Book 1: Rise of the Fake Demon Lord – Chapter 26: All Hail Empress Fardom 3
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"Yo! Long time no see."

Hiiro flickered into existence inside a familiar underground facility. As always, Lapis was observing a few holographic panels with Petri wrapped up in her arms. Her wings twitched at his call before she gestured for him to come over.

"Our plans have to be adjusted. I have had a rather fortunate encounter."

"Oh? What kind of luck dropped in on you?"

Hiiro moved closer to Lapis, taking up a spot just off to her side to see what she was looking at. Three holographic screens showed three very different scenes. As he took a closer look, Hiiro slipped his arms around Lapis' waist, drawing her closer to him.

He rested his chin atop her shoulder yet the screens remained his primary focus. The longer he watched, the more solemn he became.

"What's that thing?"

"I believe it is a creature from Kanthu. It appears to be hunting me."

Filling the screen in question was a massive molten field in the ocean Lapis was at only days earlier. A figure, central of the destruction, remained fixed in place. Crimson hair, slender body, masculine proportions. Without a doubt, it was Crim, yet his visage was actively twisting and morphing on screen.

"What's the plan? That thing doesn't look like it's trying to negotiate."

"I agree. I am rather livid about its location as well. I just started that project and it chose to invoke such destructive mana nearby. I fear that had I been any slower, it might have felled my efforts."

"Did it track you while you returned?"

"I imagine that to be the case. Otherwise, its landing point would not make sense... Hiiro, I am significantly angry this time."

Her azure eyes rotated to grasp the outline of his cheek resting against hers. Though the gaze didn't land on him, Hiiro could feel the irritation emanating from her. Internally, Hiiro reinforced a rule to never interfere with any of Lapis' projects.

"Well... As I asked earlier, what do you want to do?"

"I do not have a plan, but for starters... I think I will eliminate him."

"That's a pretty serious plan. You're not overreacting?"

Her face and body swiveled knocking Hiiro back a step. She closed in on him with a hand pushing against his chest until his back rested against the wall. Eyes containing fire and ice scrutinized him. The pressure that observance placed made him feel as if Lapis were untouchable, as if her current self could disintegrate the hand of anyone who tried to touch her.

She brought her face closer to his remaining solemn and fixated, as if attempting to read his mind.

"I have killed tens, if not hundreds of thousands of intelligent creatures since arriving in this world. I have set the world into motion with emphasis on mass modifying morals, ethics, racism, balance of power, and its distribution. The few friends I have acquired know me either a trickster, enemy, or merchant. Hiiro... I have sacrificed too much of this world for it to fail. You know how important this is to me. We only have one chance."

As she spoke, Lapis rested her head against his chest. By the time she finished, Hiiro already held her tightly in his arms.

"A serious look doesn't fit you Lapis."

He sighed internally before continuing.

"It's from Kanthu right? Since plans can be moved up, lets start folding Kanthu now. You can take out the overeager hunter while Petri takes down Kanthu. It might feel pretty good to make it a bit personal for once."

"I do not know if we can. Our understanding of Kanthu is minimal at best. Petri's intelligence showed little in the way of power distribution in Kanthu."

"That's fine. From what I hear, Naoki is practically crushed. With Azmodius out of the picture, we can redirect the mana you're sending to those places directly at Kanthu. Even if they're powerful, I doubt they resist such a continuous, heavy, frontal, assault."

Grasping her shoulders, Hiiro held Lapis at a arms length to look into her eyes. The worry and regret he felt striking against those flames and frost seemed to clear away slightly. It was enough to set him at ease. He brought her head towards his and landed a kiss on her forehead.

Poor Petri dropped unexpectedly from Lapis' arms only to hit the floor before being able to recover itself. Its strobing lights were ignored by the two as Lapis' figure appeared frozen in place. Hiiro laughed once more bringing another kiss atop each of Lapis' eyes. The faery's face boiled instantly and as if to hide the shame, turned on her heels to walk away.

"Petri! Redirect 70% of the mana distributed to Naoki and Azmodius into Kanthu. Wipe them out."

Her voice was stiff, yet held an absolute authority. The violent strobes rippling across Petri died out as if exasperated and instead traces used for executing orders rippled across its core instead. Hiiro and Lapis watched as the holographic map of Kanthu developed one red point after another.

