?, ?, Midday.

Shizuka and co are travelling back to the past, floating through one of madam Aisha's tunnels once more. The place is still completely pitch black safe for a single lonely speck of light, which the trio are heading to. The light is slowly growing bigger and bigger, eventually swallowing them whole.

After a second or two the light dims down, and the trio feel solid rock beneath their feet once more. They step out of a dark cave into the open light. They've successfully returned to the year 2013!

Shizuka takes one good look at her surroundings as her breath condenses in the air. Stone mountains, several of them covered with snow and glaciers. Far below them are a few lakes, its rivers flowing out into the horizon. Though it should be late February to March right about now, it feels like they've arrived in the dead of winter.

"I-I-I don't think w-we're in J-Japan anymore." Fuyuhime says in-between the shivers, regretting her choice of wearing a sleeveless dress. Considering that they've arrived wearing clothes meant for springtime in temperate places means that all three of them are shivering wildly.

Nobody disagrees with Fuyuhime's assumption, but the Campione does want another question answered: "T-Then tell me, w-where are we?"

Neither Fuyuhime nor Sakura has the knowledge to answer. Without her future self here to give advice it appears that the trio needs to find their way back to civilization on their own. Shizuka is ready to go, but Sakura asks that the group wait for a moment. When Fuyuhime and Shizuka look at their friend they see her reaching into one of the bags she traveled through time with. Pulling out a blouse from the future Sakura reminds them that they've brought additional sets of clothes back from the future.

That plan is a genius idea Sakura came up with, everyone putting on their clothes as fast as they can. It looks quite silly, as they're wearing multiple layers of spring clothes instead of winter gear. Still, it's enough to keep them from shivering, so the silliness is an acceptable trade-off.

The trio begin to walk towards the sun, hoping to find something in the east. After a good minute or twenty of walking over unstable stones they finally manage to find something man-made:

Instead of the usual stone slabs they find a thin section of gravel, very evenly distributed and going far in the distance to the left and the right. In other words, they've found a road! Sure, it's one that's probably meant to be used by hikers as they travel through the mountains, but it's nonetheless a sign of human life! No matter which direction they take, so long as they follow the road they should arrive at some human settlement.

The group decide to follow the path to the left, hoping to reach some more civilization. Twenty minutes later they arrive at another sign of human civilization:

A signpost. At a fork in the road a sign explains what can be found at the end of the three roads. Now Shizuka finally knows where they are and need to g-

"I have no idea what any of this means." Snøheim? Snøhetta? Stridåjørnin? Bussholdeplass Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella sør {1}? The linguistical skills of a Campione are good, but not so good that seeing six random words is enough to immediately speak a new language. The only consolation is that this means that they're not in a country that has Japanese, English, Indonesian or Creole as its main language.

Fuyuhime and Sakura also take a glance at the signpost, being able to tell a bit more: That å with a dot on top and that crossed ø are familiar. Though they don't know exactly what the native language is they do know that it is only used in the Nordic countries. That should limit their possible location to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and those Baltic states. It also would explain why it is so cold out here, considering how far north those places are.

Shizuka takes another glance at the signpost. Going straight forward will bring the trio to Snøheim and Snøhetta. Taking the road to the right will bring them to Stridåjørnin. Finally, returning from the way they came will bring them to Bussholdeplass Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella sør. Three options, with no clue about what either will bring.

"Any suggestions?" Shizuka is ready to decide a route by fate, probably dropping one of the stones of heaven in the middle of the fork and then seeing in which direction it falls. Just before she can suggest so Fuyuhime is hit with a flash of recollection:

"I suggest we go that way." Fuyuhime points in the direction of the road to Snøheim and Snøhetta. "Though I don't speak the language I did learn enough about Nordic myth that the word 'heim' means home. Most likely Snøheim is either a small village or a hostel, which should be a place for us to rest."

Fair enough. It's the only plan they have that even remotely makes sense, so why not do so? The trio continue walking, forward, now with a goal in mind.

After two tiresome hours of walking through the mountains and valleys the trio finally arrive at Snøheim. It was indeed one of the possibilities Fuyuhime said, a two-story hostel meant as a place where travelers can eat, drink and rest.

At least, they can eat, drink and rest if the hostel were open. Considering that the lights are off and a broom is resting against the door, it's likely that nobody's at home. Though it's against the law to enter people's houses, Shizuka is not willing to continue walking any further than this hostel. The sun has just gone down, and while there is a hardened road going down the mountain Shizuka would prefer not to sleep out in the open!

"How do we get in?" Shizuka tries to inspect the possible other entrances. Maybe there's an open window somewhere, or a pair of keys left underneath the floormat. If all else fails she could use part of her authority to bust the door, though using an authority for some common problem like this would be wasteful and a serious case of property damage.

Fuyuhime instead goes for a more magical approach, trying to think of a spell that could help. Perhaps something wind-related to search for hidden openings? Then a create familiar spell to have a mouse search for the keys inside of the building, and maybe they can get in. Ugh, it's a shame that Fuyuhime didn't learn that spell that automatically opens mundane locks, it would've been useful here.

The last member of the trio walks up to the door, checking whether it's open. After putting the broom away, she pushes down on the door handle. The door opens with a small creaking noise, leaving the other two teammates astounded.

"Well…" Shizuka comments, "I suppose that works too." The trio enter the hostel, hoping that they can stay the night here. A flip of the light switch tells them that electricity is out. It's a downer, but not enough to keep the trio out. With a snap of their fingers Fuyuhime and Sakura active [Ghostfire], causing four glowing orbs of light to swirl around the two of them. It's one of the most basic spells the two know. The surroundings around them illuminate, allowing them to look around.

Shizuka knows the spell as well, but she would rather not cast it. The last time she tried it the result could best be described as "like a flashbang". Her eyes are perfectly fine when they're not blinded, thank you very much! Instead both followers cast additional spell words to make one of their lights swirl around Shizuka instead. Combined with a Campione's enhanced vision in the dark this should allow her to see as much, if not more than the two witches.

The group splits up, each exploring part of the hostel to search for goods to stay the night with. Shizuka takes the upper floor while her two friends split up the lower floor. Each goes off on their own, and after climbing the stairs Shizuka quickly finds one of the things she was hoping for:

Beds! There are multiple rooms out here, each with two or more beds. True, the beds haven't been prepared for any guests, but a soft mattress is better than sleeping on the ground. There's also a communal bathroom, as well as a pair of toilets at the far end of the hallway. There are no toiletries located in the home, but a single flush from the toilet confirms that the water is still running. With that Shizuka found a place to sleep, water to drink, and a place to clean themselves up. Let's hope that the other two make equally amazing discoveries.

When the young Campione walks down the stairs she sees her two friends to have finished their searches as well. Shizuka tells the group what she found upstairs. Sakura goes next, telling the group what she found in the western part of the ground floor:

"Well, there's a dining room, a kitchen, and… ta-dah!" Sakura pulls a can of beans from behind her, proudly presenting it to her friends. "We've got food! There's a full pantry here!"

Sakura's somewhat childish optimism creates smiles on Shizuka and Fuyuhime, who draw their own hope from Sakura's positivity. It also helps that they don't have to worry about food anymore.

The last member of the team speaks up, explaining what she found in the east wing: "The only thing of note is the private office of the owner." The dining room was just a collection of tables, and the billiards room has its balls under lock and key. "I've found maps of the area, so now I know where we are."

And that's even more good news! Fuyuhime leads the group to the dining room, where a map of Norway is spread out on one of the tables. Taking seats around it Fuyuhime begins her explanation:

"We're currently residing in hostel Snøheim, which lies here." Fuyuhime points to a place that's nearly in the middle of nowhere, inside of a national park. "As you can see, we're still far from civilization. The closest nearby city is Dombås {2}, which would be a nine-hour walk from here."

Another day of walking? No thank you, Shizuka would rather not waste her time with that! "Please tell me that there's some sort of public transport, right?"

"Luckily, there is." Fuyuhime grabs a new map and spreads it over the table: "One option is that we walk to Hjerkinn {3} and take the bus there. It will be a three-hour walk, but bus 21 will go straight to Trondheim {4} and its airport."

"I see." That's sensible, Shizuka supposes. It's a simple method to return home. Even though they currently possess no money the fact that their group is a Campione and her retinue means she can probably mooch in a few favors from the local mage association. "And the other option?"

"Well, remember those places we saw on the signpost?" Shizuka remembers the six words, somewhat. Is one of those places also on the map? "Apparently 'Bussholdeplass Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella sør' is a bus stop. To be precise, the cave we came from was apparently about fifteen minutes away from there."

