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Chapter 6: Laughing Celes

Laughing Celes

"Shannon!"

Miranda's bitter cry that echoed through the chamber was directed at the beastly mass of Mana... the beast of Mana without a rear half sticking its fangs into Shannon before exploding.

In that audience chamber shrouded in smoke and sust, my vision only grew poorer. On the ceiling, as if she had inverted the law of gravity, Celes stood upsidedown.

Her hair did hand, but it didn't look like she was actually fastened to the ceiling.

"Kyahahaha! Lookie, see that!? That's the first one down. If you don't hurry up, they're going to keep dropping like flies."

As Celes swung her rapier and staff, that yellow glowing magic fired off beasts once more. That magic racing at us as if it was running with its forelimbs gave pursuit as it even evaded out attacks.

I lent a glance to where Shannon was.

I confirmed Miranda crumbling. With her helmet and hair, I couldn't see her eyes, but I could see her mouth, and I was satisfied.

Looking up at Celes, I took a stance with the bow, and produced some arrows of light.

When I had made the same number as the number of Celes' magic beasts, I fired them.

"As I was saying, that isn't going to work."

As Celes swung her rapier, Gracia and Elza fired magic towards the ceiling. Running across the ceiling Celes evaded their magic with light feet. Perhaps to crush my arrows of light, she continued raining flares down.

However...

"... Shannon, you can see them, right? Guide me."

As I called Shannon's name, she popped up behind Miranda. Once the smoke had cleard, Miranda stopped her act, and threw her dagger.

The dagger she threw, the arrows I fired....

"... I'm a bit disgusted you know. Knowing I'm right beside you, you scream out and cry so loudly, it really is disgusting acting, you know."

"Shannon, you're being mean to your sister. I'll remember this."

Seeing Miranda's smile, Shannon let an, 'Eek!' leak from her throat.

While she was put off by Miranda's acting, Shannon still served as a guide.

"Warp."

They each rammed into Celes' magics. The beasts exploded. Seeing Celes' eyes open wide, I purposely laughed. And it was a laugh to rile.

Otherwise... the Third's Skill wouldn't work. The Third's Skill that took advantage of the gaps in one's heart worked best when an opponent was in a dirorderly state of mind.

Meaning I was riling her all for that.

"What's wrong? You think you accomplished something? Did you really believe it?"

We purposely arranged it like that, but putting it this way was more effective on Celes. She grew quite enraged when I belittled her.

And there was meaning in bringing Shannon here.

"You trash!!"

Turning to Celes as an intense furrow graced her brow, Shannon cried out.

"She's changed out! She's firing a different magic. Big enough to blow us away!"

What Shannon wanted to say was that Celes had swapped out her Skill. And she was going to carry out an attack by magic. What's more, with enough force to blow the audience chamber away... as we were connected with Connection, explaining it to everyone was unnecessary.

As Celes' body let off a yellow light, we gathered in one spot. Circling around behind Porter as Porter took on a defensive stance.

Clara spoke indifferently.

"This porter... already has anti-magic procedures done to it. On top of that, it has magic ore furnished in its chest, so..."

We who hid behind Porter as it crossed its large arms deployed our own magic shields as well.

"You're noisy!!"

Overwritten by Celes' words, Clara's explanation was cut off part-way. But once a large magic shield was deployed in front of Porter, it successfully blocked the magic that was supposed to blow everything away.

When I thought it was an attack that would really blow it all away, it turned out to be a rain of countless small attacks on everything around.

As the audience chamber itself also had anti-magic procedures installed, not everything was destroyed, but it sure was left in a terrible state.

While the walls and pillars were ridden with holes, we were safe.

Ludmilla went out in front of Porter, holding her own sword against her shoulder.

"That was powerful. But you coulndn't forcefully blow us away? No, you aren't capable of..."

Seeing Celes twitch in reaction, Shannon cried out.

"She can't! Celes can't blow this castle away! Her Mana shook more at the former, so there's no doubt about it!"

I heard something interesting. There was some sort of reason that prevented Celes from destroying the royal palace. Though I didn't know what it was.

There, Novem opened her mouth.

"It's because a portion of the corpses are preserved here. If Maizel-sama, and Claiir-sama's remains are obliterated, she won't be able to reproduce them again. That's what she fears."

