She squirmed slowly on her king-sized double bed and reached out for the pitcher of water by the bed, but the fingers only found air.
It was then that she remembered that she had not set out a jug of water, and she clicked her tongue.
She could not stifle her yawn. She slept like an old person, early to bed and early to rise, but she had only gone to bed just over an hour ago. She had not yet slept her fill.
The woman swallowed and placed a hand on her throat. There was a dry, sticky sensation there, and she got off the bed to get a drink of water. She threw on a long, thick robe to cover her nude body, slid her feet into a pair of slippers, and exited the room.
This was her— Hilma, head of the Drug Trafficking Division’s— home base in the Royal Capital. Logically speaking, there should have been dozens of lackeys bustling about, but the interior was now dead silent, like it was empty.
Surprised, Hima walked to the corridor. This mansion was always quiet when there were no nobles around, but this was too quiet.
She invited nobles to this place in order to build connections and relationships.
Among nobles, even legitimate heirs would need to wait a long time before they could succeed the family estate. It was quite common for them to only do so after the age of 30.
During this period, they could only ask the head of the house — that was to say, their father — for spending money. The same applied even if they were mature adults who were married with children. This was why Hilma invited these people to parties at this mansion.
Hilma provided drink, women and drugs, all the while whispering sweet nothings into their ears designed to play on their pride. She allowed them to meet others in the same situations as themselves to build a sense of closeness. Hilma would entertain them and build friendly relations with them.
Once these nobles inherited the estate, it was time for her to reap the harvest. If they dared sever ties with her, she would make sure they suffered for it. If they helped her out, she would reward them. In this way, she made further inroads into noble society.
She walked along the quiet hallway, looking for water to drink.
Silence was not a bad thing. She preferred the quiet to the noise of people. Though she did not show it on her face, she was actually very annoyed when she had to drink and hobnob with the nobles. However, the present circumstances were far too abnormal. This dead silence made her hair stand on end, and it even made her feel that she was the only person in this mansion.
“…What’s going on?”
It was impossible that even the guards had left their post without telling Hilma. She wanted to shout for someone, but if something abnormal had happened, it would be a very bad idea to let the enemy know where she was. She also considered just going back to her room and burrowing under her covers, but she might simply be awaiting her execution.
People who don’t move when they have to become food for others. This was a belief she subscribed to, and by adhering to that principle, she had risen from a high-class hooker to where she was now.
She checked both sides of the empty corridor several times and only moved ahead after verifying that there really was nobody there.
Trusting in her sixth sense, she headed towards a secret room which only she and a few others knew. There were several magic items and gems there, as well as an escape tunnel. This might have been her home base in the Royal Capital, but she had several other safehouses in the city itself. Perhaps she ought to flee there.
As she tiptoed along the hallway, Hilma realised something was off.
“What… is this?”
The whisper escaped her mouth unbidden. Hilma had discovered the oddity outside the window.
The window, made of sheets of thin glass, were covered in several layers of vines. As a result, almost no light could get in. She tried to open the window but it would not budge.
She hurriedly studied the other windows along the hallways. Each of them was choked with vines.
“What happened? Who could have…”
The windows were most definitely not like this before she had gone to bed. This could not have happened naturally in the space of an hour. That being the case, it was probably the work of magic.
Who could have done this, and what was their aim?
She had no idea about those points. Even so, she understood that her situation was very dire.
She cursed, and then she jogged ahead. She no longer cared about how her robe swayed here and there. All she wanted was to get into her secret room.
She reached the staircase and looked down. It was still silent.
Navigating by what little light managed to filter through the vines, she carefully descended the stairs. At the same time, she was grateful to the thick carpeting for masking her footsteps.
When she reached the first floor, she was so shocked that she suddenly sucked in a lungful of cold air.
There was a person in the hallway staring at her. That person seemed to blend into the shadows as it stood there, but it was not because they had shadow-melding abilities like thieves or other related jobs. Rather it felt that way because of their dark-skin, which gave the wrong impression. That was a Dark Elf, and their mismatched eyes seemed to sparkle against the black cloth wrapping them.
The Dark Elf let the black cloth wrapping them fall to the ground. Below it was girls’ clothing. She held a black-colored magic staff, and she looked up to Hilma.
The secret room was behind this mysterious girl.
As she recalled the inner layout of the mansion, Hilma steeled herself and nervously approached her.
If only she were a playmate brought along by some noble.
However, Hilma immediately discarded her naive conjecture.
When she heard that Cocco Doll had been captured, she had prepared to flee to a safe place to hide since she did not know how the higher-ups would react. Under these circumstances, there was no way her people would bring in outsiders, or fail to report such a thing to her.
“Say, little girl…”
After calling out, Hilma wrinkled her brows in suspicion.
She had seen all sorts of people in her past profession as a high-class prostitute. Her experience told her that this was not a girl, but a boy.
Her clothes were exquisite and not the sort which ordinary people could afford. For all Hilma knew, even she might not have something of that quality.
The Dark Elves had once lived in the Great Forest of Tob, and they were practically nonexistent in the Kingdom. Yet here was one now, wearing expensive clothes intended for another gender.
If not for the sinister atmosphere, Hilma would have concluded that this child was a slave to satisfy some noble’s degenerate lust.
“…Hey boy, what’re you doing here?”
She approached slowly and carefully, trying not to arouse his suspicion.
“A-auntie, are you the most important person in this place?”
She was not displeased to be called an auntie. To a young Dark Elf like him, women of her age were probably all aunties.
She stopped halfway. She had a bad feeling about this.
To date, she had relied on her instincts more than anything else. She had always believed that her instincts were superior than common sense. Where common sense might have betrayed her, only her intuition had never failed her.
“Yes! That’s right! I’m the most important person in this mansion.”
“Is, is that so, that’s good then.”
The boy smiled. His smile was so pure that even under the present circumstances, it almost managed to ignite the desire to defile his purity within Hilma’s heart.
“Ah, well, er, I asked those people, and they told me that too.”
As if in response to the boy, a nearby door opened. A girl slowly stepped out from within. She looked like a girl wearing some kind of bizarre maid uniform, but what surrounded her was not the scent of perfume but the stink of blood and gore.
Hilma covered her mouth and swallowed a scream.
The maid’s lovely little hand clutched a man’s arm. It looked like she had ripped it from his shoulder socket, given the torn fibers of muscle.
“What, what’s she…”
“Er, um, ah, it seems someone wanted to attack this mansion, so we decided to finish up some things before those people came. Therefore, er, I asked her to come along.”
“Please pay me no heed. It has been so long since I ate my fill, and I am very satisfied.”
She was able to address Hilma without moving her mouth. That was quite strange, but there were more pressing questions than that. What made Hilma shudder was the question of what exactly she had eaten to fill herself up. She could guess, but she did not want to believe. With those thoughts in her heart, she asked them.
“Then, then what, what about me? Are, are you going to eat me too?”
“Eh? Ah, er, no. You have other uses, auntie.”
She could not relax. That was because her intuition told her that a more horrific fate awaited her.
“—Then, then how about this, my boy. Want to have some fun with me?”
She let the clothes draped over her body slide from her shoulder.
