Wilhelm’s change was first noticed by Milt, who was crossing blades with him.
“Hey, that weapon is 『Vakira』, right? Since when did it have effects like those?”
She did not expect a reply. But she couldn’t help trying to speak with him.
The dark purple aura enveloping 『Vakira』 had already turned mostly red.
Milt didn’t know what it could mean, but her intuition told her that it wasn’t something to fear.
While twisting her body to avoid the incoming thrusts, she parried with a sweep.
Her hands gripped her subweapons, fit to fight in such a narrow environment: the Mythology-grade twin blades 『Mirbal』.
In the dim darkness of the room, 『Vakira』and 『Mirbal』 clashed and generated sparks.
“It’s been a long time since I last felt such a burning hot blade. I see, you’re resisting, aren’t you.”
His burning willpower was transmitted through the blade. His spear technique grew sharper with every blow.
That was not something a controlled puppet could accomplish; it was the expression of a powerful self-consciousness.
Fighting, nothing more, nothing less…Milt, who fought to the death for no other goal than the fight itself, could feel it.
“Hey, tell me your name.”
『Vakira』, once again aimed to pierce Milt…stopped in mid thrust.
The violet aura enveloping 『Vakira』was now no more; a red aura had burned to cinders not only the weapon’s aura, but also the one surrounding Wilhelm.
In stark contrast with the searing hot aura, the answer came from a rather calm voice.
Wilhelm’s eyes, hollow and staring into nothingness just moments ago, now hosted a clear willpower.
With a faint whisper, Wilhelm swung 『Vakira』 so as not to hit Milt.
This strike dispelled the remaining aura, which dissipated in midair.
“Maybe I didn’t even need to face you?”
“No, I have to thank you. Sorry to end this halfway, but there’s something I have to do first. If you want to continue, let’s do it another time.”
While answering Milt’s question, Wilhelm readied 『Vakira』 into a stance.
“I’ll be glad to, if we have the chance…..what?”
Milt had but an instant to savor the anticipation for another battle. It felt as if a question mark appeared above her head.
The reason was that Wilhelm’s stance was not in preparation for thrusting, but for throwing his spear.
“You will pay…”
The instant his stance was completed, a sharp glint sparked in Wilhelm’s eyes.
The placid atmosphere of moments ago vanished into thin air, substituted by an eruption of rage.
It was intense enough for Milt to feel goosebumps.
Wilhelm’s eyes were directed beyond Milt, towards Shin and the others.
“…for screwing with me!!!”
“Waah!! Shin, dodge!!”
Milt caught on what Wilhelm was trying to do and immediately shouted.
At the same time as Milt’s warning, Wilhelm’s hand blurred and Vakira flew through the air, leaving afterimages trailing in its wake.
As if answering its wielder’s will, 『Vakira』charged forward towards its target, without the slightest bend in its course.
『Vakira』had turned into a black flash, piercing Adara, who had been locking swords with Schnee; he was blown away.
『Vakira』 stood straight through his stomach, its red glow burning brighter and brighter.
“What the hell!? My strength’s leaving me!”
Possibly because he had been taken by surprise, Adara’s face was a mask of pain, as he tried to pull 『Vakira』out.
The pain coming from the hand grabbing 『Vakira』contorted Adara’s expression even more.
Milt’s eyes and ears felt the sound of the red aura eroding Adara’s hand, a sound as if something was burning.
“Transforming my spear was a big mistake.”
After throwing 『Vakira』, Wilhelm walked closer to Shin and the others.
At the same time 『Vakira』 glowed even brighter, enveloping Wilhelm’s body with a crimson aura.
Adara understood that wasting more time would be dangerous and forcefully extracted 『Vakira』from his body, attempting to destroy it with his blades still floating in midair.
But before he could, Wilhelm said just one word.
That very instant, 『Vakira』vanished from midair, as if made of mist. The next instant, it was safely in Wilhelm’s hands.
Thanks to Adara being blown away, Schnee could rescue Hermie.
Holding his hands over Hermie’s collar, Shin inquired to Wilhelm.
“Wait a second now, I don’t remember ever adding a function like that?”