Shizuka lets out a groan of annoyance. All this hiking could've been avoided if they went the other way. Such bad luck should be part of the course by now, but Shizuka can't help but be surprised every time it happens.

"W-Well, we all make mistakes!" Sakura tries to placate her niece, but it doesn't really help Shizuka. The young king is still rubbing her face in annoyance at having made such an error.

Fuyuhime continues her explanation about how they can use that bus stop to get home: "From there we can take the bus to Dombås, where we can get on a bus to Norway's capital of Oslo. It's less walking than the first option, but the bus segment will take longer."

The options are equally valid. Trondheim to the north and Oslo in the south. Both are large enough cities to have an airport, and it's likely that there will be mage association able to smooth out any troubles they might have. In the end it all comes down to personal preference, and in all honesty Shizuka finds one of the options much less preferable:

"If it doesn't matter to the two of you, I prefer to go to Trondheim. There's no way I'm walking all the way back to be reminded of that failure."

Sakura and Fuyuhime don't have any disagreements to bring up, so the decision is made to head to Trondheim. With that matter settled everyone goes to prepare for the night. Sakura is going to make the bedrooms ready for the night, Fuyuhime will prepare the fireplace outside while Shizuka prepares the food. Shizuka looks through the pantry, getting a grasp of the ingredients available.

Considering how difficult it is to get supplies to this hostel it isn't surprising that a lot of the food is kept in storage instead of brought up to the hostel itself. However, because of the long duration of inactivity most of the food in storage is leaning towards the prepping side: canned beans, rolled oats, dry pasta, waxed cheese, dry rice, lentils… the list goes on. Seeing what they have available makes Shizuka is glad that she's in charge of food, because the other two would screw today's dinner up.

This is not because Shizuka' companions are bad cooks, no. Both Fuyuhime and Sakura are better at creating dishes, trained since youth to be good at making food; Sakura because her father wanted a daughter who could use her food to become a gold digger, and Fuyuhime because her inability to use magic meant she was only good to marry off. While skilled, their ability would be their downfall.

They cook in kitchens with many tools, and fridges stuffed with ingredients. Even if they miss an ingredient, they can go to the market to obtain it. But out here there's no electricity, no fresh fruits and vegetables, no cooking oil or butter… the only one who can cook here is someone lazy who knows how to work around these problems, making Shizuka the perfect fit for the job.

Looking through the pantry Shizuka tries to come up with a combination that's simple but also tasty. Rice and lentils are nice, but something is needed for taste. Hmm…

As her eyes ponder over to the collection of canned food, she sees something that might be useful: Canned tomato soup! On its own it's not a good meal, merely an appetizer. When combined with other stored food here it can become a decent meal. Yes, now she has all the ingredients she needs! With a can of tomato soup and a bag of dried pasta she leaves the pantry, ready to cook.

Without electricity there's no point in using the kitchen. Stove, oven or microwave; None of them will work. No, Shizuka will cook in a different way, going outside to the campfire. It was Fuyuhime's task to prepare the fire outside, and when Shizuka arrives she finds that her friend did well: The campfire is ignited thanks to magic, the coals at the bottom of the fire glowing hot. Several pieces of cookware have been placed on one of the picnic tables, letting Shizuka cook to her heart's content.

"So, what are we having for dinner?" Fuyuhime asks eagerly, wondering what Shizuka can make from the limited amount of goods in the pantry.

"I've found tomato soup and pasta, so making a halfway decent spaghetti with tomato sauce should be possible." With that Shizuka gets to work. Amongst the cookware that Fuyuhime brought is a medium pot, one used for cooking pasta. Shizuka fills the pan with the canned soup and lets it heat up over the campfire. When the soup is boiling Shizuka adds the pasta, continuously stirring until the pasta is al dente. With most of the soup absorbed by the pasta the remainder has gained a thickness like standard pasta sauce, making it ready to be served!

Sakura has finished preparing the bedrooms, so all three are now together to eat a simple dinner under the stars. Three plates are filled with pasta, served to the trio who are starving after a long hike. They gather around the campfire, saying their thanks for the food and digging in!

"Y'know," Fuyuhime interjects, using her mouth to taste the spaghetti to its fullest potential. "It's rather… bland."

"Yeah." Sakura is of the same opinion, looking worrisome at the plate in front of her. "The pasta's still a bit too grainy, and I'm missing the spices. And the cheese."

Shizuka doesn't deny the accusations, also not enjoying the meal very much. "It is a bit below average compared to my usual cooking. Though, with the tools at my disposal asking for better than this would be difficult."

At least the blandness can be fixed with some seasoning. Since most spices won't lose their flavor for many years the owner of this hostel kept many different bottles of them in the kitchen shelves. Fuyuhime and Sakura properly enhance their meal with nutmeg and red pepper flakes, while Shizuka just goes with personal taste and adds black pepper and dried union flakes.

Thus, dinner went by uneventfully. In fact, it might have been too uneventfully. Normally you would expect that during February in the far north here the aurora borealis {5} would be easy to see. However, even though there are very little clouds not a single speck of the green lights in the sky could be seen. If Shizuka didn't know any better, she would expect that Norway's sky god was angry at her.

Ugh, what a bore. The trio go to bed early, still rather tired from their time travelling adventure. They need to rest to get their energy back. They're going to need it for tomorrow's travels.

One good night of sleep later and the trio are ready to continue their trip to Trondheim. They make sure to leave the hostel as pristine as it was, though they first need to eat breakfast. You can't make a day-long hike with an empty stomach, after all!

Standing in the pantry the group tries to come up with good breakfast ideas. Though the food Japanese people eat for breakfast is diverse the number of dishes that can be made is limited here in Snøheim.

"Hmm…" Fuyuhime tries to come up with a possibility but is only able to proof that some forms of breakfast are impossible. "No yogurt, nor any bread. I suppose that rules out a western breakfast."

"It seems so." Shizuka replies, trying to search for other ingredients. "It's also too much to presume that a Norwegian hostel would have Japanese food." No natto, udon, miso stock, tofu or seaweed; Sure, there's rice, but plain white rice isn't much of a breakfast.

Sakura has just as much trouble to figure out if there's any good breakfast combo: "Well, we have bouillon, but only for vegetable and chicken soup. And we need to start another fire if we want to make it…"

"Hmm…" The trio continue to look, hoping to find something good for breakfast. It's after another two minutes of searching that Shizuka finds a possible solution. She takes a storage box out of the shelf, placing it in front of her friends. Said friends look questionably at the box, as Sakura points out just what Shizuka wants to eat for breakfast:

"Shizuka-chan, are those… chocolate bars?"

Indeed, a large bunch of chocolate bars in multiple flavors is enclosed in the box. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, hazelnut, honey almond, caramel sea salt and pecan coconut; Who knows, more flavors might be found deeper in the box. Shizuka takes one out, seeing that these should stay good for at least a year.

"Though it's not conventional, it should suffice. I believe I saw some water bottles in the kitchen, so if we combine those two it should at least give us enough energy for the hike." Proper food can be obtained when they arrive in Trondheim, after all.

"If it's just a bunch of chocolate bars, then we might as well eat them on the road." Fuyuhime advices. Though it's normally against her own policy to eat such an unhealthy breakfast this time she'll allow it. After all, "It wouldn't do if we barely missed a bus. With how desolate this region there might not even be a second bus today."

On that all three can agree. With breakfast postponed for underway the group can make their final preparations. Fuyuhime and Sakura pack up, while Shizuka writes down a list of what she needs to recompense:

"So, one bag of pasta, one can of tomato soup, fifteen chocolate bars, two water bottles… ah, there's also three winter jackets from the wardrobe." It does get cold here, and they would rather not keep shivering out here in Norway. Of course, after they reach Trondheim they will shop for their own clothing and return these borrowed ones.

Writing down her name and contact details at the bottom of the list she leaves it on one of the tables of the dining room. Returning to her friends she sees that they're done as well, having stuffed the food and drinks in the shopping bags. With that they leave the hostel, hiking once more towards civilization.

The hike is not as heavy as before, mostly thanks to the road they're walking on being made of asphalt instead of gravel. They walk for an hour or three, before finally seeing signs of civilization. There are the first houses, and a signpost indicates that they've arrived at Hjerkinn. Their days of walking are over!

