Whew. That was satisfying. Super-duper extremely satisfying. “Durandal, let’s do it again! …Durandal?” Oh, right. He fainted after the fifth time. And the sun’s coming up, so I guess we can stop now. Ah…, life’s great, isn’t it? Beautiful weather, chirping birds, and a partner in bed! What more can a girl ask for? Sure, there was that inconvenient explosion that destroyed my mansion, but that’s why I have a lakeside house! …Actually, the lakeside house is for storing guests that I don’t trust, but there was nowhere else to sleep, so I had to make do. It’s a shame about the pole-stiffening pills though, but thankfully, Durandal was vigorous enough without them! It must be a perk of reaching the legendary realm.
Now that there’s finally some down time, I can finish inspecting all the treasures I robbed. The thing I’m most curious about is this weird green slip. When I opened the weirdo’s interspacial ring and took this out, a strange spirit came out and attacked me but died to my Armor of Slaughter. I wonder what it is. Hmm. Maybe it’s money? But what would be the point of spirit stones? The weirdo had a lot of those, by the way. I squinted at the jade slip. “C’mon, stupid thing. Show me why you’re valuable.”
…Nope. I guess the only thing I can do is put it away for—
“Lucia? Is it over?”
Oh, it’s Ilya. She has some pretty dark circles underneath her eyes. It seems like she didn’t get much sleep last night, huh? Well, I’d be traumatized too if someone exploded for no reason. “Is what over?”
“Nothing.” Ilya shook her head and sighed. She pointed at the slip. “What’s inside?”
“Inside?” Did Ilya know what this was? It was a secret kind of treasure chest, wasn’t it?
“…Let me see.” Ilya held her hand out.
“No! Tell me how to open it.”
Ilya sighed. “Send your mind into it.” She must’ve understood that I had no idea what that meant because she sighed again and said, “Look at it and think about entering it.”
Think about entering it…? Whoa! What’s this? Where am I? It’s all dark and there’s this floating ball of green light in front of me. Isn’t this like that time I entered mini-DalDal to learn the Path of Slaughter? …I’ve already been burned twice by something like this! If I touch the floating light, I might learn something, but it’ll hurt. And I don’t like pain, so I’m just going to leave. Mhm. Just leave. …Leave. Hello? How do I get out of here?
Touch the light.
“Who said that!?” I’m all alone in this darkness! Who’s creeping on me!? Was it the light? “Is there any way to get out without touching the green thing…?”
Ugh…. Alright, fine. I took in a deep breath and closed my eyes while reaching for the light with my toe. Please don’t hurt. Please don’t hurt. Please don’t hurt. Gah! F***! It hurts! It hurts! It … doesn’t hurt? Huh? I opened my eyes. Oh, I didn’t touch it yet. I’m still about an inch away from the—why is it flying towards me!? Gah! It hurts for real this time! My head’s going to explode!
“Lucia? Are you alright?”
“No, I’m not alright!”
I could feel Ilya’s stare on me as I clutched my throbbing head. “Don’t just stare! Heal me!”
“Err, learning through a forced transmission can’t be healed,” Ilya said. “I mean, it’s not supposed to hurt in the first place. Forced transmissions only cause discomfort if the recipient is an idio…. Oh. Right. That explains it.”
Phew. The headache’s gone. What was Ilya saying just now? Anyways, what did I learn? “Heart Devil Cultivation Technique?”
“Let me see?”
“Yeah, sure. Here.” I handed over the green slip. I really wanted to break it after the suffering it put me through, but that’d be a waste. At the very least, I should sell it. “How’d you know how to use one of these things? And is there a way out once you’re inside?”
“Hmm? I read about them in my father’s books,” Ilya said. “And there isn’t a way.” She closed her eyes as she placed the slip on the table. A moment later, she opened her eyes and nodded. “Like I thought. Those people are using a different form of energy than us. Otherwise, how could they cause explosions with the predators around? Most likely, I can use this knowledge to augment my abilities. But I’m not sure how well it would mix with mana…. Maybe it’ll be like merging qi and mana, ruining my chances of advancing any further as a magician. I don’t think it’s worth it.”
