KappeZ: I'm baaaaack. Again. Oh well, better glacier pace than nothing, right?

Prinny: Zzzzz...

KappeZ: Okay, in my defense, I've now got a novel to work on as well as a comic book, plus college, plus work...Y'know how it is. ^_^

Prinny: Zzzz...He plays too much Soul Nomad...Zzzz...

KappeZ: *tapes prinny's beak shut* That's better. Isn't his snoring a problem? ^_^' Anyway, on with the story...

Laharl's restless march had lead him to the end of a vacant hall, where he found the "No Entry" geo symbol in plain sight on the floor. Without a second thought, he slashed it with his black blade, causing it to shatter with a clear light.

"That takes care of that nuisance," he muttered as he turned to go back. When he saw no one was behind him, he realised that he had somehow left Ricon, Flonne, Nikka, and the prinny behind.

"Where are those slowpokes?" Laharl grumbled. "Ricon should at least be able to keep up with me." He began re-tracing his steps down the hall, marching with a furious purpose.

He passed pillar after pillar, statue after statue, bend after bend, but there was no sign of his vassals.

"Where the hell did they go?!" the young Overlord growled, tempted to hurl a ball of hellfire down the next corridor just to relieve some frustration. A staircase to his left leading upward caught his attention.

I don't remember that being there. Since when was there stairs down this hall? As he looked around to further familiarize himself with the hall, he realised he didn't recognize anything. No way...I'm NOT lost. This is MY castle...Laharl began breathing frustrated breaths, and scratched an itch on the back of his head just below his right antenna-hair. I'll just wait until the others show up here. It's not that I'm lost, but...I wouldn't want to leave them behind...

He stood there for a solid minute, arms crossed. Flames crackled in their torches, casting swaying shadows throughout the hall. Onyx statues of great demons lined the inner wall, gleaming in the torchlight. Laharl's foot tapped upon the sleek blue marble floor.

"Grrh..." he grunted impatiently. He eyed the staircase, framed by two demonic statues. One of the statues was a humanoid demon who wore a sharp-toothed grin, and stood erect with crossed arms, as if gloating. Something about the statue really irritated Laharl, and he had the impulse to slash off its stupid grinning head. Instead, he simply walked up to its base, and read the inscription on the faded bronze plaque.

- -Overlord Zyth-Cadea- -
42nd Overlord of the Netherworld
He still laughs, even in death.

"Fourty-second Overlord?" Laharl repeated aloud.

I didn't know anyone was keeping count. I wonder what number I am?...He abruptly shook his head. I don't have time for this! I gotta get my castle back!

With only the briefest of glances back to see if his vassals were still missing, Laharl marched up the stairs to the next floor. So there were these stairs leading around the geo barrier all this time? Why the hell didn't Etna mention that?!...Wait, does that mean?... An ominous feeling came to him for a second, but he shook it off. Whatever. Even if this is a trap, no one can stop me. I'll just blast my way through it.

Reaching the top of the stairs, Laharl found himself at an intersection of hallways that split left and straight. The straight passage was completely blocked by fallen rubble from the floor above, leaving Laharl with no option but to go left.

Yeah, this definitely smells like a trap, thought Laharl, who drew his black blade from his scarf. The upper hall was no different from the lower one he had just ascended from, except this one was smaller and dimmer. More onyx statues of former Overlords lined the walls, some of the larger ones casting lengthy shadows down the long stone hall.

I wish this stupid trap would hurry up and show itself, Laharl grumbled in his head. He had been walking with his sword drawn for almost five minutes, and had yet to see any signs of enemy behaviour. The hall had made a right-hand turn, which he followed without hesitation. The hall remained the same, except he could make out a large room at the end. As he moved towards the room, he came across a statue that had been severed apart. He didn't need to read the plaque to know who the statue belonged to...

- -Overlord Krichevskoy- -
43rd Overlord of the Netherworld
His nobility (and love of dark manjuu) knew no equal.

The upper half of the onyx statue representing Laharl's deceased father lay on the ground, cut diagonally, as if by a sword.

