As the Jakkai lady got off of her would-be assailant, the crowd's panicking turned into outright flight for most of the bystanders. Only a few lingered, unsure if there was something they could do or not, while the assassin stood and grabbed his dagger. He lunged for his target, his red-and-green eyes full of anger as he rushed her.
Just as he reached her, a blast of fire hit his entire body. The Jakkai lady staggered back in shock, stumbling into Buwaro's leg as he finished up with his fiery breath. "What was that you said about not wanting my help?" he snapped. "Because too bad, you're getting it."
The Jakkai wanted to protest, but the assassin had already leaped at Buwaro with a snarl of rage. The boy hadn't quite expected that, but he swiped his claws and slammed his whole palm into the leaping Jakkai, who grabbed a hold of the hand and stabbed deep into the Fire Demon's arm, the dagger coming out the other side of his sleeve.
Buwaro howled in agony, stumbling from the killer's attack and throwing him off in his flailing. The attacking Jakkai rolled to an upright position, crouched and ready to move before he realized his dagger was still stuck in the boy.
Then, just as he noticed the shadow that had passed over him, something else went through his head. Something physical, hard, and very, very sharp.
Kieri's blade sank all the way into the dirt from the force of her stab. She let the blade go and clatter to the ground, the assassin's head lolling with it, followed by the rest of his body. Meanwhile, she rushed to Buwaro, helping him to sit down and then slowly pulling out the blade as he whimpered in burning pain. Once it was free, she poured all the healing magic she could into the wound, nervous but resolute on halting his bleeding.
The Jakkai lady that had been the target hesitantly approached, watching the two lovebirds. "Um...thank you," she said finally, her voice surprisingly meek. "You risked a lot to save me from that guy, didn't you?" Buwaro stared at her, but didn't answer, his eyes unfocused. "Um, you okay?" she asked, now concerned.
At that moment, he passed out. "Buwaro!" Kieri gasped, catching his head. For a moment, she panicked, before she remembered the wagon and all the strong people there. "Miss, please come with us – it will be best if we can protect both of you."
"Alright," she said, helping to haul the unconscious Demon along. "Oh, right, your sword is – " she began.
"I can come back for it with better numbers," Kieri interrupted, her tone almost clipped. "Now come on." The woman merely nodded, glancing back at the assassin as they left the scene in a hurry.
By the time they got back to the wagon, Rhea and Jake had regained their senses thanks to a hangover-cure potion Miranda had. Seeing everyone there, Kieri quickly explained what had happened – downplaying the Jakkai woman's anger a bit to get to the main problem.
Meeros, however, wasn't fooled, and shook his head in dismay. "So you actually went loo-loo on them?" he asked the Jakkai lady. "I expect that from Siara, but come on, Melli, I know you're better than that."
Kieri stared at the Jakkai lady in shock, who looked away, admonished. "I honestly thought a Duke was bad news."
"So did I, at first," Meeros shrugged, "but at least I gave him a fair shake. He shook my hand and introduced himself."
Melli grimaced as Kieri finished explaining things to Kazai and Zahariah. <So I'm going to want to get my sword,> she told them, <but I'm not sure I feel safe right now without backup.>
<Of course,> Kazai nodded. <It's probably fine, but Gaia knows if there's another assassin lurking about.>
<Exactly,> Kieri replied. "I'm going after my sword," she told the group. "Be right back."
A few minutes after the three Angels left, Buwaro began to wake up with a woozy whine, his eyes still unfocused. Miranda gave him a dose of healing potion. As he gulped it down, Heathcliff jokingly muttered, "I'm not running a charity here, jeez."
Buwaro groaned again, shaking his head and finally getting his vision back on track. "Hey guys," he said weakly. "Wow, that hurt." He slid himself up against the wagon and leaned against it.
"The fearsome Duke of Hell," Jake joked lightly.
"Yeah, you try not passing out from a dagger going all the way through your arm. It was a curvy one, too – all kinds of little ends and twists in it."
"Hey," Melli piped up meekly.
"Hey," Buwaro replied, before remembering who she was, and that she was angry at them. "...what are you doing here?" he asked with a weak glare. "I'd have thought you'd avoid me or something."
"Melli's here to apologize," Meeros replied, "and to stay safe for a while."
Buwaro glanced at Meeros, then turned his attention back to Melli. "How do you know Meeros?" he asked, before it clicked. "...wait, Melli as in the Guardian?" he asked, eyes widening slightly.
"Took you long enough," Rhea laughed. The whole group chuckled.
