Fran and Art's knees went limp and they collapsed to the ground. Every fiber of their being was screaming at the pair, not to run away, as that was pointless, because they were already dead.

The Lich's power grew and grew, and as it did, so did the monster's body, expanding from the size of a tall human being until it stood over ten meters tall. Its bones had turned a sickening black color with red lines of script glowing on them, and a black crown of flames appeared over the monster's head. Somehow, the swords in its hands and his black robes grew with it, each of them absorbing some of its divine power.

Its aura, which had always been terrifying, now carried the power of a divine, which was enough to shatter the psychies of all those around it. When any normal humanoid stood in the presence of such a being, they would normally go into shock or break into fits of insane laughter, even if said being was being completely passive. With one as aggressive as the former Lich, it was far worse, with even high level individuals becoming completely unable to function. Without a barrier set up by Rani, Fran and Art might have even simply died from exposure.

Being already weakened from using his lifeforce to activate the staff, Jean was barely holding on, despite being the one with the most experience with facing the divine, his servant Stephan jumping out in front of him and using his [Principle of an Element(Purity)] to erect a shield against the divinity charged Miasma, like a cheap umbrella trying to hold back a typhoon.

"Master, are you alright?" Stephan tried to ask him, their connection through the contract letting Jean understand him, despite this voice being swept away by the winds of the Divine Beast's power.

But even if he could hear him, the Necromancer could not respond as he stared at the monstrous being with his [Soul Eyes] and understood that things were now not only hopeless for their party, but for the entire continent, maybe even the entire world.

No Life King

Race: Undead (Divine Beast)

Level: 75/99

HP: 23532, MP: 42535, STR: 9745, END: 12254

AGI: 7442, INT: 11023, MGC: 28612, DEX: 6812


"Goddess… why?" Art said as tears came to her eyes.

A Demonic Beast could not evolve to S-rank simply by reaching its maximum level. Other conditions had to be met in order for the ascension from a Demonic Beast to a Divine Beast, chief among them being the approval of a God who would grant them their divinity. Even the most powerful of A-rank monsters, such as the Chimera, would never evolve without that injection of divinity.

It was the reason why the world could have a hundred of these world destroying beasts in it, without having been destroyed long ago. Because no God would ever permit the ascension of a being that would destroy the world, not after the sealing of the Evil God. …Save for one. One who had done it on multiple occasions in the past.

'Sorry dear, you know I don't play favorites. Enjoy the chaos.' Art could almost hear the Goddess of Chaos say as she flashed her beautiful smile.

At first, the No Life King's head moved back and forth, observing its surroundings without seeming to see anything at all, as if its ascension or the massive amount of miasma it had absorbed had jumbled its memories.

But as it spotted Stephan, a low, animalistic growl resonated within the monster, as it recognized that the young Undead's [Principle of an Element(Purity)] stood in direct opposition to its own [Principle of an Element(Impurity)]. It also recognized that Stephan contained a part of its own soul, a part of its memories, and that he was refusing to return to his King where he belonged.

It turned itself silently, swinging out its left hand sword, aiming to spit both Stephan and Jean in half.

Four small white haired beastkin doppelgangers appeared in the way of the blade, each parrying with perfect timing in order to redirect the slash so that it would miss its entire targets. A fifth launching an attack against the No Life King's exposed neck.

The attack barely even left a scratch in the giant skeleton's bones, despite it being enough to split an A-rank Demonic Beast in two. But the attack and the taunt that came with it was enough to draw the infinite anger of the No Life King.

"Your opponent is me." Archer said as all five of the replica bodies rushed in to attack the Divine Beast.

His mortal companions all watched in shock as he did battle with the monstrosity before them. While the Divine Beast's every action was enough to cause the Dungeon to rattle, and its aura was enough to crush their spirits, Archer seemed completely undisturbed by it, fighting with a vigor that left them in awe.

Fran in particular stopped shaking as she watched his movements.

