Chapter 051: Devils

The village of Dorn is tucked low between two tall mountains. Their bulk is enough that the sun only shines upon the village for a scant few hours every day.

Apparently, this has made it rather unpopular with humans, leading to a low – and still declining – population. And since this place does not exactly possess any sort of great strategic significance, Finram believes that soon, there likely won’t be any village here anymore.

After a little more than a day of travel – Finram flying and me running – what quickly becomes apparent is that the ‘soon’ in the previous prediction can be turned into a ‘now’.

The first vision of Dorn are the four corpses hanging from the rough stone arch marking the entrance to the village. All are human. The two corpses on each outer side are of a man and a woman, while the two in the center are much smaller, most likely those of children. The bodies are quite battered. They were probably treated rather roughly even prior to their deaths.

“Fucking devils…”

[…]

Finram’s eyes are burning with rage. I can distinctly hear the sounds of his grinding teeth as he restrains himself from barging into the village and attacking whatever moves.

Beyond the stone arch and the grisly spectacle attached to it, the village itself is in no better condition. Most houses have been reduced to smoldering cinders. There are several bodies lying in the streets, severed limbs and pools of blood here and there. The corpse of a human man is pinned to a building’s wall by a broken spear stabbed through his chest. The smell of it all is thick in the air, especially since the bodies have already started decomposing.

More and more slivers of qi pressure leak out of Finram as his control over himself starts slipping.

Although I don’t think I should be the one to tell him this, considering the number of times I’ve let my anger get the better of me since I left the Planar Tower, he should really calm down a bit.

[…Calm.]

“I am calm,” he growls in response. After drawing and releasing a deep breath, his eyes flick over to me. “I just want to make sure of one thing before we enter the village. Are you here to rescue Lilly or to converse with the devils?”

[…Both.]

Annoyance and impatience flicker over his face at my reply. “And if they conflict, which of these two will take precedence over the other?”

[…Conversing with the devils. You focus on rescuing Lilly. Is that not why you’re here?]

Rescuing Lilly is certainly one of the objectives I hope to accomplish by coming here, but more important is to get some of my questions answered. I already had several opportunities to ask them in the past, but since the people who might have answered were all invariably hostile to me, exterminating them took precedence over satisfying my curiosity. Now that these devils have taken the initiative to invite me here, there is no reason to miss this chance.

Finram’s eyes stay on me for a few seconds. “You are one cold-blooded bitch,” he says in a flat voice.

[…Yes.]

Though, once again, I’m not sure ‘bitch’ is an entirely accurate term.

Before the conversation can go any further, a tall man wearing a black, loose robe suddenly exits from one of the rare intact houses still standing in the village. As he turns in our direction and approaches with a calm gait, I can see that his eyes are like mine – red on black – and that strange gashes line both sides of his throat, a bit like the gills of a fish. A few scattered scales, reflecting the dim sunlight, are visible over the skin of his face.

When the man stops, a few meters away from us, I feel Finram tense next to me, as if getting ready to attack. However, the man completely ignores him, as if disregarding his existence, as if not even noticing him there. Both his eyes are fixed on me, staring unblinkingly.

And then, he bends into a deep, sweeping bow.

“Lady, may I ask your name?” he asks in a hushed voice.

[…Akasha.]

The devil’s entire body shivers as my voice rings out in his mind, but when he raises his head once more, the expression on his face isn’t that of fear or surprise or anything of the sort, but… awe.

Maybe.

I’m not sure. I might be misunderstanding his facial expression. I’m usually fairly confident in reading them, but I don’t get why he would be feeling awe at simple telepathy. Not even the weakling humans I talked to in the past showed such an exaggerated reaction to it, so I can’t help but wonder what’s got him so impressed.

“This humble one’s name is Salem. It is the greatest of honors to finally meet you. Allow me to present to you my most heartfelt gratitude for deigning to accept our invitation. Please, come this way, if you would. The others are also impatient to make your acquaintance.”

Bowing once more, Salem moves to the side and lifts his hand in an inviting gesture, hinting toward the building he came out from.

Finram throws a strange glance at me at the devil’s unexpected politeness, but when I’m about to take a step, he suddenly speaks up. “Wait. Where is my niece? Your message to Akasha has been transmitted. She has come to meet you. Now, fulfill your part of the bargain. Give her back to me.”

For the first time since he arrived, the devil finally acknowledges Finram’s presence. “Finram Springfield, I suppose?” A contemptuous smile appears on his face. “You are correct. Your niece will be returned to you. Someone will fetch her and bring her here. However, you are not welcome inside. Feel free to wait out in the street for her arrival.”