Now that Hjerkinn is finally in sight Shizuka must admit she's slightly disappointed. While it is indeed a village, it's better to perhaps call it a holiday village. The place consists out of a hotel or three and a camping a few hundred yards deeper in the mountains. It's pretty much a ghost town, not a single soul in sight for Shizuka to communicate with.

At least there's a functioning bus stop. The trio take a breather at the stop, a simple shelter with two benches under a roof of glass. On one of the walls of the shelter are the times of departure written of the only bus line that passes the region, which Fuyuhime checks.

"We left a few minutes before nine, so it should be around noon right now. There's four buses every day, and the next bus should arrive at half past twelve."

In other words, the bus will come soon. In that case, it's best to take a rest for now. Sitting down on one of the benches Shizuka patiently awaits the public vehicle's arrival. Fuyuhime offered to use magic to hypnotize the driver into letting them lift along, so Shizuka can just do nothing and relax…

No, something is wrong. The hairs on Shizuka's nape stand on end, magic flowing into her body. Something bad is coming, and if she won't do anything she will die!

Nothing from the front or the sides, so it must come from behind. She orders her friends to duck with a single warning shout, dropping to the ground as well. Looking up she can see a broad but thin crescent of energy flying over her head, shining in a silver radiance as it cuts the bus stop into tiny pieces of rubble. Shizuka stands up after the energy completely passed her, looking at what she's just been attacked with:

The crescent goes through the top of a nearby house, slicing straight through it and causing the house to crumble into little pieces. It then does the same for the apartment and hill behind it before dissipating. An attack powerful enough to create such destruction, it doesn't come as a surprise when the trio hear someone walking behind them, announcing his presence by speaking with a youthful but mocking tone:

"Aww, so even a surprise attack with Claiomh Solais {6} isn't enough to scratch you, let alone kill you. How very disappointing, this will certainly increase the cost of the supplies I need."

Out on the plains in road of Shizuka walks an impeccably dressed… toddler. A little boy with short black hair, dressed like he came straight out of the mafia: A tailored black suit adorned with a red rose and tie, as well as polished leather shoes and a fedora, both black. His right arm is made of silver that is slowly flaking off, and he wields a shining longsword in that hand. It would look ridiculous were it not for the power he's emanating from his body, indicating his divinity.

"So, who do you purport to be?" Ugh, already? It's been five days at most since her last battle with Inari. Come on, can't these gods give her some respite? "I don't expect much from someone who randomly wishes others to die."

"My name is Plutus, the personification of wealth. It is a pleasure to meet you, ladies." Plutus takes off his fedora and bows to the trio, acting like a polite gentleman. "And don't think that I just randomly want to kill you. I do have my reasons, of course. You see, some people are really annoyed with the current birthing of devil kings. The more kings there are, the more likely the [King of the End] is going to resurrect."

"Yes, heretic Rama, we know about him."

Plutus looks surprised at that last line. The true name of the legendary god, now that is useful knowledge for later. Though, that's not what he came her for:

"Indeed. As he powers himself up by desecrating the myths of mother earth goddesses, there are some amongst the latter group who would like to prevent his summoning. My… contractor, so to say, has placed a bounty of 4 billion dollar on the head of every devil king. Since you were in the neighborhood, I suppose that you're as good a place to start collecting the bounty as any."

Seriously, that's the reason for his hostility? "This is all for money?" Revenge, bloodlust, joy, hate, those are dumb but acceptable reasons. This is just plain dumb through and through.

"Hey now, you do know that you're talking to the literal personification of wealth and greed. I like money, and your death is going to make me very rich. For the sake of my greediness, please die!"

Shizuka summons the stone of wood to her side, expecting Plutus to use that sword of his or another authority. Instead he lets the sword dissipate as a cellphone appears in his hand. The god of wealth somehow thinks that he doesn't need to give his full attention to the fight, instead focusing on his call.

"Hey there, monkey-boy, it's me, Plutus. Yes yes, don't call unless it's an emergency, but I think this is something you want to know. Say, is by any chance the true name of your lord heretic Rama? Oh, no, there's just a Campione I'm facing who figured it out, nothing much. Heck, she might get away, telling others about it unless you agree to that deal we talked about. So, what do you say?"

Shizuka doesn't get what Plutus is talking about, but if he isn't taking the fight seriously then she will take the first move:

"O dragon! Be a shield that shall not let a blade pass. Be a sword that shall not let a shield stand. For the sake of your liege, descend upon this battlefield like a shooting star!"

As Shizuka finishes these words a twinkle appears in the sky. The twinkle quickly turns into a shooting star, descending upon the ground in front of Shizuka in the shape of a dragon. It's about 30 feet from head to its barbed tail, with a similar span of its wings. A large, gaping maw to swallow any opposition, and it has scales on its arms, legs and tail that are sharper than even the sharpest mortal sword.

It's a mighty beast, though Shizuka has seen and made better. The divine beast was made with less than half a stone, so its power is on the lacking side. Honestly, if Sakura and Fuyuhime were given enough prep time they could probably defeat this beast by themselves. Still, it makes for a good opening act. With a simple gesture Shizuka orders her beast to attack the youthful god.

As Shizuka sends in the attack Plutus finishes his phone call: "Pleasure doing business with you!" Looking up at the dragon he is glad that his call didn't end a moment sooner. Focusing his divine energy, the god channels divine words:

"In my prayers and meditation, I've obtained the powers over Anima and Mahima {7}! As I am smaller than the smallest, I shall not fear the gaze of my enemy. As I am larger than the largest, I shall cower before no adversary!"

Just as Plutus finishes speaking those sacred words, he gets swallowed whole by the dragon. The trio stand there, surprised that that worked. Did Plutus get one-shotted by a half-powered part of an authority? Talk about being anticlimactic.

After a few seconds something abnormal happens. The dragon lets out a cry of anguish, as it makes great effort to keep its jaws closed. Even though it's a divine beast wielding supernatural power, it is unable to face a god's authority as Plutus opens its jaw from within. Exerting his power Plutus manages to stand up within the jaws of the beast, dislocating the dragon's lower jaw. It's an absurd sight, a toddler managing to overpower a dragon.

"As the supreme destroyer of evil, I shall eclipse the sun itself!" Additional words for strengthening his authority, Plutus uses his newfound strength to fully open and jump out of the dragon's maw. The dragon tries to bite Plutus once more, but the god grabs the jaws of the beast and slams them shut with supernatural power.

The beast makes a muffled groan of pain, but Plutus isn't done. Energy flows into Plutus as he grows…

And grows…

And grows…

Within a few seconds he's as large as the dragon, and another few seconds later he's completely dwarfing it. Eventually Plutus stops growing when he reaches a gargantuan size, easily standing at a hundred feet tall. That makes him twice as tall as Melquart, who was already large enough to dwarf buildings.

A half-assed dragon against a giant who is about six times as tall as the beast? It's going to be a slaughter, and not in favor of her beast. The dragon flies up, trying to deal as much damage as it can. Even with its diminutive size it should be able to bite through Plutus' jugular veins.

Before the beast reaches Plutus' torso the god has grabbed its wings, preventing it from ascending further. Plutus rips off the wings of the dragon like they're tissue paper, sending the beast into freefall. The dragon crashes into the ground, its body hurting all over. Before it has the time to register the damage Plutus literally stomps the beast into paste.

With the dragon finished the giant god looks at his remaining puny opponents, exited to do the same to them. Said opponents watched the dragon's decimation, all now having the same idea. It's uttered by Shizuka, who has taken a few steps back:

"Fuyuhime, Sakura, let's retreat!"

Her subordinates don't need to be told twice. Fuyuhime grabs Shizuka as she speaks the incantation of the witch:

"O' wings of Artemis, grant me the power to journey through the night and soar across the heavens!"

An incantation that allows those with the disposition of witches to fly. Though, rather than seeing it as true flying it's more akin to an advanced [Leap]. It's faster, goes higher and further, even the laws of continuity can be ignored by this spell. With enough energy and skill, it's possible to continuously soar through the sky, practically becoming flight.

Fuyuhime is now leaping through the air, traveling at a pace akin to a motorcycle. It's fast enough that mortals cannot catch up. However, their opponent is a giant divine toddler. Even though his size increased massively his speed didn't decrease at all. In fact, his movement speed scaled with his gargantuan size. It sprints at the duo as it reaches speeds of up to 350 mph, easily four times as fast as the witch. At this rate he'll catch up!

Fuyuhime recognizes the threat, but also realizes that she doesn't have a way to escape quicker. To ensure that her lord can keep on fighting, there's only one option left. And it's one that the Campione isn't going to like.

