Embracing Fate

The darkness of the night was suddenly torn apart by amber light as a full moon condensed in mid-air, gently rising into the sky. The Nightwind warriors obviously recognised the second moon of the rainbow, but they didn’t understand why it had appeared at this time…

Nor why it was only three metres away! It was too late when they noticed Richard standing quietly under the dazzling moonlight; a deep crimson had already mixed into the yellow scattering from his hands, winding around his body to form a ring of light that was an entire ten metres in diameter.

Secret sword of the second moon, the Ring of Fate. The ring of light cut through the barbarians of the Nightwind Tribe, splitting them all in two. The top halves slipped off, faces frozen into the expressions they had just before death.

When the light dimmed once more, a desolate horn finally rang through the plains. The silence of the darkness was broken by heavy rustling as the survivors on the outer edges escaped.

Richard swung Extinction a couple times, but there was no blood to be removed. The sword had been transforming silently as he wielded it; now it was never stained by an enemy’s blood unless that enemy was truly powerful. He sighed, forcing the lava in his eyes to cool off before walking to where he had been and putting the sword back in the sheath that was still buried in the ground.

He then sat down to meditate once more, unaffected by the thick odour of blood permeating the air. In the meanwhile, no animals dared to get close to this place, as though it held a mortal enemy.

Three hours later, the dark clouds in the sky quietly dispersed to reveal another starry night sky. Having recovered most of his mana, Richard got up and continued heading in a straight line towards the centre of Klandor. There wasn’t much time left, and to him there was little difference between night and day.

……

The distant forests rumbled as the earth mourned. A young girl was dashing madly through the woods, hugging an enormous egg that was almost half as big as herself. The towering ancient trees constantly fell behind her, a violent fog surging ahead as a mountainous body twisted around in mad pursuit.

Numerous heads flickered in and out of view a hundred metres in the air, occasionally roaring with rage. These roars seemed to shake space itself, making the air roll in all directions. The forest was already in chaos, birds flapping as hard as they could while the beasts could only dash forward in an attempt to get as far as they could. Only the most fearsome of creatures could bear the power of these roars, the rest falling from the sky or otherwise crumbling down in fear.

Meanwhile, the girl continued to run faster and faster, occasionally kicking aside a pile of paralysed beasts in the way. However, no matter how quickly she ran the tremendous beast in the fog was still hot on her heels. Every step of its enormous feet shook the earth, bouncing the paralysed animals a few metres high.

Only when day broke did Mountainsea finally get out of the forest and enter the plains, cheering as she sped up instantly. All she left behind was a cloud of dust.

The row of trees at the outermost ring of the forest toppled down, flattened by enormous feet. The large beast finally revealed its true self, four pillar-like legs supporting a body that was nearly a hundred metres tall. Nine heads grew out of its torso, each looking different from the rest as they rose hundreds of metres higher in the sky.

The giant hydra gazed in the direction Mountainsea had escaped too, loosing a cry of helpless rage before it whipped its tail around. Countless ancient trees were sent flying away, but after tearing into the woods for some time the creature begrudgingly turned and slowly returned to its original location.

……

Morning finally arrived, the red clouds covering half of the sky giving Klandor a distinct colour. Birdsong and beast howls rang out everywhere as the entire continent awoke, recovering its vitality once more.

Richard continued to move with unerring pace, breaths long and careful. The terrain slowly grew steeper under his feet, the winds more vigorous. The whistle of the breeze was desolate, like the warcry of an ancient barbarian tribe.

Ahead of him was an enormous ancient tree, most of its trunk marked by the vestiges of time but the branches at the top still having some green. Just like all the other life on this continent, it survived tenaciously in the face of numerous difficulties.

Under the tree was a barbarian youth, neither tall nor sturdy compared to the other barbarians Richard had seen along the way. However, every muscle of his body seemed to be dense as steel, his physique looking so hardened it almost seemed inorganic. The youth was dark-skinned unlike the more yellowish-brown of most barbarians, his eyes narrowed as he gnawed at a straw while half-awake.

Richard halted his footsteps, eyes fixating on the youth. A grim expression flashed across his face for the first time, a trace of determination hidden within. For his part, the youth didn’t seem to notice him at all and still leant against the trunk, twisting the straw in his mouth as his gaze wandered around everywhere. It was when Richard’s eyes shot out faint light that he let out a low moan, jumping up as though he was pricked by something.

The youth’s feet plunged into the ground, as though his body weighed several tons. His expression changed from one of rumination to an earnest, sharp gaze, levelled straight at Richard’s own.

