With a tranquil expression that hid his deception, the demon walked over, his eyes fixated on Lau. Though much of his face had been disguised, his piercing gaze gave the two men shivers.
They focused on the demon’s every movement, waiting for the right chance to attack. However, he suddenly started making gestures that they were unfamiliar with, at least when it came to demons.
Blades of wind cut through the air as it slammed into Jiro’s mana shield.
“Magic of the elements! How?!”
Caught off-guard by this type of attack, his shield collapsed as he was launched several meters backward.
Lau looked back to his fallen master’s form in surprise. Magic of the elements was not something that they had seen before from a demon. The demons that they usually faced could hardly think for themselves, much less have enough control and focus to launch magical spells. They were accustomed to desperate and frenzied strikes of enhanced physical prowess.
That moment of surprise had led him to turn away from his enemy, a fatal mistake in battle. By the time that he turned back, the demon stood right in front of him. Lau quickly jabbed with his left hand, but the mana that coated it was hastily formed.
However, the demon did not even try to dodge, letting the blow hit him squarely in the jaw. Though the impact of his punch jostled the demon’s face, it was simply shrugged off. The demon’s eyes never looked away from Lau’s form. It was like he was staring not at Lau but something deep within him.
“Oh my. Another with a purple flame. How intriguing…”
Lau jumped back in surprise. “What are you talking about?!” His rage slowly crept back, replacing the shock that he felt. As it did, the demon’s eyes widened.
“And it’s growing too? Could it be…triggered by one’s emotional state? Or perhaps, because the possessor is an Electi?” The demon pondered, completely ignoring Lau who started attacking him furiously.
The demon simply put up a thick mana barrier, blocking Lau’s attacks from connecting. Unfortunately, Lau’s mana manipulation skills were still insufficient to penetrate its defenses. If only he had his master’s aptitude…
Like a child flailing against an adult, the demon continued to ignore the attacks until an idea flashed into his head. With a wave of his hand, he summoned a gravity spell that weighed Lau down and stopped his attacks. Reaching over to place a hand on Lau’s head, the demon focused for a moment.
“GYAHHH!!!” Lau screamed as he felt something deep inside start to flow out of him.
“Good. Happened just as I expected. Now, time to see how it plays out.” The demon stared in content at Lau’s suffering, before he turned around and started to leave.
Lau crawled forward, clutching his body. “What did…you do to me?!” It felt like he was losing control of himself. Though his body seemed to be not lacking in strength, he was spending much of his will holding back the massive urge to go berserk on the demon in front of him. Knowing that this would be foolish, Lau held himself back just barely.
“Nothing much. I just tapped the wall that is holding back your soul. Even if I had left it alone, it would’ve likely crumbled eventually.”
“What? What do you mean by that? I don’t understand!”
Lau couldn’t wrap those words around his head. Crumble? The wall around his soul? What did he mean by that? However, the demon spoke no further having leapt away and disappeared from his sight.
Left alone to his suffering, Lau wasn’t sure how much longer he could hold back the dark sensations brewing inside of him. Closing his eyes, he tried to sense the mana within him. As soon as he did, he instantly regretted that decision. Laced within his own mana was a hint of the malicious mana that was normally detected in demons.
What did this mean? Had he been infected by the other demon? Was this how demons were created? Many new questions swirled inside of his head as he fought to understand the changes happening to him.
“Lau! What happened?!” A familiar female voice entered his ears. It was that of Kanade who had returned after evacuating the others. Lau opened his eyes slightly and peeked at her concerned face. Seeing her safe brought a rush of relief, which somewhat lessened the burden that he was feeling.
Footsteps sounded to his side. Lau turned towards that direction to see Jiro hobbling over, propped up by Neiya. Though he was bleeding from a head wound, he hurried over to look at Lau, unconcerned about his own state.
“This isn’t good! He’s been touched by a demon. At this rate, the miasma will start spreading and take over him eventually.” Jiro bit his lip, while Kanade put a hand over her mouth in shock.
“Brother, please help him! I-I just promised my life to him!” Tears streamed down Kanade’s face as she clutched her brother’s sleeve and begged for a solution. Lau was speechless. He regretted getting distracted and letting his inexperience leave him vulnerable.
“I’ll try what I can, but even I don’t know if this will work.” Jiro dropped down and placed his hands on Lau. Slowly, the mana raging wildly within Lau was stabilizing. The hint of miasma that was swirling about was pushed back into the core that it was coming from. Lau felt himself gradually regain control of his body once again. Letting out a deep breath, Jiro collapsed in exhaustion.
“It’s contained for now. But for how long, I have no idea.”
Kanade gave Lau a hug as he stroked her hair. Lau couldn’t help feeling that he was living on borrowed time now.
The attack on the Kinkou home had wreaked havoc on their school. A quarter of the practitioners had been killed in the surprise demon assault and many others were injured. The incident had to also be reported to the Holy Sovereign of Sanshiro, Seiya Mitsubishi, along with the other combat schools that acted as Sanshiro’s defense against demons and fierce monsters.
