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Somewhere in the nightmarish ditch which constituted that peculiar dimension drowned in eternal darkness, there was a being who should not be there.
Sitting cross-legged with his Karadawaru rested on his thighs, Hikari Maebure was holding his arms lifted and outstretched to the sides; he was holding three glowing chains of energy attached to the walls of the ditch in each palm. He had taken off the top of his attire, exposing his sleek but extremely well toned physique. Apart for several rather insignificant scars interspersed in various places, there was a large, slightly diagonal burn scar running through most of his torso and ending at his sternum.
In addition, there was a number of more or less fresh wounds, some reduced to barely visible marks, and others opened not long ago. Several smudges stained him, and streaks of blood and sweat were flowing on Maebure's exposed body. His hands were trembling almost imperceptibly, the muscles flexed and veins pulsating.
He was sitting there, his eyes closed and face stiff in an expression of absolute concentration, for many months. At least, that would be accurate according to his local perception of the flow of time, because for anyone outside the Precipice World it had been merely several hours.
Then, his face twitched momentarily. A new wound abruptly opened on his chest, a few drops of blood fell to the ground. Afterward, he swiftly returned to his motionless state, and for a long period of time stayed in it undisturbed.
All of a sudden, his grey lips outstretched in a cold smile. His eyes opened slowly, gleaming scarlet in the darkness of the Dangai. The energy chains he had been holding detached themselves from the slime-like walls and dispersed into spiritual particles. Hikari took several heavy breaths and stood up without hurry.
He lifted his Karadawaru and looked upon its ornate guard. In the ultimate downfall I reach out toward the Sky, spelled out the engraving he had carved on its surface. Then, he sheathed the sabre and wore the top of his kimono and the black, hooded cape. Subsequently, he glanced backward.
Not that far away from him there was a single, strong light shining in the distance. He walked toward it unhurriedly, surrounded by the sludge flowing on the walls of the endless trench. At last, he approached the source of the light: the Kōtotsu he had trapped when he came here.
"Pardon my intrusion", he said calmly.
"You may return to your duties", added Maebure as he waved his hand.
Consequently, the glittering mist that had been enveloping the Kōtotsu vanished in an instant, freeing the entity from its constraints. Hikari took a step backward and sunk into the portal he had summoned, disappearing right before the massive being could crush him as it sped forward.
The eternal blaze.
The vault of the realm was perpetually obscured by a thick shroud of billowing, stormy clouds, that showered the barren wasteland below with infrequent lightning strikes. The land itself was an ashen highland dotted with rocky pillars and marked by an intricate network of lava rivers and lakes. Columns of smoke were rising from great fires scattered across the land, and the howls of the burning Sinners echoed throughout its barren vastness.
And there was a single, towering mountain looming over the entire landscape. Built on its peak there was a large, nightmarish black fortress adorned with numerous slender towers and spikes protruding toward the not so distant, dark sky. Even though it was as black as charcoal, all of its windows were shining with a faint, crimson glow.
On the highest floor of the building there was a spacious throne room. Two rows of ornamental pillars were supporting the vault of the room, chiseled to resemble humanoid beings clad in sets of crude armour. In the middle there was a long, dark red carpet that led straight to the throne itself. Placed on a podium, it allowed the entity occupying it a clear view through a big window located on the opposite wall, and as such overlook the fiery realm from inside the fortress.
"What is it, Gundan?", an inhumanly deep voice reverberated across the throne room.
Another being had appeared inside, and quickly approached the throne. Then, once a couple of metres in front of it, the being fell to its knees and knelt submissively, slanting forward.
"It's Hikari Maebure again, Kōken'nin-sama", related the newcomer in a raspy voice. "He's become insufferably bold, my Lord."
There was some movement on the top of the throne. The massive silhouette basked in shadows leant forward; even though its features were concealed by the semi-darkness, its two bright, fiery eyes were shining ominously.
"What is he doing this time?"
The tone was calm, but an intimidating vibe could be ust barely heard as the being spoke. Gundan cringed inadvertently.
"He's challenging rogue Togabito to fight him again. This time he's in the Eighth Circle", he informed.
Kōken'nin emitted a reverberating hum.
"It is high time we put an end to his antics. With all the commotion he is causing with his actions we soon might have serious trouble keeping order in Hell. The King would not appreciate that", he said gravely. "It is high time he faces Yōkai and knows his place."
"What should I do, then, Kōken'nin-sama?", asked Gundan, his raspy voice slightly quavering.
