"…Now that the seal is broken, Mana's body is expanding to the outside…"
"What!? So this floor is…"
"…I am not sure…but I think she is preparing to give birth to the Lord…"
"Uh, oh… I don't want to even think about it. But this place…"
"We're inside of Mana."
"It's so warm… No, that is not the kind of thing to be saying right now! We must hurry!"
But the more they rushed on, the more their legs seemed to get tangled. And they could not move forward.
"If this continues, we might just be expelled as waste, even without Mana willing it… I'm going to kick you out. Then you can run."
"Ru-run? Where am I supposed to run!?"
"You have the full power of the demon world. And so you should know where the shortcut is. It connects to all of the floors. It will be easy to escape once you reach the first floor."
"In-in that case, we can go together…"
"It's impossible. We'll both fall if we stay like this. Unless you are saying you have the power to throw me out of here?"
"Uh…that's easy to say, but…"
Without waiting for another second, Lute kicked Hanakawa.
Hanakawa shot straight out of the palace.
He fell flat on his face and slid down.
Hanakawa got up and looked around.
The white palace was turning into a dark red blob.
The palace now looked like exposed muscle or piles of guts. There was no longer anything to support its structure. It was unable to carry its own weight, and it was collapsing in a wet mess.
And this change was not happening to the palace alone. While slow, it was affecting the area around it.
Eventually, it would swallow up the neighboring towns and people as well.
He would drown in the sea of flesh if he didn't move.
And so Hanakawa frantically set off towards the town.
The sixth floor of the demon world. In a great dining hall of a fortress that was located within the forest.
It was here that s.h.i.+on the Sage was talking to the sage candidates.
"Now, it would not be very fair if I told you all to kill each other right here and now. After all, there are some here who could kill everyone all at once. And so I shall give you an hour to prepare. Of course, you may not attack each other during this hour. If you do, you will be disqualified immediately. Also, I have deactivated all of your skills. You can fight honestly without them!"
"Ki-kill each other? Why would we do something so foolis.h.!.+"
"E-exactly! Why must we do such a thing!"
"Yes! There is no reason for it!"
One person shouted, and the others followed. Before long, they were all opening their mouths and launching complaints.
"Isn't it obvious? I am going to put you all in a situation where you'll have no choice but to kill each other. Let me see… I will judge you every hour. And anyone who hasn't killed at least one person by then will be killed by me. How's that?"
"…Then you are the one who should die…"
It was f.u.kai Seiichi who stood up slowly. He was in the reaper cla.s.s.
"Ah, that's fine too. If you succeed in killing me, that would mean the end of your trial. The number of sages won't change that way, but anyone who is capable of killing me is worth two sages."
"…Surely you're not going to tell us that our gifts don't work on you?"
It was an obvious provocation, but a necessary one.
s.h.i.+on was able to control the gifts she gave. And if the gifts were disabled, the sages would have no way to resist her. And so they needed her to make a promise.
Provoke her and make her fight fairly.
"I won't say such a thing… But I still don't think you can beat me. You should just be obedient and kill each other if you want a better chance of survival."
Seiichi unleashed his power.
s.h.i.+on swayed to the side.
That was all.
"It…it didn't work! You liar!"
"No-no. It worked just fine. I could have killed you before you even used your power, but I let you do it on purpose. After all, I am quite interested in this instant death power."
"d.a.m.n you! Why won't you die!"
"As I said, it did work. In fact, I died just a moment ago. Of course, isn't it the normal thing to come back to life after you've died?"
Seiichi unleashed his power over and over again.
However, s.h.i.+on continued to walk towards him.
"Wh-what's happening! What the h.e.l.l are you!"
"Ah, that's right. I haven't told you about my power. I suppose you could call it a pulse linked level up? You level up with every beat of your heart. When this happens, your energy, health, and all status ailments are healed. And you come back to life if you happen to be dead."
Seiichi was shouting 'die' nonstop as if it was the only word in his vocabulary. There was nothing else that he could do.
s.h.i.+on didn't seem to care as she continued to move closer.
"Well, I suppose this instant death ability isn't much after all."
s.h.i.+on said as she stood before Seiichi.
"Now… It seems that the others are all watching us. That is good. You could all challenge me if you want, but be ready to die in the attempt."
s.h.i.+on swung her fist.
The straight attack was not something that Seiichi could dodge.
There was a dry sound as his head bounced and the body crumbled.
With s.h.i.+on's abilities, there was no need for her to come so close and punch him directly.
And yet, this display of direct violence. The splattered blood and brain fluid. It was a powerful way to make them feel that death was near.
The lesson should be easily learned.
"So, let me explain the rules to you."
s.h.i.+on smiled as if the killing of Seiichi was of no consequence.
"The trial will begin in exactly one hour after I finish explaining the rules. You may not attack each other during that hour. If you do, I will kill you. The trial will take place within the boundaries of the sixth floor. If you go out, I will kill you. If you have not killed anyone after the first hour of the trial, I will kill you. After every hour, the boundary will shrink. Of course, if you happen to be outside of it, I will kill you. The last remaining survivor is the one who pa.s.ses the test. I will not kill that person. That is all."
And with that, the sage candidates pushed each other in order to be the first out of the dining hall.