Bluebird in tailorbird form was desperately flapping his wings as the Shadow Emperor closed in on him. His plan to shake off the fastest player in Monster Soul was none other than the strategy he had used once and it had succeeded before.
It was the simplest strategy of them all—fly up. He was just going to ascend as high as possible. Seventy percent of those who had chased after him would lose track of him this way once they lost their footing.
The small tailorbird flapped his wings so hard that his sides hurt. He relied on the wind and his magic power to draw a beautiful curve with his flight path.
Bluebird felt a sudden chill. He hastily stopped his movements in mid-air as Zero’s invisible chakram sliced through where he would’ve been had he continued. The chakram missed his vital spot by a hairbreadth, lightly grazing his left wing and drawing blood.
‘Shit! He wants to kill me for real this time!’
Because of the curse imbued in the chakram, Bluebird lost his sense of balance for a brief moment. Zero lightly tapped on a roof and sent himself into the sky in an instant. The distance between him and Bluebird was closing fast.
Zero materialized three chakrams on each of his palms and threw them in curves to close off Bluebird’s escape routes.
Zero deliberately left Bluebird with only a single safe choice, and that was to fly back to him. Regardless, Bluebird showed no hesitation. Even though Zero’s Soul-Seeking Chakram-Throwing Art was scary, it was the art that Zero developed after obtaining the ability to wield magic power. It couldn’t be compared to Zero’s signature martial art, Shadow Reaper Hands, which he exerted through one of the Ten Supreme Qi, Shadowless Soul Qi, and was the main reason he became known as the Shadow Emperor. As such, Bluebird decided the safer choice was to risk his life by flying into the storm of chakrams instead of engaging in melee combat.
“Saint Elmo’s Fire.”
Bluebird discharged plasma, creating an electrically charged atmosphere. The voltage was emitted without a clear target. It deviated Zero’s magical chakrams from their targeted paths, opening a space for Bluebird to fly through.
—Darling, you are so cool! You spotted the weakness of those bizarre magical objects even though I didn’t tell you anything.
Asmodeus praised Bluebird through their mental connection.
‘It was just a wild guess. Luckily, I was right.’
Through the previous struggle, Bluebird could build up distance between himself and Zero, who was losing his momentum in the air due to having no footholds.
Bluebird speculated that, although Zero could utilize two energies, he was still originally a qi-type player. Thus, Zero’s materialized chakrams should have contained more qi than magic power. Based on the natural order, qi was weaker than magic power. Therefore, it wasn’t strange that Bluebird’s magic power could divert Zero’s chakrams even though his overall strength was weaker, especially when taking into account how Zero’s attainment in magic focused on the dark element, which specialized in attack power and curses.
Under the mask, no one could tell what kind of expression Zero was making. He took out his weapon for the first time. It was a silver chakram with a radius of half a meter. As it was cloaked with Zero’s magical qi, the chakram spun around so fast that it seemed motionless.
Zero threw the Sun-Breaking Chakram, an A-grade weapon personally made by Zeref, toward Bluebird. He then linked himself with it using the pulling power from his qi, following the weapon closely.
Bluebird realized he couldn’t outfly the chakram. He immediately tucked his wings in and shot downward, relying upon the force of gravity to accelerate his speed.
The weakness of the tailorbird form was the weak physical body. If he was hit by a clean hit, all the bones in the tiny body would be pulverized. Still, he didn’t think that transforming back into the human form was a good idea either as he would end up becoming a bigger target in mid-air. He had no choice but to descend. He tightly closed his eyes and wished for Zero’s attack to miss him.
Fortunately, it seemed Bluebird wasn’t doomed to die today. His efforts at stalling had allowed Dark Self to catch up and come close enough to attack Zero.
Dark Self flicked his hand and used Lookhin’s Oceanic Mind to slap Zero down onto a roof, collapsing the building underneath him. At the same time, he blocked another chakram, which Zero threw to counterattack him, using Illuminus.
Bluebird landed himself on a different roof and started preparing a high-tier magic spell.
