Exiting the portal from Sistina to Sanshiro, we immediately stepped into a battlefield. At first, only a few of us were planning to come, but one look around had us retreating back to call for reinforcements.
While Eryn couldn’t follow us into the capital of Sistina, she remained one step ahead of us, somehow guessing that we were going to pay Lady Kaguya a visit. Or maybe, the Holy Oracle was one of her targets anyway, given that she wanted to rid the world of those connected to the Divine Gods.
As I popped out of the portal a second time, a squad of people formed a line behind me. Saki and Ludmila immediately rushed ahead towards the battlefield, with a bunch of magic knights and the Royal Guard following behind. These were the ones available on short notice. Katalina was busy elsewhere, calling up others to join in the effort against the demons. Hopefully, they would arrive soon.
As for me, I was to head straight for Lady Kaguya as Katalina received no signal from her communicator. In the turmoil of a sudden battle, there were probably other things on her mind. Or perhaps, she was already in danger. A quick scan of the area told me that the demon army was starting to break through to the city.
I watched as various demons struggled to push themselves through the holy barrier that was present. Even though it could block out magic, it didn’t physically stop ones that kept their powers contained, unlike the mana barriers erected in Macali and Sistina. Its purpose was purely to keep demonic energy out, which made it work well against demons who couldn’t contain their miasma.
But still, a demon could claw its way through the barrier, ripping it open just enough to fit through before it sealed up again. And that was already happening. Fighting littered the streets. Demons were crowded around weak areas of the shield, funneling inside. One could imagine that the barrier didn’t account for so many opponents charging all at once.
I dashed through the armies of fighting warriors and demons, pulling out my knives and slashing whatever foes that were in my path. I felt guilty that I couldn’t help out more, but they would probably say that protecting the Oracle was more important.
I pressed on, making sure that I remained focused on a beeline toward the city, but then, an old man and a demon skidded straight into my path.
“Eh? LAU! You doing okay?!”
The old Electi of Dexterity looked like he had seen better days. The garments that he wore were in tatters. The burns that licked across his arms looked like something had whipped them with a searing heat. His breath was haggard, and his eyes were weary. In the next exchange before me, I discovered why.
Lau was fighting a demon that flung snake-like appendages at him. It didn’t take long to recognize the man formerly known as Marude Zura, the martial artist that Lau had difficulty fighting against. I heard of their last battle and how much of a close call it was, so having to fight against a souped-up demon version was not a good sign.
Those flittering appendages looked like murky water, flowing all around Lau as he desperately tried to bat them away. But after several successful parries, one managed to slip by, wrapping around his left arm again. Lau howled in pain as he smacked the water appendage aside to release the grip it had on him. But holding his arm up, one could see the lasting damage.
The skin became cracked and was dyed lightly purple. Lau grimaced as he scratched the charred layer off and cast it aside, blood dribbling now where a fresh wound resulted.
“LAU, I’M COMING!”
I aimed a mana strike right for Zura, but his snakes simply flicked it away. The strength of his miasma must have been greater than my power. Seeing this, Lau turned to me.
“Stay back, boy! This is a fight between warriors of Sanshiro! Go find the Oracle or something. She’s the nice, young thing you should be sweating bullets to protect instead!”
There was no way I could just abandon Lau, knowing that he was facing a difficult opponent. But then again, who wasn’t? Warriors all around me were getting slain as the demons were simply too numerous to fight against. But I couldn’t help but want to do something for the guy who trained me, like a disciple devoted to his sensei.
I started to step forward, but a hand grasped my shoulder. Lau’s expression changed as well.
“If you’re not going to listen to an old man’s last will, then at least let your servant take your place.”
I turned to find Pietro, who had raced here from the edge of Faulkner after being notified of the demon attack. There were already signs of battle weariness and stains on his normally pristine butler attire.
“Go on, lad. It is a butler’s duty to serve. I’ll make sure our guests get the proper welcome for intruding.” Pietro gave me a confident nod before pushing me in the direction of Yakuman’s boundaries.
I let out a sigh of relief, feeling like there could be no better matchup. Despite being at each other’s throats, the two old rivals knew exactly how to partner up. They had challenged each other so many times in the past, so much that I could trust them to work together without further worry.
Pietro was a man who would not fall behind an Electi. That was how much of a legend his sword skills were. As if confirming these thoughts, I saw Pietro send a mana-imbued slash at Zura, cutting straight through the water snakes he wielded.
‘If anyone could support Lau, it’s Pietro,’ I thought as I dashed away.
A quick glance behind me revealed that many more people had joined in from Sistina. Likely, the main force was streaming through the portals that had appeared in the distance. The horizon was filled with flashes of magic attacks slung at the demons. One could see that numbers mattered here, as there were many more on our side than the demon army.
But given that it took so many people to take on a single demon, even a 10 to 1 advantage in numbers was still not enough. Some were already monsters before demonizing, so they could already take on tens or even hundreds of people on their own. Add the power of miasma, and likely, only our very best could be a match for them, like in the case of Zura.
The ground rumbled before me as a Fire spell sizzled across the landscape. With a quick slice, I cut the wall of fire that threatened to crash into me. A nice, little hole was carved out, leaving the ground around me unscathed. But for everywhere else, it was like molten lava.
‘Speak of the Demon herself…’
Eryn floated gently down as if she were sitting upon a throne of air. A gust of wind tossed her platinum hair upwards, making it look like she had descended from above. I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that she was literally hovering in midair. Right in the middle of my path forward.
