Just a quick explanation for why I took so long, got a new job. Took over a month to train for, but now that that's all taken care of, I should be able to update a little faster. Fingers crossed for that.

But enough about that, you're here for the story, so enjoy!

Chapter: 15

It was truly strange how listening to the sounds of miniature dolls detonating was comforting to the likes of Kazuma as he walked a safe distance behind Darkness, who was both absorbing the brunt of the damage from the dolls and actually hitting them with her sword.

The next time he saw Eris, he was going to be sure to ask her if Hell had frozen over today. Hitting things with a bow was something he had slowly grown accustomed to, but with her sword? Kazuma shook his head with a smile as the Crusader let out another cheer at hitting one of the dolls. Like watching a kid win a prize at a carnival – if that kid was a masochist who enjoyed being hit by everything in that carnival that is.

Her cheer did jostle the small quiver resting comfortably on the woman's back, shaking a few arrows out in the process. Darkness' cheeks were dusted a light pink as she remembered there was someone watching her make a fool of herself at something that to most would seem trivial.

She coughed to hide her embarrassment while leaning down to pick up the lost projectiles, causing the rest to slip out when she bent over too far.

Kazuma let out a snort, he could practically feel the heat her face was producing right now. "You should probably kneel to pick them up the next time they slip out." The Adventurer commented as he came forward to help retrieve the ammunition, getting only a meek nod in response as the bundle of arrows were placed back into their home, the implication of when not if made Darkness' face burn even brighter.

"You can't blame me for being excited." The Crusader muttered with a pout, making her look like a puppy that just got scolded for playing in the house, she was just too precious sometimes.

It made him want to pinch her cheeks.

"Guess not, it's just a shame the only thing you seem to be able to hit are tiny dolls that run straight at your blade." Kazuma was barely suppressing the laughter in his voice as he said those words, he had to bit the inside of his cheek to keep up the act when Darkness puffed out her cheeks. "Am I wrong?"

Instead of verbally replying, because there was no way her voice was going to come out as anything other than a squeak, the woman let out a slight huff as she turned around to continue deeper into the dungeon. Kazuma made to follow her, but soft sound made him stop and stare questionably at the person in-front of him.

"What was that?" He asked, watching as his friend seemed to freeze on the spot.

Darkness then surprised him when she turned her head part-way so he could see half of her face, the look in her eyes shocking him to the very core due to the amount of fondness she was conveying with just one glance, and he was surprised once more when her voice came strong with an equal amount, if not more, of the same feeling.

"I'm glad you're back, Kazuma. It's not the same without you around."

She had turned around to continue the mission before he even had a chance to process what just happened, but the slowly softening echoes of her boots and the distance explosion going off spurred him into motion, his quick pace allowing him to easily catch up to Darkness.

Kazuma gave her a look that she didn't bother trying to meet, instead keeping her gaze forward as he asked the question that was burning in the back of his mind ever since he came back. "Was it really that bad while I was gone?"

The Crusader expertly hid a sigh by slashing a doll at just the right moment, using the distraction to buy the time needed to properly formulate an answer. "Bad isn't the word I would use, stressful is a better way to answer that question. I don't think I've ever seen this group worry about their future as much as they did this."

"Ok… but why was everyone freaking out about it?"

He didn't know, Darkness realized that with a start, the lapse in concentration allowed one of the dolls to latch onto her leg before blowing up. It did nothing thanks to her high stats, but the explosion did help the Crusader focus again, spending the next couple minutes explaining the predicament they had ended up in due to his absence as well as the plans they had made to leave everything behind to go on the run. Kazuma was shocked by the end of the tale to put it lightly.

"Wow," Kazuma muttered, torn between being touched that they essentially needed him in their lives to make sure it doesn't fall apart, and annoyed about the very same thing. "Well, hopefully I can clear my name so we don't have to worry about Sena reporting us."

Darkness said something under her breath, and the Adventurer wasn't about to let her get away with keeping anything to herself.

"What was that?" the teen leaned in just a bit closer, so he was starting to invade her personal space, giving her a look that the woman was desperately trying to avoid.

