Lily took a deep breath, collecting herself. The limp body of Vessel lay under her knees, completely still. She pulled her blood-soaked hand from its place in Vessel’s body, blood and mush trailing behind it. A hushed silence reigned over the battlefield. The humans who had been trying to get past the twin walls of Prei and Victoria stopped struggling and fell silent. The demons, on the other side of the clearing, behind Lily, similarly stood and watched, unbelieving. Lily brought her hand to Vessel’s eyelids, intending to at close them – it was the least she could do for her old friend, even if that friend was long gone.
However, as she moved her hand towards Vessel’s face, Vessel’s body jerked and spasmed, the wounds across her body already beginning to seal themselves with divine energy. Lily started and quickly plunged her hand into the depths of Vessel’s chest again. The organs were already beginning to reform around her point of entry. Panicking, Lily released her wires again, and again, and again, piercing through Vessel’s body countless times, in a multitude of different ways.
But each time she pierced Vessel’s body anew, once she retracted her wires, the wounds began to heal. Even if she left the wires as they were, skewering through Vessel, Vessel’s wounds would heal around them. Again and again she tried to kill Vessel, but for whatever reason, Vessel would not die. Each attempt would simply result in her injuries healing over. In between spasms caused by involuntary muscle contractions, Vessel choked out a single statement, devoid of emotion.
“You… cannot… kill… me.”
She delivered this statement not as taunt, nor as challenge, but as fact. There was no doubt in her voice, yet it was not the confidence that arose from strength. It was more basic, a confidence that was the result of knowing that what she spoke was merely the truth. It was a truth that stung Lily, who grew increasingly more aware of her own inability to put an end to Vessel’s life.
“Why! Won’t! You! Fucking! Die!”
With each frustrated shout, she sent her wires bursting out again, but to no avail. The wounds kept healing up. Anger and frustration clouding her rationality, Lily drew back her hand, a blade of mana appearing along the back of her wrist. With one clean slice, she beheaded Vessel – but it was pointless. The severed head rolled away a short distance, but quickly found its way back to its home, attached by some invisible divine magic that Lily could not unravel. She drew her gun and stuck its barrel into Vessel’s mouth, blowing her head apart with a blast of magic, but the fragments simply found their way back together and reformed. She smashed her fist into Vessel’s head, causing it to collapse inward under the force – but it quickly began to heal up as well. Some distance away, Prei watched her with concern, but kept the bulk of her attention on the humans, who were beginning to realise that their leader was not dead, and were beginning to rally. Lily’s shouts of frustration rang through the air as she continued to try increasingly brutal ways of killing Vessel, hoping to chance upon one which worked.
Lily froze as she heard the voice. A smooth, husky, male voice. A voice she did not recognise. It wasn’t quite a voice in her head, but a voice in her consciousness. She detected a surge of magic at her side, and turned her gaze in its direction, temporarily halting her assault on Vessel. Her vision filter allowed her to see the figure that had spoken, strands of mana twisted into a humanoid form – invisible to the naked eye, the mana around her had taken on some kind of identifiable form. Looking closely, she recognised it as the form of Regis, the fallen Demon King. She growled.
“What do you mean, useless?”
You are human. A creation of the gods. You cannot kill a divine being. It is simply not possible. They were, after all, made for the purpose of exterminating you. The only beings that can harm a divine are us demons, or other divines. You know this, do you not?
Lily narrowed her eyes. Clearly, this dead King knew about the nature of the angels. Or at least, he knew more than Victoria did. However…
“I have the aspect of an angel within me. One of the highest order, in fact. This should not be an issue.”
The mana-figure shook its formless head.
It is true that you carry within you the power of an angel. The power of the most powerful of angels. You should be able to kill any divine being, short of the gods themselves. Certainly you understand where I’m going with this.
Lily was silent. She had already formulated a hypothesis, but she waited for the figure to tell her. Noting her silence, the figure chuckled.
I see you’re not going to make this easy for me. Fine. As you’ve no doubt surmised, this thing you fought is a being on the same level as the gods themselves. I’m not entirely sure how it was done, but it seems that the essence of one of the goddesses was crafted into the soul that currently inhabits this poor girl’s body. I don’t know which goddess it was, but I highly doubt it was a voluntary transition. It appears that bastard Kuldevic crossed a line that should never be crossed.
Lily’s expression darkened. Clearly, this Kuldevic, the god of war, was making some form of power play, if he was able to simply twist another god into a set of strings for his puppet. However, that was not Lily’s imminent concern. Rather, it was the divinity of Vessel that caused Lily distress. If, as the evidence seemed to suggest, Vessel’s divinity was on the level of the gods, she would not be able to kill her, no matter what she attempted.
You really don’t like the gods, do you?
Lily growled again.
“They took someone from me. Someone important.”
Ha. You too? They do have a tendency to do that. Remove people who don’t fit into their designs.
Momentary silence fell between the two figures, before the mana-figure spoke again.
If you want to kill her so badly, I can give you the power to do it.
Lily snorted. Now was the pitch. She had been waiting for it.
“Finally. I suppose you’re going to offer me unlimited power or something? For that matter, who are you, anyway? I’ve refrained from asking because what you’ve been saying corresponds with my own knowledge, but that doesn’t make you any less suspicious. Who are you, and what do you want with me?”
The figure paused, seeming to contemplate her words, but quickly carried on speaking.
Well. You’re a sharp one, indeed. But that’s probably why you’re best for this. I’ll answer in reverse order. First the question of who I am. As you’ve no doubt guessed, I’m the Demon King, Regis. Or rather, I was the Demon King. Up until about twenty minutes ago. We demons have no magic, and I am no exception. However, the Demon King does have one unique magic that he can practice, one that comes with the position. That’s what I’m doing now. After a Demon King dies, his spirit may linger in the world for a short time afterward, usually for about three days. During this time, I find a successor, a person to crown as the next Demon King.
Lily resisted the urge to laugh. She had a fairly good idea of where this was going.
And that leads to the answer to your first question. I’m offering you the position of Demon King. Unfortunately, it does not come with unlimited power. The title of Demon King is ultimately just a conceptual title. By itself, it confers no special power. You will receive the mark of the King, and become recognised by the rules of this world as the Demon King – you will cease to age, and will live forever, unless you die in battle, as I did. But I doubt you’re interested in that. Rather, what should catch your interest is this: By accepting this title, the world will recognise you as a Demon King. Even the powers of the divine cannot ignore the rules of the world. By holding the title of Demon King, you will be able to kill this Vessel – along with any of the other gods, should you so choose.
A sudden burst of struggling brought Lily’s attention back to Vessel, pinned under her. The offer had caused Vessel to become agitated – Regis was likely speaking the truth. And he had, in fact, pinpointed exactly what would appeal to Lily: she had no interest in eternal life. After all, eternal life simply meant an eternity without Iris. She could have died at this very instance without regrets, were it not for the promise she had made Iris. The promise that Iris had at last extracted from her.
“What’s the catch? Surely there must be some kind of condition for me taking this title – I doubt you’re simply feeling a desire to fulfill this poor maiden’s wish.”
The mana-figure had no face, but Lily could have sworn it was grinning.
The catch is… rather minor, actually. The only condition is that you must work to advance the demon race. Vague, I know. But it’s vague for good reason: each Demon King must decide for himself what course of action would best advance the demon race. As Demon King, you will be unable to take actions that you consciously know will result in more harm than good for the demon race. Even in this case it’s rather arbitrary. You can, for instance, take actions that will harm the demons in the short run, if you are convinced that it will create a net benefit sometime in the future. The conditions are extremely arbitrary, and that’s why it’s important for us to exercise caution in choosing our successor.
Lily closed her eyes, considering.
“Why me? I’m not even a demon. I’m a human.”
True. In fact, I was intending to pass the title to Victoria, over there. But then I saw you fighting. You’re strong, you’re clever, and above all, you hate the gods with a passion. This action by Kuldevic has me concerned. War is coming, for certain. This attack will be the first of many. It’s only a matter of time before he makes another attempt to purge the demon race from this world. Our people need a strong leader, a leader who can fight the gods. You’re stronger than any demon who currently lives – perhaps stronger than any demon who has ever lived. You fit the bill perfectly.
Lily pursed her lip. It was possible that he was lying to her, concealing some aspect of the title that would be disadvantageous, but she honestly could not bring herself to care. If it would give her the power to end Vessel’s life and exact her revenge, then…
“…If holding the title does not conflict with my main objective, I accept.”
And what, pray tell, is your main objective?
“The complete destruction of the gods.”
Vessel’s struggling intensified, but she was unable to move, pinned as she was by the Varia. The mana-figure laughed.
That’s not a problem then. That has been the goal of the demon race since the time of our creation.
Lily allowed herself a quick smile.
“Then I accept.”
Well then, this might be a bit uncomfortable, but please bear with it.
Immediately, Lily felt a sensation like burning on her left arm. Lines etched themselves into her arm, carved with magic: a strange pattern of interconnected circles and lines, lined in glowing red – a similar pattern to what had been carved into Regis’ face. The mark of the Demon King. The particles that emitted from her wings shifted colors from amber to red. The pieces of armor and machinery that were fused with her body turned from silver to black. Around her and behind her, the Varia changed colors from silver to black. The mana blades that they emitted similarly changed from amber to red. She felt the strange, unexplainable magic that was sweeping over her begin to creep into her eye, the eye she had inherited from Iris.
Imagining the power as a mass of blackness creeping up her, she denied it entry to the eye, to her hair. They were her constant reminders of Iris – she would not allow them to be changed. Obedient to her will, she felt the power skirting around her eye and hair, leaving them untouched. When the transformation had finished, Lily stood up, pushing herself off the prone body of Vessel, who was still being pinned by the Varia. She held her arm out to the side, and a large blade of mana materialised in it. For the first time since their fight began, Vessel showed signs of fear, her blinking intensifying and her movements becoming even more agitated. Slight tremors were running through her body.
With a single swing, Lily brought the blade down and decapitated Vessel. She waited for a few moments, expecting the head to reattach itself once again, even though she knew for certain that this time, her attempt was successful. When nothing happened, and Vessel’s body slowly stopped twitching, coming to rest, completely still, Lily leaned down and picked up Vessel’s head, raising it up high for both armies to see. As she did, the head, and the rest of the body, started to dissolve, turning into golden particles of mana, dispersing back into the environment, until nothing of her was left. Lily’s are remained raised in the air, displaying the red brand that now graced her arm.
The humans, seeing their hero and champion vanish before their eyes, had mixed reactions. Some fell to their knees. Some threw their weapons aside, sobbing. Some turned and ran. None continued to fight. Their symbol had fallen, and with her death, their morale crumbled.
The demons, on the other hand, stared at Lily in disbelief, gazes transfixed on her arm, the arm with the brand that marked her as King. Then Victoria, who had been fighting the humans and thus was on the opposite side of the clearing from the rest of the demons, tapped Prei on the shoulder, whispering something. Prei nodded, then turned her attention back to intimidating the humans. Meanwhile, Victoria ran across the field, covering the distance to Lily in a short few minutes. Once she reached Lily’s side, she looked Lily in the eye, before donning a wry grin and speaking.
“Well, that was unexpected.”
“Yeah, I’m still rather surprised by it myself, in fact. I’m probably the first human Demon Queen in history.”
“Actually, you’re the first Demon Queen in history, human or not.”
“…Well then, today is certainly a day of firsts.”
The two women shared a chuckle. Then Victoria’s face became solemn. She took a step back and knelt down on one knee, bowing her head. Seeing her do so, the other demons standing behind Lily slowly began to follow suit, each one slowly kneeling down, until all the demons were kneeling toward Lily, head bowed. Once all the demons were kneeling, Victoria shouted, a cry that rang throughout the battlefield, a cry that was quickly taken up by the other kneeling demons, until as one body, they proclaimed:
“Hail Lily Voirgaire, Demon Queen!”