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224. He's Back

A quietus enveloped my Lair as the red figure loomed over me. I felt a tremor wash over my skin. It was like I’d been standing on cracked ice, just barely holding my weight, before an earthquake broke its sheet, and I was dipped in the chilled water below. My entire body shivered and shook as I raised a finger, pointing it at the being that emerged from the darkness.

The Devil.

That was his name— or at least, what he called himself when I first saw him.

He had blood-crimson skin with black legs. They were curved back, like the hooves of a horse or a goat. Similar to mine when I was transformed in my [Demonic Essence] form. A pair of wicked horns protruded from his head and a dark goatee that was curled almost up back into itself.

This was the Devil. I’d met him once before. Back when I was half my current level. He’d beaten me with ease— taken the collars I’d tried to steal to bring me back to the Netherworld. My [Deadly Instincts] told me of how dangerous he was then. The spine-prickling feeling of ants crawling their way up my back by the hundreds was never forgotten.

And the same feeling overwhelmed me now. Just with [A Hunter’s Sense] instead. The Devil took one clopping step forward as she tapped a finger on his chin.

“Why, you’ve grown quite a bit since I’ve last seen you. You’re already at Level 100. That’s quite impressive.”

He paused, tilting his head to the side.

“How long did that take you? A hundred years? Two hundred? A thousand?”

“Um…”

I wasn’t sure whether to speak or whether to attack him. I knew I’d die if I tried. Maybe I could run, but he still had a firm grip on my hand. So, I squeaked.

“T-two years?”

It was roughly two years. Maybe more, maybe less. I wasn’t keeping track of time— I didn’t care about the concept of birthdays or age like Humans did. Apparently, the Devil didn’t care about time all that much either.

“Two years? I wasn’t that far off.”

He raised his shoulders in a shrug. Then finally, he let go of me. I felt the burning iron grip on my arm release and stumbled back to the floor. Then his brows tightened like a fist.

“Although, leveling as quickly as that, I’m surprised you aren’t dead yet. Ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine nine nine nine nine nine nine nine nine nine… you get what I’m saying… percent of those who level as quickly as you would be dead by now. Due to sheer recklessness, or sheer chance. You must be quite lucky. Or you must not have died just yet.”

His words screamed at me to run for it. This could be where I died. But he just waved a hand dismissively.

“Anyway, what’s your name again?”

I bit my lower lip. Was he being serious? I’d already introduced myself to him in the past. Why was he asking for my name again now?

“I’m, um, Salvos…”

“Ah, that’s right, Salvos.”

The Devil snapped his fingers with a click. He grinned knowingly.

He recognized me. Not my name. And yet… something was off. He knew who I was. But he didn’t… he didn't…

Then the realization sunk in. I looked down at myself— at my blue jacket and my fingers without claws. I was… a Human. I wasn’t transformed into my [Demonic Essence] form, which was the form most similar to what I wore when I first met him. I wasn’t even my regular self; I didn’t look like a Demon at all.

But he knew who I was.

“H-how…?”

“How?”

He cocked a brow. I drew myself to my feet, activating [Haste] as I backed away. This was a trick. This was definitely some sort of game for him. At any moment, he could just—

The Devil appeared behind me in the blink of an eye. Not a gust of wind accompanied his steps. His hand was firmly planted on my shoulder, stopping me from moving any further. My eyes widened, and he sneered.

“How what, Salvos? Come on, you can’t just leave me in the dark after saying that.”

A bead of sweat trickled down my neck as I met his gaze.

“I-I… how did you know who I was?”

“Ah, that.”

He had a disappointed look on his face. Did he want me to say something else? What even was there to say?

The Devil spoke uncaringly.

“You were pretty funny the last time we met— why wouldn’t I remember someone who’s as funny as you?”

“Funny?”

I didn’t remember what I said last time around which managed to placate him. All I knew was that he left without killing me, and I was grateful for that. But now, I was afraid that one wrong misstep would get him to change his mind.

“I, um, am grateful that you find me funny, Mr Devil. B-but I didn’t even say anything when you appeared…”

“Oh, don’t worry about it too much. You just have a unique mana signature. Everyone does.”