As the surge of mana pushed further inland, the Kanthu territory appeared heavily infected. Hiiro released a chuckle and walked up behind Lapis wrapping his arms around her waist once again. Her stiffened wings relaxed in his hold and the two continued their moment as Kanthu turned into a veritable hell.

When Kanthu came under heavy siege, the world at large appeared to make its move as well.

It was unknown who started the conversations, but rumors credit it to Queen Dazzlevine both giving public speeches and bed talk with her new husband which caused the invitations to be sent out. The invitations were personal and directed at each major leader and faction known to the world.

Within the letter, a time and date specified when to meet along with the purpose. The letter's contents could be summarized as 'Countries are fighting a losing war. With the fall of Naoki and Azmodius, petty differences should be tossed aside for the greater good. Join us to discuss our potential futures.'

The scheduled date was four months out to account for delivery time since many of the world's leaders were on the move constantly after the assaults began. As the letters eventually found their way, each leader seemed desperate as none rejected the invitation.

Four months later, leaders of the world gathered within Klasika. Each member sat at their designated seat until the room was nearly filled. To the surprise of many, an empty segment of table remained. Their question eyes scanned each other before landing on the committee host.

"Fellow leaders, I was going to inform you later on about our last participant, however I've yet to confirm the invitation even though it concerns many of us here. As the topic is controversial, I'll leave that item towards the end. For now, shall we kick things off?"

The Kingly man shifted himself and beside him, Queen Dazzlevine's mouth pulled into a sly smile.

"As you're well aware, the creature calling herself Empress Fardom has a power far beyond what any single nation..."

Klasika's new King continued his rehearsed introduction and after hours of discussions revolving around resource distribution, reinforcements, secret methods to communicate requests for help, and emergency measures, the King brought up the task that sat at the back of every member's mind.

"My fellow leaders, as we've discussed our requirements for each other and where we're lacking, it's abundantly obvious how weak we truly are against this threat. As such... I petition the committee to rope in Demon Lord Arakis Nul Dieth as a fellow member."

His announcement evoked chatter amongst each camp discussing matters internally to their aids. Klasika's King allowed the chatter as he understood the gravity of the idea. Though calm and patient, his eyes couldn't help but slide over and view his new Queen.

In truth, the suggestion for both the committee and roping in the Demons hadn't come from him. Rather, it came from his new Queen. Though he had no complaints about the Faery as her body and attitude satisfied him in ways hard to describe, he somehow felt he was manipulated as she had never partook in pillow talk before.

Queen Dazzlevine kept her eyes on the members chattering amongst themselves. Her focus however, caught that hint of suspicion the King directed at her, however what was he to do? He already signed on to her plan, regardless of the reasons behind it, it was far too late to question her actions now.

"How confident are you to rope in the Demons?"

It'd appear the committee came to their own decision and a representative from Naoki's remaining government issued his main concern.

"I have high confidence in a positive response. Though, I can't say for sure if the Demon Lord himself will appear, I believe they will at least work with us."

"Where does that confidence come from? The Demons have ignored any attempts at communication for hundreds of years now."

Klasika's King leaned forward placing his elbows on the table.

"I've received reliable intel that Relictus is under heavy siege. The Demons are being pressured similar to how Azmodius was. They should be in need of any help they can get right now. In fact, that intel is old now. I admit to the committee that I took it upon myself to send an envoy representing all of us early this week. If their travel goes smoothly, I expect four to five months for their arrival..."

Silence replied to his statement as each member questioned the other with their eyes.

While the committee was dealing with that land mine, an explosive piece of news traveled throughout Profectus and, considering its value, soon, the world.

Held in her hands, Ruby read over the contents of a letter spreading through Profectus. Her eyes wide with confusion at the new knowledge. Beside her, Aria held another in hand.

Written across the paper was a description of the worlds favorite enemy. The document described her appearance as a Faery, her predicted location and other generic points, however that wasn't what drove the fluttering panic inside Aria's heart.

Just below that description was another. Rainbow like wings, horns attached to the head, elongated ears and a pressured presence described to be beyond what the current Empress Fardom emitted.

An artistic drawing was included below that revealing a demonic beauty capable of falling a city. Further below that image held information Countess Sugimoto never expected, yet always questioned internally. 'Where did Lapis actually come from?'

An entire page and a half was dedicated to describing where Empress Fardom came from to include her initial conversations with Team Satyr. Had the information come from any other, Aria might have collected the spreading reports to destroy them, however the papers were being distributed by Team Satyr themselves.