"…I still don't like that woman." Darkness finally admitted, immediately letting out a yelp when Kazuma poked her side, right where the bastard knew she was ticklish. With a light dusting of pink coating her cheeks, the Crusader shot him a dirty look that was met with a raised brow in response, demanding she elaborate if she didn't want to deal with a relentless assault in the very near future. "Can you blame me?!"

The shout did little more than to give away their position as the words continued to echo down the hallway for quite some time. Kazuma deliberately waited for the last echo to run its course before answering the question. "Are you really trying to justify being suspicious about someone-?"

"She didn't report you." The Crusader interrupted, immediately throwing off the teen when he found himself watching as Lalatina's regal confidence asserted itself over Darkness. It was so weird seeing someone shift into a different personality altogether while still being the same person.

"Ok…" Kazuma mentally shook himself while trying to take back control of the conversation, "but she was going to if I didn't show up."

"That's my point, she waited, and planned on waiting as long as she could. Your disappearance should have been reported immediately so the hunters could be alerted to begin a search, before you got too far away. Sena was risking her career by withholding that information for that long, and can you really look me in the eye and say she did that out of the goodness in her heart?"

No, no he couldn't, but he really didn't want to admit she had a point. Kazuma decided just to stay silent on the matter.

Lalatina pressed on though, becoming more sure of herself as the conversation shifted more in her favor. "Maybe it's not something malicious, but please be more careful around that woman, she's planning something that involves you to some capacity."

How could just a few words be as unnerving that? But it was in that state of mild fear and uncertainty that an answer came to him. One so stupid and obvious it was perfect. "Then I'll just ask her once I get the chance."

He was rewarded with a bewildered look from his companion. "Eh?" the Crusader wisely asked.

"I'll just ask Sena if she's planning something with me when I have the chance." Kazuma repeated, liking the idea too much to be persuaded from it.

"B-b-but you can't just do that?!" Lalatina stuttered, a first for the noble side if he was remembering correctly.

Kazuma crossed his arms and raised a single brow to challenger her. "Why's that?"

"Because there are guidelines for going about this kind of thing, you're supposed to coax the information out of someone, bribe a thief or someone close to get something from the target, not just walk up to them and ask what their grand plan is!"

One of the dolls that had been wandering around the area decided to use that moment to jump at the Crusader to try and surprise her, but the woman reacted faster by grabbing it out of the hair, shouting a simple "Stay out of this!" before tossing it towards a small group of similar creatures, causing them all to detonate.

"It's still so weird to see how good your aim is when you use a projectile considering the fact you're a Crusader." Kazuma mused, more so to himself than anything, still loud enough for the woman to hear.

She visible tensed up as if preparing to lash out at him for saying that, but her shoulders ended up slouching in defeat as Darkness popped back in to acknowledge that statement. "I know," she muttered miserably as she switched out the weapons, figuring it would be good to get some additional practice in.

Knowing his usual teasing had a different effect than it normally did, embarrassing the woman practically gave the teen life at this point while making her sad seemed to drain it out of him, Kazuma pulled out his staff and aimed it towards another doll trying to sneak up behind him. "Tinder." The Adventurer watched as the red gem began to glow as a small fireball the size of his fist formed within the ring of his staff. With a little spin for style, he launched the orb at the creature, letting out a satisfied cheer when it incinerated the thing with ease.

"What are you doing?" Darkness asked, her face scrunched up with confusion.

"Making things a little more interesting." He replied, giving her a slight smirk. "Feel up to having a little competition?"

The flash of understanding and resulting look told him that she was defiantly up to it.

"I don't like this." Kyouya said as he continued to pace back and forth near the tree line he and the others were at. "They've been in there for almost a half-hour already. It shouldn't be taking them so long just to find and eliminate the source of those dolls."

A strong slap to his back caused the teen to stumble slightly, and he glared back at Arakuremono who looked back unapologetically. "Relax, would you? They're entering an already cleared dungeon filled with enough twists and turns to occupy a full party for over an hour. The biggest threat in there would be a stray monster left alive and the occasional mimic, and those two are more than capable of dealing with those kinds of threats."

