The demons needed some time in order to reach their princess, so Xinxin decided to test out the emperor to occupy him. There was something off about him that she wanted to check, so the two goals were aligned.
Her sword cut through the air towards Elio’s neck. It was sloppy, but still faster than an ordinary person should be able to deal with.
Elio’s sword flashed and parried the attack before lashing out towards Xinxin’s heart in a blinding thrust.
She stepped to the side, causing Elio’s sword of light to brush past her.
Elio continued forward, moving with the momentum of his thrust.
Xinxin moved around him, causing the two to switch places.
Elio raised his sword. He frowned and tilted his head. “Is that all you can do?”
Xinxin smiled. “You got some pointers from the Heavenly King, so it’s an honor to get some from me, isn’t it?”
Elio laughed. “Were that the case… That last attack was clearly meant to kill me.”
Xinxin shrugged. “If you die, you’re too weak.”
Elio frowned. “Weak, am I? Then… how about this!” Mana surged, wrapping his sword of light. In an instant, his speed increased and he charged, cutting through the air with a blinding slash.
Xinxin’s quickly brought her sword up to parry. As she did, she regretted not learned proper swordplay.
While Xinxin was able to parry the attacks because she was faster, Elio was clearly more skilled. His strange technique also closed the gap between them.
But that technique…
Xinxin pushed Elio away with her next parry and opened the gap.
Elio raised his sword in front of him and then drew in mana again.
Drawing in mana… drawing in energy from the surroundings?
Xinxin’s eyes widened. “I see… I see! So the Imperial Slash Sifu learned is actually degraded from Yù shān. To think that karma could work like this…”
Nowun learned Imperial Slash from a soldier, and he imparted the attack to her as Faith.
However, Imperial Slash was actually a part of Elio’s swordsmanship… one that Xinxin could see now was a mix of Wang Tian’s own techniques with a few from the Zhan Clan.
Elio frowned. “You Shawn? What gibberish are you speaking?”
Xinxin shook her head and raised her sword again.
Elio’s frown deepened. “Taking me lightly, are you?” He stepped forward and said, “Do not think that you are unbeatable because of your title!” Light gathered around his sword, slowly turning everything dark as the attack drew in every source of light.
Xinxin smiled. “That is a powerful technique… but it’s an imitation.” She raised her sword, emerald light shining around the blade.
Elio swung his sword. A beam of pure white light cut across the throne room towards Xinxin, causing the air to shriek from its speed.
Xinxin swung her sword as well, sending another beam of light across the throne room, this one a pure emerald.
The two beams clashed, and the white light instantly scattered.
Elio’s eyes widened and he swung his sword, barely stopping Xinxin’s attack. He stared at Xinxin and said, “That… how do you know that technique!?”
Xinxin sighed. “Did that guy not tell you? …No, he probably just taught it since he didn’t want it to be forgotten. He was always too sentimental…”
Elio frowned. “Ignoring me again?”
Xinxin checked the progress of her wayward companions. They were… about halfway there. A bit more and it would be time for her to step in and get everyone out of the Empire. But not yet.
Elio narrowed his eyes and then shifted his stance. “If Imperial Slash won’t work, then…” He raised his sword once more. This time, however, instead of gathering mana, he seemed to dissolve within it.
Xinxin frowned. “That…”
Elio advanced again. This time, instead of charging, it was a casual step forward. However, in that single step he closed the distance and swung his sword.
Xinxin’s eyes widened and she brought her sword up to parry.
The blades clashed… but Xinxin didn’t feel any resistance.
A faint wind against her throat was her only warning before the sword of light struck her flesh.
Xinxin leapt back, opening the gap again.
Elio lowered his sword and frowned. “Running away?”
Xinxin shook her head. “I am still considering if you are qualified or not.”
Elio scoffed and then stepped forward. “I’ll show you qualified!”
Once more, he closed the distance with a single step. At the same time, his white sword blurred.
Xinxin focused, carefully watching him. She tried to parry the attacks, but any that her sword touched were instantly rerouted, curving to strike her like snakes.
Thankfully, none of them were strong enough to break through her skin… but it was still troublesome.
Emperor Elio… he was far from the strongest that the Goddess had to put into play. If Xinxin intended to follow her Sifu, she would only be a burden as she was now. Raw power only went so far… Wang Tian tried to show her that a long time ago. Comprehension and skill was needed to make use of strength.
However, in front of her, Xinxin had the perfect opportunity.
Emperor Elio had learned from Wang Tian and created his own style from those teachings… however, they were also based on the Zhan Clan’s techniques. Then, in that case, Xinxin should be able to learn them… or at least get some understanding of what she was doing wrong.
A thrust, a step, another slash.
Elio swung his sword and said, “For the Great Heaven Seizer, you’re not very skilled at using a sword!”
Xinxin’s response was to slash out again. Then, after a few more clashes, she smiled.
Elio’s eyes widened and he stepped back. He cautiously raised his sword, waiting for Xinxin to move.
Xinxin’s smile widened. “I must thank you.”
