Oh Kang-Woo left the cave and tried to calm down so that he could hold on to his sanity.
While he was doing that, Lilith emerged from the cave and sighed.
"Fuuu. It sure is tiring, dealing with a brat," she said.
Kang-Woo turned his head toward her with exhausted eyes.
"...Did it work?" he asked.
"Of course." Lilith smiled. "It is a bit too soon right now, but... as time goes on, he will become a puppet that follows my every order."
Turning Lucis into a puppet was an important part of his plan.
Kang-Woo had half given up on the plan since neither his mind-control Authority nor Vaal Zahak's magic was effective. However, Lilith was able to keep the plan alive, so that was fantastic.
'Although the process was a bit...'
Lilith's method had been horrifying to witness.
'Well, at least it was effective.'
Kang-Woo kept his mouth closed while making a resentful expression.
Lilith walked toward him and said sadly, "Please do not get the wrong idea, my king."
"I cut off all the tentacles I used, and I didn't use my main body, s-so..." she mumbled with a worried expression. "I-It wasn't an affair!"
That thought had never crossed Kang-Woo's mind. Rather, he was surprised that Lilith could even think such a thing.
"Urgh... I did not want to do something like that to a man who isn't you, but..."
"Oh, yeah. Thanks."
Kang-Woo nodded while making an awkward expression.
From Lilith's point of view, it was as if she had seduced a random brat in front of the man she loved, so it made sense she would think that way.
"It's okay. I trust you."
That was not a lie. Kang-Woo had spent a very long time with Balrog and Lilith. So, of course, he trusted and valued them.
He was cruel to his enemies, but he couldn't do the same to his allies. That would be in contradiction to his position as king. It was something that only a lunatic would do.
"Aah," Lilith uttered, hugging Kang-Woo with bright eyes.
He did not feel repulsed in any way since she was in her human form, so he let her do it.
"Right, this is not the time for this." Lilith backed off while shaking her head. "I have something to report."
There was a reason why she had looked for Kang-Woo.
"There has been a complication," Lilith said.
"There was a large Demon Cult branch that I've been keeping an eye on... It's the one I mentioned previously—the branch with thousands of members like the one in Tibet."
"What about it?"
"I have been leaking information to guide Lucifer's forces there to incite a full assault, but... the plan went awry."
Kang-Woo's gaze sharpened.
"The Demon Cult branch is trying to avoid an all-out assault."
"I was hoping for them to bring out some sort of trump card like what had happened with Mammon in Tibet, but... At this rate, the Demon Cult may abandon the branch entirely and run away."
Kang-Woo remained silent. He narrowed his eyes and thought about what he'd just heard.
'I don't like this.'
He had planned to make bad blood between Lucifer and the Demon Cult to wear their forces down and reap the profits. However, it seemed that the plan was going awry.
'What's going on?'
Kang-Woo even thought that he might have overestimated the Demon Cult.
He shook his head.
After returning to Earth, he'd continuously observed and fought against the Demon Cult. His intuition was so good that his conjectures were close to being facts.
'They're hiding something.'
Rather, they likely had multiple cards up their sleeve. He didn't even need more evidence to confirm that.
The Demon Cult had awakened Mammon, but it didn't seem like he was their leader. Kang-Woo had eaten him, but the Demon Cult continued running as usual. This wouldn't be the case if Mammon were their leader. In other words, there was someone else.
'What if it's the real Satan who's leading the Demon Cult?'
Nevertheless, Kang-Woo thought that was too much of a stretch and erased the possibility from his mind.
"In any case... I guess I have no other choice."
He couldn't stand still. He stood up.
"What will you do?" Lilith asked.
"They serve a being called the Aspect of Evil, but most of the cultists don't know who it is."
One of the freakish things about the Demon Cult was that they served the Aspect of Evil, but no one knew exactly who it was. They didn't even know if it was a demon or a human.
The Aspect of Evil had likely made it that way so they could stay under the radar. However, that was truly freakish even for a group that was closer to a fanatical cult than a religious organization.
'It's like they're serving a king they can't see.'
Kang-Woo had no idea why that being had concealed their identity to such an extent, but he could make use of it.
"That is true," Lilith remarked.
"In that case..." Kang-Woo raised the red demon mask, which he'd gotten more used to using than the Guardians' white mask. "I'll just have to become their king."
His wide smile was covered by the mask.
* * *
"W-We can't win."
"Why is a prince of Hell... A-Are there no instructions from above?"