"Shizuka, do you trust me?" Fuyuhime's question is answered with a nod, so the witch drops the Campione from her grasp in mid-air.

Shizuka is surprised for a second, before noticing that a white meteor is moving up from beneath them. Its speed is awe-inspiring, but it appears to be headed straight for Shizuka!

The young king braces herself for impact, but instead of feeling hit by a truck she instead gets caught in its soft embrace. Now inside the white meteor she can see just what it is:

"Sakura?"

Though in appearance it is undeniably Shizuka's niece, the power and presence she's feeling is that of Lancelot. In other words, divine possession.

"Shizuka-chan!" That, on the other hand, is clear proof that it's not the god of the lance who is in control of the body. Sighing out in relief, Shizuka calmly listens to her niece's explanation: "Lance-kun taught me the secrets of divine possession as well. Though, where Fuyuhime was taught [Lightning] I was taught the sacred words of the [Horse]."

[Horse]. In the ancient Scythian empire, victory was obtained thanks to the swift maneuvers of their horses. Now manifesting as divine power, the [Horse] lets Sakura charge at divine speeds! True, the horse is only fast in a straightforward charge, having a terrible turning radius. But so long as Plutus doesn't manifest divine speed of his own, he will not catch up with them!

Plutus realizes this as well, knowing that he currently doesn't possess the means for chasing the Campione. A follower with this kind of speed was not included in the information he gathered about the eighth king. Plans need to change slightly, and luckily the eighth Campione has another major weakness.

Plutus stops chasing after the king, and instead goes after Fuyuhime. Unless she also possesses such speed, Plutus should easily be able to crush that pathetic mortal. Whether she dies or not from his attacks doesn't matter to Plutus. However, according to the data the eighth king won't let any harm befall her followers. There's no way she's going to abandon her own follower just so she herself can get to safety!

Plutus assumption is correct, as Shizuka notices almost immediately that it's Fuyuhime who is now in danger. Before Shizuka can give the order to turn around Sakura already made up her resolve for a counterattack.

"Ally of the knight, gallop in a display of valor!" Further spell words for reinforcing her speed, Sakura is currently moving slightly below the speed of sound. Slowly she steers herself to the left, and after making half a circle with a radius of a few hundred yards she's now flying straight at the huge god.

Said god is standing in the middle of Hjerkinn's camping, eager to see the return of the devil king. There's a reason he's in this place, because here he has plenty of ammunition! With his divine strength he grabs one of the cabins, ripping it off the foundations. He then pitches the cabin at Shizuka like he was throwing a baseball, sending it hurling at Shizuka at enormous speeds!

It takes Sakura all her skill to graze the building, Lancelot's techniques of the [Horse] not being strong at sudden turning. She won't be able to keep on dodging if she flies straight at the giant Plutus, so Sakura diverts her course. Forced to fly to the side she instead flies in large circles around Plutus, making sure to always stay more than a hundred yards away from the giant.

Plutus doesn't care. There are enough cabins and caravans down here, and they make for perfect projectiles. He keeps on throwing large objects at Shizuka, his tactics unchanging.

As Sakura dodges the attacks Shizuka is planning a countermove. Summoning the stone of fire to her hand she waits for the moment that Plutus makes a mistake.

And that moment is…

There!

Plutus is fully exerting himself to throw two of the residences of Hjerkinn at the Campione. Shizuka has been taught enough about baseball by his brother, a pitcher good enough to join the Japanese team for minors. Plutus is currently in overswing, unable to alter his movement. This is the moment to attack to ensure that Plutus cannot dodge! Shizuka holds the stone of fire in front of her, chanting spell words for a destructive attack:

"This fire is radiant and powerful, incinerating all in its way!"

A massive pillar of flame comes forth from the stone, flying straight at Plutus' heart. A warrior god would probably be able to dodge, and even someone unrelated to [War] would be able to dodge if he saw it coming. However, Plutus awkward posture prevents him from dodging.

Plutus sees the flames approaching him as well, realizing that increased size and strength are of no use against all-consuming flames he cannot dodge. His phone is floating next to his head, making a new call with haste. Shizuka doesn't fully hear the words, but he appears to be calling for help. It doesn't arrive in time, as the flames crash against his chest, threatening to pierce through him. Flames consume his torso, trying to turn the god into a head and four disconnected limbs. If Plutus doesn't do anything he will die right here, right now!

"Uooh! I won't let it end here!" Plutus shrinks down to his original size, his body now completely engulfed by the fire. As he is consumed by flames Shizuka can hear her opponent scream out the spell words of his next authority: "O sun, become armor! May your light grant me immortality!"

Shizuka's vision flashes gold, and then… nothing. The flames continue to rage, but they're slowly growing weaker. When the flames completely dissipate Plutus can be seen floating in the air, still relatively unharmed. Though his face is red like it's been burned by the sun and he looks haggard, he's in decent shape for someone attacked with a burning pillar of flame. Most likely it's because of the golden armor and earrings that are currently covering his body, having shielded him from the fire.

"Hah… hah…" Resisting the flames took more out of Plutus than he thought, especially since he only activated the authority halfway through the attack. "Well, I suppose it's only logical that the divine armor granted by the sun god would not be as perfect a defense against normal flames compared to solar flames."

Sakura and Shizuka land a hundred feet away from Plutus, quickly joined up by Fuyuhime. All of them are surprised that he survived the attack this easily, but Shizuka notices that something is off about this authority. That armor and those earrings, even though she has never seen them before they give off a sense of déjà vu. Rather, even though the form is different they make her think of the golden particles that formed around Karna's [Lance of Divine Lightning]. No, the magic energy they give off is not merely similar, they're literally the same!

"Plutus! How are you using Karna's authority?" It's spoken like a demand instead of a question, but Plutus is willing to answer:

"True indeed, this authority is Karna's [Kavach and Kundala] {8}. As for [Claiomh Solais] and [Anima Mahima], neither of them is my authority. In fact, I'm just a poor boy who is far removed from the center of any religion, only having two authorities: One is [Wealth], which lets me or anyone I bless obtain money or resources with barely any effort. As you can imagine it's rather useless for combat; The other is [Greed], which allows me buy and use anyone's authority."

Shizuka realizes what this means. Even though every god she met has an ego up the yin yang, somehow Plutus managed to get three of them on his side with the greatest of ease.

"Indeed. With most gods hating you Campione, there isn't a god who won't let me buy his authorities for bargain prices. In other words, I'm the de facto owner of each authority of every god on earth!"

Every single authority in existence? That sounds incredibly broken! There's got to be some weakness to his ability!

Wait, maybe there is one… He discarded [Claiomh Solais] before using [Anima Mahima], and he discarded [Anima Mahima] before using [Kavach and Kundala]. Especially the latter is weird, considering the extra damage he took from shrinking down before activating the armor. Might that be the weakness, him only being able to use one borrowed authority at a time?

If Shizuka's suspicions ae true, then he's currently a sitting duck with his armor! Let's force him out of his shell! And talking about shells, Shizuka might know the perfect way to do that:

"O water, descend from the heavens!"

If Plutus is protected with armor made from solar flames, it only makes sense to fight it with the extinguishing power of water! By calling upon the divine sacrosanct Shizuka creates a whirlpool of energy a small distance away from her, a torrent of the divine power of water taking a crustacean shape:

A large hermit crab the size of a house, evolved purely to do combat. It has two gigantic pincers, each the size of a bus and with spikes that can gore through nearly anything. Even the protective shell on its back has the shape of a menacing skull with a horn as tall as the crab itself!

The crab lets out a shrill cry before firing a beam of pressurized water at the beast. Plutus puts his hands in front of him, letting the beam strike his vambraces. The attack gets blocked, but part of the golden shine of Plutus' borrowed authority flakes off. Faced with its natural opposite [Kavach and Kundala] is unable to form a perfect defense. As the beast reaches Plutus for strikes with its pincers, he realizes that this crab can harm him. First scratches, then nicks, then cuts. At this rate the beast will do some serious injury to him!

Plutus recognizes the power of Shizuka's beast, so he'll give up on enduring with [Kavach and Kundala]. Immediately he makes a new call to rent his fourth authority of the day, all while letting his authority bounce off the latest attacks:

"Hey Circe, sorry for calling while you're asleep! Yep, I'm in a bit of a pinch, and I could really use that [Hero Confinement] right about now. I know, I know, I shouldn't bother you when you're recovering, so let me add a little extra to the price. How about I make a mage association send a bunch of handsome and courageous men to investigate one of your islands? Who knows, maybe you find one or two of them to your liking. Ah, hm? Okay, I can do that. I guess we'll have a deal."

