Chen Shi Yuan prided himself on the impenetrability of his defense, forged through countless training and combat. When it came to being someone’s shield, he fully believed that there would be no equal to break him.
Due to Sanshiro’s history of shunning familiar summoning, Chen felt like even Electi were obsolete compared to his ways. He openly flaunted such might that could rival ‘godly summons’. However, the sight of one small girl, who barely stood up to his torso, finally made him understand how much of that was misplaced pride in hindsight.
Ludmila, the girl people called ‘Heaven Piercer’. Her gaze was sharp as any spear. Her movements were swift as lightning. Chen watched as well-trained, fearless men simply crumpled from her assault, too slow to react to her attacks.
But not him back then. She was like a mosquito waiting for him to swat. Even when he gazed upon her ultimate attack, he smiled in victory, thinking that he had blocked it. But then, her face shifted into a look of confidence, rather than shock, before she disappeared before his gaze. The next thing he knew, his entire left side was gone, and a line of men had been cleared behind him. Like a beam of destruction, that small girl became a divine arrow that could no longer be stopped. He had let pride cloud his judgment.
Hours after his men escaped with him, heavily bandaged and barely clinging to life, Chen finally realized how small he felt in that moment, man against the divine. He could no longer belittle the power of the Gods after having a taste of it. He could see now why Electi were considered heroes of this world.
And then, he fell into despair. He trained his entire life to gain such strength, but such a tiny girl could possess so much of it at her age. It was unfair. If only he could have been chosen in some way…
“W-Who are you?!” someone cried out in fear.
Chen groggily lifted his head, seeing a man dressed in a large trenchcoat. No one had noticed where he came from as the figure suddenly appeared right among the fleeing group.
“Tell me. Do you hate how powerless you all are now? Discarded from the very lands you worked so hard for?”
The remnants of the Chen family could no longer be in Sanshiro as their clan was exiled for their part in the uprising. But still, being called powerless struck their pride. Several men answered by dashing forward, shields constructed upon their upper bodies to add weight to their charge.
But a single wave of the hand by the mysterious person and gusts of sharp wind cut through the ranks. Mana so strong and thick that it tore through the Chen family’s shields like nothing. Heads and limbs fell from their bodies as Chen could only gawk at how powerful the magic was.
“Yes… truly pathetic. The lot of you. Thinking that you had hopes of prevailing against Electi. The might of men cannot hope to measure against those chosen by the Gods.”
A dark aura enveloped the man in the trenchcoat, and instantly, chills ran down everyone’s spines as they realized that a demon was before them. A demon more powerful than they had ever encountered.
“But fear not, every coin has its other side. The light brings with it a darkness of equal strength. The only question is… will you die, or will you embrace it instead?”
Chen gulped. The power of demons. That was the only thing that could go against the Gods and their Electi. Suddenly, he wanted it. He wanted that power. If he had it, then he wouldn’t lose. Not the next time.
“If you carry a grudge against your enemies, then why not take this second chance? Become sullied like me. Take this power and be free!”
Even in his critically-injured state, Chen stepped forward. He pushed those that were helping him away and reached toward the demon for his offer. Seeing him do so, his followers did the same.
That bestowed power through turning into a demon himself – he no longer had to fear his past enemies. He could destroy them all with ease. While he evolved into a being that shattered his previous limits, his opponents seemed to be frozen in time, unable to keep up.
Even the form of the young girl that once beat him. Her mirage couldn’t hold up to his power now. He cackled as he tore her limbs from her body, crushed her head between his palm, and slammed the remaining torso into the ground, likely shattering every bone. He howled at the sky, at a world where he was no longer weak.
He looked at the destroyed landscape, riddled with the bodies of every enemy that he had ever faced. No one could touch him anymore. He was truly invincible.
But then, he felt a flicker of bloodlust before his feet.
He looked down, seeing a lone head staring at him with that same expression that had once unnerved him. A face full of courage, unwilling to back down and refusing to lose. The very same face before he was defeated last time.
He stomped on that head, crushing it like a melon. But before he knew it, another head rolled before him with that same expression – courageous, dauntless, and unyielding. He moved to crush that one too, but then, more heads rolled up to him. All the same. Her face and that expression on every single one.
How could it be? Why did she not go away, even with how powerful he had become?
Bodies materialized from where the heads were, and then, they all began to climb onto Chen, who batted them away. Each one of the bodies was fragile, but they nonetheless continued to chip away at Chen’s massively thick shield.
Little by little, Chen could feel his protection being peeled back. And from within his shell, a hint of fear finally grew from within. But once it sprouted on the inside, any hopes of a perfect defense were shattered.