"Miss Aria... Is this true?"

Ruby appeared flabbergasted at the document before her. It wasn't that she had a hard time believing it, after all a striking visage she recalled nearly a year ago came to mind. The woman's appearance resembled the picture exactly.

What confused her though was while she felt a connection of sorts to Empress Fardom, she couldn't feel one with that woman. How could they be the same? Aria glanced from the document to find the confused Ruby looking back with a mixture of fear and confusion.

She smiled at the innocent appearance that reminded her of the old Roxanne. Throwing an arm around her favorite maid, Aria told her as she felt in her heart.

"Does it matter? She saved you and gave you a new life."

"But there's no connection between us... I met this woman once before, it felt different from the connection I have with Empress Fardom."

Somewhat surprised at the reply, Aria froze while a hazy memory of chatting with Lapis in a Tavern rose to her mind. A gentle smile creeped across her face as she pulled Ruby to a bench and sat down beside her.

"You know, I once chatted with Lapis long before she was Empress Fardom. At that time, we were snacking in Trisha's tavern and it was snowing heavily. I asked her a few personal questions that, were a bit intrusive thinking back on it. Her answers were vague, but this document proves she never lied. I'm sure part of it was that we had just started cooperating, but she gave me the feeling she was trying to remain dissected from everything. She wanted nothing to do with Profectus, cared little about the wars between nations, and even chose a home isolated from civilization and smack dab in a war zone."

Confusion still hampered Ruby, however her eyes and focus seemed to urge Aria on.

"What I mean to say is that actions speak louder than words. If this is the true form of 'Empress Fardom' then it provides clues to her actions that we never had before. She assisted me in taking Profectus, but didn't assert control over it. She saved your life, but only gave you fake ties to her. She claims to ignore the wars of the world and yet those wars have halted already. Ruby... Lapis is trying to accomplish something far greater than her identity, and considering her actions, I don't think she wants to drag anyone into it with her."

Tears rimmed Ruby's eyes as she thought back to when Lapis enabled her revenge. It was hard to deny Aria's prediction, but that alone sparked a new fear. She widened her eyes in panic glancing around them and emitting mana to scour the area for any presences. After finding none, her heart calmed down somewhat.

"Miss Aria, if that's true, then what now? Empress Fardom's real identity is out. If others put together the pieces as you did, wouldn't that interfere with her plan?"

"Hahaha! You're such a worry wart. You don't need to worry about Lapis. She has Hiiro beside her after all. If she can't manage something, I'm sure that man can."

As the two discussed their revelation, Lapis' true form spread far and wide. Team Satyr hosted a public question and answer session in response to heavy criticism. Many held them at fault for delaying such critical intelligence from the world, though the answers were left primarily to Silas.

As Lapis predicted long ago, the man held talents the other members hadn't. He deflected questions such as the previous with answers such as "...her ability to shapeshift was known to us, we had no way of knowing if it was her original form...".

Needless to say, the team was held for hours as the public drilled into them.

In a dark room with holograms, Team Satyr's question and answer session was easy to see and hear. Lapis was leaning on Hiiro as she watched the screen, her face solemn. As he felt somewhat guilty, Hiiro spoke up.

"Perhaps... I pushed them a bit too hard."

As she was seated between his legs, Lapis twisted her body to peer at his face before cracking a smile. She returned to viewing the screen, but not before taking his hand into hers.

"It is fine. We should have expected this at some point. Fate is a fickle thing to have such a reputable team encounter us the moment we appeared. I feel this would have happened eventually, though admittedly, I had hoped it would be later on."

"Will your Topazia persona be alright?"

"I imagine so. Few would deny such a proficient merchant."

"You know... Thinking about it now, I'm surprised no one linked you and Topazia together yet. You speak the exact same in both forms."

"Fufufu. That is a woman's secret, Hiiro."

"R-right. Well, now that your identity is out, should we push plans up again?"

"I feel as if that is all we have been doing lately. Why can things not go according to the timeline...?"

Hiiro chuckled at the naive question and strengthened his hug.

"We left them for last but...perhaps it's time to force my rival's hand a bit."

"Rival?"

"Don't worry about it. So what do you think? I'll head to Relictus and help out. I don't think the behemoths and beasts are enough to push them over the edge. Their magitech is pretty advanced after all..."

