Book 8, Chapter 33

Disparity

The sky rippled at the border between the Far North and the Sacred Alliance, a pallid Richard stepping through only to come across an orc and two duergar. He didn’t even wait for them to speak, growling loudly, “Fuck off, and I’ll ignore you.”

A legend himself, the orc brandished his warhammer and brought down a few lightning strikes before snarling, “This is the land of the Frozen Court. Leave now, or you’ll be turned into a corpse!”

Richard didn’t utter a word, simply brandishing Moonlight and charging. The three faces appeared around him, cursing the two duergar until they dropped to the ground. Seeing the human moving in for close combat, the orc sneered and held his hammer horizontally, waiting for the right moment. From his point of view, a mage had just exhausted all of his mana in an instant and was now attempting to engage in close combat; this was the first time he had encountered such a situation.

However, when they were only ten metres apart, Richard’s figure suddenly flickered and disappeared. Blink! The orc hadn’t expected this, but he didn’t show any signs of panic and just gripped his hammer tightly while looking all over for Richard. Unfortunately, the situation took the worst turn imaginable; Richard appeared right behind him, sword flickering in a dozen strokes.

Surprisingly, the orc actually managed to block all of the attacks. Richard tutted in disappointment; had he finished upgrading his Mana Armament to grade 5, bringing his internal energy to the legendary realm, he would have injured the opponent grievously. Unfortunately, he just didn’t have the strength to break through the orc’s defences even with Moonlight’s aid.

Richard soon blinked to another side and sent another flurry of attacks, but despite some uncoordinated movements the orc managed to block everything once more. However, now he had to take a moment to recover, opening up a perfect opportunity that Richard took to flash behind him and thrust both of his swords towards the lower back.

The orc finally realised that he was facing a true-blue swordsman instead of just a combat mage, but the angle of this last attack was extremely tricky. He yelled in rage and struggled to turn around, using his thigh armour to block the strike.

Richard was stunned for a moment, almost losing control of his blades. Why would someone use their bare flesh to try and block his blade, even if it was an orc? Even someone like Kralkalor couldn’t stand a single hit, what more a mere orc?

He suddenly let go of the Judge and allowed it to return to its sheath, putting the freed right hand on Moonlight and adding force to the blow. A loud screech rang out as the twenty-centimetre-wide armour was split open like paper, and the orc watched in shock as his thigh was almost sliced off completely. Roaring in pain, he flew fifty metres away before daring to look down at the damage. The thigh that was thicker than Richard’s entire waist was dangling by a finger-sized strand of flesh.

Once saint-level energy was poured in, Moonlight had erupted with terrifying power. If not for the orc’s tough body, Richard would have continued with another swing that cut him apart completely. However, the opponent did show great ferocity, ripping off the leg with a single tug and hanging it on his back. Both hands on his hammer, he turned to face Richard and slowly took a few steps back, baring his fierce fangs.

Seeing the orc’s stance, Richard gave up all plans of pursuit. It would still take some effort to kill this enemy completely, but his priority right now was to get to Sharon. He couldn’t use too much of his mana until then, or he would just be a mute spectator to the showdown. Sheathing Moonlight as well, he blinked north.

…

Richard’s next portal crossed a kilometre, but the moment he appeared out of the void he completely froze up. Apeiron was standing less than a metre away, the rumination in her eyes visible through her icy aura. In the absence of any defensive barriers, he was like a lamb that had delivered itself to the slaughter; there would be no way to survive if she wanted him dead. He could already feel the power of chaos welling up within her body, prepared to strike a fatal blow in response to any sudden movement.

He could feel the laws of space around him warp, almost like Norland itself was being distorted by her power. The powers of his truename, his laws, his mana… they all seemed to hide away under his consciousness, leaving him suspended on a cliff and on the verge of dropping down. This was only his second time being confronted by the Empress so directly, but now he realised the gulf between them.

His vision was quickly consumed by the dark purple of Apeiron’s eyes, bringing his mind to rumours floating around the Sacred Alliance that this was an indication of being in a murderous mood. It was supposed to be black irises that indicated her being reasonable.

The Empress slowly lifted a hand and touched his neck, gently caressing his throat. Her slender hand was cold as ice, like a snake slithering up his skin. He could feel the softness of her fingers, but that was just a facade; even with dragonscale protection they could easily cut into his throat and destroy him.