Outside of Chen’s mind, that was exactly what Ludmila was doing. Due to Saki’s Aura de Gracia, Chen was stuck in place, fighting at ghosts appearing before him. During that time, Ludmila continued to bombard him with attacks. She was a bastion of patience and persistence, relentlessly delivering blow after blow to wear down Chen’s shield.
Their progress seemed for naught until a song drifted through the air. It restored Ludmila and Saki. It empowered them. With their divine energy filled to the brim, Ludmila injected her strikes with a dose of it every time, until finally, a small crack in Chen’s expression appeared.
It was like he could feel her presence, the one who had nearly slain him before. Ludmila could smell fear coming from him. She couldn’t waste this chance. Ludmila howled like a beast charging towards victory, aiming for Chen’s core. The mana upon her hands turned into claws that slashed at his shields, shaving them more and more away.
By now, the images of Ludmila in Chen’s mind morphed from zombies clawing at his body to shape-shifting wolves that tore at him endlessly. The fear that his shield might be compromised, even with all the power he gained, became a downward spiral. Once that finally took hold, it would only lead to self-destruction.
And just like that, Ludmila finally broke through Chen’s final shield, slicing deep into his torso and hitting the core housed within. With the demon’s weak point exposed, Ludmila turned toward her ally.
“Saki, swing your mallet! Now, just do it!”
Though Saki was a fair distance away, focused on trapping Chen within her illusion, she nonetheless believed in her partner’s words. She brought her mallet back, ready to take a swing at the air.
Immediately, Ludmila activated Clock-endspiel, stopping Saki’s arm mid-motion. Quickly moving over to her, she rapidly smacked Saki’s back while mentally judging the distance needed. Soon, twelve chimes signaled, and Saki’s body was thrown forward from the impacts. Saki blinked as she found herself flying right towards Chen, and in that instant of regained consciousness, she understood where she needed to aim – right at Chen’s core.
Ludmila’s blows weren’t strong enough to do the job, and Saki wasn’t fast enough to make it in time. But their combined attack gave them the window to strike while Chen’s shield was down. The mallet came down right on the core, and with a loud crack, the entire thing exploded upon impact. Chen’s body burst into purple flames, all the while his mind was still stuck fighting wolves that chewed him up until there was nothing left. In the end, he was the one that hadn’t progressed, disappearing from the world without truly knowing what killed him.
“Impossible! How are you able to touch them?! My snakes! The poison!” Zura cried as Lau gripped them in his hands. The heads withered away like vines burning in the fierce sun.
Lau had always been afraid of touching any dark energy, ever since he nearly became a demon himself. That was why he boxed in those temptations deep within. He subconsciously flicked every attack away, not wanting to risk rattling it loose. He didn’t want anything to touch his darkness, to bring out that part of him again.
But now, he had no choice but to accept it. He couldn’t keep up otherwise. But as his own miasma slammed into that of Zura’s, Lau could feel the difference. His own miasma fought to protect him. It didn’t poison him like the snakes. He had perfect control all this time.
He didn’t want to admit it back then, but other than the brief time in which it first overtook him, the miasma obeyed his every intention. He was simply afraid, not wanting to know what the others would think if he ‘grew used’ to its power. The entire country shunned demonic energies, yet he was exploiting them to gain an advantage.
Not to mention that the dark energy highlighted his own insecurities – the pressure he imposed upon himself to feel special. He had embraced the powers of an Electi because they suited his juggling so well. And it pained him to think that role could be jeopardized.
But not anymore. Others had overcome the darkness, supported by their connections that brought forth light from within. He would do the same too. He would no longer be afraid. The first step in dealing with it was to draw it out again and trust in it.
As if his core responded to that acceptance, the miasma from his blows suddenly shifted to a lighter and lighter hue, until traces of purple were all that remained. In its place, his mana began to glow whiter until there was no question that the energy that he used now carried the will of the Gods.
“THRUST THAT PIERCES THE HEAVENS!”
A raging swirl of white drilled towards Zura, who tried to block it by whipping his snakes at it. They harmlessly bounced off the attack before crumbling from its might. Zura futilely brought his arms up in fear before the drill attack slammed into his body.
Purple miasma whipped at it from every direction as Zura tried to endure the divine attack, but after a few moments, the sound of cracking echoed before the drill ran out of steam. Seeing that the mana was just about to cancel out, Pietro slammed his sword into the back of it, injecting the drill with enough force to spin a few more times.
