The window shattered, vanishing as if it never existed. After that, Xinxin felt a change happen from within her.
Her dantian, the core of her powers… that dark core shattered. No, rather than shattered, it expanded. The singular point spread out, turning pure darkness into a starry sky.
Xinxin’s eyes widened in surprised. That power… it was like a world on its own.
No. It wasn’t quite that yet. Xinxin could feel a boundless strength flowing through her body as well as the faint beginnings of her own ‘laws’, but it was still faint. At the moment, it was just the origin. The seed of creation, a chaotic mix within boundless darkness that contained everything and nothing all at once.
“Master?” Titania called out to Xinxin. “Is something wrong?”
Xinxin shook her head. “It’s… nothing.”
But that wasn’t the only change Xinxin felt. A name that wasn’t a name, and a face that she could never forget filled her mind.
Nowun… her Sifu. The man that threw away his name and identity, tangling up his own karma in the process.
Her heart throbbed. The desire to find him, to make sure that he was okay, to reassure him that he wasn’t alone… Xinxin could barely restrain it.
But she had to. At least, for now.
Xinxin closed her eyes and let out a long breath, calming her mind.
There were only two things she needed to know right now. One was how to use her new powers and the other was if it was enough to stop Alan and his party.
The first was a non-issue. While she still wasn’t entirely sure how her powers worked, she felt an intuitive grasp on them. Her ‘Chaotic Darkness’ was like another limb, and she could use it at will wherever she pleased.
If her Sifu’s power was to memorize and recreate, her power was to take and repurpose. The ‘Chaotic Darkness’ she possessed was something that defied the Goddess’s natural order, allowing her to seize everything she desired.
As for whether it was strong enough… While Xinxin didn’t know if she could rival the Goddess yet, she was certain of it. If it was just a semblance of her power or an avatar, Xinxin wouldn’t lose.
Erik’s voice called out, reminding Xinxin where she was.
From below, in the courtyard, Erik clasped his hands and said, “We greet the Great Heaven Seizer!”
A roar erupted from the crowd behind him, echoing his words.
Xinxin remembered it. Before, she was taken aback. But now that she was expecting it, she found it somewhat charming.
Wang Tian… while her feelings towards him were still complicated, Xinxin could at least appreciate the work and devotion he did to bring up and support all of the people below. Not only that, but they were willing to fight for her sake, and hers alone.
Thinking it like that… wasn’t that just like how she felt about her Sifu?
A willingness to stand at someone’s side through thick and thin, even if they may not always take the right path…
Xinxin could respect that. So, this time around…
“Master?” Titania looked a bit confused.
Xinxin leaped over the balcony, gliding to the ground.
Thankfully, Titania was quick on the uptake and she followed shortly after, using wind magic to control her descent.
Xinxin landed in front of Erik, her robes shifting slightly as she did.
His eyes widened and he took a step back. “Great Heaven Seizer? You… have you become a true immortal?”
Xinxin smiled and looked around.
Was it because she had been severed from the effects of Destiny and Karma? Or was it her increased powers? Either way, Xinxin could sense all of the emotions from the crowd around her.
Wonder, awe, devotion, and shock… mixed among those were a few darker emotions like envy and lust, but the ones expressing those forcibly rejected them.
It seemed like Wang Tian trained them all well… though with the gazes they sent her, Xinxin seemed to be more of a god in their eyes than a person. Reverence, rather than respect.
Funny, all things considered. But at least she would be a better one than that Goddess that abandoned her own favored children for amusement, right?
Titania landed on the ground behind Xinxin and waited.
Xinxin stopped looking around and focused her attention on the front gates. Any moment now…
An explosion. Once again, the doors burst open and practitioners were sent flying in. But this time, Xinxin was expecting it.
Before the practitioners could hit the ground, they suddenly slowed, their descent dampened by Xinxin’s will.
There were some quick thanks, some platitudes towards the Great Heaven Seizer… but Xinxin ignored them. Instead, she walked forward towards the four lingering just beyond the gate.
Was it because of their training, or did her intent get carried through? Either way, the crowd of people parted and then reformed behind Xinxin in rows, like a private army. Leading that group were Titania as well as Erik and his two companions, Sarah and Mary.