Finram scoffs. “Hmph. Do you think I’d want to come inside and listen to you prattle your nonsense? Who would care about what you have to say, devil?”

Hmm… Well, me, actually…

When I see Salem about to retort and continue on with his little confrontation against Finram, my patience runs out and I interrupt them.

[…Enough. Let’s go.]

Hearing me, Salem seems to instantly regain his previous disinterest in Finram and turns away from him without hesitation, bowing lower than ever before. “I apologize for this shameful display. Please, follow me.”

Without wasting any more time, Salem leads us toward the building.

And as expected, Finram waits outside.

“I’ll leave immediately once I’ve gotten Lilly. I won’t wait for you. I don’t think you’d need my help, even if you had to escape, and I can’t put her at risk.”

[…Understood.]

With a last glance at Finram over my shoulder, we split up, and I enter the house after Salem. Once inside, we only cross one short corridor before arriving at our destination.

In a wide, unremarkable room, its windows covered by thick curtains that only allow faint rays of light to pass through, a group of five devils sit on both sides of a long, elliptical table.

One is a woman hiding her face behind a veil. Thin, almost transparent membranes of skin link all fingers of her clawed-tipped hands to each other.

One is a huge man, probably something like 2.5 meters tall. His shoulders and arms are so wide he looks almost deformed. Like me, a horn grows from the center of his forehead, except his is much longer and thicker than mine – and a lot less sharp – and it curls upward until it points directly up at the sky.

Two are twins. They would look absolutely identical if it were not for their clothes and the different patterns of scars crisscrossing over their faces. These two don’t show any obvious non-human traits – or rather, non-elven traits since everyone here sports their characteristic pointy ears – but I suppose they must have some hidden somewhere, if only to follow the pattern the rest of us demonstrate.

The last is a girl, outwardly in her twenties, staring at me, looking curious and also vaguely disturbed. She has wolf ears on top of her head, and a wolf’s tail swings gently back and forth behind her back. In the center of her forehead is a stubby little horn, but this horn isn’t sharp, and it isn’t black.

Still, it’s my first time seeing someone so resembling me.

Am I meeting the first other individual belonging to my species?

Well, there might have been one in the horde of apostles Sanae and I butchered after escaping the Planar Prison. All of them had helmets and armors to conceal their forms, so I might have killed some without realizing what they were then.

But this is quite a momentous occasion, is it not?

It makes me feel…

Actually, it doesn’t really make me feel much of anything.

I’m faintly curious. And faintly interested.

Of course I am. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have come here to meet these devils in the first place.

But that’s it.

[…]

My own lack of reaction disappoints me a little. It seems like the sort of thing that should affect me. I’d expect my heart to start beating at least a tad faster as small shivers of excitement shake my body.

Except no.

Well, I suppose I can content myself with answering that faint curiosity and that faint interest.

The moment Salem and I enter the room, the eyes of every devil in there turn to me, studying me, examining me, from the ears on top of my head, to my eyepatch, my horn, the scars all over the exposed parts of my body, my dirty maid outfit, my tail, my ice and adamantine limbs. If my own curiosity is only faint, the same cannot be said of theirs. I can almost feel the intensity of their gazes on my skin as they crawl all over me.

And one of those pairs of eyes is hostile.

The huge man.

If I am a wolf, he must be a rhino or something.

He’s pretty strong, too. Is he the one who fought with Finram?

In any case, I get the feeling he doesn’t like me very much.

“My friends,” Salem says after a few moments of silence, “Allow me to introduce to you Lady Akasha, the first and highest of our kind.”

Huh?

What on earth is he saying?

First and highest?

“Hah!” Rhino-man says as Salem is about to turn back toward me. His voice sounds more like a rumbling earthquake than a voice. “‘Akasha’? AK-A-13? AK-A? AK-A-sha? You sure didn’t look very far to come up with that name,” he says, looking down at me. “A bit lacking in imagination, aren’t you?”

Huh?

What on earth is he saying?

Something-something-thirteen?

Salem’s face flushes in anger at the other man’s remarks. “Grigori! How dare you call one of us by her number? The godmother of our entire species, no less! Show some respect!”

Huh?

What on earth is he saying?

Godmother?

But Grigori the huge rhino doesn’t seem impressed. The other devils silently spectate the argument while he throws another contemptuous glance in my direction. “Hmph! Respect? We devils respect strength above all else. Strength, and what we use it for. She may be the oldest, but age in itself means nothing. What has this dirty brat here ever done for our cause?”

Huh?

What on earth is he saying?

