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Chapter 4 - Astaroth. (2)

How did this come to be?

Astaroth was utterly confounded.

A demon’s true name is unknowable unless they themselves reveal it. Yet, how did this human know her true name, which she had never disclosed to anyone?

She had thought there would be no major issues when the mysterious human before her took the contract. She had dismissed his questions and the movements of his hands as inconsequential.

After all, the contract did not contain her true name, so it could not compel her actions.

But what was this? Why was her true name written on the contract?

It was inexplicable.

Even among demons, only one knew her true name.

The Creator of this world, the exalted celestial deity, Deus.

How, then, could a mere human know her true name?

Especially since she had always used aliases when active in the human world, there should have been no one in human history who knew her true name.

No priest had ever uncovered it, and not even the great lords who ruled over hell knew her true name.

Before her fall, she roamed the world not as Astaroth but under the name Ishtar. Whether angel or demon, a name was significant, and the celestial angels, too, would never disclose their true names.

But how could this be...?

Suspicion clouded Astaroth’s eyes. Perhaps the being before her was not merely human. Look at those eyes, staring intently at her.

She had never seen a human maintain their composure in the presence of a demon.

It was peculiar. Despite her declaring herself a demon, he showed no signs of fear or excitement. Even when offered the chance to have his heart’s desire within his grasp, he remained calm.

Astaroth realized she had been foolish.

She had thought him a suitable prey, lured by a moderate display of affection for Aris, feeling the tumult of intense emotions. But now, it seemed evident that he had been targeting her all along.

She should have been more cautious, at least until the contract was in the boy’s hands.

Even if she had not revealed her true name, a minimum level of vigilance was necessary... She clenched her teeth. It was too late.

She had become irrevocably bound by the demon’s contract.

Some might say, just ignore the contract, what’s the big deal?

But it was impossible. Astaroth could not escape the shackles of the contract. Indeed, no demon, not even the great lord of hell, Baal, could defy a demon’s contract once their true name was inscribed in it.

It was a ‘concept’ established from the very beginning, when the world was created and the gods banished the wicked to hell.

A complete disaster.

Astaroth couldn’t even think to hide her dismayed expression. Now, she was bound to fulfill the terms of the contract.

The real issue was... the contract did not specify an end date. After toying with demon contracts so often, she had finally met her match.

Familiarity had become a poison, entrapping her. She had thought she could hook the other party with a contract that seemed to favor the human, as she had done in the past.

But this time, Astaroth herself was the one who got hooked.

So, the question returns to the beginning. What kind of being is this boy before her?

How did Prah Lancel, a boy who should have known nothing of it, come to know her true name, which she had never disclosed to anyone?

She felt as if plunged into darkness.

* * *

Astaroth, bound to me, might have seemed foolish at a glance, but this was all a result of her complacency. Even though I had gained control of the contract, I couldn’t just sit back.

After all, I was only now fastening the first button of the entire scenario.

I had to move quickly from here on.

Only then could I carve out a place for myself within this story without twisting its flow too much.

I could monopolize the protagonist’s opportunities like in other possession stories. But that would certainly warp the story's flow, leaving me unable to cope with any situation.

Moreover, the biggest issue was that the character I possessed, ‘Prah Lancel,’ was pitifully lacking in talent compared to the protagonist, Ruslan Ares.

Even if I took the initiative, the talent of this body and my own limitations would eventually obstruct my path. Just because I entered Prah Lancel’s body doesn’t mean I’ll find some hidden talent like in those convenient stories.

I might be able to borrow some of Astaroth’s powers through the contract, but with my meager abilities, I couldn’t fully utilize even that. So, all I could do was... to follow the original narrative as closely as possible.

I recalled the actions of Prah Lancel. Tricked by the deceptive contract with Astaroth, he begins to offer everything he has to her.

Unlike me, he becomes her slave... a mere puppet of Astaroth.

Given her greedy nature, Astaroth targets the devastated Aris after Prah Lancel’s betrayal. Intense emotions are the finest feast for her, after all.