"You shall travel to the Eighth Circle and meet with Hikari Maebure", decided the bulky entity. "But you shall not fight him alone. Instead, present him a challenge."
Gundan listened to his words carefully. Then, he nodded and left immediately, unwilling to irritate his master to a slightest degree.
Hell, the Eighth Circle.
The penultimate level of Hell, devoted to those who have committed the cardinal sin of envy in their lives. An immense, yet shallow lake of blood under a midnight blue, featureless sky. In this place the Sinners themselves exacted the punishment; pitted against one another, they had nothing else to crave but their very companions in perpetual suffering. As such, they were forever fighting each other, tearing off clothes and skin, ripping off limbs and gouging out eyes. Nevertheless, nothing they had taken remained theirs for long, for the incessant process of regeneration was quick to return the stolen possessions, whatever their nature, to their original owners.
And that millennia old order had been disrupted that day by the arrival of a single being.
In a certain place on the blood lake, normally no different than any else, there was a growing heap of dismembered bodies; parts of the slaughtered Togabito were floating on the crimson surface. An individual hovered above them in the air.
"Surely, you should be able to do better than that", scolded a stern voice.
A lean silhouette emerged from the eternal semi-darkness, wielding an abnormally large sword with serrated edge. The Sinner plunged at the man with a powerful slash, but was effortlessly deflected.
"Really?", snarled Hikari, and his eyes shone brighter. "You hope to whack me to death?"
The sleek Togabito growled, and his disfigured face was further distorted by a grimace of anger. He renewed his attack, assaulting Maebure with a number of powerful swings and thrusts. Nevertheless, the Tsumikami blocked all of them easily with the use of his elegant sabre, striking sparks every once in a while.
Then, even more infuriated, the Sinner retreated slightly and subsequently lifted his giant sword over his head. With a ferocious charge he lowered it on his enemy's head in a swift motion. However, his manouevre appeared sluggish to Hikari, who countered with an abrupt horizontal slash. His Karadawaru cleaved the Togabito's sword, hands and torso in halves. The parts fell to the lake below and sunk into the murky liquid with loud splashes, one after another in quick succession.
Maebure cleaned the ichor flowing on the ebony blade of his sabre with a single flick to the side. He did not sheath the weapon afterward, though, because as irritating as it had become, he still did not finish off all Sinners in the area. He was sensing another Reiatsu signature in the vicinity, but strangely distorted.
"You're... here", he stated as he turned around rapidly.
There was something behind him. His abrupt slash had seemed to bisect the sneaky assailant at first, but then the shadowy silhouette dispersed into streaks of gas that swiftly flowed somewhere else, disappearing in the semi-darkness of the Eighth Circle.
He heard a quiet, disturbing feminine chuckle from an undisclosed direction.
"Oh", he commented in an ambiguous tone.
Suddenly, there was a loud thud and a flash of light. The orange Kidō barrier he had erected to protect his back was struck by the Togabito in a failed attempt to kill him with an ambush. The shield thwarted the shadowy entity's plan, though, and Hikari was quick to counter. He half-expected the enemy to turn into gas again, but instead the woman ducked under his blade. Once crouched, she plunged her right hand forward, long talons outstretched toward the Tsumikami's face.
He caught her wrist with his left palm, immobilising her arm in an iron grip. He gazed into her yellow, snake-like eyes. A slight frown formed on his scarred face. Then, his blade descended upon her like an executioner's guillotine, but this time she dissolved into a cloud again, avoiding certain death with the use of the special ability.
Hikari swung his sword to the side, unleashing a wave of jet black energy. The attack dispersed the streaks of gas momentarily, prompting the Sinner to quickly condense back into physical form. Maebure pointed the index finger of his left palm at her, immediately launching a celadon Byakurai.
The beam of energy passed through the woman's immaterial body. Subsequently, she turned solid again and leapt forward at the Tsumikami, her mouth wide open to expose her sharp teeth. When she was approaching Hikari with great speed he slashed at her without a warning, but the blade of his Karadawaru merely phased through her form. Right afterward she passed through the man and turned quickly once behind him, preparing to deliver the killing blow.
Then, she noticed he had already aimed his left hand at her without even turning around, the palm placed right below his lifted right arm.
"Hadō #58, Tenran."
A potent whirlwind erupted from the hand, engulfing the Togabito in a torrential gust of wind. Unable to cope with its power, she was dissipated by the spell and subsequently faded away into nothingness. The echo of her death scream reveberated across the area.
"Seems the small fries have been eliminated already", remarked Maebure. "And who are you?", he then asked, turning to face yet another challenger.
