Meanwhile, the strangest battle of all unfolded at the very center of the turmoil. If a giant suit of armor that towered over his opponent wasn’t enough to turn heads, then the Demon holding its own against it certainly did.
At first, the overwhelming size difference messed with Eryn, but it didn’t take long before she got used to its movements. Despite its appearance, the mecha’s blows did no more damage than a hero of comparable might. Or perhaps, being a demon simply made the differences negligible to begin with. But especially for Eryn, her inexhaustible mana supply offered enough protection to weather everything.
After all, she was quite partial to this body. She couldn’t allow herself to become damaged goods before encountering Claude again. She stopped and wondered for a moment if she would be more endearing to him if she were. Claude always had a soft spot for someone in peril, especially if lingering feelings clouded him.
Eryn looked up to block a massive blade slicing towards her, flashing a thin smile. Power was met with equal power, the might of miasma enhancing the already-strong stats that she possessed. A deadlock – forcing back a blade ten times the size of her own – those that saw the battle from afar couldn’t believe their eyes.
Still, the metal head of the machine puffed out steam, and its eyes shone brightly like it was far from being done. Rather than feeling threatened, Eryn was eager to see what tricks this big toy could do. She wanted to know the full extent of how much this world wanted to crush her once again.
‘This power doesn’t compare to the very Gods themselves…’
She needed to know if all that time spent, the lifetimes of loneliness, was all worth it in the end. Would her bitterness overcome what the Gods had to offer? Or would someone stop her? End the path that she so gruelingly fought through and save the day. Like the Gods had always intended. Like the natural course of destiny.
Even now, Eryn could see the tides slowly changing in battle.
Her army of demons had started as a force to be reckoned with, but humanity was just that stubborn. They had always been. Using their Gods as a pillar, advancing themselves with technology from otherworlders, and most of all… solving their own problems and changing themselves to shift the odds.
Toeing that line between good and evil – humans were often given that chance. However, she was different. She never had a choice. Becoming a demon was how she entered this world. And she could only blame the Gods for that.
Jealousy crept into her heart as various white lights speckled across the battlefield. First, there were only two, but then more joined them, overwhelming the battlefield despite how miniscule they glowed. They were mere stars in the sky. Yet, they commanded all that could be seen.
‘The aura of an Ascended Electi… more of them revealed as time passes by.’
The ones that came from Sanshiro didn’t miss her attention. They had long been lost causes. So was the man she was fighting now. He had found his place in the world, once he found those that he could truly love – a family to protect, to show off to, and to be every bit the man he always wanted to be.
Even with his toy, he wouldn’t have lasted so long if it weren’t for the divine energy coursing through it, repelling her own attacks. That ascension gave him immeasurable power, enough to stand against her alone.
Several more exchanges of blades took place. The heavy clang of metal echoed around them. Eryn whizzed through the air in tandem with the mecha, their battle taking to the skies. High above the rest, it looked like a dragon colliding with a flaming bird. But few had the luxury of looking up for too long; they had their own battles to fight.
But after many minutes of flying around with not much change, Eryn felt another signature shift down below. She bit her lip as the distinct glow of white emerged from another, this time an old man that had nearly given up on his place in the world.
“One more left… not much time remaining…,” Eryn whispered to herself.
None of them mattered to her. They could join the other side. All it came down to was Claude. All she needed was him. No one else.
The world could abandon her. Her armies could be completely destroyed. But if she had one thing left, that was enough. That was enough… And by forcing the world into turmoil, that answer would finally come.
Eryn cast a veil of flames around her, creating a swirling storm. In response, Koujiro readied his sword for the incoming attack.
“Fiery inferno – consume my enemy in the fires of Hell and turn that which exists into a blazing husk of ash! ‘Eternal Blaze!’”
Like the sky itself had turned orange, flames swept as far as one could see. Glowing ashes rained down as the air above the battlefield caught fire. Though the attack didn’t stretch down to the fighting below, the very surroundings heated up and made those in armor feel like they were baking in an oven.
Hurriedly, magicians at ground level countered with Ice magic to bring relief to their surroundings, while Sanshiro warriors channeled the air with their mana to fan away the heat.
But for Koujiro, whose machine sat right in the middle of the inferno, the heat was getting quite stifling. Still, the smile of a good battle didn’t leave his face. He welcomed the challenge.
“Trying to smoke me out, huh? You have to try a lot harder than that to melt my mobile suit!” his voice boomed from the speakers on his machine.
Divine energy shielded him and the suit from the very attack itself. It wouldn’t melt as long as he kept mana running through it with ‘Champion’s Cowl.’ He dove through the flames and continued to strike at Eryn.
Jetting through the sea of flames, the two of them continued to dance for longer and longer, Eryn keeping the pressure of her giant Fire spell on him. But Koujiro simply chugged a mana potion, one of a huge stash that the Queen of Sistina brought along, just in case. If it was going to be a battle of mana endurance, then they were going to be here for a very long time.
After all, he had only just begun to have fun with his shiny new robot. Seeing as they were officially allied with the Kingdom of Sistina, he figured that it wouldn’t hurt to tap into the genius of the famous Inventor Queen. He laid out plans to develop a machine in which he could ride and fight in, a personal dream of his after one of his fellow countrymen created a small-scale, crude demo of a pilotable robot.