He suddenly bowed seriously to Richard, displaying the standard etiquette of the barbarian tribes. He then stood tall once more, body as straight as a spear, “I am Balibali of the Skymist Tribe. I’ve been waiting for you for a long time.”

“Not bad,” Richard answered, “You’re much stronger than those stupid top seven, top three, and best warriors.”

“You mean those small tribes like Windstep? There aren’t many powerful tribes in the Windy Wasteland, how could they compare to the Skymist Tribe? I do not need any titles. As long as I remain standing, the rest can only strive for second place!”

Richard smiled, “Weren’t you afraid those small fries would take care of me while you were waiting and steal the glory of defeating the promised person?”

The barbarian youth flashed a smile of his own, revealing snow-white teeth, “If those weaklings could defeat you, then there is no honour in that victory. That is why I was waiting here. I refuse to believe someone chosen by Her Highness Mountainsea would be so weak as to lack the ability to come this far.”

“Well then, here I am.”

Balibali’s gaze suddenly grew electric, “But this is as far as you go!”

“Another challenge? You’re a level 18 warrior,” Richard said dully.

Balibali’s handsome face instantly turned pale, “How old are you?”

“Eh, about nineteen.”

The barbarian looked distressed, brandishing his fist as he exclaimed in a low voice, “Alright, I’ll limit myself to what you call level 15. We barbarian warriors never fight unfair battles! If you win, I will not hinder you again, nor will I participate in the battle four years later.”

“You’ll regret it if you don’t go all out,” Richard said mildly.

Balibali narrowed his eyes and looked Richard up and down, frowning, “You are only a level 14 mage.”

“Don’t you people believe level isn’t a good measure of a warrior?”

“Alright then,” the youth said promptly, “I will give you the respect of a true warrior and fight at full strength!”

Richard stuck the elven sword and Extinction into the ground, about ten metres away from the opponent. Only carrying the Twin of Destiny in his hand, he solemnly faced Balibali as lightning flashed on his body.

Balibali was slightly confused, more so because a mage had two swords than because he was sticking them in the ground. Still, he waited for Richard to finish all preparations before drawing the sword by his waist, slowly pointing forward. Compared to the heavy greatswords normally preferred by the barbarians, his weapon was long and narrow. It seemed like his style prioritised technique and speed.

He suddenly raised his sword and roared, shooting off his original position to appear before Richard in a single bound. His sword flashed right at Richard’s body, leaving him unable to dodge at all.

However, when the dazzling sword light passed, the figure in front just broke apart fuzzily. Balibali quickly turned around only to find four more Richards that looked exactly the same around him, left hand holding a rather plain-looking book and quickly flipping through the pages.

The barbarian youth cried out and his blade swung like a maelstrom, shooting out four rays of sword light. Three hit their mark, destroying the three remaining illusions, but Richard’s main body dodged it at the same time as a flash of lightning struck Balibali’s head.

Balibali immediately recognised the spell, gathering all the strength in his body as he prepared to shrug off the blow and continue pursuing Richard. The best way to deal with a mage was to close the gap as often as possible, and the barbarian was confident that his powerful physique could resist a mere grade 6 spell.

However, this lightning had hints of dark red within. The youth was stunned the moment it landed, his body trembling and his hair standing on end as he was paralysed. Richard’s movements sped up, the Book of Holding already stowed away as he flitted over to Balibali like the wind. Extinction had appeared in his hand at some point in time, slashing right at the enemy’s waist!

Balibali produced an earth-shattering cry of rage, frozen muscles suddenly twitching as they turned hard as steel. Richard’s slash hit an arm, but all he could do was make it bleed before his own body trembled as he was bounced back several metres by a huge force.

The barbarian youth roared once more, the sword in his hand cutting in Richard’s direction. Navy blue sword light pressed down against Richard’s body; try as he might to dodge, a complete escape was impossible. His left shoulder started bleeding.

This was the first time he had been injured ever since he arrived at Klandor.

Balibali raised his sword once more and roared, the light flooding towards Richard like a tide. However, this time he was prepared; he dodged the attacks unbelievably quickly, instacasting spells to defend himself when he could not. The barbarian had turned extremely serious at this point, a hint of respect emerging on his face. Only now did he understand why Richard had told him to give it his all in the battle; although the Norlander was much lower than him in terms of level, the incredible combat techniques made up for the difference.

He was already using the Wrath of the Ocean, an ability he had been enlightened on after withstanding the impact of cliff waves day and night. His aura came in powerful waves that increased his speed, strength, and defence. Without this ability, he was a much weaker warrior.