The No Life King was more than ten times stronger than the doppelganger bodies. No, closer to twenty times stronger, with a mountain of skills that made the difference even greater and an overwhelmingly powerful divine aura. From the absorption of the millions of souls gathered within the Dungeon, and its evolution, it had evolved a [Divine Sword Arts] that was even higher than Fran's own.

And yet even this level of strength and this level of sword skill was not enough to simply overwhelm Archer.

His every move and parry was perfectly timed in order to let him survive the monster's attacks, and his projected weaponry would intercept the magic spells before they could fully develop. Watching him fight was like a complex dance. His understanding of the flow of battle putting ability obtained merely through [Skills] to shame.

Archer could not damage the No Life King properly through its Divine Protection, but he was not getting overwhelmed either. The only sign of any sort of struggle at all was small chips forming in the replica sword bodies when they clashed with the Divine Beast.

[Rani, get the others out of here.] Archer instructed his fellow spirit of the sword. [I'll hold this guy as long as I can, so get them out of here.]

{Understood.} Rani replied before dipping into their reserve of Self-Evolution points yet again, spending 6 to level up [Time/Space Magic] to its max level, unlocking [Dimensional Magic], which she spent 9 more point in so as to get it to level 4, where she could use [Dimension Gate].

Portals opened up underneath Fran, Art, Stephan and Jean, and all four of them were evacuated from the area.

"Now then, let's see how much punishment you can take!" Archer shouted, gathering all the remaining magic power he had in the five sword bodies and preparing one giant attack.

With his friends out of the line of fire, he would give ending this monster his best try.

He traced five copies of Lumiose and overloaded the weapons to the point of Breaking, before using [Instantaneous Movement] to rush towards the former Lich at full speed with the points of the blade pointing at it from five different angles.

"""""[Pseudo Godblade Release: Sword of Dreams: Lumiose]!"""""

Each of the blades exploded in golden light as they intersected on the giant skeleton and everything went a blinding white.

The party went through two jumps, the first one getting them outside of the floating island, leaving them free falling in the air, before the second brought them to a hill top three miles away from the floating island.

The group was on its hands and knees, catching its breath after the horrifying experience and looking up at the island in the night sky as it started to crumble and fall apart, along with the Dungeon that lay within it.

But that slow process ended with a devastating explosion, which blasted the island to pieces, sending large chunks of it raining down on the surrounding landscape. The pair shielded their eyes as a brilliant light filled the night sky, like a miniature sun, followed by a shock waves that boomed through the countryside with enough force to push away all of the clouds, leaving a perfectly clear sky with which to see the stars and moons.

The explosion that had shook the world passed and the night was replaced by a deathly silence. Fran and Art swallowed hard as they tried to recollect themselves after the earlier encounter, each of them feeling ashamed of how their bodies refused to stop shaking.

"Is… Is it dead?" Art asked as the silence dragged on.

[No.] Archer's short reply came, crushing their hopes that it was over.

In the light from the moons, they could see the trees and grass wilting away and dying, the leaves shriveling up before dissipating into the air, quickly followed by the entire trunk of the tree. All of it floating up into the sky like a black cloud of ash.

[I injured him, but he isn't dead yet. I'd say we have a few minutes before he is finished recovering at best.] Archer said, sounding exhausted.

Injuries inflicted by Lumiose's full power couldn't be healed by [Instantaneous Regeneration], which would give them time, but not much. The No Life King was a Divine Beast, so even an injury full of Pseudo Divine Energy wouldn't be permanent.

If they had only destroyed the Dungeon Core sooner, then the Lich would have disappeared before his evolution, but now that he was S-rank, he would continue to exist even though the Dungeon was gone.

Archer had wasted time in order to try to save Stephan's life, and now millions would pay the price.

"What now?" Fran asked.

{Calculating. With our current resources, our chances of destroying the No Life King is 0.02%. Our chances of surviving the battle: 0.01%. Suggestion: immediate retreat. Wait for additional resources to become available.}

[It will be 24 hours before our skills come off cooldown. How much of the continent do you think will be left by the time we are ready for another attempt.]

