards them. He lifted up his arms to deflect the blow. While it didn’t remove all damage, he was able to tank a fair bit to avoid getting hurt.

The way these shots came out were methodical. The demon took their time in attacking, the pauses coming as a result in their repositioning. Doing it in this manner meant it was nearly impossible for Tahiko to ascertain where the attacks were coming from, as the monster would simply no longer be in that spot by the time he was able to steady himself from the blow.

Things were looking worse and worse for him as the boy took more and more hits. This was a battle of attrition, and it was one that wore him down so much so that he could barely keep standing.

It was also a sight that was difficult for the two girls watching to bare witness. Amasa more so, as she blamed herself for him being here in the first place. She was the one who told him to put his guard down since she assumed they’d be safe at school. He was even doing a good job at it, and as things turned out, too good of a job at it.

“We have to do something.” Fukuna whispered to her. Even she was getting angry with watching him get beaten to a pulp with no way of countering. “Come on, we have to find that demon.”

“And what are we supposed to do even if we find them?” Amasa asked. They were still regular girls, so it wasn’t like the two of them could fight. If anything, that would put them even more in danger. Unfortunately, Fukuna grew a bit of a big head after her important play against the first demon. She thought herself as a bit of a demon slayer now, even though Tahiko was still the one to kill the beast.

“You still got that staff, right?” She pointed at the dumb stick the girl was stuck with thanks to the dumb costume her mom bought.

“It’s just a stick.” She replied, but relented knowing that they had no other options in this situation. And thus, the pair moved about the perimeter of the trees, hoping to catch the demon off guard.

Quickly, but silently, they move along in the darkness. Amasa heart raced as they went towards the direction they believed the demon to be. A part of her hoped they wouldn’t cross paths with the monster, but if they allowed this go on any longer, then Tahiko likely wouldn’t survive this encounter.

How could Fukuna be so brave, she thought. For the longest time, she always considered her to be some spoiled brat. Yet right now, she was the one taking the lead yet again. “This is why people like you, isn’t it?” The girl muttered under her breath.

“Did you say something?” Despite the sounds of magic flying through the air, it still wasn’t loud enough to completely conceal the sounds of their voices.

“It’s not important.” She responded quickly. “Now stop being distracted and let’s keep going.” She’d much rather go to her impending doom instead of admit something for the sake of her pride.

“Well, duh. I’m the one who-” Unfortunately, this was a bad time to be distracted in conversation. As the demon had be relocating themselves quickly so that Tahiko would be unable to find his target. It moved quickly to new spots to take shots from. As luck would have it, eventually that would mean being the one running into the two girls.

They were caught off guard, not that it mattered much since the pair didn’t have any actual plans to taking out this demon or giving him an edge. Fukuna was under the assumption they’d have time before actually finding this demon to have an idea by then.

“What?” The demon spoke. It appeared different compared to the first one they encountered. For starters, it was female, and it looked like she was covered with leaves all over her body. Smart, using that to make camouflage so that Tahiko would not easily spot her with just his eyes in this forest.

Another important distinction was what seemed to be in her arms. Or rather, what engulfed her arms with a slight dark aura. To normal humans, it might look like she had a gun for an arm. However, this was simply her bit of magical power, using it to concentrate her dark magic to create powerful shots at long range. “Who are you!?” Just like them, she had been caught off guard by their sudden presence.

“Eek!” Fukuna screamed out in fear as she squatted down and covered her head in a vain attempt to protect herself from attack. Amasa was speechless, also not certain what to do in her mind, but her body instinctively brought up her staff as if it was a weapon to be used.

In their minds, this was the end. However, what they didn’t realize was that the demon’s powers were designed for long range, so that it would be unwieldy at the close distance they found themselves in. Secondly, the staff that Amasa drew up in defense didn’t appear so innocent to the demon. To them, it looked like a staff that a grand wizard of Enatis might use for a powerful explosion. So quickly, in response they retreated out into the open. That way, were a blast to come out, they’d have room to dodge without worrying about trees.

Finally, Tahiko was able to see who the demon was. For once, he was able to recognize them, even if no one else knew anything about this demon. They were known as Poena, a strong assassin among the demon ranks. Surely, she must’ve arrived here after learning of Soter’s death to enact revenge.

In a near instant, she readied a shot right for Amasa before what she believed would be the girl hitting her with an attack. Tahiko was able to decipher this and quickly using an instant flash close the gap. The boy brought himself right in front of the girl as the attack went off, where he took the brunt of the damage as dust flew up around them.

“Tahiko…” Said Amasa in disbelief. He really just went in and saved her life without a second thought to his own well being. The boy seemed hurt, but he wasn’t finished with this fight just yet.

“Staff…” Those were his first words to her as the dust still concealed their location. “Now.”

“Huh?” She took a moment to look at her prop. It was just a random stick, a piece of wood. What could he possibly do with this? “Well, here…” Still, she wasn’t one to argue with him in this life-or-death situation.

“Well, I hope this works.” Now that he was given a weapon, albeit one that was weak, and not technically one on this world. Tahiko concentrated his power into it. Now his energy imbued into it caused the staff to glow a gorgeous blue hue that shone through the dust. “Never really was a fan of this style.” There was a reason he preferred using a blade over a staff, but being a knight gave him training with many different many tools given that anything could happen on a battlefield. “But it’ll have to do.”

Quickly, he rushed out from their concealment, his speed blasting the dust away, allowing the girls to see what his next move was. Knowing that this assassin was a combatant of cowardice, one who could only fight at a distance, Tahiko rushed close to her, not allowing the enemy to fire off a shot.

Then came his attack as he jumped over the demon, yelling out the words to his spell. “Aqua cannon!” He yelled, as a blast of water shot out as if from the staff, his powers amplified with a piece of equipment allowing him to focus all his strength, what little there was on this world. The blast shot straight down onto the ground, with the demon taking the full blunt of it with no recourse.

Once his attack was finished, and the boy finished his flip over his target, their battle was complete. The demon had vanished, fully annihilated thanks to his powerful magic.