The Black Demon King 503
Chapter 26: Storm of Gluttony
The Wrong Time to Withdraw (1)
The Crusaders’ defense finally collapsed in front of the swarming horde of Gluttony Octos. The 203rd Supply Base Colony had now turned into a pandemonium.
As I ran along with the fleeing soldiers, I heard someone calling for help nearby.
When I turned towards its source, I found a fallen soldier who had been caught by a crawling octopus. His standard iron helmet, which was decorated with a cross, made a rattling sound as it rolled on the ground, as if it had come off when the soldier collapsed. His exposed face revealed that he was still very young.
He looked like he was about 15 years old, and though that would make him a grown-up in this world, his face still had the innocence of a child and was full of fear.
He was definitely younger than me, at least. And I saw that I had a chance to shoot. So I took it in order to help him.
I fired two rounds. The first one severed the tentacles that were latching onto the young soldier’s legs, and the other one pierced the octopus’ head.
Released from his terrifying restraints, the young soldier looked like he didn’t know what had just happened, but he knew enough to realize that he had regained his freedom. Feeling relieved that he had narrowly escaped death, he quickly got back up on his feet. His fear had turned into tears, and his joy was made visible in his smile.
But the next moment, a spear-headed tentacle pierced through his back, coming out from the middle of his chest. Using the barbed tip of its tentacle –which looked more like a harpoon–, its owner sluggishly dragged its freshly caught prey, then quickly flung it towards the fog.
I muttered this hoping that my full-face helmet’s thickness was enough so that Ursula, who I was carrying under my arm, wouldn’t hear it.
He had been a soldier of the Crusader Army, my sworn enemies. I had no idea how many of these guys had perished in our many battles against one another, nor how many of them I myself had killed with my own hands.
And yet, seeing this one-sided slaughter in front of my eyes like this sent a shiver down my spine. He was still a human being, after all. I couldn’t help but wish I could’ve done more to help him.
However, as if to ridicule my little good intentions, these octopuses showed me even more hell.
Before I knew it, we had reached the central square of the village. It was bigger than the one in our village, and was surrounded by large buildings. And it was currently overflowing with villagers fleeing from the sudden invasion of monsters.
And the octopuses, who can drop down anywhere in the village from the sky, had also gathered at this place. In other words, this square had turned into their feeding grounds.
I was hit by the deafening, heartbreaking screams of a woman. Looking around, I found what seemed to be a young mother and her baby being attacked.
She was heading for a church, which looked more magnificent than the one we had in our village.
Due to its sturdy build and its large chapel, the church seemed to be acting as a evacuation site for the fleeing villagers.
Its main gate was still open, and several Crusader infantry and others who seemed to be part of this village’s vigilante forces had gathered together to block the invasion of monsters while taking in refugees into the church.
The young mother was only ten meters away from running into the safety of the church, but at that moment, her ankles were entwined with green tentacles.
Thinking it wasn’t too late yet, I reflexively set my aim. But right after that, a large shadow landed in front of my eyes. It was, of course, a green octopus.
It was one of the medium ones, towering over about 3 meters above the ground, but this one was particularly plump. Its head was greatly bloated, and its four tentacles were thicker than the others of its kind.
It bore its fangs from its round maw, letting out a menacing roar, and swinging its spear-headed tentacles in such a violent way that it reminded me of a kind of alien I had seen on a TV show back in my home world.
I didn’t feel terribly threatened by this guy, but it had still taken me by surprise.
Still, I brought down the halberd in my right hand into its humongous head before its tentacles could reach me. With that single blow, the octopus was split in two and slumped onto the cobbled ground.
However, what I wanted to do was not to cut this guy down, but to save the mother and child who were about to be attacked a little farther ahead.
I would ready my aim to fire my magic bullets once again, but it remained a thought. I didn’t even get to move my arm.
Ursula, who was still being carried under my left arm, let out a cute but horrified quiet scream of surprise.
“Don’t look, Ursula.”
I turned around in order to block her view.
What I saw beyond the bloodied remains of the bloated octopus was a desperate predation scene.
