The sponsors are Rashid A. ($8), Johari N. ($2), Alexander T. ($10), Jeffery M. ($10), Wesley S. ($20), Fabian O. ($5), Hjalte A. ($25), John M. ($20), Trevor G. ($50), Emir Z. ($50) [Extra length]
The grotesque form that Vandalieu had transformed into… It had the silhouette of a human, but the black skin that reflected no light had tumors and tubes with unknown function on its surface, and there were large eyes and mouths placed haphazardly on it as well.
It was far too bizarre, even when compared to the most grotesque monsters. Heinz and his companions’ brains froze, as if to prevent them from acknowledging what they were seeing.
Thus, they were one step late in reacting to Vandalieu leaping towards them. With a swift movement that left no openings, unimaginable for a being with such a strange form, he threw a fist in Heinz’s direction.
There was a dull thud.
“What are you spacing out for?! This guy has always been our enemy from the very beginning! Hurry up and get ready to fight!” shouted Delizah, who had blocked Vandalieu’s fist with her Orichalcum shield.
She had not participated much in the previous conversation; she had been keeping an eye on the situation so that she would be ready to act whenever Vandalieu made his move.
“Y-yeah, you’re right!” said Heinz, coming to his senses and raising his sword.
“Sorry!” said Edgar, getting ready for battle.
The party had been exhausted after fighting the copies of Vandalieu’s allies, but thanks to the conversation that had just taken place, they’d had time to drink Potions to completely heal their wounds and recover their strength.
However, Vandalieu had started that conversation knowing that this would be the case.
The mouths that were scattered all over the surface of his body simultaneously opened to let out a brain-piercing scream. It was Vandalieu’s Scream Skill, loaded with the effects of Mental Encroachment.
Edgar groaned and covered his ears. “Status Effect Resistance doesn’t block this?!”
“He’s simply attacking our minds with his scream! It’s not a Status Effect!” said Heinz, having been stopped in his tracks.
But Delizah was the one closest to Vandalieu; she was the one affected by the scream the most. She let out a pained groan and staggered.
With the opening given to him, Vandalieu aimed a kick towards her.
“Mill, grant peace to our minds. Mind Protection!” recited Diana, praying to Mill, the goddess of slumber, for her protection.
At the same time, she strengthened the party’s mental defenses with a life-attribute spell.
Heinz, Edgar and Jennifer recovered from the mental attack of Vandalieu’s Scream and unleashed attacks of their own.
“… Instant Shining Slash!”
“Shining Thunder Fist!”
Vandalieu blocked one attack with his arm, another with his knee and avoided the third. Releasing a few Death Bullets to keep Heinz and his companions back, he fell back and put some distance between himself and his foes.
But he hadn’t gotten away unscathed; several wounds had appeared on his black body. The wounds themselves disappeared quickly, but Vandalieu’s movements had given Heinz’s party a lot of information.
His appearance is strange, and his spells are bizarre as well, but… his movements themselves are nothing spectacular? thought Heinz.
His physical abilities are not poor. They’re equivalent to an A-class adventurer; in other words, they’re not much different from ours. But we still have Heroic Spirit Descent. And his speed is worse than mine, never mind that head-hunting demon, thought Edgar.
His technique isn’t anything special… Mine is better, thought Jennifer.
He’s strong, but not as strong as that Undead Titan, thought Delizah.
Vandalieu’s Attribute Values were not much different from those of Heinz and his companions except for his Mana. In fact, his Agility was lower than theirs.
On top of that, his Unarmed Fighting Technique had only just awakened into Soul Destruction Fighting Technique a few moments ago. It was far inferior to the Skills of Heinz and Edgar, never mind Jennifer who’d possessed a superior Unarmed Fighting Technique Skill for a long time already.
And for some reason, he was currently not using the fragments of the Demon King.
In other words, putting together all of these facts, Vandalieu was not an undefeatable foe. In this five-on-one situation, Heinz and his party could definitely defeat him.
“If that’s all you have, maybe you should have just come at us with the other fakes rather than use them to buy time, Emperor-san,” Edgar taunted as he looked for an opening.
The party had decided that it was possible to defeat him, but they could not decide on a method to do so.
He said that’s his soul, but what does that mean? Does it mean that this form is his ‘soul,’ and we should destroy the body on the inside? Or should we be thoroughly destroying the outside layer? Edgar wondered, carefully thinking the situation through despite smiling arrogantly on the outside.
