I awoke suddenly, the feeling of a strange warmth seeping into my body. As soon as I remembered that we were in enemy territory, I leapt out of bed and instinctively turned on my ‘Eyes of Providence’. But among the purple lines that showed where mana existed in everything, a white-hot glare, bright as the sun, assaulted my vision.
When I canceled the skill to calm my eyes, the appearance of a surprised Saki looking down at herself greeted me. We had fallen asleep in that bed, and fortunately, our clothes were still intact. I let out a sigh in relief that things were how they had been left when I conked out.
“I feel different… content somehow,” Saki muttered, looking around like she expected to have sprouted wings or something. “When was the last time I didn’t feel… worry?”
“What possibly could you worry about? I mean, we are still trapped in some unknown location, while Eryn is probably patiently waiting somewhere for us to have danced in bed to the tune of imposed lust or something. Yah, why worry?”
The sarcasm in my tone was evident. Saki threw a pillow at my head for that.
As I held my arms out in panic at her thrown object, it plopped against my hands gently. Rather unexpected, since even something soft thrown by a person with such a high Attack would be like launching a brick at me.
With the pillow dropping harmlessly to the ground, I saw that even Saki was surprised. She had forgotten to hold back in her retort. There was something strangely off about the situation, in all its normality.
After all, neither one of us was normal. We had to be extra careful with our intent, lest we hurt someone close to us. But the fact that her body was glowing with the same light as Ludmila did make me wonder if something changed.
For Ludmila, her personality became completely different, her former self before the tragedy of her tribe struck and she had closed off her emotions. But for Saki…
“I may be an idiot for doing this… but here goes!”
I dove toward the bed and grabbed Saki’s leg. And with one swift motion before she could react, I tickled the back of her knee. With a jerk, her foot collided with my shoulder, the instinct to kick having been triggered.
Of course, it sent me tumbling right off the bed. But as I rolled to my feet and checked my shoulder, I could see that it only lightly stung. As if… I had received a perfectly normal kick in reality, not triggered by the strange mechanics of Attack and Defense stats that I had grown acclimated to.
The look of amazement I gave her after rubbing my shoulder tipped her off as to why I had teased her. She came to the same conclusion that I had.
Her incredible attack power wasn’t triggered when striking me for once. In order to confirm it, she leapt off the bed and tackled right into me. Since the instinct of utter doom hadn’t been wiped from my mind, I tried to dive away in fear.
But Saki anticipated and cut me off, slamming into my retreating body and sending the both of us to the ground. Still, it didn’t hurt. I wasn’t sent hurling into the wall like getting hit by a truck. Rather, all that happened was Saki straddling my torso with a bright smile. Her face radiated with a joy that I had never seen before.
Her true self. Likely, the innocent days of her youth. A demeanor that was untainted by the tragedies of her past.
Saki no longer had to be afraid of her own power. The ‘Destroyer’ aura that she always emitted had melted away as her bashful face hovered over mine. An excitement, toned down by a natural meekness, came from those brown eyes.
Her lips drew forward, but they went past my face and over to my ear. With a gentle whisper, Saki’s breath tickled my ear.
“Even if you love another, I’ll cheer you on. As long as I can build moments like this with you, with other people, I think I’ll be okay from now on.”
She ended that with a light peck on the cheek before sitting back up. Her face was slightly flushed, knowing that she had just confessed her feelings to me. But seeing her in this new light, I didn’t know what to say.
Her face now glowed as bright as the pure white aura that came from her core. She had resolved her darkness and ascended, just like how Ludmila had. And now, her power would only hurt those that she meant to. Friendly fire was now something that she could control. A clear perception of who was friend and foe made sure that her intent was no longer muddled.
All I could think of in this position, flat against the ground, was how lovely Saki had become. How endearing that she was now. And just how much she made my heart pound. But then again, what guy wouldn’t be flustered by a cute Japanese girl straddling him?
‘Oh, the dilemma of a harem-bound isekai protagonist.’ A voice teased in the back of my head.
I slapped my face to drown it out before telling myself to ‘go shove it.’
Seeing that Saki climbed off me, I sat up and told her exactly what I thought.
“You keep that up, and you’ll have a horde of suitors at your door. Imagine settling for me.”
A helping hand stuck out in front of me, to boost me on my feet.
“Well, until I find the one for me, I’ll continue to treat you as my dearest friend. You have a problem with that?” Saki cocked her head at me timidly, further adding to her charm. The allure of a pleasant girl without the yandere tendencies was unexpectedly strong… but that might have just been me. Once again, I blamed anime for that.
But the question now was, ‘How the heck do we get out of this place?’
I was surprised that Eryn hadn’t returned to check up on us. Since her plan was to cause both of us to fall into demonhood, Saki’s ascendance was contrary to what was supposed to happen. It seemed like that ‘failure’ would bring trouble to our-
Saki and I turned to the door, where Eryn had been standing there. Her expression was neutral, like she had been simply observing us. But for how long?