The mother was already in the middle of being swallowed into the octopus’ maw from her head down. Whether she was still alive or dead, I couldn’t tell just by looking at her white legs bouncing limply as the monster continued to gobble her down.
Right next to that scene, I saw several small octopuses of the 50-centimeter-long kind flocking to the mother’s baby who lay on the ground. I felt it was better for Ursula’s mental health that she didn’t see the baby’s soft body being torn to shreds by the swarm of hungry small octopuses.
I had been repeating those words for some time.
It was too late to help anyone. Even if I could help them, it would be all for nothing. Even now, I couldn’t make it in time to save that mother and her baby because my line of fire was blocked for an instant.
It was inevitable, after all.
Everywhere I looked, there were simply too many enemies. All I heard was the loud chorus of screams echoing from the surroundings. And there had been way too many victims.
I had to make a decision. I had to stop being disturbed by trifles. In a situation like this, I just had to focus on running away and abandon everything and everyone else. I should have done that from the beginning.
“Priest Kuroe, please put me down.”
Ursula suddenly said such a thing while tapping on my waistplate. So I did as she said.
“Can you run by yourself?”
“No, I want to fight.”
“There is no need for that. If we just keep running ahead, we might–”
“I want to help them. Let’s do what we can to help the people of this village, Priest Kuroe.”
Her blue eyes , which looked straight up at me, were clear and beautiful enough to draw you in. However, her most beautiful trait was probably her heart, which was eager to help those in need.
I found myself unconsciously looking away from the purity of her soul, which had been projected by her blue eyes.
“Standing our ground and fighting them off is going to get pretty dangerous.”
“Uhuhu, I knew it, Priest Kuroe. You want to help them as well. Don’t deny it.”
Ursula had a childishly triumphant smile on her face, as if she had pulled a prank on me and I had fallen for it. As if she could see through everything, including every silly conflict inside my mind.
After all, I was the one being childish, wasn’t I?
“…I’m sorry. Are you really sure about this?”
“Yes. After all, we’re both here.”
My own power, as well as Ursula’s… If we tried our hardest, both of us should at the very least be able to help all of the villagers that had barricaded themselves inside the church escape to safety.
On the other hand, Ursula and I would be putting our lives on the line.
Had I been a proper adult, I would probably have had to scold Ursula for thinking about putting herself in danger like that, and prioritize our own escape. It would have been my duty as her guardian.
But instead, I easily agreed with her, probably because I was still a kid myself. After all, wasn’t I a 17-year-old, second-year senior high school student?
“Priest Kuroe, the warehouse on the west side is a single white stone building. That’s this base’s armory.”
As expected of Ursula and her clear mind. Now I knew exactly what I needed.
“Are you sure about that?”
“I overheard a conversation about it between two soldiers yesterday. It also seems to store many supplies that would be sent to the Alsace Fortress, so you should be able to find some weapons there.”
I was grateful for the information, but there was one problem.
“That means you’ll be on your own for a while.”
Looking at our situation, it was clear that we didn’t have time to go looking for weapons while taking Ursula with me. We needed to start rescuing people as soon as possible, otherwise it would be too late when we returned.
If we wanted to save the villagers, we would have no choice but to have me go get the weapons by myself while Ursula started fighting as soon as possible.
“I’ll hold on one way or another. Believe in me, no, in the power of me and Anastasia.”
There was no time for me to worry about anything else anymore.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
With that, I left Ursula and ran towards the warehouse where the Crusaders’ supplies were stored.
Ursula, who was now alone in the middle of the square -which had turned into a hellish version of itself where countless tentacles capture, pierce through, and eat people alive– quietly unleashed her power.
“Now, I’ll deal with every single one of you, for Priest Kuroe’s sake –’White Yaksha Princess – Anastasia’.”
No one would have expected to see a white demonic princess appear silently, flickering in like a haze. In this extreme situation, not only the villagers, but even the armed soldiers were running around with their vision heavily impaired by the fog.
Therefore, Ursula wielded her power freely, without fear of being judged by others for it.
She started with the closest enemies she could find.
