‘So she used the body on the other side of the transmission to supply energy for the delivery?’ The A.I. Chip’s light flashed as it recorded the incident, allowing Leylin to see through the ability that the night hag had displayed.
It required much less energy to send a phantom than one’s true body. Had it only been that, Lucas would still have had some hope of survival. However, the night hag had sent over a scroll of information, something that Lucas had to act as the energy for.
Lucas had completely disappeared, the price for the sheepskin scroll Leylin now held. All his energy had been poured into delivering it.
‘So not even a single petitioner’s energy is spared. Devils are truly masters of accounting and meticulous plans. If I hadn’t factored Lucas’ cost into the price, she absolutely would’ve demanded a greater payment from me…’
After this deal, Leylin’s understanding of the the cunning and shrewdness of devils had deepened.
‘However… The line of contract that I saw on his body was real. Although I had to pay a little, I got what I wanted in the end.’
[Beep! Scroll scanned. 13.86% is fake or miscellaneous, discarded. Remaining portions merged with relevant items. Organising… Transmitted to host’s memory.]
‘Looks like the night hag didn’t deceive me. Is it because of my strength?’ Leylin stroked his chin, ‘Also, the souls of these fanatics are unexpectedly useful.’
Leylin had used the dormant souls of some of Akaban’s worshippers for the trade. Souls were an absolute, hard currency used in the abyss and hell, and in order to gain enough souls devils and demons disregarded the churches to conduct massacres. They stepped over the corpses of their comrades in their rush to the prime material plane, and were the causes of much slaughter.
Compared to the painstaking efforts of those demons and devils, Leylin had simply broken into a demigod’s shrine and acquired several hundred years of Akaban’s soul reserves. Sakartes’ reserves of pious and powerful souls had been accumulated over several hundred years, and they were a treasure that could even tempt Archdevils.
Leylin had no way of turning those believers’ souls into his own petitioners, and directly absorbing them was far too much of a waste. Using them like this could be considered as making use of trash.
‘However…’ Leylin’s lips curved into a faint smile, as if he was looking at some sinister scene in the future. ‘A native’s soul is indeed different from souls from the prime material plane. The contamination from those souls is something that even gods dread.’
The power of faith could be considered the strength of a soul, and the faith of a native was poison that even gods dared not touch. The contamination originated from the depths of their souls, and those without Leylin’s power of observation wouldn’t be able to tell at all.
Needless to say, Leylin had faked the souls of Akaban’s worshippers for the trade. He’d made them look no different from ordinary souls on the surface. Many demons and devils would be affected once these souls became a part of the general market, something Leylin looked forward to from the depths of his heart.
Now that he had an accurate map, Leylin picked up his pace. As he drew closer to the Bronze Citadel, more and more devils appeared around him. It seemed like he could see armoured devils marching in their camps every day. However, perhaps it was due to his lawful alignment or his powerful aura, few came over to bother him.
He arrived at Bronze Citadel after a peaceful journey. This city was known for being cast into 12 concentric rings of sturdy bronze walls. Each ring was equipped with a powerful and sinister war machine, which was both formidable and serious.
When Leylin first laid eyes on the Bronze Citadel, he felt as if he was looking at a steel beast laying on the ground. There were many lesser devils and imps working hard to reinforce the citadel’s defences alongside petitioners. One could see a lot of bone-like scaffolding and supporting pillars, and hammers and shovels were laid out nearby. The citadel was being expanded, with no end in sight.
Although all signs pointed towards a bustling scene outside, the imps, lesser devils, and petitioners were performing their work methodically. The entire perimeter of the fort was like a huge and precise machine, ordered in its motion.
Visitors lined up outside the Bronze Citadel in rows, accepting the inspection of the garrison. They entered the fort in an orderly fashion.
Had this been the abyss, everyone was likely to have broken into a riot long ago. However, devils were different. They were lawful creatures, obeying the system was in their nature. The Nine Hells especially favoured such ‘good children’ who abided by the rules.
Leylin could only shrug and join the queue. A group of lesser devils were in charge of this area. Most of them were barbazu, otherwise known as bearded devils. They had the goat horns and scales characteristic of devils, as well as wings of black bone. Most were armoured, and one of their hands looked like a steel hook. They were covered in thorny barbs, and the flickering cold light and poison intimidated others immediately.
