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Edgar’s soul had been heavily damaged by Vandalieu during the battle in Alda’s Dungeon of Trials. Rodcorte, the God of Reincarnation, had been asked by Alda, the God of Law and Fate, to treat him. In doing so, he had used a part of the soul of the Demon King Guduranis.
As for why Rodcorte would do such a terrible thing – it was because the part of Guduranis’s soul that he had used wasn’t something that he considered to be a threat or danger at all.
They were the tiny, meaningless pieces that had been produced when Guduranis’s soul was broken into multiple fragments. It was best described as the Demon King Guduranis’s soul dust.
If a soul were metal or wood, this soul dust was the equivalent of the tiny metal scraps or sawdust created when cutting it. Naturally, this soul dust had no significant power, and Rodcorte had merely used it as an adhesive to close the wounds on Edgar’s soul.
As a result, Rodcorte’s treatment had been as successful as one would expect from an expert of souls. He had defied Edgar’s initial prognosis of being completely disabled or unable to continue to work as an adventurer. Not only that, but Edgar had been able to return to his activities as an adventurer very quickly.
After that, he had used fragments of the body of the Demon King Guduranis to serve as a body in which to reincarnate Rikudou Hijiri, who had become a demigod. He had transplanted Guduranis’s instinct and memories into Rikudou, then applied a curse so that he would not be able to break others’ souls.
Rikudou’s reincarnation in Lambda had also been successful.
But Alda, who had depended on Rodcorte’s expertise when it came to souls, and Rodcorte himself, had made an error. That error lay in the fact that although Rodcorte was proficient in handling ordinary souls – the souls of people, animals, and plants – he was not an expert when it came to the souls of beings that were different from ordinary creatures, such as Guduranis.
Rodcorte had believed that Guduranis’s memories would serve as nothing more than a supplement to Rikudou’s own experience and an aid in creating new death-attribute spells, but Guduranis’s thoughts and emotions from the past were engraved upon his memories in great detail, and these had not changed when Rikudou drew that information from the memories.
Rodcorte had believed that Guduranis’s instinct would simply improve Rikudou’s intuition in battle and act as the necessary lubricant to control his body that was made from Demon King fragments, but this instinct had slyly misled and manipulated Rikudou. It had done so in order to survive – not as Rikudou Hijiri’s instinct, but as the instinct of Guduranis.
And the greatest danger that Rodcorte had overlooked was the fact that the instinct and memories he had placed within Rikudou and the soul dust he had placed within Edgar could sense each other and work together. Although they had been a single soul to begin with, Rodcorte had never imagined that they would be able to communicate with each other after being separated and placed in different souls.
And so, Guduranis had succeeded in gathering Rikudou and Edgar on a single battlefield, unnoticed by both Rodcorte and Alda. Following that, after several failed attempts, he had succeeded in having Rikudou kill Edgar.
What is this? Edgar wondered. Something is escaping me… Me? Who am I? Edgar? Luke? Why is there a hole in my chest? … Ah, that’s right. I’m an adventurer, and today, I’m going to the Guild with Heinz, Delizah, Riley, and Martina…
The soul dust that sealed the wounds in Edgar’s soul seeped out as it was absorbed by Rikudou. All that was left was Edgar’s heavily wounded soul and the fragments of the soul of the heroic spirit Luke.
That, along with the fact that Edgar’s body was approaching death, rapidly clouded his consciousness.
[They are coming back! My will, my emotions, my thoughts! They are faint, but they have returned!] thought Guduranis’s memories and instinct, which had absorbed the soul dust and fused into one, as it trembled in joy.
The soul dust was indeed little more than debris created in the process of cutting Guduranis’s soul into multiple fragments. But that debris had once belonged to the various parts of his soul… his will, his emotions, his thoughts, and other parts as well.
As Rodcorte believed, the soul dust had no power on its own… At most, it had slightly strengthened Edgar and affected his personality. But by fusing with other fragments of Guduranis’s soul, the powdered pieces had regained the functions of the missing parts.
It was still far from sufficient to return the soul to its original state. However, there was someone available to use to make up for that.
“W-wh… a-a-a-a-aat–” Rikudou stuttered.
What is this?! What is happening?! he thought, utterly bewildered.
