226. Deal with the Devil
“You tricked me!”
I stormed back into my Lair and pointed accusingly at the Devil. He looked up at me, head tilted to the side for a moment, acting confused. Then he burst out laughing.
“You actually fell for it! Seriously? That’s amazing! How long did it take you to realize those ingredients weren't real?”
I gritted my teeth as the Devil doubled over, rolling on the floor with his hearty laugh. He nearly smacked into the pile of corpses. My brows snapped together.
“So, this entire thing was fake?”
“As fake as an Elixir of Immortality, yes. If Humans want to live longer, all they need to do is reach higher levels and get the right General Skills. Simple as that.”
“And what about these monsters?”
I looked over at their bodies. He waved a hand off, and they vanished.
“Just a setup for the prank. You know how it is.”
“I really don’t.”
The Devil leapt back to his feet, his hooves clopping with the step. He trotted up to me and slapped me on the back as I scowled.
“Don’t tell me you’ve never done a practical joke before, Sally? It’s fun! What else do you spend your free time doing?”
I bit my lower lip. I wanted to retort, but something else caught my attention. My eyes settled on past the Devil— at the center of my Lair, where I had all my study materials prepared, including my ingredients necessary for my Potion of Regeneration.
My eyes widened.
“Wait, my alchemy station?!”
“Wait, my alchemy station?!”
“What about it?”
He looked puzzled, but I was aghast.
“It’s completely destroyed!”
“So it is.”
The Devil glanced over at it, nonchalant. I turned to him.
“How did this happen?”
“Oh, I was just messing around with a few ingredients and— boom. Something exploded. I’m not sure what, though.”
“You messed around with my ingredients?!”
I scrambled over to my alchemy station, sifting through the debris in a panic. The Devil nodded as I ran by him.
“I saw a few shiny things and decided to play around with them. Did something go wrong?”
I held up a broken vial of purified amethyst essence. It was one of the cheaper ingredients— less rare, but necessary nonetheless.
Thankfully, most of the important ingredients were safe. My Enigmatic Heart shard, most importantly, was unharmed. But still— my cauldron and equipment were destroyed. I needed to buy new things!
I glared at the Devil.
“Did something go wrong? Why don’t you take a look and see if something went wrong?!”
He gave me an innocuous glance before turning his gaze to the destroyed alchemy station. He shook his head.
“I don’t see anything wrong at all, Sally.”
I paused. It was like something inside of me snapped. I’d been growing more and more annoyed with the Devil, but I’d only been questioning him. I didn’t challenge him. And if I let him do as he pleased, he’d continue doing so for the next few days or weeks or maybe even months or years. The very thought of that drove me to act.
I stepped away from the broken bits of glass and metal, meeting the Devil’s gaze.
“My name is Salvos.”
“That’s what I said: Sally.”
I pursed my lips, and his face contorted into a smile. No longer a grin. But what seemed like genuine happiness and my annoyance.
“It’s Salvos, Mr Devil. Can you please get it right?”
I insisted, and he shrugged.
“I think it’s more fun to call you Sally.”
My brows snapped together. I clenched my fists, gritting my teeth as the Devil quirked an eyebrow.
“Oho, is the Archdemon of Pride’s ego hurt? Just because I won’t call you by your name?”
I spoke defiantly. He shook his head.
“What are you going to do about it?”
“I am Salvos. And you will acknowledge me.”
“Then make me.”
The Devil loomed over me from across the Lair. He was barely even taller than me, yet he seemed so large. Everything told me not to take this fight. I probably shouldn’t have even spoken up or challenged him. I should’ve just swallowed my words and kept quiet.
But I couldn’t do that. I’d tried for a whole day. Now, I had enough. And I had a slight advantage that might’ve tipped the scales.
Here? This was my Lair. It gave me a boost. +3% to all my Stats. But that wasn’t going to help me beat him. No, it wouldn’t be enough. I couldn’t see his level, but [A Hunter’s Sense] told me all I knew about how this fight would go.
The Devil gestured for me to come forward.
“Well, what are you waiting for?”
I bared my teeth.
“I’m waiting for you to prepare yourself. After all, I don’t want this to be an unfair fight.”
He chuckled, amused.
“Good one. But your hubris will be your fall. I mean— do you even think you’ll be able to touch me?”