“Hello again, I was hoping that you would come out and play.” She gave me a whimsical smile, like a girl casually asking me to go for a walk around town. But the fireballs swirling around her arm told me that was far from the case. With a wave of the hand, she shot them towards me.
Of course, all I needed to do was cut them down with my knife. I batted them away with ease, wondering why she even bothered. Eryn knew my capabilities quite well. Something on this scale wouldn’t even make me break a sweat. But then, I saw that the fireballs continued… and continued… and never stopped.
After a full minute of rapid-fire flame shots, Eryn’s smile simply curled wider. If it had been her normal self, the strain of continuous spellcraft would have caused her to stop by now. But she had acquired the inexhaustible mana source possessed by the Electi of Mana. It felt like she could continue all day, while my vision started to strain due to the effort needed to maintain focus. Accurately slicing through the mana flow was no easy task.
Eventually, I started to miss some, more and more as it dragged on to two minutes, and then three. At that point, the sheer amount I was letting through to hit my mana shield was exhausting me quickly.
“Have I ever told you how adorable it is when you try so hard? Like a puppy aiming to please its owner, I would say. It’s endearing, frankly.”
I had little time to bother with Eryn’s words. The din of flame shots colliding against the barrier I fought to maintain drowned out every other word. There was no way that I could take her in a head-on battle. A burst of magic from her could take down hundreds of combatants, so giving her unlimited ammo made her unstoppable. I started to wonder if there was even anyone that could match such power.
With a shatter, the fireballs broke through my barrier and struck me a few times, sending me careening backwards. But then, the barrage stopped. Flailing around to keep on my feet, I turned to her. A domineering smile lingered hauntingly in my vision.
Eryn knew that I couldn’t win. Her eyes told me so. I knew that look of confidence anywhere. It flashed whenever the tides turned in her favor. After spending nearly two years at her side, I couldn’t be mistaken.
‘But then… why? Why did she let up?’
I stared at her hovering above, like she was wondering how else to toy with me.
‘Toy’ – that was exactly what she was doing. I looked around, seeing that the battlefield was unchanged. The flow had not advanced in our favor with our entrance. It had merely bought some time. The sheer power of people demonized far outmatched our normal magic knights and soldiers still. Even with a numbers advantage, the best Sistina and Sanshiro could do was to pin them in one location while slowly whittling away at them.
Occasionally, someone would get a lucky hit on a core. But just as likely, a demon would slice through the ranks with unbridled power, causing everyone to proceed with caution. All the while, Eryn simply hovered before me, seeming content at throwing taunts that she could go find Lady Kaguya at any time.
What could I even do if I reached her? They would be too busy fending off the demon army to help me with my issues. This was certainly the best way to keep me from reaching the same ascendance as Ludmila and Saki.
I gritted my teeth. What could I do without the aid of my friends?
Saki and Ludmila had split off and were fighting against some large enemy in the distance. Lau and Pietro were facing their own battle. Everyone was struggling in their own fights. Who else was left to help me turn the tide?
It was too dangerous for Katalina, being the Queen of Sistina.
No other fighter from Sistina existed that could match Eryn’s prowess.
And the Sunny Twins were likely protecting Lady Kaguya.
Macali was just too far-
“C-Claude! Can you hear me?”
A familiar voice came from my communicator, the brand-new one.
“Eh, Katalina? I’m a little busy…,” I whispered back.
“I know. I can see you in the distance. It looks like you need some help!”
“B-But wait, you shouldn’t be out here fighting! It’s too dangerous! I-”
“Don’t worry! I’m not alone. I brought help! Um-hm! Can you just distract Eryn for a few moments, please?”
I wondered what she even had planned to overturn such a situation. Probably, she was hanging out of some portal, surveying the whole battlefield. That was her standard way of spying on the situation. If I could trust anyone, it was her and that intellect of hers.
I quickly shot a glare at Eryn, charging up my mana to deliver a Soul Rending Strike. That instantly caught her attention. It was the one move that she had to be wary of, as it could pass through just about any protection of mana that could be mustered. As long as there was a weak point for the wave to glide through the crevices between energies, it would hit where I intended.
The only weakness was that it struck a single type of energy – whether it be magic converted from mana, a person’s unique mana signature, or the miasma that came from being a demon. Only one of those would be affected by my attack.
The question was, ‘Which one?’ I couldn’t hesitate, so I immediately guessed and launched a wave of mana.
I watched as Eryn first created swords of miasma that were flung towards me. Even before they harmlessly passed through my strike, Eryn was already prepared with the thickest mana barrier that she could muster.
Despite being a demon, the characteristic blue glow of a magic knight’s mana wrapped around her. Even as a demon, she could perfectly tap into the best of both sides. Truly, a demon ascended to complement the possibilities of an Electi.
But even with how powerful of a barrier it was, my strike crashed into it and shattered the protection like it was glass. The spark that erupted as the energies canceled each other out created a sonic boom that made me cover my ears.
But then, I noticed something from the corner of my eye.
In that moment, when the surroundings were enveloped in a deafening noise, it struck.
It was monstrous. Filling my entire vision in an instant with a glimmer of metal. It crashed straight into Eryn and swallowed her up, whizzing past me with only a single snapshot captured in my eyes. A gust of wind rushed around me in its wake, stinging my vision. Even still, my eyelids refused to close.
My jaw dropped as I could tell what manner of ‘thing’ that was. The surprise froze my entire body, except for a slight turn of the head. Curiosity was the only thing causing my gaze to follow it.
Katalina had certainly brought help.
In the form of a ‘mobile suit’.