But before he could find an opening or an answer to his own questions, Vandalieu responded.
“Those were elaborate copies of my allies, but they were being controlled by a god. With that being the case, it was possible that they would have attacked me rather than you,” said Vandalieu. “It was convenient that you defeated them for me. I saved myself the pain of having to kill them, even if they were fakes.”
His words sounded very calm. His voice was so steady that it was hard to believe that it was coming from the grotesque being before Heinz and his party.
“Now that’s not why I’m asking this, but I’ll just make sure… You won’t commit suicide?” Vandalieu asked, looking at Jennifer.
“W-what are you saying?! Of course we won’t!” Jennifer shouted.
“I see… That’s a pity. I definitely wanted you and Diana back there to do so,” said Vandalieu.
“Cut your crap! Why would we do –”
“Jennifer, he is confirming whether we’re going to run away or not,” said Heinz. “This is a special place, after all.”
Indeed, this was a Dungeon in which Heinz and his companions could be resurrected in the ‘town’ no matter how many times they died. If they killed themselves right now, they could escape to the ‘town.’
“But why are you asking this? You want to kill us, don’t you? What do you intend to do if we really did kill ourselves?” Heinz asked Vandalieu, thinking that perhaps Vandalieu intended on killing them after they were resurrected, but then he realized that the god who managed this Dungeon would certainly seal the stairways between the floors.
However, he could not have predicted Vandalieu’s response.
“If you all commit suicide, I will destroy this Dungeon.”
Destroying a Dungeon, which could be purified or sealed away, but was not considered to be destructible.
That was possible for Vandalieu.
It would be problematic if Heinz and the others became stronger than they were now, and… Vandalieu was displeased with the god who managed this Dungeon.
Thus, if Heinz and his companions were to flee the battle, Vandalieu intended to fire his Hollow Cannon until he ran out of Mana or the Dungeon collapsed, whichever happened first.
“Destroy the Dungeon?!” Jennifer exclaimed. “There’s no way you can… no, maybe this guy can do it?!”
“Jennifer, please calm yourself. I do not know if he really can do it, but… as long as there is the smallest possibility that he can, then we cannot flee,” said Diana.
The objective of Heinz’s party was to overcome this Dungeon’s trial, become Bellwood’s successors and question the gods directly.
They could not let this chance escape them.
And even if it were possible to escape this Dungeon… Vandalieu would be waiting for them somewhere in the outside world, and they would face each other once more.
They needed to become stronger than they were now. They could not run from Vandalieu here.
“So, you confirmed whether we had any intention to kill ourselves and retreat, but you already had our way out sealed. I’m surprised; you’re calmer than you look,” said Edgar, giving a bitter smile, reaching behind his back and activating a Magic Item that continuously replenished his Stamina.
He understood that he and his companions were left with no choice but to defeat Vandalieu here.
But Vandalieu’s next change was far less subtle than Edgar’s.
“Calm?” Vandalieu murmured. “Me… Calm… Soul optimization.”
In the next moment, Vandalieu’s appearance changed once more. His previously flat, featureless, humanoid silhouette transformed into what resembled a full-body suit of metal armor, with dark, ominous red lines appearing all over the surface of his body.
Edgar clicked his tongue. “So, you still weren’t giving us everything you have –” he began.
“Screw Bullet, Rapid Response, Hundred Furious Overarm Blows.”
Edgar stopped mid-sentence and hastily deflected the Demon King’s horns that had been fired towards him. Using the opening that had been created, Vandalieu used the Armor Technique martial skill to improve his reaction time and charged at Heinz, unleashing a series of overarm blows.
In his mind, he was cursing Edgar and the rest of his enemies for daring to assume that he was calm.
There was no way that he could be calm; he was here, fighting against Heinz and his companions. He no longer had the ability to make decisions in a calm fashion.
Vandalieu remembered his previous dreams, where Heinz and his companions had been clearing the 50th floor. He now realized that these dreams had been real, and they had happened here in this Dungeon.
Here, Heinz and his companions would be resurrected somewhere no matter how they died, and they would keep all of their memories and experiences leading up to their deaths. But they weren’t actually being brought back to life. Vandalieu didn’t know how exactly this was done, but this was the reality.
Thus, even if he was able to kill the entire party, they would be resurrected as they had been before, with the knowledge of how they fared against him in battle.