Strangely enough, Anastasia’s four arms matched the Gluttony Octos’ four tentacles. However, her movement was different from the undulating motion of the tentacles, and they managed to grab hold of the octopuses with the speed and accuracy of a swallow swooping down on its prey.
An octopus that was stretching out its tentacles towards its own prey, the one who had already skewered someone’s back, the one who had just bitten into someone’s head… all of them were wiped away by the touch of Anastasia’s white hand.
Was it because these monsters were boneless? But even if they had had bones in their bodies, they would have still been turned into a pile of ash before Anastasia’s power.
“There are too many of them after all.”
The disgusted Ursula muttered that as Anastasia continued to swing her arms around in all directions, completely decimating any enemies within five meters of herself, including those that still continued descending from the sky right above her head.
There had been neither fear nor anxiety in that expression, only a feeling of being purely annoyed. It was like a civilian facing a pile of troublesome documents.
“…I’m sorry if this hits any of you.”
This was nothing but a sarcastic apology. Ursula kept using her power without restraint even more, as if he had made up her mind about it..
Anastasia looked like she was wearing a pure white robe, but its hem was like a translucent veil that completely wrapped around Ursula. It was a thin section that looked like it could be easily blown away by the wind, but it had already become clear from training with Kuroe that this was effectively like a barrier that blocked attacks from the outside.
Even if Kuroe’s explosive magic were to detonate right next to her, she would be able to get through it completely unfazed, since the veil could absorb and nullify the heat and shockwave of an explosion. However, it had its limits, so it was like other defensive magic that would not be able to completely block an attack that went over that limit in power or number of hits. Even so, it was still a very reliable defensive ability that protected her from all directions.
From under this thin silk barrier, a mist suddenly began to appear, just like the first time she used this ability.
Though this mist looked similar to the fog that was covering the village, its essence was completely different. Because it was a maninfestation of Anastasia’s draining ability.
“Disappear –Full Burst”
In an instant, the mist exploded into a white blast that ran through the surroundings. There had been no heat nor shockwave. Only a strong gust of wind that was unleashed in an instant.
The blast that was unleashed with Ursula at its center stole the magical power and vitality from friends and foes alike within a radius of 20 meters.
It seemed that the blast’s draining ability was much lower than Anastasia’s hands, as the octopuses fell limp on the ground and twitched their bodies and tentacles, but none of them died. However, thanks to that weakness, the fleeing villagers had only been slightly weakened by it.
For the time being, Ursula had succeeded in neutralizing the monsters.
“Ah, the fog is gone… Hmm, so it was caused by their magic after all.”
Both the monsters she had to defeat and the villagers she had to save lay all together in the ground in what seemed to be heaps of corpses all around, but Ursula didn’t pay any attention to them. Instead, she had let her vision wander into the beautifully clear sky..
She would normally display such a rather cold-hearted attitude, but in this case it was reasonable to take a moment to grasp the situation on the battlefield.
Thanks to Kuroe’s guidance, Ursula now had a better understanding of the nature of her Draining ability. It didn’t weaken those affected like a poisonous gas, but rather, it merely robbed those in range of their magical power.
The fact that the villagers had lost consciousness here, as well as Dortos turning into bones, was nothing more than the result of all of them having lost the magical power within their bodies.
If only a small amount was absorbed, those affected would simply feel fatigued, while a large amount of magical power being absorbed would usually result in loss of consciousness. And if they were deprived of their life force, which was the amount of magical power necessary to sustain life as a living creature, they would die. Furthermore, if the absorption of that life force were to be strong enough to take it away in an instant, it would cause a sudden change in which the body instantly collapsed leaving only the bones behind. An even stronger absorption would probably leave nothing but a pile of ashes behind.
With creatures whose physical body and magical power were closely related, Ursula’s draining ability was a powerful and dangerous force that could dramatically affect them in an instant.
Conversely, that also meant that it was completely useless against inorganic substances such as stone and iron, which had almost no magical power. For example, the stone wall that surrounded this village. No matter how much Anastasia would touch it with her hands, her ability alone wouldn’t help her break through it at all.