This was her body, her pride and joy. When she had still been a courtesan, it would have cost a fortune just to spend the night with her. After that, she had kept any excess fat off her frame and maintained her sensuous figure. She was confident that she could fill anyone with all-consuming lust for her, even if her target was a child.
However, there did not seem to be any unusual emotions in the boy’s eyes.
She could admit that her charms were inferior to that maid over there. Even so, she had been a pro, despite the fact that she was retired. Even if he did not swing that way, she could still arouse him—
She elegantly worked her body in a serpentine fashion and slowly drew close, careful not to alarm him.
She could not sense anything like desire from the boy,
Therefore, she chose another course of action. She slowly extended a hand and put it around the boy’s neck — and activated a magic item.
It was the Viper Tattoo.
The tattooed snakes on both her hands came to life, raised their heads, and sprang out to bite the boy’s body. Anyone bitten by the serpents and their powerful neurotoxic venom would die in spastic twitches. This was the ace in the hole for Hilma, one did not otherwise have a way to fight.
However, the boy nimbly extended a hand and seized the whip-like snake as it struck, then proceeded to crush the life out of it without hesitation.
The Viper Tattoo whooshed back onto Hilma’s arms. Since the summoned snake had been killed, the tattoo could not be reactivated for a full day until it recovered.
Hilma was now in the worst-case scenario of having initiated hostilities and having nothing to show for it, and so she stumbled back unsteadily. However, what most frightened her was the fact that the boy’s expression had not changed at all during this string of events. He was not worried at being attacked, and neither did he show any hostility.
“Th-then, so, er, let’s go.”
Go where? Just as Hilma began to wonder about his words, intense pain shot through her kneecap at that very same moment. The unbearable pain left her unable to stand and she collapsed to the ground.
She wailed in anguish, breaking out in a cold sweat because of the pain, and then she looked down at her knee. She then regretted doing so.
“My, my, my leeeeeeeg!”
The kneecap of her left leg was twisted in the other direction, and bone protruded from her blood-red — from her flesh.
Hilma wept and made to squeeze her leg, which was in unbelievable agony. However, she hesitated. She did not dare touch it.
The boy grabbed Hilma by the hair and then walked out.
Hilma was dragged away by an arm-strength that she could never have guessed at from the way he looked. Dozens of hairstrands were wrenched out with a quiet snapping sound, but the boy did not seem to care.
“It hurts! It hurts so much! Don’t do this!”
In response to Hilma’s wailing, the boy merely glanced at her, but did not halt his pace.
“I, I have to hurry up and get there!”
Lower Fire Month (9th Month) 4th Day 22:20
Having completed the attack on the mansion, Entoma Vasilisa Zeta headed outside.
She peeled a paper strip off her leg, wadded it up and threw it into the depths of the building.
The original plan was to wipe out all the humans within the mansion, recover all important documents and valuables, and then retreat. If possible, they should try to avoid leaving any traces behind, but they did not have the time to sort the gathered information, so they ended up taking whatever they saw, and it looked like they had finished robbing an empty house.
However, that itself was not a problem. That was because Demiurge — who had sent Entoma and Mare here — had indicated that a development like this was a possibility. The problem was more that they had exceeded the allotted time by too much.
Mare and the demons who had accompanied her were no longer here. Mare had taken the most important person in this mansion to the rendezvous point. The vassal demons had departed this place with the reason they had exceeded their time — piles of goods.
Indeed. The reason why their timing was completely off was because they had discovered a basement while they were retreating. And that basement was piled high with contraband items and forbidden drugs.
The task of recovery had proceeded slowly.
To begin with, there were several underground rooms heaped high with miscellaneous items, and the high-value items were salted and concealed among the dross. As the saying went, the best place to hide a tree was in a forest. Even Entoma and the demons could not have brought all the goods away with them, and so they had to sift through said forest for the trees in question.
Perhaps it might have been resolved faster if the human which Mare had taken away was still around. However, it was too late to say that now.
Entoma and the demons decided to inspect each and every item, and they threw everything they judged as worthless into a room. This was a tedious task for the gathering party, whose strength far exceeded those of human beings. However, their hard work had paid off, and they had recovered everything valuable from the basement.
As the person in charge, Entoma had stayed behind until the end. With the attitude only found on those who had completed a great labor, she looked up at the night sky and made to wipe the sweat off her brow. In truth, she had not sweated at all; she only felt like she had.
“All right~ Then, hurry up and move it all, everyone.”
In accordance with Entoma’s orders, the insects which were bigger than a man took wing into the night sky, carrying a large quantity of cargo. These Giant Beetles had been summoned by Entoma’s entomancer abilities.
The insects flew straight toward the prearranged meeting point, their wings making a deep bass sound as they flapped.
Entoma watched the insects move the cargo, and she remembered that she was still holding something.
“Ah, I haven’t eaten it yet. How silly of me, how silly.”
She playfully knuckled her own head, and then brought the severed man’s arm under her jaw. There was a shakashaka noise as the flesh of the man’s arm was torn away. Entoma’s throat moved in time with the sound. Then, with a cute urp, the stench of blood spread through the air.
“While the fat of women’s meat makes it tender and children’s meat tastes good despite having less fat, eating the meat of a muscular man is best when trying to lose weight.”
She deftly avoided the bones, and once she was done, she chucked the rest of the arm into the mansion.
“Thank you for having me.”
She bowed to the building, and finally made to go to the point her superiors had ordered her to travel to. However, she had only taken a few steps when someone called out to her and stopped her in her tracks.
“Yo, this is a pretty nice night.”
“…Is it? I don’t think it’s nice for you at all, is it?”
Entoma had trouble telling whether the human who was slowly emerging was male or female. It seemed female, but judging by its muscular frame, it also seemed male.
“What’re you doing in a place like this?”
“Taking a walk.”
“…What were you eating so happily just now?”
“Yup. Human meat.”
The manwoman’s tone was icy cold, but it did not bother Entoma at all. She did not care at all how humans felt. If they got in the way, she would trample them. If they stayed out of the way, she would ignore them. If she was hungry, she would capture and eat them. It would be strange if she was actually concerned about such beings.
“I see. So the monster makes an appearance. I didn’t expect Eight Fingers to rear such monsters. But by the looks of things, they didn’t train you up properly.”
The manwoman slowly raised its spiked warhammer. As Entoma saw this, exasperation crept into her tone for the first time.
“I say. Could we just pretend we didn’t see each other?”
A strange expression appeared on the manwoman’s face. It probably had not expected the person opposite it to say something like that.
“You see, I came here to work too, and dealing with you would be very annoying. The most important thing is that right now, my tummy’s stuffed fit to burst.”
“…Sorry, but I’m one of the top adventurers in the Kingdom. I can’t let a man-eating monster go just like that. Besides, leaving something like you in the world would cause me a lot of problems.”
“What a pain. Still, you say you’re strong, huh? In that case, I’ll use you as emergency rations, then.”
Entoma looked directly at the manwoman for the first time.
It appeared to be a pure warrior.
Mm — it ought to be pretty strong.
Entoma was not a pure warrior, and so she could not estimate her opponent’s strength. However, she did not feel that her adversary was stronger than her.