That’s why I need to destroy their souls.
Since there was no use in destroying their bodies, he had to destroy their souls. If he failed to do that, then even if he were to win the battle, he would be accomplishing nothing but gifting them information about himself.
But would Vandalieu be able to destroy their souls in his current state, while they were capable of being resurrected endlessly? He didn’t know the answer to that. He instinctively felt that he could, but there was no guarantee or proof that this was the case.
On top of that, the circumstances of this battle heavily disfavored him. He was one against five… There were no spirits nearby that he could create Golems with, nor could he borrow the aid of Princess Levia and the other dead spirits, nor could he summon Eisen and Kühl who were normally equipped inside his body, nor could he hear Gufadgarn’s voice.
“Shit, he’s suddenly lost it!” Edgar cursed, continuing to repel the Demon King’s horns.
Heinz grunted as he deflected Vandalieu’s overarm blows with his blue, flaming sword.
Delizah moved beside Heinz to try and protect him, while Jennifer and Diana sprang into action to support him as well.
“Twisting Bullet… Fire,” Vandalieu muttered, unleashing a Demon King Artillery Technique martial skill that used the blood vessels protruding from his back as gun barrels.
The party had already faced Vandalieu’s Artillery Technique on the 50th floor; Jennifer immediately retreated to the safety of Delizah’s shield.
“‘Suddenly’ you say,” Vandalieu whispered incredulously.
He was gambling on the chance that he would be able to destroy his enemies’ souls.
He didn’t even know if he could win this battle. He had watched how Heinz and his companions fought while they were dealing with the copies of Borkus and the others, but there was only one other thing that was advantageous for him in this situation.
If Vandalieu were calm, he would likely have killed himself the moment the other copies were destroyed. After all, he was aware that his real body would suffer no effects even if this fake body were to die.
But he had not done that; he had awakened the Soul Destruction Fighting Technique and made himself capable of fighting with his own original Attribute Values. He was certainly not calm anymore.
“I have always been thinking of nothing but destroying you three!” Vandalieu shouted.
“Three? Don’t go ignoring us!” Jennifer shouted back, leaping backwards from behind Delizah’s shield.
She had already activated her Super Rapid Response martial skill and her Transcend Limits Skill, and Diana’s Enhanced Agility enchantment had already been placed on her.
“The Five-colored Blades is a five-man party! Shining Flying Slicing Kick!”
Having read the projectiles’ trajectories from the angles of the tubes, she unleashed a crescent-shaped slashing kick.
Seemingly unwilling to take a direct hit from this attack, Vandalieu produced the Demon King’s carapace on his arm and activated a Shield Technique martial skill. However, Edgar and Heinz saw this as an opening and made their move.
“Hundred Slashes!” Edgar roared. “Even with the Demon King’s fragments, don’t think you can withstand this with a martial skill like Iron Wall!”
“That’s right!” Heinz shouted.
A crack appeared on the carapace of the arm that Vandalieu was using as a shield, straight through the Demon King’s carapace, as Jennifer’s slashing attacks and Edgar’s dagger repeatedly struck it.
“Furious Shining Instant Slash!” Heinz roared, and his shining blade crashed down into the same spot that Jennifer and Edgar had been attacking, shattering the entire carapace to pieces.
“Impact-negating Barrier, Magic Absorption Barrier,” Vandalieu muttered, raising his protective barriers as he stumbled backwards.
These barriers were supposed to be able to block even the martial skills and spells of Heinz’s party.
But Heinz had faced Vandalieu’s spells on the 50th floor… around ten times, experiencing a temporary death each time.
“Those barriers won’t work anymore! Radiant Life Blade!” Heinz shouted, casting a spell that he had developed using those experiences.
It was a spell that imbued his sword with the power of both the light and life attributes.
He did not know that Vandalieu’s spells were of the death attribute, but he had instinctively realized that a combination of the life and light attributes formed the opposite attribute to the death attribute – despite the fact that even Bellwood, a champion who had fought the Demon King Guduranis on multiple occasions, had never discovered this.
With his two barriers cut down with ease, Vandalieu immediately raised his left arm to protect himself. As a result, his torso remained unharmed, but his arm was severed just below the elbow, sending his dismembered forearm spinning into the air.
Vandalieu clutched his severed arm with his opposite hand and threw his head back, screaming into the air.