"He's right." Kuruseidā chimed in, the man was casually leaning against a tree, his eyes focused on the dungeon's opening. "Even if she has difficulty striking enemies with her blade, Darkness can take more hits than any other person I've met, even those who have focused everything into their defense. With someone like Kazuma providing support as well, there is nothing for us to worry about."

The Sword Master made to protest their arguments, the slap from the Guild Master temporarily filling him with irrational anger, but the words never came as Kyouya sighed in defeat. "I know." And he really did, everyone else did too apparently.

Fio, Megumin, and Sena were sitting together talking about something, he couldn't hear what, with the Arch-Wizard being the only one appearing bored as her gaze continued to wander around until one of the other two pulled her attention back, only for the process to start again. Aqua, Clemea, Verdia, and one of the guards were playing a card game, probably poker, with the Snow Sprite there acting as dealer – how it was able to shuffle and deal out cards so well was anyone's guess. Arakuremono, Kuruseidā, and the other guard made up the last group as the Brute and Crusader returned to sharing stories about their various endeavors while keeping an eye on the entrance.

Out of everyone, he was the only one who stood out by actually worrying about his friends going in by themselves. Maybe they're right, Kyouya realized as some of the tension left his body, maybe I am worrying over nothing. Kazuma's great at coming up with plans on the fly, and nothing short of Megumin's Explosions could hurt her at this point.

Still, he couldn't get rid of this nagging feeling that something was wrong about this whole situation. Was he becoming paranoid like Kazuma? It was certainly possible considering just yesterday they were all finalizing their plans for leaving the city and each other to avoid being captured by Imperial guards.

A high pitch yell drew Kyouya's attention towards the poker game, where he saw Aqua throwing a fit having obviously lost this round to Verdia. The undead looked pretty satisfied as he pulled a good amount of money towards himself, Clemea and the Guard looked mildly surprised and relieved, probably because they hadn't put too much faith in their hands unlike the Arch-Priest.

"Heh, I' definitely worrying too much." The Sword Master said to himself, shaking his head as he moved to join the three men to keep watch over the entrance. That, and tell a few of his stories as well.

If he had bothered paying a little more attention, he would have noticed the constant glances Verdia kept sending towards the entrance, paying more attention to it than anyone else.



That was the singular emotion coursing through Darkness as she felt herself being flung over the shoulder of the well-dressed man she was facing off against alongside Kazuma as if she were as light as a feather. It, however, was not fear for herself. It was for the safety of her leader she had come to call a dear friend.

A strangled cry tore its way out of the woman's throat from the combined pain of crashing into the wall with enough force to create multiple cracks along the surface, but also from the fist burying itself into her abdomen, sending her deeper into the stone. She looked up at the smirking figure, his mask being the only thing her eyes seemed to be able to focus on, as he raised up his free arm to casually bat away the Tinder spell before lashing out to grab Kazuma's neck when he had dashed forward to attempt to skewer their opponent, having used the spell as a distraction. The man hadn't broken eye contact with Darkness once the whole time.

If Darkness had known ahead of time that the one waiting for them in this dungeon was the Demon King's General, Vanir, she would have refused to allow her friend to come down with her, she would have instructed that Prosecutor to call in every Master Mage to create a barrier to trap this demon within, and then she would have told Megumin to perform the strongest Explosion she was capable of – with Wiz doing the same as well.

Hindsight was always perfect though, and focusing on it could prevent you from seeing what was right in-front of you, a fact that became obvious when her lapse in focus allowed Vanir to momentarily turn his attention to Kazuma, and kick the teen down the hall before he had a chance to cut off the General's arm.

"I can't help but feel disappointed." Vanir said, turning back towards Darkness while applying more force into his fist, shoving her further into the wall while the woman let out a pain-filled gasp. "When the two of you came to me all by yourselves, I thought you were fighters capable of taking on the greatest threats, from the Titans that were capable of wiping out nations in a single day to the Primordial Dragons that used entire mountains as places of rest, but I seem to have greatly overestimated your capabilities. Do you know how I can tell?"

The well-dressed Demon leaned in until his lips were next to Darkness' ear, and she would have used the opportunity to slam her forehead into his mask had his next set of words not shocked her to her core.

