Chapter 49: The Paradise Heart (3)

Junius stood high up before the throne, looking down on the young men and women like they were peasants and he was their king. The hiltless water blade in his hand pulsated dark matter out, sending out an ominous aura of death and destruction with every passing minute. The Shudras were all laid out on the floor, groaning and moaning with broken limbs while the Umbras slowly faded out of existence. Now, the only two threats that the ten young geniuses had was the Tier 6 Minotaur and the man known as the Blade of Death. After fighting the Minotaur for the past few minutes, they knew a great deal about the Spirit Beast that could rival a Spirit Lord. On the other hand, no one really knew how Junius fought with the Obsidian Water Blade.

“Shin, you have known him the longest. What are the abilities that he possesses?” Huddled up together, the young heroes whispered under their breath, waiting for Junius to make the first move.

The young man shook his head grimly. “I can’t tell you everything. I only know that his Spirit used to be called the Azure Water Blade and his first two abilities are basic ones such as Pierce and Elemental Ring. After Junius had joined the Black Masks, his Spirit had turned black, and I know nothing of his new abilities.”

“So there’s a gap in your knowledge.” Suji frowned. Since Junius was now a Spirit Spectre, it meant that he had five spiritual abilities and Shin had only identified two. Not knowing the other three could prove fatal, especially since Junius had a reputation of murdering any that he came across. “Whatever, if he has Pierce and Elemental Ring as his primary abilities, we should be able to figure out a workaround.”

“Hmph! Let me test him then!” Natasha scoffed and leapt forward with her Starlight Katana beaming at maximum capacity. She cast her Celestial Aura and moved her weapon to fit her first movements, ‘the First Waltz, Entering the Cosmos’.  Oddly enough, the Minotaur did nothing to stop the swordmaiden. Natasha was now five metres away from Junius, and her Spirit was raging to land a final strike on his succulent flesh. However…

CLINK!!!

The Starlight Katana hadn’t tasted blood, but water. Hardened black water in the shape of a sword that is. Though the wielder of the Obsidian Water Blade wasn’t the man she hoped to battle, but a dark phantom that bore no face. It did, however, was moulded in the same chiselled shape as the person who Natasha had hoped to fight.

“Sword Partner?!” The heiress of a line of swordmasters gasped. Natasha had seen her fair share of the world, travelling to the top sword organisation in the world and learning anything that she could about the way of a swordmaiden. It could be said that she lived and breathed by the sword. So there was no way in hell that she would mistake one of the most popular and esteemed spiritual abilities known to the world.

“He learned Sword Partner?!” It wasn’t just Natasha who was taken aback. Even Isadore, the intelligence guru couldn’t help but scream.

“What’s that?” Shin quickly asked.

“Sword Partner… An ability that creates a complete replica of the swordmaster’s body. All movements, skills and martial arts are being perfectly cloned to make the most ultimate partner to aid in a swordmaster’s battle.” Isadore explained. “A swordmaster must become a saint in his craft before even attempting to create this ability, else it would just prove to be a useless dummy. It’s a high-risk, high-reward spiritual ability to learn, and not many swordmasters would even attempt to create it.”

“So Junius creating it means…”

“He’s a cut above the rest.” The silver-haired youth continued. “He’s probably a better swordsman than any of our school instructors.”

“…” Shin was rendered mute by his friend’s response. Imperius Academy instructors are the cream of the crop, and there weren’t many that could top their expertise. Yet, none of them could create Sword Partner, especially as a mere Spirit Spectre.

The Starlight Blade was taken aback by Junius sudden increase in power, but her frown quickly turned into a happy smile. Her blood was boiling, and her face was flushed. She had fought her fair share of sword prodigies in her day, and none of them had even come close to creating Sword Partner. The last time she witnessed the spiritual ability was through her third uncle, who had broken into the Rank 60 Spirit King realm.

And thus, she fought. All of her swordplay, all of her Starlight Waltz, were being pushed to the absolute limit by the shadowy figure with the same sword that Junius had possessed. Natasha relentlessly went on the assault. Her attacks were brutal and fierce, sharp, but never barbaric. All of her movements were planned to the millisecond, and her reactions were honed tirelessly for the better part of two decades. However, all of her training didn’t matter. The Starlight Waltz that she was so confident in, the dance that she had been reliant on for all of her battles seemed to be useless against Junius’ swordplay.