What cause?

Also, I’m not a brat. How could I be a brat if I’m the oldest? How can he say something so contradictory? Is he an idiot?

More arguments seem about to follow between Salem and Grigori. The other devils are all keeping to their silence, the twins apparently taking pleasure in watching the quarrel while the two women watch from the side, manifestly used to and bored of this.

Damn it…

I came here to have some questions answered, not to listen to two idiots bicker with each other incessantly. First Finram and Salem, and now this rhino, too?

Enough of this.

From one second to the next, my power starts cycling through my meridians, and an intangible pressure fills up the entire room. The building groans on its foundation, dust rains down from the ceiling, and the wood of the table creaks loudly, cracks appearing here and there over its surface. The small particles of dust dancing in the sun beams coming through the shrouded windows hang immobile in the air, as if trapped in place.

Salem, right next to me, ends up on his knees in just a moment. The other devils were already seated, so they can bear it a little more easily. Except for Grigori, who’s the focus of my attention.

Although the ability of one to resist this sort of qi pressure isn’t affected by the size of one’s body – that is to say, his bulk means nothing – Grigori’s cultivation is around Finram’s, so I decide not to hold back against him. His face was already pale white – as is fitting for a demon – but it becomes even more so when all that weight starts pressing down upon him. His massive shoulders shake, and his breathing turns laborious. He doesn’t collapse, of course – even I am not so powerful that I could crush someone I presume to be of the 9th rank so easily – but I believe I made my point quite clearly.

A few seconds later, I will the pressure to return to my body, making place to a silence that is almost as heavy.

[…I have questions.]

The one to answer me first is Salem. Though he probably took the most of my little demonstration of force, when he looks up at me – not really up, actually, since kneeling down brings his eyes level with mine – he shows no anger. If anything, he appears even more respectful and enthusiastic than before, directing a burning stare toward me.

“Yes, of course. We all will do our very best to answer any doubt you might have to the best of our ability. Please, take a seat.”

Hmm. Good.

Looking at the other devils, Grigori also seems to have calmed down at least a little bit. The twins and the two girls are looking at me with renewed interest – and more caution than before.

Ignoring the stares, I approach the closest chair, at the end of the table. It’s a bit flimsy, but a small spell makes ice climb up its legs and reinforce it enough to bear my weight.

Salem also takes a seat between the two women. “Lady Akasha, please allow me to introduce my companions here.”

The huge rhino, Grigori.

The twins, Sora and Hozoin.

The woman wearing the veil, Alicia.

The wolf girl, Sekka.

“Of course, there are more devils than just the few of us here today, but it would have been difficult for everyone to come and meet you. We had to make a choice and the few of us volunteered.”

Grigori scoffs. “I didn’t volunteer. I had to come because I’m the strongest and they needed me to protect them.”

I’m pretty sure another altercation is going to start in just a few moments due to Grigori’s provocations – can’t these idiots resist the urge to argue for a few minutes? – so I rush to state my intentions before the situation can degenerate once more.

[…I want you to tell me what you know about me.]

Right.

This is it.

This is the question.

I don’t know why these devils asked me to come here and meet them. I assume they have some sort of objective they wish to accomplish, but I don’t really care about it. The devils are interesting, sure, but in the end, they don’t matter, as long as they don’t get in my way.

They are only relevant because they might know something about me.

My question, however, seems to surprise my audience.

“Big sis, did you lose all your memory or something?” Hozoin, one of the twins, asks. “How could we know more about you than you do yourself?”

‘Big sis’?

I turn my confused gaze to him and his twin brother.

[…I am your elder sister?]

This time, the devils in front of me don’t just look surprised. They look plainly dumbfounded. Even Salem has trouble restraining his reaction.

After a few moments of silence, soft giggles spew forth from the woman wearing the veil, Alicia, her shoulders shaking in obvious mirth. “This is beautiful! Salem, you were right to insist on meeting her. It was all worth it! Heehee!”

What?

I don’t get it.

It seems I said something amusing.

Well, I never really thought Hozoin and Sora were my brothers. I just wondered why he claimed so himself.

Or was it a joke? Is that why Alicia is laughing? It wasn’t funny, though.

“Did you really lose your memory?” Sekka asks me with a frown.

[…No. Just tell me what you know about me.]

After a few seconds, Salem is once more the one to speak up. “Lady Akasha, if you’ll allow me.” He stands up from his chair and sketches a small bow. “We actually know very little about you – which is one of the reasons we wanted to meet you. One thing is your serial number. AK-A-13. The oldest and most successful subject.” At this, Grigori scoffs again, but this time, Salem thankfully ignores him. “We also know your blood was used as a catalyst during the birth of Sekka, here, along with another one of our numbers not present here today.”

