“Keep it together! You are the Magic Knights of Sistina! A demon or two isn’t going to get the best of you!”
The loud order of the guild master echoed through the air as several knights were pushed back by a combination of Fire and Earth magic. A wave of earth tore through the surface, glowing red hot like it was molten lava. It rose and towered over the knights like a wave threatening to capsize a ship.
The knights responded in kind with Ice and Wind magic, trying their best to freeze the wave from advancing towards them. The magnitude of such a magical spell was undeniable. No magic shield would be able to resist it for long. Anyone who happened to be in its path would be buried and cremated within moments of contact.
And beyond that wave, two demons were standing, shrouded in miasma. The purplish haze that drifted around them obscured their features, but the sickening feeling that emanated from them was unmistakable. Like what had happened merely a year and a half ago, the memories of a demon leading crazed beasts were still fresh in their minds. Only this time, there were no beasts, but two demons with fearsome magic.
However, it was hard to say if they preferred fighting an unending swarm of beasts instead over the current situation. They had already seen many soldiers and townspeople swallowed up and turned into charred husks. It was everything they could do to hold the line enough to not be overwhelmed.
Guild Master Castia cast a wide range water spell to drown the molten lava and extinguish its flow. Gradually, the towering wave slowed and hardened, leaving a solid mound that was surrounded by thoroughly soaked knights. It had been quite some time since she was forced to use magic herself, but she wasn’t their leader just for show.
Although the knights had been drenched, signs of vitality could be seen returning to them. They had been showered with a recovery spell, called ‘The Water of Life’. This spell gathered the ambient mana collected in the environment and bestowed healing and mana regeneration upon those who bathed in it.
During her early days as a knight, Castia’s skills as a Water healing mage were invaluable for a country that was in constant conflict. An army that could be revitalized and gain a second wind could easily turn the tables and claim victory. Other spells in her repertoire included water orbs that bowled over people and flowing water that could sweep away those in its path.
Despite lacking in offensive damage, these spells could hinder the enemy and restrict their movements. Therefore, strategy in directing battles became complimentary to her magic. By trapping and isolating others, she could guide her own subordinates to engage them under favorable conditions.
Even now, Castia was trying her best to keep the two demons from joining in a combined assault on them. This was evident by the walls of water that surrounded each one. At first, they lunged at it with their own bodies, tearing at the walls like deranged animals with their miasma-laced bodies, each blow strong enough to tear a person in half.
However, the advantage of a wall made with water was that it reformed quite rapidly. Any impact to the wall was absorbed in the liquid as mere ripples that were soon dampened by the flowing water. It held up even against demons as long as mana was supplied.
The only flaw in this strategy was that the demons themselves had long range capability, bombarding the knights from afar with magic spells. And if things weren’t complicated enough, they had the capacity to combine their magic into an earth-shaking hellfire assault which took everyone by surprise.
At this moment, Castia had expended a significant portion of her mana reserves already.
“I’m not getting any younger. All that desk work has made me soft.” Perspiration dotted her brow, and the signs of mana exhaustion were beginning to take its toll.
Her subordinates weren’t faring much better. Not only had they all been in constant motion since the first signals of chaos erupted, but many of them had spent their energy to save the people and fight off various attacks before they had a chance to regroup.
Still, they were proud magic knights. If they could not hold on until help showed up, if they backed down and lost their capital, the heart of this kingdom, they would no longer be able to hold their heads up in pride. Many of them could not fathom the castle being overrun by demons and would rather bet their lives to reclaim it. For that reason, they had not turned tail and ran.
Castia chuckled at the seemingly futile deadlock that they were currently in.
“This is still preferable to deskwork,” she half-joked.
“It shouldn’t take something like this to tell you that you should go out more often.” A silky male voice filled with maturity and properness called out to her from behind.
“Pytha-, I mean, Pietro. So good to see you here!” Castia replied with a mixture of surprise and relief. “Could you do me a favor and slay that demon? For old times’ sake?”
Pietro folded his arms and smiled thinly. “Why, I’m just a mere butler these days. Demon slaying isn’t part of my assigned job duties. Besides, it looks like that’s taken care of.”
Castia eyed him questionably, but then, she followed the movement of his eyes. Two men, one in a chef outfit and another in a martial arts gi, advanced towards the walls of water enclosing one of the demons.
She anticipated that they would jump over and engage the demon together. However, the chef merely brought out a knife and carved a giant gap into the water barrier.
“I-Isn’t that- Sir Evers?! How did he-?!” Castia was astounded by how he had easily sliced an entire section of her water barrier away. Not even the great Pythagoras Tromaine could manage such a feat with ease! Surely, she had not grown that soft!
Castia continued to gawk at the scene as the other man, who appeared to be a veteran close-combat fighter, proceeded to smash his fist into the demon and blow away the miasma surrounding it. Each blow shook the air like the sound of thunder and the rush of gale. The demon’s body flailed about like a ragdoll being thrashed by a man several times larger than what the fighter appeared to be.
“And the other one??”
“An old acquaintance.”