“Mana signature…?”

I cocked my head, but the Devil ignored me. He peered around my shoulder, an intrigued look on his face.

“Now, tell me, Salvos or whatever your name is—”

I suppressed the urge to respond immediately, knowing the level difference between us. At some point, my [Haste] Skill dissipated, and the Devil let go of me, taking in the room around him. He continued.

“Why exactly were you trying to get yourself killed?”

“Get myself killed? I was just trying to get to the Netherworld, and then it started sucking me in— I don’t know what was happening.”

“Oh, that sucking thing? That was me. I hijacked your spell and pulled you in so you wouldn’t run away.”

“Wha—”

I stared at him. That was him? He nodded eagerly as I frowned.

“Wait, are you saying you ruined my spell?”

“I did, indeed. You created your own small pocket dimension and tried to break through it. I have no idea what you were trying to do. That’s not how you open a portal to another plane.”

“I was just trying to tear through it to get to the Netherworld, okay? I didn’t know if it would work!”

I protested. Then I realized I was raising my voice and placed a hand over my mouth. The Devil, fortunately, didn’t seem to be bothered by it.

“So you were trying to slip in through the cracks between the planes. I see, I see. That seems quite ingenious. If not for the fact that it’d kill you.”

I blinked.

“Um, what?”

“The space between planes is very, very narrow. Someone like you would be instantly crushed and mangled and torn apart by how unstable it is. You’re lucky I had my interest piqued by what you were doing and decided to take a look. If I didn’t stop you, you’d be dead.”

“Huh.”

So, what the Devil was saying was that I was throwing myself straight off a cliff, except I had no levels or Skills to help me survive. I pursed my lips, feeling grateful for a moment. Then I immediately acted on my gratitude, bowing my head.

“Thank you. For saving me.”

“I didn’t do it to save you.”

He scoffed.

“I was just curious who the idiot trying to kill themself was. Turns out, it was you, my favorite jokester. That’s another good one— I knew I’d like you.”

I deflated at that.

“B-but I’m…”

A genius.

“Oh? What are you?”

The Devil’s gaze bore into me, and I paled.

“Um, nothing!”

I quickly tried to change topics.

“But how did you know I was trying to slip in through the cracks between planes? How did you, um, interfere?”

“Because that’s where I live.”

He smiled. And I froze.

“O-oh.”

“It’s a nice place, honestly. Maybe I should’ve let you come visit. Show you around the place. I can bring you there now, if you want?”

The Devil spoke in a mocking voice, his face still wearing a twisted smile. I quickly waved my hands.

“I must remorsefully reject your offer!”

“Why?”

“Because I’ll die!”

“Hm. Right, forgot about that.”

He turned and skipped, taking in the rest of the room. I looked at him uncertainly, not sure of what to say. But when I realized he seemed interested in my Lair... I spoke against my better judgment.

“Do you, um, like my Lair?”

“It is peculiar, indeed.”

He took it in, his gaze glazing over the various artifacts I had laid out, almost uninterested. He only paused to pick up a book, his brows wrinkled.

“This is… a book on that boy. He’s making quite a name for himself, isn’t he?”

The Devil looked amused, and I cocked my head.

“That boy?”

“You know him. He’s that one all these [Cultists] like. Your king or whatever.”

I paused. My brows creased as I frowned.

“Do you mean Regnorex?”

“Yeah, him.”

The Devil made a dissatisfied sound.

“His name is just so hard to remember. Regnorex. That’s too many syllables. Why does it have to be so long and not something shorter, like, Reggie? Reggie boy. That’s a good name, don’t you think?”

I nodded as he turned to face me.

“Yep! Reggie boy— rolls right off the tongue!”

“Bah. More boring things about him.”

Tossing the book to the side, the Devil strolled around my Lair, picking up my books and artifacts. None of them interested him. Except for one thing. The one that stood on the highest pedestal.

My Dreaded Gobled. The Devil raised a brow.

“How did you get this?”

“I got it from the Kobold lands— a [Cultist] tried to kill me, and he had it on him. I’ve been carrying it ever since, Mr Devil.”