Plutus has finished his call with Circe, having obtained [Hero Confinement] for himself. With glee he addresses his enemy, ready to defeat the youngest king:

"Campione, you're beginning to become expensive. Let me settle it right here!" The golden armor around Plutus dissipates, as words filled with magic flow melodiously from his mouth: "Come, you girls, demons of the wind! Hum for the terrifying Devil King the song held in reserve, one he cannot hear!"

A song of spell words meant for some powerful magic. Shizuka raises her magical power by instinct. If it's just magic, then she can reflect it if her magic power is high enough. Even the spells of a god should not manage to pierce her defense unless they're authorities.

Even so, why does it feel like some foreign object entered her body?

Plutus smiles, realizing that his trick was successful. He utilized the wind to implement the seed for his next authority orally inside Shizuka. With that succeeding he can now use his loaned authority to its fullest extent. A large magic circle appears above Plutus, hovering in the sky. There are many intricate symbols on it, forming a pentagram inside the circle. Plutus chants the words for his rented authority, ready to bring this battle to a close:

"Come. Before a beautiful god, sharp swords are unnecessary, are they not? Violent spears and arrows for shooting prey are likewise useless. Shed your armor, throw down your shield, come to my side!"

Shizuka's hermit crab lets out a groan of terror. It's not like it's one of pain, but instead acts as if it might just lose its entire existence! It happens like that, as after a second or ten the beast disappears from Shizuka's sight. In its stead a stylized emblem appears on one corner of the pentagram, the Chinese character for water carved upon it.

"He took it?!" Shizuka can't help but be shocked at what occurred. She tries to transmit commands to the crab, but it's completely and utterly gone! Plutus stole one part of her authority!

"O great and valiant hero, hurry over to my side!"

Though her body offers resistance, Shizuka can feel that [Wood] has been stolen as well. Another emblem, this one with wood engraved on it, appears in the next corner of the pentagram.

"Shizuka!" A worried Fuyuhime replies, "We've got to leave now before he takes all your authorities!" Sakura wants the same thing, also realizing that it's bad if they let Plutus go his way. It makes sense what they're saying, but Shizuka disagrees.

"No, that's no good. If we get overly cautious then our small chance of victory becomes nothing. Rather, with the use of this authority Plutus has shown his own weakness."

The weakness became obvious from all the mistakes Plutus made with this authority. This authority was meant to confine [Heroes], deities of steel. Using it against the powers obtained from a mother earth goddess, it is no surprise that the absorption goes slowly. Furthermore, choosing to absorb the useless [Wood] after [Water]? For what reason would he select that stone rather than one that is still active? It's become clear where this god's true weakness lies:

It is undeniable that of all gods in existence Plutus has access to the most authorities. With the ability to use the authority of every god in the world there is nothing he cannot do. However, none of the authorities he fights with are his. He may have many powers, but he hasn't mastered any of them!

When the third stone to be taken from her is [Fire] Shizuka is certain of it, Plutus can only follow the basic generating interactions {9} between the elements. Plutus weakness has been revealed, so it's time to utilize it!

"O metal, descend from the heavens!" Going by the cycle of elements Metal should be the last one to be taken from the young Campione. Therefore, this should be the power that will last Shizuka for the most amount of time.

Furthermore, if time is of the essence, then there is no stone better than metal. Shizuka once used the stone to raise her movement speed to divine levels, so that trick can be utilized again.

However, this time she won't be the only one using this divine power. "Sakura, Fuyuhime. What I'm going to do will be painful for all three of us. I cannot promise you will not get hurt. However, I will promise you Plutus' demise if you follow me on this path."

Both followers accept without question. Summoning their weapons, Chishuuha and Jaaku na Gunsen, to their hands the two witches ready themselves for combat. Shizuka does the same with the guitar club she received from Doni, readying herself for battle. Now it's the time to speak the divine incantation:

"A thousand steps in a single blink, a thousand miles in a single breath! We shall move like thunder of the blue sky! Faced with swiftness beyond measure, all of you stand still before us!"

As Shizuka finishes those words the world slows down around them, everything becoming slow. No, rather than that it's better to say that the three of them sped up. Both physically and mentally, all processes of the human body have increased in speed.

Compared to true divine speed, this enhancement is rather slow. This power is merely an increase in speed, while divine speed manipulates time-space to achieve the same results at a greater magnitude. Even if it were divine speed, an accomplished warrior like Doni or Louise would probably have the skill to counter it.

But Plutus, you're not a warrior. You're a tradesman. Do you possess the tools to counter this offense?

At these extreme speeds the trio move towards Plutus, who noticed that there's a sudden lack of enemies in the spot the enemy was standing in. Instinct tells him to dodge, and he barely grazes a nagamaki filled with divine energy. Now brought out of balance he doesn't have the ability to dodge the follow-up to this attack:

"Guah!" Getting hit straight in the chest by Shizuka's guitar, even a god will feel the pain. With his concentration broken he can't keep up the magic circle, which shatters into pieces. Only the three stolen emblems keep on hanging in the sky. Shizuka doesn't feel the return of her other stones, so it's likely that he still owns them.

Plutus is flung backwards by the hit, but he catches himself mid-air. With the magic circle dispelled, it's time to utilize that which has been stolen:

"Come, please let me treat you as a guest, Campione. Behold the gifts I've prepared for you!"

The three emblems glow with power, though the emblem of [Water] is glowing much brighter than that of [Fire] or [Wood].

Three magic beasts burst forth from the emblems. From [Fire] comes a golden bird, from [Water] a large octopus, and from [Wood] a feathered dinosaur. Three divine beasts… of which two die immediately.

Both [Fire] and [Wood] were empty, without energy. Without Plutus preparing to put his own energy into the seals, the magical beasts don't have the mana to exist. Heh, what a dumb move.

Plutus is annoyed at how badly this went. With a grunt he speaks new words of power, to at least get something out of the failed sigils:

"Threefold elements harmonize together! The power of the chosen one is brought to these lands!"

As Plutus speaks those words the two dead beasts fuse into the octopus. This causes the remaining divine beast to grow several feet in height while bright yellow and white stripes appear all over the beast's body. A wind gathers underneath the octopus to lift it in the air, while the orange glow of divine fire can be seen emanating from its beak.

So, the octopus turned into a flying, fire breathing octopus? Shizuka lets out a small smirk, not scared at all of a mere divine beast. This is going to be a pi-

"Hn?"

Shizuka grasps for her heart, feeling a minute amount of pain emanating from her body. It's starting again, just like in the fight with future Campione. If she keeps using this authority Shizuka will destroy her own body. If she keeps this up, she will destroy herself before destroying Plutus. Unwilling to leave her body half-beaten against a god there's only one thing to do:

Shizuka calls out to her friends that she will temporarily fall back to prepare for the final fight. Her final orders are to weaken Plutus and make sure he switches out of [Hero Confinement]. The witches accept that order, taking a combat stance as Shizuka retreats.

"Fuyuhime-chan, what are we going to do?" Sakura looks uncertain at fighting without Shizuka, but she valiantly holds onto her weapon. She's ready to do whatever Fuyuhime planned.

"Let's take care of the divine beast first." Of the two targets that is the one that they have a chance of defeating. Even enhanced with the power of an authority Fuyuhime would prefer not to challenge a god. "It's the last vestige of Plutus' [Hero Confinement], so he'll switch authorities the moment we defeat it."

That makes sense to Sakura. Both witches prepare themselves for combat, ready to make takoyaki out of this oversized octopus!

Heretic Plutus has noticed that his target fled the scene. He would send out his subordinate beast to chase, but it has his own challengers. Normally those mortals can be ignored, but these carry a piece of the enemy godslayer's authority in them. A battle of subordinates… It's acceptable entertainment for Plutus. Let's see how these children of man handle a beast of the gods!

The two women speak spell words to change their weapons into scimitars. Compared to other blades this weapon is meant to be purely for cutting. It's not hard to figure out for the deity that these girls plan to cut through the octopus piece by piece, probably starting with the tentacles.

It's a strategy of no particular note to Plutus. With a single command he orders the beast to start the offence. The octopus complies, as globes of fire are shot from the mouthpiece as large arms seek to crush and entangle them.