{Calculating. Given the spread of the Miasma, roughly 86% of the continent should still be inhabitable within 24 hours.}

14%. 14% of an entire continent was going to be rendered uninhabitable by this creature. But what else could they do?

Even if Archer and company were back in tip top shape, victory was far from assured. Their best hope was to gather everyone they could, every S-rank Adventurer and the Seven Sages. If all of them worked together, victory might have been possible, but how many millions would die before they could get everyone together?

Not to mention that Archer had to go to Barbra before the Lunar Festival and stay there throughout it. Even with 12 days remaining on the clock, Archer felt the pull of his contract with the Goddess, reminding him that he could not simply ignore his end of their deal. Archer knew that as the deadline grew closer, he would be unable to stop himself from moving to complete his mission.

"Master?" Stephan said, drawing everyone's attention to Jean, as the man returned to his feet, staff in hand, his usual half crazed grin on his face.

"Sorry. I got us all into this mess, so I suppose it is time I step up and get us out of it." Jean said, his eyes moving to Archer. "I guess I'll be leaving the clean up for you. Take care of Stephan for me."

"Wha!?" Stephan looked horrified as a golden light spread from the Necromancer's staff and started to cover his body.

[You damned fool!] Archer shouted, knowing exactly what the Devilkin was about to do.

He knew, because he had once done it himself.

"Goddess of the Netherworld, I offer you my everything! Take my life, my body, my mind and my soul, and grant me the power I need to save everyone!" Jean shouted to the sky, and the sky answered.

Golden mana gathered from all around them, pooling together into long ribbons before snaking its way into the Necromancer's body.

Jean Dovy gave a small grunt of pain as the divine power welled up inside of him, threatening to overwhelm him, the skin on the left side of his body turning from a pasty white to an oily black color, golden runes appearing on its surface, his hair becoming longer and changing from white to gold.

Divine power started to radiate from the man as his transformation was complete.

Name: Jean Dovy

Age: 49

Race: High Devilkin | Devilkin

Job: Dark Guru

Level: 48/99

Status : Transcended

HP:1186, MP:3628, STR:1094, END:1097

AGI:1124, INT:2190, MGC:2240, DEX:1128

Skills: Darkness Resistance LvMax, Chant Abbreviation LvMax, Appraisal LvMax, Presence Concealment LvMax, Kin Summoning LvMax, Staff Arts LvMax, Ghost Operation LvMax, Necromancy Magic LvMax, Dagger Arts LvMax, Compounding LvMax, Poison Resistance LvMax, Poison Knowledge LvMax, Fire Magic LvMax, Netherworld Magic LvMax, Medicinal Herbs Knowledge LvMax, Dark Magic LvMax, Absolute Presence Concealment, Ghost Rampage, Friend of the Dead, Magic Manipulation, Magic Power Boost

Unique Skills: Soul Eye, Netherworld Goddess's Divine Protection, Divine Netherworld Magic

Innate Skill: High Devil Form

Titles: Scales of Assassination, Undead Creator, Slaughterer of Men, Necromancer, King of the Dead, Apostle of the Netherworld Goddess

All of Jean's stats jumped by 1000, with his magic and intelligence increasing by 2000 and his MP increasing by 3000. His race had changed from Devilkin to High Devilkin, all of his skills had been increased to their maximum level and 'Apostle of the Netherworld Goddess' had been added to his list of titles. He had unlocked [High Devil Form] and [Netherworld Goddess's Divine Protection] skills. And on top of all that, he had gained a new type of magic.

[Divine Netherworld Magic]

Without another word, Jean took to the sky and flew towards the spot where the No Life King was still recovering, leaving the others behind.

[You fool.] Archer said, lamenting Jean's soul, the soul he had just sold to the Goddess of the Netherworld in exchange for the power to save everyone.