"It's because I can sense your fear of failure." Vanir whispered, his smirk growing wider at the sight of her surprise. "One can only imagine how often you must have experienced such a fear for it to become your default feeling during dangerous encounters. I'm curious, despite your class being a Crusader, have you ever been able to save or protect anyone dear to you?" The Demon laughed as he felt the anguish lingering below the surface came forward at his question.

The laughter was short lived as a deadly look came over the woman's face before an armored boot landed square on Vanir's chest with crushing force, sending the General across the hallway until he found himself in a similar position Darkness was just in. Unlike the Crusader though, he was still smiling, because the fear, anger, and despair she felt was wonderful for him. Her emotions were practically a five-star meal for Vanir…


…and the young man was the desert to top it off with his uncertainty, confusion, and resentment – probably towards himself if the Demon had to guess as his entire body, head and all, were frozen along with a good portion of the wall.

Kazuma didn't let up on the spell until there was more than a foot of solid ice encasing the General in place, in which he finally cut off the flow of mana and lowered his staff as the slight exhaustion that came from using up so much power at once washed over him. For a little while, the only sound that could be heard were his shallow breaths, but that eventually faded away when Kazuma had recovered enough where his legs no longer shook, and his heart rate slowed down to a more manageable speed.

"Well that was fun." The teen surprised himself with how much sarcasm he had managed to pack in those four words but decided not to dwell on it when he didn't hear a response from his companion. "Darkness?" Kazuma questioned as he turned around to face the Crusader, watching as the sound of her name seemed to startle the woman out of a trance.

"Huh? Oh. Uh…" she met his gaze for only a moment before turning away in shame, "yeah, sure."

It would have been obvious to anyone that she was bothered by something, and it was extremely obvious to Kazuma exactly what that something was – he had seen that exact same look and body posture during the days following his death to the Winter Shogun. "Dark-"

His sentence was cut off as the ice prison shattered with explosive force, causing large shards to scatter around the area while dust filled the room. Barely a few seconds passed before the two were clearly able to hear someone dusting themselves off, and their worst fear was only confirmed as Vanir stepped through the smoke, waving it away with a grandiose gesture, looking no worse for wear.

"I'm curious," the Archdemon started, his mask focused only on Kazuma, "did you truly believe a beginner level spell, enhanced by a mediocre staff at that, would be able to contain someone rumored to be stronger than the Demon King himself?" When the young man didn't reply, instead looking as if he were about to run away any second now, Vanir placed a hand over his face and laughed. "Oh… you humans truly are exquisite creatures!"

Even while his joy echoed throughout the halls, almost mocking everyone who heard it, Vanir was still aware of his surroundings, and was easily able to jump to the side to avoid the blade that was about to split him in two.

Letting out a strangled battle cry, Darkness charged forward to reengage the foe, swinging her sword with bone crushing might. Too no one's surprise, not a single one managed to land on the intended target, but during the last swing, one that buried the blade into the ground, Vanir was surprised to find himself staring at the tip of an arrow.

The Archdemon hummed in secret delight as he felt the projectile pierce through his chest with his, immediately letting out a fake cry of pain as he allowed the 'body' he was controlling dissipate into the dirt it had originally been made from. Oh yes, Vanir had been defeated by a pair of lousy adventurers because he had let his guard down. At least, that's what the General wanted the pair to think. Just the thought of what emotions would course through their bodies once they found out the truth would be, dare he say, divine.

Vanir possessed one of them.

Verdia glanced over at Aqua as the thought finished processing to gauge her reaction, watching as her eyes glazed over while a small frown overcame her previous annoyance. She had sensed it too if the way her attention began shift from the game to the dungeon entrance was any indicator.

"Something's coming." Aqua said, gaining everyone's attention as she stood up from her spot and approached the entrance with a look Verdia was all to familiar with. He had been on the receiving end of one for the longest of times.

"Like what? Another doll?" Clemea asked as she placed her cards down and walked over to the Arch-Priest's side. Confusion etched into her face as the others began gathering behind them.

The Goddess shook her head in the negative. "I can't sense those. It's something else." She wrinkled her nose in disgust. "Something stinky at that."