Fuyuhime and Sakura see the multitude of attacks coming their way. Each of them would be more than enough to instantly kill them. Even so, there's only one thought in their mind:

It's slow. It's way too slow. Their speed enhanced with [Metal], the two women see the attacks coming in slow motion. Though they lack experience the current amount of speed they possess more than makes up for it!

With a battle cry Fuytuhime cuts off one of the tentacles. The octopus roars in pain, before doubling down on its attacks. It's still too slow to match the speed of [Metal], but it can still be dangerous.

Cautiously the two girls weave their way around the attacks, waiting for a new opening. After half a minute of dodging and delivering minor scratches Sakura sees an opening. Because the octopus is now a septopus, it hasn't adapted yet for its missing limb. Dashing into the hole left by the missing tentacle she manages to come close to another of the remaining limbs, slicing through in a single hit. Two down, six to go!

Plutus looks at the strategy employed by the girls, admiring the plan in a way a parent admires the drawing of a toddler: Cute, but it would be a rather sad display if it was made by a grown-up. Cutting off another limb? The toddler-sized god laughs at the strategy. If they think that an opponent would let them execute the same strategy eight times, how stupid can one be? Did they really think he wouldn't learn and prepare a counter?

The taller of the two witches manages to cut off half of the third tentacle, not realizing that the octopus has enough dangerous weapons on the lower parts of the tentacles as well. She shouldn't be surprised now that after one simple maneuver of the octopus she's been caught in one of its suction cups. It doesn't matter how fast you are if you cannot move! She's completely immobilized! Ahahaha, what a fool of a human! Does her idiocy know no bounds?

As Plutus laughs Fuyuhime anxiously tries to save her friend. Her scimitar is cutting and slashing into the octopus, wounding it and even successfully cutting off another tentacle! It's not the one that Sakura is attached to, as the beast doesn't want to release its prisoner. It raises Sakura close to its head, having a very good idea of what to do with the unfortunate human.

*Chomp*

The giant cephalod has decided to take a snack, as Sakura is swallowed whole. The witch has gone straight through the beast's rostrum, to be cut in pieces by the radula {10} and digested in the stomach. Fuyuhime is stuck somewhere between fear and anger, before deciding to go for revenge on the octopus. In a blind rage she hacks and slashes at the octopus, hoping to cut trough the beast and rescue her first friend before it's too late. Though it does deviate from that future, like hell Fuyuhime is going to forgive herself if she's going to let her friend die here!

Plutus finds the whole situation hilarious, able to obtain amusement out of the witches' suffering. He throws his arms wide, laughing his ass off. "Oh, you poor things. How naïve you were to think that you would come out unscathed against the likes of me. Ahahah!"

During his laughter Plutus doesn't realize that the octopus is screaming it out in pain. A painful headache is making the octopus lose focus, its arms flaying wildly as it moves erratically to remove the pain. It doesn't help, as a large swell appears in the back of its head that grows bigger with every second. Plutus only pays attention to it when it starts to glow white, the swell now a dozen feet in diameter.

The swelling bursts open, destroying half of the octopus' head and killing it on the spot. The remaining light turns into a white meteor that descends towards Plutus. Before the god of greed realizes what just happened the meteor passes him on his left, and suddenly Plutus feels a bit lighter.

"Eh?"

Plutus looks to his left, where he's seeing an arm flying away from him. To be precise, it's his arm that's just been cut off by that white meteor. A hundred yards away from him Sakura has landed, her weapon tasting the divine ichor. But that's not the end of the attack.

Plutus can sense something in front of him. The other witch sped to his location, currently speaking spell words to destroy the god:

"Chishuuha which was forged by the black night! The descendant of the highest sword! Respond to my prayer, the steel of kings!"

An arcane art to increase the slicing efficiency of her weapon to the max, Chishuuha takes on the form of a European broadsword. Now channeling [Metal] into her blade, Fuyuhime wields a blade that can put a permanent end to the god of wealth!

Plutus curses under his breath, jumping back from this unexpected attack. He's retreating quicker than any normal mortal would be able to. Compared to the speed granted by [Metal] he's nowhere close enough to what's needed. Chishuuha makes a cut on his chest, not deep enough to be fatal but enough to put him at a severe disadvantage.

The attack was successful, and that tastes like more! Fuyuhime and Sakura charge at Plutus once more, ready to finish it here. However, Plutus will have none of that:

"Yaaah!" Plutus screams it out as he lets magic energy flow from his body, pushing back the two witches for several yards, sending them rolling over the stones and asphalt. The girls get up from the ground, a bit dazed but still focused on the enemy. They see just how bad the state of their opponent is: Plutus is a complete mess. He has only one arm left, and blood is seeping from a slash wound on his chest. If it weren't for his divine reflexes that wound would be fatal. The divine energy in his body is also getting low, spending too much energy on constantly switching authorities. At this rate Shizuka doesn't even need to come back for the finishing blow.

Plutus himself is also aware of his current state. "Damn! Damn, damn, damn! To think that mere mortals have pushed me this far! You girls truly are a nuisance to me!" With his remaining arm he makes a new call, willing to buy an authority just to deal with these girls. "Babushka! Your authority over the [Firebird], please lend it to me!"

This babushka agrees immediately, as Plutus chants the spell words for the divine bird of Russia: "Three times the horn shall blow. The first softly, the second louder, and the third still louder. May the firebirds protect the horn blower, and may my enemies be left with only the feathers!"

As Plutus speaks these words his form begins to shift in shape. He morphs from a wounded toddler into a divine bird. A bright red bird shaped like a falcon, with long red tail feathers akin to a peacock. Though Plutus lost an arm this bird still has both wings, his left one being made of pure fire. His size has grown to be about twenty meters long from head to tail, his entire body radiating divine energy.

The bird lets out the beautiful melody of a songbird, and the air around him ripples. Dozens more firebirds shimmer into existence, each about a meter long and easily classifying as a minor divine beast. The witches have their work cut out for them.

Though the amount of enemies are too plentiful to count, the duo's time travel has taught them powerful divine words that can help here:

"How shameful Kuraokami!" Fuyuhime chants, "Even the plum at the sacred fence is withered. How can we call you a god of the heavens, a god of rain? Almighty god, if you too can see, then rise up shouting and cast open heaven's river gates!"

The sky turns dark, as a heavy downpour falls in the area. The firebirds shine slightly less, the fire in their flames dimming slightly. It's not enough for Fuyuhime, who is planning to dim their lights entirely:

"The rushing of rapids and the buzzing of the cicadas at the tip of the branch are all the sound of a small river. What a life, in the midst of which you die!"

The rain turns into javelins of water, aiming to strike the firebirds. The bullet patterns are dense enough to strike the birds, several dying per second as they're pierced with the magical water. The only bird unaffected is the one Plutus transformed into, its magical defense not breached by such mortal magic.

The birds that are still alive go in for the kill. Unlike the phoenix from Greek myth or the Chinese feng huang the Russian firebird is associated with light, despite its name. Beams of solar light shoot from their bodies, aimed for the two witches. Taking them head-on is foolish for a mortal but enhanced by an authority they're more than willing to try.

The speed of these attacks should also be in the divine range. Fuyuhime and Sakura are fast, but they cannot outmaneuver light itself. Like an ordinary guy trying to catch bullets, that is impossible. When one of the attacks is aimed straight for Fuyuhime she is unable to do anything but take the hit.

"As a true warrior, here I swear a solemn oath to Futsunushi:" Before the light can strike Fuyuhime it crashes into purple feather-like swords. Sakura has chanted her own spell for the sake of protecting her friend: "My blade shall be a tool for justice. I shall not use it for the sake of anger, nor for the sake of vengeance. My lord, let me protect you from all that is evil, for this is my sword!"

Jaaku no Gunsen transformed into a globe of purple swords, protecting the two witches from attacks in all directions. It is a powerful defense for a mortal, comparable to a castle in durability. It would probably falter from an attack of Plutus himself, but a divine beast shouldn't be able to break through this easily. Perhaps multiple firebirds could attack at the same time to break through, but the witches' speed is high enough that the birds can't hit them except by luck. Even Plutus is too slow to breach through.

"Are you still holding up?" Fuyuhime asks to her friend. She can feel he side effects from moving at this speed. How long can she keep on moving while under the effect of [Metal]? The cost for fighting like this, it's likely they'll feel it soon.

"It's starting to hurt, Fuyuhime-chan." Sakura is sweating, her body gradually breaking down. Tendons are torn, bones become broken… only magic is keeping her in fighting condition. "Hey, do you think we'll survive this battle?"