"Magitech?"

"A fun term in my old...est world for things like Petri or your ocean project. Don't dodge the question though. I'm serious about this."

Lapis dropped her head thinking about the future and powers condensed around Relictus. Her fear only extended to that man Arakis Nul Dieth, everyone else was far too weak to threaten her or totally overpower Hiiro.

As she thought, her faery form reverted itself back a moment later, she twisted her body until she was on her knees facing Hiiro.

"I give you permission to destroy Relictus, however promise me you will evacuate if you encounter Arakis Nul Dieth."

"You don't need to say his whole na-."

"Promise me!"

"...I promise."

Lapis pressed her lips against his while invoking magic. Her desires coalesced in her mind and as the magic invoked following those thoughts. Hiiro felt something cool entering between his lips. The feeling spread throughout him and after a few seconds, the feeling settled down.

As he tried prodding the foreign mana with his own, he felt Lapis' lips detach from his. He grinned somewhat and caught Lapis, her face flushed somewhat. Refusing to let her escape at this point, Hiiro pulled from her knees onto his chest kissing her deeply.

The two enjoyed the moment, yet unexpectedly, Hiiro broke off the kiss this time.

"As happy as I am you've come around, I've got a rival's ass to kick."

"You promised."

"I've got a rival's country's ass to kick."

"It is good enough, I suppose."

Lapis pulled herself to her feet while refusing to look at Hiiro. Her emotions fluctuated beyond her control and within that gape of focus, Hiiro gave her a final hug from behind as mana condense around him.

"I'll be careful. Petri, help me out down there. If you can funnel the difficult guys to me, that'd be best."

Moments later, Lapis felt the pressure of the hug disappear and the remaining body heat dissipate slowly from her.

Appearing within one of Relictus' nodes, Hiiro donned the obsidian armor and stepped out to get his first real glimpse at Relictus. The desert environment couldn't be explained as anything but destructive to most forms of life.

He felt mana surge into the region through his connection with Petri and from behind him, beasts cobbled together of sand and stone sprinted from the node. As he observed the distance, multiple, distinct, plumes of dust scattered to the sky.

He compared their locations to his mental map of Relictus and confirmed those to be Petri's other nodes. Hiiro took a step towards the depths of Relictus with his figure flickering, each reappearance hundreds of meters from his previous spot.

Lapis watched on screen as Hiiro pushed into Relictus. She took a moment to gather herself and bring her focus back to a pristine state.

"I should perform my role as well, should I not?"

Directed at Petri, the poor thing failed to understand and pulsed a questionable light. Lapis smiled at the reaction and brought a holographic panel up. She condensed mana into an oblong shape. It hovered over her hand growing larger in size until finally halting around the size and shape of a watermelon.

As Hiiro did, Lapis took a step with her form flickering from view. Her visage reappeared over Profectus looking as her Faery form always had. The watermelon of mana pulsed with blinding light pulling the attention of Profectus as a whole.

Looking towards the sky, Lapis allowed the chunk of mana to escape her hold and launch towards the atmosphere. Its speed alone pushed clouds from the surroundings and after reaching a height that allowed it to look down upon the clouds, the watermelon of mana exploded.

Its form expanded pulsing searing heat into its surroundings eviscerating what clouds remained. A singular pulse of epic proportions bent the atmosphere around it before dragging the fabric of air itself into a spiral around it.

As the sky spiraled the mana source and fell into the center, rigid extensions stretched from the ball producing semi-transparent tunnels reminiscent of tentacles. Each tentacle moved its hollow girth through the air disrupting the spiraling air on each pass through.

Surrounding Profectus, the long idle behemoths flickered to life as their crystals started projecting the scene to mirror the sky. Lapis allowed time prior to speaking as she knew the task was a strain on Petri considering they pushed so many tasks ahead of time.

Across Klasika, Naoki, Relictus, Gilphriya, and Kanthu, the behemoths on site roared to life mirroring the sights of Profectus. What meetings the King or Queen of any nation was involved in screeched to a halt as they joined their civilian populous to watch the screen with a mix of awe and horror.

The tentacles solidified partially, falling to the ground to catch the creature itself from collapsing under its own weight. Within the sky, the spiraling storm prevented people from seeing the body of the creature forming within. Roars and groans reverberated through the air and striking ground hard enough to kick loose dust from the ground.

