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Chapter 56: The Greater Demon, Octo
The “Shadow” — Octo, was a Greater Demon that served Alexia.
It was born in the lightless depths of the Gonzales Sea, which had been named after the First Knight, Gonzales; he had fought alongside the first Saint, Alfrea, but had later thrown himself into said sea.
It had evolved from its original species, the puppet octopus, and possessed intelligence akin to that of a three year old human child.
This species of octopus had a bigger brain than other octopuses, which resulted in it having a bigger head. This larger head made it more unwieldy, causing it to move slower compared to other species of octopuses.
What was most notable however, was its survival strategy. This octopus, which possessed no fighting power, would sneak up on other creatures then would soundlessly cling to them. It then used a poison secreted from its suckers to take over the other animal’s consciousness and manipulated its victim like a puppet.
Afterwards, it used the manipulated creature to capture prey, which it consumed.
The manipulated creature wouldn’t be granted any food and would end up dying from starvation. Once the hapless thing died, its dead body would also be consumed, then the octopus would wander about once more to search for a new puppet.
That was the frightening skill of the Puppet Octopus.
This particular Puppet Octopus accidentally got swept over by the waves and reached the shore. It was turned into a demon by Griselda, who was that generation’s Witch.
That was Octo.
But while this Octo possessed a high level of intelligence, its fighting power was nothing special; as such, it was not favored by Griselda.
It might get stronger by manipulating other, stronger demons, but it was simpler to just use said demon directly to begin with.
It might be useful for manipulating important people from humanity’s side, but… Griselda’s faction was so overwhelming at the time that there was no need to do such a thing.
This was because Saint Lilia, who was supposed to defeat Griselda, ended up dying on her own.
This allowed Griselda’s reign as the Witch to become much longer than that of the other Witches, and her offensive forces kept growing, to the extent that she was able to completely reconfigure the balance of power in this long fought battle.
That was why Griselda wasn’t worried about her chances and why she wasn’t afraid of Saint at all.
… In the end, such arrogance caused her to underestimate Alexia, which led to her defeat. It was a foolish way to go, but anyway, Octo had gained no favor at all from Griselda.
It was just turned into a demon, then was unceremoniously discharged.
Since Octo was turned into a demon, it just unquestioningly obeyed its instincts and attacked humanity.
But originally, it was still a weak Puppet Octopus.
During its first few encounters, it knew nothing of how to quickly gauge the nuances of humanity’s strength. It just assumed that since the human had a big body, then it must be stronger. So it took over a fisherman who just happened to be passing by and attacked a nearby village using that man’s body… but it was quickly held down by a soldier that arrived and it got caught.
Humans had different levels of strength. The fisherman it had manipulated back then was actually weaker than it had expected.
It might have been different if the one it had taken over was a bear or tiger, but that was just hindsight.
Then it was presented to the King — Aiz And Ay Billberry the 13th and was sent to the underground level of the Saint’s castle.
There were many demons stored underground, all of whom were prepared for the sake of killing Alexia after she came back from defeating the Witch.
Once there, Octo was roughly forced inside a bottle that was merely filled with seawater… But once the human who had been watching over it fell asleep, it dexterously used its tentacles to open the bottle from within and escaped after stealing the keys from the human.
Using its soft body, it took over another demon inside one of the cages, turning them into its puppet, and then opened the cage using keys it had stolen earlier.
Once it had opened another cage, Octo manipulated the demon to fight against the other demon… Once they were weakened, Octo ate both of them.
It instinctively knew that by fighting and eating each other, demons could become stronger.
If only the soldier on duty during this time had reported to the higher ups that the number of demons had reduced, then Octo’s actions could have been stopped then.
When the soldier woke up, he saw that there were traces of demons killing each other and that their numbers were noticeably reduced.
There was no way the soldier wouldn’t notice, and Octo at the time also didn’t even consider that fact.
But the soldier didn’t report it.
If the fact that the number of demons had reduced while the soldier was asleep was reported, the soldier would have inevitably gotten scolded. Furthermore, depending on the severity of the situation, the soldier’s head might literally get cut off.
That was why he gave a false report, and didn’t notify anyone of this anomaly.
This soldier’s incompetence had saved Octo’s life.