“That blonde guy there had the brilliant idea of messing with it. Now he knows how brilliant of an idea that was though.”
Wilhelm answered Shin while readying 『Vakira』in a stance again.
Shin had already seen through that the weapon that stabbed Adara was 『Vakira』. His surprise was due to the fact that instantly returning to the wielder’s hands via vocal command was an ability that 『Beinot』gained only through an event.
“So that’s why it became 『Vakira』…anyway, being able to use both abilities is pretty close to cheating, I say.”
Other than its own basic abilities,『Beinot』also had increased damage against demons and undead. But it wasn’t a significant increase.
On the other hand, 『Vakira』could absorb miasma to raise the user’s stats. It was a weapon effective specifically towards miasma, so the increase was much higher than 『Beinot』.
『Vakira』was wrapped in miasma, but did not generate it. It only looked like it did, as it kept gathering nearby miasma.
Its ominous appearance and the fact that it requires miasma when forging it made its abilities not known; even some players would have the wrong idea about it.
It was clear to anybody that its abilities were best used with demons as opponents.
Demons, essentially a mass of miasma, were nothing more than easy prey for 『Vakira』.
“Oh my, you look quite pathetic now.”
Scoruas spoke to the collapsed Adara. While he himself was unharmed, he had just witnessed an attack that blew his comrade away. Nevertheless, he had not lost his composure.
“What else could I have done? It was all timing. But hey, they’re taking off your collar too, see?”
The tone of Adara’s answer did not show signs of pain either, despite the wound he had just suffered.
“You’re still pretty damn confident, huh?”
“Oh, rest assured that I’m surprised. I went and turned it to the negative side, but I see it’s totally on “this” side, huh? The weapons humans make are always so interesting!”
Adara’s stomach already lacked any trace of damage. Being a high-class demon, his recovery speed was also off the charts.
“And now they got our hostage…sacrifice too. They know of this place too. Guess it’s time to end this, huh?”
“That’s true. With all the people present here, we can make some very good soil.”
Adara proposed abandoning the cave in a casual tone, and Scoruas approved just as nonchalantly, apparently without giving it serious thought.
“Hey, Shin. “All the people present here”, he said.”
“Well, if they enter their complete form, we’ll end up buried alive deep underground. They’ll grow to considerable size so they won’t die, but normally we’d be either crushed to death or suffocate, I guess.”
Shin answered Filma’s words and entrusted Hermie to Konig, who had come after defeating the guard.
Tiera, who had defeated the other guard, and Milt too were in a battle-ready stance.
They did not know the actual depth of their position, but it was surely deep enough that the 10-20 mels within the scope of a upper-class chosen one’s abilities wouldn’t be enough.
Shin never had the chance to try nor did he ever think to, but if they were buried under great quantities of soil, he was not sure he could survive.
There were skills to dive underground, but they were earth-type skills that only allowed digging 1 or 2 mels; it would have been nothing more than a gamble.
“Oh my, you saw through us already. We are roughly 100 mels underground, after all. Not even a chosen one could…gh!! I do not mind you resisting, but you should listen when someone speaks!”
Wilhelm’s strike interrupted Scoruas’ speech.
“I couldn’t care less. Just looking at your faces makes me want to throw up.”
Scoruas had parried 『Vakira』’s thrust with his left arm, but Wilhelm continued to attack without giving him pause.
“Shin!! You can cut them down like nothing, can’t you!?”
“I’d prefer to give priority to healing Lady Hermie, though. This collar is much more dangerous than the one I saw before. I couldn’t destroy it right away, so I have no idea how it’s affecting her spiritually.”
Shin did not mean to waste time talking either. The eerie miasma coming from Hermie’s collar emanated much higher danger than the one he removed at the church.
At the church it only took him an instant to remove it, but now it was taking considerable time.
Even if temporarily, he had turned his back on the enemy. But between Shin and the demons stood Filma and Shibaid, ready to battle and not leaving a single opening.
“What? All the more reason to finish off these bastards and focus on the healing!”
After hearing Shin’s words Wilhelm spat out words seething with rage. As if agreeing with him, 『Vakira』burned brighter.
“Yeah, I just needed time to destroy Lady Hermie’s collar. We don’t need to listen to them anymore.”
