「Very well, we shall take the lady into our care.」
「We thank you for your services.」
「Thank you so much Fran! You saved my life!」
「Take care of yourself out there!」
The woman we helped was much more composed now than she’d been just five minutes prior. Having Urushi leap through the sky with her on his back ended up delivering to her a bit too much of a shock, so we’d descended instead. In spite of that, the atmosphere had ended up being a bit weird throughout the trip’s duration. She ended up tightly clinging to his fur, and continued to do so until it had finally come time for us to part.
We ended up having the knights tell us a bit about everything they knew as we dropped her off. It seemed that the whole situation had actually turned into quite the big deal. A bunch of pretty important places were already under attack. We had to hit the gas if we wanted to get everything under control.
『I think I see it.』
We positioned ourselves above the Lord’s manor and surveyed its surroundings.
The Lord’s property was vast. It contained ten different mansions, but in spite of that, we were immediately able to distinguish our target from its peers. The atmosphere around the building in question seemed much heavier than any other around it. We felt a powerful aura from it, one that was quite similar to that of the Evil Beings we’d recently defeated. It was dark, and clearly wicked in nature. That, however, was where the similarities ended. The aura before us was on a completely different scale. It was so powerful that staring at the building from which it came seemed to have started to give me goosebumps in spite of the distance between it and us.
Both Fran and Urushi started the place down, scowls plastered all over their faces.
『That’s definitely it.』
I was honestly kind of tempted to just go charging in through the front door, but we knew far too little about our enemies for that to work, so we fell back on our usual stealth-based tactics.
We minimized our presences as we descended into the mansion’s garden. The place lacked any sort of barrier, so infiltration turned out to be rather simple.
『We’ll do the usual and whittle their numbers down bit by bit.』
We started by circling around the place so we could scout out the number of enemies we’d have to take down.
The process took around ten minutes, and informed us of the fact that the building didn’t actually contain that many people. Moreover, all ten or so individuals we detected had gathered at the building’s centermost area.
That, however, was all we could figure out. It didn’t look like we had any other choice but to break in to the mansion’s premises in order to get a bit of a better grasp of what was going on.
Oh well, whatever works, I guess.
『Get yourselves ready for combat. A fight could start at any time now.』
I had Fran and Urushi each down a Mana Potion in order to top off their magical energy levels. Fran ended up wielding Deathgaze over me this time around, as I was getting myself ready to shoot off a telekinetic catapult if need be.
And so, we entered the building. Apparently, no one noticed us break through its back door.
We held our breaths as we slowly moved towards the place from which we were detecting the building’s temporary inhabitants. The air seemed to be pumped full of mana, it was almost like we’d entered a haunt. Chances were, the change in atmosphere was one caused by some sort of magic item.
Not a single enemy attacked us on our way. We arrived at our destination with so little trouble that I honestly ended up feeling more disappointed than anything.
『Yeah. It looks like all our enemies are on the other side of it.』
I could feel our enemies from beyond the large double doors before us. It seemed that the other side contained some sort of hall-like structure. The proximity we had to our foes led us to analyze them in more detail. Said process of feeling out their magical energies led us to the definite conclusion that what awaited us was a group of Evil Humans.
Recognizing our foes but led to a single question: what now? They hadn’t bothered to put themselves on guard. In other words, they were extremely confident in their own prowess. Hence, I didn’t barge in immediately. It went without saying that I strongly preferred avoiding any choices that could potentially lead to us waltzing in on a bunch of ridiculously strong foes far out of our league.
Our enemy was capable enough to make people like Zerrosreed and Luzerio into his subordinates. It was very plausible for him to have a bunch of other C or D ranked minions at his disposal. We’d end up in quite the bad spot if we were attacked by a large group of transformed humans formerly of such a caliber. I didn’t think we’d win unless we managed to catch them off guard and blast them all with a bunch of full powered spells at once.
However, I doubted that such a strategy would allow us to capture Rynford alive, especially if we were going all out. I really did want to get a hold of him without actually murdering him for information’s sake though… I mean, we could always just attack everywhere except for where he was. Would that work, or…?
