Avaritia and Luxuria. While the two devils began to fight, Hilamee couldn’t hide her surprise at the information received from Schnee.
Some of the students had been charmed by the devil and were now being used as hostages.
“I have to do something…”
Hilamee felt she had to act quickly, however, nothing useful came to mind. 【Analyze】 could show if someone was affected by status ailments, but it wouldn’t show anything abnormal if the mind control was performed via skills that used drugs or words.
Just then, some students approached Hilamee.
“Headmistress, there is something we need to tell you.”
“It’s very important!”
The students were among the top fighters of the institute, the Elf Lecus and the Dragnil Myu. Gian was behind them too. They had probably been training when they evacuated, as they wore their battle gear.
“This is an emergency, please standby with your assigned teacher. I will listen to you later.”
Hilamee thought that they wanted her to explain the current situation, so she told them to wait with their teacher.
“We know that very well. We must speak now, though.”
“Yes!! Or it will be too late!”
“There’s no time. As we speak —”
Luxuria is in danger, is what Hilamee was about to blurt out, but she stopped herself just in time.
These three students would probably be okay, thanks to the mental training they had received from Shin and Schnee, but the other students would likely fall into panic.
“Headmistress, we aren’t here to waste your time. The students here might be in danger. Please listen to what we have to say.”
Seeing Hilamee turn silent, and Gian stepped forward to talk to her, in a very calm tone. His eyes were deadly serious. Looking at them helped Hilamee to regain some composure she had lost.
“What do you mean?”
“We feel that some of the students here…are under the influence of something bad. We thought that you might know something, headmistress.”
Gian looked at Lecus, who explained further. The allegedly influenced students were enveloped in impure magic or were acting strangely.
One of them happened to be nearby, so Hilamee used 【Analyze】, but no status ailments were displayed. Lecus and the others, however, all said that they were acting strange, albeit each in a different way.
That was the difference between former players and pure denizens of this world.
Most players thought that learning skills was everything. Because of their experience in the game, their concept of skills was fixed.
Lecus and the others, however, had a more abstract understanding of skills. Because of this, they couldn’t fully unleash their effects, but they could also sense things and produce effects that players couldn’t.
“Did Shin give you any skills?”
“No, nothing. We learned new skills during training, though. I learned 【Magic Vision】, Gian 【Sign Perception】, and Myu 【Insight】.”
Skills weren’t something to reveal lightly, but because of the dire situation, Lecus did not hide anything.
Unlike Shin’s expectations, they all learned perception-related skills. The reason why they learned different ones was that, in this world, there were conditions to learn skills were different from the game rules Shin was familiar with.
Before learning the skills, they had never felt sensations such as those they were feeling now, so Lecus was sure that the skills were the cause, a theory that Hilamee agreed with.
“Let’s isolate one of them and ask them some questions, then.”
“I think that person would be the best choice.”
They needed as many clues as they could. Hilamee thought of asking other teachers to help, but Lecus pointed to an instructor before she could.
“That person feels the same too.”
“He’s the one that…”
The instructor Lecus pointed to was listed among the possible spies who leaked classified information out of the institute. However, the investigation had only reported him as possibly compromised.
It would be easier to ask a teacher to talk in private. Hilamee then called him to one of the shelter rooms used to store goods.
“What do you need to talk about, ma’am? Will you explain the current situation?”
The male teacher was still relatively shaken because of the sudden teleportation. His eyes swiftly shifted from left to right, his behavior slightly erratic.
Hilamee, without a word, took a card out of the item box and materialized it.
It was a yellow crystal set on top of a green and white spiral, the 『Clear Storm Wand』.
Hilamee lightly touched the confused teacher with the tip of the wand. That moment, his whole body trembled and he lost consciousness.
The 『Clear Storm Wand』 was an anti-devil weapon Shin gave to Hilamee.
Shin had attached it with added magic damage to devils and the ability to clear the influence of devils from whomever it touched.
It wouldn’t have any effect on those not contaminated by a devil’s influence, so it was clear that the male teacher had been controlled by a devil.
“Ooh! That weird feeling is gone!”
“Amazing, as expected of our headmistress.”
“I’m not sure what to feel about that compliment…”
Shin had given her that weapon. By herself, Hilamee couldn’t have solved the situation so easily.
Though she was a former player, by the game’s standards she was in the lower middle ranks at best.
“There’s no time to worry about that, though. Bring all the people that feel influenced here, I’ll take care of them. Try not to cause a commotion.”
Lecus replied, Myu gave a huge nod and Gian a smaller one, then they all left the room. Soon enough, they returned with a female student with them.