“That is a problem. We need you all to die here, after all. Oh, I will be taking Lady Schnee and Lady Filma with me, so please do not worry. —–Oh?”
As he was talking, Scoruas’ sight left Shin’s party and focused behind them.
The smile finally left Scoruas’ expression. His confidence was no more.
“…..Adara, the situation has changed. We must kill her. Cooperate.”
“What? It’s weird for you to be this tense.”
“Just look at her and you’ll understand.”
Saying this, Scoruas motioned towards Tiera.
“….ah, now I get it. Yeah, can’t leave this one alive.”
Apparently understanding without the need for further explanations, Adara muttered these words and raised his speed.
In the same way as Scoruas, he rushed towards Tiera with enough power as to crush the ground beneath his feet, paying no attention to Shin or anyone else.
Their acceleration was enough to leave behind afterimages. But Shin and the others wouldn’t be overcome so easily.
“Hey now, what’s the rush? Don’t you dare ignore me now.”
“You can’t do this after all that bragging, you know.”
Wilhelm stopped Adara, while Shin blocked Scoruas.
Then, as if creating multiple walls, Schnee, Filma and Shibaid stood beside them, ready to assist at any time.
On the other hand Tiera, who had been targeted all of a sudden, let out a raucous whisper. She had been swept by a killing intent and crushing pressure the likes of which she had never felt before.
Tiera’s body couldn’t move, but Kagerou and Yuzuha, their fur standing up, stood in front of her as to protect her. Looking at their backs, Tiera collapsed to her knees due to the overwhelming pressure.
“Are you okay? Do you recognize me?”
Milt helped Tiera stand, as she couldn’t support herself.
She seemed to have trouble breathing, but had not lost consciousness.
Having enough mental strength not to faint under the effect of the killing intent of Grand Duke-class demons was a feat in itself.
“You’re in the way”
Shin and Wilhelm answered the demons’ words with taunting smiles.
“Let’s just crush them.”
“Yes, let’s do that.”
Deciding that trying to break through would take too much time, Adara and Scoruas decided to return to their true forms.
“As if we’d let you!”
Close to the demons now attempting their transformations, Shin materialized an item from the item box. It was the crystal stone he once used in front of Tiera.
“Facing demons underground, you think I didn’t make my preparations!?”
Shin poured magic power in the crystal, without hesitation.
As the magic skill engraved on the crystal activated, the surrounding scenery warped; the next instant, everyone present in the room was now outside, on a wide open plain.
They were now on the plains connecting the sacred place Kalkia and castle town Balmel, near the woods where Shin and Rionne once lit a bonfire.
Shin, having heard about the demons from Schnee after being blown to Kalkia, had marked the location, in case they would have to fight demons above a certain rank.
He had already verified that these plains were scarcely visited by humans, as they were often traversed by monsters because of the 『Flood』.
“Where is this…?”
“I’ll explain later. Sir Konig, please take Lady Hermie away from here. And take this.”
Even if her collar had been removed, Shin did not want Hermie to stay in the battlefield.
For added safety, he handed Konig a substitute-type item that would absorb damage inflicted to them, a monster repellent item and a barrier-creating item. After going a certain distance, they planned to use the “Cloak of Hiding” to conceal themselves.
“You’re always pulling surprising stunts, aren’t you.”
“I had heard about the demons from Schnee, you see. It was like an insurance, but now we can fight to our hearts’ content, right?”
Wilhelm looked very surprised by the development, but Shin answered him casually.
In fact, Grand Duke-class demons were not considered exterminated even if their human forms were defeated. There were exceptions, but very few.
Most Grand Duke class demons achieved their true form by cutting off the head of their human form.
That was one reason why Shin had targeted Scoruas’ arm.
Before the party now stood the two demons in their true forms.
“Hey hey, I wasn’t expecting this. Where are we anyway?”
“That’s not a problem. Our target is still here with us.”
Without paying the slightest attention to Hermie’s entourage leaving the scene, Adara and Scoruas looked down at Tiera.
Adara’s transformation was a giant human-like figure. It was a type also called “War God”: its appearance was human-like but it had 4 arms and 2 faces. It was roughly 25 mels tall and wore armor resembling a Chinese general of old. It wielded two long swords, a battleaxe and a mallet.