"Who did this?..." the young demon wondered. Rather than feel indifference, as he thought he should, the act had somehow made him feel angrier than ever. Why the hell do I care? It's just a stupid statue of my old man...

"Your time ends here..." echoed a deep voice from the open room down the hall. Laharl looked forward to see a tall, dark figure standing as a lone sentry before the metal double-doors that led beyond.

"About time someone showed themselves!" grumbled the young Overlord, leaping into the room with reckless abandon to face his new foe.

He was a towering suit of living dark armour, who held a living sword. Having faced dark knights before, Laharl knew the sword and armour were one entity, and shared the same life force. The room they stood in was large, and filled with statues of demon lords who had once served under the overlords. The room was lit with many torches lining the walls and hanging from the ceiling.

"I can tell you're not just some weak lackey," Laharl spoke, oddly calm. "But I know you're not the leader. You'd better tell me where your boss is after I've beaten you up."

The dark knight made no motion. "I am Galhaad. In the name of my lord, Taron, I will not let you pass, son of Krichevskoy."

"Taron, huh? Never heard of him," said Laharl, his black sword glistening in the torchlight.

"I would expect as much ignorance from Krichevskoy's son," Galhaad spoke, his own sword gleaming.

"Enough about my old man!" Laharl barked, brandishing his blade. "I'm Overlord Laharl, and this is MY castle! You can all just DROP DEAD!" Laharl lunged at his opponent, sword glowing with power.

Their two swords clashed, causing an echo of power to reverberate throughout the room. The statues of demon lords shuddered slightly. Again and again they struck, a new wave of power issuing from their clashing blades each time. Unable to land a hit on his surprisingly fast opponent, Laharl leapt back. He was about to execute a quick Blade Rush, when Galhaad held his sword aloft, and grew in size. Now double his original size, the dark knight sent his huge blade crashing down on Laharl, who could only hold his sword up to block. He was barely able to withstand the forceful blow, and he felt his legs nearly buckle. Cracks spread on the stone floor beneath him. Unable to move, Laharl struggled to resist the crushing force of the giant sword above him. This guy's as strong as that dragon guard leader from Prier's castle, Laharl noted. He focused more of his demonic power into his sword, but Galhaad's sword, also filled with power, was still an immovable crushing force. Maybe even stronger...

With a furious yell, Laharl summoned all of his demonic aura. He managed to lift Galhaad's sword high enough to slip out from underneath it. The giant knight's blade crashed into the ground, creating even larger cracks in the stone floor. Laharl leapt up to counterattack, only to miss Galhaad's helm by inches as he shrunk back down to his original size. Laharl kicked off the wall to land in the center of the room. His armoured foe had wasted no time, and closed the gap between them, blade swinging forward. Their swords collided once again, sending another ripple of power across the chamber.

How can we be evenly matched?! Laharl thought with outrage. A mere lackey shouldn't be as strong as me! Did he get a power boost, like Hoggmeiser?

Their swords parted again. The dark knight moved back, holding his sword up.

"Growing big again? I won't let you!" Laharl charged after Galhaad, a Blazing Knuckle ready.

Rather than enlarge, as Laharl expected, Galhaad thrust his sword forward, shooting a dark bolt of energy at him. The fire from his Blazing Knuckle was extinguished by the force of the Dark Bolt, as the two energy attacks effectively cancelled each other out. Laharl, however, was sent flying backward from the exploding force. He landed just in time to leap out of the way of another Dark Bolt, which blasted the demon lord statue behind him to pieces.

Galhaad continued to fire bolts of dark energy from his sword at the young Overlord. Laharl dodged two more, then leapt towards his great armoured foe, deflecting another with his aura-filled blade. Galhaad was ready for him, slashing forward. With a whirl of momentum from his earlier slash, Laharl spun around to meet Galhaad's sword with his own. Another ripple of force shook the chamber, this time toppling over some of the firmly-rooted statues, or causing some of them to crumble apart.