These bearded devils sometimes worked as guides for evil souls, but it seemed like that wasn’t available here. As a result, their tempers were rather poor. Leylin had seen several poor devils dragged away in front of him, suffering the torture and interrogation of chain devils, kytons.
The queue slowly but steadily moved forwards, and very soon it was Leylin’s turn.
“State your name, identity and proof of your allegiance…” a two-headed barbazu said from in front of him. There was an imp nearby as well, its broken wings pattering behind its back and evil eyes filled with greed. Flames continuously cycled between its mouth and the rest of its face, just as poisonous insects crawled in and out of its various orifices.
“I’m from the Second Hell, Dis. I belong to the lord’s legions, under the jurisdiction of pit fiend Azlok,” Leylin parted his hair a little, and a powerful aura transmitted out to form an obscure mark.
Nobody in Baator was truly without a master. The devils were strictly restricted by the hierarchy, and each one had a hierarchy. Their superiors were governed by even more powerful devils, going all the way up to the eight Archdevils of hell.
“From Dis as well! That place is getting more and more chaotic after the Archdevil disappeared…” The imp mumbled to itself, revealing a fearful expression on its face.
Leylin’s aura was undoubtedly that of a greater devil, and the imp had only just become a lesser one. Although superiors didn’t have jurisdiction over their colleagues’ subordinates, Leylin could easily kill it if he so wished.
Thinking back to its previous plots and the competitors who now eyed its position, the imp’s heart grew cold. It subconsciously switched to a more pandering expression.
“There’s been many devils from Dis here recently, you should take care, my Lord.”
“Mm, I hope to hide this record for now, and obtain news about my rivals,” Leylin said in a low voice while nodding.
“Oh?” The imp’s expression grew sluggish, but it was soon pulled aside by the bearded devil behind it. “Ten coins. Or other riches. I’ll give you the news immediately.”
Devils could very easily be bribed. Leylin could not help but feel slightly sorry for those poor devils who could not afford the bribe before him.
“Here, give me the information,” he carelessly took out a flaxen bag and opened it a little, revealing the lustre of the souls within.
Be it coins, items, or riches, everything had an equivalent amount of souls in Baator. The imp and the bearded devil glanced at each other, before very happily replying in unison, “No problem, we have a deal!”
With all that done, Leylin finally entered the Bronze Citadel. Many lesser devils mingled with each other here, before leaving for the Blood War. With lower devils and petitioners thrown into the mix, it formed a clamorous and lively bazaar.
Leylin was currently strolling through the streets, thinking back to the information he’d just received. His eyes held a trace of wistfulness.
‘The impact of Beelzebub’s disappearance was greater than I ever expected.’ Leylin could not help but inwardly sigh at this. The laws of hell were incomparably strict. The devils formed a vast and precise hierarchy, and the distinction between ranks was sternly enforced. At the peak of this hierarchy was Asmodeus, the Supreme of Baator and the master of the Dark Eight.
The Dark Eight, Asmodeus’ eight generals, had many greater devils and pit fiends beneath them, each one in possession of a great many subordinates. They put in great effort in their pursuit of status and power.
Normally, all this led to a tranquil environment. However, once one of the cornerstones of the hierarchy was lost in Beelzebub, it created a chain reaction that led to a complete collapse. His disappearance had caused the strict hierarchal network to lose a majority of its social fabric, causing chaos in Dis.
If it wasn’t for the remaining 7 Archdevils taking action to instil order, perhaps the second layer of hell would have been sucked into the abyss. The devils would have become the laughing stock of the entire world if that happened, nailed down to the rack of shame.
Still, a lot of pit fiends and other Archdevils contested for the position of Dis’ Lord. Had Asmodeus been the true ruler of Baator, he could’ve recommended a greater devil or pit fiend from his own faction to the position, or sent his own children. However, he was only nominally the Supreme, and his authority was limited to the Ninth Hell Nessus.
Besides, Beelzebub was only missing, not dead. His authority hadn’t disappeared completely yet.
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