Frosty white light rained down from the skies as the Dalgeom Sect’s Pixie continuously swung Durandal in a frenzy. A master of the Ice Fairy Sword Dance, Yeunghi could easily summon the ice elements to do her bidding, even though they were a rare variant of the water element. Doing her best to completely glaciate the raging waves, the Spirit Emperor felt a significant amount of mana leave her body.
BANG!!! BANG!!! BANG!!!
Unfortunately for the Pixie, there was no way the World Serpent would simply let her freeze its domain. Summoning out waves of torrential mana, the Tier 9 Spirit Beast tore up any ice chunks that formed on the bay by creating tornadoes and tsunamis with its mind. Furthermore, to prevent the water from freezing again, the World Serpent breathed out a dense fog of warm mist, drastically increasing the bay’s temperature.
“Senior Brothers! You have to stop it!” Yeunghi screamed out with clenched teeth. Swinging Durandal as rapidly as she could, Yeunghi attempted to break through the fog, but the opened mouth of the World Serpent made it impossible.
“Got it!” Jimga closed his eyes and started to chant like a holy monk. At that moment, particles of pure white light emitted out from every pore in his body and begun to congregate behind the Sword Tyrant.
Confused on what the human before it was doing, the World Serpent, Ao, shut its mouth and diverted all of his attention on the insignificant ant that was releasing a tremendous amount of mana for no apparent reason. However, when the holy light behind Jimga began to take shape, Ao’s expression turned into one of understanding.
A humongous giant, one that was three times the height of the tallest cliff in Mort Bay, came into being and pointed its sword straight at the Spirit Beast. Seemingly made out of clay, the giant was fully armoured with a divinely sharp sword in its grasp. With a valiant battle cry, the giant sliced the air, instantly dissipating the cyclones and tsunamis that were threatening the land.
Bemused by its new opponent, the World Serpent created over a million water tendrils and attempted to bind the sword-wielding giant. However, instead of trapping the titan, the water tendrils it formed passed right through it, allowing it to launch yet another attack on the World Serpent.
It was common sense to take advantage of your opponent when their guard had been dropped. However, what if there was no need to guard in the first place?
The transcendental blade, which seemed capable for slicing even diamond itself, had failed to cut through the thick hide of the Tier 9 Spirit Beast and was repelled with relative ease. Rather than kicking an iron board, the action that the giant took was akin to poking an elephant with a toothpick. It might have tickled the beast, but other than that, the attack did nothing.
“Just how strong is that beast’s defence?!” Wangu had his jaw dropped as he witnessed his junior brother’s avatar fail an attack for the first time.
At Rank 70, when a cultivator had accumulated a lifetime of experiences with his or her Spirit and concentrated more mana than humanly possible, they would gain the chance to create an avatar for one of their spiritual abilities. Granted, it was a hard ability to learn, but once successfully pulled off, it would become a cultivator’s greatest asset.
The cultivator’s avatar would gain all of the abilities that they had and in some circumstances, surpass what the spirit user could typically do physically. Furthermore, the avatar could be enlargened at will, making it the perfect tool to combat colossal Spirit Beasts such as the World Serpent that could infinitely grow. If not for the slight decrement in the effectiveness of the spiritual abilities launched by the avatar or the massive toll it takes on the mana reserves, all cultivators would learn how to create an avatar at Rank 70.
Although Wangu was shocked that the World Serpent managed to effortlessly deflect Jimga’s avatar, he had no time to remain still. Immediately after Jimga’s attack failed, Wangu launched his own assault, particularly aiming for the beast’s eyes. Dancing about in the air, the Spirit Emperor appeared between the eyes of the World Serpent in a millisecond and swung his mythic-grade sword with all his might.
Unlike his two juniors, who were legacy owners of their own school of swordplay, Wangu followed the main line that was taught to every disciple of the Dalgeom Sect. Awakening just a mere iron sword that had no specialities, the roughened veteran had to work twice as hard to the top of the sect as compared to his two juniors, who were talented beyond their years.
If Jimga’s sword was barbaric and tyrannical, while Yeunghi’s sword was swift and frosty, the style that Wangu had followed was the most balanced swordplay of the Dalgeom’s Sect. Never overextending but never too meek to strike back. It was said that one’s style of swordplay reflected a cultivator’s real character, and Wangu was the epitome of that quote.
Since he didn’t have the flashiness and explosive power that his peers possessed, Wangu had to think long and hard over his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses before committing to an attack. Assuming that the World Serpent had a weak point in between its eyes, the senior brother of the Dalgeom Sect unleashed his greatest offensive ability.