The manwoman ran at Entoma. Then it raised its spiked warhammer high and smashed down at her.
Entoma gracefully evaded that blow. However, her opponent refused to let up and suddenly changed the direction of its swing, bringing the warhammer at her in a murderous blow. That was not a graceful movement utilizing centrifugal force, but using brute muscle power to forcefully change the direction of the strike.
Entoma evaded once more, and then activated a skill.
“Ah? Is running all you can do?!”
The manwoman swung its warhammer at Entoma, and the gale in the wake of its blow whipped past her head, stirring the strands of her fake hair.
“Mm — you really like swinging wildly, don’t you?”
Her mockery was met by the clicking of a tongue. Entoma used her skill once more, and at the same time she easily avoided the plunging smash of the spiked warhammer. Having missed its target, the hammer crashed into the ground with all the force which had been meant for her.
Entoma sneered at her opponent’s simple, repetitive attacks. Her face did not change at all. However, her opponent could keenly sense the mockery coming from her as they fought.
However, Entoma then realised in the next moment that her opponent was waiting for this — for the hubris that only the overwhelmingly powerful possessed.
The earth shattered where the spiked warhammer had struck it. No, the stone floor had shattered. It was like a localized earthquake. For the first time, Entoma lost her footing. In contrast, her opponent had used some kind of magic item to remain as stately as a mountain.
Entoma watched as her opponent raised its warhammer once more, its head stained with dirt and debris.
I underestimated my opponent.
Entoma scolded herself.
Evading that move was easy enough. Indeed, if she had been human, she would have lost her balance when her footing was destroyed, and the shockwave of the ground fragmenting under her feet would have reached her legs and acted as another set of shackles to bind her in place, making escape very difficult. However, Entoma was one of the Pleiades Battle Maids, and the magic items she wore were all of superior quality. Such conditions did not bother her in the slightest.
There was only one problem.
She would have to jump in order to evade, but that would dirty the maid uniform she wore.
Would such a thing be permitted? This was a rare and precious treasure handed down to Entoma from the Supreme Beings.
That was enough — no more playing around.
For the first time, there was genuine hostility on Entoma’s face under the mask.
No more playing around.
—I’ll kill it.
Entoma turned to face the falling spiked warhammer and raised her left arm. She no longer felt like a human flicking away a bug, but the actual desire to kill. Perhaps it would be different if she were a Floor Guardian, but for someone of Entoma’s level, it would be very difficult to survive unscathed if she were to block that attack with her defenseless left arm.
In the very next moment, what rang out was not the sound of steel pulping flesh, but two hard objects colliding.
At this moment, a shield clung to Entoma’s left arm. “Clung” was not a metaphorical term — an insect with over eight legs gripped Entoma’s arm tightly and refused to let go.
“What, what’s that?”
“You see, I’m an entomancer. So I can call out bugs like this and command them as I like.”
She waved her right hand and out of the night flew a long insect shaped like a broadsword, which attached itself to the back of her right hand.
“These is a Sword Bug and this is a Shield Bug. I’ve decided that I’m going to kill you. I hadn’t intended to take your life at first, but now you cannot be spared.”
Entoma advanced on her opponent and slashed at it.
She ripped through the manwoman’s breastplate and fresh blood fountained out. However, it was not a fatal blow by any means. Her opponent had not been able to avoid a serious attack from Entoma, but she had only been lightly wounded.
It would seem calling itself one of the top adventurers in the Kingdom was not pride or exaggeration. However, if that was all she had, she was not worthy to be Entoma’s opponent.
She was not a pure fighter like Yuri Alpha, but Entoma Vasilisa Zeta was still a member of the Pleiades, and she possessed power entirely incomparable to that of mankind.
She swung again, and blood spurted once more, splashing her face.
Thanks to the injury she had taken just now, this wound was deeper than the last, and it could no longer be considered light.
“You actually changed your movements on me! Did you get serious?!”
The spiked warhammer fell on Entoma with a furious cry, and Entoma deflected it with her Shield Bug. She felt a tremendous impact race through her, but she stood firm, determined not to budge so much as a step. In truth, nothing would have happened if she did move, but this was an expression of her pride, and her determination to not move for a mere human being.
The manwoman rode on the flow of battle, continuing her fluid combination of attacks. Her fast and furious assault was most likely augmented by the “Martial Arts” which were unique to this world. However, Entoma skilfully used her Shield Bug and her Sword Bug to block the series of fifteen continuous attacks without so much as a scratch
Entoma did not know that this was the trump card of Blue Rose’s Gagaran, her super combo made by simultaneously activating many martial arts. Each hit of that crashing wave of attacks was made with all the strength her steely arms could produce, and they could even break through the [Fortress] martial art. Only the defensive technique known as [Invulnerable Fortress] — which only a few geniuses could master — could hope to fully defend against it. However, Entoma’s innate muscle power had blocked every single strike.
This was the disparity in their levels, the overwhelming difference in the physical abilities of their respective species.
The beginning of despair began to appear in her opponent’s eyes, but Entoma felt nothing for it. All she wanted was to kill her adversary.
She heard what sounded like a swimmer gasping for air as their head crested the water’s surface. The combination attack had also stopped. Entoma cocked her right hand — the one with the Sword Bug — back like she was drawing a bow, and then stabbed forward like loosing an arrow. She was aiming for the chest of the manwoman.
Her foe raised its warhammer, but it was too slow. Entoma’s strike was faster than it, and it pierced it chest —
—Or at least, that should have been the case.
The thrust missed. The insect blade struck nothing but the night air.
Entoma’s head swivelled. She wanted to see who had interfered with her attack.
There was a black-clad woman several meters away. Behind her was the panting manwoman.
“Sorry about that, Tia. I thought I was a goner.”
“So your blood is red too, Gagaran.”
“What are you acting all surprised for? It’s not like this is the first time you’ve seen me get hurt.”
“I thought you’d start to bleed blue by now. Like a power up.”
“That’s not a power-up, that’s becoming another race entirely!”
“A class change, then.”
As she heard the two of them bantering, Entoma grew angry. She was the strong one here. Only she was allowed to act so casual. They needed to know where they stood.
“—Are you quite done yet? Have you said your farewells to each other?”
Entoma grew cautious for the first time. The manwoman — Gagaran — was nothing to fear. The problem was the newcomer — Tia. If her clothes were not just for looks, then she ought to be a ninja. That was a job class which required a minimum character level of 60 to take.
If that were the case, then the teleportation technique which had allowed Gagaran to escape Entoma’s attack was ninjutsu.
If she were a real ninja, then even Entoma would not be able to win easily. She had thought to conserve her strength and eliminate her opponent, but things being as they were, she could no longer afford to hold back.
Before her opponents could act, Entoma had already thrown out four talismans from her right hand.
The talismans landed on the ground, and instantly transformed into huge spiders.
These spiders were comparable to the monsters conjured by [Summon Monster 3rd], and they were hardly powerful creatures, but they ought to be enough to gauge her opponent’s strength. They would also buy her time to prepare herself.
Entoma was doing this because entomancers’ insect weapons were very powerful, but they had a few weaknesses. One of them was the fact that summoning the insects in question required some time.
“[Kage Bunshin no Jutsu].”
As Tia activated her ninjutsu, her shadow writhed and birthed another Tia.
Entoma paid no attention to it. The clones generated by the [Kage Bunshin no Jutsu] were only a quarter as strong as their creator. Their evasive ability varied in proportion to how much of their creator’s mana had been allocated to them, but that was all. Perhaps they might be considered formidable opponents for the Shikigumo, but they were hardly a challenge for Entoma.
Rather, the more important thing was how skilled the original was. Entoma called out her trump cards; her Bullet Bugs and another kind of insect. At the same time, she pasted talismans on herself to further strengthen her abilities.
A swarm of Bullet Bugs gathered out of nowhere and covered her left arm.
The three centimeter-long insects gleamed with a steely radiance, and the fronts of their V-shaped bodies were sharp, bearing a strong resemblance to rifle bullets. No, that resemblance was only to be expected, because these insects were used exactly like rifle bullets.
The shadow clone was running ragged just trying to evade the attacks of one Shikigumo, while the original was dealing with two of them. The fact that she had only killed one after so long suggested that her foes were most definitely not high-levelled. That being the case, victory ought to be easy even if one factored in Gagaran’s fighting power.
—As if, I’m not going to think that way.
She was not going to show them any mercy. She would quickly end the battle with overwhelming force.
The weight on her left arm pleased Entoma, and she extended the finger of her left hand at Tia.
The bugs had encrusted Entoma’s arm until they had practically doubled its diameter. As one, they crawled to the front of her arm and then took wing from her extended finger, one after the other. The incessant buzzing of wings called to mind the image of a Gatling gun. The path of the Bullet Bugs meant that they pierced through her own Shikigumo, but in total, 150 of them flew downstream at Tia.
These bugs could punch holes in steel, and even a large tree would be riddled full of holes and sawed in half if it was hit by 150 of them. However, in the face of the fatal projectiles, Tia used another ninjutsu technique.
“[Fudou Kongou Tate no Jutsu]!”
A scintillating rainbow-colored shield sprang into existence in front of Tia. The bugs slammed into the gigantic wall of light that cut through the darkness, which was shaped like a six pointed star. Within a few seconds, the shield shattered with the crisp sound of breaking glass. However, the fusillade of insects had stopped as the shield broke, revealing an unhurt Tia behind it.
Entoma had no tongue, but she clicked it anyway. However, the fact that she could force her foe to use one ace in the hole after another was like lighting the path to her victory. So far her foe could withstand Entoma’s attacks, but once Entoma’s offense surpassed her opponent’s defense, the flood which washed over their protections would surely consume them too.
Entoma deflected the the kunai flying from the front with the Sword Bug — then she blocked Gagaran’s plunging mid-air strike with her Shield bug. She must have jumped down from quite a high place, because the Shield Bug had to take a lot of pressure, and it squeaked like it was wailing in pain.
If the dazzling lights of the [Fudou Kongou Tate] had affected Entoma’s vision, she would not have been able to block Gagaran’s leaping attack from the darkness. However, Entoma’s vision was not affected by such petty trickery. In addition, her field of vision was much larger than that of a human, even when she wore “that”.
Perhaps she sensed that following up on the attack would be dangerous, but Gagaran skated away — her legs remained still, but the distance between them opened up. The fact that she was moving so nimbly despite her massive frame proved that her wounds were completely healed. She took her place beside Tia and crushed the Bullet Bugs’ corpses underfoot, making a clear pachipachi noise.
“This is terrible, I don’t feel like we can win at all. How did she do that, her timing was too good, don’t you think? She barely even saw me but she blocked me anyway.”
“Maybe she has a wide field of vision?”
“It should be something else. I think it’s more likely that it’s an entomancer ability, or some kind of magical sense… that said, everything’s in her favor, so why didn’t she attack while we were talking?”
“A beast will size up its prey’s strength, and then strike at its vitals.”
“I see. In other words, she’s studying all our moves. That’s completely unlike our shorty, these careful types are really hard to deal with.”
“It wouldn’t be good to look down on you because you’re humans, no? Ah, although there was another reason… there we are, it’s here. Now then, I won’t need this any more.”
The insect clinging to Entoma’s right arm fell to the ground and vanished into the night with a scrabbling noise.
“And in its place… come here.”
Another insect crawled onto the now-vacant arm. It resembled a centipede. No, it practically was a centipede, if one disregarded the fact that it was ten meters long and the sharp fangs at what passed for its face in front.
This was the most powerful insect her entomancer abilities could summon, the Thousand Lash Bug.
Entoma began channelling her strength into her legs.
She had learned the attack speed, destructive power, defensive strength, evasive ability and movement abilities of the two humans before her. The only unknown variable was Tia’s adaptability, but there was no need to worry about that.
Entoma touched her chin. Her fingers made contact with a clear, sticky fluid.
“I just ate my fill, but after a bit of exercise I’m hungry again.”
She had touched her saliva. It was the expression of her desire for humans as food.
Although her favorite food was humans, until now she had only been able to sate her cravings using green biscuits as a substitute. Of course, she did not resent the Supreme Beings because of that. In fact, Entoma felt that the Supreme Beings were quite generous for allowing her to eat the arms which had been severed during the experiments on the humans captured from a certain village,
Even so, she had still been repressing herself, and now that there were two excellent specimens of humanity — the highest-grade of cuisine — before her, she could not bear to dispose of them without taking a single bite.
The two of them shuddered, exposed as they were before Entoma’s hungry gaze. They were not afraid of the killing intent she emitted, but this was a trembling born of the revulsion any living being had when a carnivore set its sights on them.
This was the first time Entoma had gone on the offensive in the battle, and her attack was accompanied by a shrill cry that sounded like two pieces of foam rubbing against each other. Predators pounced their prey in a straight line, and at very high speeds.
By the time she had deflected the six consecutive kunai coming at her, she had covered the distance between both parties.
Seeing Gagaran the frontliner raise her weapon, Entoma decided on the first person she would incapacitate, and she swung the whip in her right hand.
The longer the whip, the slower its tip would move. The same applied even to Entoma, who possessed superhuman muscle power. However, that was only true if the whip in question was a normal one.
Entoma was now using the most powerful insect that she, as an entomancer, could summon —
The whip which should have followed the motion of Entoma’s arm in a lazy arc moved in a completely impossible fashion. It launched out like an extension of Entoma’s arm at Gagaran, its razor-sharp horns and teeth leading the way at lightning speed.
This movement was only possible from a creature that was a fusion of weapon and lifeform. Even a veteran of a thousand bizarre encounters like Gagaran had probably never seen or experienced this sort of thing before. It was only natural that she would be surprised by witnessing something like that for the first time.
The fact that she could avoid such a strange attack was why she was called an adamantite-ranked adventurer — the highest-ranked of all adventurers.
Gagaran evaded the attack by the narrowest of margins, and as the insect-whip flew past her face —
—Following Tia’s cry, Gagaran’s body was blown away. This was Tia’s ninjutsu — [Bakuenjin]. the suicidal explosion enveloped the two of them, the Thousand Lash Bug passed through the place where Gagaran’s head had been, having turned a full 180 degrees to attack from behind.
If not for that suicidal explosion, the Thousand Lash Bug would have pierced her skull. It had been well-dodged. However, Entoma’s attack did not stop there. The Thousand Lash Bug suddenly turned as though it was on strings, heading at Gagaran’s blackened body.
At the same time, Entoma cast a talisman at Tia.
—It was a Thunderbird Talisman.
The talisman transformed into several birds of bluish-white electricity in mid-air, and winged towards Tia.
If there were two opponents, then all she had to do was let her bug deal with one of them. One could say that was an advantage that entomancers possessed.
The lightning strike exploded, and actinic blue-white light burst out to cover the surroundings, illuminating Tia — who was trying to withstand the pain — and Gagaran — who was trying to fend off the Thousand Lash Bug.
“Motherfucker! I hate these squirmy things!”
Gagaran weighed down the head of the Thousand Lash Bug with her spiked warhammer and gripped it under her left armpit, trying to keep it from moving. However, the insect used its ten meter-long body to coil loop after loop of itself around her body.
Tia stepped forward and threw a dagger, which struck Entoma’s Shield Bug with a metallic sound.
“[Thunderbird Flurry Talisman].”
Entoma cast out many talismans with her left hand. They transformed into birds that were slightly smaller than before and converged on Tia. However, Tia vanished, and bereft of a target, the thunderbirds flew on.
Tia emerged from the darkness behind Entoma, where she should have been outside of her field of vision. This was a short-ranged teleport through the medium of shadows. However, Entoma had long since spotted her. Much like certain insects had antennae, Entoma could sense movements in the air currents through a similar organ, which was another facet of Entoma’s sensory abilities.
The few remaining Bullet Bugs shot out at Tia as she stepped out of the shadows.
The stink of fresh blood accompanied a cry of pain, but Entoma sensed that her opponent was still able to fight, and so she followed up on her attack.
An explosion more intense than the one Tia had previously made shattered the nighttime silence. Tia was blown away, rolling along the ground, and more talismans continued flying after her. They were Keen Slice Talismans and Buffeting Gale Talismans. Tia could not find a chance to get to her feet, and she left a trail of bloodstains in her wake as she rolled further and further away, all the while being slashed and blasted.
“Tia! You insect bitch!”
The insect whip had already wrapped up Gagaran, who was cursing from inside the spherical mass.
They had probably planned to have Gagaran weigh down the Thousand Lash Bug while Tia attacked Entoma herself.
Entoma chuckled under her mask.
All she could say was that they were utterly foolish. Entoma was one of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick’s Pleiades battle maids. Humans of their level could not possibly hope to defeat her. The wisest course of action would have been to ignore the fact that Entoma had eaten someone and run with all their might. They had chosen poorly, and these were the consequences of that choice.
“…The sequence of events is kind of wrong, but oh well, I guess I can’t do anything about that. In any case, I’ll probably be able to eat my fill since there are so many muscles, and it looks tasty too.”
Entoma summoned more insects. These ones did not possess any fearsome fighting ability. They resembled syringes, which injected a paralytic venom.
Entoma grabbed the bugs and stepped lightly towards Tia.
This was a nice souvenir. Many creatures in the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick ate human beings. They would surely be very happy to receive a present like this.
“Hm? What’s that?”
Entoma’s exceptional senses warned her of a long, cold object plunging down on her from above, and she leapt away. At that moment, a long lance stabbed into the ground where Entoma had just been standing.
It looked like a cavalry lance made of crystal. However, that was no ordinary lance. That was because the cavalry lance which had pierced the stone floor was made of fragile crystal, yet it did not have a single crack on it.
“Is that a spell…?”
As a spiritual magic caster, Entoma could sense certain common qualities which all magic-using careers shared from the cavalry lance.
“Indeed. This is a 4th-tier arcane spell, [Crystal Lance].”
The person who answered her descended slowly upon the butt of the cavalry lance. She was a dimunitive, masked girl in a robe with a childish voice.
More helpers? Even Entoma was starting to get annoyed. She had thought she was about to enjoy a tasty meal, but then she had been surprised by an unexpected development. Her frustration was only to be expected.
“That’s enough from you for now.”
“…From whoi? I can still let you off now, so could you please leave? Children’s meat is tender and I like it very much, but the portions are just too small. I’ll play with you after I’ve eaten the two of them.”
“I see, so you’re a man-eater. And you’re dressed up like a maid, are you kidding me? Who the hell would want a monster who reeks of blood attending them?”
“WHaT dId YoU saY, YOu LItTLe bITcH?!”
Entoma had accidentally spoken in her true voice, and she hurriedly clamped her hand down on her throat.
She could not tolerate what this new enemy had said and her agitation had overcome her. She wanted to tear apart the woman in front of her, not because it was the principle of the strong preying upon the weak, but because that woman had upset her.
What did this woman just say to me? Me, a Pleiades Battle Maid of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, one who serves the Supreme Beings?
The fires of hell itself blazed brightly within Entoma’s body.
“I’lL kILl You!”
She could no longer control her voice. However, she desperately struggled to keep her back from swelling up.
Tia called out to the masked woman, and Entoma now knew the name of the person she was going to slaughter with all her strength.
“I was wondering what you were trying to do… ahhh, honestly. Lesson One; always consider the relative strength and weakness of yourself and your opponent. She’s stronger than you… and weaker than me.”
Evileye swept her arm and set her cape aflutter, and then she shouted:
“How dare you bully my comrades, you monster! Now I’ll teach you what it feels like to be bullied in turn! You can thank me for it later!”
Furious anger exploded from beneath that mask, but Entoma did not care.
Entoma was radiating murderous intent of her own from every pore of her body, and she broke into a sprint. In Entoma’s hate-filled mind, the other two were nothing more than bothersome pebbles.
—Did she say nobody would want me attending them?!
Those words echoed through her mind, again and again.
Entoma swung the Thousand Lash Bug. There was only about a meter or so left for her to grip; the rest had already formed into a huge sphere. Naturally, Gagaran was at the heart of it.
“I’ll squash you flat with your friend! Damn woman!”
She smashed the Thousand Lash Bug down on her opponent, like she was wielding a flail.
“Hmph, what a boring attack.”
However, Evileye was unmoved.
Entoma resisted the spell, but the Thousand Lash Bug turned weightless and floated up leisurely.
As long as the wearer successfully resisted a spell, their equipment would also resist it. However, insect weapons did not use their wielders’ resistance, but had to resist spells and effects on their own.
Therefore, even if a spell did not affect Entoma herself, it could affect her insect weapons, as shown by the current situation. This was a demerit of insect weapons, which could prosecute independent attacks.
However powerful Entoma was, she could only give up her original plan in the face of this magic.
The Thousand Lash Bug sensed what Entoma was thinking and released Gagaran. It unrolled like a tape measure and instantly became a ten meter-long insect whip. As Gagaran collapsed to the ground, Evileye barked orders at her.
“Gagaran! You’re in the way! Go heal up Tia! If your gloves are used up, feed her potions!”
The injured humans were going to heal themselves. That alone was not a problem, because neither of them was a worthy opponent for Entoma. However, the magic caster in front of her was a different matter entirely, considering her abilities.