"Ghh!..." Laharl flew back again, unable to land enough force to off-balance the sentinel. ...Dammit...He just won't budge! If I try to attack him, he just sends me flying back again!...

"Do you see now?" boomed Galhaad. "If you are hardly a match for me, you cannot hope to stand against Lord Taron. Accept your fate." The dark knight lifted his sword, enlarging once more.

Laharl simply stood there, staring at the ground.

"So, are you prepared to die?" Galhaad's deep voice reverberated across the room. "Fine. I shall grant you a swift death, son of Krichevskoy." His massive blade came hurtling down.

"I told you..." Laharl leapt back to the entrance of the hall he had came from, avoiding the crashing blade's tip by inches. "...I am OVERLORD LAHARL!" His black-bladed sword erupted with power as he unleashed a Dimension Slash, which carved up the ceiling as it ripped towards the armoured sentry.

Galhaad lurched to the right, and shrunk back down to normal size to avoid the great wave of power. Though he had narrowly dodged it, he was ready to counter anything the young Overlord had planned. But Laharl did not advance. Instead, he stood with his arms outstretched. He had filled the room with balls of hellfire! There were too many for the black knight to dodge or disperse. However, the young demon king had left himself wide open. Galhaad fired a Dark Bolt at him just as he hurtled the balls of hellfire down on top of him. A massive explosion shook the floor. Pieces of the demon lord statues flew everywhere.

Laharl clutched the wound on his chest where Galhaad's dark bolt had struck him. He scanned the dusty ruins for a trace of the black knight. Did I get him?...

He saw the gleam of Galhaad's sword just in time. He ducked out of the way of another Dark Bolt, hiding behind the statue of a large, horse-like demon lord.

Dammit...How did he survive my Overlord's Wrath?!...There's no way he's stronger than me, even if he did get a power boost...Laharl's chest wound throbbed with pain. He clenched his fist, which burst with his demonic flame. Now I'm really starting to get pissed off...

Just as Laharl had chosen to abandon his hiding place, it burst to pieces from the force of yet another Dark Bolt. He grabbed the upper half of a werewolf statue, which had crumbled off its base from an earlier burst of power, and hurtled it at Galhaad. The black knight fired another Dark Bolt just in time to shatter the large projectile. From the parting pieces of stone rubble, he saw Laharl fly towards him, fist burning with demonic aura.

"Ha! An old trick..." Galhaad swiftly swung his sword at the advancing young Overlord. But Laharl fell short of the great knight's blade, his fist colliding instead with the ground mere inches from the black knight. Pieces of the stone floor flew everywhere on Laharl's impact, bombarding Galhaad. The debris did little damage to him, but it proved distracting enough to allow Laharl to slam his sword into the armoured sentry. Galhaad slid back on impact, colliding with the wall of the exit he was guarding. The black knight slumped over, his armour dented and deformed from Laharl's attacks. He had not taken Laharl's Overlord's Wrath unscathed, and the last attack had hit him hard. But Galhaad rose, gripping his sword. "...I see you have inherited some of your father's power. However, I will not relent."

"Stop comparing me to my old man!" Laharl's blade burst with aura.

Their swords clashed again and again in a furious battle of whirling blades. Both sword-wielders ignored their wounds and concentrated only on the other's blade. More demon lord statues crumbled from the force of their clashes.

He's getting slower...Laharl grinned with satisfaction. He easily dodged Galhaad's next swing, and met his blade again. Now, I just need another opening...

The young Overlord found his chance when Galhaad went for a lunge, attempting to run him through. Laharl sidestepped easily, and countered with a ball of hellfire, which blew Galhaad over. The black knight crashed into one of the few remaining demon lord statues. He grasped the statue for support, his helm hung low.

Laharl wore a satisfied grin. "Hmhmhmm...Looks like you're still an ant compared to me, the Overlord! Haaaahahahahaaaa!"

A deep, rumbling growl of anger issued from Galhaad's helm. With a furious burst of dark aura, he rose, and began enlarging. He grew larger and larger, until he reached his greatest size yet. The fiery plume of his helm was mere inches from the ceiling as he glared down at the tiny child Overlord. "I SHALL CRUSH YOU...HERE ANDNOW!" Galhaad bellowed, his voice almost literally shaking the whole chamber.