“Heh, your belly’s wide open!” Jennifer said with a smirk, closing in to land a follow-up attack on Vandalieu’s exposed torso and end the battle right here.
“Wait, it’s a trap!” Delizah shouted.
“Sharp Screw Tongue, Severing Mouth Sphere.”
“What – GAH!” Jennifer screamed, blood gushing from her mouth as she was impaled by the slippery, twisting tongues, the tubular organs and proboscises that had protruded from Vandalieu’s body.
“Jennifer?!” shouted Edgar.
“Wait, I’m coming!” said Heinz as he and Edgar tried to rush to help her.
But spider-like legs sprouted from Vandalieu’s back, keeping them from coming close.
“No way… A trap…” Jennifer groaned.
“I thought it was quite forced, but it seems that my acting skills aren’t so hopeless after all,” Vandalieu remarked.
He had used the Scream Skill and deliberately left an opening. Now, with his tongue piercing Jennifer’s heart and his proboscis buried in her stomach, he tried to suck her blood, but he couldn’t. Or rather, he could, but he could not taste anything, nor did it recover his Mana.
Maybe it’s because we’re both in fake bodies. In that case, I have no more use for her, Vandalieu thought.
He regrew his left arm, curled his hand into a fist and transformed it into a tumor of the Demon King as he raised it into the air.
“Damn it, he’s even regenerating… So quickly, too…” Jennifer gasped.
“Jennifer!” Heinz shouted.
“Heavy Fist,” Vandalieu murmured.
His left fist, which had now transformed into a blunt weapon covered in sharp spikes, crushed Jennifer’s head. Before the fragments of her skull could even hit the ground, her body turned into dust and disappeared.
Heinz and Edgar were fighting against Vandalieu’s eight skillfully-controlled jointed legs, but upon Jennifer’s death, their attacks became fiercer.
“Jennifer should be back at the ‘town!’ Both of you, please fall back for now!” Diana warned them.
“Alr –” Heinz began.
“I know that, but if we fall back over every little thing, we’ll always be fighting at this guy’s pace!” shouted Edgar, continuing his attacks. “Spiral Sonic Blow!”
Vandalieu exploited weaknesses and often employed surprise tactics; it seemed that Edgar had decided it was best to defeat him with brute force right here, right now.
It was difficult to say that Edgar’s decision was incorrect. In fact, Vandalieu also wanted to put some distance between himself and his foes for now.
But I suppose I’ll give them a warm welcome, Vandalieu thought.
With two of his eight joined legs having been severed by Edgar, Vandalieu used the sharp ends of the remaining six legs to try and cut Edgar down.
“Hah, you’re too slow!” said Edgar.
Edgar had been saving his Transcend Limits and Transcend Limits: Magic Sword Skills; he activated them now and cut down Vandalieu’s jointed legs with his Orichalcum dagger one after another.
Vandalieu threw the blunt weapon that was his left fist at Edgar, but he was interrupted by Heinz.
“Flying Slash, Radiant Life Blade!” Heinz shouted, unleashing a slashing attack that flew towards Vandalieu while also enchanting Edgar’s dagger with anti-death-attribute properties.
“It cannot be helped! Strengthen All Attribute Values!” cried Diana, giving Edgar another enchantment.
Heinz’s slashing attack landed directly on Vandalieu’s left arm, and though it did not cut all the way through, it cut through more than halfway and stopped its movement.
Edgar now had his Attribute Values greatly increased, and his dagger was enchanted.
“Thousand Slashes!” he shouted, unleashing an advanced martial skill.
“Anti-Blade, Death Bullets, Infinite Thrusts, Tongue Blade,” Vandalieu muttered as he covered his entire body with the Demon King’s fur, activated an Armor Technique martial skill and repelled his enemy’s attacks with his jointed legs and tongue.
But Edgar’s dagger cut through Vandalieu’s spells and the body parts that he was defending himself with, and the fur that had turned into a bundle of anti-blade fibers was cut to pieces.
I feel like I’m made of butter, Vandalieu thought as he looked up.
“Spiral Blow!” Edgar roared, thrusting his dagger into a gap in Vandalieu’s helmet.
Feeling the sensation of his blade penetrating bone and striking soft flesh, a satisfied smile appeared on his face… and in the next moment, his body was penetrated by numerous beams of light emerging from Vandalieu.
“Edgar!” Diana screamed. “I’ll heal you right away!”