It was only because she knew the odd girl as well as she did that Clemea didn't immediately dismiss the threat because of that childish statement. In-fact, it actually made her worry a bit. "Is it powerful?"

Aqua sniffed the air once more and shuddered in disgust immediately after. "Super powerful."

Almost as if to prove her point, the earth beneath their feet shook as something yellow flew out of the dungeon entrance, landing on the ground just a few feet from the pair soon after, creating a cloud of dust that caused Aqua and Clemea to cough as they tried to wave the particles out of their face. The green-haired woman was about to ask what that was when Aqua suddenly raised her hand in the direction of the entrance, her magical power shining bright.

"Sacred Exorcism!" the Goddess called out; a brilliant blue pillar of light immediately rose up into the heavens. The spell blew away all the debris out of the area, allowing everyone to see what had landed in-front of them just a moment ago.

"Darkness!" Both Megumin and Kyouya called out as the battered and burned figure of their friend groaned from the crater she was in. Her chest armor was cracked and singed, there were even a few purple flames still covering her body.

"Do you always cast such powerful magic without hesitation?" An unfamiliar voice asked.

No one was prepared for the sight that greeted them.

Leaning casually against the rock wall a good distance away from the entrance was Kazuma, an unfamiliar mask covering the upper part of his face, with a smirk that did not look normal on the teen.

"What the hell is going on, Kazuma?!" Clemea demanded, her eyes switching from the defeated Crusader to the Adventurer every so often.

'Kazuma' was not the one to answer her question though.

"He's being controlled right now." Verdia answered, saying it loud enough so everyone would be able to hear him. "Isn't that right, Vanir?"

The possessed teen laughed with a voice that did not belong to him. "Verdia, it has been quite some time since we've last seen each other! If you were not missing your body, I would say you haven't changed at all, but please, allow me to introduce myself properly to everyone here." Vanir then manipulated the body to bow down, holding his arms off to the side, a large smile spreading across his face.

"I am-"

"Sacred Highness Exorcism!"

"Huh?" Vanir didn't even have time to blink before he was forced to leap to the side to avoid the blast of holy energy, barely avoiding it as the power continued onward and crashed into the ground not too far away. For the first time since this battle started, the General felt genuine annoyance. "What are you doing?!" He yelled. "Don't you know it's rude to interrupt someone when they are introducing themselves?!"

"What's this? Is a lowly Demon really trying to lecture someone about manners?" Aqua mockingly asked, taking it a step further by giggling to herself as if it was the funniest thing in the world.

The General clicked his tongue in disproval. "I am now reminded why no one cares for the Axis religion, the sheer fanaticism will turn anyone away save the most insane individuals." Vanir then smiled as he pulled out Kazuma's blade, pointing the weapon towards the Goddess as the slits making up his eyes glowed with power. "It will be an absolute pleasure ridding the world of your existence."

"Ne, ne, such violent words coming out of Kazuma's mouth is a little unnerving." Aqua nervously admitted as she watched her Party Leader approach with a look that promised nothing good. "K-Kazuma, don't you think you should stop playing around and take back control before you do something you regret?"

Aqua took several steps back as she slowly realized just how dangerous it was to stay out in the open like this. Unable to properly handle what was happening, the Arch-Priest did what she always did in dangerous circumstances, she screamed. "KAZUMA! Stop being dumb and help me!"

"And what the hell do you expect me to do about it?!" The teen angrily demanded, his body still approaching the Goddess threateningly.

Vanir did stop moving forward at that outburst though, curiously looking down at the body he was controlling while experimentally twirling the staff in his other hand to make sure he was still in control. "Well that was… unexpect-" seeing something from his peripheral vision, the Archdemon side stepped just in time to avoid the large mace that crushed the very ground he had been standing on a moment ago. "Does everyone here make it a habit to interrupt people before they-?"

"Yes." Kuruseidā answered from behind the possessed teen, his sword already in motion to deliver a pommel strike to the back of the Kazuma's head, aiming to incapacitate him.

The General let out a small growl as the gloves he was wearing began to glow as purple mana surged into them, causing a barrier to form around his body just in time to block the attack. Vanir then smirked as he saw the older Crusader's bounce back as if it had been deflected, providing him the perfect opportunity to shove the ringed staff into his chest, and yell out the name of a unique spell.