“…What for? Not ordering my guards to chase down your servants? Humoring you with this farce of a duel? Showing face to you because of the Heavenly King?”
Hm. It seemed that the Emperor wasn’t as dumb as Xinxin thought. He at least realized that she was distracting him.
“Not quite.” She swung her sword. At the same time, she imitated what Elio had done.
Drawing in spiritual energy into the body and then imbuing it into every fiber. Moving like a river and following the flow of energy. It was a style that moved with nature, but when one decided to oppose nature, move out with explosive force.
A combination of hard and soft blows, slow and fast strikes. Not as elegant as Wang Tian’s swordsmanship, but pragmatic.
Xinxin’s body started to blur, similar to how Nowun used Information Concealment. At the same time, power rippled through her body.
…It wasn’t a true sword style. Xinxin still needed to properly learn the techniques, but with the underlying principle now…
Xinxin stared at the stream of energy going through her body and said, “I never realized that this was the purpose of Yù shān. I have to give you some credit for that.”
Elio frowned. “…Is that what you wanted to discuss? Swordsmanship? If so, there are plenty of more peaceful ways to do so.”
Xinxin was quiet, instead carefully surveying Elio.
It might have seemed unnecessary and meaningless, an attack done out of whimsy… but Xinxin was carefully considering Elio as she clashed against him.
In pure strength, Xinxin could overpower him. She had enough versatility that she was confident in defeating him if she didn’t hold back. Yet, he was skilled enough to match her attacks and intelligent enough to devise a means to merge mana and cultivation, as well as see into the true purpose of her clan’s techniques.
He was also interesting.
From the viewpoint of the elves he was evil, sending out his army to ruin them in every way possible.
From the viewpoint of the demons, he committed an unforgiveable sin in killing their princess… but the truth was that he kept her safe and away from harm. Even entertained, judging from the books that she saw.
And then there was the fact that the Goddess could not bind him with Destiny and the pure white thread that lead off into the distance…
Xinxin dismissed her sword.
Elio let out a sigh and did so as well. “Finished?”
“You are a strange man.”
“Me strange? You’re the one who-“ He stopped and let out a sigh. “No. I suppose one as old as you would be a bit eccentric.”
Xinxin felt her eye twitch but decided to let the slight pass. This time.
Elio walked back to his iron throne and sat down. As he did, he stared at Xinxin and said, “But me, strange? That’s a first. Most would call me cruel or ruthless.”
Xinxin shrugged. “That is the case for most people daring to deny the heavens.”
Her Sifu, Wang Tian, the countless cultivators… everyone that sought to reach the level of the Goddess did so on a mountain of bones and corpses. It was a necessity, designed that way by the Goddess herself.
“Deny the heavens?” Elio looked amused. “Do I look like that?”
Xinxin crossed her arms and said, “If not, you would have allowed the Goddess to bind you with her golden thread of Destiny… but you are opposing that, are you not?”
Elio nodded. “I should have expected the Heaven Seizer to see through my plans.” He leaned back and smiled. “Well? Does that mean you’re open for cooperation?”
“…That depends on you.” Xinxin drew her true sword, her ‘other self’ that had been forged into a weapon beyond mortal reckoning. A simple stick appeared in her right hand before twisting, turning into a sword of pure darkness. She raised it and said, “You walk a different path… a new route. As ‘he’ has already gone ahead, I will judge if it is enough to reach the Goddess that treats this world as her play.”
Elio glared and summoned his sword. He stepped off his throne and said, “Hubris will be your downfall, legendary immortal or not.”
“I should say the same to you.” Xinxin pointed her sword to the ground, taking a loose stance.
Elio raised his sword and focused. His very being seemed to shift and then the thread of white light around him erupted. “…I won’t allow you to stand in my way. If you prevent me from saving her, then…” He charged, swinging his sword. “I don’t need you!”
A simple, horizontal slash. Predictable and straightforward.
Xinxin frowned and moved to parry it. But the moment she did, she froze. “This…? A fragment of a law? No, of Dao?”
It was like Wang Tian’s path but different. A different road and method, but the same result.
Xinxin couldn’t move. She was forbidden to. Rather than a domain, it was willpower enforcing a phenomenon onto the world. Rather than enlightenment and comprehension, it was turning the internal into the external, forcing a phenomenon to occur. Writing a new law into existence.
Because of that, Xinxin couldn’t dodge.
Elio’s sword reached her. The blade of white light thrust towards Xinxin’s heart, moving to pierce it… and stopped.
That time Elio froze. His eyes scanned the empty air and he muttered, “Physical Resistance? And the level… there isn’t one? How is that-“
Xinxin swung her sword. A quick slash, wreathed in chaos and darkness.
Elio was overextended. As he stood, he couldn’t hope to parry. Yet, the moment Xinxin’s sword cut towards his neck, Elio’s blade blurred and moved to block it. Still, the force of the blow sent him staggering back.
Xinxin tilted her head when she saw that. “You… Hm. They called Wang Tian a heaven-sent genius… but you’re different.”
If Wang Tian was a once in a thousand year prodigy, the one before her was someone that would probably never come around again.