And in that moment, half of my Skills flared up. [Demonic Essence] ripped my clothes and changed my body. [The Primordial Spark] whirled around my skin, creating a tempest of flames. [Wings of the Netherworld], [Haste], and [Faux Limbs] activated as well, just as I exploded at the Devil.
I was a wicked creature of a dozen arms and bone-like wings. I left behind a trail of blazing blue as I closed in on the Devil. He didn’t move from where he stood, which was a good thing, because at the very last moment, I teleported to his back and cast [Temporal Distortion] so he was standing at the very fringe of a slowed space, while I was still outside.
I brought a claw up, [Radiant Slash] forming its black flames. And right as I was about to bring it down, I felt a powerful force fling me away from the Devil. He snapped his fingers, and my [Temporal Distortion] field vanished. Everything in the room was repulsed by a wave, like a strong deluge had crashed into my Lair.
I stumbled back, trying to steady myself against the wall. The Devil turned around, cocking his head.
“Well? Was that it?”
I spewed a blast of sweeping white flames. The Devil crossed his arms, and what looked like a lattice of glass covered him, blocking the attack, even as it boiled my Lair. I narrowed my eyes. Neither [Intimidation] nor the fiery combination of [The Primordial Spark] and [Nebular Construct] with my Flaming Breath even affected the Devil.
The barrier spell vanished— it had been clear as day in my [Planar Navigation] senses. Space magic that I couldn’t possibly comprehend. I stared at him.
“It’s nothing, really. You’re just that much beneath me, Sally.”
The Devil spoke playfully, and I screamed.
“I am Salvos!”
I rushed him, swinging all five of my real arms alongside my seven other [Faux Limbs] at the Devil. [Barrage of Cinders] took over, and each strike I took lit up the dark cavern. The Devil took a step back, casually ducking under my strikes, dodging them with ease, circling around me as the smirk was plastered on his face.
Even with my speed— even with [Haste]— I couldn’t touch him. I flipped and kicked and slashed and sliced, but he was untouchable. He even stood still once, and my swing went straight through him. I stumbled past his image and glanced back. He was now solid again.
“Oops. And I thought you almost had me.”
I created a dozen Nebular Scythes, one for each of my hands. [The Primordial Spark] began conjuring flaming weapons in the air too, a salvo that was instantly unleashed at him. He raised a hand, and the flaming weapons stopped mid-air, halted by some sort of invisible force.
But as that happened, I dashed forward bringing all dozen Nebular Scythes down at him. The Devil moved. He grabbed one of the Nebular Scythes off a [Faux Limb], using it to slice the magically created limb in half. I leapt back as he continued pressing forward, a whirlwind of blades that tore down each of my [Faux Limbs] from existence.
When I was only left with my real limbs, he tossed aside the Nebular Scythe, winking.
“You still have five arms and five scythes left. Try to hit me with all of them. I’m sure it’ll work this time around.”
I threw aside four out of five of the Nebular Scythes. The Devil looked slightly perplexed by this.
“Aw, did my taunting make you do that?”
I spoke simply as I gripped the Nebular Scythe with all my arms. Then I ran straight at the Devil, not even trying to go around him. I brought the weapon down, not accompanied by magic or anything else. Just the weapon itself.
He sighed and brought up an arm.
“You know, brute force doesn’t always work, right?”
The Devil caught the edge of my Nebular Scythe. I tried to pull it back, but he just held it in place.
“At least use a Grand Skill or something if you’re going to do that. This is starting to bore me.”
He crushed the Nebular Scythe’s blade in his grip, and tugged the weapon forward, ripping it free from my five arms. I staggered forward, swinging my claws. He just moved his head back in time to dodge the attack.
“Come on, stop hiding your—”
And I growled.
[Recall Skill: Zealous Call].
His eyes flickered. And his backwards movement changed to a forward movement. The amusement on his face changed to fury. It all happened so fast, I barely even moved an inch before he was already bringing down a blackened pitchfork at me.
The tip of my claw barely touched his chest as his weapon swung down at me, closing the distance before I could even properly scratch him. I would’ve been killed there and then, when his legs jerked up. His eyes flickered once more, and he kicked me out of the way.
I crashed into my Dreaded Goblet, spilling the black water all over a pile of books. I coughed, bent over, grabbing my stomach in pain as the Devil frowned.
He’d already regained his senses. He was the one who knocked me out of the way just before he could impale me with his pitchfork. He wrinkled his brows.