"We have already met before through a mutual acquaintance, Hikari Maebure-dono.", the sleek challenger replied, he was wearing a worn out Togabito garb that was meant for outside Hell, he was spinning his diagonally broken mask by one of the eyepieces.
"I see, a former soldier of Usuguraiboshi-kun, delighted to meet you.", he stated, his voice had a mix of sarcastic surprise and politeness. Maebure's comment caused Odayakana to grin slightly.
The Togabito suddenly appeared right in front of Hikari, who merely watched in mock awe, as Odayakana's dark, jagged, blade clashed with Hikari's sabre, despite the two opponents not backing down, Maebure was the certain victor of their locked battle. Odayakana, realising his attack was futile, raised his free hand, charging a fireball directed at the Tsumikami, whom promptly performed a simple upward slash that sent Odayakana flying back. He slid backwards a couple of metres before coming to a halt.
"I hope that isn't all the power you have, soldier of Usuguraiboshi-kun", Hikari stated, he looked down to the now standing Odayakana, who scoffed at the Tsumikami's remark.
"It is Odayakana Kurushimeru, and I have merely shown you a fraction of my power, allow me to show you the rest!", he shouted, loosing his calm demeanor he charged at Hikari, his blade erupting with flames.
Odayakana clashed with the Tsumikami numerous times, becoming more ferocious after every strike, however Hikari was swatting his attacks away with relative ease, as it he was doing an errand, after blocking another relentless onslaught brought on by Odayakana, he raised his finger towards the Togabito's chest.
"Shit.", Odayakana cursed, however he couldn't dodge the celadon beam of energy. It pierced him directly through his torso, causing him to fall to the ground, writhing in pain, however, to the mild surprise of Hikari, the Togabito didn't turn to dust, he merely stood up, clutching his wound with a pained look on his face.
"Hmmm", mused Hikari. "You were the one to claim to be "the Lord of Hell", didn't you?"
An ominous smirk lingering on his face, he changed his stance. Jet black energy with scarlet outline began wrapping itself around the blade of his Karadawaru.
"Are you prepared to back up that claim?", he asked.
"Claim? What are you on about?! It was a fact!", Odayakana violently replied, he swung his blade in mid air, releasing the trapped flames sending them at Hikari, who merely waited for them to strike him. Following up on his initial attack, Odayakana unleashed countless bursts of fire in Hikari's direction, causing the already mangled bodies to set alight. The Togabito finished his onslaught by throwing a fireball which exploded on impact, clouding Hikari in smoke and fire.
When the shroud receded at last, it revealed him unscathed, enclosed in a semi-translucent black sphere of energy. Then, the orb burst like a bubble.
"It's always the same", he commented, slowly shaking his head. "All brawn, no brain. How pitiful", he added after a short pause, a grim vibe suddenly audible in his voice.
He then plummeted in a straight line, landing in the lake of blood with a loud splash. The red liquid stained his black robes, and a single streak appeared on his right cheek. His slightly narrowed eyes were glowing menacingly.
"You can't simply lash at me like an animal and expect to land a single blow", he continued. "You call yourself the Lord of Hell, but the true ruler of this realm resides far below us. You're like a flea next to him."
"Tch, I expected nothing less.", Odayakana muttered scornfully, his blade steaming with the head of the flames he had created, his manner of speaking had returned somewhat to his more respectful of dialects. He lowered down to the ground at Hikari's level.
"Ever since that bastard took my power all I could do was mindlessly thrash about, so take that as an example of my former power Maebure-dono.", Odayakana started, his small frown once again turned into a small smirk as he raised his hand, cupping his palm and forming a relatively large spinning ball of fire.
"Now allow me to show you....the true power of the Lord of Hell.", he quietly finished, his smile turning into a manic grin, the ball started to condense rapidly, catching the attention of Maebure. It kept shrinking until it was positively miniscule. Despite it's initial significance, Maebure once again wore a grim face.
"I still have to thank that 12th Division Captain for unintentionally giving me my power back.", Odayakana casually stated, his prepped arm was suddenly baptised in fire. Hikari, finally having enough with Kurushimeru's ramblings, got into a fighting stance, ready to counter attack. As he did Odayakana finally raised his arm towards him.
"Jigoku Honō!", he shouted, suddenly, an immense column of fire, bright yellow on the outside while glowing white on the inside erupted from Odayakana's raised palm, as the attack rocketed towards Hikari, he merely slanted his body as his sabre was engulfed in a black energy.