“I need that healing quick! Sorry!” Edgar apologized, jumping away from Vandalieu.
He had managed to twist his body around at the last moment before the beams of light appeared; they had narrowly missed his vital organs.
But this had come at a great cost.
“Are you alright?” asked Heinz.
“No, I’m done for. My dominant hand is gone… and I don’t know why, but I have almost no Mana left,” said Edgar.
He fastened the short-bow on his back to his severed right wrist. With this, he could at least fire arrows, and he could still wield his dagger with his left hand, but he would lack fine control.
But even Diana’s healing magic would take too much time to restore a lost limb. Edgar’s hand would not return during this fight.
On top of that, the effects of Transcend Limits had worn off, leaving his entire body almost overwhelmed by fatigue. The effects of Radiant Life Blade had worn off, too.
“To be able to protect your vital points from rays of light released at almost point-blank distance… You monster,” Vandalieu murmured as brain matter dripped from his helmet.
He had sacrificed several of his eyeballs to unleash rays of light with the effects of Soul Devour, only to have them avoided. To have only taken Edgar’s dominant hand and his Mana… Vandalieu acknowledged the strength of the Five-colored Blades, who were indeed powerful adventurers.
“Shit, you’re the monster here… How can you still move after your head has been crushed?!” Edgar demanded.
That’s because my body is inside the torso of my soul-form, Vandalieu thought to himself.
His soul-form had formed an armor around his body, and although his outward appearance was now slightly larger than a human male, his real body on the inside hadn’t changed size. The entirety of his body was contained inside the torso of the soul-form body.
His head and arms did not contain anything; they were dummies that Vandalieu had created from the Demon King’s bones and sub-brains.
Of course, Vandalieu was not naïve enough to reveal that. Instead, he covered his entire body with the Demon King’s fur once more and made it expand.
“Chaotic Fire,” Vandalieu muttered.
His Throwing martial skill sent his fur, which had transformed into something resembling a hedgehog’s quills, flying in every direction.
“Diana, get down!” said Delizah, shielding Diana, who was unable to move because she was casting healing magic, from the rain of needles.
“But Heinz and Edgar! I haven’t even finished sealing Edgar’s wounds!” Diana cried.
Delizah’s martial skills that diverted enemies’ hostility towards herself did not work on Vandalieu; she was unable to leave Diana’s side.
But Heinz’s sword swung through the air in a martial skill that repelled the projectiles, protecting himself and Edgar.
However, as if already expecting this, Vandalieu dashed forward and began a follow-up attack… not on Heinz and Edgar, who had their hands full defending themselves from the needles from this relatively close distance, but on Delizah who had raised her shield and committed herself to defense.
“God-metal Wall! God-metal Form!” Delizah shouted, activating her martial skills and thinking it was convenient that Vandalieu had come for her of his own will, and preparing to stop the blow from Vandalieu’s raised, tumor-covered fist.
The tumor came bearing down on her with tremendous force and let out a thundering crash as it collided with her shield. However, Delizah was unharmed, and did not feel any impact.
I withstood it! Delizah thought. Now I just need to force him back with Shield Bash – my arm won’t move?!
She was astonished to find that her arm would not move.
“I used them last time as well, didn’t I? The suction cups,” said Vandalieu.
He had activated the Demon King’s suction cups at the moment he swung the Demon King’s tumor down at Delizah, and her shield was now attached to them.
Vandalieu had more Strength than Agility, and also possessed the Monstrous Strength Skill. He was a mage who prioritized power when it came to physical combat.
Despite her small build, Delizah was denser in mass than a human, and her entire body was covered in solid equipment. But Vandalieu raised her along with her shield into the air with a single movement.
“U-uwah!” she cried.
The shield was fixed to her arm by a belt so that she would not drop it easily; she was raised into the air, unable to discard her shield and escape.
“Diana, stop the healing! Attack!” shouted Edgar.
“Tree Bind!” Diana cried, interrupting her healing magic and casting a life-attribute spell that produced tree branches to stop Vandalieu’s movement.
“I’m coming!” shouted Heinz, trying to close in on Vandalieu.
However, Vandalieu regenerated the jointed legs at his back which smashed the branches and kept Heinz at bay with their long reach.
“Diana, run –”
“Power Throw,” Vandalieu murmured, swinging his left arm and detaching the tumor from it, sending Delizah and her shield that was attached to the suction cups flying. “Flame Prison Death.”