My blood?

I glance at the wolf girl sitting next to me. She’s still watching me, with what might be anticipation on her face, this time, as if she wants me to do or say something to her, but I have no idea what.

I have no idea about anything at all, right now.

I am confused.

Very much so.

Salem seems about to continue listing the things he knows about me one after another, like I asked him to, but I interrupt him before he can.

Let’s take things one at a time.

[…Wait. Serial number? What is that?]

Didn’t Grigori also say the same thing, earlier?

AK-A-13.

From what I understand of his words, that’s supposed to be my name or something, but I’ve never been called this at any point in my life.

Salem obviously didn’t expect this question, because he hesitates once more, studying my face with a strange look on his own.

In his place, Alicia starts explaining with a calm and steady voice. “Miss Akasha, all of us here have serial numbers, as well. Well, except Grigori, but there is a reason for that. The serial numbers basically indicate when we were born. For example, my serial number starts with ‘NL’, while Salem’s starts with ‘LW’. That means he’s older than me by two generations. Yours starts with ‘AK’, which means you were born much earlier than any of us. We have never seen nor heard of anyone still alive with an earlier serial number than yours.”

[…What does the rest of the serial number mean?]

Alicia shakes her head. “We’re not exactly sure ourselves how to interpret it. The last letter and the number are clearly designed to differentiate between individuals of a same generation, but the actual meaning still eludes us. The letter apparently ranges from A to D. As for the number, the greatest we’ve seen is 198.”

Hmm…

Is it something like a date of birth?

How peculiar.

Is this ‘serial number’ something specific to devil culture? I’ve never heard humans speak of such things. Furthermore, why do the devils use a numbering system that they don’t completely understand? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to use a common calendar, with years and months and days?

And… did Father know about this?

Like Grigori said before, if my serial number is ‘AK-A-13’, it does sound like quite the coincidence that my name would start with the same three letters. Was I named according to this serial number? Alicia’s and Salem’s names don’t fit this pattern, though.

[…How do you know I’m AK-A-13?]

“Some of us heard the researchers at the facility talk about you, before we escaped,” Sora says, in a voice much deeper and stentorian than his twin brother’s. It’s strange that their voice is so different when they outwardly look identical. Maybe his throat was injured, somehow, and his voice changed?

[…What facility?]

“The facility where we were born,” Sora continues, his face taking on a strained look. “Where we were… where we grew up, I suppose you could say. After all of us escaped, we shared everything each of us had learned, every scrap of information we had gleaned while we were there. It turned out several of us had heard the researchers talking about you, at one time or another.”

…What’s all this about?

Researchers?

Facility?

Why would they be talking about me?

[…What were they saying?]

“Basically,” Salem says, taking up the explanation again. “that you were the single most successful devil alive.”

‘Successful’?

Why ‘successful’? Why not ‘strongest’?

Does it refer to my success in climbing the Planar Tower?

As thoughts and theories whirl inside my brain, my gaze turns to Sekka, sitting next to me. Her eyes are also trained on me and we silently stare at each other for a few seconds. The wolf ears standing on top of her head, as if sprouting out from her white hair, twitch once or twice, as if uncomfortable with my attention. I feel mine do the same at almost precisely the same moment.

To outside observers, it might look like some form of nonverbal communication, perhaps, but those movements are actually entirely involuntary. Just like how our tails wave back and forth behind our backs without any conscious decision on our part. Even I, after 300 years of training dedicated to attaining perfect control over my body, have consistently failed to restrain these movements. I assume Sekka is the same.

[…You said those researchers used my blood. For what purpose?]

“To make us stronger,” Sekka replies, not taking her eyes away from mine.

[…Why would my blood make you stronger?]

“I don’t know, but it definitely does. In all, there are thirteen wolf-type devils among us,” she explains. “Only two among those have a horn. Me and one other. And we are noticeably more powerful than the other eleven. Our bodies are stronger, tougher. We also produce much more energy than they do, in much less time. As far as we know, the two of us are the only ones who received some of your blood.”

[…]

“We weren’t actually sure the difference was due to your blood, but seeing your appearance today, I think it confirms our theory beyond any doubt.” She raises a hand to rub the blunt tip of her horn, and her gaze becomes a bit conflicted. “We… definitely owe these to you.”

Strange.

Giving a demon my blood should only result in her refining it and adding it to her own reserves of blood-qi. Why would it cause further mutations? I’ve been drinking demon blood for 300 years, and I’ve never transformed beyond the state I ended up in at the time I died.

