Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Raldan Asth always believed itself to be a lucky and cunning demon, and considered that it could live peacefully in the darkness of the Sixth Abyss through that luck and cunning.
That belief was not wrong in the past few centuries. As a heart devourer—a rare demonic species, it was a rare type that would plan intrigues and prepare in the face of tremendous events. Since it was an infant, Raldan Asth had survived through the wars waged between the diverse Abyssal Lords by relying on multiple all-encompassing preparations, earning the attention of a then-Demon General with his outstanding performance.
Apart from that, when Raldan Asth became aware at some point in time that a current Abyssal Lord had developed an interest in a physical plane known as ‘Mycroft’, the demon that was merely at a high-tier demon threshold at the time which had also always been prudent, cunning and self-preserving quickly and decisively splits its own soul and created a clone projection into that unfamiliar world.
In Mycroft, it utilized its innate talent of glimpsing hearts and seduced the ignorant hunters and farmers amidst the mountain villages into worshiping itself while obediently presenting it with offerings. Soon, the demonic religion of Raldan Asth slowly spread, while its intelligence network developed rapidly as well, blanketing the bowels of the West Mountains.
The Abyssal Lord that received considerable information regarding the world of Mycroft thanks to an early investment for that particular escapade was delighted. Demon King Goliath itself had acted and directly promoted Raldan Asth to the rank of archdemon, and started to see it as a trusted subordinate. To an ordinary heart devourer, it was unquestionably a flying leap that allowed it to move past the most difficult transition period and directly become a lord, with the special responsibility of gathering intelligence on the world of Mycroft for the Sixth Abyss.
In his period of service for the Abyssal Lord, Raldan Asth had exhaustively displayed his dark wisdom. Under his overall machinations, the sporadic demon cults in the entire West Mountain regions were largely absorbed. Apart from a few cults that had genuine support from Evil God minions, they spread deliberately across the world, with the cult doctrine drafted by the archdemon remaining the core spirit of the many cults in the Mycroft continent even after two hundred years. Under Raldan Asth’s demands, every demon worshipper became adept at hiding themselves—if not for the Seven Gods Church being able to easily differentiate between who has fallen or not through a few chants of Holy Scripture, many adherents would have perhaps not been discovered during inspection.
Thanks to his outstanding work and results, Raldan Asth received an outstanding acknowledgment from Goliath. It even had the freedom to enter or leave Tear Valley Fortress, while the heart devourer’s ability also slowly grew through the offerings from its worshippers, virtually arriving at the pinnacle level of archdemon. It took just a brief time of fewer than three hundred years since it was born—a speed that was virtually flight, while countless demons became jealous over the demon they all called ‘Lucky Raldan Asth’.
Was that all because of fortune? Perhaps, but one way or the other, the heart devourer never stopped in its tracks. The ambition in its heart would never allow it to be content with its current position.
Through years of machinations, Raldan Asth and its worshippers finally pushed into the airtight Imperial Capital of the Northern Empire. It was prepared to make headlines in this so-called Triplet Mountain Holy City, a profound place where a Legendary champion presided—after all, what was a better plan than one majestic explosion for a despair, panic and the fear for a demon?
Certainly not. Everything had gone smoothly after the plan began—the finest devotees of Raldan Asth slipped into the city and murdered an entire ordinary merchant family where an infant was present. They were ready to present the offerings through malevolent methods to summon a clone of Raldan Asth, utterly leveling a portion of the Imperial Capital and a huge chunk of the residential areas, while unleashing demonic panic and evil across the entire world.
Everything was perfect. If accomplished, the name of Raldan Asth would be known throughout the Mycroft Continent, with its religion of fear rooting deeply in the hearts of its worshippers. It was enough as a substantial accumulation for ascension in the days to come and break through that most important checkpoint, clearing the path for itself towards Monarch. It believed that it would definitely succeed, a ‘reality’ that should have been.
But whether it was luck or truth, everything went into an immediate stop, even reversing rapidly after it encountered that man.
In that brief moment before it could react, the clone that had originally been hiding in a dimensional ripple, waiting for the perfect moment was dragged out and directly vanquished by that man. Then, the joint assault of the Pentashade dragons on the Seven Gods Sacred Mountain in the Far South previously agreed upon failed too, with the dragons along with the Dragon God banished away from the Mycroft Continent. Then, Raldan Asth also discovered in shock that the entire world had somehow started a large-scale cultist purge, with the various deeply-entrenched and hidden factions it planted across the world being wiped out by every official force, leaving bare few seeds left within mountain villages.
He also seethed as it noted that whether it was the failed rituals in the beginning, the Holy War in the Seven Gods Holy Mountain or the Northern Empire’s widespread cultist purge, everything was linked to that liege of the Radcliffe Family. It swore then that if there was chance, it would definitely award him the greatest torment in the world, incinerating his soul and heart in the toxic flames of the Abyss for ten thousand years!