In a certain region in Africa, there were dozens of people gathered in a giant base built under the desert. They were all wearing black robes despite the desert's sweltering heat.
The members present had the rank of cardinal and above. They were essentially the executive members of the Demon Cult.
"H-How could there be no instructions even at a time like this?! What the hell do they expect us to do?!"
"Wh-What about Madam Julia?"
"We can't get in touch with Madam Julia either."
There was a heavy silence, with their sighs being the only exception.n))OVelBIn
"What is the Aspect of Evil doing during a crisis like this...?" someone mumbled.
The Aspect of Evil... the being they served and worshiped—the king they served was hidden under a veil. The king hadn't appeared in front of his soldiers even in such a crisis, so it was obvious that their morale had plummeted.
"We have no choice but to retreat."
"Yes. I think that would be b—"
At that moment, a black Rift suddenly appeared in the air.
"What in the..."
The cultists looked at the Rift that had suddenly appeared.
A being who wore a red demon mask and was shrouded in darkness slowly walked toward them while applying immense pressure to the air.
They were feeling a huge amount of demonic energy that they'd never felt before, so they naturally thought of Lucifer.
The Demon Cultists trembled in fear.
The red demon mask turned toward them.
The being behind it questioned, [Are you not even able to recognize your own master?]
The unidentified being standing in front of the table lightly waved his hand.
The cardinal sitting at the head of the table was blown backward.
Then, an overwhelming amount of demonic energy pressed them down.
The being pulled out a chair back and sat down.
[You asked what the Aspect of Evil is doing, did you not?] the being said quietly, as if to clear the doubts of the Demon Cultists. [He is right before you.]
The red demon mask tilted.
[I am your father, the creator of the dark, the ruler of darkness.]
A viscous demonic energy surrounded the Demon Cultists.
[I am Satan,] he stated in a sharp tone.
"Oh, Aspect of Evil!!”
"Oh, Lord Satan!!"
The Demon Cultists dropped to their knees. They were thrilled.
Satan... Everyone on Earth had heard of that name.
The Demon Cultists trembled after discovering the identity of the Aspect of Evil whom they'd been serving.
[You are trying to run away?]
The faces of the Demon Cultists turned pale.
Satan spread open his hand, and the head of a Demon Cultist was pulled toward it.
He lightly squeezed, and the Demon Cultist's head exploded. An intense scent of blood filled the entire room.
[Demons do not retreat.]
The Demon Cultists lowered their heads.
[Why do you worship demons?]
Satan got up.
[There is only one reason why humans serve, worship, and admire demons. It has been decided since the beginning of time,] he said in a voice full of desire, yearning, and madness. [Eternal life? What is the point of living an eternal life as a slave? Desire? A desire that cannot be fulfilled is nothing more than a curse. You do not serve demons for a reason like that.]
[Power! The power to step over others and rise to the top! Was that not what all of you have been after?!] Satan shouted.
The Demon Cultists trembled, feeling chills run down their back.
[You want to run? You want to compromise? There are no such things for a demon! Crave! Fight! Take! Kill the enemy, and eat their flesh! Drink their blood! That is what we live for!!]
It hadn't been a minute since Satan had appeared, yet he was able to overwhelm the crowd with his charisma. The Demon Cultists left their mouths agape at Satan's overwhelming presence.
Then, Satan reached into his shroud of darkness and threw some things out onto the table.
Dozens of black gems scattered across the table.
[Eat,] Satan said. [I will give you my power. Fight. Kill the false prince of Hell who dares to condemn the Demon Cult.]
The eyes behind the red mask burned with a fiery gaze.
[Die for me.]
"Oh, Lord Satan!!"
"Oh, Aspect of Evil!!!!"
The Demon Cultists went nuts.
Behind the mask, Satan grinned.
* * *
A figure ran through a giant ice cave with hurried steps. The robe she wore left her face uncovered—a face horrifyingly disfigured by severe burns.
She ran while panting heavily.
Before long, a black sphere appeared in front of her. It was pulsating as if it were a giant's heart.
The woman, Julia Vilkova, shouted, "L-Lord Satan!!!"
A loud sound shook the surroundings. Frost fell to the ground, and the black sphere wriggled.
[What is it?] Satan asked.
"Umm, y-you see..." Julia stammered.
Satan writhed within the darkness.
[Speak. If you have awoken me for an inappropriate reason, I will—]
"Lord Satan." Julia gulped. "Satan has appeared."
There was a heavy silence.
'What the hell does that mean?'