The tumor detonated in mid-air.
“D-Delizah!” Diana cried.
Vandalieu had ignited the Demon King’s fat that filled the inside of the tumor.
“No way –” Diana began.
But her reliable shield was now gone. Vandalieu swung his right arm with the claws of the Demon King bared, severing her defenseless neck. As the Elf priestess’s decapitated head fell and rolled across the ground, it turned into dust and disappeared along with her headless body.
“Diana!” Delizah cried softly as she got up from the ground, covered in burns here and there. “How dare you!” she shouted, her face twisted in anger as her pride as a shield-bearer was left in tatters along with the companion that she had been protecting.
But she had not lost her composure; it seemed that she was not searching for a path to Vandalieu, but for a path to regroup with Heinz and Edgar.
Heinz and Edgar also felt anger but maintained their composure; they remained wary of Vandalieu and were trying to figure out a way to fight together with Delizah.
The only reason that they managed to stay composed was because they knew that Diana and Jennifer had not really died, however.
“With this, the hindrances are gone… This is the first time that I have been outnumbered, so it was quite troublesome,” said Vandalieu, exhaling.
Eliminating Jennifer and Diana was a great achievement for him.
Jennifer, the nimble martial artist who overwhelmed her enemies with the sheer number of her attacks, and Diana, who provided support and healing for the entire party, played large roles in the Five-colored Blades. On top of that, they displayed a truly advanced level of coordination that was worthy of an S-class adventurer party.
With the two of them gone, there was a large hole in the party’s coordination; it would be accurate to say that half of their combat effectiveness was gone.
But it was not for strategic reasons that Vandalieu had wanted to eliminate them.
Jennifer and Diana had joined the Five-colored Blades after Heinz and the others had moved to the Orbaume Kingdom. They were not the targets of his revenge.
Thus, he had no intention of destroying their souls. It seemed that they had played their own parts in killing Ghouls and Majin, but… the Ghouls and Majin were not powerless victims. It would be going too far to devour Jennifer and Diana’s souls over the deaths of these Ghouls and Majin when Vandalieu didn’t know all of the circumstances around them.
Thus, Vandalieu had not applied the Soul Devour Skill on attacks that had any chance of hitting Jennifer and Diana. He had only applied it to the rays of light that he had used on Edgar.
But now, there were only his three targets of revenge remaining on the battlefield. He could devour their souls without holding back.
“This is troublesome… It’s quite easy for you, isn’t it? There’s no sign of you having taken any damage at all… We’ve lost face as an S-class adventurer party,” said Edgar as he watched Vandalieu’s left arm regenerate and return to normal.
It was likely that he was trying to use himself as bait and divert attention away from Heinz and Delizah, as he only had one hand and almost no Mana left.
It was a futile effort however, as Vandalieu had several of the Demon King’s compound eyes placed on the surface of his body, allowing him to see the entirety of his surroundings.
“There’s no need to lose heart; this is the expected outcome,” said Vandalieu, responding to Edgar and pretending to have fallen for his tactic.
“Expected? Facing us one-on-five and defeating two of us with ease is the expected outcome?” Edgar asked incredulously.
“Yes. You were already exhausted after fighting Borkus and Legion, after all,” said Vandalieu.
“We recovered our stamina and healed our wounds while we were talking –” Edgar began.
“Your Mana, your Skills’ duration limits and the fatigue you feel from using them should have been almost the exact same state,” Vandalieu pointed out.
The corner of Edgar’s mouth twitched a little. Vandalieu could also see Heinz and Delizah also being clearly shaken by the truth that he had spoken.
This was the one other advantageous circumstance for Vandalieu.
Indeed, Heinz and his companions had been exhausted. They were powerful adventurers, so capable that the gods of Alda’s forces had held high expectations of them. But in the end, they were bound by their races – they were humans, an Elf, and a Dwarf.
They could not regenerate Mana at an abnormally fast rate like Vandalieu, nor could they ignore their fatigue.
And if they used the Surpass Limits or Transcend Limits Skills, they would become overwhelmed by a terrible sense of fatigue as soon as the Skills wore off, and their movements would become dull.