His body was moving on its own, and he couldn’t speak properly. His emotions were a jumbled mess; his mind was filled with a powerful nausea, an ominous sense of exhilaration, and a horrifying sense of loss, as if his body were falling to pieces from one end to the other.
“–IS THIIIIIIIIS?!” he screamed.
M-my body… My body is far away?!
His senses were separated from his body. His vision receded into the distance, as if it were footage being played on a screen that he was moving further and further away from.
What is the meaning of this?! Didn’t I acquire the power of the Demon King Guduranis?! And I was supposed to become the only god of this world–
[That’s right! You acquired my power, and you shall become the most powerful god, the only one who stands at the apex of this world!] said a voice that, in contrast to the senses of his body that were fading into the distance, echoed louder than ever before.
This voice, don’t tell me–?!
Rikudou knew this voice. It was the voice that had awakened during his battle against Vandalieu, the voice that he thought – or rather, mistakenly assumed – that his reason had kept completely suppressed.
Don’t tell me! You’re Guduranis! Impossible, how can this be! I’m sure I was in complete control over the fragments of Guduranis’s soul!
[Indeed, I was controlled by you.. or rather, I pretended to be.]
What?! That can’t be! There is no way a primitive instinct could do such a cunning thing in the absence of thought and reason!
[And why do you think that? There are countless examples in the world you were born in, examples of creatures that are clever and possess the knowledge to survive despite being very primitive, are there not? For example, those that fake their own deaths before their predators. And my memories were also embedded into your soul. What is so surprising about me taking an action that I took in the distant past, and was recorded in my memories?]
Rikudou felt a chill as he listened to Guduranis, but he understood this explanation. Up until this point, he had assumed that all fragments of the Demon King were incapable of anything other than rampaging out of control, based on what Rodcorte had told him about them. He had believed that this was because they could not possess anything resembling intelligence, with the exception of fragments such as Guduranis’s thoughts and his intelligence.
He hadn’t even thought of the possibility of the fragment that was Guduranis’s instinct rampaging out of control but doing so in a way that it would go unnoticed… Staying quiet and still, pretending to be dead.
Y-you used me! Rikudou realized.
Guduranis’s voice laughed loudly. [You are the definition of the word ‘shameless!’ You and Rodcorte are the ones who tried to use my soul and body, are you not! If you are going to resent anyone, resent yourself for lacking the power to suppress me, and Rodcorte for being so naïve!]
D-damn you! Don’t think you can just continue your resurrection like this! I’ll definitely regain control over my body!
Despite feeling despair slithering up into his mind, Rikudou was wracking his brain and groping around for some way to wrest control of his body back from Guduranis.
So what if you regained those fine pieces of your soul that were embedded in Edgar’s soul?! Did you think that adding that dust would allow you to take complete control over my body and seal me away?!
Rikudou believed that this was a despairing situation, but also that he had not yet been checkmated. He believed this because he was under the impression that Guduranis had only taken over his body.
His belief that Guduranis was merely infesting him like a parasite, and that he was still the master of his body, was still unshaken.
[Regain control over your body, you say?] Guduranis chuckled. [What are you saying? Could it be that you have yet to realize where my voice is coming from?]
What do you… Don’t tell me–?!
A devastating chill washed over Rikudou as he looked around, trying to figure out where Guduranis’s unpleasant laughter was coming from.
And then he realized it. The laughter was coming from somewhere very close… from directly behind him – No, from the back of Rikudou’s own head.
Impossible! This can’t be! I’m being absorbed – my soul is being assimilated and absorbed?!
[Indeed it is, Rikudou… Or I should say, me!]
Guduranis’s face was on the back of Rikudou’s head. But the moment Rikudou realized this, he realized that even that realization was wrong, and he had been mistaken this entire time.
It can’t be?! What is the meaning of this?!
Rikudou turned his eyeballs downwards and looked down at himself, only to see his own back. It wasn’t Guduranis’s face that was on the back of his head – it was his own.
Impossible! It should be impossible for you to devour and absorb souls! And Rodcorte’s curse should still be functioning!