Alan walked through the gate, an easy smile on his face and his sword held loose at his right side. That changed the moment he caught sight of Xinxin and the organized force behind her.
Xinxin smiled. “I’ve been expecting you.”
“A fight as soon as we enter, huh?” Alan raised his sword and then paused. “Wait, you’re that girl from last time…”
Charlotte walked in after Alan, spinning her staff. She caught sight of Xinxin and then turned to Alan. “You’re not going to hold back again, are you?”
“Nah.” Alan narrowed his eyes. “I learned my lesson last time. Besides, I’ve been grinding all year for this. I’m not about to lose that now. Though…” He tilted his head and stared at Xinxin. “Are we doing a duel, or what?”
Erik stepped forward. “Daring to address the Heaven Seizer in such a-“
Xinxin held out her hand, stopping Erik, and shook her head. “It’s fine. I’ll deal with this.”
“That…” Erik frowned and then said, “Understood!” He turned around to face the crowd. “The Great Heaven Seizer has spoken! Clear the area!”
A roar of approval echoed in response and then the courtyard slowly emptied.
During that time, Titania walked up to Xinxin. She glanced at the invaders and said, “Master, should I-“
“Go with Erik. This won’t take long.”
“…Understood.” With that, Titania left, following after Erik.
And then the courtyard was empty, leaving only Xinxin along with Alan and his party.
Alan raised an eyebrow. “Guess it’s a rematch then. Bit arrogant to face us by yourself though, isn’t it?”
“Rematch?” Xinxin laughed. “I suppose you could see it like that. Our last fight did end quite poorly.”
Alan cracked his neck and walked forward. He made a show of looking around and said, “Well, looks like there won’t be a knight in shining armor to save you this time.”
“And your Goddess can’t help you here.”
Charlotte stared at Xinxin and then walked over to Alan, her gaze cautious. “Alan. She… doesn’t have any stats.”
“Hm?” Alan glanced at her. “What are you talking about?”
Charlotte shook her head. “I have a bad feeling about this, Alan.”
Diane stared at Xinxin and then slowly nodded. “Me too. That girl’s- Hm?” She tilted her head, as if listening to something. “…Get away? What do you mean get aw-“
“Too late.” Xinxin stepped forward, closing the distance between them in a single bound and grabbed Diane by the neck.
“Kuh-!” The blue-haired cleric started choking and dropped her staff, reaching to pull Xinxin’s hand away. But before she could, darkness surged and began enveloping her, sapping away at her strength.
“DIANE!” Barry roared and charged towards Xinxin, his shoulder lowered for a tackle.
The result should have been obvious.
Barry was a towering man in full plate mail armor while Xinxin was a frail young girl wearing a simple violet robe.
When Barry collided with Xinxin, she didn’t go flying. She didn’t even budge.
There was the sound of steel crashing against an immovable object and then Barry flew backwards, landing on the ground. He quickly got up and stared at Xinxin, shocked.
Xinxin glanced at him and smiled.
Barry’s eyes narrowed and he let out a roar, standing up. This time, instead of charging, he drew his sword. But before he could take a single step, Xinxin spoke.
Barry crashed against the courtyard, shattering the tiles and forming a small crater. His whole body shuttered as he strained against the force holding him down, but the only result was cracking his armor. “Damn… you…!”
Xinxin shook her head and then turned her attention back to the one she was holding.
Diane’s eyes were fading, swiftly losing light. Still, she raised her hands, trying to pull away Xinxin’s fingers.
Xinxin stared at her and said, “You killed Titania. Well, I suppose you weren’t completely responsible… but she fought you and lost.” Her eyes narrowed. “The elf’s life wasn’t yours to take. So… I’ll be taking yours in exchange.”
Alan finally snapped from his daze at Xinxin’s sudden appearance and ran over. “Let go of Diane!” He raised his sword, gathering wind along its edge. “Vorpal Slash!”
Air screeched and Aeolus, the divine sword granted to Alan by the Goddess, cut towards Xinxin’s neck. Yet, before it cut flesh, it stopped. Barely a finger’s width away, the sword halted in the air.
Alan’s eyes widened and he muttered, “Immortal object?”
Charlotte took out her staff and said, “Alan! We’re leaving, now!” She raised her staff into the air and said, “Space, abide by my will! Greater Tele-“
Xinxin’s voice echoed through the air, rippling with power.