“Since your Mana is limited, you did not use advanced martial skills or spells that require a lot of it except in critical moments. Even that problematic ‘Radiant Life’ enchantment consumes a lot of Mana; either its effects don’t last very long or you’re deliberately casting it that way to save Mana,” Vandalieu continued. “And the duration of your Heroic Spirit Descent is almost up, isn’t it? You activated it before you even entered this floor as a precaution against me, after all.”
Heinz, Edgar and Delizah were clearly shaken – Vandalieu had seen through their current state, as well as the reason for Edgar’s hasty attack earlier.
“Your Attribute Values, especially your Mana, will decrease significantly. High Priest Gordan once said that his Mana increased to 100,000 after having a familiar spirit descend upon him. If it’s a heroic spirit, perhaps that’s 1,000,000 or 2,000,000? But once Heroic Spirit Descent is gone… you won’t be able to use even the most basic martial skills or spells,” said Vandalieu.
I’m quite exhausted myself, however, Vandalieu thought to himself.
This Soul Destruction Fighting Technique, which materialized his own soul, had consumed more Mana than he had expected. On top of that, his Mana decreased by considerable amounts each time he attacked or received attacks. Even his 6,000,000,000 total Mana and abnormal Mana regeneration didn’t completely make up for these Mana expenditures. The amount that he had absorbed from Edgar wasn’t even a drop in the bucket.
The reason for that was because Vandalieu’s projectile attacks, the parts of himself that he had detached and detonated, the parts of his body that were severed by his enemies’ attacks – they were all a part of his soul.
“… So what. Jennifer and Diana will be back soon, and we can be resurrected no matter how many times we die in this Dungeon,” Edgar said as a bluff, unaware of Vandalieu’s exhaustion.
But it was just a bluff in the end.
When they died and returned to this Dungeon’s ‘town,’ their wounds were completely healed. But their expended Mana remained the same.
Damn it, if we were on the outside, we would have brought some Mana crystals, but… Edgar thought, thinking of Mana crystals, which could be made from Magic Stones and allowed for the recharging of Mana.
But in this Dungeon, no materials could be gathered from defeated monsters, including their Magic Stones.
On top of that, they had been able to recover their Mana in the safety of the ‘town’ when they died.
Even when they had little Mana left, they had not been forced into battles in which they absolutely needed to win. Even in this battle, if Vandalieu had been another copy like all the other copies up until now, they would have likely cut their attempt early and decided to try again tomorrow.
Thus, the party had not bothered to prepare Mana crystals in large numbers to prevent themselves from running out of Mana.
However, Vandalieu had declared that he would destroy this Dungeon somehow.
They could not allow him to do that.
“No matter how many times you kill us, we’ll definitely kill you,” said Edgar, nocking an arrow into his bow and pulling back the string.
With his compound eyes, Vandalieu could see Delizah and Heinz preparing to make some kind of move as well.
However, they were unaware that Vandalieu could devour their souls. Their Mana was drained considerably whenever Vandalieu attacked them, but they simply assumed that these were Mana-draining attacks.
“… Bloodlust,” Vandalieu murmured, casting a deadly spell.
All of the black-red blood that he had spilled during the battle turned into dust and danced in the air.
“Take this, my final –” Edgar began, but his words turned into a scream of pain.
He was covered by this dust; he let go of the arrow in his bow and dropped to the ground, writhing in pain.
“GAH! AAAGH! Why… Status Effect Resistance should protect me from poison or disease…!”
Heinz groaned in pain as well as he and Delizah began to suffer as well. “That’s not it! There’s something, something coming in underneath our armor…!”
Vandalieu licked his lips as he watched them.
He had turned his own blood into blood-hungry, carnivorous microbes.
He was able to turn parts of his own body into microbes with the effects of the Disease Demon Job; while this had applications in pest control, he had hypothesized that he would also be able to use this ability to fight against enemies with Status Effect Resistance or Status Effect Immunity.
He had thus invented the Dark King spell ‘Bloodlust,’ which transformed his own blood into carnivorous microbes. The Status Effect Resistance Skill and anti-disease Magic Items were worthless against this spell.
Heinz and his companions were being eaten alive by a countless number of microbe-sized Vandalieus. This was not a Status Effect; it was a physical attack. But the microbes that were attacking them were too small to be seen by the naked eye; they could not be swatted away by their hands.
It was a cruel, fiendish trump card, one that could not be escaped once it attached itself to its victims’ skin. But unlike Vandalieu’s pathogens, he could not choose targets for it; he had been unable to use it while Jennifer and Diana were present.
