“T-Terra!” The battle seemed to slow as I collapsed at the point where Terra had been.
A powerful skill had struck Shao while she was concentrating on sending the spell, and she ended up coughing up blood, turning away from me to deflect the threat. However, I barely noticed as I looked down at the little bit of remains of Terra. The girls nearby had red-rimmed eyes, but they were all busy and couldn’t afford to rush over to me.
Two feet landed softly by my side. I looked up to see Prince Aberis standing there.
“There is a chance we can save all these people, her included,” he declared.
My eyes shot up. I hadn’t shed a single tear, but my eyes were red and my body shook. Aberis had a sympathetic expression on his face.
“How?” I demanded.
“Isn’t it obvious? This dungeon is only temporary. The reason that souls can’t be resurrected in a dungeon is that they’re trapped in the dungeon and the corroded and dissolved by miasma. There are stories of people who died while fighting the final boss of a dungeon being able to be resurrected because simply not enough time passed for the miasma to damage their soul permanently. If we defeat the Demon Lord, we end this dungeon, and then everyone who died, we can resurrect them!”
His words came crashing home and I felt a surge of hope. We had once managed to resurrect a man in a dungeon, but Lord Karr was a special exception. His soul was protected by the creator of the dungeon, a powerful fairy queen. Then again, this entire dungeon was a special exception. It stood to reason that if the dungeon was destroyed quickly, then the souls trapped in it would have time to be consumed.
I nodded my head. “Okay… what’s the plan?”
“Did you do what you needed to do?” Prince Aberis demanded.
“Shao is my slave now. She seems to be able to ignore a Slave Master, but I should be able to at least slow her down.”
“So… you are a Slave Master after all…” Prince Aberis spoke, partially to himself.
“Do we really want to have that conversation right now?” I demanded.
“Haha… well, I won’t pry into your secrets. After all, we’re brothers. I’ll use my strongest attacks. You try to get her distracted.”
The pair of us broke apart, and my eyes narrowed and focused on the woman still on the stage. She had taken some damage after the attacks of the soldiers. A few had given their lives to damage her. It was impossible to tell, however, how powerful she was. There was nothing like an HP bar. By her appearance, she was probably about half-dead, but for all I knew, it was only a sliver.
“Slave Cap!” I cried out.
As soon as I attempted to drop her level, I felt a resistance pushing back against my will. It was a mountain not dissimilar to the one when I tried to take over her slave mark. Fortunately, it was much less oppressive, and I was able to move.
“Men, attack!” the Prince ordered.
The only ones remaining were 3 elite guards and one adventurer. To their credit, they still bravely charged her. The adventurer was a Mage and kept his distance. Shao shot me a look, her body hunched over like she had received some horrific blow. She let out a scream and then through a whip of miasma. It was about to take out the closest elite guard. Suddenly, it was cut to shreds in midair, various wind blades slicing through where it had been.
“Master! Keep going, I’ll help!” Celeste declared. “Tempest!”
The guards broke their charge, backing up as Celeste began to use a powerful spell. A giant vortex spun around her, filled with innumerable wind blades. The men narrowly avoided getting swallowed by that maelstrom with Celeste at the center, but Shao wasn’t so lucky. She let out a shriek as her body fell into the whirlwind, moving for the first time since she had started her attack on the city.
Her screams and bellows could be heard as she was sliced over and over again by one of Celeste’s most powerful spells. Celeste herself floated to the top of the maelstrom and could be seen on top of it. Her face was white and she was panting. It was clear she was using every ounce of mana she had to extend the spell as long as it would go. As for the Demon Lord, it was unclear whether she was alive or dead within the tempest, but the damage she took was substantial.
Just as the men started to prepare attacks to finish her off once the tempest broke, a resounding scream exploded from the tempest. More dark miasma exploded out from the tempest and it started to flicker and weaken. It was almost like Shao had taken over her spell, turning the whirlwind of death into a maelstrom of dark miasma.
“Celeste! Run!” I yelled at her.
She abandoned the spell but had barely turned when a hand exploded from the black, rotating tempest below and grabbed her. She was in her small fairy size at the moment, and even though Shao’s hand was small, it was enough to grab Celeste’s entire body. She gave a gasp.
“Master!” She managed to get out those last words.
The hand pulled back down, dragging Celeste into the swirling darkness below.
“Eat this!” The mage adventurer cast a powerful fireball.
“No!” I cried out.
He ignored me, sending it flying into the tempest. Red seemed to mix with the black, creating a fiery tornado. Worst of all, Celeste was inside there, but it was hard to believe she was safe given the state of the spiral of death. His fireball seemed to have accomplished nothing but make it even more dangerous.
“You fool!” the Prince chastised him. “How is that helping?”
“Hmph! The prideful magician snorted. “Like this!”
He snapped his fingers, and suddenly the entire tempest exploded. His fireball must have contained some explosive property. When it was absorbed into the tempest, he was only waiting for it to spread out so that he could destroy the tempest and everything inside in a single motion. It was probably his most powerful spell.