A gigantic explosion erupted from the seemingly calm river, the smoke that had been dispersed from the explosion suddenly was swept away by Hikari, who had once again protected himself with a semi-translucent orb, which dissipated afterward, however Hikari was unable to sense the Togabito's reiatsu from in front of him, instead it was emanating from behind him, as he turned he saw Odayakana in mid air, another small, spinning ball of fire ready in his palm.
"JIGOKU HONŌ!!!", Odyakana screamed, he unleashed yet another massive column of dual tone fire speeding towards the Tsumukami, however before the attack struck Hikari Odayakana started to charge a giagantic sun like ball of fire.
"Hinotama Oni!", he shouted as he brought down the suffocating ball of fire down upon Hikari, the two attacks created a colossal explosion, dwarfing the combatants that were graced with it.
Its immense force vapourised a large amount of blood and sent tsunami-like waves across the rest of the vast lake. Red mist immersed the area, and the unbearable smell of boiling bodily fluid quickly became stifling.
Then, there was a cold, unhappy laughter that resounded from within the macabre shroud.
"Back when I confronted Seireitō Kawahiru, it must have been a truly pathetic sight from his point of view", commented Hikari.
When the cloud of gaseous blood subsided, it revealed the Tsumikami standing in the pool of still boiling blood. A large part of the right side of his face had been burnt beyond recognition. However, there was a scarlet light that shone from within its empty eye socket. Suddenly, flame-like aura of Reiatsu enveloped him, and the severe damage began to heal at a rapid pace.
"It seems that concepts such as "deception" or "strategic thinking" are beyond your ability to comprehend, so I'll attempt to communicate in your language", he added sternly.
Without a warning his aura expanded explosively, forcing the lake of blood to recede and reveal the featureless bed. Undulating and flickering like jet black fire with scarlet outline, it was emitting a loud, gut-wrenching hum. Numerous scarlet currents of electrified energy began wrapping around it with audible sizzling sounds.
"What is your response, "Lord of Hell"?", Maebure asked in a tone perfectly calm in spite of the tempest he had just unleashed.
Odayakana instantly reacted to the sudden rise in spiritual power, he forced his own spiritual power to rise to combat the crushing sensation Hikari's power was emitting, however he felt his bones slowly crumble from inside of him, his wound bleeding intensely, Odayakana managed to barely stand up.
"Impressive.....however....I....", Odayakana struggled to speak as the spiritual power around him seemed to crash upon his form, causing him to drop to one knee.
"However.....I've been.....up.....against.....worse.", Odayakana replied, he made as best a laugh as he could towards the Tsumikami, however all that emitted was a quiet chuckle.
"Now now...no lying.", Hikari stated quietly while tutting, he once again raised his spiritual pressure further, causing Odayakana to fall onto his hands and knees, one of his arms broke instantaneously, forcing him to awkwardly collapse on the floor, slowly be crushed.
"I'm.....not.....", Odayakana started coughing up copious amounts of blood as he forced his broken body back up, his ribs disintegrating as he did so.
"I'm.....n-ot....yielding........", Odayakana tried to blurt out, his bones nearly dust as he finally got into a crouching positions.
"Mae....bure.", Odayakana lifted his blade and launched one last fire attack at Hikari, before being brought down hard on his collar bone, effectively erasing it from existence. Despite his best efforts, Odayakana's attack was merely crushed like its sender, disintegrating in the air.
The Tsumikami was watching his demise in silence. Then, his vast aura subsided, allowing the lake of blood to reclaim its place.
"I hope you'll learn from that", he said.
He narrowed his eyes.
"Come out of hiding", he barked afterward in no particular direction.
At first, there was no response. After a short while, however, he could hear a bubbling, and subsequently spotted a figure emerging from the red liquid. He turned to face it unhurriedly.
"Hooh?", he uttered in mild surprise.
The being looked vastly different than any Togabito he had faced so far. Tall and lean, the individual had abnormally long arms and relatively short legs in comparison. Clad in a burgundy plate armour with golden fire motifs, it had an oval face with large, light green eyes, flat, snake-like nostrils and two small horns protruding from its prominent forehead.
"Hikari Maebure", spoke the entity in a hoarse voice. "I am Gundan, a Yōkai from the Fifth Circle."
"Intriguing", replied the Tsumikami in a composed manner, assuming a seemingly relaxed stance. "What brings a Daemon here?", he asked in a tone suggesting he knows the answer full well.
Gundan was standing in an eerily motionless way, not blinking even once since his unexpected arrival.