"…I don't know." Fuyuhime honestly can't say. Killing a god is not something that an ordinary person can do. Even as a powerful witch enhanced with an authority the best Fuyuhime can do is support a Campione in her battle. "Either way, we've got no choice but to give it everything we got. Isn't that right?" Sakura nods at that, and the two prepare themselves to use their ultimate technique:

The duo lands on the ground and flood a large amount of magical energy from their bodies. Both women lower their magical presence to almost nothing, an abnormal technique. Normal mages do the opposite when casting their ultimate move, raising it to their maximum. This is the opposite, nullifying one's self to allow a greater being to take over. Entering their bodily vessels is the divine presence of white knight Lancelot.

Combining Lancelot's divine energy with that of Shizuka's should be destructive to any human's body, no matter how exceptional. Heck, just Shizuka's [Metal] should be enough to create life-lasting injuries if used long enough. Therefore, this won't last past a single strike. However, a single strike all they need. Together their sing the song of steel, verses for the creation of the ultimate attack.

"Lightning and Horse. These two are the ancient origins of steel. The divine bolt of justice that strikes evil, and the loyal companion that accompanies the hero." Chishuuha and Jaaku na Gunsen fuse together, transforming into a two-meter-long arrow adorned with purple feathers. "A single charge. A single thrust. With this single strike we shall bring extinction!"

As soon as the last word was spoken the weapon flings itself into the sky. It's a strike performed at divine speed, striking like lightning. To anyone watching in a ten-mile radius, it was like a white flash cut the sky in two. A single strike that brings fear to even the gods. A pinnacle amongst mankind's battle prowess, something that few can rival in all of history.

Plutus does not possess the skills to dodge. The arrow goes straight through its avian body, aimed for just below the throat. The crop, trachea and neck muscles are pierced through, and the right wing that was in backswing is clipped. Blood spurts out of his wounds, and Plutus has trouble breathing. Dizzily he falls, taking more damage as he crashes into the ground. The remaining firebirds dissipate, Plutus being unwilling to spend precious mana on keeping them alive.

A smile has crept its way on Fuyuhime's face. "Look, Sakura! We did thi-" The witch's smile dies as she sees that her friend has collapsed on the ground. Sakura's body is spent from all the energy that she used and is unable to continue fighting.

In that case, Fuyuhime will let her friend rest. She will do the rest and bring an end to this fight. Because let's face it, they managed to cripple a god. Who is to say that Fuyuhime can't end this on her own?

"Ghk!"

Right, that anguishing feeling says she can't. The pain has just become too intense, too heavy a burden on Fuyuhime. Like a puppet with its strings gone she falls to the ground as well.

To her surprise she doesn't slam headfirst into the ground. Looking up she can see Shizuka standing there, putting Fuyuhime gently down on the ground.

"You two did well." Shizuka is speaking softly, impressed with the skill her followers have shown. "Now stay still and rest, I'll take care of him myself."

Shizuka walks up to the firebird, which is taking the form of a sharply-dressed human toddler once more. Though it's probably possible to fix the damage he took in his firebird form, it requires a level of mastery that Plutus sorely lacks.

The god of wealth is panting, tired and annoyed by the flow of this battle. Thus far he's had to buy a total of five authorities. Ever since this battle started, he hasn't gotten any closer to killing Shizuka. The only thing he managed in this fight is the suppression of two mere humans. And that wasn't even his own doing! "Damn you, devil king! Stop making me waste my time and my money!"

"Hmph." Shizuka sighs, almost disappointed with the god's ignorance. "I am not responsible for problems that arose from your own stupidity. You wasted your time and money the moment you decided to attack me! Don't you know the saying, quality over quantity? I may only own a single authority compared to the dozens you can call upon, but that doesn't matter if mine's leagues better than yours!"

"Such arrogance, Campione! Do you see me for such a poor salesman that I only manage to buy scraps? There is no authority I cannot obtain, so-" Plutus falls silent, as if he's just realizing something now. Smacking himself on the forehead, the god of wealth has found an answer to this Shizuka's proposed conundrum: "Hmm… No, perhaps you're right. Whether your authority is as amazing as you say, how about we test it out? Though it may be expensive to do it like this, a decreased income is better than none."

That does not sound good! Shizuka braces herself for impact, as Plutus speaks the divine words of Shizuka's ruin:

"One can only make money by spending money. Thus, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Wealth, breaker of all obstacles; Wealth, obtainer of everything. For the sake of my needs, I shall squeeze out the very last of your resources, Campione!"

Though Shizuka is correct that Plutus can only use one authority at a time, the magic he used to directly affect Shizuka with his authorities is still in effect. Through that connection Plutus is launching his next attack, Shizuka feeling vandalized on a spiritual level. Not even raising her magical resistance to the max is able to stop whatever Plutus is doing to her. Something is ripped out of her, replaced with a wall of wealth.

When it is done Shizuka cannot feel the connection to the [Philosopher's Stones] anymore. It's like there's a gaping void where once a well of power was. In other words, the current owner of her authority… is Plutus.

With a maniacal grin Plutus calls out the spell words of his stolen authority, showing to Shizuka what she just lost: "O fire, descend from the heavens."

[Fire] appears next to Plutus, who feels the connection with the heavenly stone. With maniacal laughter he celebrates his upcoming victory, taunting Shizuka while he still can. "You were right, such a beautiful authority this is. Tell me, devil king, how many authorities do you have left? Right, none! Now you're no different than one of those mortal gnats you surround yourself with, while I hold the power to obliterate you in my very hands!"

Shizuka doesn't respond, only giving a deviant glare. The god of wealth sees it as nothing more than the last act of a doomed Campione, so he switches over to the unused element of [Earth] before giving a final goodbye to his expensive enemy:

"Isn't it ironic, devil king? You're going to die by the power you stole from the gods! Now, behold your demise. Haaah!" Plutus activates [Earth], speaking words of power that will cause the very earth to skewer the girl who is standing in the way of his billions.

Nothing happens. Not even a little puff of smoke comes forth, and even the tiniest of pebbles is unaffected by Plutus' declaration. The god looks in desperation, not sure what happened. "W-What? Why is nothing happening?"

Shizuka starts to smirk, knowing full well why Plutus failed. "What's the problem, Plutus? You have my authority now, so shouldn't you know how it works? Each stone can only be used once, so what does it mean if a stone is empty?"

"It can't be!" Plutus realizes, but it's too late. The ground underneath Plutus rumbles, and he only barely dodges to see what just came up from the ground:

Burrowing up from the rocky ground is a brown dragon, made from [Earth]. Well, it's only a dragon by technicality, it looks more like a giant lamprey with wings and a pair of legs glued on. With a length from head to tail of about forty-five feet and a saddle height of twelve feet it's clearly on a level that humans cannot face.

Plutus makes a face like he just soiled himself, while Shizuka is quite sure she's just won, not above rubbing it in Plutus' face. "You want the [Philosopher's Stones], Plutus? Savor it while you can, because it will be the last authority you'll ever use!"

Shizuka lets her divine beast fight, sending it out to destroy Plutus. Stressed the god of greed tries to dodge this final assault of his enemy. With his body not being made for combat and all the damage he previously suffered it goes… poorly.

It should come as no surprise that Shizuka's divine beast is winning. It's true that Shizuka was only able to create this beast with two-thirds of a stone, compared to other divine beasts this one is probably on the weaker side. Plutus on the other hand is stuck with Shizuka's stones which are all completely empty and useless. Since Shizuka has long since figured out that he can only use a single authority at a time, that toddler should have no ways to fight back! In poker terms, this would be the equivalent of beating Plutus' high card with a one pair. Perhaps he could make a comeback if he had the time to create a new deal, but like hell Shizuka will allow that!

Shizuka is fine with letting her divine beast rampage, hearing screams of victory and anguish of her dragon and Plutus respectively. Turning to her followers, she congratulates them on how they kept Plutus busy.

Neither of them is in much of a condition to talk, their bodies not made to be enhanced by a haphazardly used authority. Broken bones, popped blood vessels, malfunctioning organs… mortal doctors would probably declare these girls as dying.

Of course, Shizuka won't let them die so easily. Using summoning magic she manages to bring a box of potions out in the real world. They're basic healing potions, but the efficiency with which they're made should help her friends recover much faster. Given an hour or two they should be in decent enough condition again to take the bus with her to Trondheim, where they can further recover.

