At the moment that Iris disintegrated, three naked people struggled to crawl out of the burning fissures that were spread throughout Centralia. One was an old man in his seventies, who was missing his right leg and had bullet scars covering his back. He was emaciated to the point where it seemed like he would collapse, but unlike his appearance, he was actually happy.
“Hahahahah~! I survived! I can’t believe I actually escaped from Hell!” However, after taking a few steps forward, he started coughing violently.
A deep and ominous voice bellowed “There’s a big difference between escaping and getting kicked out, Child.” When the smokey figure materialized in front of him, the old man jumped back and nearly fell down into the fiery pit.
Azazel chuckled and impatiently explained “Freedom isn’t free… You work for me now. If you want to stay alive, you need to make it worth my while. Kill three people, collect their souls and bring them back to me. That will buy you a single year of relatively healthy human life. Keep doing this and I’ll keep you alive. For every extra soul you bring to me, I’ll reverse your aging by a year.”
The old man gazed up at that shadowy monster and asked “What happens if I refuse to kill for you?” Although he had been to Hell, it didn’t necessarily mean that he was a bad person.
The smoky demon snickered, shrugged his shoulders and growled “What the fuck do you think happens?! You die, Dumbass! If you’re that much of a pussy, then you don’t even need to kill them! Just go to a hospital and become a goddamn janitor or some shit! I don’t care! But if you can’t make your payments on time, then I come and take your soul instead!”
“No, no, please don’t! I’m sorry! I’ll do it! Please don’t make me go back there… Anything but that…” The shrivelled old man wanted to keep begging, but he suddenly started coughing and hacking uncontrollably.
Azazel sighed, “Did I say that you would be able to go back to Hell? No, with a soul as pathetic as yours, there’s no way that they would let you return. I would just devour your mana and drop you down into one of the lower realms. It’s none of my business what happens to you after that. Maybe you’ll just cease to exist altogether? Anyway, you better get out of here before you suffocate and die.”
After that, the figure vanished and reappeared on the other side of town. There was a beautiful young Japanese woman in her twenties, laying unconscious, face down onto the asphalt. The demon casually grabbed her by the hair, then teleported a few miles outside of town. He dropped her face-first onto the street and ‘lightly’ kicked her onto her back. She didn’t have any scars or injuries on her flesh, but the moment she woke up, she let out a bloodcurdling scream.
Then she hurriedly scrambled away from the monster that was floating above her. She curled up in a ball and started crying, while trying not to look up at him.
“Stop freaking out! Anyway, you’re alive and back on Earth. Congratulations! Now, if you want to stay alive, you need to work for me. I’ll give you the same deal that I give to everyone else, Brat. Kill three people, collect their souls and bring them back to me. That will buy you a single year of relatively healthy human life. Keep doing this and I’ll keep you alive. For every extra soul you bring to me, I’ll reverse your aging by a year. If you don’t want to go on a killing spree, that’s fine too. If you hang out around places where people die, you should be able to pick up some souls eventually. See that number zero on the back of your left hand? Well, that’s your ‘Soul-Count’. Try not to get murdered this time.”
Without spending a moment longer to deal with the terrified woman, he teleported back into town and appeared next to a middle-aged African man. He had a bald head and there were many pure-white tattoos of skeletal creatures all over his muscular naked body. However, both of his pupils were covered by cataracts and his face had a skull tattooed over it.
As soon as Azazel appeared, the man turned to him and asked “How many years have passed this time, Old Friend? I feel as if I’ve been gone for ages…”
The shadowy demon was silent for a few seconds, before answering “Andrew Wormwood, if I remember correctly, you went back to Hell shortly after the American Civil War ended. It’s been about a hundred and fifty years. Heh~, I’m sure you’ve been surprised at how things have changed since then. You’ve barely gotten any stronger though. Did you spend all that time just screwing around?”
Andrew smirked, “When I died, you offered to give me a chance to be reborn with enough power to free my family… But when I returned to Earth, I found out that they were already dead. Once the war ended, I wanted to leave this world… To return to Hell. At first I wanted to become powerful, strong enough that no man would ever make me a slave again. It took me a while to realize how naive I was.”
“Yeah, I’ve been there and done that already. You can only play the game for so long until the game starts playing you. Why do you think I’ve been living on Earth for all this time? An unranked planet like this… The danger is pretty low, but it’s also impossible to get stronger. I have to work as a damn gateway guard and eat souls like candy just to survive!” Azazel sighed, then asked “So, are you going rogue, becoming a merc or have you decided to join Chaotica’s Legion for the upcoming invasion?”