"I have a message for you, Hikari Maebure. Warden of the Fifth Circle, Kōken'nin-sama, is most displeased with your antics. As such, he invites you to his realm to face a true challenge", declared the Yōkai in a grave tone.
Hikari chortled in response.
"So, at last the higher ups notice me? I've been growing impatient", he stated.
Gundan did not reply, instead, he was gazing at his interlocutor with his pupil-less eyes.
"Will you come?", he asked after a short pause.
"But of course", responded Maebure. "When may I come?"
Blue flames burst into existence behind the Daemon, who turned to them with a slow yet swift motion.
"At your leisure", he replied as the portal to another Circle opened.
However, once his left arm approached the portal, it met unexpected resistance. Surprised, Gundan tried again and realised that an invisible barrier had been placed between him and the Enkaiō Sakeme technique.
"Are you leaving so soon?", asked Hikari with an ominous smirk.
"I am just a messenger", said Gundan.
He then watched as the portal he had summoned vanished in the blink of an eye.
"As a Daemon you should know well what are the rules here", replied Hikari. "Surely, you haven't come here expecting I'll acknowledge your "diplomatic immunity"?"
The Yōkai turned slowly to face him.
"After such a warm-up my appetite for battle has grown even stronger", explained Maebure with a cold smile. "And you just might be able to satiate it."
"Very well, then", responded Gundan indifferently.
Afterward, he flexed his arms so much that veins bulged out across their entire length. Large spikes protruded from his wrists and continued to grow, until two crude, serrated swords emerged from his arms. He caught them swiftly with his slender but clawed palms and promptly leapt forward.
There was a loud clang as his blades clashed with Hikari's sabre.
"No preliminary action?", commented the Tsumikami. "This might be interesting."
Then, he pushed forward and deflected the Daemon, forcing him to retreat. He followed with an abrupt horizontal slash, but his new opponent disappeared with a distorted hum.
Hiss of sliced air followed quickly, and Maebure had vanished an instant before the two swords could bisect him with a shearing motion. He reappeared a medium distance from the Yōkai, who promptly turned around to him and charged to continue the assault. Subsequently, they were locked in an intense sword-fight, the number of strikes per second far too great for a normal Human to perceive.
Showered with sparks, Hikari was watching his enemy's attacks with great attention. The dual-wielding style of fighting was a rare and difficult one, but when utilised by a proficient combatant it was also very dangerous. Gundan was taking full advantage of his twin blades; rather than strike with both of them from the same direction to reinforce their sheer power, every single slash was coming from a different trajectory, making the effort to block all of them considerably more strenuous. Furthermore, thanks to his inhuman strength, each one-handed strike carried such force that they could not be simply swept aside.
All of a sudden, the Daemon made a diagonal, broad motion with his left hand, splashing Maebure with a wave of blood and by extension, concealing himself. Then, he swiftly slashed in a horizontal manner, bifurcating the crimson shroud within a moment.
And nothing else.
Right afterward, there was a loud thud. Hikari's boot struck the back of Gundan's head, sending him crashing into the lake of blood. In the meantime, the Tsumikami landed softly on the surface of the crimson liquid.
"Your skill in swordsmanship is impressive", he commented. "I haven't fought such a proficient swordsman in a long time."
The Yōkai emerged from the blood, straightened up and glanced briefly at his opponent. Subsequently, he plunged at him without a response. Hikari lifted his sabre, but Gundan jumped to the side abruptly and attacked. Two blades scraped across each other with a piercing sound. Then, the Daemon attacked with his other blade, forcing Maebure to leap backward in order to avoid having his head split in two.
Using the momentum of his manoeuvre to retreat even further, Maebure then launched a wave of dark energy with a swift swing of his Karadawaru. Gundan took a stable stance, squeezed the hilts of his crude swords and then struck the technique with both of them, dispersing it. However, right afterward a beam of jet black darkness hit his chest, causing a medium-sized explosion.
The Yōkai flew backward, bouncing off the surface of the lake of blood before sinking into it with a loud splash.
Hikari observed him, panting, but otherwise not showing signs of fatigue.
"I don't think you'll be returning to your master. But worry not; you've delivered your message, and the fact you don't come back will serve as my own", he said with an ominous glint in his scarlet eyes.
Meanwhile, Gundan stood up slowly and walked on the surface of the lake.
"Oh, I see that armour isn't just a decoration", remarked Maebure with mild surprise.
"This is Akuhahen, the Daemon Armour", explained the Yōkai whilst assuming a fighting stance. "It doesn't break easily."