Of course, I didn’t feel any joy as the tempest exploded. I felt horror at what he had done. Celeste was inside that tempest. When the explosion faded, Shao was still floating there. The mage’s initially proud face fell.
Shao’s clothing had been tattered to practically nothing. A great deal of her body was exposed to the point of indecency. There were numerous burns, and cuts, but none of it seemed to touch her skin. After everything that happened, she had somehow used the tempest and healed herself completely. It was almost like everything we had been fighting for was for naught.
Her hand held some charred ash, the only imperfection marking her skin. She lifted up her hand and blew the ash away. It caught in the wind and flew in a pattern that suddenly struck me as familiar. The ash that floated away. Was… was that Celeste?
Miasma erupted from her, but this time it came out like a spike, not a whip. It instantly impaled the magician. He still had a surprised and disbelieving look in his eyes as he died.
As for me, I was shaking. It was another blow to my heart and my mind. My body shook, and the rage overtook me.
“I order you-“ I screamed hoarsely. “Just die!”
The slave mark glowed and she made an irritated noise. It seemed to be causing her pain and discomfort. I no longer cared. Punish Slave. Cap Slave. Order Slave. I started using every ability I swore I wouldn’t to weaken her. Of course, I also inadvertently gave her Slave Status bonuses, but my mind wasn’t thinking about that at the moment. I had to be able to weaken her more than I helped her.
“Weaken!” Miki called out. “Confusion!”
She appeared next to me, immediately casting spells to weaken the Demon Lord. Lydia appeared on the other side. She was breathing hard and had a few cuts and bruises, but was otherwise alright. I immediately cast heal spells on both of them.
“Master…” Lydia said, her eyes rimmed with red. “We must defeat her. We have to work together. You can’t do this alone.”
“Even if we die, Master… we know you’ll bring us back!” Miki added. “Please… we must fight!”
I narrowed my eyes. They were right. I couldn’t fight over the past I could only march forward. I had to defeat her. I had to destroy the dungeon.
“Attack!” I gave the order.
With me concentrating on trying to cap her and cause her pain with orders, and Miki trying to weaken her, the Demon Lord retreated for the first time. The remaining three guards and the prince continued their attack, but it was truly Lydia who did the most. Although she wasn’t in her beast form, that was probably for the best. That form was far too destructive and didn’t have enough strategy.
“Die… all of you!” the Demon Lord shrieked, sending out dozens of miasma blades.
Lydia managed to cut them down and dodge them, while the Prince and remaining guards managed to keep any remaining ones from reaching Miki and me. I kept creating order after order, intending to confuse and disorientate her. Meanwhile, Miki launched attacks against her spirit, further pushing her back.
We finally had her cornered, and she was starting to grow damaged once again. Her body was looking more and more haggard, and her miasma attacks appeared more and more frantic. She could barely even defend herself. She started trying to protect her body now. With that, the Prince and the bodyguards surged forward. In an instant, she would be defeated. With four swords striking her at once, if it didn’t create a fatal blow, nothing would.
“Oh, no!” Miki suddenly gasped “Run!”
The Demon Lord’s eyes opened, their red glow piercing through the darkened, miasma-rich sky. It had been a trick from the beginning. She had been saving up to cast a very powerful spell with a long cast time. That was why she had pretended to be losing. A massive power exploded out from her. The power of a miasma tsunami exploded out. Those closest to her were hit the strongest.
“My lord!” One of the bodyguards grabbed a pendant around Prince Aberis and ripped it off.
His body disappeared and teleported 500 meters away. It was some kind of saving blink spell. However, the strike was still severe enough that he passed out. The other three guards disintegrated as they were carried away by the wave. As for Lydia, I watched as she two disintegrated. Her mouth was moving as she flew back, her eyes locked on me.
“I love…” The third word never formed as her head dissipated.
I let out a cry, realizing the wave was still spreading out. I had underestimated its strength. I immediately cast Armor on myself and Divine Aura. The wave hit the Divine Aura, shattering it instantly. My mind was still too shocked to think. I froze as the massive cloud approached. At the last second, Miki leaped in front of me.
The Miasma struck her first, and she flew back, her body hitting mine. As it spread over us, it felt like my flesh was being melted off. We were farther away, so the spell was weaker, but that only meant we weren’t instantly evaporated. Parts of her skin started to evaporate in the wave. Her eyes met mine, tears now flowing freely.
“Master… must… win…”
She grabbed my arm, I suddenly felt a surge of life flow into me. I gasped as I realized that her Spiritualist also had the Give Life ability. In essence, with her last breath, she was giving me every last ounce of breath. We struck the ground and the miasma passed by. The temporary surge of energy quickly ended. It was enough that I didn’t die, but the wounds across my body were innumerable. I could barely move.
With my last bit of energy, I reached down to grab Miki, only to realize she wasn’t there. She had given every ounce of her lifeforce, and even her body was gone now.
As for the Demon Lord, she floated back up into the air, her wounds already healing once again at an extremely fast rate. This was the true power of a Demon Lord. We never had a chance.
“This world… and everyone in it will die,” she said to herself.
I was the only one left to hear it.