3:29 – Faithful Companion
A silver spear with blinding radiance emerged within Serena’s hands and then flew towards Nowun’s chest.
The Nameless One swung his sword to deflect the attack. However, the moment his dark blade made contact, the spear blurred and slipped past Nowun’s sword.
His eyes widened and he immediately sidestepped.
The spear flew past Nowun, missing by a hair’s margin. However, that fact didn’t seem to bother Serena at all. The Goddess grinned and said, “Do you think it’s that easy to evade my Gungnir?”
Nowun’s eyes widened and he immediately activated Information Concealment before giving his all to a rapid retreat by sending a surge of darkness to launch him backwards.
It was the right decision. An instant after he did that, the space where Nowun was floating shattered, erupting in silver light as Gungnir cycled through every possibility to strike at its target. But that light didn’t last long, and the spear returned to Serena’s hands.
“Hoh? That’s an interesting power.” Serena stared at the fractured space for a moment before waving her hand to restore it. After that, she turned directly towards where Nowun was standing and smiled. “It doesn’t work too well when the other person knows you’re there though.”
Serena spun her spear around and then thrust towards where Nowun was floating. An invisible ripple of energy spread out and then he felt his Information Concealment get forcibly cancelled.
“Tch. I was hoping it would be that easy.”
Drop out of combat and sneak in for a back stab. That would have neatly resolved their little clash. But Information Concealment wasn’t Information ‘Erasure’. Maybe if he had more time to refine it, he could make the skill reach that level, but it seemed that Nowun’s control wasn’t enough to disengage from combat against someone on that Goddess’s level yet.
“You wouldn’t be the first to think that.” Serena raised her spear and said, “It’s your turn now. Go ahead! I’ve got time.”
Nowun’s left eye twitched, but he ignored it. The Goddess could be flippant now, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long.
The Nameless One let out a sigh and then said, “As the beginning has an end, so too does the end have a beginning.”
An invisible current rippled out from Nowun, and something in the world changed. At the same time, his sword blurred, becoming something that looked more like a stick than a sword.
“From chaos springs creation, and yet from creation emerges chaos. Time flows eternally, but determination diverts its path.”
Serena tilted her head, an amused smile on her face. “Speaking to the world to try and change it? No, more like trying to convince your ‘self’ that it is the ‘world’?”
The invisible current that spread from Nowun suddenly stopped. When it did, so too did everything else.
Nowun raised his sword- no, his Faithful Companion. The constant that could anchor his strongest attack.
The Observer and the World. What existed and what was experienced. By inverting the two and replacing ‘memory’ with the world’s ‘record’-
-He could erase anything from existence by striking it from his memory.
A sure-strike kill. Something that could only work because of the Absolute Memory granted by that omnipotent Creator of Earth.
Believing in the conclusion that he had arrived after thousands of trials, Nowun’s Faithful Companion cut through the air and…
She landed on a rooftop after spinning through the air. Xinxin scowled and immediately turned her attention back to her Sifu.
It wasn’t long. At most, it would have been a few second. Yet, in those few seconds, the impossible had occurred.
Her Sifu stood there in the middle of the street. His shadowy sword was lowered, as if he had just finished an attack. The follow-through of a slash.
That much was fine. To that extent, Xinxin could accept. But she couldn’t accept what else was there.
That woman, the one that her Sifu called a ‘Goddess’. She was standing directly in front of him. With a silver spear in one hand and the other around Sifu’s back, she held him like one would a lover. Except that the spear’s tip was piercing through Sifu’s back, its brilliant silver tarnished by crimson.
Silence. It was as if the entire world had frozen over, as if time had stopped.
Xinxin could only stare at the sight with horror.
Sifu. Her violent, mysterious, unstoppable Sifu. Facing off against that indescribable beauty, he… lost?
The Goddess sighed. “That was close… but not enough. You did well this time, my fated opponent, but you were too hasty.”
The nameless man didn’t say a word. His black robes billowed, but the man himself remained frozen, as if a statue. And then, suddenly, dark shadows spread throughout his entire body, wreathing it in black flames.
That broke Xinxin from her daze and she jumped down from the roof. “Sifu!”
She could tell at a glance. Those weren’t ordinary flames. They were like the dark core in her dantian, an existence that would devour any and everything to grow.
The Goddess shifted her gaze towards Xinxin and then sighed. “…I guess I was a bit too hasty as well. To think I would make such a rookie mistake…”
Xinxin couldn’t understand the Goddess’s sentiment, but she didn’t care to. All of her focus was on her Sifu and trying to stop the flames.
“Sifu!” She grabbed his arm and tried to divert the flames to herself. “You can’t die here! There’s too many things you haven’t told me yet! Too many questions you haven’t answered!”
“It’s useless, little Xinxin. That guy did a crazy thing to get here and did another crazy thing to try and kill me. What’s happening now is the consequences of his recklessness. Karma, you could say?”