Another groan escaped the beast followed by a massive head tearing through the spiraling cloud mass. The size of the creature belied its relatively slow movement as it tore the sky apart and left glass shattering sonic booms in its wake.

Its head lowered to face the city, its face covering practically the entire sky with Lapis being the only thing between it and Profectus. As it halted its movements to stare down, Lapis quirked a smile and as if on cue, the beast tore open its own face releasing a mind numbing roar towards the ground.

"Get down!"

Who knows who yelled it first, but citizens focused enough to respond dropped to their stomachs and covered their heads. Striking the ground, the roar rippled across the surface of Profectus shattering windows, tearing tile from roofs, and acting as a force of nature to anything light enough to catch the gust.

Lapis allowed the commotion to die down before amplifying her voice.

"I heard there is a hunter in town from Kanthu. I am here! Where are you?!"

Not a moment later, much to the surprise of Profectus at large, a man with long crimson hair flickered into existence near Lapis. His face stoic as always, yet his fighting spirit burning bright for all to see.

"Hello, warrior. I have judged you worthy as a sacrifice. The world shall watch us dance."

Her words the spark, an explosive roar resounded from the beast behind Lapis once more and with it, a tentacle of epic proportions swung at the man. Aria watched the scene in abject horror. When she received a message of 'coming to visit, evacuate' only moments ago, she was left more confused than informed.

With the immediate fight before her, she cursed to herself while issuing orders to her guards. Alarms blared across Profectus moments later as signal flares took to the sky. It was official now, the signals meant Profectus was to be considered lost and for everyone to escape as quickly as possible.

Aria continued issuing orders when the ground trembled. She and her escorts faced the source finding a wave of molten rock tearing into the sky. The beast's tentacle provided little resistance to the air born meteors, yet as it passed through Crim's body, it carried the man into the molten pit generated below.

Impact waves drove through the ground knocking citizens off their feet and with it some older buildings in Profectus. The beast followed up on its attack diving head first into the molten pit. Its impact gouged the ground and forced Crim back into the mountain side Lapis once fought General Zannon at.

The beast rose itself off the ground as if checking its own results, yet Crim's figure appeared unhurt. Rather, he swung his arm transmuting mana directly into a molten substance which tore through the beast felling it instantly.

Its body struck the ground, pitting the hills and mountain side. A dying roar and final effort escaped it and with it, the sky fell.

Air rushed along the ground escaping Crim's surroundings. The man appeared nervous for the first time as he tried to understand his situation. His body was locked in place from the rushing air that tunneled around him and as he touched the tunnel wall, it scrapped against his hand threatening to tear it apart.

Crim looked to the sky and his eyes gaped as the stars became clear. Hardly a second later, the tunnel collapsed and with it, the atmosphere attempted to reclaim the fresh vacuum.

Crim felt his surroundings tighten around him and rise exponentially in temperature as the atmosphere pressed against itself crushing everything within that tunnel. The pressure forced gas to liquid, liquid to solid, and finally solid to plasma before the charged material discharged everything it could.

The plasma exploded. It tore the ground from itself and ionized the atmosphere with bolts of lighting chaining through each other. A guttural roar overcame the explosive reverberations drawing Lapis' curious gaze for the first time.

The roar reached Aria and Mr. Redford who had only just recovered enough to pursue the evacuation. Their attention traveled to the source, trying to peer through the molten cloud flickering with lightning.

Shredding through opaque smoke and lighting, an amorphous mass struck out, flattening the remnants of the beast and ending whatever questionable life it was.

The creature continued walking out from the plume revealing its massive form.

"A slime? A molten slime? Do they get this big?"

Lapis couldn't help but mutter her thoughts as each tremble brought the creature closer. Condensing mana, Lapis continued the small analytics magic she started up secretly earlier.

After a pit formed at the front of the blob and Lapis watched mana get condensed at the region, her eyes flickered and her movement followed. Short range teleports landed her in front of the creature and with it, the focal point of whatever it was doing.

"Have you lost your senses!?"

She felt the mana converging and invoked a protective layer in front of Profectus city while simulcasting a massive shield before her. That's right, the beast was aiming at Profectus initially. Though Lapis expected damage to the city, she used the massive beast to drive the creature into the distance for a reason.

Her azure eyes deepened, reflecting the azure light of mana within to resemble a pair of crystals. The light sunk deeper as if drawing the entire world into her ocular vision until it reached a critical point.