As he remained still, Apeiron eventually reached up and tapped his face a few times, flashing a gentle smile as she leaned forward until her mouth was almost on his ears, “You took so long…”

Before he could understand what she meant by those words, she had disappeared far away. An orc’s cry rang out on the horizon as she showed herself once more, holding a large, still-beating heart that she devoured in a few mouthfuls. The purple in her eyes faded quite a bit as she smiled, silhouette flickering a few times to take her towards Faust.

Behind her, the legendary orc was still floating in the sky, struggling to keep himself from falling down. Several guttural groans resounded from his throat as he looked down at the terrifying cavity in his chest, trying to use his hands to cover the wound. However, blood and internal organs started to seep out from the gaps between his fingers, eyes slowly losing focus until he eventually dropped to the ground and dyed the snow red.

Richard quietly floated in the sky, head bent down and not moving a muscle as though he was a statue void of life. A grey dwarf that managed to survive watched him for a long time, and seeing him still plucked up the courage to sneak up behind him and raise his battleaxe to attack.

*Schlick!* The glimmer of a sword blinded the dwarf before freezing him in the sky; mouth opening but to no avail. The duergar slowly lost hold of his axe before falling to the ground with it.

Richard let out a long sigh as he glanced at the clouded sky, feeling just as overcast. He at least knew the disparity now, but still couldn’t understand how Apeiron had predicted his teleport. If he managed to figure that out, he wouldn’t be far from becoming an epic being himself.

The clouds started rumbling in the distant horizon, Sharon’s figure blinking over as well. She was moving in a straight line for Faust, but seeing him floating she changed course to appear right before him in a few blinks. The legendary mage cut a sorry figure from head to toe, traces of burns on her golden hair while her standard blue robes were damaged in a number of places. However, this was nothing new; there was already an annual budget in the Deepblue for fixing them. As they were right now, the robes were barely enough to cover Sharon’s body. She looked almost nude, but anyone who dared to look where they shouldn’t would be blinded by the radiant light of the Deepblue Aria.

When she saw Richard, Sharon quickly asked, “Why are you here? Did you meet Apeiron?”

“Huh?” he realised that he’d forgotten to dissipate the aura left on his throat, “Ah, yeah, it’s nothing. I just didn’t expect her to just be there when I teleported so she had the upper hand. She didn’t do anything.”

Sharon’s eyebrows almost locked into each other, rage filling her eyes, but she suddenly sighed and that anger faded into disappointment, “It would be useless even if you were careful. She’s the fastest epic I’ve ever come across, and her martial arts are the best I’ve seen too… Try not to provoke her in the future.”

“You lost?” Richard was shocked by her attitude. He had noticed Apeiron’s state earlier as well, and that her injuries were even heavier than Sharon’s.

The legendary mage flew into a fit of rage, tugging hard at her hair, “How could I possibly lose?! I obviously beat her up so bad that she ran away!”

Hearing this, he heaved a sigh of relief. Faced with an enemy like Apeiron, losing meant death. However, this was a little confusing; why was she so depressed even after winning? Was she just sad that the victory wasn’t thorough? But, even in all of Norland, who could guarantee winning against Apeiron without having fought her before?

Unfortunately, Sharon was on the verge of erupting. Tactfully deciding to bury these questions in his mind, he accompanied her back to the Deepblue.

……

Back in Faust, Julian almost crashed into the imperial palace. Immediately stripping off all his clothes, he got his servants to douse him in ice water before drying himself with internal energy and switching to new robes before rushing to Apeiron’s chambers. Just as he entered through the door, the Empress fell like a lightning bolt towards the centre of the courtyard.

Seeing how she looked, he rushed over and asked, “Your Majesty, this battle…”

Apeiron ignored him, looking at her own two hands before raising them to the tip of her nose and sniffing hard. She then let out a hearty laugh, “This battle had a marvelous result! Sharon will have nightmares the next time she sees me!”

“Your Majesty… For the sake of pleasure… You truly aren’t afraid of trouble.”

“It’s getting interest— BLEGH!” she suddenly swayed and almost fell to the floor, her mouth filling with fresh blood.

Julian shuddered as he helped her back up, “Your Majesty… Maybe you should change your target.”

Apeiron forced the blood back down her throat, eyes turning a deep purple as she flashed an insane smile, “No! It’s only interesting this way!”

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Styles

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA