18 – Demon Lord Route – V
I drew my faithful companion (stick) and swung it towards the crowd of soldiers and students. A wave of chaotic darkness spilled forth, threatening to envelop them.
One of the soldiers shouted towards the students. He was a middle-aged man with graying black hair. If I remembered correctly… he was the same one who charged against the demons in Ars Nova? What was he doing here?
During my thoughts, over a dozen shimmering barriers of various colors appeared to block my attack. At first, they were separate, but then one of the students reached out.
The separate colors became one, the multiple barriers collapsing into one that looked like a kaleidoscope.
My attack crashed against it. Sparks flew and a shrill grinding sound echoed throughout the clearing. However, the barrier held.
“Arrows! Mages, cast your spells!”
That same soldier shouted out orders to the crowd.
Before I could react, a volley of arrows, icicles, lightning, and other projectiles flew towards me.
I shouted out and gathered shadows to form a barrier-
“Oh Goddess, lend us your light! Bless!”
A girl’s voice echoed through the clearing.
And then there was pain.
A hundred glowing arrows pierced into my body. At the same time, over a hundred elemental spells crashed against me. Hot, cold, sharp, blunt… I was struck by attacks of all sorts in a single instant.
“This… shouldn’t be!”
Physical Resistance and Mana Resistance should have blocked them! Why-
“Sir Keita! Use it!” The soldier shouted out an order.
A figure ran towards me. A spearman with spiky black hair. He stared into my eyes and thrust forward with his weapon. “Gae-“
My eyes widened. That goddess! She said that the people she brought over only chose elemental magic!
Crimson mana surged around the spearman’s weapon as it thrust towards my chest.
I kicked off the ground, trying to escape the legendary weapon’s range. In an instant, I had cleared over fifty feet, well out of range from my attacker’s spear.
Or so I thought.
A crimson light stretched impossibly through the air. Then, a searing pain erupted from my chest as the spearman’s weapon pierced my heart. But the attack wasn’t over. Immediately after, the crimson mana burst.
Unimaginable pain. My body was shredded from the inside out as the mana took physical form, turning into countless barbs that pierced my body.
I landed on the ground in a crouch. The impact jarred my wounds and I spurt out a mouthful of blood.
I shakily wiped it with my left hand, staring at the vivid red staining my skin.
…This wasn’t making sense. My abilities weren’t working. First Information Concealment, then my resistances, and now my titles!
I should have been immune from a conceptual attack like that! Was the goddess interfering? This didn’t-
“He’s wounded! Melee fighters, charge! Mages, provide support!”
Again, that damnable soldier shouted out orders.
Almost immediately, I could see my countless foes preparing for their next move.
…Was this it? Like this, I was going to die without even knowing how it happened?
My faithful companion pulsed in my hand. As if telling me to not give up, as if telling me to remember.
I grit my teeth and forced myself to straighten.
I wasn’t dead yet. Even if I was taken off guard, I was durable enough to keep fighting. I didn’t know why my resistances were failing me, but if I couldn’t defend then all I had to do was attack.
“Remember, you forced me! Curse of ******!”
Something changed. I could feel it inside me. The moment I called out that skill’s name, an intangible change had occurred in my very being. A power different than mana, different than strength seeped into my body, my mana, my weapon.
The spearman who used Gae Bolg charged again. Perhaps realizing that he didn’t finish the job, he advanced, crimson mana once again gathering around his spear. “Gae-“
I lashed out with my faithful companion and swung my right arm, putting my whole body into the attack. Again, a blast of chaotic darkness surged.
The spearman didn’t falter. Instead of dodging, he crouched and jumped into the air. At the same time, he pulled his spear back, getting ready to throw it.
-But I knew he would do that.
My left arm swung into the air and I clenched my open hand. “Dragon’s Grasp.”
Gore splattered to the ground.
“KEITA!” A girl’s anguished voice called out, but I didn’t have time to pay attention to it.
A noise from behind caused me to turn. Just in time.
A male student with parted black hair raised his sword and shouted. “Thunder slash!” Electricity sparked along the blade and he swung.
The student’s eyes widened and he shifted his sword to block, but my skill didn’t allow that. The intangible power surged forth and sent him flying.
“Fighters, back! Archers, arrows!”
Suddenly, there was a vast opening around me. At the same time, I heard the unmistakable sounds of arrows whistling through the air.
That girl’s voice again. I didn’t need to see it to know that the arrows would pierce through my resistances.
“Enough! It’s my turn!”
This time, I didn’t stand and take the volley of arrows. Instead, I charged.
Taking a page from the student who copied a certain Child of Light, I decided to copy a certain Faker. I gathered my mana and formed a hundred swords, sending them to intercept the arrows. The projectiles clashed and shattered into dust on impact.
The soldiers and students directly before me were stunned.
I gathered that strange power into my faithful companion and kicked off the ground. “Imperial Slash!” Using the momentum from my charge, I swung my faithful companion in front of me.
A ripple passed through the air and then dozens of students and soldiers exploded, unable to resist the force of my slash. The ones further away were better off, but the additional power in my attack didn’t leave them unscathed.
“Mana! I can’t sense any mana!”
“No! My power…! I can’t use it!”
Confused cries and shouts filled the air.