“Interesting. So, you survived the Kobold lands full of those murderous zealots.”

“I did more than that! I also befriended a few Kobolds!”

The Devil paused. And I hesitated. My heart leapt in my chest as he turned to face me.

Since he appeared, he looked like he’d been having fun. He was trippingly skipping and dancing around my Lair, and now he stumbled. Because of my words. I prepared to run, but he crossed his arms.

“You befriend Kobolds?”

“I-I… did?”

“And they knew that you were a Demon?”

“Yes— is that a bad thing?”

“Hm.”

The Devil stared at the Dreaded Goblet for a moment longer. He had no reflection in the blackened water inside of it. I felt tense, but he eventually shook his head.

“No. It is just different. The Mortal Realm has changed quite significantly since I’ve last been here proper. Tell me, is Humankind still united? Or have they fractured once more?”

I thought about all the different countries I’d been to. All the infighting between Humans. Even with Belzu, they struggled to fully commit. They were working together, from what I was told. But instead of sending all that they had against him together, they were waiting for someone else to take the lead.

“I don’t think they’re united.”

“So, no [Hero] has taken Alexander’s place, eh? Not even your friend?”

My friend? I blinked, and he turned to face me, curious. He waited, tapping his hoof on the ground. Finally, I realized who he was talking about.

“Oh, Daniel?”

The Devil gave me a weird look for whatever reason, and I just shrugged.

“He’s… alright, I guess? I don’t think he’ll be able to do anything like that. He’s definitely no Melissa and no Zacharius. Definitely not an Alexander.”

From what I heard about the other [Heroes], they were all around awesome. Daniel… yep, could never see him doing anything like that.

The Devil blinked. Then he laughed.

“My, you’re really funny, aren’t you? Just as I thought, it’s a good thing I didn’t kill you the last time we met. I guess I’ll spare you again for now.”

He spoke casually. So much so that I nearly missed what he said. I chuckled too— a nervous chuckle. I felt both relief and despair at hearing that he planned on killing me again.

“Anyway, it seems I’ve missed a lot. I wonder if the Netherworld has changed much too? Well, probably. Reggie boy is doing what he’s doing, pretending to be a king, and the Beast is just killing everything as usual. Not much of a reason to go there.”

“Does that mean you’ll go back to your, um, home?”

I spoke in a hopeful voice. He pondered it for a moment.

“Hm, no.”

The Devil shook his head. I blinked.

“Um, what?”

I felt a terrifying premonition— what he said next could be varying levels of disaster. And one of the ones that I feared the most came true.

“I think I’ll stay.”

The Devil spoke simply. I sputtered.

“E-excuse me?”

“You heard what I said. The Mortal Realm seems to have changed quite a lot in the past few thousand years. I’ve only dropped by briefly, so I’ve never actually taken a good look around. I want to see what’s new. So, I’ll stay.”

His words took a moment to settle in. I rubbed at my temples, fluttering my eyes shut. I said a single word.

“Huh.”

Well, fuck.

What was I going to tell Saffron?

 

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A note from MelasD

Late chappie cause I was busy af today with family matters. 

Shoutout to Incursions

If you could buy superhuman abilities, but they might kill you—or worse—would you do it?

Ten years ago, in a world not so different from our own, people with powerful abilities appeared. The new powers were dangerous, dangerous to acquire—dangerous to have—dangerous to wield. World governments raced to find and eradicate the abilities and those who possess them while using the media to rule by fear. Whereas corporations sought to exploit the abilities for profit.

Raz Owens was living the dream - a rising star at a job he enjoys, a girlfriend he loves, but it all comes crashing down when Raz disregards his late father's advice. He is pulled into a chaotic underworld of clandestine labs, shadow organizations, and super-powered criminals. Used as a human test subject in a place where few survive the day, he must last long enough to escape. 

 

His only advantage? A power that seems nearly useless—a heads-up display.

Incursions | Royal Road


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MelasD

  • Self-proclaimed most Successful Young Author on RoyalRoad based off the overly specific criteria he set. Became the 21st novel to hit 10,000 followers on the 21st of September, 2021, at the age of 21.
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