Lapis swung both arms towards the behemoth and started converging her own mana in similar fashion. Her analytics magic continued to feed back data of what the beast was attempting allowing her to modify it to suit her own needs.

From appearance to emission, Lapis moved, threw the defenses up and prepared to retaliate within 10 seconds. On the 11th second, the creature released its attack.

Lapis' first shield shattered without resistance. The beam plunged through it like a heated knife through melted butter. Detecting it, Lapis threw up another shield based off what her analytics magic provided.

The new shield hardly stabilized before the blast smashed against it. Rather than block it, the new shield deflected minor portions of the beam. The original solid beam splintered into thousands of minor ones which rained down across the terrain and Profectus.

Aria saw the beams mid flight and amplified her voice to give a final warning.

"Inbound magic! Defend yourself!"

Magic casters who heard the warning in time raised various forms of defense to protect themselves and those around them, yet many of those did little against the ricocheting beams.

Aria watched in the distance as casters and citizens alike had their existence wiped from the face of the planet each time a beam landed. Her gritted teeth and diverted attention made her fail to dodge one of the beams slung at her.

Aria felt her body scrape ground as she slid across it, tumbling into a wall. Her mind fuzzy, Aria tried to focus on what happened only to find Ruby next to her bleeding out from a missing leg.

"Ruby!"

"Miss Aria, I'm fine. Please pay attention, you're unable to block those things."

Her nails extended, sharpening at edge into mono-molecular blades. She grit her teeth and slashed near her flooding leg, cleanly slicing the damaged and dirtied end tissue. Her breath gasped as she moved with precision and sealed her leg with a makeshift tourniquet.

"Miss Aria, may I borrow a bit a of blood?"

Her eyes pulsed a crimson red drawing Aria's attention from the blood soaked ground. Without hesitation, she held her arm out allowing Ruby to bite down. Ignoring the pain, Aria tried to retain focus on the inbound beams just in case another traveled their way.

Lapis held on to her position and continued to reinforce the ill equipped shield. It flickered with determination, holding out while dispersing the monstrous beam.

Lapis began to feel the limits of the Faery race as she felt herself desiring to revert back to her prior form. She grunted and held the instinct back until the beam started dying in power.

The moment she noticed the drop in output, Lapis invoked everything she saved up delivering her own flavor of its attack at the beast. The blast tore through her shield and the monster's beam uninhibited before drilling into the behemoth's body. Tearing through it with ease, Lapis altered the firing angle ripping the beast in half.

She canceled the beam after seeing it travel far over the horizon with a grim smile, before invoking magic once more on the segmented creature. Lapis plummeted to the ground, landing atop the molten surface and injected her mana straight into it.

Crystalline pillars erupted from the ground then fractured into fine threads that spread like a net across the struggling behemoth. A smile broke Lapis' otherwise stoic face before she took to air once more to approach the beast.

"Your endurance is shocking. If this does not destroy you, I am not sure what will."

Lapis took a deep breath and focused on the surroundings. Those in Profectus observing the fight from afar suddenly felt the area around them raise in temperature along with minor heated gusts.

The heat continued to climb and yet no one was able to turn their eyes away from the spectacle occurring at the battlefield.

From the sky, a white fluff started falling. It started with a few, but as the temperature dropped, it turned to hundreds, then thousands. Snowfall.

Lapis continued to extract energy from the surroundings and transfer it outside of the target region. Frost was creeping along the ground clawing at everything it touched and eventually, consuming it. The once molten surface dulled its crimson glow solidifying into igneous rock.

The frost continued its creep, crawling across the igneous rock towards the source of heat, Crim. Loud shatters echoed across the battlefield as the rock condensed, tearing itself from the surrounding rock. On its last struggle, the behemoth pulsed to build its own heated layer against the surroundings.

The sly smile on Lapis grew sinister after watching the futile efforts. She focused further, using gusts to tear apart what thermal layer the behemoth created. Each gusting strike carrying with it the life heat of the behemoth and consuming what stamina remained.

It struggled further, however the ground it was pinned to had long since cooled. The frost and snow pelted the skin of the beast to draw heat further from it. Each touch of frost stole its color. Each caress of snow hardened its surface.

Lapis continued to encroach on its territory until she found the beast changing tactics. She felt the mana flowing within it withdraw to its core and condense. The process sped up the main body's cooling rate enabling deep fractures to run across its surface.