Eventually the divine beast dissipates, having expended all its power. It turns in fine sand, now allowing Shizuka to observe the battlefield:

The area around them has been completely overturned, just like a farmer using a hoe to cultivate a garden. The road they were fighting on has turned into little bits of loose rock and asphalt, a bus unable to traverse through this rubble. Hjerkinn itself isn't in a much better state, only a third of the buildings are still standing. Shizuka is feeling quite guilty about the destruction, the only consolation that the village she destroyed was a ghost town.

A hundred yards away from Shizuka's position lies Plutus, who has seen better days: Both of his legs have been devoured by the beast, as well as a small section of his lower torso. Part of his head is missing both hair and skin, showing the white bone of his skull underneath. With his clothes in tatters Shizuka can see a rib or two sticking out of his body. Of course, there's also the wounds that Sakura and Fuyuhime left on his body… yeah, Plutus is dying. This battle has been Shizuka's complete victory.

Suddenly Shizuka can feel her connection to the stones returning, as Plutus uses his remaining hand to make his phone fly back into his hands. Dang, is he planning to buy a new authority? No, Shizuka cannot allow him to heal himself back up!

Shizuka summons the reverse heavenly jeweled halberd to her hand. She can hear Plutus try to bargain a new deal as she runs over to the young-looking deity.

"Caïssa, I need your recovery authority now! Yeah, I'll pay you any amount, so plea-what do you mean, I failed? No, lend me your authority and I will recover. This is just a minor setback; I can still win. I can still wi-"

Before he can continue his conversation Shizuka stabs her naginata through the phone, causing it to make a small electric spark before dissipating. The wounded god lets out a yell of surprise, as he sees the young king towering over him, weapon ready to kill. It's a divine weapon, filled with the energy of a Campione. It should be able to harm even the gods, which Plutus realizes:

"Eep! P-please, I beg of you, forgive me! I was only in this for the money! It was never personal!"

"Then trust me when I say that killing you isn't personal either. Letting you live is simply more trouble than it's worth."

"I can make it worth it! I can make you rich! The four billion I got offered to kill you, I can pay you that. You can have all of it! Please, accept it!" Plutus is desperate, even willing to part with his money. It will be only temporary, after all, because he'll come back to kill Shizuka after he's recovered. Just because he lost his phone doesn't mean that he can't use his authority anymore. Now, if only this girl will be foolish and greedy enough to accept this offer, he can turn it all arou-

With a single cut of the jeweled halberd Shizuka beheads the god, killing him instantly. The toddler's head rolls over the stones, before coming to a standstill on a patch of snow. Now that he's dead the body of the god liquifies before evaporating into golden particles that soar to the heavens. It's only for a few moments, but to Shizuka the results of her recent victory look like she's surrounding by hundreds of fireflies. It's pretty, and the victorious Campione just stands in awe as she looks at the dissipating lights.

When Plutus' body has been completely dissolved the young Campione's mind snaps back to reality. Part of the golden lights were absorbed into her body, and Shizuka can feel a new well of power deep within herself. The eighth king has just obtained her second authority!

Yep, the number of weird powers in Shizuka's possession has been increased. The ones that she obtained from Nu Wa were already hard enough to deal with. It might prove somewhat useful in an upcoming fight, but for now she should get some res-

"I would like to offer my congratulations to the victorious Campione." A new voice calls out to Shizuka, unknown in identity. She sees a young girl when she looks at the source of the felicitations, about the same age as Shizuka. Her most notable feature is her magnificent golden hair reaching to her ankles, shining in the sunlight. As for her clothes, Shizuka would think that she's preparing for war: The girl is dressed in a brown, quilted leather gambeson, with linen pants and fur-laced boots of similar colors. A blue and wooden Viking shield is strapped to her left arm, but there's no weapon in her right.

"Great, another one…" Shizuka mutters quietly. It's obvious that this girl isn't a human. The only good news is that she doesn't feel like a god, she gives off a similar feeling as the late Guinevere. "If my instincts are correct you must be a divine ancestor, right?"

"Such keen insight of you, milady! Though I would certainly qualify as a divine ancestor according to your definitions, in these lands my kin are called shieldmaidens, the women who support [Steel] on the battlefield. Though my divine name has been lost for fifteen hundred years, I have spent life under the name of Sigrun. Once again, I would like to congratulate you on defeating Plutus and obtaining his authority."

"O please, it's obvious that you aren't just here for words." Appearing so suddenly, knowing that the enemy god was Plutus, as well as divine ancestry. To expect some ploy is only natural. "Get to the point, why are you here?"

Sigrun lets out a coy laugh, giving Shizuka her true reason for being here: "Though Plutus was a god himself, his reasonings were childishly simple. Just dangle some money in front of him and he listens to your every command. His death may be a set-back, but everything's still within calculations."

O great. Shizuka can see where this is going. It doesn't come as a surprise when Sigrun finishes with a declaration of hostility:

"I've plotted for a thousand years to create the ultimate steel. My apologies, but for the sake of my schemes I have to ask that you die!"

-x-

{1} Snøheim, Snøhetta, Stridajornin, Bussholdeplass Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella sør: Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella is a national park of Norway that was named as such to preserve an intact alpine ecosystem with its indigenous wild reindeer. The named locations are respectively a hiker's hostel, a mountain, a lake and a bus stop.

{2} Dombås: A large village in the municipality of Dovre of Norway. In it lies the junction that connects the cities on the Norwegian north, south and west coast.

{3} Hjerkinn: A small village in the municipality of Dovre, located in Norway. It's rather unremarkable, the only point of note being that it has barely any rain due to the surrounding mountains.

{4} Trondheim: The fourth-largest city of Norway, and the former capital of Norway until king Haakon the fourth of Norway changed the capital to Bergen in 1217. Mostly famous for the Nidaros Cathedral, the northernmost cathedral in the world.

{5} Aurora Borealis: Also known as the northern lights. It appears as a light display caused by solar winds, most often seen in high-latitude locations like Norway. In that country the lights can appear between late September to late March.

{6} Claiomh Solais: The sword of Nuada Airgetlam, the king of the Tuatha de Danann. It was said to be a sword shining in the purest colors of the rainbow. In modern society it is often confused with Caladbolg, another mythological sword from Celtic myth.

{7} Anima Mahima: Two of the eighth classical siddhis, or boons obtained through spiritual advancement. Anima allows someone to shrink their body size to microscopic levels, while Mahima lets you grow to immensely large sizes.

{8} Kavach and Kundala: The armor and earrings of Karna, son of Surya, which made him immortal. Gifted to him by his father at birth when his biological mother Kunti asked for it, he would later give them away to a disguised Indra as alms.

{9} Generating Interactions: Also known as the nurturing interactions in Wu Xing, it describes how the elements create one another. Water feeds wood, wood fuels fire, fire forms earth, earth contains metal, and metal carries water. Thus, the cycle is completed.

{10} Rostrum, radula: Both are part of an octopus' digestive system. The rostrum is a pair of chitinous jaws that can extend to allow larger prey into the mouth of the octopus. The radula is a tongue covered in tiny teeth for scraping and cutting food.

-x-

And the moment everyone thought would never come is here: Shizuka has her second authority! It only took me about 200.000 words and six volumes after the first authority. It's in that regard on par with Canon, where Godou obtained his second authority in the fifth volume, sixth if you go chronologically. I've always wondered why other writers felt the need to give their newest king a bazillion authorities after every god kill. O well, their story, not mine.

Now, let's finish it up with a description of Shizuka's newest authority:

[Queen's Rule]

The authority stolen from Plutus, the Roman god of wealth and greed. This authority allows Shizuka to buy authorities from other kings or deities willing to share. The bought authority is only rented and can be sustained for a maximum of one hour. Only one authority at a time can be rented, if a second one is rented the first one returns to its original user. Shizuka can rent up to three authorities per day.

The price for an authority is at minimum 50.000 dollars, or around 5.5 million yen. Payment does not necessarily need to be in coin, but until the requested payment is paid a sum of money equal in worth to the wants of the seller is transferred until the seller obtains what he needs.

Prerequisites and consequences of the original authority still apply, so Shizuka would for example only be able to activate Godou's [Raptor] if facing supernatural speeds and overusing the authority will lead to heart pains and immobilization. Of course, due to [Raptor] being a once a day authority it will become unavailable to Godou until midnight passes when returned.

While Plutus does have the ability to know the worth of an authority and can forcibly buy the authority of others by overpaying, Shizuka did not gain these parts of the authority. There is, however, one other bonus to this authority, having its origins in Plutus's other authority: Shizuka has a passive luck boost to all money-related events, essentially guaranteeing a steady income of money for her.