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Matheus’ features darkened as he dodged the attacks of six assailants. In truth, the pressure on him wasn’t very great despite the savage grins on the faces of his opponents. Defeating them would be as easy as summoning just one of his mid-tier corpse puppets despite the fact all six of his opponents had stepped into the Connecting Heaven Realm. However…

“The Core Region is quite shameless.” Matheus said coldly. “Do you really believe that we’re fools? Even if the Core Region Clan’s increased their strength tenfold, they wouldn’t be able to produce this many Connecting Heaven Realm experts below five hundred years old.”

The six attackers sneered but didn’t respond.

They were the subordinates of the Minn, Lao and Ofera second-in-line heirs. They had been left to protect the perimeter and disallow anyone else from approaching any closer.

In addition to this, Matheus was correct. They were already all well over five hundred years old. But so what? The moderator of this event was one of their own, and the checks for appropriate age were also conducted by him. Who was going to expose them exactly?

“Scurry along now.” One of the six sent a fist forward that Matheus slithered out of the way of. “Don’t think that you’re a match for us simply because you’ve lasted this long. We’re more interested in keeping others out. Even if you slipped by, you’d be too weak to do much of anything anyway.”

Matheus’ movements suddenly stopped. Along with his actions, so too did the six Core Region lackies come to a pause as well. Their purpose was never to kill Matheus. In fact, they had used not even a tenth of their strength as most of their attention was on the surroundings.

Because of this, they mistakenly believed that Matheus only survived so long because they went easy on him, having no idea that Matheus could reap their lives with a single thought. However…

Matheus looked toward the distance. As good as Vygil, Lucien and Annbar had been at sensing the sudden changes, Matheus was even more so. As a Necromancer, his Mental Realm was far beyond their own. In fact, he could clearly see Ryu’s situation. He was nothing but a man on his last legs…

Matheus turned and began to walk away, no longer bothering with the six behind him. Not only could he kill these six easily, he could also kill the three that obstructed Ryu will barely a little more effort. However, what would come of that?

With the death of three second-in-line heirs, the Core Region would be thoroughly enraged. They’d immediately investigate these matters, and even if Matheus left no evidence, there was no doubt that his Loom Clan would suffer nonetheless. After all, the man they originally offended was the very elder brother that Lucien looked up to so much. Even if they weren’t involved, he would take advantage of his little brother’s death for revenge.

And what would happen if he didn’t kill them and only saved Ryu? … Then, all the effort he had put into hiding his combat strength would be exposed, and so would his connection to the Necromancy Guilds. He simply couldn’t defeat those three, or even these six, without his corpse puppets if they fought together.

And for what or who would all that trouble be for, exactly? A Ryu that he had only known for a few days? No matter how good his impression of Ryu was, making such a decision was simply far too irresponsible. He couldn’t do it. There was too much lying on his shoulders.

Matheus closed his eyes. ‘I’m sorry… Ryu.’

With a flash, he disappeared into the distance.

**

Raging heat billowed from Ryu’s body. Even if the three Core Region geniuses were very much aware that this was the end of his rope

The flames that flickered along his body were nothing like the one would except. Instead, they seemed to be fueled by blood, dying the air around him in a deep crimson light.

The three geniuses were entirely focused on Ryu, unwilling to blink for even a moment. It wasn’t because they felt that Ryu was their match, but rather because they felt a corner dog’s final assault wasn’t something to be ignored.

However, even with three pairs of eyes trained on him, Ryu’s sudden burst of speed almost caused them to completely lose sight of him.

[Lined Assault]. Ryu had long since entered the Circle of Perfection in this Peak Black Grade technique, thus giving him a fourfold increase in strength. With how fast his speed already was… His instantaneous straight-line speed was far faster than anything these three could imagine.

Ryu’s halberd pierced outward. The strike was the incomparably simple [Pierce] of the [Basic Stances]. Yet, the three couldn’t find the will to laugh. They found it difficult to even stand in Ryu’s vicinity due to the overwhelming heat he was giving off, let alone confronting his strike directly. To make matters worse…

‘Impose Barrier!’