The coldness on Richard’s face had vanished at some point in time, replaced by a burning insanity. His dodges and attacks were almost instinctive even as his blessings were worked to their fullest, draining a huge amount of his stamina every second. By the time he escaped the drowning waves he looked battered and exhausted, but the elven sword and the Twin of Destiny found their way into his hands for a counterattack.

Compared to the all-encompassing attack of the barbarian, Richard looked rather plain and unhurried. It was only a slash here and a spell there, but one flame arrow and Balibali was left howling in pain. Seeing the same crimson rays engulfing the long sword in Richard’s hand, he lost confidence in his body that was tougher than steel.

Lightning bolts fell down from time to time, forcing him to pause for a moment as the scorching pain left him paralysed. Richard’s long sword that was now burning in abyssal fire managed to nick him at every instance. Still, the barbarian’s ferocity allowed him to control his body and return the strike.

Red, yellow, and blue lights flashed in the sky as blood splattered onto the ground. Richard gradually felt his body going numb, while Balibali was starting to lose his fight against the abyssal flames that had pierced into his body and were corroding him from within. Barely a few minutes after the battle had started, the barbarian youth coughed up a mouthful of blood and the two of them separated into different corners.

Balibali couldn’t stand on his own any longer, having to use his sword for support. Richard wasn’t any better, panting hard as he leaned on his staff and took out the Book of Holding with trembling hands. Blood immediately stained the pages.

Richard shook the book with force, pouring the mana from within it into the Mana Armament rune. Lightning flashed around his body once more, giving him the strength to stand. However, he had already sustained dozens of different wounds, the deepest even showing bone. The force of energy from the rune caused blood to start pouring out of all his wounds.

“You’re… Hurt…” the barbarian youth huffed out, voice muting halfway.

“And you’re better than me?” Richard asked sarcastically.

Balibali suddenly took a deep breath, face turning red as he puked out a pool of blood. His aura suddenly grew more vigorous right after, evidently the result of a secret technique to stimulate potential. “I CAN STILL PUNCH YOU LIKE A MAN!” he roared, letting go of his sword and clenching his fist as he hobbled in Richard’s direction. He decided using his fist would be enough, mages were known to be fragile.

Richard sneered, burying the Twin of Destiny in the ground as he charged forward himself. He avoided the roaring punch of the barbarian, leaning under the attack. Balibali felt himself being hoisted into the air before firmly crashing into the ground, leaving him concussed for a moment. Richard grabbed him by the hair and repeatedly smashed his head into the ground.

*Thud! Thud! Thud!* A hole had been smashed into the ground, blood dyeing the soil red even as small pebbles were crushed into gravel. The strength of Balibali’s skull far exceeded Richard’s expectations; he was doing damage to the flesh and muscles, but barbarians could quickly heal from anything that didn’t break their bones.

The barbarian suddenly howled, lifting his head abruptly to knock into Richard’s chin. Richard was sent flying back like a pebble, blacking out in the process. It felt like he drifted in the air for a long time before his back hit something hard.

The second consciousness was forced to take over his body, the blessing of wisdom reminding him that only a short time had passed since he had been sent flying away. His eyes and ears weren’t working for the moment, but he could feel the tremble of the earth as Balibali approached slowly. Fallen on his back, it was as though his body had been emptied out completely. His wounds weren’t even hurting anymore, replaced by a numbing cold.

His eyelids grew heavy from the empty feeling, making him want to let go of everything and just fall asleep. He slowly lost consciousness… Until a few scenes flashed across his mind.

Balibali could see Richard on the ground a few steps away, blood constantly flowing out from his mouth and nose with the chin already deformed. The burning light in the youth’s eyes was almost extinguished, tense muscles beginning to relax. He was about to go unconscious. The barbarian dragged his heavy body forward, wanting to knock Richard out to obtain the final victory. He would then take the boy back to his tribe and have the shaman treat him before sending him back to Norland.

This Norlander was a true warrior, worthy of his respect. At least in terms of willpower and courage, he was worthy of Mountainsea.

However, it was at this moment that he saw a pea-sized flame form on Richard’s fingertip. It was barely even flickering, but this battle had taught him well to steer clear of any flames Richard released regardless of size. He couldn’t help but stop in his footsteps.

“AAHH!” Richard sat up abruptly, howling like a beast as the finger pressed into his thigh. Abyssal flames had the ability to corrode the soul, and with his consciousness almost faded away he didn’t have any defences left. The instant pain was unbearable, no matter how strong his will was.

By the time the flame burnt out, it had left a bright scar. Still, the pain had woken him up from the verge of unconsciousness. He used the last of his energy to stand up. “I… still… have strength. Here’s… Annihilation!”

Balibali saw a fuzzy blue moon appear above Richard’s head, a layer of dark blue moonlight surrounding the half-elf’s body as he struck forward with his arm.