As Novem said that, Celes grimaced.

I fanned it a little more.

"Good work you two. Meaning she doesn't want to do a flashy fight that could blow the palace away. To add onto that, that's the reason she met up with us here."

She had let of magic that could even blow the magic-resistant audience-chamber away. If she ran wild outside of it, she feared her parent's remains would be damaged.

I looked at Celes.

"You sure are kind on our parents. That's a surprise. I felt you didn't feel a thing about family."

When I put my question to mouth, her face warped even further.

"Silence! A failed piece of trash like you... someone who inherited more than their share of power and memory would never...!"

Hearing that, I laughed.

"Well not that I care. Shannon just needed some time to strip you bare. It does seem Agrissa's in that Jewel. From here on, we'll be getting serious."

As I said that, everyone readied their weapons.

Celes dismounted the ceiling and landed on the floor. Her speed would likely make her invisible to the average eye. Right, average. And there was barely an average person here.

"Trash shouldn't run their mo..."

I riled Celes.

"I'm tired of hearing your words. You're going to die for my sake. I'm going to use your death to the fullest."

Celes snapped in an instant and rushed at me. But without taking any stance, I waited for her... Celes' chest pierced into my chest.

And as it pierced in, my illusion disappeared.

With her force, Celes ran straight into a wall. I called out to her from behind.

"Very well. The Third Generation's Skill was mind manipulation. It can only show illusions, but... looks like you're nothing special yourself."

Watching Celes' expressionless face, I couldn't say I really just barely managed to activate it.

My surface expression was composed, but it really was considerably close. Yet my inner thoughts were relayed to everyone by Skill.

Shannon averted her eyes from me.

"... Yeah, there was no helping it. I mean for me, clinging to this golem is the most I can do."

Shannon tried to cheer me up. It went straight to my heart.

Riling her and getting her in our trap. A fighting style based on the premise of Celes' weak psych. Of course, up to this point, she had only ever fought as the top dog.

That she would be weak in this sort of setting was something the Third told me.

"From here on, we'll be serious. We'll crush you seriously... Full Drive."

As I activated the Fourth's Third Stage Skill, I felt the surrounding movements grow slower. In such a situation, we headed for Celes in a different manner than before.

Ludmilla from the front, Gracia and Elza on both flanks.

Jumping to the ceiling, Eva pulled her bow, and set her sights on Celes.

There, from Celes' body, I could see a half-transparent yellow arm.

I'm sure that was information coming from Shannon's demon eyes.

"I've seen this before! It was sometime recent, so there's no doubt about it!"

As Shannon said it, I recalled. The Skill my senior disciple in the sword, Alfred, had used. A Skill to put out invisible hands from one's body.

Miranda threw a dagger with a wire attached.

"She has quite a variety of Skills. But she can't use them simultaneously, right?"

The dagger she controlled started cutting through those invisible hands. Through Shannon's eyes, she could understand where she'd have to attack to dissipate them.

Two in one... it was as if I could see the vestiges of Milleia-san. No, perhaps they had already surpassed that.

Deflecting Ludmilla's shockwave, and parrying Gracia's charge with her staff, Celes kicked Elza. But she was late to respond to Eva's arrow, so it grazed her face.

Once she had blown the three away, this time she swing her fist to take Porter on the side. In order to avoid that, Novem fired magic.

She was somewhat holding back. Novem's sentiment was flowing through to me. Celes carried the blood of the Walt House, so she was hesitant to give it her all.

There, Miranda and Aria leapt out.

Miranda managed to capture Celes' left arm with her wires. But Celes brute forced it, and swung Miranda around into a wall.

I went in to catch Miranda, meanwhile Aria's blow was parried by Celes's rapier... or so it wasn't.

The red gem let off light. Aria's strike was one with her spear enhanced and its output risen, on top of a greatly increased speed, that single blow had given way to an absurd amount of force.

"With this...!!"

"You brute bitch!!"

Celes was shot back. Aria's full force had broken and shattered the blade of Celes' rapier.

Standing to her feet and beginning her move, Celes seemed considerably fast even with our own acceleration. However.

"She's preparing magic! P-probably fire!"

"Don't say probably!"