Then Octo had its fateful encounter one day.
Alexia, who had defeated Witch Griselda, had become the new Witch and was imprisoned underground.
All the demons, including Octo, were released for the sake of killing her.
But Octo didn’t attack Alexia.
It had instinctively understood that she was the master it was supposed to serve.
That was why Octo became Alexia’s ally instead; it instigated the other demons, and led the escape attempt.
Octo was already on the way to becoming stronger than most of the common demons there at the time and was already the de facto leader of said demons, so no one opposed it.
As Octo successfully managed to aid in Alexia’s escape, Alexia treated it well as her closest aide.
Octo managed to clear the trial of becoming a Greater Demon. It was currently a Greater Demon who possessed comparable intelligence to humans. Using its magic to create an environment close to that of the deep sea, it could easily remain active above ground for long periods of time.
For the sake of protecting its master, Octo silently moved around the academy.
At this moment, its master was most afraid of this generation’s Saint Elrise.
So if Octo could manage to kill or manipulate her, the threat to Alexia would be removed. However, Octo knew very well that this was a near impossible thing to do.
First of all, there were no opportunities for it to touch Elrise.
Even without considering the power of the Saint, that woman was an absurd monster.
If Octo tried to ensnare her with its tentacles, it would simply be blocked by mana and quickly destroyed.
Even in the unlikely case that it successfully ensnared her, she could still repel the poison with her mana and Octo would still be eliminated.
There might have been an opening when she was sleeping, but Leila stood guard at the 5th floor. Furthermore, Diaz had also reported that Elrise deployed a barrier around her room while she was sleeping, so no one would be able to enter.
I see, so she was vigilant enough to prepare countermeasures against ambushes and tricks when she was asleep.
She wasn’t arrogant, even with her high level of capabilities. She was the hardest type of enemy to deal with.
That was why Octo decided not to target Elrise directly, but planned to direct her attention away from the academy instead.
The reason Elrise stayed in the Academy could only be because she had an inkling that Alexia was somewhere within it.
That was why it had to change this premise of hers.
If the Witch appeared in a different location, then Elrise would have no choice but to leave here.
Even so, it obviously didn’t mean that Alexia had to transfer to a different location.
Actually, it would be better for Alexia to quickly teleport away and hide somewhere, but Octo had no real say in the matter since its master didn’t want to leave.
Octo’s goal was to make it look like there was a Witch other than Alexia… In other words, to make a body double that would rampage and run about outside the academy.
For that purpose, it hid itself in the shadows and searched for students who would be plausible candidates to be the Witch.
It would be better if said candidate was as proud and arrogant as Griselda, and was also hated by people around her.
It would be no good if the candidate was a likeable person.
If anyone could easily claim that “there’s no way she’s the Witch!” then its whole plan would collapse. It needed to search for a person who people would think that “it wouldn’t be strange if she turned out to be the Witch.”
As it observed the students, Octo came across one student.
That student who ran while crying should be… yes, that splendid silver hair should be Eterna’s.
She was a student who had interacted with Elrise, and was one of Farah’s hostages from before, according to Diaz’s report.
Obviously, she was not suited for its current plan.
Because none other than Elrise had declared that “she is not the Witch.” So if Octo chose her, it would be like putting the cart before the horse.
But she could be useful in luring Elrise outside.
Even if the Witch double had to be another person… she ought to be secured as well.
As it thought that, Octo slowly approached Eterna.
A day had passed since I had given weapons to Vernell’s group.
Today, the plan would depend on whether people would come to the 5th floor after the lesson had ended.
What do I do if no one comes? This was what I worried about … This one time, all I could do was depend on the goodwill of these respective people.
Actually, I didn’t think people who were forced into it could survive the fight against the Witch, so it was better for them if they chose to do it themselves rather than them being forced.
But if they did come, I would consider them as part of the underground infiltration.
Everything was Alexia’s fault. Yes, Alexia’s.
If only she did things like a final boss would, I could immediately end it on my own. But she would immediately escape if I approached her, so it was more troublesome than just simply fighting a strong enemy.
If Vernell’s group did participate… a difficult fight was unavoidable.
There were subordinates who had power similar to that of the Greater Demon class underground. There was also one more Greater Demon to encounter before the last fight.