Hilamee touched the confused student with the wand and she fell down, as if struck by vertigo. Unlike the male teacher, she didn’t lose consciousness.
The girl looked around puzzled: it looked like she didn’t recognize the place.
Hilamee asked her if she remembered how she came here, not mentioning the devil, and the girl replied that her memories were hazy, as if she had been dreaming. She couldn’t clearly remember what she had been doing.
Gradually realizing the current situation, the student was starting to panic, so Hilamee put her to sleep with a magic spell. She didn’t like doing such a thing, but there was no time to comfort her.
After the male teacher and female student were moved to an empty room in the shelter, Hilamee had Lecus’s party continue bring in influenced people to her.
The students and teachers that gave an unusual feeling were not few, but, compared to the total number of evacuees, they were still a small fraction.
While waiting for the next victim, Hilamee prayed that Shin and the others could buy enough time and stayed safe.
Thundering sounds echoed through the institute.
No one would think that they were produced by collisions of fist against fist, flesh against flesh.
They could, however, if those fists belonged to devils. Fists large enough to crush people.
The reinforced bodies of high level monsters were comparable to rare metals in terms of resilience.
Their massive bodies, ignoring the laws of physics, were packed with mass, heavy enough to imprint the ground they walked on. Now, two such walking calamities were battling each other.
Each clash of their fists shook the earth and the air.
“LoOks liKe yoU’ve goT yoUr shAre of pent-UP frUStrAtioN!”
“Spare me the disgusting comments!”
The devils exchanged casual quips along with blows. There was a gap of 50 levels between them.
Unlike players, whose level cap was 255 and individual stats varied greatly, the stats of monsters depended heavily on their level. The higher the level, the stronger the monster: it was as simple as that.
Excluding affinities and the monsters which specialized in specific stats, normally the monster with higher level was stronger. This was especially true for devils, which had high stats overall.
No clear difference could be seen from the two devils as they exchanged punches, however. The reason was the magic power Luxuria had accumulated while in Erkunt.
The source for her magic power was human desire, which strongly spiraled around human towns. There was a limit to how much magic power could be stocked, but Luxuria had enough to fill a 50 level gap.
“How loNg can yoU keEp up, HMMm?”
Naturally, however, such magic power would be depleted as the battle continued. As it did, the gap between Avaritia and Luxuria would widen.
Devils possessed vast powers. Precisely because of that, the magic power decreased at alarming speed. Little by little, Luxuria was starting to lose the edge in their battle of blows.
Luxuria’s lower body tentacles were also being approached by Avaritia’s 【Lifedrain Sludge】.
“Get that disgusting thing away from me!!”
In response to Luxuria’s shout, her tentacles trembled, unraveled from the ball, and emitted purple smoke from their tips. Their aim was the 【Lifedrain Sludge】 crawling on the ground.
When touched by the purple smoke, the 【Lifedrain Sludge】 spread all over the floor disappeared with a sizzling sound.
It was one of the skills Luxuria could use in devil form, 【Fading Purple Haze】. It could inflict heavy damage to equipment and, to players, 【Paralysis】 and 【Bloodred Poison】.
The mist’s strong acidic properties would continuously inflict damage if one stayed inside it: that was the reason why 【Lifedrain Sludge】 was disappearing.
“BabE, I jUst wanTEd to celEBRate our meeTIng with a hUG.”
“Too bad, I already have a special someone.”
Luxuria’s tentacles endlessly spewed the 【Purple Haze】, burning through Avaritia’s 【Lifedrain Sludge】. The Greed devil, however, always looked in control of the situation. Luxuria’s 【Purple Haze】 was very effective against players, but against devils it barely managed to sear the skin surface.
The unique abilities devils possessed weren’t very useful against other devils. That applied to Luxuria too. Even among specimens of the same species, however, there was good or bad affinity.
Avaritia’s 【Lifedrain Sludge】 was a draining ability. As opposed to Luxuria’s 【Purple Haze】, it couldn’t be ignored because it would have little effect.
Because of the two devils’ affinity, if Luxuria touched the sludge even a little she would be sapped of her strength even more than the usual.
“If yoU waAnt to gIVe up, now’s tHE beSt, TIMe, yoU knOw? Make my lIfE a lITTle eASier.”
Avaritia urged Luxuria to surrender, confident of being in an advantageous position. Despite his boastful attitude, the blows he unleashed were as fierce as before.
“Too bad for you, I never know when to give up. Why are you even asking a devil to be a good loser?”
Luxuria switched to a defensive stance, focusing on buying time.