“Focus!” The soldier called out again. “He’s-!”
“Enough with you!”
I changed directions and charged at the soldier giving orders.
“Protect the commander!”
The other soldiers closest to the one giving orders crowded in front of me, raising shields to block me.
But it was pointless. I had a better grasp on the curse I had invoked now, and with it…
“You’re less than air!”
I lunged, thrusting out with my faithful companion. At the same time, I gathered my mana around me, spiraling it into a drill.
Blood, viscera, and scraps of armor flew through the air. The soldiers in my way were obliterated. However, it slowed me down a fraction, forcing me to take another step. With that time, the soldier… no, I should call him the commander, shouted. “Barriers!”
Again, a myriad of barriers appeared before me.
That same student used his power to combine them.
But this time-
“That won’t work!”
I kicked off the ground and ran the commander through.
He stared at me in disbelief. “Im…possible. The goddess-“
I pulled out my faithful companion and silenced the man. That done, I took a look around my surroundings.
Half of the soldiers and summoned students were dead. No, saying that they were just ‘dead’ would be putting it nicely. My attacks left no intact corpses, especially not after being imbued with the curse.
Despite the commander’s death, the discipline held in the imperial soldiers. During my contemplation, they quickly gathered in front of the summoned students, forming a human barrier. One of the soldiers drew his blade and raised it, meeting my eyes. Without looking back, he said, “Brave heroes, run! We will hold him off!”
“But Sir Steiner-!
Roaring, the soldier charged, leading his companions in a last ditch effort to stall me.
I stared at him. He was younger than the other soldier and vaguely familiar. And then I remembered.
“Right, Steiner,” I muttered. “The apprentice commander… so you were here too.”
He was the noble commander type. A good guy. An admirable man.
“A noble decision, but ultimately pointless.”
I raised my right arm, pointing my faithful companion towards the sky.
…I should thank that spearman. Keita, was it? I should thank him the next time around. If not for his attack, I wouldn’t have been reminded of a way I could utilize my combined darkness and chaos affinities.
A fake of a fake. While I couldn’t utilize the world egg theory and switch out the worlds, I could create a bounded field with a similar effect.
Chaotic mana dispersed the natural order, and then dark flames wreathed the campsite, preventing escape.
There were screams of surprise and the sounds of weapons clashing against an unbreakable barrier. And then, swords rose from the ground.
One, two, ten. Soon, an almost infinite number of swords filled the air.
The soldiers that had charged so valiantly slowed down. The determination in their eyes turned to awe, then fear, then despair.
“This is your end.”
I swung my faithful companion and the world dimmed as my swords pierced into the ground. Soldier after soldier fell, forming a hill of swords where the corpses piled up.
I shifted my gaze to the Braves, thinking they would suffer a similar fate. And, for the most part, they did. Out of the fifty or so that had remained before, only a dozen were left. But that last dozen showed me an impossible sight.
There was a barrier. Not just a barrier, but one formed from something other than mana.
A girl was standing in the center of that, her hands clasped in prayer. Although her face looked Japanese, her hair was shining a pure white, along with her eyes.
Seeing that, I realized why I had such a hard time. “Serena, you cheating bastard!”
One of the remaining Braves, a young man with dark brown hair and glasses, turned towards his companions and said, “He’s noticed! Emi, hurry! Miko can’t use Arcadia much longer!”
“I’m trying!” A girl with twin-tails answered the man. “I just need a few more seconds to lock on to the coordinates!”
I charged, raising my faithful companion. “You won’t escape!” Chaos, darkness, and the curse swirled around it. At the same time, I prepared Imperial Slash.
“Dammit… fine! I’ll use it! But you guys better not leave me lying on the ground like last time!” The young man with dark brown hair turned towards me and raised his right hand.
I swung my faithful companion.
It was short. Barely any time at all. But for them, it was enough.
A white light shone around the dozen Braves. When it cleared, they had vanished.
I clenched my hands, glaring at the empty clearing, and then spun on my heels. My plans were all ruined, so there was no point in sticking around.
I remembered. There was that patrolman I used Dragon’s Grasp on. I was planning to experiment on him, but at this point, a spy would be better than more abilities.
Shadows writhed and then a student was tossed onto the ground amidst the gore. He let out a groan when he landed, but remained unconscious.
Seeing that reminded me of my own wounds. It also reminded me that I should have been dead, yet was still standing. The pain had even faded… although that could just be from the blood loss.
“Either way, I should get back to Alvheim.”
Yggdrasil had restorative properties and Aria wouldn’t let me die anytime soon. That, at least, was one thing I could benefit from having saved her.
I focused on the spatial coordinates of our room and then tried to jump to it. There was the familiar sensation of my body moving through the fabric of space, the brief chill of non-existence, and then the warmth of reemergence at my target.
I staggered, suddenly appearing in the house that Yggdrasil had provided us. It was dark, showing that Saphira and Aria were out. Probably training in the Lost Woods if I had to guess.
I clutched my open chest and then limped towards the closest bed. Rather, I tried to. Before I could take a single step, all the power left my body and I fell onto the floor.
As my vision dimmed and my consciousness grew faint, I found the strength to mutter three final words.
“Damn… you… Serena…!”