At the same time the heroes started moving inside the royal palace, someone in the institute noticed the abnormal occurrences.
A devil just like Avaritia, Luxuria.
“!? No way…!”
Luxuria thought Avaritia was still far from Erkunt. All of a sudden, however, that distance became zero. The devil’s presence moved right next to Erkunt’s outer walls in an instant.
“Luxuria? What happened?”
Luxuria stood up out of the blue and was looking in a certain direction. Hilamee called to her, but Luxuria couldn’t reply.
She took out a message card and quickly started writing on it, thinking that she had to let Shin know as soon as possible.
“Sent! Hilamee, I think that Avaritia will be coming here any minute. Evacuate the students!”
After sending the message, Luxuria explained the situation to the confused Hilamee. While Luxuria was talking, the booming sounds gave further credibility to her words.
“Isn’t that too soon!? To cover a few days’ worth of distance all at once is impossible without teleporting…wait, you don’t mean…”
Avaritia’s abnormal appearance could be explained in one way. Hilamee reached the same conclusion Shin and Schnee did: as a player she used teleportation on a daily basis after all.
“A devil using player techniques…well, I can do similar things after all.”
Luxuria’s expression was indescribable. The institute was riddled with the anti-devil traps Shin had set up. Luxuria had also borrowed anti-devil items which wouldn’t affect the user, so it could be said that she was doing similar things to Avaritia.
“That’s enough contemplation, evacuate the students already. Avaritia will probably come here: I’ll stay as a decoy.”
Luxuria was surprised by Avaritia’s sudden appearance, but she felt his presence even now.
He wasn’t heading straight for the institute. Even if its path was a roundabout one, the presence gradually approaching the institute was without a doubt Avaritia’s.
“Please don’t use that word.”
“Oh my, it feels nice to hear you say that.”
Luxuria tried to relieve the atmosphere, but Hilamee’s expression was deadly serious.
“I was wary of you in the beginning, but now I consider you one of us. You’re going to keep protecting the institute with us, so don’t you dare get absorbed by that Greed!!”
“No need for concern. I haven’t the slightest intention to.”
Luxuria saw Hilamee off, a reassuring expression on her face.
“Why did you have to go and say something so nice…”
Luxuria whispered towards the door as she felt Hilamee’s presence go.
From a devil’s standpoint, people were supposed to be nothing more than cattle to satisfy their desires. Whether to raise them or slaughter them was up to each devil’s will. At least originally.
The feelings born in Luxuria’s heart, however, were very far from her original instincts.
“This is so strange…I’m supposed to be a devil, and yet…”
Luxuria then pulled out a message card and another card from her bosom. Pictured on the card was a human-shaped slime-like being, in the process of being erased by the rays emitted by a globe of light. It was a very powerful anti-devil item: Shin had told Luxuria to use Avaritia as a shield if she had to use it.
“One wrong move and it’s suicide, so I didn’t want to use it…but if worse comes to worst, I’ll have to. I wonder why I’m able to think like this…”
Luxuria questioned herself while looking at the item that could very well blow her away too.
She had already performed many actions unthinkable for a devil. Luxuria didn’t understand why.
However, there was no time to look for answers. She felt that the presence had entered the institute. It had probably destroyed one of the walls protecting it.
Following Avaritia’s presence, an avalanche of monsters broke in too.
“Looks like Hilamee and the others are okay.”
Hilamee had already planned an escape route, so she acted quickly. The teleport had already been activated: only Luxuria remained in the institute.
Avaritia too detected Luxuria’s presence and proceeded on a straight line towards her, uncaring for any obstacles or buildings in the way.
Luxuria didn’t move an inch. Avaritia probably thought that she had given up on resisting or planned to face him without fleeing.
Though, both assumptions would be wrong. Luxuria told Hilamee that she would act as a decoy, but her aim was to let Hilamee and the others flee and also lure Avaritia into a trap.
“Two devils with the same level, disregarding affinity, are pretty much equal. He’s stronger than me for now, but there’s no reason to fight head-on like a simpleton.”
The distant noise of destruction reached Luxuria’s ears. Avaritia had stepped into Shin’s trap zone.
Like Luxuria, Avaritia was likely aware of the existence of anti-devil traps. If her memory was correct, they could damage devils, but not straight up kill them.
Shin’s traps, however, far exceeded Luxuria’s memory. Maybe it was because the traps Luxuria knew of had been made by inexperienced players, but Shin’s traps had far superior offensive power.
The explosions continued. Even the sounds caused by the anti-devil traps making the air vibrate and made Luxuria jolt when they reached her ears.
Some of Shin’s traps were set up to activate chain reactions, so underestimating them would result in very painful regret.