And how did those researchers obtain samples of my blood?

[…When did this happen to you?]

Sekka glances at the other devils around the table, as if looking for input, before turning back to me. “Well, I’m not exactly sure when I was born – my memories of that time are rather… scrambled – but we escaped 115 years ago. So, a few years before that, I suppose.”

Let’s say 130 years, then.

From when I was 12 years old – the time when my blood acquired its current qualities – until 130 years ago. During all that time, I was stuck in the Planar Tower. Which means, the only way for those researchers to get their hands on my blood was from there.

So.

So, so, so.

Interesting. Very interesting.

Just for that information, this little trip wasn’t wasted.

[…Where is this facility?]

Even to me, my telepathic voice seems even flatter and colder than it was a few moments ago.

“It was destroyed during our escape, Lady Akasha,” Salem says soberly. “Now, there is nothing left of it. Of course, there must be other identical facilities elsewhere, since more apostles are being fed into the human armies. Unfortunately, we have no idea where to find them. The humans are keeping them well hidden.”

[…Humans?]

The devils around the table grit their teeth and clench their fists, their faces scrunching up in hatred. In the gloom in which our little meeting is taking place, points of red light glow steadily brighter, and boundless bloodlust seeps out from everybody. All of a sudden, it’s like the temperature in the room has fallen a dozen degrees.

But I don’t blame them for their outburst.

Because my own anger and my own hatred are in no way inferior to theirs. The more I learn about the situation, the more something dark seems to uncoil in the black depths of my mind.

I press it down. I bottle it up. I suppress it.

These people…

Using me.

Harvesting my blood.

Void knows I spilled enough of it for them to use.

But this blood of mine isn’t that cheap.

The proper price needs to be paid for it.

“All our investigations for the past hundred years point to one person,” Salem growls. “The God-Emperor of humanity, Wayland Adkins. Those facilities are his. All of this… All of us… It is his fault, his responsibility.”

Ha-ah.

Wonderful.

Finally, a precise target.

I feel the corners of my mouth slowly curl upward.

[…]

No, not yet.

Control it.

Suppress it.

I close my eyes, and with a great effort of will, I force my roiling emotions back down into stillness, and that impassive, emotionless mask settles back down over my face.

Information.

Data.

Just ask the next question.

I open my eyes to an audience of paling faces and staring eyes. Their expressions look distinctly uncomfortable, as if these devils would very much prefer not to stand in the same room as me.

Did I let slip some of what I was feeling?

No matter.

Then, next question…

Um…

[…I can’t think clearly, right now. Come up with a question.]

<Why. Invite.>

[…I don’t care about that. A question about me. Or about my enemies.]

<Selfish. Just. Ask.>

[…I don’t know what ‘selfish’ means.]

<Just. Ask.>

Well, I suppose they have answered a lot of my questions. And I can always continue asking once the devils are done explaining their own purpose.

With a mute sigh, I turn my attention back to them.

[…Why did you invite me here? What do you want from me?]

A collective intake of breath from the devils seems to clear up the freezing cold air that had settled over the room after the previous exchange, and Salem, clearing his throat and looking as if we’re finally getting into the heart of the matter, stands up to explain.

“Lady Akasha, as I said earlier, our first goal here was to meet you and make your acquaintance. After all, to us, you are practically something like an honored ancestor, or a founder.” Out of the corner of my eye, I see Grigori scowl at those words, but he doesn’t interrupt. “Another was to confirm that our respective interests do not conflict. You may already have understood that our enemy is humanity and that our goal is to exterminate them. To the last.” There is a short silence before Salem continues. “Incidentally, judging from your reaction to the answers we gave you during the earlier conversation, I believe you have already demonstrated to us that you are no ally of the humans, either. Would it be correct to assume that?”

[…Yes.]

Salem nods, as if I gave him what he expected. “Lady Akasha, another goal of ours is the liberation of our enslaved brothers and sisters.”

[…Who?]

“The apostles, Lady Akasha. We so-called ‘devils’ escaped the facility where we were born before our minds and selves could be completely erased by the forced indoctrination inflicted upon us there.”

[…Indoctrination?]

“Yes. Training, I suppose you could call it, though it’s more like torture, designed to turn us into perfect, mindless soldiers – or rather, cannon fodder – for humanity. They remove our memories, our identities, our emotions, our individuality…” Salem shakes his head, a sad look on his face. “It is not a pleasant memory for any of us. Did you not suffer the same?”

[…No.]