"Hellfire Blaze!" Purple fire surged forward from the center of the ring, blasting Kuruseidā back and across the clearing until his back crashed into a tree, the force of the impact causing it to crack but not fall apart.

"While it's not particularly strong, the versatility of this host is something I can appreciate!" Vanir declared as he once again activated the enchanted gloves to produce another barrier to block Arakuremono's devastating blow before it could strike his back. The Duke turned to smirk at the large man, only for it to fade as he saw the excited gleam in the Brute's eyes.

With a crazed smirk, Arakuremono raised his weapon above his head once more, letting out a loud battle cry as he swung down with a great deal of might, impacting and shattering the barrier with relative ease, forcing Vanir to once again dodge to the side to avoid being dealt a crippling blow. The resulting strike to the ground shook the area enough to throw the General off his balance and leave him vulnerable to the Shield Bash being delivered by Kuruseidā, the older Crusader having recovered remarkably quick to aid his friend.

Damn. Vanir silently cursed, holding the damaged side while having second thoughts about the one he had possessed. The woman would have been able to endure attacks like that with relative ease, but as he took stock of what spells Kazuma actually knew, having initially dismissed them due to a majority being beginner level, Vanir suddenly realized he might have hit the jackpot when it came to picking a host.

Feeling confident now more then ever, the General placed the staff in its holder on the teen's back while raising up his blade to prepare to block Arakuremono's incoming strike, before moving his now free hand so it was pointing at the Brute. Vanir then said one word, and that single word filled the large man with a sense of dread.


A blinding light filled the area, forcing everyone to look away or close their eyes in response, and in that moment of blindness, they all heard the telltale signs of the ground giving in to Arakuremono's great strength, but not in the way they were expecting.

"Well this is a pleasant turn of events!" Vanir declared as the light faded away, revealing that he had managed to not only block the large Brutes attack despite the strength difference Kazuma and Arakuremono, the earth had caved beneath his feet in the process, but had done so with only one hand. Because, being held in the possessed teens other hand, was a silver medallion that held a small, red gem in its center. The Archdemon looked at the item with great interest, slowly pushing his enemy back in the process.

"A Talisman of Strength, and a powerful one at that. The only way something of this caliber could be crafted is with the blood of a giant, and you were able to defeat one before having such a charm? It is no wonder you are renown for having the strength of a wild animal, however, I will be using this for the time being." Quickly pocketing the valuable item, Vanir demonstrated the difference in power by shoving Arakuremono away with a single palm thrust to the man's chest, sending him tumbling across the ground until he finally crashed against a nearby boulder.

Now with confidence oozing from every fiber of his being, Vanir turned around and blocked Kuruseidā's sword strike with relative ease, his arm not even shaking from the impact. With a smirk stretching across his face, the possessed teen kicked the older Crusader away, casting Kazuma's infamous spell once again and receiving the man's sword as a result. "A weapon gifted to you by your father? I almost feel cruel taking such a thing."

He laughed while tossing away Kazuma's actually blade in favor of the new one, his amusement reaching new heights as the rest of the guild members that had been lounging around came out, charging at him in an effort to overwhelm the Demon General. It's like they hadn't seen what he could do with a single spell.

Oh well, more rare items for him.

That outcome never came as something glowing a brilliant shade of red surged past the group to strike out against Vanir, displaying such monstrous strength that the General found himself being pushed back even with the massive boost to Kazuma's strength. The demon let out a noise of annoyance as he managed to stop his backwards momentum and shot the new fighter a bored look. "Are you sure you wish to join in? The two men I just fought were leagues ahead of you in terms of experience and skill, and they fell rather quickly once I took away something they valued."

Kyouya narrowed his eyes in response, adjusting his stance as Gram switched from red to blue, beginning to gather energy for a powerful attack.

"Very well," Vanir sighed, holding out his free hand towards the young Sword Master. "Steal!"

The resulting light was blinding to almost everyone as the spell was called out, thankfully dimming down almost immediately to show what was taken. The General was baffled when he saw what was in his hand.