Shin’s traps exceeded Luxuria’s knowledge such that she even thought that there was the possibility that Avaritia decided to retreat.
“Oh my, you’re looking quite manly now.”
Sitting in the infirmary’s chair, Luxuria spoke to Avaritia. He hadn’t stopped even if damaged by the traps, and was now right before Luxuria.
Because of the destruction, the infirmary was half wrecked too.
“You can say thAt again. Thanks to that, I was fORced to eat up All the fodDEr I brought wIth me.”
Avaritia’s body was covered in wounds, though they were gradually healing. His HP was also down to about 10%.
Luxuria almost wanted to praise him for surviving the traps with only 10% HP left. If he had done so with only his powers though.
The presence of the monsters which entered the institute was completely gone. Some had probably been destroyed by the aftershocks of Shin’s traps, but most had been devoured by Avaritia.
Low-level monsters couldn’t survive Avaritia’s drain. Their presence was gone, probably because Avaritia’s 【Lifedrain Sludge】 had swallowed them, corpse and all.
“You would be even manlier if you went through another round of that, you know? …by the way, are you a man now?”
“GendErs don’t mAtter to dEVIls. WhAT’s manlY abOUt this faCe, anYWay.”
Avaritia, in devil form, looked down on Luxuria. As they spoke, his 【Lifedrain Sludge】 was in the process of surrounding the building and her.
“We finally meet after all this time, why not chat a little bit?”
“AftEr thoSE trAps? You SUrelY haVe somethINg else in stoRe.”
Avaritia didn’t let his guard down: the traps had surely given him a rough time. The 【Lifedrain Sludge】 generated by his lower body rushed towards the half-destroyed infirmary.
“TheRe were MORE?”
Avaritia cursed under his breath. The 【Lifedrain Sludge】 that tried to attack Luxuria was blocked by a barrier of light, so it couldn’t get any closer.
It was a barrier set up by Shin, of course. Though it was a trap originally used to seal devils inside, this time it was used to protect the sealed devil from the attacks of others.
“You cAn’t attACk eithEr LIke this…yOU’re buying tIMe.”
Avaritia turned towards the presence approaching him and Luxuria grinned smugly. That High Human wouldn’t stay quiet in such a situation. That was the reason why Luxuria chose not to move and buy time.
Avaritia started gathering the 【Lifedrain Sludge】 around himself, as a rain of shining spears fell on him.
【Lifedrain Sludge】 was only slightly faster, forming a sphere, it acted as a wall against the spears. The devil managed to protect himself in the nick of time. Avaritia thought so, but only for mere seconds.
Those spears didn’t just disappear after being blocked. They kept thrusting towards Avaritia, trying to break through the 【Lifedrain Sludge】 barrier.
Just like booster-powered harpoons, they gradually scattered the 【Lifedrain Sludge】.
Avaritia wouldn’t just stay there and suffer though. With arms more powerful than its copies, it punched away the spears blocked by the 【Lifedrain Sludge】.
Not even the spears could stand such attacks: leaving behind trails of light, they were sent flying and stuck in the piles of rubble.
“ThE bASTard is hEre…”
Ignoring his sizzling fists, caused by the contact with the spears, Avaritia looked in the direction from which the spears came. What he saw was a knight clad in blue and silver armor.
“You went straight to Luxuria, so you’re the main body I wager?”
『The Ark』 slung over his shoulder, 『Holy Armor – Vanquisher of Evil』 protecting his body, Shin spoke.
“You’vE tAKen good CAre of my coPIes…”
“No need to thank me. My business is with you.”
Shin gauged the current situation while looking up at Avaritia.
Avaritia’s attack had reduced 1/4 of the institute into rubble. Shin also noticed that the traps had affected Avaritia with weakening debuffs. The only other presence he detected was Luxuria’s: Hilamee and the others had clearly evacuated already.
“Luxuria, don’t step a foot out of there!”
“I know. Even if I tried to force my way out, I wouldn’t be unscathed.”
Luxuria tried touching the light barrier, but her hand was pushed back with a loud snap. The barrier was originally meant to constrict devils, so its effect was tried and true. It blocked magic power from traveling inside or outside it, making it perfect for creating a safe area.
“Is YOuR liTtle chaT oVEr?”
Avaritia’s 【Lifedrain Sludge】 erupted from under Shin’s feet. The devil had moved it underground to strike an ambush.
Shin, however, dispelled the attack by drawing a circle with his 『The Ark』.
“I exPecTed as much, but that swORd is a royAl pain.”
Avaritia probably shared memories with his copies. It was supposed to be the first time the main body saw 『The Ark』, but he didn’t show signs of surprise.
(He’s stronger than the last one?)
Shin found the sensation transmitted by 『The Ark』 to be peculiar.