“Your summoned Electi was contaminated by the demon?!” Several voices murmured in the background as the Holy Sovereign and the schools’ leaders had gathered in the audience room of the castle.
“Your Holiness, he is currently in a stable condition. We are ready to fight back against the demon.” Jiro bowed his head trying to diffuse the situation.
“Hmph! Maybe temporarily. You, of all people, should know that those who start the demonification process will eventually fall! It is better to get rid of him now, while he doesn’t pose a danger to us! Even more so, since he is an Electi!”
The men around him grumbled in agreement. An Electi’s potential was much greater than the average fighter. If it were somehow turned against them, it would be troublesome to deal with.
“But we need his strength to defeat this demon! I have seen it for myself! This is no mere demon! It is nothing that we have ever faced before! We need Lau’s ability even more than ever, especially since it has been enhanced from the partial demonification!”
A side effect of demonification was the instantaneous growth of one’s abilities. Even though it had stopped partway, Lau could feel that they had increased far beyond what his training had given him. In exchange, he had to maintain greater focus than before to drive the inner urges from seeping out once again.
“We promise! If you will join us, we will rid that demon from this earth before Lau fully demonizes. After that, I will leave the decision of his fate up to you!” Jiro had touched his head to the ground in a kowtow, pleading for any bit of time that he could buy for his familiar and friend.
Though the men would rather not let a person that could turn at any moment run free, they had to admit that the enemy before them would be difficult to deal with. A demon that could use ‘magic of the elements,’ and at a quite advanced level from what little had been observed. Likely, the demon had come from a different part of the world as the practice was uncommon in Sanshiro.
“Fine! But the moment he appears to cross over, we will turn our weapons on him. Are we clear?” Sovereign Mitsubishi commanded to the leaders.
“I thank you, your Holiness.” Jiro lifted his head. He had somehow succeeded in negotiating.
With that, the warrior schools banded together to fight against the demon, who they now referred to as the ‘Mage,’ along with his minions. While demon attacks continued around the country, many of them started focusing on the area where the Kinkou school resided.
Jiro and Lau suspected the reason behind it. The ‘Mage’ wanted to turn Lau into a demon. Thus, launching repeated attacks to drain him emotionally appeared to be the best way to accelerate the process. Regardless, the continuous demon attacks had claimed the lives of many and quenched the morale of the Kinkou practitioners, with the majority eventually deciding to leave the school to avoid being targeted. Soon, only the most loyal of followers stayed behind, while help from the other schools dragged their feet when coming to their aid. They were still rather reluctant to give their support.
Lau fiercely trained his enhanced abilities as best as he could, while maintaining control of himself. He had to walk the thin line between exploiting his strength and holding onto his humanity. However, those around him started growing with worry as the mana within Lau continued to rage within the fragile cage that they had continued to reinforce.
Frustrated by his current state and furious as he continued to see friends and family being chipped away, Lau felt enormous pressure to use his powers to slay the ‘Mage’. At the very least, Kanade and her siblings would be safe.
That moment came months later. The ‘Mage’ himself showed up once again and walked straight up to the remaining warriors. Though other schools had joined in to help, the lone demon proved to be too powerful. Flinging spells around with ease, the bombardment of fire, ice, wind and earth magic leveled the entire area and blew away everyone.
The magic that he had shown before had been a mere fraction of his true power, something that the warriors had greatly underestimated. With only Jiro and Lau able to weather against the powerful magic, the ‘Mage’ walked right past them and towards Kanade, who had been in the rear but knocked unconscious by the spells.
At that moment, the two remaining warriors understood his intent.
“Aren’t you tired of constantly holding yourself back? As soon as I kill this girl, you’ll have no more reason to remain human!” The ‘Mage’ yelled out to them in a mocking tone.
Lau accelerated as fast as his legs would take him. Even when the dark power started seeping out of the cage, he wouldn’t let up. If he did, he knew that he wouldn’t make it in time. Lau pounced onto the ‘Mage’ and let loose a spiral blow from his fist. This attack cut through the mana shield that he couldn’t break through before and imbedded itself into the Mage’s back.
Blood trickled to the ground from the wound, the first time anyone had gotten a solid hit on this demon.
“Ahh…now, that’s more like it.” The ‘Mage’ turned around to face Lau. “You are ready to join me.”
Barely able to keep his wits, Lau reflexively yelled out, “Never!” With another sharp swing, he aimed to behead the powerful demon. This time, the attack was dodged as the ‘Mage’ leapt out of the way, carried by wind magic to bolster his movement speed. Lau gave chase, furiously dishing out attack after attack. Facing a losing battle with his emotions, Lau hoped to land a decisive strike before he succumbed to the darkness. Pretty soon, his body started moving on its own, pure muscle memory driving his strikes to where they should land.
All this time, the smirk on the ‘Mage’s’ face never faltered. He was convinced that he would soon be gaining a worthy ally. No other person here could match up to Lau’s abilities.