“So … you’re saying this Heart Devil Cultivation Technique can make me stronger?” Ilya said augment, right? That means improve! See, I’m smart. Let’s try it. I’m supposed to circulate my qi like this and like that and then like this, but that feels a bit uncomfortable. Wouldn’t it be better to circulate it that way instead? Yes, that feels much better. Then it does a twist over here in my leg…, a loop in my arm…, three loops around my stomach? It should be four! And finally, I force it all back into my womb. Or dantian. Same thing, right?
Ilya screamed, and I opened my eyes. Why was she screaming? Don’t tell me I turned hideous! Did I? Oh, there’s a mirror in my interspacial ring, I’ll check. …Nope, nothing’s changed. I’m still beautiful. So why was Ilya screaming? Then I saw the things in the mirror behind me. Hundreds of black, worm-like things were in the sky, and they all seemed to be rushing towards … me! “What the hell is this!? Ilya!? I need answers!”
“You absorbed the knowledge too!” Ilya shouted as she ran away from me. Why was she running from me? “Stop following me! Stop! Those things are the accumulated energies your heart devils absorbed! Let me go! Lucia!”
Maybe it’s a bit unfair that I’m holding Ilya over my head like an umbrella. Alright, fine. I’ll swap her out with Puppers. At least he won’t die if he dies.
Puppers sighed as he was held over my head. “Well. I knew this was coming.” He closed his eyes and splayed his limbs like a corpse, waiting for the black, worm-like things to hit him. They drilled into his skin and came out the other side, leaving him … completely unharmed. And then they hit me! Gah, f***! This hurts even worse than the green ball of light!
Puppers ignored me, his dying master lying on the ground, and sidled over to Ilya. “Mind explaining what the Heart Devil Cultivation Technique is?”
Ilya sighed, her gaze boring a hole into my body. She should’ve warned me about this! Once this stops hurting so much, I’m going to teach her a lesson about withholding information! Ah, it’s so painful. I can feel the qi inside me exploding and becoming more abundant in the process! …Wait, becoming more abundant in the process? It’s not worth it! The pain to qi gained ratio is completely skewed towards pain!
“Right, that cultivation technique is some kind of internal energy generator,” Ilya said to Puppers, obviously ignoring the dying person by her feet. I’m not bitter. Not one bit. “Apparently, everyone gets these heart devils, or internal demons, and it drains their energy while haunting their thoughts. Something like an insecurity, I suppose.”
Puppers nodded. “You mean like when you confess to someone and get rejected, and five years later, you end up lying in bed unable to sleep while dwelling on that one specific instance, wondering why you’re such a moron for doing such a dumb thing, and that maybe if you did it this way instead, everything would’ve been different?”
“…That’s an oddly specific scenario,” Ilya said. “I thought weapon spirits couldn’t sleep.”
“I guess those are the sentiments of a heart devil,” Ilya muttered. She nodded. “And Lucia can basically harvest the energy from any heart devil she’s caused another person.”
“So that’s why a black strand left my body,” Puppers said.
“Yeah,” Ilya said. “I was so surprised about the thing leaving my chest that I screamed.”
Hello? I’m dying here. Why are they ignoring me!?
“Lucia! Ilya! Did you see something black fly over here?”
Was that the man in the sky? What was he doing in my territory?
“Lucia! Something black flew out of all the prisoners inside your dungeon! It flew out of me too!”
And that was Reena. Wow, everyone’s here to pay me a visit, huh?
“The worldly phenomenon converged over there! The treasure must be up ahead!”
Oh, hey. More strangers from that so-called Immortal Continent. I declare today as national tax day! Anyone who doesn’t pay up is going to jail. I’m going to be rich—especially since the man in the sky is here!
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