Nah, scratch that. It was possible for Fran and Urushi to end up sustaining major, and potentially even irreparable injuries if we tried to hold back. Their safety was my number one priority. There was no way in hell I was going to bet their lives for the sake of keeping some shitty old geezer away from his grave. Besides, leaving him alive might end up completely screwing us over if we messed up. It was not only possible, but likely for him to try to destroy the city immediately, should he escape our grasp.
『Alright, let’s get in there and hit everyone with everything we’ve got.』
『Yeah. We don’t even know whether that Rynford guy’s really here or not to begin with, and he might end up getting away even if he is here, so we’d best finish him off before he messes even more shit up.』
Sorry Rynford, but you’re a dead man.
『Anyways, let’s get a move on.』
The room shook as Fran kicked down its door and started firing off her spells. Only after we started attacking did I look around in order to ensure that all our targets were in fact Evil Humans — which, fortunately, they were, especially seeing as how we couldn’t actually stop the attacks we’d already launched.
『Exploding Flare! Hazardous Gale! Exploding Flare!』
I felt a vague bit of nostalgia as I cranked out a series of full powered blasts for the first time in a long while; I overboosted my attacks whilst using Parallel Processing and Sorcery in order to bombard an incredibly large area without much delay.
The Level 4 Flame Spell, Exploding Flare, was one that incinerated a massive area. The use of a wind spell allowed us to increase the size of its explosions even further.
I’d used the combination at too close a range, so we ended up getting hit by a bit of the resulting hot air, but Fran managed to get out unscathed by using the defensive spells she’d chanted in advance. Exploding Flare was ridiculously powerful; its aftermath seemed equivalent to that of a napalm blast’s. Both sides of the room had its walls get completely blown away. Even we felt like we were about to get sent flying despite the three layers of protection we had.
『Did we end up going overboard?』
「Better than opposite.」
The building’s second floor was basically completely gone by the time the explosions finally settled down. The first had ended up half collapsed as well. Of all the areas encompassed by our strikes, the most damaged was obviously the hall in which the Evil Humans had been gathered up in. All four of its walls had been completely obliterated. Its newfound, exposed appearance almost made me think that the place was instead supposed to have been a courtyard, the courtyard of a building that took up the Lord’s entire Marquis-sized property, that is.
「That’s quite the way to treat someone you’ve never met before, girlie.」
「Fufufu… Are you not aware of my identity?」
「Master of Evil Arts. Rynford.」
「Right you are.」
Name: Rynford Lorentia
Race: Evil Being
Class: Master of Evil Arts
Status Level: 58/99
Chant Shortening: Lv 4
Appraisal: Lv 7
High Speed Regeneration: Lv 6
Evil Detection: Lv 9
Resistance to Abnormal Status: Lv 4
Agitation: Lv 4
Compounding: Lv 6
Knowledge of Poisons: Lv 7
Greater Magic Boost
Evil Arts: Lv 7
Evil God’s Favour
Evil God’s Vanguard
Demonic Bone Staff
Evil Dogman’s Robe
Evil Dogman’s Mantle
Evil Art’s Bracelet.
「Hmm… Your status and demonstrated abilities seem a bit disparate. Were you using some sort of magic item?」
Holy shit. He’s completely unharmed even after all that? Luckily, he was the only one in such a state. Seven Evil Humans were piled up in front of the short, aging man. The three in front had basically been completely obliterated; little was left of their corpses. The four in the back were a bit better off, but they still looked somewhere in the medium to well done range.
Three more Evil Humans lay behind the corpse pile. They ended up taking a bit less damage because they’d used their allies as meat shields, but, they weren’t exactly what you’d call in a decent state either. One was going to die in a minute or so regardless of what was done to him. The other two could potentially be saved were they to be treated, potentially being the key word.
Rynford had clearly used his subordinates as to defend against our bombardment. I’d assumed that they were capable of nothing more than just running amok on a sort of rampage, but it seemed that he could order them around somehow. Well, I guess that did make sense seeing as how he was a Master of Evil Arts.
Or, so I thought, but apparently I was wrong.
「M-Master Rynford! Please retreat!」
「We’ll hold them off!」
Much to my surprise, the Evil Humans were speaking much in the same manner as well… regular humans.