And yet, calamity never comes alone. Leaving aside the string of debacles, even the Demon King Goliath had indicated its impatience towards it. While the Abyssal Lord could live with its subordinates being traitorous and scheming to replace itself, it could not endure them being useless. Raldan Asth that was without its intelligent channels was virtually a classic example of incompetence, which was why the Demon King soon issued its final ultimatum—Raldan Asth must head to the Mycroft Continent by itself and uncover truth behind its relit ‘Flames’.
Facing the Abyssal Lord that blessed it with everything, the archdemon could only obey.
And then, it was imprisoned in the sealing crystal ball that alternated between red and white.
“Why? Why would there be two Legendary mages in that place?!”
Until now, Raldan Asth never understood what was going on with this world. To its knowledge, there were less than ten Legendaries across the entire Mycroft Continent scattered across different races and regions. It was fine if there were just one archdemon-class being present in the isolated North, so where did those two Legendary spellcasters come from, and coincidentally cast an observation circle that discovered it in spite of its concealment?
Nonetheless, pondering was not helping. Now, Raldan Asth was inside the pocket of the mage named Barnil, and was only able to extend his spirit to sense everything around. In the obscure darkness, it suddenly sensed a familiar presence—it was precisely the human warrior who cost it a trail of losses that built up to its current situation, the presence of Joshua van Radcliffe!
“Damn it! If I weren’t held in here, I would definitely corrupt your subjects, destroy your domain so that every person you care about experiences a fate worse than death and live inhumanely!”
The archdemon struggled in the sealing crystal fruitlessly, able to do nothing except spouting curses. Soon, with a teleportation undulation, Raldan Asth sensed that itself had been brought to the two Legendary mages’ hideout. It sensed that the crystal containing itself was then taken out by one of them, and hazily heard an exchange that was both passionate and excited.
“Matters regarding the Squirming Forest can be handed to Stephen. He was a trader, and could plan enough on such aspects.”
“Then let’s handle this archdemon now. We were quite lucky since every demon caught before were mostly clones, their ability not even reaching Supreme. And yet here we are, running into a demon wandering with its true form around the Mycroft Continent—so who will do the dissection, who will play assistant?”
“You do it, partner.”
The brisk and direct exchange sent chills throughout the demon that once desired to ascend into Monarch. However, it had not a single ounce of strength to resist, its power that had been sealed within its own body prevented Raldan Asth from even self-destructing. Under the restraint of monumental magical power, its entire body went rigid as it watched the two Legendary mages draw its body pit from the sealing sphere and place it on a slab in the middle of a white room that summons fear in the hearts of men, before shackling demon with many steel circles.
“Nope—natural living responses are vital. Anyway, we’ll start with the muscles around its eye. I heard that the innate gifts of heart devourers are all within that single eye, and I’ve always been curious about that.”
Upon hearing words that were as evil as demons, Raldan Asth opened its eyes in panic to see a razor-sharp surgical knife, controlled by magic as it levitated over thin air, descending towards its single huge purple eye. Unable to roar, evade or twist its body, the demon could only watch as the little blade that was so keen not even demon skin could resist it to any extent cut bit by bit deep into its own muscles, exquisitely avoiding any vital mana paths and nerves.
Amidst the supreme agony, Raldan Asth could only bellow infinitely in its heart.
I–– I must escape!
The balrog Syndicate never felt that it had any intelligence to speak of. It spat at such weak things, and was immeasurably proud of its own power.
As an archdemon born in an unknown level of Abyss but possessing pure balrog bloodline, Syndicate had always lived comfortably as it stood on the peak of the food chain from the very start. Even against powerful archdemons it could not match in strength it could escape with its life through its own toxicity and flames. In short, Syndicate already forgot all memories of infancy and adolescence or even how it ascended as an archdemon. Powerful radioactive energies were stirring its soul’s ripples, preventing it from thinking straight—a problem almost every balrog had to face.
The more powerful they were, the more brainless they were unless they could break through the threshold and become a Monarch.
Whatever the case may be, Syndicate felt that life was good at present, after swimming through the Nether River across unknown levels of Abyss and was now hunting in a lord-less Abyss. There was no need to think or worry, all that has to be done daily was feeding becoming stronger—everything was so clear like a straight line. To balrogs, such a life akin to a unicellular creature would last for centuries or even millennia until fortune came and they developed into Monarchs.
It was therefore a pity that good things never last. After an unexpected incident, Syndicate was forced to learn how to think.
Even so, the balrog honestly did not remember actual details of the entire process—its simple brain could only recall that itself probably had been caught by a terrible demon and was put through a lot of agonizing things that made the Balrog desire death. But unusually, after that one extraordinarily painful experience, Syndicate felt that its own brain had cleared significantly, just like a communications circle that had intermittent static suddenly becoming smooth. Even the occasional noise would not matter.
Naturally, the balrog did not know the reason for it—how could it understand such complex matters? It could only naturally sense that the agony was worse than death and yet did not kill it, even granting it fundamentals so that it could become more powerful in days to come. That was why no matter how the fearsome Demon General had been embarrassed it did not run, instead holding on the hand of that person until the very last moment.