With that, the core within Zura shattered, and he too burst into flames. Lau frowned at the fact that Pietro had helped him finish off his opponent in the end, scoffing at the assist. The sound of singing floated into their ears moments later, bringing relief to their old bones.
“Tch. If only I waited a bit to launch that attack, then I wouldn’t have ‘needed’ your help,” Lau spat.
“Help is help. One needs not to be picky. Why should it matter when your power is insufficient either way?” Pietro teased him while sheathing his sword.
“As if you could do it yourself, Old Timer.”
“That is something that we can agree upon. I have not the power of the Gods. Therefore, I merely serve as another’s foil. That is the duty of a butler.”
Lau and Pietro sighed in exhaustion as they watched the rest of the battle from their now-empty arena. They were too tired to trade blows at each other like normal.
The Electi of Speed and Attack defeated Chen Shi Yuan.
The Electi of Dexterity overcame his long-held darkness to prevail against a rival.
The Electi of Defense and Magic Defense charged through the demon armies with the Electi of Proficiency, King Koujiro, at their side. Lightning strikes and holy beams ripped through the battlefield as their surroundings bent to their will.
Kaguya watched these battles unfold from a viewing portal high in the sky. Where she stood, a giant platform had been constructed from Earth magic, and behind her, the vibrant melody of a young girl’s song blasted across the skies.
Thanks to the Queen of Sistina, the whole place had been constructed in the span of minutes, fully equipped with sound amplification tools that projected the Electi of Luck’s divine voice to the entire battlefield. It was a rather peculiar invention, but a simple mention of “it was Claude’s idea at some point” needed no further explanation.
Now, the spirit-lifting tunes kept the demons at bay while also empowering their own side. Kaguya looked over at the Inventor Queen herself, who was currently wrapped in a bubble of Wind magic, talking at her communicator. The loud music seemed to have no bearing on the call she was making as the sight of her lips moving made Kaguya curious.
Kaguya walked into the bubble, and immediately, the melody filtered out, leaving only Katalina’s voice among the muted surroundings.
“No, no, Koujiro’s doing a fine job here. Though the robot unfortunately self-destructed, that was in no way anyone’s fault. Miss Faulkner in demon form is simply just too much of a threat.”
Katalina looked over at Kaguya, acknowledging her presence.
“Yes, we don’t need any further assistance. Let your dear husband have his boyish fun time. A reward for being such a dutiful father. I will contact you again if anything changes. Goodbye.”
Kaguya couldn’t help but snicker at the Macali Queens’ worries, her robed arm covering her mouth politely. She was quite grateful for the assistance, marveling at the secret weapon that Sanshiro and Sistina jointly created. With them all allied, even the likes of a demon invasion could be contained. Seeing that Katalina put away her communicator, Kaguya spoke up.
“Such a nice spell, certainly useful when one needs a moment of silence alone, no?”
“Testing my inventions can get quite noisy at times. A sound bubble to block it out became a natural remedy for that… but I don’t suppose that is why you are here. How is Claude faring?” Katalina replied.
“I just saw him disappear into a portal, following after his Master moments ago. Before that, it looked like Claude had the upper hand. I’m sure he will be fine, but we should track their location just in case. The rest of the battle is going smoothly. It seems that more forces from Sistina have arrived, so the odds are in our favor.”
In addition to the ones that came initially, Katalina had summoned far more people. First, Pietro came with a small detachment, but then, Roderick showed up with the Royal Guard. And even Golabki, the military man from Purnesia, pitched in by gathering the remnants of the Purnesian Army to aid with suppressing gunfire.
“Sure, I’ll get right on it.” Katalina reached into her Item Box, fishing for the device she used to pinpoint Claude’s signature last time he was stuck in that weird alternate dimension.”
But then Kaguya sighed. Not quite a sigh of relief that their side was now prevailing, nor was it a sigh due to the fact that the world was now united under a common cause. There was something else on her mind presently.
“They have all gathered now, haven’t they? For the first time that I can recall in recorded history, the powers of the Electi are all upon this world.”
In addition to the ones fighting before, the Electi of Critical chased after the demon that possessed the powers of Life and Mana. And not long ago, the final one had been summoned.
“So how does it feel, Queen Katalina, to be Master to the Electi of Magic?”
That was a gift to her, a piece of advice from the deity in their ritual, given as a token of appreciation for being there for Claude. He had hinted that she was the final Master waiting to awaken her Electi. And when the two of them returned from the divine ritual, she immediately invoked the rite of summoning.
“I am just so relieved. With this, I know that everything will turn out fine. I have faith. We will bring Miss Faulkner back to us.”