Emperor Elio… perhaps she was mistaken. While he didn’t have the heaven’s mandate, he had something worthy of respect.
“To unify the fragmented path before the Goddess’s new Order with the current mana and world in order to reach a new height… It is respectable.”
It was a path that followed the road of cultivation but also took advantage of mana. A combination of the two, using the principles of cultivation but with mana as the energy and combining both with unyielding will.
Elio wiped a bit of blood from his mouth and said, “I am honored… but also annoyed. If you don’t want to cooperate, then do you intend to fight? Should I take your actions as the whole of the Sun Kingdom?”
Hearing that, Xinxin sighed and said, “Unfortunately, that is your flaw.”
He was young. Like her past self, he was still young and naïve… no, she should say, like Wang Tian’s past self. Brash, and thinking that a sword could solve everything, charging forward without looking back.
…Hm. Her Sifu was like that too… Maybe that was why she felt empathy?
“Flaw?” Elio narrowed his eyes.
Xinxin nodded. “You can’t beat her like this. Even if you believe following her orders will create an opening, you will not be able to seize it.”
She understood what Elio’s plan was now. In quiet, he was honing his blade, sharpening it for that fatal moment to cleave free and challenge Destiny. Yet, while he could deny it, he hadn’t thrown it off. That could be seen by how the thread still wrapped him.
Elio was trying to break free by following the flow to slacken it… but that was only adding more thread to hang himself.
“…I don’t believe it.” Elio raised his sword. “You… I don’t believe you, either. Heaven Seizer, immortal… if you truly are one and you say that I can’t face the goddess… then I’ll defeat you and become someone strong enough to do so! This is my oath, my creed! Grant me this promised victory!”
White light shone around him before twisting with darkness and gold. A means to unify opposing elements to gather strength through paradox.
The light wrapped around Xinxin and shattered. At the same time, she absorbed it. The moment she did, Xinxin felt something become complete inside her. But for the moment, she ignored it.
Elio coughed up blood, collapsing on the ground. He pierced the ground with his sword, using it as a crutch to push himself up. But in a few moments, that faded away, sending him falling once more.
Xinxin sighed when saw that and muttered, “Why do I keep meeting helpless individuals?”
Titania, Nero, and now Elio…
It wasn’t the goddess’s design, but it seemed like her karma was drawn to it.
…Hm. No, come to think about it, that was probably true from the moment her Sifu picked her up. After all, he had been hopelessly helpless in the beginning.
Xinxin sighed and turned around to leave.
Her companions had reached the girl now… and it looked like she’d need to pick them up, judging from the pile of corpses stacking up in the hallway and the flood of soldiers charging down.
Xinxin glanced at Elio and said, “Prepare yourself. There will be a time when I return. When I do, if you still plan on facing that Goddess, we will truly talk of cooperation. But until then…” She drew her blade and cut the golden thread around him.
Elio’s eyes widened. “This…!”
Xinxin started bending space, intending to quickly go in and grab her companions… and then she paused. “Ah. I forgot to mention. I will be taking that demon you kept in the basement. If you have any resignations or protest, come place them at my sect.”
“Heaven Seizer, you-“
Space shattered and Xinxin appeared in the room where the demon princess imprisoned.
Corpses littered the ground and blood stained the walls. At the same time, Imperial soldiers charged into the room.
Before anyone could react, Xinxin pulled Titania and the demons close to her before bending space again.
When everything settled, the group appeared back in the Sun Kingdom.
Xinxin planned on heading back to her pagoda, but since she couldn’t quite make it, she latched onto the nearest familiar presence.
The demons landed on the floor behind Xinxin. Titania appeared on her right side. All of them groaned, nauseous from the sudden trip through space.
But Xinxin ignored them. Instead, her eyes were drawn to the familiar presence she used as an anchor point to travel to.
Erik froze, in the middle of taking off his shirt.
Behind him, laying on a lush bed with violet sheets, there were two girls… no, two young women. One, a tomboy with short brown hair, the other, an elegant girl with long blue hair. Sarah and Mary. And, like Erik, they were also in the middle of taking off their clothes, the sash around their robes unfastened and fluttering to the ground.
Xinxin sighed and immediately spun on her heel. “I will not question what you three do in your spare time… but for now, find a place for my guests to stay for a while. I have other matters to attend to.”
Erik muttered something about Xinxin being unreasonable, but at that point she wasn’t listening any more.
With that settled, Xinxin could focus on more important matters… no, her most important matter.
The world dimmed, replaced by that odd space of colorful lines symbolizing karma.
Most of them were unimportant, and none of them connected to Xinxin. A few hovered around her, yes, like the dark bond representing how Titania was Xinxin’s Servant, the three blue bonds representing the respect Erik and his girls had towards her… but none of the ones nearby connected to her.
For Xinxin, there was only one thread of karma. And now that she had tied it again… she could follow it.
Drawing the sword Wang Tian gave her, Xinxin cut through time and space, using her karma and feelings as a guide.
Sifu. This time… I’ll find you for sure.
Martial Hero Route – [True End: Faith]