And then, it was thrown off.
Ignoring the calamitous melee in the heart of the Sixth Abyss and the clones of an Abyssal Lord and deity that later descended, the balrog’s body that was now burning with pure-white flames instead of the original red-black already could not sense the chaotic and disturbing energy ripples in its body, while its thinking was clear like never before. That was why, towards the end of its rapid descend, Syndicate could swiftly activate a talent it never used before—spreading and extending its liquid body, it took the form of a parachute and simply landed safely in the Abyssal forests on a hill.
“I should really thank that General for bringing me along… its race was human? Never heard of such a demon species, but its definitely the most evil and powerful species.”
Across the Multiverse, every race had different ways of addressing themselves—even demons do not call themselves demon. That was why Syndicate did not understand that the raging primate that stood aloft on two feet was no demon, but it did not matter as it devotedly knelt on the ground, indicating its reverence and gratitude while facing the direction where the warrior was. “So that’s how balrogs could ascend—I finally understand!”
At the moment, Syndicate could feel that all sorts of chaotic radioactive energies had been completely burned away, leaving a comparably stable pale-green matter that likewise provides heat energy and the burning flames, although the interference of the radiation to its body could now be ignored. The balrog was aware that as long as its purity and intelligence was maintained, even it had a shot at Monarch, albeit a flaw lay therein was that most of its body had been seared away, with its powers almost dropping from high-tier archdemon to mere archdemon.
In the Abyss, future talent was occasionally unimportant—the only truth was the power to survive the present.
White it soaked in the illusion of ‘a great future ahead of itself’, Syndicate noticed after a shudder that there were light footsteps wafting from around the hills and the Abyssal forest. It vigilantly looked around and startlingly noticed that it was already completely encircled by wandering demons and Abyssal beasts.
Amidst sinister beastly howls and the greedy gazes of wandering beasts, Syndicate instantly reacted. It was the result of the ruckus it raised when it landed—it was weird however one thought about it when a bizarre creature that was burning with white flames suddenly appeared in the dark Abyssal sky. And somehow, that white flame being appeared to be in a weak condition at the moment, if it could be eaten…
At the thought, the already greedy gazes became even more fearsome. To these beasts and demons that were not sheltered by any lord and had to struggle to survive by themselves in the Abyss, it may be the only chance for them to ascend in this lifetime.
And standing alone in the center of the circles of demons and beasts that blanketed the hill, Syndicate inhaled deeply and breathed out a pure and highly radioactive flame. In that moment, it thought about many old battle techniques it possessed, its instincts as a balrog, its distant but profound future, and its self-destruction if it unexpectedly died in battle.
But in the end, it was intelligence that remained in Syndicate’s mind.
With one angry bellow, the pure-white balrog unleashed the abilities it had just understood with no hesitation, swiftly wrapping itself into a sphere that was burning with infernal flames, before whirling as it charged with a devil-may-care might towards the weakest direction of the encirclement––
“I will survive!”
Days later, as if there had been a delay, the sight of the balrog fleeing desperately suddenly appeared in Joshua’s mind just as the warrior finished musing on the future contributions of the commodities the Squirming Forest was producing.
Blinking, Joshua could not understand what was happening at once—the spectacle was rather similar to the appearance of the System that flashed directly into his brain. Somehow, the warrior also sensed he was developing an atypical distant connection with that balrog.
“That fellow now worships me? No, it should be the resonance caused by the Steel Strength I left in its body.”
Joshua who leaped into vigilance after having thought for a moment that it was a divinity reaction relaxed for the time being after having sensed no activity from the divine bones in his body. Soon, he understood that it was the scarce few Steel Strength developing a resonating reaction when he poured it into Syndicate just as he brandished it as a weapon. The reaction did not last long and could only be connected when Syndicate was in an extreme excited state, although Joshua could choose to block it from his side, while the balrog would not be able to resist any effect that Joshua chose to unleash.
“Being pursued by a bunch of wandering demons, huh,” Joshua mumbled for a moment after realizing that Syndicate was being encircled. He finds the resonance interesting and rare, which was why he wished that the demon which had been so willing to serve him would not die so quickly.
“It’s fine. I did teach it some techniques to employ its power—it wouldn’t humiliate me by dying so simply.”
Tracing the rather unique Steel Strength resonance, Joshua transferred some skills related to using flames and broiling heat as well as accelerating through explosions to Syndicate that was merely using its spherical form to roll around. He believed that the balrog could become his first eyes in the Sixth Abyss, but after the transfer was completed, Joshua suddenly furrowed his brow, an inspiration flashing through his mind.
“Wait… Isn’t that the same as how some demons transcend worlds and corrupt human hearts, tempting them to sell their souls?”
Rising from his chair, Joshua paced around the hall in the lord’s residence, a curious sensation drumming in his mind out of nowhere.
“It’s very similar to the System.”