Being their King, it was only right for him to ‘personally’ test it out for himself. And the results were even greater than he had imagined. Unlike others who tried it out before him, he instantly felt a strange connection the very first time he sat in the cockpit. His divine power suddenly kicked in, filling the entire surroundings with a brilliant white. And before he knew it, the robot started moving in sync with his own body.
Unlike the bumbling and unsteady movements seen by other pilots, the robot magically moved like a live person when Koujiro was inside. That was when he first discovered it – a new skill that recognized even a giant machine as part of his equipment, the ‘Champion’s Cowl’. Given that piece of information, the only thing to do next was to build an even bigger and greater robot for himself.
Of course, he confided in the other rulers, Katalina and Lady Kaguya, who gave him very strange remarks, but ‘this was a man’s romance!’ He couldn’t very well give up on his passion.
Eventually, they relented and aided in the construction of it, making sure that the mobile suit aligned with the King’s own skill. It was meant to be used as a last resort, a gambit against a truly strong opponent. And what other foe was deserving of this masterpiece than the demon girl before him.
But even with such a crazy weapon unleashed upon the world, Koujiro still found himself struggling. Sure, he had a very large weapon that could decimate armies, but that was only if his opponents weren’t strong individually. Size didn’t matter quite as much when facing someone with stats that were superior just like his own. And because of that, Koujiro knew that he wasn’t invincible. That he had to put in the effort to battle against a worthy opponent.
Such a fight gave him an adrenaline rush. He savored each moment of it. Even if he wasn’t making any progress against her. Even if they were caught in a deadlock. He wanted to make sure that the experience that he always dreamed of would be savored for as long as possible.
“Plenty of time to stall for Claude to come back!” Koujiro nodded to himself as he eyed the box of potions that would help him dance for hours.
Even if he couldn’t beat the Demon, then he could at least stall for time. Stall, until the battle down below became a clear victory for them. Seeing how the tides had turned, he had confidence that his allies would finish the job. His role was to keep the Demon from interfering, and it was the most fun role of them all.
But as the exchanges continued, more and more of Eryn’s swings struck the mobile suit and jostled him around. By now, Koujiro was starting to pant heavily. Perhaps, the battle was wearing on him more than he thought. After all, an adrenaline rush only gave oneself a notion of being ‘in the zone’ for short periods of time. He popped another mana potion and chugged it down before grabbing another drink to help him focus.
The cool taste of cola running down his throat seemed to spark a bit of energy back.
“Mmm. Damn, the caffeine in this cola kicks in fast!” he nodded at the drink that Claude personally designed in secret, before tossing the empty bottle aside.
But even that feeling was short-lived. Koujiro’s body continued to grow sluggish, he started to miss attacks left and right, and his mind grew hazy. Now, he suspected that something else was off. It was at that moment that Eryn popped right in front of his viewing port. But this time, her eyes glowed vibrantly purple, a sight that instantly gave Koujiro the chills.
“Oh no, wearing down already? It must be quite heavy supporting that giant suit.” Eryn was all smiles, like she was expecting this outcome. She swung down hard with her sword at the mecha’s left arm. “Let’s lighten the load a bit, shall we?”
Unlike the slight blowback of her strikes before, a loud crunch shook the air. It was so loud that Koujiro had to cover his left ear with a hand while wincing.
But then, he saw that many metallic chunks flew across his vision, pieces of the arm that was attacked. Eryn’s blow emitted such force that the entire arm shattered as a result. She had been holding back before.
Koujiro’s eyes widened, staring dumbly at the damage. “Y-You did something, didn’t you?”
Eryn’s smirk grew wider, pointing to her eyes.
“A gift from my beloved servant. There were so many weak points to choose that I didn’t know which one to target. I suppose putting my full strength to pry open a tiny crack would lead to it simply exploding. Not to mention, it must be getting harder to breathe in there. Fortunately for us demons, we can manage without air for quite some time.”
Koujiro gripped his chest, his hyperventilating now understood. The oxygen in the air had grown thin, consumed by the flames surrounding them. He had been duped into thinking that it would simply be a fight of strengths, neglecting that Eryn had other ways of taking him down.
Futilely, he swung at her, his attacks now noticeably languid. His body started to tremble, and the demon girl before his eyes swam in his vision. As he swung his sword with his remaining arm, Eryn swiftly dodged it. And then, she brought her sword down upon the viewing port of the cockpit.
With a crunch, the metal door between them caved in. Then, Eryn gave it another kick, this time flinging the broken door right off its hinges. Flames flooded inside where Koujiro sat, its heat licking at him intensely. Fortunately for him, his divine power formed a barrier against it. A lesser man would have been set aflame.
“Now, isn’t that better? Though… I can’t exactly say that you will be getting some fresh air.”
Koujiro hardly gave her quip a thought as he drew the sword on his belt and sent a wave of mana right for her. Eryn simply kicked back from the cockpit’s entryway and made some distance.
Now exposed to her wide area Fire spell, he wouldn’t last much longer up here in the sky. Fighting with her any further would be dangerous, so his natural instinct to run away kicked in.
But before it could fully set, he punched himself in the jaw and emitted a loud roar.
“Like hell if a little lightheadedness will stop me! Like hell if something strong is going to make me chicken out! I can’t be Champion King if I don’t give it my all!”