He was using his body as the sword!

‘He’s a lunatic!’ was all the barbarian could think before he was sent flying into the sky. By the time he landed on the ground, he knew he would not be getting up anytime soon. He was defeated by a level 14 mage? It felt like a poor dream.

Richard staggered a few steps back, throwing up some blood before he crumbled to the ground. His mana and energy had long since been depleted; the only power he could draw on now was moonforce.

Annihilation was the secret sword he had always understood the most, mainly because Gaton’s demonstration of it had been much better than the rest. The others were manuals to learn from, but he had experienced the soul of the blue moon.

Balibali was on the ground while Richard could force himself to sit. The outcome of this tragic battle had already been determined. The two youths didn’t talk for some time, just panting heavily as they tried to regain some strength.

However, it wasn’t long before Richard suddenly took in a deep breath and an alert expression crossed his face. A strong stench of decay filled the air, as though a heap of rotten meat had been dropped nearby.

Balibali opened his eyes, a look of extreme fear crossing his face, “Heisa!”

A hoarse laughter rang from afar as an extremely ugly barbarian that looked no different from a beast dashed over. The stench of decay grew stronger as he approached, growing so dense it left one wanting to puke.

Heisa wiped the sweat off his forehead and laughed, “Well, the journey was a little exhausting but it seems like I came at just the right time.”

He stared at Richard with his green eyes, licking his lips with his forked tongue, “You’re the promised person? Richard was the name? Very impressive, defeating Balibali like that. If you were allowed to grow for two more years, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be your opponent. Haha!

“But of course, you won’t have any chance to grow!”

“Heisa, what are you trying to do?” Balibali roared, “You cannot kill Richard, Her Highness ordered it!”

“What order?” the ugly barbarian asked with a sneer, “As long as I kill you both and destroy all traces, who’ll know that I did this?”

Balibali was extremely shocked, “You… You’d dare kill me?”

“Why not? If I didn’t, you’d just tattle on me to Mountainsea.” Heisa’s snicker was like two pieces of rusted metal scraping against each other.

“Hmph! You want to get Her Highness? Even if I die at your hands, you’ll be destroyed if you try to compete on the day!” Having said this, Balibali closed his eyes and resigned himself to death. There would be no surviving at this ruthless murderer’s hands, so at least he would die with dignity.

“What’s the use of talking so much? You’re not a match for me even at your best, wimp! I just have other things to do now and don’t want to waste any more time.” Heisa suddenly stretched his foot under Balibali’s body, flinging him over ten metres away.

In the meanwhile, Richard who was sitting on the ground swayed slightly, a trace of pain flashing on his face. Just the act of trying to move made him feel like his organs were being flipped around. However, his breathing immediately grew steady once more as he leant against the Twin of Destiny, slowly standing up as he glared at Heisa before him.

The terrifying barbarian was almost three metres tall, bent bristles growing on the knotted flesh of his skin. It was obvious with a single look that his forte was pure strength, but that wouldn’t have been enough to support his claim of being able to defeat a well-rounded warrior like Balibali.

A faint light shot out of his eyes, revealing the ugly brute’s secrets. The level 18 barbarian’s body hid a powerful aura of death and corrosion that was only enhanced by a powerful bloodlust picked up over many massacres. People like this normally acted as they wished, unreasonable monsters who could not be bound by laws.

Heisa felt a sudden wave of panic out of nowhere when Richard’s eyes shot out the light, as though all of his secrets had been exposed. He felt a wave of uncertainty wash over him, but couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Still, those who killed day and night had their senses clouded by overconfidence and bloodlust. Balibali had physically reacted to Richard’s scanning, but Heisa just frowned while oblivious to the fact that basically all of his cards had been exposed.

“So you’re that promised person? The tooth of the Beast God really is in your possession…” The barbarian stared at Richard, eyes glowing with brutal excitement.

Richard calmly gripped the Twin of Destiny, “You want to challenge me as well?”

“Challenge? Hahahaha!” It was as though the fellow had heard the most ridiculous thing in his life, bursting into a manic laughter that wet his eyes.

Heisa seemed to force himself to stop laughing, pointing at Richard with his hand filled with black hairs, “I’m not as foolish as the rest. Heh, I’ve come up with another idea. I’ll kill you and Balibali and stuff the tooth of the Beast God in his hands. That way, it will look like you two perished together. All of your wounds were from him anyway.

“I’m not going to give you any chance to waste time. If others get here, they’ll definitely follow Mountainsea’s words and stop me from killing you. Haha, prepare for death!”