As it resembled a human in appearance, it was also relatively easier to think of a way to fight it.
On the other hand, Scoruas was more difficult. It was a Chimera-type, which made it difficult to imagine what it was originally.
Its face was sharp and angular, as if crustacean shells formed an eel-like head. On both sides of the head there also were horn-like objects pointing forward.
Its upper body was human-like and covered in scales, just like Magnamuc; from where his right arm would be sprouted three octopus-like tentacles, while in place of the left arm he was equipped with two crab-like pincers.
The lower body seemed like a mixture between a horse and a tiger’s. It would take some effort, but by imagining the front part as the horse’s and the back part as the tiger’s, it could almost look like a nightmarish centaur. Counting the horse and tiger limbs, it had 6 legs in all.
“Yuzuha, I leave Tiera to you. Tiera, stay close to Yuzuha and assist us. They will probably target you, so put enough distance between you and them. And equip this!”
While giving directions, Shin threw a defensive item at Tiera. Among all present, Tiera was the only one at danger of instant death.
“This is getting pretty fun!! Shin, who will deal with who?”
Excited at the appearance of such strong opponents, Milt had already put away the twin swords 『Mirbal』 and drawn her main weapon, a low rank Ancient-grade poleaxe 『Breogand』, with its blade wrapped in pale blue flames.
Just its handle was as long as Milt was tall; at first glance, no one would think that it was a weapon she could wield.
Shin knew, however, that all players who underestimated her that way had been split in two.
“Let’s see…Scoruas is probably a raid type. Schnee, Kagerou and I will deal with him. Filma, Shibaid, Wilhelm, Milt, go get Adara. Tiera, Yuzuha, prioritize evasion and give us assistance. The enemy’s strong, never let your guard down!”
As if in unison with Shin’s commands, the sounds of Scoruas and Adara’s approaching footsteps grew louder. The teleportation had put some distance between them, but for the two giants it was a trivial problem. Shin and Schnee used stat boost skills on the whole party, which then split into two teams.
“First of all, we’ll separate them! Kagerou, stand in front!”
If they were close, the two enemies could have helped each other. Shin tried to stop that as first priority.
Standing behind Kagerou, who had returned to his original form, Shin hid from Scoruas’ sight and released all 【Limit】.
At the same time as he ran behind Kagerou, Shin cast 【Hiding】 to conceal himself and charged towards Scoruas at maximum speed.
“Time to fly!”
Shin’s unforeseen full-power kick struck Scoruas’ human-like part, in what would correspond to the pit of the stomach.
Barehanded and wind combination skill 【Raging Arrow】.
The mercilessly delivered kick was something beyond this world’s nature.
Along with the sound of the thunder, the 25 mels tall giant was blasted high in the air.
After a few seconds Scoruas crashed back down into the ground, creating a small crater and raising a large cloud of dust.
The total distance the demon flew before crashing down was easily over 800 mels.
The part kicked by Shin showed an abnormal wound; it wasn’t clear if it had been struck or gouged.
The attack’s power was so impressive that even Adara, who had not been affected, stopped in his tracks. At the same time, the collapsed Scoruas was still under attack.
A clear voice resounded through the battlefield. Following it, blue lightning bolts poured down from the sky.
Lightning magic skill 【Blue Judgement】.
The storm of lightning strikes which had burned to ashes the swarm of monsters that attacked Balmel, without a shred of pity, doused Scoruas’ entire body in flames.
In the game this magic skill couldn’t be used in boss battles, but probably because his appearance seemed to be formed mostly by water-element monsters, Shin saw Scoruas’ HP gauge decrease significantly.
They had already caused damage for 10% of the total, in just 2 blows.
Scoruas was a Raid-type monster. Originally he would be fought by several parties at once, each one shaving his HP little by little. Considering that, this damage was almost unreal.
“Let’s crush him right away and go assist the others.”
The High Human Shin, High Elf Schnee, and divine beast Kagerou headed towards Scoruas.
The difference in fighting power was crystal clear. Thus started the hunt for the Grand Duke.