"What is this?" He asked, looking at the wooden figurine in his palm. There were no distinguishing features about it, the thing could have been mistaken for a miniature mannequin as far as he was concerned. Vanir looked back up towards Kyouya, unfazed by the large amount of power stored in Gram right now.

"It's the first sculpture I ever made." Kyouya answered, smirking at the look of surprise aimed in his direction. "Now get off of my friend!" he roared, slashing down with all his might to unleash a large wave of blue energy, watching as it surged towards the General with great speed.

The slits that seemed to represent the eyes of the masks almost appeared to blink as the Archdemon comprehended what was just said, letting out a hearty chuckle even as the attack reached him, forming another barrier that was more than sturdy enough to hold against the powerful attack due to the amount of mana he was feeding into it. "Quite impressive," he complimented, cutting off the flow of mana so none was wasted. "You were able to trick a demon and continue the fight without worry, however…"

Kazuma's lips curved upwards in an almost cruel fashion as Vanir pulled out the teen's staff, black flames slowly forming around the object. "Do you really think you can beat me?"

Kyouya's response puzzled him.

"I'm not trying to beat you."

His time to ponder was cut short as something green flashed in his peripherals, and when he turned to see what that was, Vanir saw Clemea with a devilish smirk on her face as she placed something on the possessed teen's head. "Oh hell…" Vanir whispered, recognizing the additional mana signature now flowing through his host. "Verdia?!"

"That's right," The Undead said, his glowing red eye blocking out half of Vanir's vision as the General tried to move his host to remove the helmet, only to find that it could not be moved, "and with the child's assistance, I can make sure you hold still for what's coming."

And it was at that moment that Vanir realized Kazuma hadn't put up a fight to try and take back his body, save for that one moment of annoyance, not because he couldn't, but because he had been waiting for an opportunity like this. The Archdemon cursed as he finally saw what his former ally was talking about.

Aqua and Fio were standing at the edge of the tree line, the Arch-Priest was channeling Holy energy into the Archer's hand with said woman moving the potent power into her bow, forming an arrow comprised out of pure light.

Vanir actually laughed at what he was seeing. "You must truly be insane if this was the plan your group came up with to separate me from your friend, you know just as well as I do that if that woman's aim is off by even a hair it will purify you instead of me."

Even though he couldn't see the expression on his former colleague's face, not that there would have been one to see anyway, Vanir could practically feel the confidence oozing from Verdia.

"You may have had a point if young Fio was the one firing that arrow, but I have no doubt of the accuracy of that foolish Crusader."

As soon as the words were said, Darkness appeared on the other side of the pinkette, overlapping her hands with Fio's to begin making minor adjustments to prevent a miss.

"Do not be ashamed of this defeat, Vanir." Verdia said, and the Duke of Hell would swear the world slowed down just enough for them to have this conversation. "By all means, you were right to assume these children would have been unable to beat you, many people better than them have tried and failed to do as such."

"Ashamed isn't the word I would use, I even had a semi-death wish to be honest, but disappointed would not be inaccurate."

Darkness and Fio unleashed the Holy Arrow, and as the projectile flew across the battlefield, aimed perfectly at the portion of Vanir's mask that wasn't covered by Verdia, the Archdemon heard the undead say one more thing before he was purified.

"I know how you feel."


Slipping away from the small party had been harder than he thought. Kazuma sighed as he made his way through the mansion's many hallways with the intent to reach the rooftop motivating the teen to move faster than normal, and didn't slow down until he finally climbed the final steps of the ladder in the attic that brought him out into the open, where he saw the stars shining bright in the sky and Megumin sitting a good distance away with a sullen look on her face.

Kazuma took a moment to catch his breath before approaching the girl, having a few suspicions about why his friend seemed to be a little down. "Oi, Megumin."

The girl jumped and whirled around to see who had called out her name, instantly relaxing once she saw it was him with a hint of red seeping into her face as the reason why they were up here filled the Arch-Wizard with nervous giddiness. "I was wondering if you were going to be able to get away from everyone."

He almost groaned in response at that. "It wasn't easy, but once they started drinking, slipping away became pretty easy." The Adventurer then fixed his friend with a serious look, one that slowly pulled Megumin out of elated mood. "So, what's bothering you?"