In a few minutes, the souls of Heinz, Edgar and Delizah would be devoured and destroyed.
“… Sharp Tongue,” said Vandalieu, unable to wait that long and deciding to finish off Edgar by piercing him with his tongue.
“Instant Response! Blue-flamed Sword!” shouted Heinz, leaping off the ground and repelling Vandalieu’s tongue with his magic sword.
His face was twisted in pain, but he remained standing before Vandalieu.
“I won’t… let you do… as you please!” he gasped.
“You forcibly ignored your pain and forcibly activated Transcend Limits or something else… I thought it would be best to take care of you one-by-one in a guaranteed fashion, but it seems that it’s best that I destroy you first,” said Vandalieu.
Despite the pain that was tormenting him, Heinz raised his sword. Vandalieu began closing the gap between himself and his enemy.
But in the next instant, an armored Noble Orc appeared next to Vandalieu and swung an enormous sword down at him.
“BUGAAAAH!” it roared.
“A-a Noble Orc?!” Heinz exclaimed, bewildered.
The greatsword struck Vandalieu’s head and fell to pieces with a smashing noise like the breaking of glass.
“B-bugoh… Bobyuh?!” the Noble Orc grunted.
“Just when I thought the god wouldn’t be able to interfere because he hadn’t done anything up until now…” Vandalieu murmured as he swung his claws to dispose of the Noble Orc… Bugogan.
But copies of people and monsters appeared one after another around Vandalieu, and at the same time, a wall appeared that separated him from Heinz, Edgar and Delizah.
The god that managed this Dungeon had begun to interfere.
Of course, Vandalieu had been wary of this possibility, but he could not ignore the copies that had appeared.
“Don’t underestimate the strength of us humans!” shouted the ‘Five-headed Snake’ Ervine.
“You evil Dhampir! I shall smite you with divine punishment!” roared High Priest Gordan.
A Goblin King shrieked as it threw itself at Vandalieu.
“Become food for my insects!” cackled the ‘Insect Swarm’ Bebeckett.
“Let’s go, Kasim, Zeno!” said Fester.
“Yeah!” responded Kasim and Zeno.
Copies of enemies whose souls Vandalieu had destroyed, copies of enemies that he had no particular attachment to, and copies of his friends. These copies varied greatly in strength; even High Priest Gordan was nothing but a small fry to Vandalieu now, just like Bugogan, but…
“It seems that you are intent on angering me… even though I am already enraged!” Vandalieu muttered. “Transcend Limits, Surpass Limits: Fragments, Instant Response!”
Deciding that this was the final ambush, Vandalieu threw himself at the copies with all his strength.
Behind the wall, Heinz could hear terrifying screams and the sounds of people dying, but he was speechless. “Martina… Riley… why are you…?” he murmured.
Two of his fallen companions had appeared before him.
“Heinz, those are copies of Martina and Riley,” said Delizah, who had been carried to Heinz by Riley’s copy.
Heinz suddenly returned to his senses.
“Indeed. I am temporarily using the copies of these two to act on my behalf,” said Riley, speaking in an intellectual and somewhat cold, inhuman tone that Heinz, Edgar and Delizah had never heard from him while he was alive.
At the same time, the fierce pain assaulting them disappeared.
“… It seems that these separated body parts that are no longer under his control, with no will other than primitive hunger, can be erased like any other copy. I shall make a record of this,” Riley continued. “Five-colored Blades, I am Curatos, the god of records. I apologize for being late to assist you.”
Hope appeared on the faces of Heinz and his companions at the appearance of Curatos, the god who was currently occupying Riley’s copy. It had been a hopeless situation, but with the help of a god, it was possible that they could defeat Vandalieu.
“Leave this to me,” said the copy of Martina, as she lifted the breathless Edgar onto his feet.
“Thanks. Sorry, but can you heal –” Edgar began.
But in the next moment, Martina’s copy snapped his neck.
“W-what are you –?!” Heinz and Delizah shouted in surprise.
“Leave this to me. Return to the ‘town’ before your souls are devoured, and escape from this Dungeon,” said Curatos in his cold, inhuman tone. “This Dungeon has been isolated by that cursed evil god of labyrinths. The other gods cannot help us now. This is my defeat.”
As if confirming Curatos’s declaration of his own defeat, Edgar’s body turned into dust and crumbled away.