C12 – Rebirth
Shire saw the memories of the blade devil.
During that time, it existed in a distant realm, detached from this world. A collective of ethereal consciousnesses devoid of physical forms underwent a trial. The surrounding environment was peculiar and diverse, lacking any discernible spatial or temporal significance. Physical figures lay prostrate on the ground. The entire landscape was enveloped in desolate rocks, barrenness, and searing heat. A colossal river forged from flowing lava cascaded from the horizon, ablaze without end. Vast masses of magma floated within the fiery currents, emitting gaseous formations and countless vibrant flames.
“You are out,” conveyed an imperceptible entity of high authority, “We established the regulations here, yet you defied them. Since you initiated a war that wasn’t yours to wage and reveled in sacrifices not meant for you, the punishment that was never meant for you must be endured by you.”
The other wills lacking tangible forms took turns to censure the Blade Demon, accusing it of trespassing and desecrating this domain.
“So this is your decree—to exile a true demon?” Shire could sense the Blade-Edge Demon’s anger and unwillingness. It struggled, only to be restrained.
“Yes, not your projection, clone, or mere image. You are not banished from your will, spirit, or body. You are banished from your true essence. All aspects of you. We have decided to exile your essence to that primitive world. You will be safe there, as the civilization’s development is minimal. Beings construct cities using mud bricks, and factions of the same race wage war against each other. They presumptuously believe they possess the authority to control everything in the world. They squander the present and fear the future.”
“It doesn’t sound any more appealing than other realms inhabited by sentient creatures.”
“You will grow fond of that place, for it shall become your purgatory.”
“But if I perish there, I will be completely obliterated!” The Blade Demon pleaded, “I will be restored. Isn’t that right?”
“Sure. When your fragment returns, you shall become a cherished memory within my treasury.”
“No… don’t be like this!”
“Very well, if you are willing to plead with us, we will consider granting you a more lenient punishment. We will allow your power projection to remain in hell, enabling you to be reborn there.”
“I will never beg you… but one day, you will regret this,” Shire asserted.
“Will we regret it? Hm, mortal, what do you think? Do you believe that the Blade Demon will eventually carve its way back to hell?” The supreme illusion of chaos existed beyond the confines of time and space. Sensing Shire sharing this memory, it directed its attention toward Shire’s soul.
Being detected by such an entity was an immense terror. Shire trembled uncontrollably. He emerged from the coma, the illusion, and the memory, his eyes wide open.
He beheld the remnants of Dew Camp Stone, as if a lifetime had passed since then. Blood soaked the surroundings, flames consumed everything, and the lifeless bodies of others lay scattered on the ground. The forest remained dark and silent beneath the night sky—ominous and dreadful. However, Shire no longer felt fear.
His initial instinct was to test his body. Lowering his gaze, he was pleasantly surprised to discover that his limbs and legs had been reborn. It was akin to a miracle.
“My body…” Shire rotated his hands and feet. For the first time, he experienced a profound sense of joy because he possessed a complete body. Each finger held newfound value. He touched his skin to verify that everything was real and not a mere illusion.
It was good to be alive.
He stood there completely nude, with his clothing torn apart by the impact.
Wait… There was still something remaining. Shire touched his neck. The emerald-gold necklace was still hanging there, weighing heavily.
And there was the magical rope. Etienne’s devilish rope lay on the ground, perhaps the only item left behind by the old hunter. Shire picked it up, pondering over the old hunter’s sacrifice, feeling lost.
With mixed emotions, he approached the lifeless body of Waren. The arrow was still lodged in his face, rendering him a pitiful sight. His mouth hung open, his eyes vacant, and his face covered in blood. Regardless of his previous temperament or esteemed status, death treated him just the same.
Shire removed Waren’s black cloak and wrapped it around his waist, concealing his nakedness.
“Do you not wish to expose your reproductive organs to the open air? Is this the delicate shame of human beings?” The demon’s voice echoed in Shire’s mind.
The demon! It was still present! It remained within… within him! Shire’s heart raced with palpitations. Could it be that they had merged into one? Where was it?
“Ah, I can sense your thoughts. Yes, I am right here alongside you. Let’s have a proper introduction. I am the Blade Devil, also known as Gradiu. The Blade Devil God, Gradiu, the Supreme Ruler. The Blade Executioner, the World Eviscerator, and the enigmatic Ripper.”
What was that? It can read my thoughts? Does this mean I will have no privacy? This is a monstrous being! This is a demon!
“Listen, mortal, I have no interest in prying into your personal life. All I desire is to exist, alright?”
Shire made an effort to control his jumbled thoughts, but Gradiu could perceive them clearly.
“No, I will not devour your soul. My current condition is rather unique.” Gradiu continued to delve into Shire’s thoughts while simultaneously complaining. “Don’t overthink it. I won’t manipulate you like a puppet either. When I have spare time, I simply desire to cut and play. Ah, what’s this? You believe I am a parasite? How repulsive. Ah, ah… Your subconscious… Your subconscious is truly chaotic. How shameful, it disgusts me.”
“Create a clear boundary for me!” Shire shouted within his mind. “Stop reading my thoughts!”
“Very well,” Gradiu agreed. “Listen to me. At least for now, we need each other.”
“It’s you who needs me, and I don’t need you.”
“Is that so? Look, heartless mortal, who saved you? I used a powerful spell to revive you, and you owe me your life. “
“You let me reborn, so that my body can accommodate your existence.”
“Isn’t that great? I need a place to hide, and you need power.”
“Power? What kind of power?”
“You will see.” Gradiu’s voice sounded very deep, “The power that you can’t refuse is enough for you to control the world.”
“I am the Devil Hunter. I only want to hunt devils.”
“Ah, this is amazing! I want to, I also want to do it! Demon hunting? Just the thought of it fills me with excitement. Feasting on the same kind of prey is much more satisfying than devouring mere mortals. Hurry up and take me to hunt demons! Where are the demons nearby? I want to become a Devil Hunter too!” It was difficult to determine whether it was said with sarcasm or sincerity.
“Someone is coming.” Gradiu warned Shire.
Shire could sense a certain activity and the subsequent stillness of the devil. Previously, he felt the devil’s restlessness within his soul, but now it appeared calm, passive, or even dormant.
The only reason was that the Devil Hunter had come.
Shire saw Geffany passing through the forest and approaching the Dew Camp Stone ruins.
“Miss Geffany!” Shire was very excited when he saw the senior.
Geffany donned her hunter’s cloak. Her hair was disheveled, and her coat was stained with blood. She seemed to be injured. With a complex expression, she gazed at Shire.
“What happened?” She asked.
Shire was stunned. Should I say a devil has entered my body?
“Everyone…” Shire replied, “Mr. Etienne is dead, Dalton is dead, and Waren is dead too.”
“Then how did you survive?” Geffany drew her sword and approached Shire. “Who are you?”
“No… Mr. Etienne used the Yafen Flame to destroy the demon.” Should I lie? Should I lie? “Blade Demon… it…”
“Is it dead? Is it exiled?” Geffany asked, “Shire, tell me! Where is the Blade Demon?”
“The Blade Demon is here… I am here.” Shire painfully admitted, “It has entered my body, but it…”
“You have been possessed?” Geffany put away the sword in her hand, held it with both hands, and pointed the tip of the sword at Shire.
“…” Shire faced her in silence.
“I’m sorry.” Geffany looked at Shire sadly. “We have been walking all the way until now. Eight hunters have entered the forest. Now only you and me are left. If you have not been controlled by the devil, you should give up.”
“Give up… what?” Shire found himself stuttering.
“Give up your life… I know this is very difficult for you. You must die. Then I will chase the demon out of your body and send it back to hell.”
“I… don’t want to die…” Shire said with difficulty, “Can’t we go back to Hunter Palace? There must be a way, there must be a way to get it out of my body. Right?”
“No.” Gradiu expressed his stance in Shire’s heart, “There is no way to take it away from you. We are now living and dying together.”
What should I do?
“Kill her.” Gradiu kept tempting Shire, “She’s injured. I’ll help you deal with what you can. Do you want to die? You just came back to life.”
“I don’t know, Shire.” Geffany walked to Shire and said, “Very soon. Relax.”
Shire widened his eyes. Geffany suddenly thrust her sword at Shire.
Shire felt an intense pressure on his abdomen, causing him to grimace in pain and stagger backwards. Geffany gazed at her sword with a complex expression. The devil’s power had blunted its tip, transforming it into a grinding wheel. If not for that, the sword would have impaled Shire.
“You have indeed transformed into a devil.” Geffany discarded the dull sword and appeared enraged. “Nuin Sharp Edge!”
A sharp, silver light pierced towards Shire, but the emerald-green necklace around his neck emitted a dazzling radiance. It partially nullified the spell’s effect. Nonetheless, Shire was struck with tremendous force, resulting in a gaping wound in his chest. He collapsed to the ground.
“Uh…” Shire fell to the ground, clutching his wound. His face turned pale. Should he retaliate? Should he fight back against Geffany? Was it necessary for his survival?
“Fight back against her! Kill her!” Gradiu urged Shire frantically within his mind. “Kill her! Do you want to die? Do you want to die?! If you wish to live, she must die. If she survives, you won’t.”
Geffany rushed over and pinned Shire down. She tightly gripped his neck.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry… Shire… As Devil Hunters, we must do this…” Geffany continued to weep. Shire struggled to breathe, as his windpipe was constricted. Despite his desperate attempts, no air could reach his lungs, causing his eyes to widen in anguish, bloodshot with strain.
“Fight! Fight! She’s weak, and you’re strong. Go and kill her! Survive! She’s fallen into the trap I set in the forest. She’s on the brink of death!” Gradiu’s anxiety was driving him to madness as he desperately urged Shire.
Shire forcefully rose to their feet. Geffany was indeed nearing her limit. Shire easily broke free from her grasp.
Geffany coughed up a mouthful of blood. Now, Shire could clearly see a horrifying gash on her body. It pierced through her chest, so deep that her bones were visible.
“The blade I prepared has wounded her,” Gradiu sneered, “She’s about to die. She can’t defeat you, nor can she eliminate me. Shire, we’ve completely triumphed.”
Geffany struggled to stand, wiping the blood from the corner of her mouth. She bent down and covered her wound, then stumbled towards Master Frederick’s lifeless body. Geffany knelt on the ground, supporting herself with her hands. Blood continued to trickle from her mouth, tears streaming down her face as she sobbed incessantly. Tears mixed with blood fell to the ground.
“You’re injured. You must…” Shire struggled to catch their breath. Geffany didn’t have much time left. I was the one who caused her demise. I should have vanquished the Blade Devil and fulfilled the hunters’ mission once and for all.
Geffany’s face was pale.
“Are you Shire or the devil?” She sounded very weak.
“This is the key to the Holy Church.” Geffany took out a pure silver key from Frederick’s arms, “Don’t lose it.”
Shire’s hands trembled.
“Come here. Give me the crossbow.” Geffany said tiredly.
“Don’t listen to her. She intends to shoot you and cause your demise,” Gradiu expressed great concern.
Shire retrieved his scattered wooden crossbow from the ground. Surprisingly, it remained intact. He loaded the crossbow and handed it to Geffany. Even if Geffany truly wished to shoot him, he held no resentment.
“Pay attention,” Geffany directed her gaze into the empty space and repeated the incantation three times. Each time she chanted, silver light flickered and a depression formed on the ground.
Shire felt a sense of unease in his heart, yet he couldn’t find solace in shedding tears.
“Did you hear that?” Geffany asked gently.
“Nuin Sharp Edge,” Shire whispered, but there was no fourth indentation on the ground. Damn it, damn it. Why couldn’t he remember it clearly?
“With time, you will become more familiar with it. Just promise me that you won’t let it control you, okay?”
Geffany raised her crossbow.
“You can stop blaming yourself.”
She struck her own throat, causing the bowstring to vibrate.
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