Its name was “Octo,” which the Witch had dubbed as the “Shadow.”
It always blocked light magic attacks with dark magic and it was enveloped in darkness, making it look like a moving shadow. It was a disgusting looking enemy.
It was the closest aide to the Witch, and had her absolute trust.
Additionally, I had actually met it once before.
You see, there was that black shadow that tried to kidnap Vernell 3 years ago, remember? That was it.
It possessed the power to manipulate other creatures, so it saw Vernell as a splendid host.
Its identity was that of an octopus-type Greater Demon; the reason it enveloped itself in darkness was because it originally lived deep beneath the sea.
It actually used water magic within the darkness, so it was always surrounded by a sphere of water.
One might wonder if an octopus could be intelligent enough to be a Great Demon, but it actually was quite intelligent.
It was once imprisoned inside a bottle, but it managed to learn how to open the lid.
Its brain might be small, but it possessed 9 brains to move its 8 legs and it also had 3 hearts.
Each limb possessed over 200 suckers; to sum it up per leg, it would total to around 1600. Besides that, each sucker not only possessed an individual tactile capabilities, but was also an olfactory organ.
On top of that, each limb was capable of moving independently without any order from the brain.
Take this with a grain of salt, but… a minority of scientists had hypothesized that if octopuses had a longer life span, they believed that these animals could have developed enough intelligence to rule over Earth.
In other words, the octopus was delicious, dexterous, smart, tough, and delicious1. It was that kind of amazing animal.
What was it again?
Oh well. What I was curious about though, was the fact that Eterna wasn’t present.
As expected, she didn’t come. But it was the obvious thing to do for her. From Eterna’s perspective, she had no real obligation to risk her life at my request.
She had merely enrolled in the Academy since she was worried about Vernell; she had no intention of becoming a Knight in the first place.
So it was no surprise that this happened.
Rather, 7 people actually came, let’s be happy about that.
“Err, Elrise-sama… did you happen to see Eterna?”
Right as I was about to thank them for coming, Vernell suddenly spoke up.
He asked if I saw Eterna, but from what I could remember I didn’t see her.
Thinking about it then, she was also absent during the lesson that day.
I was thinking about a lot of stuff earlier so I didn’t really look around. I also didn’t get to do my routine of Bishoujo Watching this day.
But, I think I didn’t meet her.
…Did she catch a cold? Then it would be better for me to quickly visit and cure her.
“I asked the person rooming with her, but it seems she hasn’t come back since yesterday either.”
Didn’t the roommate think that was weird?
Was what I thought initially, though thinking about it again, it wasn’t really that strange.
It was not rare for Knight Academy students to stay up late and not to their own rooms.
They might be studying in the library until it was late, or maybe using the training room until the dead of night.
So it was normal that her roommate didn’t think it was strange and simply went to sleep ahead of her.
Then when they woke up and saw that the person was not there, they might have just thought that the other party had woken up early and was doing early morning training.
For that person, she might have only started to become suspicious when she didn’t see the other party during class.
“Did you search the places where she usually went?”
“I searched everywhere, but… I couldn’t find her at all.”
Vernell was dejected as he answered my question.
For Vernell, Eterna was akin to family.
If she suddenly disappeared, it was obvious he’d worry about her.
“What’s the possibility that she’s just hiding because she feels guilt for not coming here?”
“There’s no such thing… I think.”
Leila mentioned one possibility.
It was possible… since Eterna had decided yesterday to not come here, it could’ve made her feel guilty leading her to hide.
Alternatively, her not showing up could also be a sign of her rejection of my request.
Something like “Don’t involve me, go do all these dangerous things on your own! I don’t want to get involved, so today I will hide! Stay away from me — !”
If that was truly the case, then there wouldn’t be any problem. The problem lay in my lack of virtue.
But on the off chance that she had gotten involved in something troublesome, then it was a cause for concern.
No choice. We had to change our plans.
I couldn’t calmly talk until I confirmed Eterna’s safety.
“Let’s search for her. It’s best if it’s merely baseless anxiety, but we can’t ignore the possibility that she is in trouble.”
And so we began to search for Eterna.
I didn’t think anything had really happened, but we needed to confirm this just in case.
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