Soon, the debris from the collapsed building scattered in all directions. It seemed Zero had moved out.
Even though Dark Self couldn’t tell where Zero was, he was certain that the Shadow Emperor’s target was Bluebird. Thus, he pulled out his trump card in order to catch up to Zero’s speed.
Dual Overwhelming Attributes — Earth Absorbs Water, Steel Sage.
Steel Sage was derived and modified from Lone Soul and Formless Soldier. Dark Self tapped lightly on the roof beneath him, yet the roof shattered and turned into dust. The world seemed to slow down for him.
However, today, this slow world didn’t belong to him alone. There was Zero who could rival Dark Self’s enhanced speed.
Bluebird could only see two shadowy figures clashing at transcendent speed. In a split second, Zero and Dark Self had exchanged more than five blows.
Zero spun the Sun-Breaking Chakram in his right hand while his left claw grazed the wound Sila had received earlier.
In the Steel Sage state, Dark Self’s punches and kicks were as lethal as finishing moves. He felt elated as Zero could still keep up with them and wasn’t losing. A worthy opponent was difficult to come by. Zero was suitable to be a stepping stone that would allow him to grow stronger.
Their power and speed were at the same level. As the fight was in a deadlock, Zero decided to change his approach. He relied on the concept of ‘Slow Beats Fast.’
In Dark Self’s point of view, Zero suddenly came to an abrupt halt and looked like a statue. Surprisingly, Dark Self’s neck seemed to be pulled toward the chakram as if his movements were read. He had no choice but to change his approach as well.
Attribute of Metal — Serene Universe.
Dark Self launched his punch in the simplest and most straightforward manner. His punch united with Zero’s flow of attack as if their moves had become one. Nevertheless, the perfection of Dark Self’s move made the latter pale in comparison and lose its profound might.
Witnessing this, Zero pulled his move back as well. He did a backflip and threw the Sun-Breaking Chakram at Bluebird, his main target, instead.
Attribute of Wood — Beckoning Hand of the Reaper.
Dark Self pulled Bluebird out of the chakram’s path. The Sun-Breaking Chakram cut through a building as if the walls were made of paper. It missed the tailorbird by less than three inches before flying back and returning to the Shadow Emperor’s hand.
Zero stopped moving. He looked through his mask and stared at Dark Self. His eyes expressed his feeling of admiration. “You have become a lot stronger, Sila.”
Dark Self didn’t reply. His blood continued to drop from the wound on his abdomen. Because he had been constantly using his top speed, the wound was further ripped apart. As long as he didn’t take his time tending to it, his body wouldn’t stop bleeding.
“Except for Montra, you are the first opponent to be the target of this skill...”
Zero hadn’t even finished his sentence when the tailorbird fiercely opened his eyes.
Apparently, Bluebird had finished casting the spell. He raised his small wing toward the sky and a part of his magic power shot into the clouds above him.
“Judgmental Hammer Bolt.”
It was a single-targeted spell that Bluebird was confident Zero wouldn’t be able to dodge. A streak of lightning descended and started to form the shape of a hammer. Even if Zero didn’t die from this move, he would at least suffer a heavy injury, opening up Bluebird’s chance to run away.
“Rhythm of Eternal Shadows.”
No apparent change could be seen in Zero’s body language. However, the moment when the lightning hammer crashed against him, Dark Self could have sworn that he had seen Zero stepping aside and completely dodging the spell, before vanishing from where he stood at a speed which even Dark Self couldn’t follow.
Shadow Reaper Hands, Zero’s personal martial art, instantly came at Dark Self from above his head. The art was indeed fearsome. All the qi in Zero’s possession was shifted to strengthen his hands while leaving the rest of his body defenseless. The power behind the hands was so deadly, as if they really belonged to the true grim reaper who could deliver death whenever they pleased.
Attribute of Wood — Stellar Hidden Weapon.
Dark Self ducked as he shot numerous specks, which he materialized using qi, from all over his body. It was a captivating move, like several stars streaking across the night sky. Rather than stars, however, these were qi bullets fired at point-blank range.
