The man's eyes snapped open at the command, his mind momentarily hazy as the world struggled to come into focus in the pitch darkness. He felt ground underneath his fingers, slick and well eroded, but shaped as well, somewhere between natural and unnatural.
A cave? No, some kind of underground ruins.
There was no light at all, so even reinforcing his eyes did no good, but his other senses were sharpened to the point of telling him that no other individual was in there with him. But there was something else, magical energy pulsating through the ground underneath his fingers. Though the ground was uneven, the flow of the energy was not. A magic circle of some kind. Perhaps a summoning circle.
'Bingo!' The voice came again, echoing inside of his mind, congratulating the man on his deductive skills. 'Welcome to your rebirth, Demon Lord Ashtaroth, or should I call you Shirou? Whichever you prefer works for me.'
Shirou? Yes, the name brought things back to him. Memories of a man who fought to save and protect as many people as he could. And with the memories came the hill of swords, the Unlimited Blade Works.
"I'd prefer to keep the name Shirou, thank you." Shirou said, speaking calmly to the voice, as he stretched himself to sense where it was coming from. "I suppose I must have died. Hm. You wouldn't happen to be Alaya, would you?"
'Normally, people in your shoes start accusing me of being God and trying to tell me it is all a mistake, likely while crying their eyes out.' The voice began to laugh. 'No. I am not the Divine Will of Humanity. I am the Transcender, and I am the one who chose you to be reborn as the new Demon Lord Ashtaroth, Shirou-kun.'
"Is that so. I'm flattered to be considered for the position, though I must admit I would question your reasoning. Though if I have been revived as the demon of worldly logic, that would certainly explain why I am naked." Shirou said, holding up his arms. In demonology, Ashtaroth was often portrayed as being the far-seeing demon who preys on the vain and lazy using philosophy to win them over. He is also said to appear naked with a pair of wings growing from his back. "Honestly, you went through all of the trouble of transporting and reconstructing my soul, as well as my body, and you couldn't even give me a set of clothes?"
Since the 'Transcender' didn't seem inclined to give him any clothes, Shirou projected a pair for himself, the black body armor he had been accustomed to wearing. After he finished, he inspected his work, found that it wasn't being rejected by Gaia.
Odd. Was there something in the cave that was keeping the spirit's sight at bay, or did the normalizer simply not care about magic of that level in this world?
'Well, it looks like your sense of humor managed to arrive intact.' The voice giggled in response. 'But now that you are clothed, how about we meet face to face.'
Out of the darkness, a pair of arms appeared, easy to see despite the lack of light. After which came the head of a young girl followed by the rest of her body.
This 'Transcender' had the look of a 13 year old girl with shoulder length silver hair and pale blue eyes. She would have had an air of nobility and grace to her, if she didn't hold herself so casually and lost the goofy smile.
"You could have used any appearance that you wanted and you picked a girl barely into her teens? I suppose I should just be glad you were willing to clothe yourself." Shirou asked, raising an eyebrow. Yes, he was dealing with a true divine being, but that wasn't enough to make him school his mouth.
"And there you go joking around again. How refreshing. I normally have to deal with people asking me how they died, or why I am doing this." The being said with a smile.
"I don't really care how I died, and I am just assuming you wanted me to kill someone or something that is interfering with humanity's progress. I can't imagine any other reason why I would be picked." Shirou said, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Bingo again!" The girl said with a wide smile and a few lights thrown into the air as a sort of fanfair. "You see, you are the last of 72 Demon Lords to be revived, and I want you to either kill or subjugate the other 71! Do so, and you will not only become the Great Demon King, a practical God, but you will also bring an end to this pointless era of struggle between the Demon Lords!"
"Figured it would be something like that. I'm the last one to be revived, am I? I suppose that means I am starting at a disadvantage."
"This is exactly why I picked you to be the new Ashtaroth. You are right, all of the other Demon Lords have already had years to shape their castles and raise their armies, so you will be starting at a huge disadvantage. And my role as a 'Transcender' only permits me to transport you into this world. I can't interfere directly. Sorry, you're on your own."
"I see. Then, how is it that I should proceed? I have little to no knowledge of this world, or how this war between the Demon Lords is supposed to work." Shirou asked, neither surprised nor annoyed at the lack of help.
"This place is part of your Demon Lord's Castle. The castle has a core that it and you draw power from and will expand as you grow stronger and game more resources. However, if a Demon Lord's Core breaks, they will lose their power as a Demon Lord, so be careful to defend it. You will need to build an army, both to help you fight and to help you defend your keep."
"How annoying. If it is destroyed, do I die, or just lose the power of a Demon Lord?"
"You die. At least for now. Once you grow strong enough you might be able to survive its destruction and only be weakened, but that is a long way away."
"So, just abandoning the castle to go hunting Demon Lord's isn't an option." Shirou said with a tired sigh. He wasn't exactly known for his management skills, and building an army wasn't easy. "How exact am I even supposed to build an army? They don't just appear out of thin air and I have nothing."