If Natasha were to describe it, it was like trying to cut through a calm and pristine lake. Her swings would get parried like they were a child’s punch. Her thrusts would be dodged effortlessly, and her odd movements were read so flawlessly and adapted to within a fraction of a second that Natasha felt that there was no point in executing her perfected dance. The Sword Partner of Junius was on the defensive, so there wasn’t any need to showcase his flamboyant attacks. However, just his defensive prowess was capable of putting Natasha through a lifetime’s worth of inferiority complex.

“Natasha… Is losing in sword arts?” Suji muttered under his breath, careful not to let his emotions show. Likewise, Danroy was trying hard not to disparage Natasha’s skills. They were her teammates, so they knew how powerful the Aldana sword arts were. Even if they weren’t as good as the Dalgeom Sect’s legacy arts, the Aldana swordplay was in the upper echelons of the world’s best sword arts.

“We should support her.” Elrin gulped. They had been watching the fight play out without even giving Natasha any assistance. It was time for them to change that dynamic.

“No, you shan’t.” A cold voice from hell disrupted their peace. Junius looked down at the lowly peasants with a frosty gaze with his Obsidian Water Blade pointed down at them. “You shall die now.”

WHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHH!!!

Without warning, the Obsidian Water Blade turned illusory, and the next moment, Elrin’s Eternity Paladin had faded into nothingness, and her petite body had fallen to the ground, her right hand clutching her abdomen. Gushing crimson fluids flowed out en masse as her face turned as pale as a sheet. Large beads of sweat dripped down her face while a maniacal groan echoed through the empty chambers.

“ELRIN!!!” Shin immediately pounced into action. A dense cerulean water stream jumped out from the floor and covered the deadly wound that she had sustained. Those with a less trained eye were unable to make out what had happened. However, Ella and Isadore’s faces were trembling, a mixture of awe and fear was seen in their eyes.

“He used ‘Pierce?’ That was ‘Pierce?!’” Isadore could barely hold back his scream. What Junius did was quite simple. He extended his Spirit to pierce through Elrin’s stomach. So if it was that simple, how come no one could defend against it? Well, that was the problem. No one could. The speed in which Junius unleashed ‘Pierce’ was unheard of, even for Isadore. Only two members of the group saw the attack, and they could do nothing to react to it, let alone stop it.

“Danroy! Shield us! Natasha! Come back!” Isadore ignored any chain of command and barked out his orders. The swordmaiden knew of the severity of the situation and immediately obliged. Natasha leapt down the stairwell with all that she had, hoping to close in the distance within two seconds. She moved at breakneck speeds for a Spirit Adept, but even that wasn’t enough to stop the Blade of Death.

“Oh, I don’t think so.” Junius turned his wrist and sent out yet another ‘Pierce’. The attack flew through the air at a speed that no eye could follow. The nine youngsters standing at the foot of the staircase could only watch in horror as their comrade’s chest gets viciously pierced by the elongated Obsidian Water Sword.

Shizen instantly brought out his vines to grab the falling swordmaiden while Danroy so angrily cast his Bangeo Rhinoceros Head to protect the team. Shin now had two victims to treat, and he intended to do so with all of his might. The water stream that was healing Elrin soon turned into two as he embraced Natasha was his own healing powers.

“How is his ‘Pierce’ so fast?” Suji cried out.

“It’s his innate spiritual ability,” Shin replied. “That’s the spiritual ability that he awakened with his Azure Water Blade, and it’s also the ability that he’s the most proficient with. He must have trained it to perfection.” Even a drop of water could split a rock, given enough time and perseverance. For Junius’ ‘Pierce’ to reach speeds that none of the young heroes could react to, the Vaishya must have trained it tirelessly throughout the years.

‘If he had aimed for the head or heart… No wonder he’s nicknamed the Blade of Death.’

Many had claimed to witness Junius fight, but none of those who had seen the Obsidian Water Blade had lived to tell the tale. Why? Because Junius would kill them before they even got the chance to reflect on their folly.