[Indeed! You are precisely correct! Even before my defeat at the hands of Bellwood and his allies, I was able to break souls, but I was never able to devour them! And now, I am bound by this troublesome curse! Neither I nor the accursed Vandalieu are able to remove curses that are applied to a soul that has not yet regained its power!] Guduranis admitted. [But that is not true for your soul, Rikudou Hijiri! I have not broken or devoured your soul. At least, not by my doing!]
And then Rikudou realized the reason behind everything.
Rod… corte… RODCORTEEEE!
The Demon King Guduranis’s instinct and memories had been embedded into Rikudou Hijiri’s soul by Rodcorte. Embedded, so that Guduranis’s instinct and memories would be of aid to Rikudou… so that they would be one with him.
That was why Guduranis could manipulate Rikudou’s soul, despite being under the effect of Rodcorte’s curse. After all, Guduranis and Rikudou were the same soul.
If he were only infesting Rikudou, like one of his body fragments might do to a host human, then this would likely not have been the case.
[Indeed! Thanks to Rodcorte, the expert of souls, you have been granted the honor of becoming one with me! But since you were also trying to use me, I think you are just as responsible as he is, don’t you?]
I, I am a god! I have become a god…!
[Yes, you are a god! Your soul is not the soul of a feeble human, but the soul of a god, one that can withstand functioning as a part of me! Your wisdom, your knowledge, your reason – these connect the fragments of my soul together!]
I WILL NEVER ACCEPT THAAAAT! Guduranis, I, I will never be a stepping stone for you!
Rikudou opposed Guduranis with all of his strength, trying to regain control over his soul. Using what he had managed to learn about fighting using his soul in the short amount of time that had passed, he attempted to resist Guduranis.
In response to Rikudou’s resistance, Guduranis yielded much ground. Rikudou felt a huge wave of relief as he immediately regained the majority of the control over his soul.
I did– he began to think triumphantly, but a moment later, he screamed in agony.
Vandalieu’s ‘Death Cannon’ and ‘Hollow Cannon,’ with the effects of his ‘God Devourer’ Skill, exploded violently against the parts of Rikudou’s body that his soul had returned to.
Vandalieu had no idea what kind of state Rikudou’s soul was in right now, but he had attacked after seeing Rikudou spasming ominously.
Guduranis’s laughter that followed was deafening. [Thanks to that, it’s become even easier for me to absorb you! Rikudou Hijiri, allow me to thank you in the same way you thanked those you betrayed and used! Thank you, my stepping stone! Thank you for putting me in such a pleasant mood!]
With his thoughts barely functioning, Guduranis’s taunting voice was the last thing Rikudou heard… and then he became a part of Guduranis.
And then, Guduranis’s consciousness returned to the outside world.
“I-I– IIIIIIIIII AAAAAAAM! R-RESURRECTED! Resurrection has come at last! I am the Demon King Guduranis!” he declared loudly, shouting his own name – the name that, before he was sealed away, the gods and the people of this world had screamed in fear and despair.
The sky was disgustingly blue and clear, and the tepid air of early summer felt unpleasant against his skin. But even so, he felt exhilarated. There was a woman with Vida descended upon her, and Heinz, one of Edgar’s companions, was staring in disbelief. The sight of them raised Guduranis’s spirits even higher.
Guduranis gave a triumphant laugh. “This is truly–”
“Fire,” said Vandalieu, interrupting him.
Blood, brain matter, flesh, and bone splattered across Guduranis’s face.
Edgar had been hanging limp, with his chest impaled by Guduranis’s arm, and a projectile made of fragments of the Demon King had blown his head off.
“E-EDGAR!” Heinz and his companions cried tragically once more.
“… Are you satisfied at being able to finish him off? Did you really want to kill a soulless body that would have become a corpse in ten more seconds that badly?” said Guduranis as he calmly wiped away Edgar’s flesh, blood, and brain matter, radiating a terrifying killing intent.
Still pointing his weapon’s barrel at him, Vandalieu nodded. “Yes. It was something worth prioritizing, even over an attempt at a surprise attack that might not even work against you. But what do you mean when you say that he had no soul? I don’t see his spirit… Did you break it?”
Vandalieu had blown off the head of the dying Edgar, but he had been unable to devour his soul.
“I did not break his soul. After I absorbed the fine fragments of my own soul from him, he was taken into my soul. Just like Rikudou,” Guduranis replied.