I heard Shannon's voice and prepared a wall of ice. There, Celes' magic collided, and vaporized my wall in an instant.

It seems I can't do it like Elza. But that was plenty. For I had shut down her magic.

Ludmilla approached Celes, and having lost her rapier, Celes tried to block with her staff, making her late to respond to Gracia and Elza's attacks from above.

I recalled how she had always been dull to attacks from right above her.

"She hasn't improved on that? Shannon!"

I asked Shannon.

"It seems like it's a Skill with a blind spot right above... but I think it's only because it's those two that they were able to take her by surprise."

By the attacks of the two, her clothing was tattered as she forcefully parted from the spot and came towards me.

I instantly prepared an illusion, only for Celes to start attacking that illusion. The form of her lowering her staff onto the empty ground was quite a spectacle.

And To Celes as she stood surprised near the wall...

"I've kept you waiting!!"

The one who entered by breaking down the wall with her large hammer was Monica. From the wall, the Valkyries began streaming in.

I turned towards Novem.

She still seemed hesitant. No, to Novem who worshiped the Walt House blood, taking Celes on was difficult.

Everyone came down on Celes as she was blown off by the hammer's force. As her leisure gradually disappeared, she only grew more tattered before the group.

But her blue eyes let off a glint.

"It's coming again!"

On Shannon's cry, the Valkyries deployed their wing-like binders in front. We hid behind them.

And I raced out.

As I raced towards the weakened Celes, I pulled my Katana to cut at her. She tried to use her chipped staff to block it.

"Looks like our roles have been reversed."

"...! You damn bastard!!"

Interestingly enough, while she had changed to a defensive battle, if you riled her, she would undo her defenses. She forcefully avoided the first slash. Even in a situation like this, that her body reacted on its own was quite amazing.

But I changed my grip, and sent my second slash towards her.

"You haven't grown at all! Such a transparent attack won't..."

But by the time I had changed my grip, my left hand was gripping my gun. As I pulled the trigger, I aimed at Celes' temple, but perhaps she had forcefully turned her body, as the bullet embedded into her right shoulder.

And I...

"Shannon!"

Shannon shot her gun straight up. Celes immediately ignored it and came at me. Expressionlessly, her eyes with nothing more than the intent to kill reflected my face back at me...

As Celes leaned forward, the ricocheted bullet pierced her chest.

"You should at least wear some armor. Perhaps that would have blocked it."

Celes' eyes were surprised. Surprised, and even pierced in the chest, she hit her staff against the ground and didn't fall to her knees.

"Get away from her!"

I thought to deal the final blow, but as flames manifested around me, Novem grabbed me and pulled my back. Within that tempest of flames, Celes tottered as she stood on her own two feet and touched her chest.

The breast of her white dress was dyed red.

I had given the gun Shannon held as a memento of Milleia-san over to old Letarta, and told him to make a magic tool of it. While it could only fire a shot, its output was definitely there.

Celes watched the blood flow from her chest.

"Kuhi... kuhihihi!!"

Her mouth curved into a crescent moon, and with a stream of blood flowing from her mouth, she laughed. Even when they were flames produced through mac, Elza wasn't able to erase them.

"What's with these flames... this is simply too strange."

Even if she sent ice at it, it would vaporize in an instant. And yet the flame's momentum wouldn't stop. Gracua as well.

"They were my pride, but... these do overshadow my fire."

Before the flames surrounding Celes, Gracia broke into a cold sweat.

Novem spoke.

"You cannot approach. This flame... won't go out so easily."

I instantly changed my grip on my gun, and loaded a bullet to attack, but Celes only looked at me and laughed.

"This really is the worst; you all... getting in the way of my fun times..."

Seeing her so energetic with her chest pierced through, I muttered.

"Damn monster."

There, Celes smiled and pointed at me.

"Fool. The true monster here is you, shithead. I sealed away a damn monster like you."

Without lending an ear to her words, I took a stance with my gun and fired. But the bullet wouldn't hit her.

Novem looked at me and shook her head.

"This one's specially made. Special-made flames... well, for suicidal purposes. Truth be told, I wanted to blow the whole area away, but someone got in the way."

In the way. Hearing that, I had a rough idea.

"Agrissa!"