An illusion that consisted of a hundred thousand brightly lit blades formed behind the man, blinding the World Serpent for a moment. However, instead of randomly attacking with the hundred thousand swords, Wangu combined them all into the mythic-grade weapon that he personally purchased through his years of painful savings and growled as he let out a devastating slash.
Feeling his sword dig deep into the World Serpent’s face, Wangu pumped his fist in victory as he heard the deafening cry. At the same time, many more frosty light bolts descended from the sky freezing the entirety of Mort Bay.
“Senior Brother Wangu! Dodge!!!”
Not to be outdone, Jimga used his avatar and launched yet another strike. This time, he had placed twice the amount of mana into strengthening his blade and was able to force the World Serpent to fall backwards. Through the combination of the three Spirit Emperor’s actions, the Tier 9 Spirit Beast was forced to eat its first setback in centuries.
“Now that’s it’s stunned, let’s leave!!!” Wangu barked at his juniors as they turned away from the colossal creature. However, before they could return to their terrified gryphons, an angered howl summoned out twenty more tornadoes.
A crushing pressure descended upon the lands, and the skies turned ashen. Thunderbolts flashed as a torrential downpour, one that seemed capable of flooding the entire eastern region, barred the path to retreat. Even though Jimga should be able to slice through the natural disasters with his avatar, there was no way that the World Serpent would stand still as he prepared the attack.
“This is… Tier 9?” Yeunghi had given up all hope. As a Spirit Emperor, she had faced numerous Tier 7 and 8 Spirit Beasts. She had even witnessed the elders in the sect corner a Tier 9 before. However, none of those Spirit Beasts came close to the World Serpent’s level. “Are you sure that it is not a Primordial?! How can a Tier 9 possess such might?!”
“No… Yeunghi you’re right.” Wangu gulped with a helpless expression. “The World Serpent must have evolved into a Primordial Beast… If not, it must at very least be at the precipice of evolution.”
‘A Primordial Beast being controlled by a criminal syndicate?! How ludicrous is that?!’ Wangu didn’t comprehend how the Black Masks could tame a monster such as a World Serpent. Taking one good look at the glowing eyes of Ao, the Spirit Emperor felt as if death was staring him right in the eyes. Following that, he turned to examine his two genius juniors. One of them was shaking with fear, while the other was hiding his anxiety with a resolute expression, one that shows his will to die.
‘Hah… If I let these two perish, I’m sure the elders would scold me.’ Making up his mind, Wangu made one final silly joke before splitting his Spirit away from the mythic-grade weapon he possessed.
“Yeunghi, take this.” Wangu tossed the spirit armament to the dismayed junior sister of his. “Deliver it to my master will you?”
“Senior Brother Wangu, this…”
“Don’t tell me you’re planning to!”
It didn’t take an idiot to figure out what the Spirit Emperor was planning to do next. Both Jimga and Yeunghi tried to voice their protests, but Wangu had already made up his mind.
“Better one than three. If I use up everything that I have, I can buy you a few seconds. During that time, I can’t help you. So make sure you use good of that opportunity.” Wangu cracked his knuckles and stretched his neck as if he were going for a late evening jog.
“I can’t agree to that bullshit! Leave no man behind, that’s our motto!” Jimga hollered out. “What good would it do to abandon our comrade?!”
“You’ll get to live!” Wangu barked, shaking the Sword Tyrant to his core. “The two of you are wielders of your school’s legacy, it’s not up to you to decide where you die! If you want to enter the afterlife, do so after your legacies are lost!” Hearing Wangu’s words, the duo immediately came to their senses and stared at the swords in their hands.
“This is an order! Leave now! It looks like the World Serpent has finished its preparations!”
In the middle of Mort Bay, the colossal snake had created yet another hurricane, and dozens of water sprouts approached the land from the oceans. The waves turned even more turbulent and the mana being released only increased by the second. If they waited any longer, the window of opportunity would close forever trapping the Spirit Emperors from ever escaping.
“Oh, and take Eggy with you…” Wangu turned and looked at the gryphon that had been with him since his youth. Even though they were kilometres away, their hearts were joined through an invisible connection, and there was no need for any words. Eggy wished to stay with Wangu to the bitter end while Wangu wished for Eggy to live the remainder of its life in happiness. “She doesn’t deserve this end.”
“Understood…” Jimga bit his lower lip as he did his best to stop the tears from overflowing.
“Yeunghi, tell this to my master.” Unlike her senior brother, Yeunghi’s eyes had turned misty, and her snot was already running out from her nose. A rather repulsive sight for a Spirit Emperor of her calibre, but there was nothing that she could do about her gushing emotions. “Tell this to her… Bitch, now you owe me.”
A playful smile crept up the face of Wangu as he looked at his two juniors for the final time. Pouring out an immense amount of mana into his Spirit, Wangu created over a billion swords and charged forward with blinding speed. Facing a Tier 9 Spirit Beast that was on the threshold of breaking through to the highest realm known to mortals, was an idiotic move. Nonetheless, Wangu took it, for the future of his sect.
Blocked by the billion swords, the World Serpent was unable to get a clear view of the retreating Spirit Emperors at the back and was forced to deal with the immediate threat. Roaring out a shockwave, Ao broke half of the golden swords that Wangu created, greatly diminishing the Spirit Emperor’s all-out attack. Undeterred by his failure, Wangu continued flying forward and sliced the high-pressured winds with his sword.
Hundreds of water tendrils flowed out from the bay and destroyed two-thirds of the remaining swords, however, it was unable to slow the Spirit Emperor down. Angered by the insolence that Wangu was showing, the World Serpent created a giant tsunami, one that was ten times the height of the tallest cliff in the bay. However, instead of retreating, Wangu changed his manoeuvre into a spinning drill that pierced through anything in his path.
In the process of drilling a hole through the ravaging tsunami, all of the billion blades that Wangu had created turned into dust as he was left with his one, true sword.
‘Come to think of it, you have never let me down…’ Wangu laughed as he looked at the regular iron sword, that lacked any form of opulence. During his Spirit Awakening Ceremony, the ten-year-old Wangu despaired when he found out that he had woken up a normal spirit that lacked any potential, such as the Eight Scions of Water.
However, even though he hadn’t got the result he wanted, Wangu still trained tirelessly to chase his dream of becoming a swordmaster. Without any proper guidance, the young Spirit Practitioner worked his way through the insults and tunnelled through the darkest of days. Even when he got accepted into the Dalgeom Sect, and everyone told him that he wouldn’t amount to anything, Wangu continued to persevere. And eventually, he became a Spirit Emperor.
Through all his hard work, all his pain and suffering, the one that always accompanied him was this trusted iron sword of his. Never rusting, never giving up. Just like its master, the iron sword was a symbol of determination.
‘Sorry that we have to end like this. If a Spirit can reincarnate, I hope you meet a better master. One that could help you reach your full potential.’ Wangu mentally chuckled as he talked to his sword. Seeing as how his juniors had made a safe escape, the Spirit Emperor smiled and turned to the World Serpent, who seemed to have a peaceful expression.
“Hey! Hey, World Serpent! I know that you can understand me!” Since he was going to die anyway, he might as well learn something new before he passed. “Why do you relegate yourself to another’s bidding? You’re a sovereign, a god of the world! There’s no need for you to serve some second-rate criminal syndicate!”
Wangu asked a flurry of questions, but all he got was a curious stare from Ao.
[You… Let them go?]
For the first time since arriving, the World Serpent spoke. Its voice was neither masculine nor feminine. It was deep but yet, at moments felt light. It was the first time that Wangu had heard this kind of tone, making him feel somewhat light-headed.
[Sacrificing one’s life for another… A rare trait. How peculiar indeed.]
“What’s so rare about caring for a comrade?”
[Indeed… It’s not rare, but not many would give their own life. I’m no expert in facial recognition, but I’m confident that there’s no blood connection between the three of you. To give your life for someone not in your family… Humans are a weird bunch.]
Wangu dropped his jaw at the World Serpent’s sudden shift in character. The once stoic Spirit Beast was now as talkative a roadside cabbage seller.
[A pity… If not for the Allfather’s orders, I would have loved to let you live. Your side needs more characters like you. Otherwise, you will lose.]
“W-What? What do you mean?!”
[A pity… Truly a pity. The least that I can do is give you an honourable death. Out of respect, I won’t chase the two that you gave your life to protect. Take it as my gift to a valiant warrior.]
All of a sudden, time stood still. The storm raging overhead had stopped while the overcast skies that created endless amounts of thunder and lightning ceased. Opening its mouth, Ao created a giant mass of white light generated by an ungodly amount of mana. Without wasting a beat, the World Serpent spat the sphere up into the air making sky brighter than the brightest of day.
“T-This is…” Dazzled by the change in nature, the only thing that Wangu saw was a dense patch of white. His skin burned as every pore in his body became overwhelmed with spiritual energy. Bit by bit, the Spirit Emperor could feel his body being disintegrated as the ball of light edged closer to his body.
That was the final thing that Wangu could see. White light covering the entirety of his vision and from then on…
It was eternal darkness.