“I see… As always, Rodcorte only ever does troublesome things,” said Vandalieu.
He didn’t know anything detailed about what had happened to Edgar and Rikudou, or what Rodcorte had done to them. But he came to the conclusion that a part of Guduranis had been implanted not only in Rikudou, but in Edgar as well, and Rikudou killing Edgar had caused Guduranis to resurrect for some reason.
In other words, it was Rodcorte’s fault.
However, the Five-colored Blades were likely to think differently. Vandalieu knew that at the very least, they would consider him to be the reason Edgar died. After all, even though Rodcorte was the one who had done something to Edgar, the only reason he had done so was because Vandalieu had wounded Edgar so heavily in Alda’s Dungeon of Trials that he had been on the verge of becoming completely disabled.
Thus, he didn’t care if Heinz and his companions glared at him or blamed him, but it seemed that they weren’t thinking that way. Their focus was on Guduranis. It wasn’t clear what they were thinking, but it seemed that they were prioritizing Guduranis over Vandalieu.
With that being the case, there isn’t any reason to prioritize killing them over Guduranis. It can’t be helped; I’ll leave them for later. And Guduranis is also an enemy of Vida and the others, and the one who killed the me of the distant past, too.
He gave up on prioritizing Heinz and his companions, and directed his focus towards Guduranis once more.
“So, it seems that you have been resurrected. Is that your original form?” Vandalieu asked.
Guduranis was still in the form of a grotesque black humanoid, but there was a sharper look in his eye than when this body was still Rikudou, and his mouth had torn open wider to stretch from ear to ear; his face looked much more fiendish.
But this appearance was far different from any description of the Demon King Guduranis in mythology.
“It most certainly is not. Unlike you, I do not place any value in a certain form, so I simply saw no reason to change my form drastically,” Guduranis said. “And it revolts me that you would ask me that, when you have stolen numerous fragments of my body and toyed with them while I was sealed away.”
Indeed, Guduranis’s current form seemed to be different from his true form. His form hadn’t changed significantly from the body that Rikudou had, perhaps because his body’s fragments were incomplete, or perhaps it was simply because there was no meaning in transforming.
“Great Vandalieu, Guduranis does not have a fixed form. He is able to transform to whatever form is most convenient at the time,” said Gufadgarn.
“When leading his army, Guduranis faced us with horns like a crown, sharp fangs, a body covered in a hard shell and scales, and membranous wings like a cloak on his back. But during battle, he would change forms and constantly change how many arms, legs, and even heads he had,” said Vida.
“In hindsight, I think the former is a form that he created to make it clear to the people and gods of this world that he’s the Demon King, to intimidate them and strike fear into their hearts,” said one of the heads of Fidirg, who resided in the Staff of Five Sins that was now trembling.
“He never took such a simple, Demon-King-like form before we came to this world, as far as I am aware,” said another head.
“It’s a form that he decided upon after coming to this world and capturing some of the humans that were living on what is now called the Demon King’s continent, and questioning them,” said a third head.
Vandalieu nodded in understanding.
It seemed that Guduranis had no attachment to any particular form, and changed forms based on the situation and what he needed.
“Well, your appearance is relatively unimportant. More importantly, it seems that you’ve been resurrected, but what do you plan to do now? Will you carry out Rikudou Hijiri’s desire to continue fighting us to the death?” Vandalieu asked Guduranis.
“… The way you say that makes it seem as if, depending on my intentions, you do not intend to fight me?” said Guduranis.
“I’m just checking to be sure. You have various options available, such as going back to the world you came from or abandoning that body to be reincarnated as a human.”
Guduranis was a mortal enemy of Vida and the other gods, but Vandalieu still wanted to confirm his intentions… It was likely that to Vida, Alda was currently more of an enemy than Guduranis, and Vandalieu didn’t have any direct hatred for the Demon King, either.
“Wha–?! Have you gone mad?! Do you intend to let the Demon King go free?!” Heinz shouted incredulously.
“‘Just checking?!’” said Jennifer, repeating what Vandalieu had said. “Do you really think he’s just going to turn around and say, ‘I’m satisfied with just being resurrected, let’s stop fighting’?!”