During the previous battle against Avaritia’s copy, 【Lifedrain Sludge】 hadn’t proven to be much of an obstacle.
Thanks to 『Holy Armor – Vanquisher of Evil』, 【Lifedrain Sludge】 was just an annoying recovery option Avaritia possessed.
【Analyze】 showed that the main body’s level was the same as the copy, 750. The different sensation when slicing 【Lifedrain Sludge】, however, convinced Shin that the main body had to be more powerful.
“I don’t have much time to waste. I’ll have to end this quick.”
Avaritia did not have any sources of recovery in the surroundings. If they stayed inside the institute, Shin could limit the damage to material ones.
“DoN’t get YoUr hopES up, bOy.”
Before Shin could move, however, Avaritia said something concerning.
“Do yoU rEALly ThiNK I didn’t prEpAre anythINg to coUNTer yOu?”
“….what do you want to say?”
Engaging a devil in conversation was risky. Avaritia, who shared memories with its copy, wouldn’t say such a thing without a reason, though.
“HuMan deSIre knowS No boUnds. EsPEcially for tHE yoUng. It wAs a cINch to set up, yoU know?”
Among the students evacuated by Hilamee, some had to be under Avaritia’s control. If Shin didn’t comply with the devil’s instructions, he would order them to do his bidding.
“SuIciDe works, aTTacKing the oTHers too. How mANy do yoU thiNK thEy aRe?”
Shin tightened his grip on 『The Ark』. He wanted to wipe Avaritia off the face of the planet then and there, but if he didn’t literally do so in one blow, the devil wouldn’t hesitate to do what he said.
Cool your head down. Nothing has been decided yet.
Shin whispered to himself and relaxed his grip on the hilt of the blade. He then thought of contacting Schnee via Mind Chat and telling her to contact Hilamee.
Mind Chat did not use magic power, nor required any particular movement. It was possible to contact distant parties without the opponent realizing.
“What are your demands, then?”
Luxuria probably noticed that Shin’s expression changed, so she spoke to attract Avaritia’s attention. The pupils hiding deep within the goat skull turned towards her.
“You knOw thAT alrEAdy. I cAMe all the WAy herE to maKe yoU mINe. The hoSTAges are thERe to keEp anyOne elSe out oF the wAy.”
“My, and here I thought you wanted to use them to force me not to resist.”
Luxuria was a staff member of the institute too: keeping students as hostages would work as a threat against her too.
“A devIl liKE yoU? YoU doN’T caRe aboUT huMAns, do yoU?”
Avaritia honestly wondered why Luxuria would say something like that. Shin started thinking that Luxuria might start fighting without regard for the hostages.
“You know me well, don’t you.”
Shin saw Luxuria’s cold smile for the first time. He knew what she actually thought, so that smile could only be described as devilish.
Because he knew Luxuria, though, Shin found her smile somewhat strange. He had only found her devilish in her sensual gestures and alluring provocations. She didn’t display any of the cruel and cold attitude characteristic of devils, so in a way, she didn’t fit the image Shin had of devils.
Shin felt that she had to be acting. That’s how different her atmosphere was from the usual Luxuria.
“Let’s have the human remove this barrier, then. If this stays up, I can’t go out but you can’t do anything either, can you?”
“ThAT’s riGht. Do It, hUMan.”
Shin had set up the trap, so naturally he could disarm it too. As soon as he did so, Luxuria jumped away from the spot she was standing on.
【Lifedrain Sludge】 had poked out of the ground like a flurry of spears from beneath her.
“I told you, keep being hasty and you’ll never be popular.”
“I doN’t hAve muCh tIMe, yoU sEe. LeT’s jUSt fUse alrEady. YoU stAy out of It, aLl rIGht?”
Avaritia told Shin to stay put. As long as the hostages were under the devil’s command, Shin couldn’t do anything. He could only wait for the right chance.
“Hmm, I just don’t like this look, after all.”
The moment Avaritia spoke to Shin, Luxuria turned back to her devil form. She was now about 5 mel tall. A very rough description of her new appearance would be a female upper body on a ball of tentacles. From the tentacles, however, a large arm-shaped appendage extended forward.
The upper body looked like Luxuria was hugging her generous feminine parts. The arms, however, were attached to her chest: bird-like wings sprouted from her upper arms and shoulders and thorns covered her face from the mouth upwards.
Her voice was exactly the same as her human form, which sounded like a nasty joke in this situation.
“YoU lOok jUst wonDErfuL to me.”
“Your compliments thrill me.”
Avaritia raised a fist: in response, the giant arm protruding from Luxuria’s lower body formed a fist too.
In stark contrast with the casual tone of their words, the institute was gradually filled by killing intent and insanity. The battle between devils, which had to be avoided at all costs, was about to start.