After that, it became clear we would be able to reach the deepest parts of the dungeon without much incident.
There were still attackers, but even they didn’t believe that their attacks would succeed.
And so, we arrived at the dungeon room right before the crystal room.
Not one monster was in sight, only a gigantic tree.
The ceiling of the dungeon room was quite high, yet the tree had reached even that height.
As for its roots, they were thick and stretched deep into the ground. Moreover, they pulsated much like veins.
The form of the beautiful, young Demon Lord could be seen within the trunk of the tree. Him wearing the bark as skin confirmed he had become one with this gigantic tree.
“Is he using [Awakening]?”
By pushing ourselves, we Demon Lords could obtain an incredible power.
In my case, my [Awakening] made my [Creation]—which allowed me to materialize certain things in my memories—to be upgraded to [Create]—which forced objects before me to evolve to better versions.
Obviously, such absurd powers had downsides: using it degrades our rationale and, if used for too long, it also shortens our lifespans.
“I made the path easier, yet it still took you this long, [Creation] Demon Lord.”
“Unlike you, I’m careful. Your defense becoming even more pathetic doesn’t mean I should let my guard down.”
If I had any suspicion that the enemy was just pretending to have given up, I would proceed as cautiously as I had before, if not more so.
“I see, I see, you’re not one to underestimate the enemy. But then, why have you come here? The winner should be clear, so shouldn’t you leave the attack to your monsters and head back to your dungeon to prevent an upset from happening?”
“Quite the contrary, to prevent upsets is precisely why I’ve come here.”
In the rare event that the enemy side has something that could defeat Kuina, I was to release a trump card whose only redeeming quality was its crazy combat prowess.
Since it has to be in my [Storage] until such a time, my presence in the frontlines was needed.
Obviously, it was dangerous for me to be here, but I was confident Aura would be able to detect and prevent any and all surprise attacks.
As such, the best place for me to be in was here.
“I see…then, I suppose I should thank you for being such a diligent opponent. Very well, let us begin. I’ll risk all I have and give you a worthy challenge.”
“Before that, I’d just like to confirm: is that form because of your [Awakening]?”
“Yes, it is. When trees gather, a forest is formed. And what is a forest but the cycle of life. When a life ends within a forest, its remains shall serve as nourishment for others, thus strengthening the whole forest. I am a [Tree], but by [Awakening], I am, the, [Forest], itself.”
His breathing became more and more labored.
Moreover, the giant tree that he was buried in pulsated more than ever before.
So, it really is that kind of ability.
We had suspected as much, but had no choice than to keep killing enemy monsters. Since we entered the dungeon, we had killed about 700 of them.
The [Tree] Demon Lord, by default, was strong enough: he could make A rank medals and should have already reached his maximum level. If the raw power that [Awakening] brought as well as the power given by those 700 monsters was added in, he should be way stronger than even an average S rank monster.
After he finished his speech, the giant tree shrunk down.
That was not to say that it became weaker; its power was compressed as it shrunk down.
Additionally, the more the tree shrunk down, the more it became humanoid.
As for the [Tree] Demon Lord himself, his form vanished and was replaced by a wooden doll.
This doll had no expression at all, yet it felt like it was laughing.
But then, all of a sudden, it vanished. In the next moment, I heard a loud explosion.
Before I realized it, Kuina was standing in front of me.
One of her hands was stretched forward and had some flames left on it. She had combined a palm strike with her flames. The result, the doll was lodged into the wall ahead.
“This guy, he’s strong. Kuina used serious flames, but he didn’t burn.”
Kuina commented so.
Her flames were tens of thousands of degrees, plus the ones she used this time also had a bit of her golden red flames.
Her golden red flames were the very concept of fire. It should have been able to everything—even space and time—yet the wooden doll, which one would think was weak to flames, did not burn down. In simpler terms, whatever defense it had bested Kuina’s attack.
And then, they vanished again.
“My eyes can’t keep up with them. How about you two?”
“Mhm, me neither.”
“With my normal vision, I wouldn’t be able to either. Through my Jade-Green Eyes though, I somehow can. Right now, Kuina-chan’s at quite the disadvantage. Her physical abilities are being beaten, her flames aren’t effective, and the enemy has insane regeneration. Most of all, Kuina-chan’s protecting us.”
Aura’s eyes were shining as she watched the fight.
Aura’s wind was protecting us from the aftereffects of the fight, but the fact that Kuina still needed to be mindful of our safety spoke volumes to how dangerous their fight was.
“At a disadvantage, huh.”
“Yes. Thanks to Kuina-chan’s battle experience, she’s ahead in terms of finesse and tactics. In terms of raw capabilities, well, she’s about one or two steps behind.”
One or two steps behind…then…
“You’re saying it’s an easy win?”
“Yes. No problems at all.”
At that moment, something slammed against the floor and made a large crater. At the center was the wooden figure, singed.
“Ho–ugh–how, a single monster, this strong”
Such sounds came from the doll.
Kuina was currently hovering in the air.
Moreover, golden flames were being emitted by her tail.
As always, this power needed quite a bit of time to activate. In addition to that, this power also needed Kuina to feel a danger to her life.
Due to the lack of opponents that could push her that far, I had only ever seen this used twice.
…on the other hand, for her to use it now stood as proof of how big of a threat the [Tree] Demon Lord was.
“Finally, all preparations are done. Kuina’s ready to fight seriously!”
A fire lit in her eye, Kuina announced so with a cheerful voice.