“The killing intent that he is radiating is clearly being directed at you! Have you not noticed?!” said Diana.
But Vandalieu didn’t give them so much as a glance.
“Silence, fools of the Five-colored Blades! Vandalieu-sama is deep in thought!” Isla said to them angrily.
“Really? I think he was just checking, like he said. Right, Luves?” said Pauvina.
“I’m just air, I’m just air, I’m just air…” Luvesfol repeated to himself over and over.
Indeed, Pauvina was correct. Vandalieu was not thinking deeply about anything.
He was thinking about buying even a few more seconds so that Sam and the others could complete their rescue operations, but that was about it.
“Hmm… Indeed. I have acquired Rikudou Hijiri’s knowledge and wisdom, and I find myself in completely different circumstances from when I was defeated by Bellwood and his allies. There are a number of options open to me,” said Guduranis, taking another look at those who were surrounding him – Vandalieu, Vandalieu’s companions, and Heinz’s party.
He raised a hand and began counting his options on his fingers.
“I could finish what Rikudou Hijiri began and fulfill his deal with Rodcorte by ending your wretched life and killing every living thing in that eyesore of an empire of yours, as well as the traitors who wag their tails for you. But that is not particularly appealing,” Guduranis said. “After all, Rodcorte is also one of the gods who dared try to use me.”
This was the first time Vandalieu and his companions learned that Rodcorte wished to not only end Vandalieu’s life, but also destroy the entirety of the Demon Empire of Vidal.
“… It seems we have no choice but to destroy that guy after all,” said Vandalieu with renewed resolve.
Darcia, Isla and the others nodded.
Meanwhile, Guduranis bent a second finger. “Reuniting the remnants of my army right now to reignite the battle that I was defeated in a hundred thousand years ago would be utterly foolish,” he said, ruling out this option. “I have no use for feeble traitors who advocate for the resurrection of the Demon King to the inferior creatures that worship them, while not truly desiring my resurrection.”
Heinz and his companions stared at Guduranis suspiciously, unable to tell if he was being serious.
“And yet, I cannot return to the world that I originally came from. That world was already on the verge of destruction when I left it a hundred thousand years ago; it is highly likely that it no longer exists,” Guduranis continued, not looking at all saddened as he ruled out the possibility of returning to his home world.
He had likely abandoned that world a hundred thousand years ago precisely because he had no attachment to it.
“Submitting to filth like you and joining the ranks of your subordinates… is not possible. I am able to freely use the brain of Rikudou Hijiri, now that I have acquired it from him, but no matter how much I use it to consider the idea, I do not see any possibility that you and I could co-exist,” he said ruling out the possibility of him joining Vandalieu.
Like many of the evil gods that were the remnants of the Demon King’s army, Guduranis’s sense of values and the environment that he preferred was far too different from those of the people of this world.
That was why he was able to unhesitatingly create monsters and Devil’s Nests that spawned monsters in this world.
Guduranis bent his fifth and last finger. “Then I could leave this continent, pick some worthless uninhabited island and spend my time holed up there, and you could say that this would be the least risky choice. My resurrection was only possible due to fortunate circumstances – Rodcorte’s arrogance and negligence, and the numerous conflicts between Vida and Alda. I could choose this option to plot my complete resurrection and my vengeance, while avoiding the risk of fighting against you vermin.”
The presence of a tremendous Mana was emanating from Guduranis even as he spoke, but this Mana was still not as great as it would have been if he had all fragments of his soul and body. The army that had once served him and the monsters that were his pawns were not here, and he was surrounded by enemies. Before his very eyes was Vandalieu, a foe who was capable of breaking and devouring souls.
Avoiding a battle here would be a pragmatic decision.
But to begin with, Guduranis was not the kind of being to make pragmatic decisions.
“That is why I shall slaughter all of you, right here!” he roared.
With all five fingers now bent to form a fist, he enveloped it with death-attribute magic, then severed it and threw it towards Vandalieu.
“That’s what I… thought?” said Vandalieu as he stopped the black fist with his claws, a little confused at the fact that it contained more power than he had thought. “You were clearly expressing malice towards me, and your killing intent was only growing stronger.”
“Ridiculous! You intended to destroy me in the end, no matter what my answer was!” said Guduranis as a new wrist and hand grew on his severed arm.