I quickly appraised them, only to discover that they were quite different from all the other members of their species that we’d run into thus far. First and foremost was the fact that they actually had their own names. They also weren’t affected by any of the status conditions shared by their peers. Last but not least was the fact that their titles claimed them to be the Evil God’s servants as opposed to his slaves.
So in other words, they managed to become Evil Humans whilst also retaining their sanity?
「Those. Can speak?」
「I guess you ran into some other Evil Humans in town then. The men here are unlike the mongrels thrashing about within the city’s confines. They became Evil Humans by seeking out our Lord’s, the Evil God’s, grace on their own accord.」
Oh, I get it now. So it really was the title that differentiated the two types. The slaves were the ones that’d been forced into a transformation whilst also being deprived of their reason, whereas the servants were the ones that accepted the Evil God’s power as their own.
Luzerio had a title saying he was a Servant to the Evil God, so he probably would’ve retained his sanity as well then. Whew, thank God we got rid of him before he actually finished transforming.
「Conditions for transformation?」
「Normally, I would have asked why you’d assume that I’d tell you that, but I might as well provide you a reward for making it all the way here.」
「Enough with superfluous speech.」
「How assertive you are for a mere girl, but fine. It is actually very easy for anyone to evolve into an Evil Being if they so wish it. All one must do is drink the Evil God’s Magical Water that I happen to be able to create. After that, all that must be done is for me give them a little bit of a push. That’s it. Simple, right?」
Very simple. Too simple, in fact. Is that seriously all it takes for a human to turn into some sort of Evil Being? There would probably be more of them if that were really the case. I’m pretty sure Rynford isn’t the only Master of Evil Arts out there, so if it really were that easy, then there would at least be a bit more awareness of the topic. That, however, didn’t seem to be case given the fact that neither Rhodas nor Dannan seemed to know much about the phenomenon at all. In other words, the concept of Evil Beings wasn’t actually all that wide spread. It simply couldn’t have been. Hence, transformation just had to have some sort of additional condition attached to it. There was no way it was actually just that simple.
Rynford was hiding something, and that something was probably related to why he was here in the first place.
What was it that Luzerio said again? Something about pouring magical energy into the city’s center so it could spread throughout its entirety? What exactly does pouring magical energy into the city do?
I looked at the area behind Rynford, only to see something that made me feel a bit… off. It was quite difficult to spot at first glance, but he’d drawn a magic circle onto the floor.
Through the use of the Sorcery skill, I managed to trace its energy flow. It seemed to be taking in Rynford’s evil-tainted magical energy and dispersing it. In other words, it was doing exactly as Luzerio described, it was spreading his magical energy throughout the city. The manner in which it was placed made the whole thing almost seem like a ritual of sort, and said ritual was probably that whole last push that Rynford had mentioned earlier.
「Your little display was quite interesting, girl. How about it? Would you like to subordinate yourself to me? I’ll grant far more power than you have now.」
「Wonderful, what a quick reply! I see that you’re still acting quite prudent, but that’s a good thing in and of itself. Very well, I will tell you my goal. My goal is to revive our saviour, The Evil God, and obliterate all that this world has to offer!」
「Is probably what you’d think, right?」
Rynford went on to repeat basically exactly what Luzerio had said. His goal was not to revive the Evil God, but instead, to spread its divine might throughout the land.
He had no interest in any goals stemming from sources akin to excessive religious zealotry; he didn’t intend on destroying the world or plunging all its citizens into despair for the sake of his God’s glory.
「Well? How about it? I will give you all the power you seek if you choose the path of subordination. I can even provide you an evolution, though it will be one that slightly deviates from the norm.」
「Nn. Declined. Won’t become subordinate.」
「Are you sure? You willfully turn down evolution despite being a member of the black cat tribe, the tribe whose members are said to be unable to naturally evolve?」
「Nn? Demand explanation.」
「I recall hearing that your tribe was long abandoned by God, and thus, lost its ability to evolve. I can’t speak for the claim’s authenticity, but that’s what they say.」
「I’ve the ability to allow you an evolution, and an immediate one, at that.」
Rynford offered Fran one of his old, wrinkled hands as a wide grin spread itself across his face.