The wooden doll, which was still in the crater below Kuina, then sent out countless wooden spears.
Given that Kuina was unable to thoroughly burn the enemy earlier as well as that she was in mid-air right now thus limiting her movement, she should be in quite the danger here.
Yet, she just smiled.
The golden flames in her tail intensified until they became golden red and covered her entire body.
When the spears made contact with her, instead of being hurt, the spears turned into ashes.
“Behold, this is Kuina’s true power. Burn this into your memory!”
Without any signs of stopping, her flames only grew more powerful by the second.
This was just the first few steps.
“[Aether Fox Tribute Ritual]!”
A fox that has accumulated power over the years could ascend to be a Mythological Fox.
By accumulating even more power, a Mythological Fox would grow an additional tail. By the ninth, it would be referred to as a Nine-tailed Fox.
From then on, each milestone would now cause the tails to decrease. When there were only four tails left, the monster in question would then take its first step toward divinity.
It would now be called a Celestial Fox.
It was an S rank at this point, but its journey could still continue.
Like before, the number of its tails would decrease as it gained more power. This time, once all of its tails were gone, it would ascend into an Aether Fox, a being beyond the scale of monster ranks.
And so, Kuina’s tail turned to flames which was then absorbed by her body.
Her clothes were then all extinguished by her flames.
Next, her body began to age up. From being a little girl to a young woman to a fully grown one. Her beauty and feminine charms grew along each step. She had exchanged her fluffy tail and extreme cuteness for beauty beyond compare.
Lastly, a celestial robe made of her flames wrapped around her arms.
“Like always, she’s so beautiful.”
“Mhm, so charming.”
Despite being of the same gender, both Aura and Rorono were captivated by the beauty of such a grown-up Kuina.
Even I had an urge to devote myself completely to her.
While like that, Kuina smiled at the [Tree] Demon Lord once again.
A beautiful yet dangerous smile.
Almost pissing himself and shouting like mad, the [Tree] Demon Lord launched wooden spears toward Kuina with all his might and then some. His fear of Kuina let him remove his limiters and thus he was able to empower his attacks further at the cost of his life force.
Not only was each spear loaded with more magic power than before, there were also so much more spears than earlier.
Yet, after all that, the spears burnt to ashes as soon as they touched the golden red flames covering Kuina’s body.
With another smile, Kuina swooped down from the sky.
It was like a goddess was descending upon the land.
She then gently stretched out a hand toward the [Tree] Demon Lord’s chin.
The [Tree] Demon Lord, frightened, tried to resist and push her away, of course. However, whatever he tried, it was burned to dust by the flames around Kuina.
“I’m so glad you’re strong. Thanks to you, I was able to get serious for the first time in a long while.”
Her hand now on the enemy’s chin, she let her golden red flames quickly spread to him.
Just like that, the life of the [Tree] Demon Lord, who should have gained enough power to make even S rank monsters a disappointing joke, was extinguished.
Thus marked the end of the [War].
The grown up Kuina promptly headed my way.
She was wearing a smile, but it was completely unlike the ones that drove the [Tree] Demon Lord mad.
“Oto-san, a grand reward please!”
Normally, I would have laughed at the disconnect between Kuina’s appearance and how she expressed herself. This time though, I was simply enchanted.
Like a moth to a flame, I moved closer toward her.
When I placed my hands on her shoulder, it was like my reasoning broke. I felt that no matter what, I wanted to have the beautiful girl in front of me.
And so, against my better judgment, I wrapped my arms around her and embraced her.
“Oh no, Kuina’s out of time”
Before my thoughts and actions could go further, flames once again enveloped Kuina. It touched me as well, but I was completely unharmed.
Next, something formed on top of her butt that soon resembled a tail. It grew fluffier and fluffier until Kuina’s soft and fluffy tail made a full return. Also, her body changed back to before.
At the same time, the craziness I felt was gone.
That was dangerous. Just a little bit more and I might have lost something important as a person.
“…geez, just a little bit more and…”
Still naked, Kuina expressed her frustration.
But then, somebody smacked the back of Kuina’s head.
“What were you doing to Father?”
That somebody was Rorono. She was angry. So angry that she forgot herself and called me father instead of master.
“Well, Kuina figured that if it’s with the adult Kuina, maybe Oto-san would do what he was doing with Marcho-sama. You know, that thing when we peeked at them.”
“No, absolutely not.”
“You’re just jealous you can’t be an adult yourself. Why don’t you drink some milk before you get in Kuina’s way?!”
“Oh, you’ve said it now. Are you ready for the consequences?”
Rorono stared at Kuina fixedly, while Kuina began doing some shadowboxing.
“Stop it, you two. First of all, Kuina-chan, put on some clothes. Next, Rorono-chan, please learn to not get angry at every little jab.”
Thankfully, Aura managed to intervene before a fight between the broke out.
The two were close friends, but they somehow fight over the strangest of things.
“At any rate, the [War]’s over.”
“Yeah, complete victory!”
“Mhm, their bark hurt more than their bite.”
“Let’s go break the crystal, shall we?”
Again, the [Tree] Demon Lord was by no means weak.
After all, he had gained enough power to crush even S rank monsters.
However, the power boost he gained from his 700 monsters just couldn’t compare to the 9,999 B rank monsters’ worth of magic power Kuina had saved up for her transformation.
Anyway, now that our victory is official, we should now start thinking what we’ll do with this world. I’ll go ask everyone for their opinions later.
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