Because Bluebird was nearby, Dark Self couldn’t exert his full power. There was a need to drive Bluebird away from the scene so that Dark Self could fight the Shadow Emperor without holding back.
Dark Self enabled mental communication with Lookhin. He then pointed his finger at Bluebird and released her. Lookhin in the great sparrowhawk form darted toward Bluebird like an arrow fired from a bow, before using her claws to latch onto him and fly away.
In the meantime, Zero pulled himself to the ground using qi in order to avoid Dark Self’s hidden weapons. He landed on a roof before jumping after Lookhin.
Dark Self kicked a roof tile under his feet while strengthening it with ice-element Orbiting Cosmos. The tile shot ahead of Zero and turned into an ice wall blocking his path. Supplemented by the cold temperature of the city, it became a moderately durable barrier which couldn’t be easily broken.
Six black spears shot from Zero’s palm and put six holes in the ice wall. He then struck the wall with a qi-strengthened palm and broke it into pieces. As he continued moving forward, he used his qi to pull the broken pieces together before launching chunks at Dark Self.
“Shield of Illuminus, Light of Illuminus.”
Dark Self simultaneously activated two of the item skills attached to the right arm. The shield encaged Zero while the light enveloped himself. The more damage Zero dealt to the shield, the more durable the light would become.
Dark Self forcefully broke through the debris and approached Zero. His qi and psychic power were combined into his fist as he was about to unleash his deadliest martial move.
Dual Overwhelming Attributes — Wood Drains Earth, Phantom Barrage.
Dark Self deactivated the shield around Zero at the last second. Realizing that he couldn’t dodge the attack, Zero exerted all of his remaining qi to reinforce the Sun-Breaking Chakram and used it as a shield against Dark Self’s attack.
The sound of the A-grade chakram made by the legendary weaponsmith breaking could be heard, along with the bones in Zero’s arms. In the middle of the exchange, he still counterattacked by kicking the wound from earlier, sending black magic power into Dark Self’s veins.
Both of them were sent flying in opposite directions. Dark Self crashed against a roof and his body glided along the tiles. Meanwhile, Zero rotated his body in mid-air and kicked a roof prior to taking three steps back to reduce the momentum. Both of his arms were broken and blood was dripping through his mask. He stood still as he silently circulated Immortal Qi to heal his arms.
The cursed magic power seeped into Dark Self’s body and corroded him from within, dyeing his skin brown. He had a difficult time circulating his qi and couldn’t fix his wound. Blood poured out of his mouth, the black liquid looking nothing like blood normally did, as he pressed his hand on the bleeding wound. His legs were shaking when he stood up.
Lookhin had successfully fled with Bluebird to a faraway place. The burden on Dark Self’s mind was finally removed. At the same time, he questioned himself. Never did he imagine that even Phantom Barrage—which was derived from One Above All, Genesis Punch, and Nine Sun-Melting-Fists—still wasn’t enough to take down Zero.
‘We need to grow even stronger. We will always be a weakling otherwise!’
“The Medical Saint’s clinic is close by, Sila. If you go now, you may survive. Just don’t block my path,” Zero advised Dark Self. His voice was heavy though, indicating that he was injured.
Dark Self had been weakened, so Sila finally regained control over his own body. His eyes returned to their usual dark brown color. He quickly sent his psychic power into his veins to keep Zero’s invading magic power in check, similar to what he had done against Infernee’s.
Nevertheless, the serious wound and the fact that he had spent an enormous amount of energy exerting many Dual Attributes greatly exhausted Sila, unlike Zero who was gradually healing his broken arms.
Sila activated Way of Slime to alter the form of the Crystal Demonic Sword into a mass of liquid before leading it into his bloodstream. It ran through his veins and cleansed the curse attribute in Zero’s magic power. Still, doing so was pretty painful. Sila gritted his teeth as he bore the pain, and took the Crystal Divine Sword out. He then pointed the tip of the sword toward Zero.
Zero’s legs were still in perfect condition. He knew he could easily catch up to Bluebird. However, in order to do so, he had to defeat Sila first.