Evileye was on Entoma’s level. If she had help, the tide might quickly turn against her.
Thus, while Entoma was unwilling to deploy it, she decided to reveal her true ace in the hole.
She had already used it once to exterminate everyone within the mansion in one fell swoop, but she could still use it two more times.
It was the ability to exhale a cloud of carnivorous flies — [Fly Breath].
The flies expelled by the breath were like cattle flies. They did not eat flesh in and of themselves, but they laid flesh-burrowing grubs. The grubs would burrow into their victims’ bodies and cause damage over time to them. Worse, once the larvae sprouted wings, they would become a choking swarm that would attack anyone who entered their area of effect save certain individuals.
Entoma bared her throat, exposing her true face from where a human’s chin would be. To an outsider, it would look like her jaw had split open,
With an awwwwrblargh, she vomited a mass of swarming flies.
“You! Is that power connected to the Demon Gods? In that case—”
White vapor spread from Evileye, as though to meet the attack.
Ice-type attacks were a good response, but they could not completely neutralize the swarm. The ideal method would be spells that created blasts or explosions to disperse the fly swarms.
She had made a mistake.
Entoma imagined how Evileye would look when the maggots ripped her to shreds, but the spell she had used as a counterattack exceeded her predictions.
As they touched the vapors, the flies fell to the ground one by one. Said vapors then enveloped Entoma’s body. At that moment, Entoma was wracked by incredible agony.
♦ ♦ ♦
The entomancer’s face emitted a cloud of steam and deformed, as though someone had poured acid on it.
Evileye’s objective had been to negate her opponent’s breath attack, but she had not expected it to reveal her enemy’s true face.
“Oi, oi, did it work?”
Gagaran had her spiked warhammer raised and she was looking for a chance to approach her opponent. As expected of an excellent warrior, she had probably sensed that this was the deciding moment of the battle. In truth, given their opponent’s fighting power, they had to follow up on this attack and finish the fight quickly.
Gagaran could not approach the enemy because the ten meter-long insect was thrashing about wildly, preventing her from getting close. However, it felt like futile resistance from a defeated enemy.
“What on earth was that spell?”
Evileye answered Tia’s question:
“It’s an insect-killing spell, [Verminbane]. There was an insectile Demon God among the Demon Gods 200 years ago. So I invented this spell to wipe out the insects it summoned. Ah, well, it’s something like a unique creation.”
“Oi! Will this spell harm us?”
“It won’t. It’s especially effective against vermin, but it’s non-toxic towards other living creatures.”
“…Her face melted.”
“Tia, that’s because her true identity is… erk! No, that’s not a face!”
As though waiting for Evileye to exclaim just that, the maid’s pretty face slid stickily down and thudded to the ground. It looked like the skin had been peeled off her face, but that was not the case. The back of the face which had fallen onto the ground was covered in insectile legs.
“To think it was an insect shaped like a mask…”
The maid’s throat was exposed. There was a slit in that abnormally hard-looking throat, and a big chunk of something slime-covered fell out of it.
It resembled a wad of vomitus, but the deciding difference was the fact that it was still writhing on the ground.
Evileye could not help but hold her breath in the face of this chain of bizarre events. This was the first time she had experienced something like this in her long life.
“—A Lip Bug.”
That was the name Tia used to address the slime-covered, leech-like creature that had fallen to the stony ground.
“This insect devours the vocal cords of humanoids and uses them to produce the voices of its victims.”
The front of this pinkish leech-like creature creature resembled a pair of human lips, and it was gasping in the sweet voice which the maid had been using until just now.
As everyone stared at her, the maid slowly removed the hands covering her face. The visage thus revealed resembled that of an insect’s.
The members of Blue Rose could not help but back off as they saw that startling face of hers. While they had guessed at it once the Mask Bug fell off and the [Verminbane] had been visibly effective, the horrific sight before them still engendered fear in their hearts.
The fact that an inhuman monster like this had actually set foot into the world of humans made them all feel like they had been violated.
“YoU dARe… YOu DarE…”
That voice was cold, stiff and difficult to understand.
“Now that’s a cute voice. I prefer it when you sound like that!”
Gagaran’s words were practically dripping with hostility. She was the most compassionate of all of Blue Rose’s members. In all likelihood, she was thinking of all the victims of this girl. The grip on her weapon grew tighter.
“Pu, puUuNy hUmANsSs!”
During the previous battle, their opponent had always striven to present a calm, composed front. However, that composure was nowhere to be seen now.
That being the case, she was probably not going to hold back any more, and she would launch a furious onslaught.
“The real battle’s about to begin! Don’t slack off, you two! What’s in store for us is an attack even fiercer than the last!”
Evileye shouted a warning to the two of them. However, since it was them, they already understood even without the need for Evileye to say so. They had been prepared to lose their lives ever since the battle had begun.
The insect maid’s back swelled up, and four long legs — like those of a spider — sprouted from under her clothes. It looked like she was wearing insect legs as a backpack.
She used the legs she had sprouted to leap forward. It was so startling that one might think she had used a flying spell.
Now that she had a height advantage from overhead, the monster spewed its [Fly Breath], seeking to engulf everyone in it.
Evileye clicked her tongue and cast [Verminbane] once more.
“ONlY yOu! yOU’rE tHe OnLy ONe I haVe tO feAR! ONCe You’Re deAd EvErYTHIng elSE WIll bE SimPLe! WhY aRE YOu sO hARD To DeAl wiTH?!”
The flesh-eating flies were wiped out, and the insect maid fell back to earth, her compound eyes glaring at Evileye. Indeed only Evileye could fight evenly with this monster. If Evileye were defeated, the battle would be decided, and there was no doubt that Gagaran and Tia would die horribly. That said, focusing entirely on one person was a mistake.
Gagaran smashed in from the side with her spiked warhammer.
Evileye might have the advantage, but Gagaran was not willing to dump everything on her. She stepped up beside her comrades to challenge this formidable foe. Evileye smiled at her from under her mask. If she had not been wearing, she might have have been too shy to do so.
The monster made to evade Gagaran’s hit, but it froze briefly in place. That was because of Tia’s ninjutsu, [Fudou Kanashibari no Jutsu]. Her foe was not so much resistant to it as she was immune to it, so it could not stop her from moving. Even so, the fact that it had created a brief opening for Gagaran was a tremendous help.
In response to the [Smash]-enhanced strike, the monster spat a mouthful of spider silk. There was so much of it that painted the upper half of Gagaran’s body white.
The sticky and resilient silk was difficult to break even for Gagaran’s arm-strength. She stopped her attack and stumbled backwards. Instead, the monster stepped forward.
A cavalryman’s lance of crystal shot out at the monster.
It hit Entoma and penetrated deep into her body, but it did not seem to hurt her at all. Worse, she seemed strong enough to summon more insects from the night, causing her left arm to swell up.
The white vapors caused the insects swarming on Entoma’s left arm to fall off, and the monster moaned in pain.
The portion of her body that corresponded to a human’s jaw turned to face Evileye, and it spewed a stream of silk at her, the same as what it had spat at Gagaran.
Defending with magic would be a waste of mana. I’m immune to binding anyway, so I should just take — no!