And it was the same with this fog. If this dreadful white fog that surrounded them had originated from purely natural causes, Ursula’s draining ability would have done nothing to it.
However, the fact that it disappeared was proof that this fog was magical in nature.
There was a magic spell that could deprive an enemy of sight simply by clouding the surroundings with fog. Ursula had learned from Kuroe that this was a type of support spell that assassins would normally learn.
If so, this fog would be the same as that. A magic spell used by the Gluttony Octos themselves.
Although it was already very easy to guess that this unnatural fog had been caused by these octopus monsters from the beginning.
“Maybe if I do it like a Wind Barrier…”
If this fog was just a mass of magic power, it would be easy for Ursula to get rid of it with her own magic.
It would be Ursula’s first time directing her draining ability towards something intangible like this fog, but since she had already managed to fully control Anastasia, it was nothing that a simple matter of application. As she witnessed a Wind Mage blowing some of the fog away, she realized she could use them as a reference example.
Therefore, all she had to do was to put it into practice.
“Hmm, let’s see… How about this?”
She made a mental image of the mist of her draining ability covering the area like a film spreading all around her.
The wind barrier repelled the incoming fog blowing it away, but Ursula’s draining aura was able to absorb it automatically simply by existing. Ursula figured that rather than just letting this aura run freely, it would be safer to make it like a dome that could cover her from every direction.
Though it was just an idea, Anastasia, being a loyal servant who followed her mistress’ will without hesitation, produced the exact same effect Ursula had envisioned.
She released a thin mist in every direction with her in the center just like the blast wave that had incapacitated villager and octopus alike. Then, she limited its expansion to a spherical radius of about fifty meters, holding it firmly so that there were no openings.
Anastasia’s drain ability is proportional to her composition density. Her humanoid form had the highest density, while a mere haze had the lowest density.
However, even her lowest density would have enough draining power to keep the fog generated by the Gluttony Octos at bay. The fog within the range of her draining ability had been completely cleared, just like how that Wind Mage used a barrier to achieve a similar effect.
“Hmm, it looks like this’ll do.”
It seemed that using this draining barrier constantly was easy enough for her. Ursula had been worried that she could have had to spend too much concentration to keep it active, but it appeared that there was no need for her to worry about that.
If they could secure their visibility, it would make fighting this battle easier for both herself and her allies.
Ursula didn’t think that she would be able to protect all of the villagers all by herself. Though the Crusaders had been quick to flee, she knew that this evacuation wouldn’t succeed without their help.
“Now I should provide some support for our allies.”
Far from getting confused or impatient, now that she boasted both an impregnable defense in the form of her draining barrier that could repel the fog as well as the ability to drain the octopus of their energy with a single hit, Ursula carried out what should be done calmly and in an orderly manner.
Now that she had secured her own safety, her next step was to assist the Crusader soldiers and rebuild the line of defense.
“Uooooooohhhhh! I will hold this line, no matter what!!”
The heavy knight captain Cliff was shouting so loudly that his voice echoed throughout the square. He must have been fighting bravely in front of the stone wall, but with his subordinates fleeing one after another, even the toughest of the heavy knights would have ended up being forced to retreat here.
Ursula’s honest impression was that he was lucky to have survived this much. He seemed to have escaped for dear life until he finally arrived at the square’s entrance. The number of soldiers had greatly decreased since the beginning of this battle.
However, it was fortunate that there were still allies who still maintained their will to fight against these desperate odds, especially when it was a group of powerful heavy knights. On top of that, the captain of the heavy knights would probably have a fairly high rank among the Crusaders, so his position could prove very useful when attempting to regroup:
Ursula then set out to assist the weakened heavy knight unit, and started walking lightly through the square, almost as if taking a leisurely stroll.
The octopuses she eliminated along the way would be replaced by new ones, but Ursula still quickly brushed them off with Anastasia’s draining hands and arrived at the heavy knights’ position, where they were making their last stand.
“Gah, they’re rushing in all at once! Everyone, shields up–”
Naturally, these knights –who not only were wearing thick helmets but were also completely focused in their fierce battle– would have a hard time hearing Ursula’s quiet voice. And even if they had managed to hear it, they probably wouldn’t have time to pay attention to anything a child would have to say to them.
They were fully dedicated to intercepting the rushing horde of octopuses that approached them with the force of an avalanche. Since the fog had been cleared out here, they could easily see the enemy, which only made them pay even more attention to them.
Being focused on the battlefield was one thing. But completely ignoring her like this was an entirely different matter.
“Hmph! Can’t you tell I’m trying to talk to you? You… You tunnel-visioned amateurs!”
With that mild curse directed at the heavy knights that dared to ignore her, Ursula decided to quickly clear up the enemies in front of them in order to draw their attention to herself.
She unleashed her four draining arms towards the octopuses with a force fueled by her dissatisfaction. If the octopuses were to disappear abruptly, it would cause quite an impression on the heavy knights.
And “abruptly” almost wasn’t enough of a word to describe how the octopuses were literally snuffed out like a weak candle fire. It had been an overkill, like crushing an ant with a warhammer.
“W-What!? What happened–”
“I did this.”
When the confused Cliff turned around, Ursula was standing there with her chest puffed out.
“Nonsense, where the hell is the mage that did this!?”
“I’m telling you, I did this.”
Ursula had Anastasia lean forward and stare at the extremely rude amateur knight that had dared to ignore her.
“Uwaah!? W-What is this!?”
“This is my Origin Magic. I’ve been using it since the beginning of the battle at the gate. You didn’t see it?”
“Ah, no… I did see a white gust of wind that wiped out some of those devilfish monsters, but… I never thought that a young girl like you would be the one who had cast such a spell.”
“Are you blind?”
Ursula sneered at Cliff’s lack of situational awareness, but he actually had a point. It was basically impossible to picture a 15-year-old girl standing side by side with Crusader soldiers, who were renowned as being a powerful military force.
However, there are exceptions to everything. A general could give special permission to talented children to join their ranks, and there were some special units formed exclusively by children.
“You must be one of the people who evacuated from the neighboring village.”
“I’m Ursula, an apprentice sister from the 202nd Colony. This is my spell, ‘White Yaksha Princess – Anastasia’.”’
Though Cliff wondered why there were children fighting in this battle, that question didn’t dare come out of his mouth while he stood before Ursula, who was accompanied by Anastasia and the extraordinary magical power that emanated from her. He quickly realized that this was a child with special powers that can fight hordes of monsters all by herself.
“I want to help evacuate the villagers. I will provide as much support as I can, so let’s work together.”
“Kuh, as a knight, even if you have a lot of power, I can’t let a little girl like you fight, but… It’s not like I have much of a choice. I appreciate your assistance, Miss Ursula.”
“Okay, that settles it.”
Though Ursula nodded in a very arrogant manner, Cliff started to move with little regard for her attitude.
“Reorganize the formation around the church. Recall the soldiers and rebuild our defensive line. As soon as we’ve all gathered, we’ll secure an escape route. We’ll then withdraw to Alsace Fortress while making sure every villager escapes safely!”
Cliff issued his instructions rapidly, one after the other. First, his subordinates, the heavy knights, began to move, raising their voices to recall the soldiers that had escaped. At the same time, they urged any panicking villagers they found on their way to retreat to the church.
“Hey! If you don’t want to die, you better take up your spear! If you keep running away from this fight, we won’t hesitate to stab you in the back!”
“Hurry! Get in the church, you’ll be safe there!”
The plaza had turned into a crucible of chaos, but since a large portion of that thick fog had been cleared out and the strong heavy knights were somehow managing to hold the terrifying monsters back, soldiers and villagers had started to gather once again into a semblance of order.
Even the cowards that did nothing but run away to protect themselves forgetting about their pride as a knight and their duty as a soldier knew that this was the safest place in the village at the moment. It was a matter of human psychology to feel a sense of security in gathering in this place rather than trying to get as far from the fog as possible.
Before long, dozens of soldiers had gathered in front of the church, lined up shoulder to shoulder with the heavy knights and set up a desperate line of spears to wait for the enemy.
However, compared to the battle in front of the main gate earlier, the number of enemies attacking them was much smaller. It was all because of Ursula’s support.
“Hey, any word from headquarters!?”
“They’ve already been annihilated! The deputy base commander, the officers, they’re all in those octopuses’ bellies. Captain Cliff, you’re the highest-ranked officer right now.”
That was the answer he got after asking one of the soldiers who seemed to be running away from the headquarters.
“Gah, then there’s no other choice, I’ll take over the command!”
Cliff’s words alone might have sounded as if he was frustrated by the idea, but his tone of voice evoked a hint of joy.
Ursula understood that feeling. She remembered that the highest-ranked official here used to be that stupid mushroom-headed Mashram, and that his deputy after his disappearance was just as unwilling and incompetent as he was to run the circus.
However, it would normally be hard for anyone to show even a shred of enthusiasm after being charged with the management of such a half-baked base of operations that wasn’t important enough to allow for them to show their feats on the battlefield. It would be quite rare to find someone who would be actually happy to be in charge of such a place like Cliff was showing to be.
But now Ursula guessed that the reason why Cliff was so joyful about it was that despite its disadvantage, he was still at the top of the hierarchy here in both name and essence.
“Men really are stupid.”
While muttering what sounded like a line taken from a second-rate romance novel, she continued to wield Anastasia’s skills in order to safely gather as many soldiers as possible.
“Amazing, she’s completely blocking them.”
“Hey, don’t let your guard down, we all have to make it out of here!”
“Fire! Light the fire! They are weak against fire!”
“Those without weapons should carry torches! Don’t let them get closer!”
The Crusaders were rebuilding their lines at an alarmingly quick pace.
Thanks to Ursula’s support, the octopuses’ advance had been put to a halt, and hope was rekindled inside the soldiers’ hearts.
There were now about 50 soldiers gathered here. Furthermore, the men amongst the villagers who had taken refuge in the church, as well as courageous women and boys who were barely reaching adulthood, began to support them with weapons and torches.
Everyone else seemed to have been safely evacuated, so their total numbers were now around the same military strength of 100 soldiers. These were the last remaining forces still within the walls of the 203rd Colony. No more people were rushing into the square and the only things still moving around through the fog were those octopuses.
“Miss Ursula, we can’t hope to save anyone else! We have to start retreating!”
Having been calmly observing the surroundings during the fight, Ursula actually agreed with Cliff’s opinion. But she could not give an immediate answer.
Priest Kuroe hadn’t returned yet.
“…Priest Kuroe is very strong, he should be fine.”
After thinking about it for a while, she came to that conclusion. Even though he didn’t have the help of Anastasia’s tremendous power, there was no need to worry about him. He was strong enough to hold his own, and once he retreated he would be able to find her and rejoin with her.
Ursula nodded to herself, and was about to give Cliff her okay, but at that moment…
“Woaaahh!? T-That one is huge!!”
A giant tentacle tip stabbed into the stone pavement of the plaza as if to drown out the soldiers’ cries.
The tentacles themselves, which stretched out from beyond the fog, were as long and thick as the trunk of a large tree. Their harpooned claws at the tip seemed to be as large and sharp as a dragon’s claw rather than a spear.
And at the end of those enormous tentacles, there was a huge head that towered high into the sky. Its dark, wide-open round maw at its bottom turned towards the soldiers as if it was about to suck them all in.
“Oh no, that doesn’t look good at all!”
Ursula and Kuroe had seen one another 10-meter octopus just like that spewing out a powerful acid breath from its maw.
Since they had all crowded together in order to brace themselves for the rushing smaller octopuses, a single acid breath attack would be enough to turn them all into mushy octopus food. Looking at the purple drool dripping from the maw of the giant octopus caused a chill to run down Ursula’s spine.
“We’ll have to do something about that big one–”
“Step back, I’ll take care if it.”
Ursula took a step forward, stopping Cliff who was about to jump out at any moment.
No matter how well trained those heavy knights were, the giant octopus would be able to release his acid breath before they could even jump at it. Its circular maw had made a roaring intake sound, as if it was already halfway ready to fire.
“I’ll show you… what Anastasia and I can do!”