The instant Ryu moved, a violent sheen of red formed a dome around his body. To the naked eye, it seemed flimsy, fragile, even. But to a cultivator, who had yet to enter the Impose Realm themselves, it was something they could only fear!

The temperature skyrocketed to another level. The tip of Ryu’s halberd tore a line through the sky, domineeringly sheering even the air itself apart.

Lucien snapped out of his stupor. His robes were woven of Sixth Order fabrics, yet even he still felt a searing heat. He had to protect himself and fight back. Now!

A sheen of qi enveloped his body. Having to siphon his qi to protect his skin like this dropped the qi available to him by an entire ten percent. Coupled with the suppression he faced against this Impose Barrier, and his battle effectiveness dropped by thirty percent. It wasn’t just him, but the same was true for Vygil and Annbar as well!

Suddenly, their battle effectiveness dropped by another twenty percent!

A look of horror matted their faces as they instantly understood the reason. Ryu had projected two Impose Barriers at once!

One was a dome that seemed forged of a thin curtain of blood, but the other was filled with patterns that looked like the scales of a crimson dragon. That Impose Barrier pulsed with life, almost as if to breathe.

They melded into one, becoming an oppressive atmosphere that sought to blanket the area in its might.

It was then that Ryu’s [Pierce] reached Lucien. Like a shooting star streaking across the battlefield, it sought to gouge out his throat and end his life.

However, at the end of it all, Ryu’s body was now merely comparable to a Higher Divine Vessel Realm expert. In addition, even if he struggled to layer another Impose Barrier, his mind, already drained, would simply collapse. Even now, maybe his Impose Barriers wouldn’t last even ten more seconds.

His body was in shambles, burnt to a crisp under his own effort and flames. His Mental Realm was a collection of shattered bits and pieces, barely holding on to its consciousness. And his qi was completely barren, the severed tip of his Chaotic Silk meridians hanging loosely within his body. He simply shouldn’t be able to stand right now, let alone fight.

At that moment, Ryu’s halberd met Lucien’s sword. Ryu felt an energy as tall as a mountain crashing into him. Though he didn’t retreat even a single step, and it was Lucien who took several backward, this was only a painted illusion.

Lucien’s choice to step backward was intelligent. Every movement dissipated more of Ryu’s strength, mitigating his damage to near zero. However, Ryu’s choice to refuse to do so caused him to take one hundred percent of Lucien’s strike. The destruction that ravaged his body would have made anyone else faint on impact.

Ryu raised his halberd toward Lucien one more. Unable to utilize qi, the only techniques available to him were those that relied on his body. [Lined Assault] was a technique that made the body a bow to increase speed and it was unfortunately one of the only techniques Ryu could use now…

So, when he raised his halberd, it wasn’t to unleash some mighty strike. Instead, it was once more simple and plain as could be… [Slice].

Unfortunately, it wasn’t Lucien’s sword he met this time, but rather, Vygil’s fist.

Destruction once more ravaged Ryu’s body as Vygil took several steps backward. But Ryu didn’t back down, his halberd sweeping outward to his side to build up momentum.

[Sweep].

The moment Ryu’s strike met Lucien’s sword, a rain of needles fell from the skies.

Some bounced of his Diamond Back Ape armor, and others were directly incinerated by his Rage Flames, but those were only some… Another portion, filled with Annbar’s hidden strength, managed to tear their through, pelting Ryu’s body with countless injuries.

Still, Ryu refused to take even a single step back. His once straight back hunched over slightly, unable to continue piercing toward the skies even as ragged breaths released billows of black smoke from his lips, but he still took yet another step forward.

[Advance]. [Lunge]. [Sweep]. [Sidestep]. [Advance]. [Sidestep]. [Slice].

The series of [Basic Stances] changed together in a beautiful simplicity. However, the three geniuses no longer seemed eager to kill Ryu. In fact, with serious expressions, the defended and waited.

It had barely been more than a second since the battle began, but Ryu’s strength already began to decline. He could no longer raise his halberd as high as he had before, his [Basic Stances] were no longer as crisp, no longer as refined. He could no longer bow his body and unleashed an unbridled [Lined Assault]. It felt that he had really come to the end of his rope.