"We'll see", replied Hikari.
Then, he raised his Karadawaru and pointed it at the featureless sky. Gundan followed the motion with his eyes and subsequently widened them slightly as he spotted a shower of pitch black projectiles plummeting toward him with considerable speed. He plunged in an evasive manoeuvre once they bombarded the blood lake with a number of small explosions. And as he was avoiding getting hit, he suddenly saw Maebure darting toward him.
The Tsumikami launched a wide horizontal slash that would have swiftly decapitated the Yōkai, but the latter managed to duck under it. Then, he promptly countered with an attack aimed to bisect Hikari's chest. However, Maebure intercepted the serrated blade with his left hand, and repelled it with a Seki spell. Gundan used the impetus to empower the slash made with his other arm, yet Hikari blocked it with his blade. The Daemon hesitated for a split second, and immediately paid the price for it as the Tsumikami kicked him in the chin.
Gundan somersaulted in the air and subsequently landed on the blood lake's surface. Without wasting a single moment he leapt at Maebure again, assaulting him with a flurry of rapid cuts. Turned into a blur, Hikari's ebony sabre intercepted all of the strikes with frightening skill.
Suddenly, he sallied without a warning and slashed at his enemy's torso. The blade of his Karadawaru cut the metal of his opponent's armour and sliced further, bifurcating him. Just as a smirk of satisfaction appeared on the Tsumikami's face, the two halves of the Daemon's body dispersed into nothingness with a "pop".
Then, much to his dismay, he noticed Gundan standing a distance away, already inside the Enkaiō Sakeme. The Yōkai gazed at him with an arcane face expression, and then vanished as the portal closed.
After a short while Maebure straightened up and sheathed his Karadawaru with a furious motion. A slight frown distorted his face. A moment later, it was replaced by a menacing smile.
Hell, the Fifth Circle. Kōken'nin's Castle.
"I have delivered the message, Kōken'nin-sama", announced Gundan, kneeling in front of his superior.
The bulky Archdaemon immersed in shadows nodded his head, what could be discerned thanks to the movement of his glowing eyes.
"Excellent. But you appear... fatigued", he noted with mild interest.
"Once I'd informed Hikari Maebure about the challenge he proved... unwilling... to let me go", replied Gundan.
A rhythmical, low sound reverberated throughout the spacious throne room, echoing among its walls with frightening might - Kōken'nin's chuckle.
"He truly acts like a Daemon. What a peculiar creature", he remarked. "Regardless, you have been able to escape with your life on your own. As such, Maebure will be in for a big surprise when he comes here."
All of a sudden, there was some rustle and clatter in the omnipresent semi-darkness of the room. Soon afterward four individuals emerged and stood beside the kneeling Gundan, bowing with great respect to his master sitting on the throne.
"As I have already told you, you will not face him alone", said Kōken'nin. "If Maebure has been unable to prevent a single Yōkai from retreating, fighting five of them simultaneously should prove rather troublesome for him."
Gundan peeked briefly at his colleagues and nodded.
"Yes, Kōken'nin-sama. When he comes here, we shall offer him a very warm greeting", he stated sternly.
Another bass laughter quaked the entire throne room with its ominous vibe.
"Excellent", commented the Archdaemon with dark satisfaction.
Hell, the Ninth Circle.
Hikari was standing at the edge of an extremely high slope, gazing contemplatively into the deep, dark valley underneath. The eternal cold winds were tousling his hair and his black cape was fluttering madly behind him.
You will come there, won't you?
"Of course I will", replied Maebure. "I keep my promises."
You know this is a trap.
"I would expect nothing less from the Yōkai", stated Hikari, his eyes wandering absent-mindedly along the rocky ridges in front of him. "I have been failing to find a single genuine challenge since a long time. I can't improve further unless I face actual hardships on my path."
This one might prove very dangerous.
"I certainly hope so."
What if they defeat you?
"Then I would deserve to be defeated", replied Maebure with a wry smile. "For decades I've been preparing to confront an enemy who far surpasses anyone else I've ever faced in my life. If a couple of Daemons proved strong enough to best me, than my renewed punishment would be perfectly justified."
He clenched and lifted his right fist. He regarded it with his gleaming eyes, feeling the immense power cursing through it and his whole body.
You will win.
"There is no other option, my dear friend", he replied.
Subsequently, he raised his head and looked at the nearly pitch black vault of the Ninth Circle, as if trying to pierce it with his sight and reach all the way up to the place where he would meet his challenge.