From the side of the behemoth, a bright red glow erupted and from it, the body of a man with red hair tumbled out onto the ground.

Lapis walked to the weakened body and grabbed it by the neck, dragging it into the sky for all to see.

"Those who go against me, know this is the result. Those who do not go against me, know this is your future."

Her amplified voice reached all of Profectus, to include the evacuated members on the hills in the distance. Clenching her hand, Lapis detached Crim's head from his body. Frost climbed from the severed points growing like an infection across the rest of the corpse until it was covered completely.

Lapis flexed her wings, flickering from view and disappearing from Profectus only to leave the corpse of Crim falling from the sky. As the stone struck ground, it shattered into thousands of pieces signifying the final end of the elemental known as Crim.

The world held a moment of collective silence. Petri started disabling the projections one by one allowing the witnesses to pull their attention back. Needless to say, Klasika's King issued another invitation for world leaders.

Staring at the projection riding heat waves in the desert, Arakis couldn't have held a greater smile across his face. His Queen was damn impressive and his possessive nature grew. Swinging a fist filled with mana, thousands of sand and stone beasts were killed on the spot.

Arakis was forced to help defend Sacramentum after waves of beasts began engaging his city. At first, it wasn't a problem as there were plenty of other cities capable of sending reinforcements when needed, not to mention the shields aligned around each city prevented most beasts from invading.

However, the sheer volume of beasts attacking started overwhelming the amount of mana cities could supply to the shield. Sacramentum already expanded its borders turning into a mega city in order to house the evacuees from fallen cities.

Further, a strong creature seemed to single handily crush multiple cities. Reports indicated an obsidian knight, however Arakis felt there must have been more than one considering how quickly the creature moved around. The spread too absurd to think it was a single beast.

Sadly, Arakis didn't know Hiiro had a rather loyal artificial intelligence backing him up.

Swinging his fist once more, cascading waves rolled across the terrain disintegrating every beast it contacted. Arakis glanced around and lost interest in the now empty battlefield. He turned around for Sacramentum and accelerated through the air to return home.

Upon his return, a researcher was pacing back and forth in his dais. Arakis watched him from the door for a while before shrugging and walking in. His heavy footsteps on the hardened floor knocked the researcher from his thoughts. He payed heavy obeisance before delivering his report.

"My Lord! We discovered a way to track the subspace mana channels! We tested quite a bit during that last transmission... Our Queen is amazing, by the way! That was an incredible fight! Oh sorry, my Lord. A few of us became fans after seeing her glory."

Arakis drew a sinister smile full of pride, but didn't forget to follow up on what mattered.

"How long until this Lord can track his Queen down?"

"Yes, I believe our previous timeline is still valid, however as we have a reactive material to work with now, we may shave a month or two off that."

"So five to six months still?"

"Yes, my Lord. It could be earlier, but I believe tracking will be viable by the end of that time frame."

"Understood. Go back to your research. This Lord is eager to bring his Queen back."

As the researcher returned to his laboratory, Hiiro drove his sword down tearing apart the shield of another city. Initially, he thought he'd have issues with the shielding, yet he found the means to destroy them rather easy after tinkering around with his own mana.

Looking to the sky, Hiiro exhaled sharply. Images of the fight he saw two months ago projected from the behemoths in Relictus still fresh in his mind. Always the student, Hiiro reviewed Lapis' mana control and took to heart each of her moves and tactics.

Despite crossing a century old, he found himself learning new things from the woman all the time. Perhaps that was why the age difference felt nonexistent to him.

A familiar mana condensed around him waking Hiiro from his thoughts. He allowed the magic to invoke and was teleported from the city back to Profectus, Folkvangr.

"I saw your fight. You were amazing."

"What a flirt. We have more important things to discuss."

"We always do. You know, at some point, we ought to take a vacation."

"To where? I do believe my face is hated around the world at this stage."

"Just reform yourself a bit. Going on a date with a beastman doesn't sound too bad."

"Oh it is a date now? I will remember your preferences if we survive this war."

"..."

"What is that face for?"

"Ah...No, I was wondering if you were serious bout that?"

Lapis flushed after realizing her retort. She turned from Hiiro and recollected herself while petting Petri.

"Petri, bring up Kanthu."

