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“That’s all you have to suggest? Nothing else?” Samuel and the other Archdevils looked at each other, disbelief in their eyes.
Although Asmodeus had the Dark Eight, the other lords weren’t without their own subordinate pit fiends. Combined, the forces of the three could annihilate Asmodeus’ underlings.
Asmodeus grinned, tossing out great bait, “Nothing else. Until everything is done and dusted, we should all just stay here and let the developments play out for themselves!”
“What do you think?” Mammon looked at his two companions. He’d already been moved. After all, there was an entire level of Baator at stake here!
“You want to sow discord amongst us?” Samuel laughed, “You’re going to be disappointed…” Although he said that, nobody believed a word of it.
“Your physical form should remain here, including those of Mephistopheles and the rest,” Levistus added.
“Alright, I’ll have them sign another contract. The other lords that aren’t here shall need to stay in their territories as well, not acting until everything is settled.” Asmodeus chuckled, “So?”
“Order is everything! If we reject it, even if it’s for the sake of Baator’s World Origin Force the Nine Hells will be thrown into turmoil. The World Will will repudiate us.” Levistus’ analysis was calm, and he ended up answering, “I agree to this contract!”
“I concur!” “I as well!” Mammon and Samuel agreed as well. After all, this outcome far exceeded their expectations.
“Very well! The Hag Countess, Belphegor and Mephistopheles have given me their reply as well. Let the River of Styx be our witness!” Asmodeus now turned his book of contracts to a new, blank page.
Once the other three ascertained that there was nothing wrong with the contract, they nodded their heads, making the most solemn of vows to the river of the underworld…
Right now, Leylin had no inkling of this contract made between the Archdevils of Baator. However, the ripples of this event would soon throw Baator into a flurry of events, culminating in the dawn of a new era.
“Beelzebub’s Iron Tower…” Baalzephon looked at the heavy coat of darkness in front of him, his eyes filled with deceit and solemnity. “Leycian. What do you know of this place?”
This was the castle of an Archdevil! Baalzephon was but a pit fury, and he didn’t dare to make any assumptions about the place.
“Lord Baalzephon, the Iron Tower has always been forbidden territory in Dis. Even my former superior, Lord Azlok the chief guard, has never stepped into this place…”
Leylin had spoken the truth. His earlier investigations and Azlok’s own testimony told him Beelzebub was someone who did not entrust things to his subordinates. Very few devils were permitted to enter the Iron Tower, perhaps a shortcoming of their race.
Legends said that the only way to enter the Iron Tower was to sign a contract with Beelzebub under witness of the Styx, foregoing everything to protect it for life. Even so, the contract restrained all these devils to the interior of the tower.
Leylin wasn’t gullible enough to say such things blindly. The reason he did was that Baalzephon still had some value.
“Legend has it that the Iron Tower contains numerous curses, and is guarded by a huge army of golems. There are ancient, powerful devils here, contracted to protect it. We’re currently in the outermost regions of the Iron Tower, the Plains of Gluttony. This place is guarded by an army of hungry spirits Beelzebub has trained, and only devils with permission are allowed to enter. Any others will have to perform a rite of autocannibalism.”
“Hungry spirits?” Baalzephon nodded his head, and felt that this new subordinate he had recruited was rather useful, “Autocannibalism is where you make an offering by eating a part of yourself?”
Baalzephon’s face was filled with worry. He wasn’t reluctant to sacrifice a part of his body, but the most prevalent rule of the law of gluttony was that any powers sacrificed could never be regained.
Evidently, this was Beelzebub’s first line of defense. Without his permission, anyone who wanted to enter would first have to weaken themselves.
‘Are there any ways to bypass this rule?’ Baalzephon pondered, before shaking his head helplessly. How could there be a way for him to beat the cunning of an Archdevil of Baator?
‘The most important part of the ceremony is that it requires a part of one’s core power. Any other energy is useless…’ Baalzephon glanced at Leylin standing beside him, restraining himself from acting upon his impulse.
‘I’m going to lose a part of my powers before even meeting the Archdevil… This isn’t a good start…’
Just as Baalzephon was mulling over this, he felt an imminent crisis looming over him. He didn’t think twice, immediately using an instant Greater Teleportation spell inscribed into his body.