“[Sky Fall]!”

Vygil’s built up momentum unleashed in an instant. His fist instantly appeared before Ryu’s chest.

BOOM!

If one was watching on, perhaps they too would feel this impact to their chest. It wouldn’t matter that the strike wasn’t meant for them.

Ryu’s armor shattered as he was sent flying into the distance. His flames had already become too weak to maintain its structure, this seemed like the inevitable conclusion.

The man who refused to take even a single step back had, in the end, been forced to. Sometimes, in the face of absolute strength, there wasn’t much of a point in staunch resolve.

When Ryu and Ailsa first met, this was a point Ailsa made abundantly clear. Not everyone could fight against the will of the Heavens. Doing so wasn’t as simple as Ryu believed. There were many people in this world who willed with all their might to grow stronger, to become something better for themselves, but still failed in the end.

That bitter taste of defeat, even after you had given it your all… This was what Ryu was now experiencing.

He lay in the distance, entrenched in the dirt. Maybe he would have lost consciousness already if it wasn’t for his violent coughing. Every time it seemed he would finally slip away, another violent torrent of black smoke would snake up and out of his throat, convulsing his already beaten body with endless pain.

In his hand, his halberd lay. His fingers wrapped around it so tightly that it even his already fair skin turned several tones paler.

“Let’s end this farce.” Lucien said plainly.

The three geniuses hadn’t sustained even a single injury. The so-called bloody Dragon God in the sky hadn’t faded, but its aura had. It no longer seemed sustained by Ryu’s Mental Realm, but was rather held up by his emotions.

Unable to lift or move his body, Ryu couldn’t even watch as the three geniuses approach him, his only sight was the sky above his head.

It was quite ironic. He hated nothing more than those skies right now, but it forced him to look at it even as his final moments drew near.

Ryu thought of parents. His father that had descended into the Nether Realm to find him… His mother that had used the last bit of her strength to seal their Holy Lands…

He thought of his grandparents. Had they sacrificed themselves, were they long since dead? Would he be able to see them after he died?

Ryu’s muscles spasmed, another violent cough ripping through his body. This time, though, it was followed by blood. It seemed his coughing had torn a new wound his throat, not that he was using it much before anyway.

The sight of a gorgeous beauty with gentle and mischievous eyes filled Ryu’s mind. His wife, the love of his life, the woman he would happily bow his head to and heed the every need of… Was she struggling right now? Did she need him? Was she still waiting for him…?

‘I promised…’ Ryu tried to mumble to himself, but his torn throat didn’t allow him. In the end, the words only became a projection of his mind.

{I want you to know that I’ll never leave you. No matter what happens, can you promise me that you’ll remember this?}

Those were the words he had told her during their final night. However, if he died here, there would be no third chance. There wouldn’t be another Sky God’s Legacy to allow him to reincarnate…

This was it.

The fire in Ryu’s mind burned even brighter when he thought of this. He had promised. He couldn’t let her down. He didn’t want to let her down.

If his gaze held any power at all, even the skies above his head would have collapsed at his fervent desire. He wanted to live, not for himself, but for her.

But it was useless.

No matter how fierce his gaze became, no matter how fiercely his body trembled and tried to rise, he couldn’t budge a single inch. He had reached the limit. There was simply no energy left within him. He had run completely dry.

Even as he struggled to stand once more, the three Core Region geniuses had already made it to within three meters of him.

“Even if you a Throne, you will still die here.” Lucien said plainly. “I no longer have the face to say that you’re undeserving of the title, but unfortunately for you, that doesn’t matter. Don’t worry too much, I’ll be sure to send your head to Taedra. As for leaving you with a complete body, you lost that right the moment you offended my Lao Clan.”

Lucien raised his sword.

Looking at the skies that filled his gaze, Ryu could just barely see the sun reflecting light along its silvery finish. With Ryu’s death all but guaranteed, it seemed the tribulation clouds above no longer cared to stay. Almost as though it disdained to even watch his final moments.

The blade descended.  

The reflective ray danced across Ryu’s face and mask, teasing him with a faint warmth that drew ever closer.

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