“I would say that I hate to interrupt, but it doesn’t look like the two of you were doing anything to begin with…”
She slowly walked over to the two of us before squinting her eyes at Saki.
“To think that bringing the two of you together would result in something so pure. So blindingly sweet. That holy aura that you now possess is testament of that.”
But then, Eryn’s expression soured, and she drew her sword. The tip of the blade flew toward Saki’s neck but just missed as I pulled her out of the way. Given the sharpness of that strike and the miasma coating the blade, it would have beheaded its target.
Saki and I nodded to each other and got into fighting positions. While we didn’t need any weapons to use our signature stats, there was always the comfort of striking a weapon with one of our own as well. But left with no choice, the mana that enhanced our bodies would have to make do.
“I’m disappointed… I thought you two loved me more than that.” Eryn took a step and raised her sword. “To think that you’d commit to that dreaded trickery of the Gods and become a ‘God Candidate’ instead. Your kind doesn’t belong here any longer. I’ll get rid of you!”
Before either of us could ask Eryn about what she meant, the fury of the Demon came for us. Or rather, she went straight for Saki.
“No, you don’t!” I launched a wave of mana with a karate chop, causing Eryn to turn my way and block it.
In the meantime, Saki circled around, trying to throw a punch. The most basic jab that one would ever see; aside from her drumming skills, she was just a normal girl. But still, the very air shook as her fist whizzed by Eryn, who was vastly better trained.
Specks of miasma fizzled around the blow as Eryn brought up her own fist and slammed it into Saki’s stomach. With a cry of pain and a burst of colliding energies, Saki was thrown against the bedroom wall with a crash. Fortunately, her head popped right back up, showing her determination to keep standing.
“Hold on, Saki.” I looked over at the posts at the foot of the bed. They were just the right size to hold.
With two quick cuts, I severed them from the bed and hurled both towards Saki. Having caught them in her hands, now she got into a pose that was more comfortable.
“I won’t let even you tell me where I belong anymore! If Claude accepts me, then how can I stand by letting someone tell me otherwise?!”
Saki swung the twin bedpost at Eryn, who blocked with Radiant Light. The dull ring of wood against metal, white mana against miasma, caused the very room to shake. Saki’s attack power rivaled that of a demonized Eryn, but the latter made up for it in skill.
In response, Eryn parried the blows and directed them off to the side, tripping Saki off balance. The drumming girl was still at quite the disadvantage… but she had me on her side as well.
Before Eryn could take a swipe at Saki’s exposed back, I jumped in with a shard of wood of my own, carved out from the bed also. This single slab of wood gave the focus I needed to fight like the normal knife wielder I was.
But even 2 vs. 1, Eryn merely glanced toward my direction before leaping out of my range. Her face was not the slightest bit flustered at having to fight against a tag-team of heavy hitters.
Of course, her battle prowess was unmatched by all but a few people. Not to mention that she knew exactly how we fought. We were already facing a huge handicap, even though she was squaring off against two Electi.
‘Wait, wasn’t she also-’
I had nearly forgotten. The Demon possessed the power of Life. It was the Electi of Life. Practically unkillable.
All this time, Eryn had been toying with us. Even our Electi powers were nothing to be feared against an undying person. And more than that, the memory of her devouring Allen’s core, the Electi of Mana, flashed in my mind.
My eyes widened as Eryn charged up an ominous attack from her sword. Her incredible power was being compressed tighter and tighter, until it seemed like the room’s gravity was being affected. The floor and walls tremored from the echoes of miasma bouncing across the room. And as a shrill sound hummed from her blade, the very surface of where Eryn stood seemed to crack from the pressure.
I stood in front of Saki, my hand jittering as I prepared to meet that attack head-on. Even escaping from the room was out of the question. There was nothing I could do but slice it. And pray that it wouldn’t obliterate the both of us.
“The Land’s Howl – Explosion!”
I couldn’t even hear myself cry out as I futilely swung against the attack with all the mana I could muster. I was hoping that I could weather the attack for even a moment, enough to dull the full impact.
But before I knew it, I could no longer feel the ground. I felt like I had been swept away into clouds of darkness. A black wind blew fiercely from the front. Yet, my back… a pair of hands continued to push against me. A head propped firmly against my shoulder blades.
By the time my senses somewhat returned, I was staring up at a fuzzy, dark scene. It was the same, dreary sky that I lamented as I ran through the town trying to figure out where I was. And in the next moment, I realized that I wasn’t alone this time. The footsteps of converted demons circled around us. Their dull eyes and sickly auras converged upon us like predators seeking prey.
I couldn’t do anything. I could barely move my body. I was surprised that I was even alive and conscious.
But someone else hadn’t given up.
The strained voice next to me choked out a set of words.
“A-Aura… de… !”