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Richard had currently arrived in the town of Takra that sat at the foot of Snow Cliff, the last sizeable population before the Azuresnow Shrine. The shrine itself was built at an altitude of 10,000 metres high where even the strong barbarians could barely resist the cold, and the peak of Zykrama was even more chilly. Only someone with the power of a saint could live so high.

Takra was already quite lively, full of young barbarian warriors who had come here for the sacred ceremony. Only a small fraction of them were eligible to compete, but the rest just wanted to see the fun. Most of the qualifying battles for the first stage would be held publicly on a stage halfway up the mountains, and being able to see the battles of such experts was undoubtedly a useful experience for these young warriors. Many smaller tribes had brought all their talented youths over.

Takra couldn't possibly accommodate the tens of thousands of people currently gathered in its vicinity, so most people just found an open space outside the town and pitched tents for the night. Richard, now looking no different from a barbarian after months of tanning, hid himself in the crowd and bought a tent himself.

Early the next morning, he climbed the mountain with the rest of the viewers and challengers, the road itself long and complicated enough to take a day at walking speed. He could certainly fly there directly, but that was too eye-catching so he gave up on the idea. Regardless, even the walk was a way to temper himself.

The shrine was already prepared for the influx, having built a number of tents on a mountain shelf for all the participants. The viewers weren't given such a luxury, but they were allowed to make their own camp slightly farther off.

In one corner near the stage was a tall platform with a bloody streamer fluttering in the air. This was where people registered for the sacred ceremony, and there was a long queue underneath. It took more than an hour for Richard to get his turn, and the warriors of the shrine in charge of registration frowned with disdain at his thin body, "What is your name? Who recommended you?"

Richard handed over a black iron medallion, a tyrannosaur engraved on the back with Krangma's name and status on the front.

The warrior's face immediately turned more solemn, "So it was under Krangma's recommendation. What is your name?"


"Hmm? Strange name, sounds a little like a Norlander. Well, whatever…" the warrior engraved Richard's name on an iron plate and handed it over, "This is yours, make sure to remember your number at the back. You will be called up tomorrow, so make sure to rest tonight okay? Don't go around messing with girls, hehe!"


A cluster of bonfires built on the platform at night, the sounds of drums, horns, and plucked strings echoing in the air. Richard was rathered amazed at the unified voice of the barbarians as both the young and old danced around the fires, telling stories of their struggles with the harsh environment of Klandor. