Gyuratan was forced to defend against a sword that struck like a lightning bolt and a sword that stung like a bee. Gyuratan's armor was pierced, and he coughed up blood. Mercedes didn't give him time to have a break. In front of her dual swords, Gyuratan's hands and feet were tied up.
'To a human...!'
The swords increased in speed. Mercedes' unique technique, which took advantage of sword energy, assaulted Gyuratan. She attacked and then backed away to a distance of three meters before repeating it. As she wielded her swords, her strikes were light enough to be fast and clean.
"Kuk...!" A groan emerged from Gyuratan's mouth as he defended himself against the swords. It was hard for him to cope with Mercedes' anomalous attacks where the attack distance changed in real time. The fight would be up to here.
Things were flowing as everyone expected. The strength of the Fourth Knight was special since he protected the Red Knights. However, the First Knight was the peak of the Red Knights. The Fourth Knight couldn't be stronger than the First Knight. Mercedes' victory was already decided.
The noble knight defended the emperor who had suppressed her in the past, and she also defended the honor of the old hero whom everyone had thought was corrupted. This image of Mercedes punishing Gyuratan with her bloody body was imprinted onto the knights. Some knights were so inspired that they started crying. They were happy that their object of admiration existed right beside them.
However, this was the reason why...
Mercedes' crash caused a greater impact.
Gyuratan discarded swordsmanship. He was a great demon now, not the Fourth Knight. As such, he started to counterattack, and the screams of the knights filled the hall. However, Mercedes couldn't hear anything. Her world was calm as she was caught in the explosion Gyuratan had created.
'Ah...' Mercedes' time flowed slowly. Lightning demonic energy rose from Gyuratan's body like a haze. The hall filled with lightning that it couldn't endure, and the emperor was shouting with an expression she had never seen before. Everything was slow. One second was one minute, ten minutes, one hour...
The images of the old heroes passed through Mercedes' mind. Knights wearing red armor… The big backs, dependable smiles, and warm teachings of those who stood at the forefront of the battlefields came to her mind. Mercedes was filled with images of the past as Gyuratan's lightning fist flew toward her.
"Are your eyes bad? How can that be? If you can see through them, feel free to look. There is no darkness or lies in my heart."
Mercedes' innate vision… Piaro had fully accepted the cursed power which sometimes even caused fear in the parents who had given birth to her. Back then, Mercedes was still young. That's why Mercedes had been able to keep her eyes straight, and Piaro had been able to look into them without any fear. Nevertheless...
'I'm so...rry.' Mercedes hadn't trusted Piaro. She had given up on him due to the stigma of being a traitor. Everyone had shouted that Piaro was a traitor, and she hadn't doubted it. 'I was the traitor.'
Mercedes smiled bitterly as she fell to the floor. Simultaneously, lightning demonic energy exploded around her body.
"You evil bastard! Stop right now!"
The knights ran to assist Mercedes. Their eyes blazed as they poured out all types of sword techniques. However, Gyuratan's true power was much stronger than the Gyuratan of their memories.
"It is insulting that humans can even breathe in front of me for a moment."
Every time this happened, the damn face of Sword Saint Muller popped up. Gyuratan started to concentrate his lightning. Then...
"W-What is this...?"
The knights' swords and armor—their whole bodies were drawn to the lightning. Resistance was futile. Just like magnets with different electrodes, Gyuratan's lightning emitted an attraction force that the surrounding metals couldn't deny. This was why he had suddenly won the battle against Mercedes.
'The situation is bad.' Bain's duty was to only protect the emperor. So, he protected the emperor while thinking about why the great demon had appeared in the middle of the palace. 'It will be difficult for even me to handle him.'
Great Demon Astaroth… From the time that the thunder stone appeared 15 years ago, the empire had already predicted his emergence. However, it was strange. The longer the survival period of the great demon, the greater and more powerful the thunder stone became. This meant it was due to sheer greed that they were facing this current situation. However, it was also unexpected that Astaroth would be in the imperial palace.
Bain thought for a while before urging the emperor, "Leave this place while the knights buy time."
The seven dukes had to govern their respective lands, and their period of stay in the palace was extremely short. They had gathered for the visit of the Overgeared King but returned to their respective estates. Currently, only the Five Pillars could be relied on. However, Bain judged that they weren't needed.
It might be difficult for him to deal with Astaroth, but he thought that Goldhit could easily overpower the weakened Astaroth. The emperor thought the same. Great demon? The Overgeared King had managed to hunt one in a complete state. The Overgeared Kingdom was no match for the empire, so it was natural that the powerful empire should be able to easily hunt the weakened great demon.
However, this situation was a problem. The emperor hesitated to leave. It was because he saw Mercedes' collapsed form. Could she survive until Goldhit arrived? It would be tough. The emperor wanted to know the truth regarding 12 years ago and gave an order, "Bain."
Bain's eyes narrowed. He didn't know why the emperor wanted to save Mercedes when he already hated the existence of the Red Knights. However, it wasn't Bain's role to comment on the decision. He just needed to follow orders.
Bain disappeared from the emperor's right side. The point where he appeared was behind Gyuratan and next to Mercedes.
"Bain...!" Gyuratan cried out as he was handling the knights that were dragged over by the lightning. Bain's presence was so great that it made him wary. However, Bain pulled the ragged Mercedes into his arms and shook his head.
"I don't care about you," he said briefly before trying to leave.
"But I am interested!" Gyuratan obstructed Bain's way. He picked up the knights like they were a ball and threw them toward Bain. Gyuratan couldn't forgive Mercedes. His 15 years of hardships were wasted, and Mercedes was the best target to resolve his anger.
Bain had been about to cut at the flying ball of knights only to be stopped by Mercedes. He looked at Mercedes holding onto his wrist and took evasive action. However, the moment he was going to disappear and reappear by the emperor's side, Gyuratan's sword came flying.
The sword was aiming for Mercedes in Bain's arms. Bain moved, so he was struck in the shoulder instead as he stabbed back at Gyuratan. It was a counterattack that aimed at Gyuratan's exposed abdomen. However, it didn't reach. This was due to the lightning demonic energy around Gyuratan's body. The demonic energy which had been previously pulling the metal was now pushing it away.
Thanks to this, Bain's sword lost momentum and stopped in the air. Bain clicked his tongue while Gyuratan wielded his sword again.
A fierce battle raged on. Gyuratan's swings gradually accelerated while Bain's movements were gorgeous enough to be considered acrobatics as he used the small shields attached to his shoulders and wrists to block. Both the emperor and Bain were surprised. Astaroth was too strong to be called a weakened great demon.
'Was he a high-ranking great demon before?'
It was likely. The great demon that Grid and his allies hunted had been the lowest of the great demons. If Astaroth was a high-level great demon, then he would be stronger than Belial, despite having lost his body.
The emperor noted that as more time passed, the thunder stone became stronger. Perhaps the growth of the thunder stone meant the growth of the great demon? He thought this far.
"Isn't Goldhit here yet?"
The emperor was nervous. Then...
'Am I too late?' Bain felt Mercedes' body gradually cooling down. The shadow called death was covering her. At that moment...
Kwa kwa kwa kwang!
A meteorite fell through the ceiling of the great hall. It was Meteor Strike, a spell from the current strongest magician among humans—Goldhit. The spell was lacking compared to Meteor which summoned 'multiple' meteorites. Due to the level of the magic, Meteor Strike only summoned a small meteorite.
However, the only magician who was able to use the full Meteor in human history had been Braham. Meteor was the symbol representing the great demons. It was already great for a human to be able to use Meteor Strike, and the spell was powerful enough to break through the impregnable wall.
"Sorry, I'm late. Yohoho..." Beyond the collapsed ceiling, a girl descended from the stormy sky. Her hair fluttered as she attracted everyone's attention. "Tsk tsk, foolish great demon. I wish you had continued living like you were."
It was a pity for the thunder stone. Goldhit reached toward Gyuratan who had been hit by the meteorite. Magic power that exceeded the category of a human gathered at her fingertips. However, it was useless unless the magic manifested. A black lightning strike fell from the sky and struck Goldhit. She collapsed without even being able to scream.
Goldhit exited the moment she arrived. A lightning storm was raging, and Astaroth was gradually getting stronger. The pouring rain brought with it despair.
Simultaneously, in the Tower of Eternity...
"What is this...?"
The breakthrough was ridiculously quick compared to the Behen Archipelago. Grid soon arrived at the 79th floor and faced a huge kennel. There were young girls and boys waiting for food like they were livestock, and dirty straw was scattered all over the ground.
"Crazy jerk...!" Grid realized why he felt strangely discomforted during his conversation with Goldhit. Yes, Goldhit hadn't become younger. She had snatched it away.
How long had this taboo been happening? The horrible scene made Grid feel disgusted and nauseous. He pitied the girls and boys who looked at him with expressions that knew nothing, and he developed a hatred for Goldhit.
There was no reason for him to hesitate now. Grid immediately moved to the next floor—the 80th floor. The glass ceiling where the thunder stone was located on the Tower of Eternity attracted Grid's gaze.
"Repel. Repel. Repel."
The five lightning gods started operating. Goldhit believed the five lightning gods were the strongest weapons that could defend the thunder stone. However...
[Show off the virtues of a blacksmith who deserves to be praised as a god. The casting time and cooldown time of all blacksmithing skills will be removed. It is applicable up to two times.]
It wasn't enough to prevent Grid from opening the power he obtained from producing three myth rated items.