He disappeared from his original location in a flash, reappearing nearby. It seemed like the restrictions of the original realm of gluttony made it extremely difficult for him to use teleportation magic and escape this realm.
“Damn! This interference…” Baalzephon swore foully as he raged, but he soon looked to his right shoulder in astonishment.
A large chunk of flesh was missing from that shoulder, and threads of evil energy still circulated around it. A fish-like illusory monster had suddenly appeared as he tried to teleport earlier, rending apart the fire resistance and other defences that all devils were so proud of. A single bite had reduced him to this state.
‘A creature with the Teleportation feat? No, this is a top-level ability to traverse two planes and blur the distance between them! I even sense the unique aura of a creature from the astral plane…’ Leylin had managed to gather a lot of information immediately, using Baalzephon as a big pathfinder stone.
Although he’d devoured most of Beelzebub’s memories, the devil had clearly hidden some of the most important secrets. Those scattered fragments had lacked many important details, which meant that Leylin lacked knowledge about the iron tower.
‘Besides, even if I knew all about it, perhaps there is no better way. After all, the Iron Tower itself only recognizes Beelzebub’s aura. Even Baator’s authority and devil essence would be useless here…’ Leylin smiled wryly to himself.
While Leylin was able to stabilise himself, Baalzephon, on the other hand, was about to throw a fit.
‘Damn! This creature is definitely not something from hell and has never appeared before on the prime material plane. Don’t tell me it’s some abomination borne of a god?’
Baalzephon’s knowledge did not extend to things beyond the World of Gods, let alone the astral plane. To him, an existence that possessed powers even a pit fiend couldn’t comprehend was an abomination, the flawed offspring of a god! Only something with the power of a god could create such a bizarre and powerful creature.
In a short span of time, Baalzephon was attacked several times. The loss of some of his body was but a small matter, but he sensed his own origin being lost with the passage of time. It left him extremely horrified.
‘Damn, what do I have to do to leave this place?’ Baalzephon continued to try using teleportation spells. However, those hungry spirits chased after him, biting his flesh apart and devouring his power.
Forget demons and other races, a devil’s greatest enemy was other devils. Beelzebub had specifically arranged his preparations to target his kin. Baalzephon was unfortunate, being toppled so simply.
‘Mm, how clever,’ Leylin cut a sorry figure as he stood at the side, but he was only pretending.
The hungry spirits sensed the energy on his body, not daring to stick close to him. There were several berserk little fellows who dared make contact with him, but they were immediately dissolved by the dissolving power coming from Leylin’s body. They ended up becoming a part of him.
‘Mm, it seems like it’s some sort of spiritual body. They are undoubtedly some sort of astral creature…’ The A.I. Chip’s light flashed, and displayed the results of its investigatory research before Leylin’s eyes.
‘It looks like Beelzebub relied on the Manderhawke Plate to acquire several interesting things from the astral plane…’ Greed flashed across Leylin’s eyes. Soon, he heard Baalzephon’s despairing roar: “There’s nothing else for it, hurry up and begin the autocannibalism!”
Even as Baalzephon struggled bitterly, something was happening within the burning Iron City of Dis. An enormous teleportation portal opened up, and troops of armoured devils marched out to take over the enormous city.
Small-scale conflicts continued to occur, but the devils who had lost their leaders and the core of their operations were far weaker than these elites. They lost very quickly, and beat a hasty retreat.
Due to Leylin’s earlier arrangements, Azlok had evacuated with the devils who were still loyal to the Winged Serpent God, and luckily they had not been involved. The main army soon moved to the vicinity of the Iron Tower, headed by seven pit fiends.
“That fool Baalzephon, he actually dared to come by himself! Does he think that he is a match for an Archdevil alone? Besides, he actually even dared to betray my lord!” Zapan of the Dark Eight snickered as he looked at the tall glowing tower which broke through the clouds.
“Hurry and take over the defences. We need to surround the tower, the main forces of the other Archdevils will get here soon!” Another member of the Dark Eight urged him on, his fiery eyes full of longing and ambition.
Asmodeus’ order had arrived, and the unanimous decision of the remaining Archdevils let the Dark Eight, who stood unable to break free of their torment at the pinnacle of hell, see their only chance at lordship!
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