But while Archer fumed at Jean's stupidity, Fran stepped forward. "Going." She said in her usual curt manner, lifting Archer's blade up with shaking hands.

[What?] Archer said, surprised that the girl wanted to fight.

"Fighting when it is important: courage." Fran said as she swallowed and did her best to stop her shaking. "If we retreat, everyone in Alessa will die. Won't allow it."

The girl was scared. Terrified even. But even if she was scared, she couldn't live with herself if she ran away and everyone who they had gotten to know back in Alessa died because of it.

Even if it went along with the Lich's original plan had been to target the country of Reidos, Alessa was currently sitting directly between their current position and the Reidosean border.

[...Rani, what do our current resources look like?] Archer asked after a moment's consideration.

He doubted he could talk Fran out of this, and he didn't particularly want to. She was right, fighting here was not reckless. So many people's lives were on the line. If she wished to protect them, she had no choice but to find a way.

She had grown in these last few weeks.

{We are currently at 10% available mana, 18 minutes will be needed to regenerate our full reserves, and we have 767 Self-Evolution points.} Rani reported.

Despite having gone on a spending spree, they had ranked up from Rank 18 to Rank 30 over the course of the fight against the Lich. Sadly, the exponential growth of Self-Evolution points per rank had capped out at 100, which greatly decreased their total amount, but they still had options.

{In order to gain access to the Skills required to defeat No Life King, this unit would need to access the Root of existence. Odds of survival in this unit's current state are… low.} Rani said apologetically. {If we had an active example of those skills on hand, this unit may be able to assess them. [Divine Netherworld Magic] could theoretically damage the No Life King, however, forcibly obtaining said skill would invite Divine Retribution upon us. …I'm sorry.}

[Don't be.] Archer said, surprised to hear that the remains of the Angel even had the resources required to make an attempt at something like accessing the Root. Such a thought was actually a little terrifying. She must have once been an existence on the level of the Wizard Marshal's Jeweled Sword.

Archer looked through their giant well of available skills, looking for a solution to their current problem, but while they had over a thousand skills to choose from, nothing stood out as a plausible solution.

He needed to get his [Doppelganger Synthesis SP] and [Body Split] skills off of cooldown, but couldn't see how to do it.

[Is there a method we could use to get our skills off of cooldown faster?]

{Calculating… Technically, yes. We can upgrade the [Alchemy] skill to its maximum level, then upgrade [Magic Drug Manufacturing] and [Bioalchemy] to their maximum levels and use those skills to rush to develop potions which remove the cooldown of Skills.} Rani informed him, getting his hopes up only to knock them down. {Sadly, we do not have access to the potion ingredients though.}

If Archer had a lip, he would have bit it. But if Rani, who understood Skills far better than he did, didn't see a solution to their current situation, then it was doubtful that he would be able to find one.

[What about just a means to buy time. Something that can let us survive against the No Life King long enough to act as a distraction for Jean to do whatever he needs to do?]

{Calculating… Error. A foreign power is interfering with the Self-Evolution system. Control has been taken away.}

[What?] Archer said in shock.

{[Dungeon Core Manipulation] has been forcibly removed. 400 Self-Evolution Points have been consumed. Installation of two new skills have been detected. Installation complete. [Install Archer(Nameless)] and [Install Caster(Cherubim)] have been obtained. Now running [Install Archer(Nameless)].}

"Nn!?" Fran was surprised as her body and Archer's sword began to glow, power flowing back and forth between them. It grew and grew, communicating in a single bright flash of light that blinded Art and Stephan.

The transformation was not incredible. Fran looked almost identical to how she had appeared before, only with her heavily damaged armor replaced by a set of armor that looked very similar to the one Archer used in his human form, and a single lock of white hair.

Even so, Art and Stephan could feel that the change was much more than that. The tension and fear from before had completely evaporated, and Fran stood tall and calm as she looked down at her empty hands, now that Archer's sword had seemingly disappeared into her.

"Trace. On." Fran said softly, pulling a pair of Kuroko and Shiroko out of thin air, a small smile crossing her face.

