The sudden arrival of White Dragon’s leader made everyone freeze. At first, she was so high up in the sky that no one could see her face clearly, but her presence was so powerful that everyone felt as though she stood right before them, as big as the long-extinct Giant species.
Duke Ardbad gripped his giant bastard sword, confused. From what he knew, the Spring Queen wasn’t supposed to be here. White Dragon was in the middle of a war with the Elohim, who were trying to take over the seventy-sixth floor, and in the meantime, the Blood Land and Sea of Time had joined forces to sweep away White Dragon’s forces on the lower floors.
White Dragon’s hands were full from the attacks, and the Spring Queen’s contribution on the battlefields was outstanding. Thanks to her, the fighting on the seventy-sixth floor had simmered down, but not enough for her to leave.
However, when he noticed the haze around the Spring Queen, Duke Ardbad narrowed his eyes. “She’s not here.” Waltz was separated from space as though she weren’t actually present. “It’s a shadow…is it a Nascent Soul Body?!” Duke Ardbad’s eyes widened when he realized what was going on. The Nascent Soul Body was the peak of internal cultivation for those who could create shadows. When the energy inside someone was purified, their bodies would return to a primeval state, and the stronger the body was, the purest form of what one was born with would remain.
This was something that originated from the One-horned tribe and not many knew about this, but Duke Ardbad had a deep interest in martial arts. He was sure of one thing: Waltz had gone past the level of arhat and her presence now was a huge danger sign. ‘She’s planning to get rid of us!’
Duke Ardbad lifted his sword as Waltz’s Nascent Soul Body dashed through the air and reached him in an instant. Boom! Their clash made shock waves to spread out. Waves tossed violently.
Duke Ardbad pushed Waltz away even as he felt the pain of his body being destroyed. He knew he would be able to win against the real Waltz in a battle of strength. His trait, Opposite Ends Power, was powerful enough to drag mountains from the ground, which made him a peerless warrior in his youth. He wouldn’t allow himself the humiliation of being defeated by a mere shadow.
It was obvious that Waltz was after Yeon-woo. She wanted the person who’d killed the Summer Queen. However, Duke Ardbad couldn’t allow her to take his emperor’s precious friend.
As he clashed with Waltz’s Nascent Soul Body, Jinrang used Open Speaking to his subordinates. 『Everyone…retreat!』
Benteke would be furious once he woke up, but it was a relief that the fight ended here. He couldn’t imagine how much damage they would sustain if they fought Duke Ardbad. ‘Even though they’re only fighting the Spring Queen’s shadow, it won’t be easy for them. It would be perfect if they both destroyed each other here.’
Jinrang watched Duke Ardbad and Waltz’s battle until he boarded the captain’s ship and quickly left the area. His crew followed his retreat. Thirty percent of their ships were gone, and the remaining ships all bore signs of damage.
* * *
“Ugh!” Duke Ardbad gritted his teeth as the impact reverberated on his sword. It was unbelievable that a mere shadow had this much strength. However, the Experience that descended through his blade annoyed him the most. It was the skill that toppled those who dared attack the One-horned tribe, and Waltz used it easily. Each attack she made contained Experience, and because of this, Duke Ardbad’s internal injuries accumulated every time he blocked Waltz’s attacks.
Although he looked fine, his insides were a mess. Also, he was having difficulty since he was protecting Yeon-woo at the same time. ‘Is…is this all I amount to?’ Duke Ardbad ground his teeth. His battle confidence had fallen recently, especially after his arm had been cut off by Tom, the leader of Black Dragon. And now, he was succumbing to Waltz.
Waltz was powerful enough to fight three Senators of the Elohim at the same time, but her shadow wasn’t even close to her actual power. The duke, who had thought he was the most powerful player in the Tower after the Nine Kings, grew envious. He held on with bloodshot eyes, controlling his thoughts. He had to focus on saving Yeon-woo.
As the servant of the emperor, he had a duty to follow orders, and he had to find a way. “It doesn’t seem like this will end any time soon.”
Waltz clenched her fists again, not giving him a chance to escape. “Then there’s nothing I can do except kill you. I hadn’t expected to deal with the Blood Land, but it’ll be nice to get rid of a duke while I’m here.” She spoke in a composed manner, as though she were talking about the weather, because her Nascent Soul Body dominated Duke Ardbad so completely.