I have emotions. I just can’t show them.

And I don’t recall ever being tortured by anyone.

Salem looks a bit dubious, his eyes trailing along the lines of my scars, but he doesn’t comment on them. “I see… Well, as I said, we managed to escape before the process was complete. However, not everyone shared our luck. There is no difference between us and the apostles, except that their misfortune is even greater than ours. Because they did not escape.” Salem suddenly slams his hand against the tabletop and starts shouting. “They must be freed! They must be avenged! We must all be avenged!”

The other devils around the table – Grigori included – nod, clearly agreeing with and sharing in Salem’s feelings.

I don’t, though.

‘Confirm that our respective interests do not conflict’, was it?

[…I have killed apostles before.]

And I will keep on killing them for as long as they get in my way.

Salem nods sadly, seeming abruptly deflated after his outburst. “Yes, I realize that. All of us have. The humans feel no compunction in sending our brothers and sisters to fight against us. And their indoctrination means that they show us no mercy. So we cannot show them any, either.”

[…Can’t you just run away from them or avoid them?]

This time, Alicia is the one to answer my question. Her expression is still hidden by her veil, but her voice is dry and bitter. “Miss Akasha, you may be different from us – thanks to your age, perhaps – but when us young ones are under attack or when we make use of our powers as devils, it is terribly easy for us to lose control of ourselves and attack everyone around us. Only when the battle is over do we regain a semblance of… sanity. That’s not a problem when up against humans – we wouldn’t let any of them live, anyway – but even against apostles, holding back or running away often fail to even register as options.”

[…]

Isn’t that pretty much the same as me, when I am at my worst?

Does that mean my own anger is nothing but a symptom of my demonhood? That it has nothing to do with the actual grievance I suffered? That it’s something impersonal, like a disease?

If that’s true, I’m… not sure how I would feel about it.

“Lady Akasha,” Salem continues, “there is a third reason why we invited you here. Truthfully, this is the most important reason of them all. Our greatest hope.” He and all his friends look at me earnestly. This time, even Grigori the rhino looks serious and solemn. “Allow me to explain. We mentioned that all of us here possess serial numbers. All of us but Grigori.” All eyes turn toward him, and he shifts in his seat, as if uncomfortable with the attention. “That is because Grigori alone was not born inside the facility, nor was he subjected to the indoctrination. Instead, he is the result of the union of two devils. A perfectly natural union.”

For some reason, as Salem goes on with his explanation, the other devils start becoming noticeably excited. I’m guessing this fact must mean a lot to them, though I don’t really get why.

“You see, Lady Akasha, although many of us managed to escape the facility, 115 years ago, considering the dangers inherent to our lifestyle and nature, our numbers are dwindling rapidly. Only a third of us are left, now.” Salem shakes his head helplessly. “It only makes sense. None other – apart from you, of course – have ever managed to escape, and all demons are sterile. Thus, with no way of replenishing our numbers, we could only head toward extinction. We were desperate, and for nearly sixty years, we struggled to find a solution. Until we did. We fixed this problem. We fixed ourselves. Now, all devils can be treated so as to be able to reproduce naturally, like any other species on Caldera. And Grigori is the ripest fruit of all these efforts and sacrifices.”

Despite their earlier quarrel, Salem’s eyes as he looks at the huge rhino show pride and hope.

But his explanation is really long.

I hope it ends soon.

Maybe I should just let Sanae listen in my stead and do a round of body strengthening. It would be more productive than listening to this boring tale.

“In a way, our success can be attributed to luck, but regardless, the results speak for themselves.”

No, you clearly speak for them.

You speak for them, a lot.

At least, beforehand, he was talking a lot about things that actually concerned me. But this is just…

“In merely 30 years, Grigori became a 9th-rank warrior, capable of holding his own against even the strongest powerhouses of this world.”

Oh.

All right, I guess that is impressive.

I’m just one rank up from that and it took me 10 times longer.

Still, that huge thing is only 30 years old? And he dared to call me a brat?

Unbelievable. I’m old enough to be his grandmother or something.

“Grigori’s strength and potential are so overwhelming because his parents were the two strongest devils we had. He inherited their great power.”

Suddenly, there is a lull in Salem’s explanation.

The abrupt silence forces me to refocus my wandering mind on him, and I find him and the others staring at me with bated breath. A hushed atmosphere has fallen upon the room.

…Did I do something wrong?

But even after all these explanations, I still haven’t heard that third reason of theirs.

[…So? What do you want from me?]

Salem hesitates for a moment before speaking. “Grigori is already so strong with such parents. How powerful would a newborn child become, if both his parents were at the true pinnacle of cultivation?”