Richard seemed eerily calm, supporting himself with one hand as the other grasped at the last destiny crystal on his body. This was a divine item that could bring about miracles; as long as he could feel its existence, he would never lack courage. However, he definitely wouldn’t use it until the very last moment.

Heisa walked towards Richard, “Right, I want to let you see something before you die. That way, your death will be more painful!”

He paused mid-stride and dry heaved, seemingly in great pain as he spat out a little snake covered in yellow slime. The snake was completely black in colour with a pair of transparent wings still pressed into its body, lazily coiling around in the palm of Heisa’s hand and sticking out its tongue repeatedly as crimson beads for eyes surveyed its surroundings in confusion.

The barbarian chuckled, “This is a viper I found deep inside the Wildpoison Pond. It’s unbelievably quick, and its poison is amazing. Most powerhouses can’t endure a bite. I’ll put it on your corpse when you die, the simplest and best traps. I know the doll is rushing here right now, and she shouldn’t be far.

“Well, a bite won’t kill her, but she’ll grow weak enough that I can take her down and ravage her in front of your corpse. I don’t want any glory, just to be the father of her first child. Let me tell you one more thing; as long as I take here, she’ll definitely have my child! This is a special power of mine! Isn’t this exciting? Don’t worry, after I’m done with her I’ll make it up to you. I’ll use your body too before eating you.”

Watching Heisa who was laughing madly, Richard’s anger faded into a cold serenity, “This snake of yours looks rare and precious.”

“Of course! To think a kid like you had such a great eye. I nearly lost my life back then to catch. It. Tch, it’s too late for you to beg for your life. Whose fault is it that you’re whatever damned promised person?”

“Such a pity for it to be gone, then.” Richard suddenly smiled.

“What did you say?” Heisa suddenly felt a strong sense of unease, unwittingly taking a step forward. A light breaking sound rang out underneath his foot, startling him into retracting it and gazing downwards.

A pure white flower had been crushed under his large foot. However, the moment he saw it the barbarian felt his heart stop for a moment. He knew very well that there were few flowers in the wasteland even when there wasn’t a drought.

More wild flowers suddenly appeared in his field of vision, blossoming up from the ground with a strong aura of life that left him feeling a sharp pain in his body. Time seemed to slow down in that moment. A voice roared a warning in his mind, but his reaction was incomparably slow.

“You talk too much,” a quiet voice rang by his ear.

Heisa’s bestial eyes immediately landed on the little snake in his hands. Green light was flickering on its body as it rolled around in great suffering, mouth open wide to reveal a dark green liquid condensing at the tip of its fangs.

He could feel the potency of the life energy twined around the little snake’s body. There was a trace of mysterious moonforce within that amplified the life aura a hundredfold, surpassing even that of a divine spell!

The third sword of Silvermoon, Devout Prayer. The power of the jade moon surpassed most divine spells in terms of healing, but this power was completely antithetical to a creature who lived off the power of death and corrosion. The little snake cried out like a little child, quickly turning into a puddle of black water in Heisa’s hands.

The threads of green moonforce didn’t let go even then, weaving in and out as they boiled the black water to clear it of the toxins. All that was left was completely harmless liquid. The powerful healing of the jade moon also transmitted into its purification ability.

“NOOOOO!”

Heisa immediately charged towards Richard, large hands raised as he swatted towards Richard’s head. The simple attack left Richard suffocated without the space to dodge. Winds of corrosion started blowing out as Heisa exhibited his true strength, trying to overwhelm with force. This was a strength that far surpassed Balibali’s.

There was no way to run, so Richard didn’t even try. He instead looked up, blowing a translucent flame in Heisa’s direction. The whirling winds of death could not obstruct this wisp at all, failing to even deflect it. Heisa’s brows furrowed as he expelled an inky black gas from his arms with a cry, forcefully smashing apart the near-invisible flame.

*Rumble!* The wisp immediately scattered but most of the sparks stuck to Heisa’s body, especially his fist. The sparks began to blaze the moment they made contact, the steel-like body unable to stop pits from forming in his skin. The flames continued to dig in, almost all of the skin on his right hand burnt to nothingness before the fire started on his flesh.

The powerful barbarian had never expected the flames to be so terrifying. Still, as someone with ample battle experience, he immediately started pounding his fists into the ground as energy surged out of his pores, crazily consuming the flames. With the help of the surging black winds, he finally managed to put them out.

Heisa then stood up, sweat pouring down his face as his expression turned incomparably grim. It had taken more than ten times the energy he had expected to use to consume the flames, practically a third of his reserves wiped out in one shot. He glared at Richard who had been sent flying, currently lying on the ground a dozen metres away without the strength to stand.

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