Sila borrowed power from the Great Flow, and the Crystal Divine Sword responded to it. The blade shone a crystal clear blue light and emitted a profound glow. Sila was still motionless, but he had already taken action.
Heaven’s Decree — Seventh Sword Style, Unforeseen Sword.
Zero suddenly started thinking Sila’s body was full of openings he could exploit. With the intuition of a martial artist, it was the best chance that anyone would unconsciously use without thinking. Still, Zero noticed Sila’s determined eyes and realized that it was a trap. Yet, it was a trap that he felt a strong urge to jump into. His intuition screamed at him that if he didn’t do it now, Sila’s sword would soon stab him out of nowhere.
The sword art that forces and manipulates the opponent into taking an action that will be advantageous to the user. How can such a bizarre sword art exist on Earth? Zero couldn’t help but question what just happened.
Zero calmed his intuition down. He no longer hesitated. He coolly judged the situation and confirmed that it was more advantageous for him if he stalled for time to continue healing his arms. Taking out a pellet from his system window, Zero removed his mask for the first time as he swallowed the pellet.
“I never thought that you were this good, Sila. You are qualified to make my desire into reality.”
Zero’s feeble, sickly expression couldn’t hide his handsome facial features, especially his eyes which were full of vitality.
“What is your desire, Mister Zero?” asked Sila.
Zero shook his head. “It’s no longer important. This will be the last time we meet. There will be no Shadow Emperor in the future.”
“What does that mean?”
“You will know when our battle ends. I will not hold back. We will decide this battle in a single move.” Zero moved his arms to tell Sila that he was done healing himself.
Zero gently placed his mask on the roof. He reinforced his right hand with a huge amount of qi and magic power, so much that his hand turned black while the rest of his body became pale. It was as if the remainders of his lifespan had been transferred into this hand.
Bluebird, who stood far away in human form, saw Zero’s real face. He was shocked and rushed back to the scene. Still, the atmosphere around Sila and Zero emitted a sharp aura, and that prevented him from marching forward. He stopped on a building one block away from the battle.
“How can it be you...? Narin... Weren’t you...?”
“...Dead? Right?” Zero replied, “...The answer is recorded in the file hidden under this mask. Keep it.”
Zero kicked his mask at Bluebird, which he took with mixed feelings.
“Look closely, Bluebird. Look at my fight and my spirit. Don’t ever forget it.”
Zero’s body cracked and disintegrated into a mass of darkness, charging at Sila. His move had no start or end point. It was impossible for Sila to take it head-on. Clashing against such a move seemed to be an idea that opposed the laws of nature.
Sila had to simultaneously rely on two sword styles. He waved his sword using the sixth sword style, Flaming Fireflies, to trap Zero’s shadow. After that, he swung his sword three times in an instant through Triple Lightning Bolts to finish it.
Unfortunately, Zero’s last move was like a true shadow. Each of Sila’s swings missed its target while the dark claw sank into Sila’s chest. Five fingers dug into his flesh, two knuckles deep. The dreadful force invaded, harming his internal organs. It was the power that was hot yet cold, heavy yet light, hard yet soft, cycling endlessly.
Dual Generating Attributes — Fire Creates Earth, Supernova.
Since he couldn’t touch Zero, Sila decided to unleash his power in the form of an energy wave. The buildings in the area collapsed with Sila as the center of the explosion.
Within the qi explosion, Sila saw Zero’s body standing still in mid-air. It seemed as if his avatar was malfunctioning as several ones and zeros were floating around him. He showed a pleasant smile before he finally disappeared.
Sila and Bluebird were left alone amidst the collapsed buildings. The system didn’t inform Sila about the fact that he had killed Zero. It was as if he simply faded away.
...It was as if his existence simply returned to zero, nothingness.
The sounds of people chasing after Sila came from a distance. This city was no longer safe for Sila and Bluebird. Thinking so, Bluebird supported Sila’s body and soared to the north—the region filled with dens of high level monsters that no one, including the citizens of Belacia City, dared to approach.
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