Power was coursing through her, as all of her stats skyrocketed from Archer's strength being added to her own. And more than that, Fran could sense Archer's experience as well. Experience enough to make all of her weapon skills look like a joke.

"Fran? Mom? You two… okay?" Art asked.

"...We're great." Fran replied with a very Archer-like smirk. "Looks like we might be able to help after all. But you two should get back. Not safe here."

"...No. I'm going too!" Art said with a rapid shake of her head.

Before Fran could argue, Art dove into Fran's shadow, activating her [Demon Arts].

Yet again, Fran felt another's power being added to her own, giving her strength another sizable boost, almost as extreme as with [Install Archer(Nameless)]. The skin around Fran's hands turned a midnight black and a pair of bat's wings grew from her back.

(If we are doing this, then we are all in it together!) Art's voice echoed inside of Fran's mind.

"Nn." Fran nodded with a smile before taking off herself, flying in the direction of the No Life King.

It was time for the final stage of their battle.

Name: Fran

Age: 12

Race: Black Catkin

Job: Magus Killer (Lv54)

Status: Normal

Level: 45/45

HP: 893, MP: 842, STR: 582, END: 513, AGI: 562, INT: 471, MGC: 505, DEX: 484

Titles: Fire Mage, Lord of Cooking, Lord of Dismantling, Lord of Digging, Skill Collector, Incarnation of the Sword, Favored of the Goddess of Chaos, Cadet of Hell's Training, Lord of Climbing, Sword User, Goblin Slayer, Insect Slayer, Demon Slayer, Dragon Slayer, Recovery Mage, Wind Mage, One Man Army, One Who Slaughters, Big Game Hunter, Skill Maniac, Earth Mage, Sandstorm Mage, Lava Mage, Lady Killer, Giant Slayer, Annihilator of Demonic Beasts, Bad Target for Ambush, Angel, Undead Slayer, Speed Demon, Juggernaut, King of Skills

New Titles: Resilient, Chimera Slayer, Dungeon Smasher, Necromancer, Water Mage, Ice Mage, Life Mage, Wood Mage, Elemental Master, Master Thief

Equipment: Nameless, Black Cat Set(damaged), Sword of Dreams: Lumiose(broken)

(Resilient: Awarded to one who has obtained the max level of 5 different resistance skills. Effect: +20 END, gain a small additional boost to all resistances)

(Chimera Slayer: Awarded to one who has defeated a Chimera. Effect: Increased damage against artificial monster hybrids.)

(Dungeon Smasher: Awarded to one who has dealt a large amount of damage to one of the Goddess of Chaos's Dungeons… chill out man. Effect: Dungeon monsters fear you.)

(Emperor of Skills: Awarded to one who possesses more than 500 skills, with at least 25 of them being at max level. Effect: +10 to All stats, and skills grow even faster still)

(Elemental Master: Awarded to one who possesses all forms of basic and compound elemental magic. Effect: +20 MGC, magical skills grow faster, and gain the [Blessing of the Goddess of Magic] unique skill)

(Master Thief: Your stealing spree has impressed even the God of Thieves. Effect: +5 AGL, +5 DEX, and gain the [Blessing of the God of Thieves] unique skill)

Name: Fran

Race: Black Catkin | Demi-Servant | Demon Knight

HP: 2773, MP: 27251, STR: 1244, END: 1276, AGI: 1377, INT: 1167, MGC: 1248, DEX: 1270

High Devil Form being a sort of evolution available to Devilkin descended from the Goddess of the Netherworld and givine those kinds of bonuses... actually could be a canon thing.

There is such a thing as High Elves, Divine Dragonkin, Royal Insectkin and God Beastkin, each of which has a transformation with stat bonuses of +1000 in all stats, plus additional bonuses in key stats and additional skills that involve Divine Power. So a High Devilkin could very well be a thing in future canon for the main series. I don't know.

I do know that their patron God's Divine Protection is needed for it though.