Castia eyed him with disbelief. But more than anything, the man standing beside her had complete confidence in the two. Sure enough, the first demon was soon disabled, and they had moved onto the next.
“You have some explaining to do, ‘Mr. Only a Butler and not a Former Legend’.”
At that moment, Cornelius popped up, having finally caught up with the others. “Explanations will come in due time. Even I was astounded by Sir Evers’ performance after the period of absence. Especially, after he easily took me down.”
Castia could only clutch her head at this, almost dropping her still-active spell in surprise. Cornelius was one of the most promising magic knights in years. Given enough time, it was quite possible for the young Lord of Reichenstein to become the most powerful magician in the kingdom. Yet, he was easily defeated by Sir Evers?
“I-I think the exhaustion has gotten to me.”
“You can rest for now. We will take over. The ‘Vassal Demons’ are no match for our side.” Cornelius saluted the guild master.
The last traces of miasma seemed to disappear at that moment, as Lau Ki Young delivered a fatal blow which crushed the second demon’s core. With that, Castia released her water barrier and plopped to the ground.
“Fine. Have it your way. Take care of the deskwork while you’re at it, too.”
Katsys peered at the destroyed capital. In less than a single day, the heart of the largest nation had crumbled. She gave off a sinister smile uncharacteristic of the gentle princess, but these expressions had been made by the demon inside of her.
After the initial spread of chaos and confusion, the people of this kingdom eventually banded together and formed a resistance, and not long after, the trickle of outside assistance crawled over the horizon.
The demon watched in amusement as its newly-created subordinates engaged them. Already, several of them had been slayed, and the resistance marched slowly towards the castle. Even as the small sources of miasma were snuffed out, the demon felt no irritation. There was no annoyance at the would-be heroes coming to ruin its plans.
That much had already been expected.
“How dependable they all are…,” the demon chuckled, as if the slight challenge only served to whet its appetite.
It would be no fun if they were to be beaten by this much. The demons that were birthed from shallow grudges were hardly worth considering. The ‘Mage Demon’ scoured the battlefield below for the real prize.
A figure in black clothing darted slightly behind the seasoned demon slayers, acting with utmost care with his own abilities. The man known as Claude Evers had been pushed to use more and more of his Electi abilities, bringing him closer to his true potential.
Those that embraced these abilities became ever less human as they did, bringing them one step closer to a being of immeasurable power such as itself. And there had been no other person who had achieved such a thing besides itself in all of history.
“Hmm… it’s lonely at the top.”
The anticipation of another being rising to that point made it realize how alone its journey has been. So much time had passed that it no longer recalled who it was to begin with. It merely lived as the people it possessed at any given time.
As a being that lived solely as the form of others, time continued to pass as those he once knew all left the world. The only exception was those who shed their human forms and tapped into the power of the Gods. By turning into a so-called ‘demon’, it escaped the flow of time and the annoying restraints that were placed to keep humans in check.
Since it had found the way to achieve this, all that was left was to bring others on board, starting with the one down below.
The despair that he felt at returning to a destroyed home was no doubt straining his emotions. Spying at his activities through miniature portals following him, the ‘Mage Demon’ could sense his desperation growing. And more would be done until he had no choice but to surrender to the darkness.
By holding one dear to him hostage, the cruelest choice was presented to him. He would have no option but to slay his dearest princess, thinking that it would rid the demon. And afterward, he would have no one to blame but himself.
If that wasn’t enough, then it would jump to the next person, and then, the next. As long as its core was preserved, there was no limit to who it could jump to. The only restriction was Electi and their masters, whose cores had a natural protection against his ability.
How many people close to him would it take for Claude to fall? The path to its fruition tickled the heart of this current body.
With the resistance quickly approaching the castle, it was time to start the next act in the play it created.
The ‘Mage Demon’ pulled out Katalina’s guns from her Item Box and marveled at how nice they felt in its hands. With an even greater understanding of how to implement these toys than the inventor herself, it aimed the portal gun and fired, creating one part of it hanging in the air. The swirling mass appeared much larger than the normal ones that were usually fired.
With another click of the switch, another portal was created, but this time, it seemingly blipped out of existence. However, the portal in the sky opened up, revealing that some connection had been made. Rather than disappearing, the demon had willed the portal into an alternate space, one created from its own powers.
A scaly head poked out of the entryway in the sky, and with a loud roar, it called out its arrival into this world. Out crawled a dragon, shrouded in miasma. Unlike the weak failure of a demonized dragon that was left behind in the mountains, this one had been experimented on properly. It retained the swiftness and frightening strength of the top of its species but was further enhanced by miasma.
With a flap of its wings, it soared through the sky and landed right on top of a gathering of troops, instantly creating a panic amongst them.
However, that was the least of their worries as another soon poked its head out of the portal. The demon wanted to cackle in laughter as an entire nest of demonized dragons was waiting on the other side.
Did the ants below think that they had a chance after slaying mere infants of a demon? The despair as their hopes were dashed made the situation ever sweeter. They would have no choice but to choose the ‘smartest’ option.
“Now, my dear knight. Come to me. Your princess is waiting for you. ‘I’ am waiting for you.”