Grigori is frowning in his seat, seemingly conflicted about something, while the excitement running through the others is almost palpable, their eyes glowing brightly red in the darkened room.

Salem suddenly bows low and remains in this position. “Lady Akasha, you have already proven your incredible strength to us. You only need to stand there and exude some qi pressure for the rest of us to be like lambs waiting for slaughter, like beached fish suffocating helplessly. Your bloodlust, your killing intent are peerless.” He takes a deep breath and says in a clear voice, “Lady Akasha, please, lend us your strength! You and Grigori, please conceive a child! The child that will save us and gift us victory! Lady Akasha, please, give the devils a future! Give us hope!”

39 comments

  1. Finally, the chapter.
    It may not be all that exciting, actually, despite the wait you guys had to suffer through, but it’s very plot-relevant. I at least hope I didn’t make any huge mistake in it. That would be embarrassing.

    1. Well, you know, her body should still be the one of a twelve year old girl, so I somehow doubt she will ever be able to reproduce as long as her body doesn’t start aging again.

      1. There are plenty of cases of girls reproducing before 12(even a case of a 6 year old) and 12 is normally when people get their first period, so it is entirely possible for her to reproduce unless something happened to her body during her time or transformation that is separate from normal gods(the god emperor reproduced after becoming a god). So in short her body doesn’t need to age for her to reproduce.

        1. I think it is extremely unlikely that Akasha was able to reproduce. She was ill for as long as she can remember and , in some chapters, secondary characters described her as a nine years old. As I understand it, those who have a period early in their life are well developed, physically speaking.

          However, since she is not even partly human, the point is moot.

          1. I get what you are saying but what I said is it is entirely possible for her to reproduce without having her body age, it just depends on how the author wants to go with it. We don’t know that much about her past so she could have had her period also she was 12 when you became a god so again all I said is it is possible.

            To sum it up for you
            Zerberon said: her body should still be the one of a twelve year old girl, so I somehow doubt she will ever be able to reproduce as long as her body doesn’t start aging again.

            I said: It is entirely possible for her to reproduce because she is 12, and she doesn’t need to age to reproduce.

            So I wasn’t arguing that she could what I was saying is it is more likely that she would be able to rather than her not being able to based solely on age(he didn’t use any other reasons besides age), and for the illness part the experiments could have caused her body to start earlier than expected.

            So whether she can or can’t will depend on the author because a lot of the points can make it go either way. Illness caused it to get postpone but experiments caused it to come early. Body that looks 9 to 10 to some but she is a mix of different species so it is possible for her species to make her look younger than what was normal.

            Either way the author takes it, it will still be interesting and I find it interesting that Liv put this in the story. But I am pretty certain she isn’t going to go along with this plan so it going to be awhile before we get an answer to this question.

  2. Uh what? Ok? And since when is akasha an enemy of humans? She was an enemy of that god and the people that kept her in the tower, not humans in general. Also, there’s no reason to even help these devils. Akasha is ruthless because she’s doesn’t care and doesn’t want people standing in her way to her goal. These creatures just torture and do pointless thing because they hate. That’s entirely different. Not to mention they’re all very weak. They can’t offer her anything whatsoever.

    1. I think she might consider the implications of a man who reached ninth rank in 30 years becoming a threat very soon… In which case she can just off him now, but these guys are still her best lead to another facility where she might be able to glean more info about her past. I agree about the devil’s being idiots though. Even if they wanted to actually harm humanity as a whole they should have teamed up with the Majin, but most likely they are trying to get their own god to become a this faction in the war.

      1. I think they would have teamed up if it weren’t for the fact that they stop to differ between friend and foe rather quickly.

    2. At no point in this chapter was she called an enemy of humans. All she acknowledged was that she’s “no ally to humans” which is most certainly true.

  3. Now this was a very interesting chapter, with Akasha finally starting to find some clues, so I am rather exited for the next few chapters. Is there any chance they will come out as usual on Sunday or are they going to take a bit longer as well?

    1. The next chapters shouldn’t be as difficult as this one, but my writing pace has been so erratic these past few weeks that I’m a bit leery at making any promises…
      (And don’t worry about duplicate comments and the like; I can delete them.)

  4. Well…Her answer should be interesting.

    It could go either:
    “Lady Akasha, please, lend us your strength! You and Grigori, please conceive a child! The child that will save us and gift us victory! Lady Akasha, please, give the devils a future! Give us hope!”
    […No.]