"…I shouldn't be surprised you noticed that." Megumin wanted to deny it, but she knew there wouldn't be any point. "I'm just upset that I couldn't do anything during that battle. You were in danger, and all I could do was stand and watch." She turned her head back forward, resting her chin in both of her hands as she finished her thought. "That's the second time I couldn't do anything while you were in danger."

"Ah…" should have guessed that was the problem. "If it helps, Vanir wasn't planning on killing anyone other than Aqua." Kazuma almost winced after he said that, because how the hell was that supposed to be comforting? Deciding it would be best just to wait for his friend to say something, the teen plopped down next to her, leaning back onto his hands to get comfortable.

The silence between them was surprisingly pleasant as Megumin continued to stare off into the distance, before looking to him with a questioning look. "Are you mad that I only know Explosion magic?"

Strange question, but Kazuma answered it honestly. "No, the most I've ever felt is annoyed, and I've told you that multiple times."

"I know." Megumin said with a smile, looking down at her lap where Kazuma realized her player card was resting, and the teen nearly went into shock when he saw the list of spells that were merely a finger tap away from being learned.

"Are those…?" He couldn't even finish the question due to the sheer amount of disbelief he was feeling right now.

The Arch-Wizard nodded in response. "A list of advanced combat spells that I've been able to learn for a while now. My dream was to become the strongest Wizard in history using only Explosion magic, but if my dream will end up getting my friends killed, I'd rather abandon it than all of you."

Times like this really made the teen question how old Megumin really was. "I'm not going to force you to do anything major like this."

Megumin smiled at him in response while tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, and the teen had to beat down the sudden urge to kiss her right then and there, knowing it wasn't the right time to do so. "Here," Megumin held out her card out for him to take. "Choose something for me, I saved plenty of skill points to get quite a few."

With shaky hands, Kazuma took hold of the rectangular object with far greater care than was needed, and hesitantly began searching through the skill list to see what was available. He glanced over towards the girl once more, searching for any hint that this wasn't what she wanted, and found a look filled with content as Megumin looked up towards the sky, appearing almost relieved that he was doing what she asked.

Ah hell… Kazuma mentally groaned, because this just didn't feel right no matter how he looked at it. He was going to crush her dream if he did this, but she would be devasted if decided not to, it was a lose-lose scenario as far as he was concerned, even if the girl appeared to be fine with it. Kazuma debated on just dumping all of the points into various Explosion buffs, but as he scrolled through the list of skills, something caught his eye.

It took a while, but Megumin finally heard Kazuma selecting various spells for her to know, and the Arch-Wizard smiled fondly at that. After a couple minutes, she noticed that he was beginning to mumble stuff to himself, and the girl stifled a giggle so it didn't distract him. Finally, the card was handed back. "Thank you," Megumin said as she grabbed hold of the object and began looking at what was learned, only to frown at the lack of additional spells.

"Look at you skills tab." The teen said as if he could sense her confusion.

Megumin did as such, and felt her eyes widen at what was there. A plethora of martial arts skills and abilities, that she didn't even know were in that list, shined a bright green after being selected.

"You don't have to give up on your dream just to keep us safe." Kazuma spoke up, catching Megumin's attention. "All you really had to do was… change things up, not get rid of what made you so special."

Her breath hitched at his words, and moisture began to gather in the corner of her eyes while she smiled in unguarded adoration at the teen in-front of her, and before Kazuma could react, Megumin had leapt towards him to wrap her arms around his neck, toppling both of them over in the process. The two of them laughed as Megumin buried her face into his neck with the teen returned the hug by placing his hands on her waist, enjoying each others presence far to much to bother adjusting themselves to be more comfortable. They relished in this joy together, separating just enough to look each other in the eye.

"So… remember how I wanted to talk about 'us' tonight?" Kazuma asked.

The girl responded by leaning down to capture his lips with hers.

Who was patiently waiting for that to happen? I know I was. Anyway, I just want to once again thank everyone who's reviewed, favorited, followed, and viewed this story. You're all awesome.

With that, I hope you all have a wonderful day!