"Hehehe, there is something here to help you with that. Something that all Demon Lords have. Come on, I'll show you." The Transcender said before leading Shirou further into the cave, to a more well lit area. "Tada! Great, isn't it."
"...Is it?" Shirou asked as he looked at what might have been a rather showy toilet.
"It's not a toilet! It's a 'Klein bottle'! You can use it to summon Monsters by throwing materials into it. For example, if you combine frozen earth and a rune, you will be able to create a polar golem. Combine a pregnant pig with a dried gecko and you will create an orc. That is how you will increase your minions." The divine child explained in an excited tone.
"...That sounds both very convenient and like a giant pain in the ass. Like it is going to take a lot of trial and error. Any way you can give me some kind of list as to what makes what?"
"Not really, since the results are also semi-random, and are influenced by your desire and general personality." The girl said with a shrug.
"...Every single thing that comes out of that pot is going to be a sword, isn't it?" Shirou said with a sigh.
"...I don't think so. ...I hope not." She said, not sounding too convincing. "H...how about I help you with your first summoning. It's only a little against the rules and you are a special case. So, what kind of minion do you want as your very first!?"
"Right now, information is the most important thing. I'll take whatever can give me the most of it." Shirou said with no hesitation at all.
"Alright, a Demon with the [Walking Database] ability it is. Do you have a preference of gender?"
"Not really. Though I suppose I'm used to being lectured by women who know more than I do." Shirou admitted.
"A girl it is then!" The Transcender shouted, cupping her hands together to create a ball of light before dropping it into the decorative toilet. "Now come to papa, legendary tier summons!"
Shirou squinted slightly as a giant flash of light came from the pot, before a figure started to rise up out of it. Then he turned his head away, as the light faded to reveal that the girl coming out of the pot was butt naked.
"You summoned her naked on purpose, didn't you." Shirou said, a little annoyed as the unusual divine child started to dress the demon woman, making comments about how large her breasts were.
"I did no such thing." The Transcender said, chin up.
"Oh, and I am supposed to believe that she was naturally summoned with butterfly ornaments in her hair, but no clothes."
"Well yeah, obviously." Came the reply, the girl grinning wide. "She is a Demon Girl after all, didn't you see her cute little tail and the mark on the inside of her thighs?"
"..." Shirou didn't say anything, as he did see the tail and mark. He curses his observant nature as the demon girl blushed. He wasn't the innocent virgin who would get embarrassed over the slightest sign of feminine skin, but he didn't want to start a working relationship with sexual harassment.
Only her response was different from what Shirou had expected.
"If you order me to, I would gladly let you have a closer look." She said, grabbing the hem of her skirt.
"That won't be necessary." Shirou said with a sigh, realizing this was going to be one of 'those' relationships. Well, it could have been worse.
He looked up at the girl who was going to be his asset for the near future.
Girl really was the best term for her, as while she was well developed, she appeared to be around 16. Her silver hair was cut shoulder length and held up with a pair of ornaments that she wore right underneath a pair of horns. The Transcender had decided to dress her up as a maid, an outfit that really seemed to suit her.
She was a cute young woman.
"Anyways. I'm to be the new Demon Lord Ashtaroth, though I would prefer if you called me Shirou. I will be in your care from now on." Shirou said, giving a proper introduction to the girl.
"Hey! How come she gets a proper introduction but I didn't!" The divine child interrupted with a little pout.
"Because you already knew my name and who I was. A better question would be why you never introduced yourself." Shirou responded with a raised eyebrow.
"Well, I don't exactly have a real name. I figured you'd just call me whatever you wanted." The girl replied.
"Um… I also don't have a proper name." The newly summoned demon maid said, shifting about.
"...Are you asking me to name you?" Shirou asked.
"Milord does not need to give me one, if he does not wish to." The girl said quickly.
"It isn't that I don't wish to, it's that I am not not very good at naming things." Shirou admitted scratching his chin. "How about… Eve. It is the name of the first woman in Judeo-Christian myth."
The girl's eyes lit up, seeming to be very happy about her new name.
"Oh, and what are you going to be calling me then?" The Transcender asked, crossing her arms under the chest that was a little too large for her barely teenage body.
"Nothing, you are the Transcender." Shirou said flatly.
"Favoritism!" The girl shouted angrily.
"Fine. Fine. How about… Astarte? It is the Goddess from whom the name Ashtaroth originated, and was a goddess of fertility and war. Seems appropriate, since you are a pervert and are ordering me to go to war."
"I am not a pervert!" Astarte shouted. "But I will take the name. Good luck, Demon Lord Ashtaroth. I'll be rooting for you." And with that, she vanished in a flash of light.
"What a strange divine." Shirou said before turning to Eve. "Alright, let's get to work immediately."