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254. Law of the Netherworld

I stood amongst debris of corrupted earth and stone and sky. They faintly glimmered in the dark of the night, almost distorted in the same way [Identification]’s results came out with a jumbled mess. I shook my head, instead focusing on the words that resounded in my head.

The first thing I did was distribute my secondary Stat Points. I’d leveled significantly for my Class since the Devil assigned this task to me. The Cursed Boulder— or corrupted piece of the world or whatever— had granted me a lot of experience for each form I killed. 10 levels in such a short amount of time. That was 20 secondary Skill Points.

I maxed out [Mystical Projection], [Scattery Shift], and [Planar Navigation], before bringing [Long Range Teleportation] to Level 10. With that, I only had a single secondary Skill left unmaxed. And that was [Long Range Teleportation].

Salvos (Liberator of the Plaguelands)

Species: [Archdemon of Pride]

Subspecies: [Daeva Cambion] - Lvl. 110

Class: [Worldly Mystic of the Nexeus] - Lvl. 62

General Skills:

[Advanced Mana Manipulation] - Lvl. 8

[Identification] - Lvl. 6

[Racial Skill: Universal Language Comprehension] - Lvl. 1

[Racial Skill: Demonic Essence] - Lvl. 4

[Racial Skill: Partial Mortality] - Lvl. 6

[Rest] - Lvl. 5

[Lesser Enhanced Wisdom] - Lvl. 6

[Title Skill: General Curse Resistance] - Lvl. 2

[Title Skill: Recall Skill] - Lvl. 1

Stats:

[Available Stat Points: 0]

[Vitality]: 136 (+25)

[Strength]: 112 (+25)

[Endurance]: 125 (+25)

[Wisdom]: 213 (+25) (+10)

[Agility]: 270 (+25)

Skills:

[Available Skill Points: 2]

[Barrage of Cinders] - Lvl. 20 (Maxed)

[Demon’s Mark] - Lvl. 7

[Haste] - Lvl. 10

[Intimidation] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)

[Faux Limbs] - Lvl. 1

[Nebular Construct] - Lvl. 6

[Radiant Slash] - Lvl. 15 (Maxed)

[Salvo of Vanity] - Lvl. 5

[The Primordial Spark] - Lvl. 15

[Wings of the Netherworld] - Lvl. 5

[Passive - A Hunter’s Sense] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)

[Passive - Blue Flames] - Lvl. 20 (Maxed)

[Passive - Weapon Mastery] - Lvl. 20 (Maxed)

[Unused Skill Slot] x1

Secondary Skills:

[Available Secondary Skill Points: 1]

[Mystical Projection] - Lvl 15 (Maxed)

[Long Range Teleportation] - Lvl 10

[Planar Navigation] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)

[Scatter Shift] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)

[Temporal Distortion] - Lvl 20 (Maxed)

[Titles Available]

Once I was finished with that, I focused on the last bit in my Status. I had earned a Title— or was it Titles, plural?

Title for Great Feats:

Requirements for two Titles have been met!

You now have five Titles available!

Titles:

(Unarith’s Fiend)

You have slain the High Zealot of Unarith and brought chaos and fear into the city! The terror you have caused makes you a Demon in the eyes of the Cult of the Old Gods, bolstering your spirit and your pride!

+5 to [Vitality]

+7 to [Strength]

+3 to [Endurance]

+3 to [Wisdom]

+5 to [Agility]

(Scale Champion)

You have won the Trial of the Scales, bringing victory on behalf of the Risen Dragons! They see you as their champion, the brave warrior who fought for their cause, earning you their praise and gratitude!

+4 to [Vitality]

+4 to [Strength]

+4 to [Endurance]

+4 to [Wisdom]

+4 to [Agility]

(Savior of Falisfield)

You have liberated Nixa’s largest province of Falisfield from a rampaging Greater Demon! You have saved the city of Silvergrove from falling, and avenged all those who have been killed in the destruction! You are a hero in the people’s eyes!

