The impact is violent. The shock wave that ensues erases any traces of magic on its path. The giant sparks are no more, the constant barrage of beams of light has ceased, the unnatural wind no longer blows.
After such an indescribable chaos, this calm and this silence are somehow unsettling.
Pazuzu and Dlanor have become still. Slowly drifting in a space devoid of gravity, they observe and wait.
Maaya: "I see... I've really underestimated you. I apologize... your skills deserved to be properly acknowledged..."
The witch of power speaks slowly. A twitch in her left eyebrow belies her apparent calm.
Maaya: "To think that a mere human could not only survive my strongest magic, but also elude my guard and sneak behind me... That was completely unexpected. Unthinkable..."
Erika: "I hate to repeat myself, but you really don't understand who you're up against."
Maaya: "Perhaps it is as you say..."
In front of my eyes, I see my enemy's face morphing from a fake gentle expression into a hideous, beastly grin.
Maaya: "However that goes for you too, isn't iiit?! Did you really think that I'd be killed by thaaat?! Haaa?! Are you serious?! Do you even realize what kind of place this is?! I will acknowledge that on a neutral ground I'd be dead by now, but here, in this world? In my domain?!"
Certainly I cannot deny that my attack completely failed to harm her in any way. Something blocked my scythe before I could cut her body in half, something that transcends even the most powerful magic barriers, a truly impenetrable shield.
It came out of nowhere, I couldn't even see it nor sense it before. It is different from anything that I have seen so far, and it looks completely out of place. If I were to guess what kind of material it is made of, I would say that it is some kind of hard, transparent plastic. It has a sort of triangular shape with no straight lines, and there is an embedded circle in its center that reminds me of a magnifying lens.
The witch of power snaps her fingers and a new magic takes form. A thick mist and nebulous matter begin to coalesce at the bottom of the giant sphere. This mass grows and spreads like a viscous fluid until it occupies about one quarter of the whole space. There is now a sort of unnatural lake below me. Ripples form on its surface and increase in number and intensity. Strange, fragmented reflections create kaleidoscopic effects among the restless waves, until the turmoil finally subsides, and a vision appears.
Erika: "This is..."
Maaya: "A window open to another world."
My mind goes back to a past where I witnessed a similar situation. My mind travels back to the witches' tearoom, the place where Beatrice used to challenge her many guests. There, all sort of witches, and sometimes even humans, would sit in a circle and engage in intellectual discussions, drinking tea and eating freshly baked cookies and pastries. But before, we used to watch Beatrice's shows. The walls disappeared and just like TV screens, they allowed us to see, as if we were there, various scenes from fictional interpretations of the Rokkenjima murder mystery. Those were the stories that Beatrice created; she called them gameboards.
Something similar is happening now, but it isn't fiction what I am looking at, it's the human world, it's the present time.
That one there is... me...
I am looking at myself from above, as if the shed had no roof. I see the magic circle and several girls sitting all around it. But not everything is exactly how I left it. There is a Ouija board at the very center now, and four persons are sitting close to it at the four cardinal points. One of them is Teramoto, directly aligned with the statue of Pazuzu. Two first year students are at her left and right sides, they were supposedly selected randomly. The last spot is taken by me.
This is how daring my opponent is. She wants me to be directly involved, she wants me to touch her magic with my own hands. She is so confident that I won't understand her trick, that she doesn't even prevent me from getting that close.
Maaya: "Did you notice? Do you understand now?"
Erika: "Yes, I must admit it's pretty clever. That shield of yours is a manifestation of your peculiar planchette. Size apart they're practically identical."
It basically works like this: the fact that Teramoto can interact with demons and spirits with her Ouija board is one of the reasons people believe she actually possesses supernatural powers. As long as this isn't denied, the witch of power cannot be destroyed. I must find the trick that makes that planchette move, only then this bothersome shield will be destroyed.
Maaya: "Surprised, human? Stupid close-minded people like yourself almost invariably think that there are magnets involved. So I made sure to prevent anyone from even suggesting that. As you can see, this planchette is completely transparent. Surely, you aren't going to tell me that there are invisible magnets inside, right? Ha ha ha ha!"
Erika: "Well done, but then, how does that matter? There's definitely some kind of trick involved, all that you demonstrated is that 'magnets' isn't the answer."
Maaya: "And you call that a rational argument? How is it logical to assume that there must be a trick?"
Erika: "What are you talking about? Of course there's a trick, it can't be any other way! Because magic and supernatural do not exist! Everyone knows that!"
Maaya: "Shut up!"
Erika: "Oh? Did I upset you?"