    Or:
    “Lady Akasha, please, lend us your strength! You and Grigori, please conceive a child! The child that will save us and gift us victory! Lady Akasha, please, give the devils a future! Give us hope!”
    [Why would I?]

    Or:
    “Lady Akasha, please, lend us your strength! You and Grigori, please conceive a child! The child that will save us and gift us victory! Lady Akasha, please, give the devils a future! Give us hope!”
    …What? What is this chatterbox talking about?
    Before I could answer to this nonesense, a loud explosion and a wave of god-ranked qi washed over the entire area.

    Or:
    “Lady Akasha, please, lend us your strength! You and Grigori, please conceive a child! The child that will save us and gift us victory! Lady Akasha, please, give the devils a future! Give us hope!”
    [Sorry. I’m gay.]

    I certainly think the last one is the more like. *nods wisely while stroking an imaginary white beard*

    1. Or:
      “Lady Akasha, please, lend us your strength! You and Grigori, please conceive a child! The child that will save us and gift us victory! Lady Akasha, please, give the devils a future! Give us hope!”

      A serten elf jumps in and… devils go by by

      1. Then the God Emperor’s son is like: “WHAT THE HELL IS THE MAJOR DOING HERE??!!”

        And Sif is like: “WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING HERE??!!”

        Then Phineas wakes up: “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE??!!”

  5. Typos:
    the two in the center are much smaller, most likely that of children
    those of

    I will back the pressure to return to my body
    I think this probably shouldn’t have both “back” and “to return” (“will back” OR “will it to return”)

    Please, take a seat”
    seat.”

    another one of our numbers not present her today
    here

    more apostles are feeding into the human armies
    being fed

    point to one person,” Salem growls “The God-Emperor
    growls.

  6. I have long thought that her “father” was experimenting on her, and now refine that theory to include the reason they were attacked being his unapproved removal of Akasha from the lab where he was one of the god-emperor’s researchers. This seems highly likely, but even if I am not surprised by the rest, it should be interesting to watch Akasha to learn about it.

    1. Well, it was kind of obvious. I’m not sure if it’s “experimenting on her” as much as trying to find a way to let her survive without the need to be demonized. The only question I have is whether he was a cultivator and if he’s still alive.

      1. Well I think it was both, he experimented on the subjects including Akasha at the god king’s lab, but somehow became fond of Akasha and smuggled her out (faked her death perhaps), continuing experiments for the purpose of extending her life as a non-demon. Based on the fact that the demons had various appearances but all had “elf ears,” it is a safe bet that Akasha’s “sister” – nka the Major – was also rescued from the lab. Since he was said to be human, he would likely not be alive unless he had reached the god rank, in which case the battle would likely have gone differently (though I’d have to reread it to be sure).

        1. That’s the thing. There didn’t really need to be a battle. If I remember, Nerys and their “father” had been out in the village when the people of the God Emperor attacked and abducted Akasha. Of course, only the author know what really happened…

  7. I am still a little unclear on what the Majin are. I think they are basically beast-humans, and that they were the raw stock from which the demons and apostles were made. If this was covered in the story, can someone summarize?

  8. Just realized that these guys are trying to breed her for cultivation potential, meaning that they can cultivate at all unlike Akasha who only absords blood qi from demons and her symbol.

  9. Well that certainly answers some questions, the devils almost seem sympathetic now. All this build up where everyone talks about devils in hushed whispers and constantly comments about their propensity for slaughter and nothing else but then we meet them and they’re perfectly willing to sit-down for a little chat. Bit anti-climactic really. I wonder if Ashaka could actually act as some sort of negotiator the way the duke wants her to given how they seem to revere her to some extent – not that she would want to x)

    As always thanks for the chapter!

  10. Interesting, although even if Akasha was gripped by insanity and said yes I see Sanae piping up (Increasing numbers of extremely high-rank cultivators with severe aggression issues = God-Realm Intervention if Full Court Press by God-Emperor Faction fails)

    The Devils are pitiable indeed, but so long as they’re laser-focused on wiping out a species protected by the God-Realm (Calderan Humanity) their cause is hopeless. They could churn out ten Akashas for that matter and it still be helpless. The Devils and Majin don’t have achievable long-term military objectives without equivalent Majin/Devil God-Realm patronage. It actually made me tear up a little when I realized *they don’t know that, because they don’t know about the God-Realm*…Majin and Devils alike want to play King of the Hill with Humanity, and they perceive Gareth and Wayland Adkins as the Kings. When really Wayland Adkins is just the guy highest on the hill that’s visible.

    For the Majin it’s sad. For the Devils it’s epic tragedy.

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