Duke Ardbad caught his breath and tightened his hold on the sword. If he couldn’t see a path, then he would just make one. Just as he was about to release his secret weapon, a wisp of wind blew a voice near his ear. 『Can you hear me? If so, don’t answer and just blink in acknowledgement.』
Duke Ardbad’s face didn’t reveal anything, thanks to his years of battle.
『The Spring Queen might catch on, so I’ll be quick.』 It was Heidi, the Elf who moved with Yeon-woo from the twenty-seventh floor. He wasn’t sure he could trust her, but it wasn’t the time to be worried about that. Also, all she asked him to do was stall for time. He didn’t have the confidence to defeat the shadow but he could do that much.
Waltz’s Nascent Soul Body moved. Boom! She crashed towards the ground, her body spinning like a top as she stretched her fist out. Experience whirled around her fist a and spread to Duke Ardbad.
Duke Ardbad tossed Yeon-woo from his arms into the river. With a splash, he sank beneath the waves. Waltz’s face was full of shocked dismay. She hadn’t expected the duke to throw Yeon-woo. “Spirit…!”
Then, Waltz belatedly realized the trick that Duke Ardbad had played and tried to rush somewhere else. However, Duke Ardbad ran towards her and swung his sword down. Waltz just managed to block it with her arms, and the blade reached her neck.
Duke Ardbad smiled coldly for the first time since the fight. “Where are you going? Shouldn’t you continue hanging out with me?”
“You dare!” Waltz twisted her body, her purple eyes flashing. Experience exploded around her. If the duke had been holding Yeon-woo, it would have been impossible to dodge the attack. However, now, he could release the strength he’d been holding back.
〈Mountain Moving Emission〉
His signature skill, which stemmed from his trait, pressed down the atmosphere. Waltz’s face hardened for the first time since she appeared. Boom! Boom! She blocked the attack with her arm, which began to form cracks. Her skin was beginning to break off from the power of the duke’s attack.
The duke swung his sword again, and Waltz had to deflect his attack using Baekbo Shingwon, a type of Mugong.
A column of water soared up from the impact as Yeon-woo quickly moved towards the ghost ship, surrounded by an iridescent being. Heidi stood on the ghost ship, controlling the spirits. Sweat beaded on her forehead.
She had already used most of her magic power protecting the ghost ship, and it wasn’t easy bringing Yeon-woo over.
“Heidi! He’s almost here! Hold on a little longer!” There was nothing Dylan or Jun could do to help their comrade, so they just cheered her on. When Heidi had first made the decision to save Yeon-woo, they were strongly against it. When Waltz appeared, they’d wanted to escape just as Triton had.
Only the Cannibal Monster Humans were left on the ship, and since they were either elderly or very young, they could get rid of them easily. However, Heidi had shaken her head firmly. “And if we leave and throw the Hoarder away, what makes us different from the people who went over to Triton?
Dylan, Jun, and the rest of the players on the ghost ship couldn’t say anything. Yeon-woo had saved them from the Ninety-Second Squad and given them a spot of his ship. Although they had to pay a price for it, Yeon-woo could have ignored them completely. Instead, he’d been generous, and Heidi believed that she had to return the same generosity. She tried to save Yeon-woo even though her body felt like it was being crushed from the pain. ‘I’m not like Father! I’m going to prove that I’m not like him!’
Heidi’s eyes turned red as their veins popped. The blue veins under her pale skin bulged as though they would burst at any moment. The magic power she was using began to turn her hair silver.
“Heidi, you…!” Jun’s eyes widened to see a side of Heidi that he’d never seen before. He’d heard about Elves with silver hair and blue eyes before. These were the features of one of the most powerful High Elven families, but they’d been destroyed a long time ago.
However, Jun was distracted when Yeon-woo, still enclosed in a protective bubble, emerged from the water and sped towards the ghost ship. The players looked relieved.
“Th-there!” Suddenly, Dylan, who had been watching Duke Ardbad and Waltz’s fight, shouted.
Heidi stiffened when she turned to look at the strange phenomenon. Something had floated up behind Waltz, taking on a human form.
The Nascent Soul Body was the purest form of energy. If you could control it, you could also split it apart. The Duke tried to stop it, but it was too late.
“The sail! Raise the sail!” As soon as Yeon-woo was safely on the deck, Heidi shouted urgently. The players moved frantically. As the sail spread open, wind spirits began blowing on them. The ghost ship moved rapidly down the river, but Waltz’s shadow was faster.Previous Chapter Next Chapter