“Danroy! Keep the Bangeo Rhinoceros head up! Suji, Kanari! Fire your spiritual abilities from the inside! Ella! Emma! You two do the same! No matter what you do, DO NOT go outside of Danroy’s protection!” Shin hollered out his orders and continued to heal the two injured girls. Their heads were filled with sweat, and their guts were bleeding out. Shin had to continuously treat them, and even the slightest of distractions would prove to be fatal.

Junius watched the mayhem unfold inside of Danroy’s Bangeo Rhinoceros phantom, his shoulders dropped and nose inflamed. “And you think that a mere phantom could protect you?”

Once more, Junius willed his Obsidian Water Sword to stretch out. The tip of the blade burst through at blinding speeds once more, slicing apart the seemingly impregnable protection that Danroy had cast. Just like his two comrades, the obese youth fell down, clutching centre of his chest in complete agony.

“Ah, I missed… I was aiming for his heart… Looks like that barrier did have some use.” Junius jokes, but no one could hear him. Their eyes were all concentrated on the falling fat man, who had so bravely stood at the frontlines in hopes of protecting his friends. All the eyes except for one pair. Shin knew that Junius wasn’t going to end his assault just there and Shin started to monitor the wrists of the Vaishya. Since he couldn’t move fast enough to outrun the speed of ‘Pierce’, Shin had to guess who Junius’ next target was from the motion of his hands.

Just as he anticipated, Junius had moved on to his next target. The tip of the Obsidian Water Blade was now directed at Shizen, who was still in a daze, unsure of what he should do. Before Junius could strike, Shin’s ankles turned illusory as he executed the Lightning Swallow Steps, moving as fast as he could before the blade extended itself.

Whhhhhhhhhooooooooshhhhhhhhhhh!!!

Once more, Junius executed ‘Pierce.’ The blade moved faster than the speed of sound, viciously trying to find its target. However, just before it claimed Shizen’s head for its own, Shin’s enhanced body had already made its way to protect his friend, forcing the Obsidian Water Blade to stop just inches away from Shin’s heart.

“Shin…” Junius’ hot head cooled. No matter how angry he was, there was no way that he would claim his own younger brother’s life. The Obsidian Water Blade burst into a million water droplets, leaving Shin and Shizen completely intact.

“Fuck you, Junius.” Shin spat, bringing out a dense fog that covered all of his comrades. He needed to block the vision of Junius while healing the three fallen individuals. Luckily for him, his ‘Healing Mist’ could tick both those boxes.

Junius was helpless. Within the fog, he couldn’t identify which shadow was Shin’s or the twins. If he randomly shot into the mist, Junius could potentially murder yet another one of his family members, something that he would much rather avoid. So, while the Vaishya was desperately looking for an answer, it gave the youngsters a much-needed break to regroup and plan out their next course of actions.

“I say we attack him all at once!” Suji suggested. “We can overwhelm him with our numbers! Kanari you can use Lunar Beam to cover our charge!”

“That’s stupid,” Isadore interjected. “Have you forgotten the Minotaur and his Sword Partner that’s protecting him? Even if we could ignore those monsters, Junius’ ‘Pierce’ is far too dangerous to charge into. We can’t defend it, and we can’t avoid it! Charging in is tantamount to suicide!”

“So what do you suggest we do?! Stay here and let him murder us one by one?!”

“…” Shin had been silently treating his three injured friends. Watching Suji disagree with Isadore made him realise one thing. All of this was his fault.

The blood and pain had opened a can of worms that he had sealed deep in the recesses of his memories. If not for him, the Awter Clan wouldn’t have attacked Frie Mountain so recklessly, and Junius wouldn’t have ordered the attack on the Second Elder abode. If not for him, the Frie Clan may still have their prized geniuses alive and kicking. If not for him, Ariel may still roam this earth…

Kanari, Isadore, Shizen, Elrin, Suji, Danroy and Natasha. They were all innocent parties in this mess. A mess that Shin himself has created. If Junius gets his way, these seven would be lying in a pool of their own blood while Shin and the twins would awake in a faraway place, bound by the Black Masks for the rest of their lives. That wasn’t a fate that Shin wanted. Not for his friends and not for himself.

So, he decided.

“Guys, I’ll stop Junius.” Shin declared as the opened wound on Danroy finally closed up. He had finally healed the three who were injured and was ready to take the final plunge for the team.

“I’ll ignite the shard.”

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