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 Cerberus

Even the most powerful pit fiends in Baator lived under a shadow of anxiety and fear. Although they possessed formidable power, that was compared to ordinary devils. They were direct subordinates of Archdevils instead, subject to more stringent requirements and treatment. Even the slightest thoughtlessness would engender punishment.

The harsh treatment and death threats from their superiors was a curse no devil could escape- unless of course it was someone at the peak of society, an Archdevil!

Consequently, when the seven Archdevils publicised their agreement to let their underlings battle for the Second Hell, many pit fiends went wild. The Dark Eight were only the first wave of entrants, and many more devils would end up participating. Even the dragons and gods of Avernus couldn't resist the opportunity.

Be it the Dark Eight or their colleagues, everyone had become as frail as paper in front of the great temptation that was the lordship of Dis. As cunning as devils were, the backstabs and assassinations that followed were only expected. Now, even greater devils on par with the Dark Eight did not expose their backs to anyone else...

Just as the Dark Eight were taking over the Iron Tower, a desolate bugle horn resounded as an army under a different banner appeared on the horizon of the City of Iron. It was formed entirely of kytons, devils covered in twisting iron chains, and looked like an elite troop.

"The kytons of the Third Hell, underlings of the Lord of Avarice! They came so quickly!" A pit fiend of the Dark Eight lamented.

"Get ready! The army has completed their battle preparations... Additionally, shouldn't we send someone over to negotiate?" Devils preferred small-scaled conflicts over larger battles, or even ingenious diplomacy as a method to solve their problems.

"I'm afraid it's too late for that. After all, the attraction of the lordship is something that can't easily be extinguished with words alone. We need to fight, to let them see our true power," another member of the Dark Eight proposed.

"No! I propose that we immediately send out emissaries!" Yet another devil immediately suggested something else.

"Look..."

A few pit fiends looked towards the direction the others had pointed at, and soon they discovered that two more armies had drawn closer, harbouring evil designs. The flames that burnt on their body, as well as the unique ice devils amongst them, revealed their identities.

"The armies of the Fourth and Fifth Hells?" another pit fiend lamented, "As expected. With the distance our reinforcements need to travel from the Eighth And Ninth Hells, we're at a disadvantage here. It'll take a very long time..."

"Let's negotiate." The Dark Eight very quickly came to an accord. Negotiation did not damage the prestige of a devil, and in the first place they never really cared about something as useless as their reputation.

Tens of pit fiends gathered together quickly. There were no blockheads among them, any such candidates long since wiped out by their subordinates' plots. Each one was shrewd and insightful.

All the pit fiends of Baator had come to an agreement in a hurry, resolving the situation. Each of them would enter a limited portion of the tower. They would compete fairly with the Iron Tower at their centre, aiming to win the unlikely prize of becoming an Archdevil.\

......

Baalzephon, the first to infiltrate the Iron Tower, had currently brought Leylin to a black door. The enormous door was made of cast iron, with terribly twisted sculptures protruding out of it. The most prominent one was a model of a three-headed cerberus, filled with a sense of ruthlessness.

'This door seems to depict Beelzebub's rise and history,' Leylin meticulously looked through the sculptures on the door. Looking at the characteristics of the devils and other beings there, it seemed to proclaim Beelzebub's feats in style, embellishing them with beauty and praise.

Once they reached the door, Leylin immediately discovered that several of the images matched with Beelzebub's memories, explicitly confirming his position.

"Dammit... DAMMIT! The autocannibalism ceremony consumed half of my energy." Unlike Leylin who was calm and collected, Baalzephon was flustered and utterly discomforted. His deliberate curses clearly demonstrated his coercive intentions. At the very least, Leylin felt that Beelzebub's earlier arrangements had taken out three quarters of Baalzephon's strength. However, he still had more than enough strength to suppress a mere horned devil.

'Hmm? Don't tell me that he wants to pull something on me to intentionally expose the flaws in the door?' Leylin's eyes flashed. Devils weren't chaotic like demons were, there was a particular reason for everything they did. This was especially true between superiors and their subordinates. Even the harshest of superiors required sufficient evidence to punish their underlings.