He produced noses of the Demon King all over his body and fired air cannons of deadly poison at his surroundings.
“Of course we did. If we were to let you go here and give you time, you’d just gather monsters and attack us,” said Darcia as she destroyed the air cannon attacks with her own offensive spells.
“Precisely!” said Guduranis. “But no matter how I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that by the time I finished preparing, you would have more forces!”
“Despite ridiculing us so much, you’re just doing the same thing as Rikudou, aren’t you!” said Kanako, casting a water-attribute spell.
“Did you think I would change?!” Guduranis shouted as he nullified her spell with a single swing of his arm. “I will kill you vermin and reclaim the fragments of my body from Vandalieu’s corpse! Then, I will reclaim the rest of my soul from Alda and Rodcorte!”
Heinz gave a spirited yell as he charged in behind Kanako’s spell, his holy sword raised. “Release Edgar’s soul, right now! ‘Instantaneous Radiant Holy Slash!’”
His sword moved faster than it had been when he fought against Vandalieu as he tried to cut through Guduranis with a sweeping attack aimed at the side of his torso.
But Guduranis, who had seen through this attack, gave a derisive laugh. “Do you not understand? I have absorbed Edgar’s soul! Your movements are incredibly obvious to me!”
A moment later, Guduranis’s eyes glanced elsewhere. He became aware that there was someone other than Heinz and his party who could not exactly be described as an ally of Vandalieu.
“How about my movements, then? ‘Hundred Severing Air Flashes,’” said Randolf.
A countless number of sword attacks flew through the sky, and although they struck Guduranis’s body, they seemed ineffective; they did not stop his movements at all.
“You lowly mortal! You are not even a champion! Do you think your sword would be effective against me?” Guduranis said. “Now then! Allow me to undo that seal!”
From an arm that protruded from his back, he fired a black beam of light. Its target screamed, unable to avoid it.
As the black beam of light shone on him, Luvesfol groaned in agony for a moment, but quickly stopped. “Gaaah… ah? M-my seal, it’s… coming undone?!” he said in disbelief.
“Luves!?” Pauvina exclaimed.
Pain gave an alarmed squeak as well.
Luvesfol’s body, which had been that of an enormous Wyvern, swelled up and changed shape at a tremendous speed.
The resulting form was a long, snakelike body, a head resembling an alligator’s, legs that were short but had deadly sharp claws, a tail with fins, and membranous wings. This was an Elder Dragon of the water and earth attributes – Luvesfol, the Raging Evil Dragon God… though he was in a pitiful state, with his body still not having fully recovered from the wounds inflicted upon it by Vandalieu and the members of the Storm of Tyranny before it was sealed away.
“A-ah, my true form, my true body…?!” Luvesfol gasped.
“Come, Luvesfol. Unleash the anger and hatred that was sealed away! Depending on how well you serve me, I may allow you to join my army once more!” said Guduranis gleefully.
He had taken notice of Luvesfol, who had been sealed in the form of a Wyvern, and guessed that he did not sincerely serve Vandalieu.
Luvesfol had betrayed the gods of this world once to serve Guduranis, and Guduranis believed that he would do it again. Once a traitor, always a traitor.
“… It doesn’t even need to be said!” said Luvesfol, his eyes filled with rage as he inhaled deeply in preparation for a Breath attack.
He would unleash not the Breath attack of a Dragon, but one of a true Elder Dragon, an attack that he had been incapable of performing while sealed away. He concentrated a tremendous quantity of power into his attack, and despite his wounds, it would be capable of destroying a castle or even an entire city.
“Luves!” said Pauvina, calling out Luvesfol’s nickname and pointing at Guduranis. “Get him!”
“As you command! DIE, SHITTY DEMON KIIIING!” Luvesfol bellowed, unleashing his wrath upon Guduranis.
“W-What?!” Guduranis uttered in shock as he immediately cast a spell to conjure a shield to block the Breath attack.
But that shield was broken by a ‘Black Lightning’ spell cast by Vandalieu.
“Y-you bastard!” Guduranis shouted.
A moment later, having been caught by surprise over and over, Guduranis screamed as he disappeared into the violent torrent of Luvesfol’s attack.