Evileye hurriedly cast a spell. It was true that Entoma had spat silk at her, but the light from its strands was colder and harder than what she had hit Gagaran with.
The crystal wall before her eyes was cut to pieces and vanished before her eyes.
“Was that razor webbing?!”
The net of woven black thread which Tia cast out expanded in mid-air. However, that net could not find purchase on the monster’s body. The net passed through the monster’s body like an illusion and fell to the ground.
“To think she’s completely immune to movement restriction!”
“Cheh! Time out!”
Gagaran’s indignant retort was accompanied by a kick at the maid, who was seeking to close into melee combat. That kick was also intended to create some space between them.
The startling thing was that when the greave made contact with the maid uniform, there was a sound of metallic collision.
Gagaran backed off, and the other two members of Blue Rose kept their distance from the maid, forming up while staying wary of area attacks.
“POkiNg hERe anD PoKInG theRE… wHaT a PAiN!”
As Gagaran inspected the maid’s buzzing jaws, her low voice filtered into Evileye’s ears.
“Did you hear that? That maid uniform’s as hard as my weapon, what a joke.”
“It’s woven from a very hard metal. Given its thickness, I’d say her clothes are much harder than your weapon.”
“Adamantite… no, that’s not it.”
“I don’t think that’s all, no? She’s got gear so good that it doesn’t even make sense… My earth-elemental spells aren’t too effective against her. In other words, her items must include something with the effect of reducing magical damage. Simply put, finding her weakness and taking her unawares isn’t going to be too effective.”
In response to Tia’s question, Evileye smiled thinly under her mask.
“We need to attack head on and hit her with everything we have to drain her health.”
“Easier said than done. What should we do? If we don’t hurry up, she’s going to finish powering herself up with her talismans.”
“We’ll just use our strongest moves. For me, it’ll be [Verminbane].”
“…Sounds simple enough. Alright, let’s finish this.”
However, depleting the health of one’s foe with high firepower was not as simple as it sounded.
Under normal circumstances, she could use [Sand Field – One] or [Region Petrification] to seal off her opponent’s movements and support the warriors, but those moves were useless against that maid.
If damage had to be done, then Gagaran could take care of that with physical attacks. Evileye’s role was to prepare countermeasures for when physical attacks were ineffective, and not to focus on attack magic. That was what she had always believed. However, given the present circumstances, she could not longer say that.
I’ve always insisted that magic casters who rely on attack spells are second-rate, but I guess I have to eat my words now.
Evileye considered the spell she ought to use.
Her most effective spell was a maximized [Shard Buckshot], but that would hit her comrades as well. The high-tier spell [Verminbane] which she had innovated consumed a lot of mana, so it was best saved for when her opponent summoned bugs. That being the case, the most suitable spell would be of the acid element, which she did not like much.
The three of them looked at each other, and they attacked at once.
Evileye used [Acid Splash] as their main attack method, while Tia — whose offensive power was comparatively weaker — supported them from behind with items. Gagaran activated her martial arts in between a series of repeated combination attacks.
♦ ♦ ♦
Before long, the battle began favoring one side.
It was true that their foe was very powerful. She could spit all kinds of spiderwebs, launch magical attacks with talismans, and summon insects to attack. In addition, she possessed powerful magic items, beyond those of Blue Rose.
However, even as the group’s recovery items and other resources dwindled, the insect maid was slowly being forced to retreat further and further back.
If she were asked what had determined the course of the battle, Evileye would puff up her chest and proudly say, “my friends.”
Indeed, Gagaran and Tia were far weaker than Evileye or the monster facing them. But numbers were a significant advantage. Being able to attack and heal at the same time had a big effect on the battle.
In particular, the side that could have others heal them when they could not heal themselves had an advantage. That point had been the decisive factor between victory and defeat.
“Don’t make simple mistakes, keep forcing her back!”
Lower Fire Month (9th Month) 4th Day 22:27
It had been a fierce battle.
The insect maid finally collapsed, like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
Evileye’s mana was heavily depleted, and her expendable items were almost gone. The cost of this battle had been ruinous.
Gagaran, covered in wounds as she was, announced their victory in a panting voice. While she was completely out of healing items, she had not lost as much health as her external injuries would indicate.
“Finish her off.”
Evileye approved of Tia’s suggestion. The insect maid was on her last legs, but she was not dead yet. The fact that she was still making chirping noises was the best proof of that.
Now that she lacked the ability to fight, it would be best to take her life without hesitation.
Tia stepped forward, sword in hand, and then her body froze in place. Evileye knew the reason for that without having to ask her why.
“I believe that will be all for now.”
Unbelievably enough, a man had appeared in front of the insect maid at some point to block her.
He was dressed in strange clothes which they had never seen before in this region. From what Evileye knew, this was a type of clothing worn in the south, known as a “suit”. The man wore a mask, and they could not see his face.
However, he was most definitely not human. That was because he sprouted a tail from his waist.
“Oi, you a friend of Evileye’s?”
Nonsense, Evileye wanted to say, but she could not speak. She felt like she had been struck by lightning. She glanced at her right hand and saw that it was covered in sweat.
“—Are you alright? Allow me to take care of things from now on. You should go back and rest.:”
The man did not seem to care at all about the armed and battle-ready members of Blue Rose, but spoke kindly to the insect maid. Though he was an enemy, that act of his seemed quite endearing. However, Evileye did not think so.
The fear she felt from the top of her head to the ends of her toes refused to vanish.
Evileye’s survival instincts responded. She held her breath and desperately whispered to Gagaran and Tia beside her.
“…Run away… idiot, don’t look at me. Shut up and listen. That… he’s too powerful. He’s a monster among monsters. Don’t look back, just run with all your might.”
“…What about you?”
Gagaran’s face was bitter as she asked that question.
“Don’t mind me. Once I’ve bought enough time for you to flee, I’ll escape with teleportation magic.”
And then, somehow, the insect maid — who should have been rendered immobile by her injuries — rose shakily to her feet. She did not seem to have used any healing magic, nor did she seem to have drunk anything.
An insect flew out of nowhere and clung to her back, and then the maid soared into the night sky. She left only the sound of her going “giii giiii” behind as she flew into the distance.
Although their enemy was getting away before their eyes, Evileye did not care. She could not tear her eyes away from the man in front of her. The other two were like her, covered in sweat and frozen in place.
After watching the maid leave, the man turned back to face Evileye and the others.
In the 250-plus years of her life, Evileye had seen powerful beings of all shapes and sizes. However, the man before them had a unique aura about him. No, it was more that the nauseating malice he emanated had no equal in all her experience.
Someone like him ought to be on the level of the Platinum Dragon Lord. He was too powerful for her to make an accurate judgement.
“I apologize for keeping you waiting. Now then, since we do not have much time for this, let us begin right away.”
Evileye’s voice was more of a wail.
The two of them turned like they had been electrically shocked. It was not as though they did not feel guilty for leaving their comrade behind. This was best shown by the fact that they did not retreat right away when Evileye told them to flee. What they felt was trust — trust that Evileye would find a way to deal with this, or that Evileye could find a way to escape.
However, those thoughts were immediately overruled.