Maaya: "There's no point in talking with you! You're just a pathetic fool! By now you should have already realized that you can't win against me, you simply cannot hurt me! But I bet you're just too blind to accept the evidence in front of your very eyes! I can only feel contempt for you. You're strong, you're fast, I acknowledge that. I have no idea how a human like you can pull those stunts, but it doesn't matter. In the end you're just a bug, a very persistent one, but still a bug!"
Erika: "Ah, don't tell me! Are you going to resume your magical heavy bombardment, hoping that I'll eventually get hit by something? Boring!"
Maaya: "No, that tactic proved to be uneffective. But now I know how to deal with you."
Erika: "Oh, Really?"
Maaya utters some incomprehensible words, while drawing strange circles in the air with her left hand. I sense the unmistakable small alterations in the fabric of the metaworld that often foreshadow powerful magics. The ritual is concluded by an esoteric gesture that ominously points at me.
The effect is almost instant, and in a blink of an eye I find myself trapped inside a spherical cage made of several rings of energy.
Erika: "Seriously? Is this your new strategy? I guess you didn't learn a single thing."
All I need to do is to teleport away. Maaya must believe that I am simply moving at an incredibly high speed. If that was the case, I wouldn't have any means to escape, but my powers are true.
I proceed to instantly change my position, my body dematerializes and reappears just a few meters to the right.
See? I am free already... or that is what I would like to say. Apparently... I am still caged.
Strange. I am quite sure that I did teleport, there are no doubts about that. But my prison is not longer where it was supposed to be. It is as if... it followed me. How?
I really don't like the way Maaya is smiling at me now. I don't like that all!
Maaya: "Well? How do you like your cage? It seems to me that you've already grown pretty attached to it!"
Erika: "Very funny! What's the deal with this thing?"
Maaya: "That's not a 'thing', that's a curse. You've been cursed, great detective, and no matter where you go, the curse will stay with you."
Well, well... this wasn't part of my plans, but it changes nothing. I should have imagined that an occult freak like her would know how to curse her enemies. That was a small miscalculation, it's annoying, no, actually it is very irritating, but I will have my vengeance.
Erika: "All right, now I am trapped inside a cage that follows me wherever I go. So? What's the point of a prison if it doesn't restrict mobility?"
Maaya: "That's a very pertinent question. The fact is... that this curse isn't exactly meant to restrain you. In other words, it isn't a prison at all."
Erika: "Then, what else it's supposed to be?"
Maaya: "It's a bull's-eye."
A bull's-eye. In other words this thing is marking my position. This is a curse that targets me with absolute precision. The viewfinder is glued on me, and not matter what I do, I cannot shake it off!
This is no laughing matter. The more my many little gray cells process the implications of this simple information, the more I feel my body freezing on the spot.
An attack is incoming, right now. I am not actually perceiving it, but I know it is aiming for my head. I feel it. All my instincts are telling me that I must escape. I have no time to reason about its futility, I simply teleport as far as I can.
My fears become true in front of my eyes. A stream of energy coming from one of the pillars just pierced my afterimage. It is fast, as fast as light, and it is magnetically attracted by the cage that surrounds me.
I simply cannot escape this, I simply cannot teleport with a high enough frequency, and it would be pointless anyway.
I have no choice, I must muster my strengths and endure it.
The sound reminds me that of a shrimp thrown into boiling oil. I would think this was funny, if this wasn't my own body. My muscles are all tensed up by the flow of high voltage current.
I can barely move, I can barely think.
This pain would be excruciating for a normal human being, another person in my place would be screaming his guts out. But I am a witch of truth, there is nothing that can hurt me. Nothing. Nothing can hurt me. Nothing can hurt me! Nothing can hurt me!
Dlanor: "Miss Erika!"
Pazuzu: "StAy WhErE YoU AaArE, PaThEtIc ToOl Of ThE LoSt GoLdEn AaAgE! I WiLl NoT LeT YoU InTeRfEeErE!"
Dlanor: "We will not be defeated! I will not allow it!"
Pazuzu: "Uh Hu Hu Ha Ha Ha!!! YOuR DoOm Is At HaAaNd! YOuR HuMaN FrIeNd WaS AlReAdY EnSnArEd By My MAsTeR'S CuUuRsE. NOtHiNg CaN SaAaVe HeR. VIcToRy Is AlReAdY OuUuRs!"
Dlanor is fighting valiantly. Her swords pierce through the demon's flesh with merciless precision, but her opponent is too powerful. He keeps regenerating as if that didn't bother him at all, and he is getting bolder and fiercer. Dlanor will not last for much longer, and I am in no better position.