So, my actions should be... what Astaroth would have done in the original story.

To plunge Aris Winslet into hardship and bring her and Ruslan, who comes to her rescue, to the hidden pieces within the academy.

Even if that wasn’t Astaroth’s original intent, anyway.

In the flow of a story, while the process is important, the outcome it leads to is often even more crucial.

Ruslan had to acquire the Hidden Pieces within the academy, no matter what. Specifically, he needed to overcome adversity and attain enlightenment to secure those Hidden Pieces.

So, my task at hand is this.

“Astaroth.”

“...Why, what?”

“Don’t be so on guard. I have no intention of harming you.”

She still looked at me with a mix of suspicion in her eyes. No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find a trace of the relaxed demeanor she had just moments ago.

Instead, Astaroth’s eyes rolled around, as if she was deep in thought. In the original story, she was a character who was honest with her emotions and didn’t quite fit with schemes... Now, it’s clear as day, whatever she’s thinking is written all over her face.

She seemed desperate to find a way out, but the contract was already finalized, leaving her no escape from me.

I put it to her plainly.

“Rolling your eyes won’t help.”

“What?”

“The contract is finalized, and unfortunately, the contract you drafted doesn’t have a term. That means... you can’t get away from me, just like how you’ve exploited others.”

“...”

Astaroth’s eyes stopped rolling. Her expression began to twist.

“What are you planning to do with me?”

“I don’t have any particular plans for you. Just, you know, help me out a bit. And cooperate with what I’m going to do next.”

“Hmph. Fine. Alright, bold human Prah Lancel who ensnared a demon. How can I assist you?”

Despite her cooperative tone, Astaroth’s face was twisted in displeasure.

“For starters, transfer some of your power to me. I’ll explain the details later.”

“Tch. Fine.”

Astaroth made a reluctant face, but she couldn’t defy me. She had no choice but to obey.

Her magical power began to seep into me gradually.

My body jolted with the intense flow of power. It was inevitable; after all, Astaroth was a high-ranking demon, albeit a sloppy one.

However, as the tumultuous magic began to stabilize, I started seeing peculiar things in my field of vision. Azure currents. It was the unmaterialized magic becoming visible to the naked eye.

The demonic power, the Demonic Eye, allows one to see the flow of magic. This ability would greatly compensate for my otherwise meager powers.

Additionally, I could feel a significant enhancement in my physical abilities. It was as if power was surging within me. With this, I should be able to assert dominance over the others once my confinement ends and I return to the academy.

After all, we are only in the early chapters of the story.

“Is this enough? I was worried that transferring any more might be too much for your body to handle.”

“It’s sufficient.”

“What else do you need help with besides this?”

“Harassing Aris Winslet.”

“What?”

My unexpected request twisted Astaroth’s expression into something grotesque. Understandably so. The thought of putting Aris Winslet, whom I had nearly violated, into trouble would naturally elicit such a reaction.

“Wasn’t your reason for contracting with me to have Aris Winslet?”

“No. I have other matters to attend to. I can’t divulge them just yet.”

“Other matters... Well, whatever. Given my current state, I don’t have the luxury to question your antics. And you’ll provide me with a place to stay, right? That’s part of the contract too.”

“Of course. I’ll arrange something luxurious for you. And after my confinement ends, I’ll probably be expelled from the dormitory. You can just accompany me from then on.”

She nodded quickly, perhaps resigned to her fate. Bound by the contract, she knew struggling was futile.

“Your reputation is going to be in ruins, you know. If you mess with Aris Winslet and then are seen frolicking with another woman.”

“I don’t care. The opinions of others are irrelevant to me. Besides, Aris and I were never engaged. If anything, a tarnished reputation might even work in my favor.”

It would make my plans a bit easier to execute.

“What are you thinking... Anyway, call me Astira in front of others. Unless you plan to broadcast my true name far and wide.”

“I’m aware, Astira. I’m counting on your cooperation from here on out.”

“Fine.”

Astira sighed deeply.

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