"Aw, shush," Buwaro muttered, closing his eyes again. "I'm gonna try and rest this off," he murmured. "Still feeling out of it. Wake me when Snowy gets back."
"Will do," Rhea replied.
At that moment, Kieri saw the clearing up ahead. However, something looked off about the scene. She didn't remember pulling the sword out of the Jakkai's head. She shook her head, assuming someone had done it for her.
Then again, there was no one else in the clearing, and the only ones approaching it was a squad of town guards. Another squad had basically blocked off the streets from civilian access, while a third seemed to be questioning a bunch of half-panicked people.
And then Kieri saw the assassin move, staggering to his hands and feet. He began to rush at the discarded dagger. The yelps of shock were enough to confirm it.
The killer Jakkai was alive.
She dove as he grabbed his dagger, but he was already leaping into the alleys and across the rooftops. <Get my sword, Kazai,> she ordered, <We'll meet up with you in a bit. Zahariah, watch for me – I'm going to try and freeze this guy.>
<Roger,> the boys responded, Kazai breaking off from the wing.
Kieri's focus was fully on the Jakkai as she prepared her spell, focusing her power and releasing a huge blast to freeze him solid. He dodged, albeit barely, and slipped down into an alley, and Kieri turned to follow him. He seemed to be gone, to her surprise. <We'll take to the ground,> she told her wingmate.
Kieri and Zahariah landed just outside what looked like a small tavern, waiting for Kazai with spells in hand in case their killer came out. The lights were out in the building, and a sign on the door read "Closed," but Kieri thought she smelled rot within – perhaps the assassin's previous victims?
<Kieri, I have it,> Kazai said as he landed beside her, passing her the blade.
It was at that moment a huge shockwave ripped through the wall, sending the three of them to scatter as they were hit by it. A moment later, a black-and-white Earth Demon – albeit a small one – stormed out, red eyes full of anger, and a Moon Pendant on his chest, loosely hanging from a leather holster.
Kieri's eyes widened as she made the connection for the Pendant.
And then he clipped it into place, and he swelled to monstrous proportions. That cinched it for her, and she made a decision. <Kazai, Zahariah, let me handle this,> she shouted to them as they returned to formation in front of her.
<Are you sure?> Zahariah asked, shocked. Kazai was too stunned to speak.
<Yes. Zahariah, go back to the wagon, get Buwaro, Rhea, Heathcliff, Melli, and Meeros. We'll need all of them. Kazai, help me hold him down if I need it. Ice to freeze him only, got it?>
Kazai frowned. <Alright,> he said finally, taking wing again, and Zahariah retreated.
The Earth Demon growled. <You made a mistake, Angel,> he said menacingly.
"I don't think I did, Iratu," she replied, hefting her blade defensively.
His eyes widened, and with a roar, he slammed the ground with one paw, creating another shockwave. Kieri managed to dodge this one, knowing what was coming. "How the hell do you know my name?!" he roared. "Hell, how do you even know Lingo?! You assholes don't even care enough to learn it!"
"I know your brother," Kieri responded. "Buwaro is a friend of mine. I don't think he'd be happy to know we're fighting!"
"Buwaro?!" Iratu yelped. The rage returned. "What did you do to my brother?!" he roared, slamming the ground again – this time, a huge spire of earth shot up at her, and she barely dodged it by taking flight.
"You want to know?" she asked, hovering. "Fine. I stole his heart, and he stole mine. I taught him basic Angelic, I taught him to read Lingo, I taught him to sing, I became his friend, and then his girlfriend, and then his lover!"
Kieri paused as she realized what she'd just admitted, blushing brightly. <I didn't mean to say that last one,> she murmured.
Iratu stared at her, jaw dropped. "You what."
Kieri hesitantly landed, putting her sword away and slowly walking forward. "I have never meant him harm. He found me in a position of weakness, and he was kind to me. He helped me regain my strength. He fought a Seraph when he thought I'd died – and he won." Iratu flinched at that, though he didn't seem to believed her. "He has been kind and accepting, even when I haven't. The only thing that's changed since we've met, is his status." She grimaced. "Are you familiar with the rumors going around town?"
"What rumors?" Iratu asked. "What, the ones about the Duke of Hell? We haven't even seen one rise in about a hundred years. Why are – " He paused, staring at her blankly as he got what she was saying. "Very funny," he growled. "I know Buwaro, and he's nowhere near that strong."
"I'm not joking," she replied seriously. "It happened during the fight with the Seraph, back in Weyville."
Iratu winced. "Really," he said quietly, looking worried.
"Really," she replied.
"Then he's a traitor," someone else said, and a bolt of lightning fried her body.