“Shut up!” Xinxin glared at the Goddess for a moment before turning her attention back to Sifu. “This… I can fix this. Sifu… he can’t die. He’s stronger than this. No, he gave me something like this, so I can fix it. Right, this must be a test. The reason he chose me to be his disciple.”
She was rambling. Xinxin didn’t even know what she was saying anymore, but the words let her avoid the immediate fact of her Sifu’s fading body and instead focus on a way to try and fix it.
Xinxin rotated her cultivation base and tried to draw the flames in using the attractive force of her dark core. Considering the similar natures, it should have worked. Only-
The moment she tried to do that, the flames fled from her grasp. However, in the process, they amplified in intensity. As a result, where Xinxin had just been holding her Sifu’s arm, only air remained.
“No! Sifu, you can’t- this can’t-!”
Xinxin shook her head and forcibly calmed herself. After that, she reached out to her Sifu again. The first time was a fluke. If she tried again-
Before she got the chance to, the flames, along with the sillhouete of her Sifu, vanished. They didn’t fade, die down, or scatter. One moment they were right there and the next, they were gone. Gone, along with her Sifu and any hopes of answers she might have for her questions.
“…Well, this is anticlimactic.”
The sudden words made Xinxin turn to look at the Goddess.
The indescribable beauty sighed and dissolved her spear. “To think he hated me that much. A brilliant plan… if he had reached the level of a god. But as a mortal… Just what did I do to piss him off so much, that he’d resort to that ?”
“You!” Xinxin rounded on the Goddess and formed a qi blade. “This is your fault!”
The Goddess took a step back and held up her hands. “Hey now! You can’t blame me for this, little Xinxin! Your Sifu’s the one who had the crazy idea to-”
Fire, water, earth, wind, metal… even that mysterious energy from those foreigners. Xinxin poured everything she had into her sword and lunged at the Goddess.
The indescribable beauty sighed. “That won’t work. I’m the one who made all of this world’s Laws. The enforcer of Order.” She shook her head and reached out to grab Xinxin’s sword with her right hand. “Something like this, while powerful in terms of this world’s residents, is just-“
“-a light show?”
The Goddess’s eyes widened and she took a step back, clutching her hand. There, golden blood flowed, dripping onto the ground.
Xinxin smirked. “You were saying, ‘Goddess’?”
The Goddess’s eyes narrowed and she stared at Xinxin as if piercing into her soul. After a moment of silence, she laughed. “How hilarious! So I slipped up there too! If it’s like that, no wonder you can hurt me.”
The Goddess shook her head and then smiled. “Tell me. How badly do you want to see Nowun again?”
“You’d better tell me how to get back to him right now, stupid Goddess, or I’ll- huh?”
Xinxin froze and covered her mouth. “What just…?”
The Goddess laughed. “It looks like both of us messed up this round. Who would have thought that a tiny wish could have this much strength? Though, I guess that’s the effect of karma…”
Xinxin couldn’t understand. No. That wasn’t true. She understood, but Xinxin didn’t. And yet she was Xinxin. And Xinxin was… her?
A splitting headache. The world around her looked like it was falling apart. Distorting, twisting, breaking… No. It didn’t just look like it was falling apart. It actually was falling apart.
“Hm… It seems like I’ve been here too long. I guess I’ll need to plant that tree after all to give this world a bit more structure. But as for you, the girl who stuck to her heartfelt feelings across both lives, I might as well give you a reward.”
The Goddess smiled and waved. “See you in a few thousand years! Ah, and try to find Wang Tian. I’m sure he’ll be happy to help you find your Master again. I’m rooting for you! …No pun intended.”
Before Xinxin could ask the Goddess what she meant, there was an explosion. A massive surge of energy, the result of the world’s order collapsing…
And then Xinxin’s consciousness faded away and she knew nothing else.
Serena stared at the board. Her eyes, flickering with all the colors of the rainbow also flicked back and forth between the chess pieces and her opponent.
“This… what the heck?”
The Goddess blinked and rubbed her eyes. Yet, what she saw didn’t change at all.
“Shocked.” Serena shook her head and stared at the Nameless One. “Were you planning this from the start?”
“…You could say that.”
Serena turned her gaze back at the chess board. The pieces were all the same. None had been added or removed from play since the last round. And yet… “How did you get them to change sides?”
That was the difference. All of a sudden, half of her pieces had changed control back to her opponent. Her knights, her bishops, half of her pawns, and one rook. Not only that, but the pawn that her opponent moved last round had become another queen.
The Nameless One smiled. “Have you ever heard of a Xanatos Gambit?”
“Let’s just say that every outcome from that point on was favorable for me. And now…”
The Nameless One picked up his new queen and moved it to the king’s side. “From this point on, it’s the end game.”