+3 to [Vitality]

+5 to [Strength]

+5 to [Endurance]

+3 to [Wisdom]

+3 to [Agility]

The first three Titles listed were Titles I’d already seen before. Ones I’d gained way back a few years ago. When I first fought Lucerna, and when I fought Zix. It felt like such a long time ago. And it was. Years back. Or just over a year back, for the Kobolds.

They were, however, no good to me. I knew that. So, I chose to only focus on the two new Titles I was granted.

(Avenger of the Swift Hill Warriors)

You have enacted revenge on behalf of a Beastmen tribe! Your name has earned renown throughout the Beastmen Plains for letting the dead rest after their slaughter! You are an Avenger!

+10 to [Vitality]

+15 to [Strength]

+10 to [Endurance]

+10 to [Wisdom]

+10 to [Agility]

The first Title, the Avenger of the Swift Hill Warriors, wasn’t bad. It was better than the other Titles I had available. However, it was incomparable to the Title I currently had— Liberator of the Plaguelands. The fact that being an Avenger wasn’t terrible was a nice surprise, but I saw no reason to forsake my current Title for it.

However, the next available Title piqued my interest.

(Defender of the Nexeus)

You have destroyed a corrupted piece of the world! It may only be a single piece, but it is more than many have done in dozens of millenia! In doing so, you’ve taken up the mantle of Dragons in protecting Nexeus from its doom!

+15 to [Vitality]

+15 to [Strength]

+15 to [Endurance]

+15 to [Wisdom]

+15 to [Agility]

“Huh, interesting.”

I tapped a finger on my chin. Dragons? So, the Kobolds were right! And this thing I’d fought was related to that.

Not that I really cared, honestly. It was just intriguing. Also, the Title itself wasn’t as good as my current Title. However, it could possibly offer an even better Title Skill. It certainly sounded very unique. Although, all Titles were supposed to be quite rare in the first place, anyway.

But even still, this Title was… different. I could just tell. It had more gravity to it— and it seemed like only the first Title in a line of Titles that would only get better. Now, the question was, did I want a decrease in Stats for the possibility of a better Title Skill?

Before I could make the decision, a voice drew my attention.

“You destroyed the Cursed Boulder.”

I glanced up, and the Devil hovered above me. He had a pair of dark red wings that seemed to glow in the moonlight. They flapped gently as he cast his gaze over me. I nodded.

“Yep! And—”

“And you haven’t reached your next Class advancement.”

He stared at me in displeasure. I took a step back, hesitating. His voice was deep— disappointed. He was not his usual self at all. Crossing his arms, he landed and tapped a hoof on the ground.

“You failed.”

The Devil spoke in a flat voice. I opened my mouth to protest—

And he snapped his fingers.

—--

Everything around me vanished. I felt like I was falling down into the very depths of the ocean. Tumbling, turning— trying to take it all without fainting. But this feeling did not ease. Instead, it was exacerbated. It was like I was swimming in a sea of darkness; every direction was meaningless, and a deep silence encroached on me from all sides. The only reprieve I saw was the glimmer of light up ahead. I swam to it, hoping that it’d lead me to my salvation. But when I reached it, I found myself caught in a trap. No different from a fish flopping in a trawl.

I opened my eyes, finding my senses returning to me. I was once again in the everchanging fractal box of the Devil. I lay flat on my back, staring up at the supermassive black hole above. I groused and rubbed my head.

“Ugh, why’d you do that? You could’ve at least given me a warning!”

“You failed me, my daughter. I gave you a simple task, and you failed.”

The Devil repeated himself. I rolled my eyes.

“I heard you the first time you said it!”

“It was not a difficult task. All you had to do was wait a few days. A week, at most. But instead, you were impatient. You destroyed the corrupted debris of the Cursed Boulder before it could grow in size. Why?”

His gaze bore into me, and I hesitated. He didn’t seem upset— more so… disappointed. However, I had a perfectly valid explanation and reasoning behind my actions!

“I did it because I said I’d do it. That is all.”

He titled his head, clearly perplexed. I waved a hand off.

“Anyway, I thought it wasn’t that big of a deal. It’s not like that’s the only monster like that, right? They called it the Cursed Boulder, but that’s not truly what it is, isn’t it? It’s not cursed. It’s corrupted.”

His eyes narrowed slightly as I continued.

“And if it’s corrupted, that means that even more things can be corrupted too! If you really want me to reach my next advancement fighting them, why not just bring me to the Endlands? You said it yourself, that’s where they come from, right?”

I finished. And the Devil harrumphed.

“Salvos, do you really think that you can survive even a day in the Endlands?”

His face twisted as I blinked.

“The ‘Cursed Boulder’ was but a mere pebble of what you can find there.”

He raised a hand and balled it into a fist.

“Even I would not find it easy to survive its harsh environment. Imagine a corruption— just like the distortion you saw— but spread over a vast amount of land. Where an entire section of the sky would rip itself free to end your life. To shred your very being to its soul. Storms of uncontrolled, pixelated energy. Like the world itself is broken.”

I stared at the expression on Sal’s face. It was one I’d never seen before.

“Even Lesser Gods can perish there. In fact, many of them have. That is why the Worldwalkers of old abandoned the Nexeus.”

The Devil shook his head.

“I cannot guarantee that the next corrupted piece of the world will cross the ocean within the next year, decade, or century. Nor can I guarantee that it will be as powerful as the one you saw today. The others that have made it in the past were often ebbed by the monsters of the sea. And perhaps that is a fortune to the mortals in Secely. For if stronger ones make it past the ocean, they’d bring widespread calamity with them.”

His eyes flickered as I shifted slightly. I met his gaze with some apprehension, and I finally realized what he was feeling. Disappointment.

“Such fortuitous timing for your training— ruined. And for what? All because you made a promise to some mortals? Ridiculous.”

I watched him sigh. For whatever reason, I felt kind of bad because of that. However, I also felt the need to still defend myself. I gestured at him and protested.

“You were the one who said it before— I am an Archdemon of Pride. I cannot just stand around and let my reputation be tarnished!”

The Devil paused. He tapped a finger on his chin, pondering it for a moment.

“Pride in recognition. Of course, it is fitting for you.”

“Exactly!”

I nodded eagerly, glad that he got what I was saying. But that wasn’t enough for him. The Devil turned around, clicking his tongue.

“However, you have forgotten yourself. You have grown too accustomed to living amongst others. And that, perhaps, is my own mistake here.”

His voice grew softer towards the end. Like he was airing out his own regrets. Then he spun back to face me.

“It is no matter. I told you I would teach you a Grand Skill— which I will. All I will have to do is adjust my lessons. Treat you harsher. But most of all, remind you of what truly matters in your life. Above all else.”

I couldn’t help but feel a prickling feeling crawl up my back as he said that.

“Um, what exactly do you mean by that?”

I asked, and he smiled.

“Tell me, daughter. Do you still wish to undergo my lessons? This is your last chance to back away from it.”

The Devil spoke forebodingly. I opened my mouth to respond, but he cut me off.

“You may die.”

And that was enough to make me reconsider my response. Sal peered at me as he tapped a finger on his elbow with folded arms.

“However, it is an important lesson. One that you need to learn. Or rather, relearn. Because you seem to have lost sight of it. The one law that governs the Netherworld. The very same thing every Demon learns at their birth. The only thing that truly matters.”

He leaned closer to me, whispering.

“Your survival.”

The Devil pulled away from me and gave me a challenge.

“Now, will you stay and learn a Grand Skill, Salvos? Or will you turn tails and flee?”

I bit my lower lip. Then I met his gaze, determined.

“I’ll stay.”

“Good.”

He grinned, and the world disappeared once more.

 

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