“For starters, parting right after meeting is most saddening. Therefore, please permit me to interdict your teleportation. [Dimensional Lock]. One ought to say one’s farewells before departure; certainly that would be pleasing from both an emotional and an etiquettical point of view, do you not agree?”
Certain extremely high-level demons and angels could use skills that could prevent the use of teleportation in their vicinity. Evileye had now lost her means of retreat.
However, that was not a problem. She had known that from the beginning. The last person to remain here — the one covering everyone else’s retreat — would not make it back alive.
“Death ought to come in the appropriate order. The young should live, while the most aged should die first. I believe that is proper.”
After bidding farewell to the vanishing presences behind her, the woman who had lived over 250 years turned to face the enemy before her eyes, though she had no chance of victory.
“Now then, after you. Of course, if you will not do anything, then I shall make the first move.”
Unlike his gentle tone, the explosion of compressed bloodlust was truly terrifying. Evileye focused the full extent of her will to disperse the malice before her.
I am Evileye. I am a woman of legend. No matter how powerful my enemy is — I must fight!
“Then don’t mind if I do! Take this! [Maximize Magic – Shard Buckshot]!”
Her opening move was her most favored spell. Shards of crystal, each slightly smaller than a fist, scattered forth.
The crystal shards had pointed tips, and originally, they should have been fired into her enemy’s body at close range to increase their power. However, she dared not approach the fiend before her too closely.
She had resigned herself to death, and yet she dared not advance. Evileye could not help but mock herself for that. However, she ought to fight carefully when she did not know how powerful her opponent was.
The masked demon spread his arms, as though in welcome. The shower of crystal flechettes hit him — no, they vanished before they did. So complete and sudden was the disappearance that it seemed as though they had never existed.
Is this the spell resistance which only certain species possess? He’s that much more powerful than me?!
The greater the difference in their power, the more easily spells could be resisted.
Ignoring Evileye, who had misplayed her opening move, the man grandly swept his hand. He looked like the conductor of an invisible orchestra.
A wave of heat crashed into her back. Evileye could not believe it, and hurriedly turned back to look.
There was a foom, and then it seemed as though the night itself had caught fire. Unnatural black flames surged into the sky.
The fleeing Gagaran and Tia were enveloped by the black fire. Their limbs twitched like puppets, and then they fell to the ground like so much rubbish. When the fire had vanished like it had never been, the two of them remained motionless. Evileye fought the impulse to rush to their side. She could hardly believe it, but she had no choice but to do so. Evileye knew those had been fatal injuries. With just a single blow, the comrades with whom she had shared her joy and sorrow had lost their lives.
She clenched her teeth to keep herself from screaming.
“I had hoped to stop just short of killing them, but they were weaker than I had expected. To think they could not even take flames of that magnitude. You have my sincerest condolences.”
The man bowed, as though his regret were sincere. Evileye could no longer hold her feelings back after witnessing his fake attitude.
He had ignored Evileye before him — the one who had actually attacked him — but had instead attacked the two people behind her. Why was that? Obviously it was because they were fleeing, but there was another, greater reason beyond that.
Evileye fully understood the disparity in their respective fighting strengths, and she knew that she had not been perceived as a threat. However, the truth was worse than what she had thought — her opponent did not even see her as an enemy.
The person before him would not flee. So he would kill the people who did flee. That was probably what he was thinking.
“Striking while sparing your lives is hardly an easy task. And I cannot use you as a reference either… why did you team up with them despite the vast gulf in your respective abilities. If you had not, I might have been able to make a better estimate.”
“—-You have no right! To say that! Uwaaaaaahhhh!”
This was not a wail of despair, but a cry of anger. Evileye’s howl was full of hatred as she broke into a sprint. No, it would be better to say she flew on wings of magic. She focused her mana into her fist, preparing a touch spell that would be difficult to nullify or resist.
The demon raised his fist and prepared to meet her.
“[Aspect of the Devil — Giant Arm of the Demon].”
The demon’s arm swelled up to several times its original size, and it was so long that it dragged upon the ground. This was not pneumatic inflation, but a sturdy arm of muscle and bone that was a weapon in its own right.
Anyone would take a step back just looking at that weapon. Indeed, Evileye had cowered for a moment. But she had resolved herself for this, and she decided to evade the attack of that arm and attack her foe.
The gigantic arm closed in on Evileye. It moved much faster than she had imagined, filling up her field of vision like a gigantic wall. Evileye sensed that she would have a hard time evading and cast a defense spell.
Her vision turned black, and at the same time she felt a massive impact, as well as her body being savagely hurled through the air. Her line of sight spun round and round, and she had no idea where she was. When she hit the floor, the impact was such that she bounced lightly off, like a ball. Then she hit the ground again this time sliding to a halt.
However — she was unhurt.
Evileye used [Fly] to get back up in a way that defied common sense.
She was unhurt. However, had she not used a spell which converted physical damage to mana depletion, she would probably be dying by now.
“[Penetrate Maximize Magic – Crystal Dagger].”
She created a crystal dagger that was bigger than usual. This spell caused pure physical damage, which was not easily resisted. In addition, she had used a skill to allow it to breach spell resistance more easily.
The demon did not dodge, but took it on his body. The spell’s damage potential had been maximized, yet it did not seem to have affected the demon at all.
“…I couldn’t hurt him even with a spell enhanced with Penetrate Magic…? This high-level demon is beyond my expectations, no, he might be beyond the Demon Gods! Could he be the King of the Demon Gods?!”
Just adding the word “Lord” to a name did not make a monster stronger, but the more powerful members of a species often called themselves “Lords” or “Kings”. That was common knowledge in this world. Frankly speaking, humans were the only species who would crown their weaker members as kings.
“[Aspect of the Devil: Scything Claws.”
The demon’s fingernails grew to a length of over 80 centimeters long. Evileye’s instincts told her that they were sharp enough to cut through anything.
I can’t escape with their bodies. Even if the others came, they’d only get in the way against this guy. At the very least, I need to change the battlefield and make it easier for the other two to find the corpses.
Evileye quirked up the corner of her mouth.
The worst-case scenario would be having Lakyus — who possessed resurrection magic — encounter this demon. She had to avoid that at all costs.
“Here I come!”
In the moment that Evileye was about to challenge him, something fell between them with a thunderous crash.
Unable to bear that weight, the stone slabs shattered, and dust flew everywhere.
Before her stood a warrior, still kneeling from the force of his landing.
His jet-black armor reflected the calm light of the moon, making for an oddly beautiful sight. His crimson cape fluttered like a roaring blaze, with the night sky as a backdrop. Each of his hands held an extraordinary greatsword, gleaming with the light of judgement.
The dark warrior slowly rose to his feet. He was truly massive. By height alone, he ought to be about as tall as that demon. However, just like fiends would recoil from holy light, Evileye sensed a hint of fear from that powerful demon as he gazed upon that dark warrior. It was as though he had seen something unbelievable.
Evileye heard the sound of swallowing in the silence. It had come from the demon. That unfathomably powerful demon, whose strength even Evileye could not accurately judge, did not dare breathe loudly in the presence of this imposing warrior.
She heard a cold voice shatter the night.
“Now then… which of you is my enemy?”