Charlotte’s words cut off and her eyes widened. She grabbed her throat and opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Realizing that, she shook her head and grabbed Alan’s arm, trying to pull him away.
Alan shook his head. “We can’t leave Barry and Diane, Cherry!” He stared at Xinxin, trying to figure out what to do. Then he paused. “Wait. If you’re taking a hostage, then…” He turned around, running towards the building where everyone else had gone.
Xinxin shook her head. “Who said I’m taking a hostage?” She clenched her hand.
Diane’s body went limp and then turned into white light. It started to fade, but before it could vanish, the darkness surrounding Xinxin flared and consumed it.
Alan froze then turned around. His eyes went to Xinxin’s hand and then he roared. “YOU BASTARD!” He swept his left hand through the air and summoned the golden blade from last time. “CALIBURN! GUIDE MY HAND!”
Xinxin lowered her hand and turned around.
Alan started to step forward, but Charlotte grabbed his arm again. “Let me go, Cherry!”
Was it out of sheer panic or desperation? Either way, Charlotte managed to break free of the silence and she screamed. “ALAN! We need to log out of the game, now!”
Alan shook his head. “I’m not going to let our year of grinding-“
“DIANE IS DEAD!”
“And I’m saying-“
“No, she’s DEAD! Read the system message!”
Alan frowned and then swiped his hand. His eyes flitted across the window in front of him and then they grew wide.
Xinxin shook her left hand and walked towards Barry.
The man’s eyes were bloodshot, streaming with tears. Blood spilled from the corners of his mouth and he let out a low roar through clenched teeth.
Xinxin tilted her head. “Ah, right. You two had a red thread of karma… I suppose you were lovers? A pity.” She narrowed her eyes and she said, “You shouldn’t have listened to that Goddess.”
Darkness swirled around her again and then gathered around Barry.
“Barry!” Alan struggled to escape, but Charlotte held firm. “Let me go, Cherry!”
“Don’t be reckless! I can’t lose you!”
“CHERRY! LET ME-!”
Xinxin grabbed Barry’s head and clenched her hand. Blood splattered and his body turned to light as well. Yet, before it could fade, Xinxin absorbed it.
She shook her hand and then tilted her head. “Hm… healing and defense. Useful.”
Her Sifu only had offensive abilities, so it would be good for her to have support abilities.
Alan roared and pushed Charlotte away. He raised both of his swords and shouted. “Giga-“
Xinxin stepped forward and then slammed Alan into the ground. A small crater formed and his armor shattered.
“Urgh…” Alan groaned and tried to stand up.
Xinxin ignored him and looked at Charlotte.
The crimson-haired woman’s eyes widened and she held out her staff. “S-Stay back!”
Xinxin took a step forward.
“I said stay back!”
Xinxin stopped and then tilted her head. “I don’t really understand… but this seems to be a game for you four, right? Some sort of play where you can act wantonly, killing and taking whatever you want.”
Charlotte’s eyes scanned the surroundings, looking for an opportunity. Or maybe she was stalling for Alan to get up.
Xinxin sighed. “I didn’t expect an answer. Then again… I don’t need one from you.” She stared at Charlotte… more specifically, she stared at the threads surrounding the crimson-haired woman.
Karma… with the blade Wang Tian left her and her new powers, Xinxin could see it spiraling around the crimson-haired woman. While she didn’t look at Alan, she could tell that it would be the same.
Black chains of resentment, silent whispers pleading for vengeance, curses from those who were killed in cold blood.
Seeing that, Charlotte froze. “What are you-“
“Heaven might be blind, but I am not.”
Xinxin moved forward in a single bound and grabbed Charlotte by the throat as well.
“CHERRY!” Alan staggered out from the hole, using his swords as a crutch. “Let her go, you-“
“I would be careful with your words.” Xinxin tightened her grip and glanced at Alan.
He froze and then shook his head. “Let her go. This was our mistake, alright? We’ll leave.”
“…the one who sent you here. Who was it?”
Alan shook his head. “I don’t know? The Goddess? It was a story mission, and the system says that she’s the one who assigns them.”