Holographic screens filled the room showcasing the drawn battle in Kanthu. Elementals roamed in massive numbers overrunning the beasts in waves. Hiiro furrowed his brows as he watched the combat live.

Reaching out, he brought another screen up to view the statistics of the fight and his eyes gaped at the losses they suffered. Lapis chuckled at his reaction as she didn't fair much better.

"It is quite terrible, is it not? We are losing nearly 680 to 1. If Petri had more experience, I am sure he could start incorporating opposing elements into the assault, however adventurers do not appear to enjoy firing off magics without need."

"Do you have an idea on how to deal with this?"

"Yes. One of us should assist Petri on ground. However..."

Lapis brought another holographic screen up. On screen, a well reinforced tent city at least four times larger than the expanded Profectus was defending against hoards of beasts.

"Is that Naoki?"

Hiiro questioned after noticing pure beastman battalions engaging the beasts.

"Yes. They have adapted to Petri's combat tactics expertly. Without a major upgrade, I am afraid Petri might not be able to push them over the edge without sacrificing its attention in Relictus or Kanthu."

"So your suggestion is the same as before."

"That it is. Shall we flip a coin?"

"No... I'll take Kanthu. I watched your fight against that thing and want to test out what I learned."

"Then I will head out first."

"Hey! Not yet!"

Hiiro grabbed Lapis' wrist and forcefully dispersed the mana around her. The surprise was apparent on Lapis' face.

"Now this is a wonder..."

Her eyes looked into his questioning his intentions.

"I just got back and haven't seen you for nearly two months. How about we spend some time together first?"

"What do you suggest?"

"How about a bath?", Hiiro grinned.

"Sure, assuming you can find my bath.", she replied in kind before flickering from existence leaving Hiiro behind.

"Damn! Petri, bring up on screen where your innocent master escaped to!"

"..."

"Petri?"

Hiiro looked around only to find the glowing orb absent from the room. His brows furrowed.

"She actually took Petri with her?"

He used quick footwork and flickered from his position, scaling the walls of the hideout and eventually exiting from the underground base. Elevating himself in the air, Hiiro focused internally with a level of focus he never knew he hand.

He prodded that foreign mana Lapis left behind for him, sampling it and gathering its distinct characteristics. He continued until he felt confident. Opening his eyes, Hiiro kneaded a bulk of mana and imagined a radar like magic in his head.

Looking at his surroundings, he projected the image to the horizon and invoked the magic. The strain from expansive magic drew sweat from him, however he was all smiles as a response came back. With that, his form disappeared off in its direction.

Surrounded by rocks and half submerged in steaming water, Lapis stretched her wings with a trickster smile plastered across her face. What little guilt she felt for leaving Hiiro behind melted away with the hot water caressing her skin.

Floating in the heated water of the outdoor bath, Petri held a slow repeating pulse as if it were also relaxing along side its master. Lapis giggled while poking and prodding Petri back and forth with the tips of her wings.

Under such conditions, Lapis completely dropped her guard, too absorbed in the warm currents and playful atmosphere. As such, when a pair of arms pulled her away from Petri into a bare embrace, Lapis panicked.

She slipped off a rock below her in her shock and splashed her wings floundering in the water until a familiar raucous laugh came from the arms behind her. Lapis never expected Hiiro to actually find her, which was why she agreed so readily to his suggestion.

Being forced to live with her decision, she became limp in the arms hugging her and felt her body pulled back against a chest while in the water. The loud laughs continued and through the vibrations of his chest on her back, Lapis somehow found herself laughing as well.

A feeling of tension she couldn't feel before seemed to leak from her as she relaxed without reservation into the man's embrace.

"Remain a gentleman at the very least... How did you find me anyhow?"

"Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks? No way I'd let you know. You might hide from me again!"

"I...might indeed."

Her smile deepened. Hiiro felt her body loosen in his embrace and moved her to a more comfortable seating position. He glanced at her from the side and memories of their first outdoor bath upon arriving in the world came back to him.

As if on cue, Lapis turned to face him.

"See anything you like?"

The memory hit him even harder and so he replied in kind.

"Quite a bit. It's a shame you're not human."

Her smile grew and with it, she rested her head against his shoulder.

"It is a shame you are."

The two laughed with each other and continued their soak watching over Petri and generally enjoying the other's company. They both knew a tough battle was approaching and neither felt the need to ruin the mood.

 

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