Shin could not move because of the hostages, but Luxuria thought that he had to have contacted Schnee. In addition, Avaritia’s attitude and speech were as cocky as ever, but Luxuria felt that he actually wasn’t as confident as he wanted to sound.
The reason was obvious: standing right behind him was an opponent he couldn’t defeat even if he fused with Luxuria. If the hostages were rescued or Shin decided to accept a few sacrifices, the situation would change in a flash.
Avaritia was definitely acting confident to hasten a conclusion, or so Luxuria thought while blocking his attacks.
“Do you plan to absorb him too after me?”
“No wAY. As sOOn as you’RE mINe, I’m hIGhtaILing it oUt of Here. EvEn uSIng the hOStaGes, that gUy is tOo mUCh of a bEAsT.”
Avaritia replied to Luxuria’s question, for the first time with a cold and dry tone. He knew that even after absorbing two other devils and using hostages, he couldn’t win against Shin.
Avaritia’s fists struck again, shaking Luxuria’s body.
Not much time had passed since they started fighting, but the magic power Luxuria had stocked was already half depleted by Avaritia’s flurry of punches and 【Lifedrain Sludge】.
Because of that, the level difference between the two devils was growing ever starker.
Luxuria did not have much leeway either. Most of her skills inflicted the opponent with status ailments, but were of little use against other devils.
Her strongest strategy was to shower the enemy party with status ailments and disrupt their teamwork. Against a single opponent or someone who resisted status ailments, her strongest point was practically useless.
“I still have a couple cards to play, though.”
She didn’t know how useful it could prove to be, but she would just gradually lose like that. Ready to play all cards at her disposal, Luxuria released her power even more.
The vines covering her head squirmed. After a few seconds, countless rips and cracks appeared on the surface of the vines.
Avaritia clicked his tongue and packed even more power into his punches. Luxuria could still defend herself, albeit barely.
The rips and cracks on the vines grew wider, gradually revealing human mouths. The countless mouths that appeared on the vines drew in air.
Luxuria activated her skill after making sure that Shin, still behind Avaritia, had covered his ears with his hands.
All the mouths emitted a shriek. Shrill voices, low voices, clear voices and twisted voices. A multitude of mixed voices that attacked the opponent’s mind.
It was a shockwave attack that also inflicted status ailments, called 【Dread Lullaby】.
Most status ailments couldn’t affect other devils, but the shockwave would.
This too was a wide-range indiscriminate attack. It blew away both Avaritia’s own body and the 【Lifedrain Sludge】, with a deadly lullaby that would turn a normal person into a lifeless husk.
“YoU’re tOo dAMN lOUD, bITch!”
Avaritia cursed while holding the ground with his hands. The 【Dread Lullaby】 was one of Luxuria’s most powerful attacks.
Even if Avaritia was safe from the status ailments, he couldn’t just shrug it off.
The more powerful Avaritia was gradually pushed back. The attack was a shockwave in all directions, so it damaged the institute too, but with a battle between devils going on so close, that was par for the course.
Incidentally, Shin quietly used Avaritia as a shield against the attack.
“TIme for pAYbAck.”
As the effects of Luxuria’s 【Dread Lullaby】 subdued, black lights started glowing from the tips of Avaritia’s goat horns.
After a few seconds of charging, the black lights were shot towards Luxuria. Compared to Avaritia’s massive body, the lights seemed quite small, but were actually one mel wide.
Luxuria couldn’t avoid Avaritia’s attack. The black globes traveled close to Luxuria and exploded, enveloping her large body in the blast.
Just like blots of ink falling over the painting of a scenery, the very air around them seemed to be covered in black, for the three seconds of the attack.
It was Avaritia’s most powerful skill, 【Bullets of Corruption】.
Luxuria had forgone the option of avoiding the blast and did all she could to protect herself.
It was of course a very powerful attack, but if a player was hit with it, their max HP would also be reduced to half. For this reason, it was nicknamed the “frontline killer skill”.
Other devils wouldn’t be affected by the half max HP effect, but being hit by all bullets would cause considerable damage.
Part of Luxuria’s tentacles and wings was gone, her large arm was partially torn off, the other half charred black, still.
“That was pretty rough…”
Differently from Luxuria’s focus on status ailments, Avaritia’s skills were primarily designed for draining. Luxuria suffered heavy damage because this skill had low draining capabilities, being primed for causing damage.
This was the same for players and monsters alike, and did not change in the new world either. If one wanted to raise the drained amount, it was necessary to either attack more times or raise the damage of each attack.
Avaritia’s skills increased in draining ability as the damage increased.
“ThAt wAsn’t eNOugh, huh.”
“You didn’t think I would go down this easily, did you.”
Luxuria’s stats were based on defense. Even after suffering Avaritia’s brutal attack, she could still move enough.
The 【Lifedrain Sludge】 sent as follow-up was burned by 【Purple Haze】. Luxuria’s tentacles had decreased in number, however, so the sludge was closer than before.
Because of the damage suffered by her giant arm, Luxuria could not fully parry Avaritia’s attacks anymore.
“Ladies, should be, treated with care!”
“HaH! No nEEd fOR cOmplImEnts bETweEn uS!”
The situation was now completely one-sided.
Luxuria could only parry one of Avaritia’s fists with her arm: the other had to be blocked by her tentacles. Because of that, she couldn’t stop 【Lifedrain Sludge】’s progress as well as before.
Luxuria, locked in a defensive stance, saw her body gradually surrounded by 【Lifedrain Sludge】.
“What a nuisance!!”
【Lifedrain Sludge】 was also limiting Luxuria’s movements. Little by little, Avaritia’s fists started breaking through Luxuria’s defenses.
With clashes strong enough to make the air vibrate, Luxuria’s body floated in the air slightly.
“YoU serIoUsly puT up a gOod fIghT.”
Avaritia continued to attack relentlessly. His rush of fists didn’t let up, together with 【Lifedrain Sludge】. The greed devil’s punches rained through Luxuria’s defenses.
She was still parrying, but it was just a flimsy difference from her opponent’s attacks hitting cleanly: Luxuria was practically turned into a sandbag.
“Haha!! HahAhAhaHA!! HaHAHaHA!“
Avaritia’s laugh echoed through the surroundings. Luxuria’s body was tattered, more than half of it was painted black.
She could tell, somehow, that Shin was holding himself back from acting.
She had secretly sent him a message before turning to devil form, so he wouldn’t do anything until all hostages were freed.
Avaritia’s fists stopped.
“What…are you doing?”
Only Luxuria’s head remained uncovered by the 【Lifedrain Sludge】. She couldn’t imagine what Avaritia was planning by stopping to attack then and there.
“ThAt’s mY lINe. YOur atTAckS aRe liGht, yoU dOn’t eVen dOdge. YoU stOckEd alL tHat pOwEr, but Didn’T eVen usE it rIGhT.”
Avaritia’s level was higher, but after they both used their skills, one was almost unscathed, the other almost out of commission. The gap was far too wide.
The key fact was that Luxuria failed to dodge the 【Bullets of Corruption】. Even if her body was now gigantic, her high level also granted her high speed. It was unthinkable that she would be hit by all bullets, shot right in front of her.
“DoN’t tELL me thAt yoU wOrrIed aBOut the dESTrucTIon? YoU, a dEVil?”
If she had gone all out, 【Dread Lullaby】 would have extended its reach as far as outside the institute.
If she had dodged the 【Bullets of Corruption】, some of them too would have caused damage outside the institute.
Luxuria’s behavior, bizarre enough to make Avaritia stop attacking, was motivated by her desire of wanting to limit damage and casualties.
“Hmm…? I don’t know…what you’re hinting at.”
Luxuria had no intention of giving Avaritia an honest answer.
She didn’t know herself why she had done that. Her own life should be the most important thing, but before she realized it, she had blocked all 【Bullets of Corruption】 with her own body.
She couldn’t resist anymore. Avaritia would now absorb her, erasing her existence for the world.
Her body would resurrect, one day. It will probably inherit her memories too. The next Luxuria, however, would be a different entity.
Even with the same memories, her feelings would not be the same. In a way, that was the same as “death”.
“Are yoU…rEAlLy the dEvIl of lUst?”
Luxuria did not have enough strength left in her to even speak. Avaritia’s eyes grew narrower as he watched the defenseless Luxuria. His 【Lifedrain Sludge】 then resumed its progress, without meeting any resistance.
Luxuria was fully covered by 【Lifedrain Sludge】 and turned into a black cocoon.
Avaritia looked at the cocoon with suspicion.
The battle was over, Luxuria did not resist anymore. The fusion should have started already.
Despite this, Luxuria was still existing inside the cocoon.
Avaritia had no recollection of such a phenomenon. That was enough to create an opening.
Explosions resounded behind Avaritia, attracting his attention. That very instant, a blue and silver flash passed right next to the devil.
The flash deftly kicked the air to dodge Avaritia’s fist and approached the cocoon.
“I hope it’s not too late…haaaAAAAh!!”
Shin’s 『The Ark』 sliced open the cocoon.