Xinxin paused to consider that. It was a bit odd for them to suddenly appear again. The first time the Goddess sent them was to kill Xinxin. This time it was to kill Wang Tian. Then why-
The world froze. Alan quickly ran forward, trying to reach Charlotte before the ability ran out. But-
Xinxin turned around and said, “That won’t work on me this time.”
Alan stopped. “You… You shouldn't be able to move.”
Xinxin shook her head. “You place too much trust in the gifts the Goddess has given you. Though… I am curious.” She tilted her head and said, “You have another time ability, don’t you? Aion… I believe. If you use it. I may… consider letting you go.”
Whether it was the truth or not, Alan seemed to realize that he didn’t have a choice. He stared at Xinxin and then held up his swords. “You asked for it! Aion!”
A golden halo appeared above Alan’s head, and then a glowing circle bloomed behind him, twelve symbols encircling his body.
“So that’s what it was.” Xinxin smiled. “She made a mistake.”
Before, Xinxin wasn’t able to do anything. But now… now things were different.
That ability, Aion, turned Alan into something beyond a Saint. A pseudo-divine being. Not only that, but his ‘domain’- no, his Authority was control over time.
Even though he could control it at will, Alan didn’t waste any time. He dashed forward, blades ready to cut Xinxin apart.
She didn’t move.
Alan grew confident and then swung his swords. “Die, you damned bi-“
Xinxin spun and tossed Charlotte at Alan.
His eyes widened and he threw his swords aside to catch her.
A fatal mistake.
Darkness spread out from Xinxin again, wrapping around them both. A pitch black like tar, enveloping the two and dragging them into the ground.
Charlotte coughed. “Have to… log… out…!” She moved her right hand, swiping it down. But when she did, her eyes widened. “It’s… not there?”
Xinxin stepped forward, staring at the two wrapped in her darkness. “This is the end. But… I have to thank you for the gifts.” She raised her left hand. “If you want to curse someone for your deaths, curse that Goddess who sent you here. She should have known better than to stick her nose where it doesn’t belong.”
Alan strained his body, trying to escape, but the only part of his body he could move was his head. Still, he glared at Xinxin with all the venom he could muster. “Damn you to hell…!“
And then the darkness pulled them in leaving nothing behind.
Xinxin stood in the empty courtyard and muttered, “Hell, huh?” She shook her head. “If that is where I must go to reach him… then to hell it will be.”
New power coursed through Xinxin’s veins. The new enlightenment that came from assimilating the gifts that Goddess gave those people.
“Time, space, light, and fire, huh? Not only that, but…” She reached out her hand, and then a sword emerged within it. The golden glittering blade that the man held. Yet, as Xinxin held it, darkness spread, corroding the blade black and staining it with violet light.
“…That’s better. Titania did need a new weapon…” Satisfied, she nodded. After that, she turned her head back and said, “You can come out now.”
It was quiet, and then a sigh echoed.
Titania walked out from a door on the side and said, “I told you that my Master knew we were here.”
Erik followed after her and said, “I suppose I should have known better than to underestimate the one Master praised so highly. He always said that we shouldn’t judge you by normal standards…”
Xinxin nodded. “That was wise of him to say. But enough of that.” She made a sheath from darkness and sheathed her new sword at her left side, next to the blade Wang Tian left her, and she said, “After all of this, I’m tired and hungry. Why don’t we head back and-“
Suddenly, footsteps echoed from beyond the gate. At the same time, dark mana flared.
Erik’s eyes widened and he drew his blade, running in front of Xinxin. “Leave this to me, Heaven Seizer!”
Titania moved behind Xinxin. While she didn’t say anything, the elf was wary, ice and wind gathering around her hands.
But as for Xinxin herself… she turned around and said, “Relax. I think we have a proper guest this time instead of another intruder.”
A man ran through the gate. Pale skin, crimson eyes, and gray hair. Covered in black armor, he stepped into the courtyard with a crimson blade drawn and wrapped in darkness.
His eyes scanned the courtyard, and then he frowned, relaxing his mana and lowering his sword. “I… thought that the Heaven-Seizing Dragon Sect could use some help… but it seems that you handled those Apostles well-“ He paused when he noticed Xinxin standing there. “Hm? You are…”
She waved. “Nice to see you again, Mister Dark Knight. Now… what brings you to my sect?”