For example, Leylin was currently masquerading as the horned devil Leycian. Although he posed a threat to Baalzephon, the horned devil had always obediently followed his master's orders and completed his job. Even the pit fiend couldn't recklessly dispose of him.

Naturally, if Leylin did not resist the coercion, and executed his own subversive plot now that Baalzephon was weak, the pit fiend could crush him without second thought.

"I feel like we've reached the core of the Iron Tower, my Lord." It was a great pity that Leylin's current persona didn't give Baalzephon the slightest opportunity to do so. Instead, he acted like the most devoted of subordinates, standing protectively in front of his master.

"This is the Palace of Gluttony, the core of the lord's power. Rumours say-" Leylin happily played the role of a guide.

"What do the rumours say?" A regretful look flashed across Baalzephon's eyes. It was clear that he felt disappointed that Leylin had not taken the bait.

However, keeping Leylin with him seemed to have been the right decision. After all, it was rare for a devil to have any understanding of the Iron Tower, even if it was just a few rumours. Perhaps it was a clue that would end up being of extreme importance.

"They say that this place is guarded by a contracted ancient devil!" A coarse voice sounded, answering Baalzephon's question. However, it was not Leylin who had replied.

"57 years! It's already been a full 57 years... Beelzebub has not supplied me with enough souls and flesh, and seems to have completely disappeared..." Roars of rage and dissatisfaction sounded, and a tremendous voice seemed to ring in Baalzephon's heart.

*Bzzt!* The enormous iron doors in front of him rumbled, and the statue of the cerberus suddenly grew more lifelike, a bright glow surrounding it. This red eyes opened one after the other, emitting a radiance that was a thousand times more dazzling than rubies. A trace of purple greed flashed within that red, demonstrating a thirst for blood and souls.

"This is... A hellhound!" Baalzephon retreated further and further. Hell was not limited to the devils. There were also hellcats, hellhounds, nightmares and even humans who'd moved here from the prime material plane.

These beings had strong experts amongst them, with strength on par with greater devils. One could build the most perfect of fortresses, and hire them to protect it through contract. This hellhound greatly surpassed others of its species, but had been confined by Beelzebub in this tower.

"I am the King of Hellhounds- Soul Devourer Chekov!" A tremendous clang resounded, and the cerberus leapt out of the iron door. Its body was wreathed in flames as it grew in stature, only the tip of its being still connected to the door.

"The King of Hellhounds?" Baalzephon rather speechlessly looked at the enormous Cerberus in front of him, a crafty glint in his eye, "Then why is someone who is powerful enough to lead an entire race here?"

*Rumble!* It was clear that Baalzephon's words had touched a sore spot. Chekov suddenly roared, and infernal flames spread all around them.

"It was Beelzebub! That greedy devil, the cruel glutton! He deceived me!" Without waiting for Leylin and Baalzephon's coercement, Cerberus began to hog the conversation, "He trapped me with a fight, the loser having to serve the winner for 9900 years..."

In this moment, even Baalzephon looked at Cerberus with eyes of pity. Engaging in a game of chance with an Archdevil never ended well. The pathetic hellhound was lucky it didn't get crushed to death. It being shackled here was natural, and with almost ten thousand years of a contract it definitely wouldn't end well.

"What did the competition entail?" Leylin asked inquisitively.

"Souls. I competed with Beelzebub to see who could devour the most souls in a short span of time," Cerberus' three heads all drooped, hanging low with an air of dejection. "Originally, my three heads could devour even a city of souls in an instant. However..."

Leylin was inwardly laughing to himself, and even Baalzephon shook his head and sighed. Competing in an eating competition with the Lord of Gluttony? One had to wonder whether this King of Hellhounds had a defective brain, or was actually a demon in disguise.

"What a sorrowful tale..." Baalzephon finally said, summing up the incident.

"Well then! None of you have the slightest trace of Beelzebub's aura on you. Are you intruders?" Cerberus' gaze glinted with danger.

"Although I hate that fellow, I regret that I must follow the rules of the contract. I will devour the souls of all intruders!" Cerberus grinned, revealing a mouthful of towering fangs and a barbed, scarlet-red tongue.

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