“Did you just enchant me to kill you?”
I grunted as I stood up. Then I grinned for the first time.
“But at least it let me touch you.”
He glanced down at his chest as a symbol burned on his skin.Flames erupted into a sphere. It first exploded into a sphere, engulfing only the Devil in the compressed ball of heat. Then it began to grow, bloating up into what would’ve been my strongest Skill.
A powerful explosion that would’ve destroyed my Lair entirely. One that would’ve hurt even me at this range. But just as the bloated sphere was about to explode into an even bigger blast, it began to shrink.
It was like a pond was being drained of its water. My flame was being sucked into a single point at the Devil’s fingertips. It was like a whirlpool of black. A warped hole in space that seemed to lead to where he came from. It was the same pull that had tugged me and only me to the Devil when he first appeared in my Lair.
It consumed my flames, leaving the Devil standing there unscathed. He dusted himself off. My jaw dropped.
He was completely unharmed, even though he’d been wrapped in my [Demon’s Mark]’s flames for a good moment. The Devil stood there, his gaze darkened over. He placed a foot forward, and I leapt back, feeling sweat trickling down my back.
No, not sweat. I couldn’t sweat as a Demon. It was the water from the Dreaded Goblet.
His voice was cold and icy. It caused me to tremble like I’d been dipped in a frozen lake. I created another Nebular Scythe, not sure what that’d even do. He repeated himself as he came closer.
I warned him, flaring up all my remaining Skills in preparation for what would be the final clash. The Devil’s hollow, black eyes locked with mine, and he opened his mouth.
“You’re completely fucking insane! You actually used a Skill that’d get you killed just so you could land a proper blow on me? That’s the most stupid, ridiculous, and asinine thing anyone has ever done!”
He rocked his head back and laughed.
“I love it!”
The Devil continued to himself.
“If I didn’t have an immunity to curses, I wouldn’t have been able to break free from that Skill for another… I don’t know, two or three seconds? That stupid enchantment effect would’ve taken a solid moment longer for me to undo. I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from killing you. And you did that for what?”
“...to land a single hit?”
“Exactly. To land a single hit.”
He repeated after me, placing his hands on his hips. Then his eyes lit up again, and I drew back.
“And you— you don’t have a Grand Skill, do you?”
I shook my head.
“The fact that you challenged me without a Grand Skill makes you even more insane! Maybe you could’ve stood a chance with a Grand Skill, but without it, you may as well have just hanged yourself there and then.”
The Devil wiped a tear from his eyes as I just stood there, staring at him blankly, unsure of what to even say.
“I like that. No— I love that! You’re more than just amusing: you’re one of a kind, Salvos.”
I raised a brow. Did he just use my real name? Then what he said before that registered in my head. Did he just acknowledge me?
He waved a hand off, letting his pitchfork vanish.
“You’re the type of Demon that shouldn’t have survived the Desolation. And yet, here you are. Good job. I say this with all my heart when I say good job.”
“Thank you— um…”
I hesitated, but I felt the urge to ask the question.
“Does that mean you won’t kill me for real this time?”
“It means I won’t kill you ever, Salvos. That’d be like if I was given an actual Elixir of Immortality— the only one in the world— and decided to break it into pieces and destroy it. Nope. That’d be stupid. No, I won’t do that. And even better—”
The Devil leaned forward, getting uncomfortably close to me. But unlike before, I never once felt the alarm of [A Hunter’s Sense] blaring at me. He truly meant his word. And despite knowing that, what he said next surprised me.
“How about this?”
He smirked, proffering me his hand.
“I have nothing better to do, so why don’t I take you in as my apprentice?”
I went cross-eyed.
“I can teach you what it means to be a Demon. You’re an Archdemon of Pride. I can get you a Grand Skill befitting your nature! And it’s not like I have anything else to do. So, this is my deal to you.”
The Devil just smiled as he gestured at his hands, waiting for me to shake it. It took me a moment to regain my composure. Everything was happening so quickly. In fact, even though [Haste] was still active, I couldn’t keep up with what was going on. I inhaled deeply and looked at his hand.
Finally, [Haste] dissipated as I made a decision. The Devil waited, and I felt my hand twitch. I raised it slightly. Then I lowered it.
“Thanks, but no.”
The Devil spread his arms wide.
“Wonderful! I shall begin your lessons post-haste—”