I heard a voice that didn't seem to come from anywhere. From the hilt of her broken rapier, Celes extracted the Yellow Jewel.

[Celes, it does seem the promised time has come!]

Delighted. The merry laughing voice of a woman. A charming voice. There, Celes sounded reluctant.

"I know, I know. I did make a promise."

I reached out a hand. But if I said it, it would just make her more dead-set. That on my mind, I turned to Novem beside me.

"Celes-sama, you cannot let yourselve be deceived by Agrissa. What Agrissa wants is your body..."

"I know. What of it?"

Celes disinterestedly spoke to Novem.

"I followed that one's orders knowing full well. And she gave me power for it. If I could beat the trash I hated with all my being, then I didn't really care about my life or anything like that. I hate him. Makes me want to vomit. When I look at trash like you."

Celes' hate was the real thing. Irrelevant to Agrissa, Celes hate me from the depths of her heart.

"I hate everything. Humans are equally without worth. All besides my parents are unnecessary existences lower than trash. They had multiplied so much, I thought I'd have some fun crushing them with Agrissa. If it's for something like that, my life is but a cheap trinket, is it not?"

When I thought it was the end, Celes began spewing out all her dissatisfactions.

"I haven't played around enough at all! I wanted to torture more people and see them suffer! I wanted to play by killing their loved ones before their eyes, and forcing those who hated me into submission! There are still loads of fun ways to kill I haven't gotten around to trying! ... But it's fine. Because it's a promise."

"Promise? Weren't you being tricked..."

As I said that, Celes burst into laughter. Watching her spitting blood from her mouth as she laughed in the flames, I felt as if I was seeing a laughing apparition of hell.

"The price for so much fun was my body! That wasn't all I got from it. By doing it, I could surpass you. Steal, seal, and put you through pain. It was the best time of my life. While there are things I've left undone, I haven't regretted a second of it. More than that, why is there any need for me to be tormented and beaten by any you? When I'm feeling so refreshed over here!"

Celes began to dance.

I'd never seen a human so elated over her death to come. No, was she even human?

[You've made a misunderstanding. I definitely did call out to Celes. Just as I did to all my descendants in my many generations of imprisonment. But even I'm soft on my family. I didn't have the mind to force her into anything.]

Agrissa's words echoed through the chamber. I gave orders for everyone to stand down.

[I proposed my desired conditions to Celes. In the case they you lose, your body will die, so hand it over to me, I said. And when she did, my adorable Celes...]

"A price of that level wasn't even worth considering for me. More than that, I was suspicious over whether that was really enough. Perhaps she was tricking me, I thought."

[It was quite a trial to correct that misunderstanding. I never thought she'd think so little of that life. Even I was surprised by that one. That's precisely why my Celes is adorable. The time I spent with you was a blast, Celes.]

"Yes, I had my fun too. My only regret is that I could have played more. But perhaps it's fine like this. If I found satisfaction, I'd grow tired of it all. Perhaps it's best it ends while I still think it's fun."

[You really are cute, Celes.]

The two laughing voices resounded.

I necer thought she'd be able to live with her heart pierced. As I thought I'd made a blunder, Agrissa laughed aloud.

[Dear Lyle, your face speaks that you're blaming yourself. But you've no such need. Even if... Celes was to become mincemeat or ash, or was obliterated entirely, I would have fulfilled our promise. What you should have planned for was how to destroy me. Of course, you won't be able to destroy this Jewel by any half-baked means.]

Celes continued her dance.

"From here on, Agrissa will revive, and make hell of this world. While it's sad I won't get to see it, that's not a problem. I mean, she'll do something even more interesting than me!"

Celes' warped smile showed true delight.

"What's with this one..."

Aria took a stance with her spear, but she took a step back from fear. Eva stood ready with her bow but her hands were shaking. The others were the same.

They couldn't keep up with the situation. No, it was worse than they had expected. Celes hadn't eh slightest resistance to her body being taken over

Celes laughed.

"All your desperation ever did was call forth an existence even greater than me. It truly is a sorry sight. Not that I care. I concede my loss. I'm sure you'll be coming over to this side in no time, so when you do, we'll play some more. See you all in hell."

Celes smiled as she swallowed the Jewel whole.