Laharl couldn't help but be shaken at his opponent's great size. It wasn't just that he was big, but the demonic aura billowing from him exuded a furious thirst to kill. The sentinel was now a slayer, out for his life. He leapt up just in time to avoid a room-clearing, sweeping slash from Galhaad's giant blade, but before a means to counterattack entered his mind, Galhaad had struck him with a gigantic thrust of his left fist.

"Nrgh!" Laharl crashed against the far wall. He sunk to the floor, pain coursing through his small, battered body.

Galhaad lifted a giant armoured boot, positioned to stomp on the child Overlord. "IT SHALL BE YOU WHO IS CRUSHED LIKE AN ANT, CHILD OF KRICHEVSKOY!"

"...I...told you..." Laharl's voice came weakly, his body trembling with rage. "I am..."

Galhaad's greave crashed down, sending huge cracks across the rubble-littered stone floor. ...And so ends Krichevskoy's-


A violent force struck Galhaad. Laharl, brimming with demonic power, had driven a Blazing Knuckle into his chestplate. "URRGGH!" The giant dark sentinel toppled over, and came crashing down on the remaining demon lord statues that had somehow survived their furious bout.

The whole chamber was now covered in dust, cracks, and rubble. The black knight lay face-up, once again normal-sized, his armour severely cracked and dented. The dark sentinel's gloved hand shakily rose, willing his other half; the blade lying on the other side of the room, to return to him. But it merely twitched in response, and then lay motionless.

Laharl stood over his defeated foe, panting. "Hah...Had enough, metal-head? Now you know...you shouldn't mess with the Overlord...Even if you all have those dark power boosts...you're still no-"

"I...received no such power." Galhaad's voice issued from beneath his dented helm. "I fought you...with my own strength alone."

"Hah, yeah right," Laharl managed his usual cocky grin. "There's no way...you could give me this much trouble by yourself...You're not even...an Overlord."

"You are even more naïve than I thought...son of Krichevskoy..." Galhaad breathed. "You think just because you have gained the title of Overlord...that all other demons are beneath you?" A deep chuckle emitted from the defeated sentinel. "Geheheheheh...You shall soon see...you are far from true power..."

"SHUT UP!" With a uncontrollable impulse of rage, Laharl stomped upon Galhaad's deformed chestplate, compressing it further, and causing his fallen foe to let out a pained gasp. But this did not stop Galhaad from laughing.

"Hahaha...Go...You have earned the right...to die by Lord Taron's hands..."

Galhaad fell quiet. Laharl wasn't sure if he had died, or had simply fallen unconscious. With a grim feeling burning in the pit of his stomach, he took his eyes from the broken form of the black knight to gaze at the destroyed room, lit dimly by the few remaining torches that had stayed intact from their devastating battle. There's no way...He must be lying. He MUST have gotten some kind of power boost. It's the only way... Laharl clutched his abdomen, still in pain from the series of attacks he had received. ...This Taron guy can't be any stronger...can he? He stared ahead at the metal double-doors that the dark sentinel had so adamantly guarded. Beyond them was the path that led to the upper floors of the castle, where, somewhere, the leader of the invaders was lurking.

He hesitated.

...Dammit, what's wrong with me?! Why am I suddenly being such a wimp?! I'm the OVERLORD! This is MY CASTLE! Sure, this knight guy slowed me down a bit, but who cares! This Taron guy will pay for underestimating me! He's probably just a wimp who hides behind his underlings...Yeah, he's just a weakling. I'll bet he's shaking in his boots right now, knowing that the great, evil, overwhelmingly powerful Overlord Laharl is coming for him! Hmmhmmhmm...

"Haaaaahahahahahaaa!" Laharl laughed at the steel doors before him. Mustering up his demonic power, and ignoring the small pangs from his wounds, the small demon king pushed them open, and strode boldly onward.

To be continued...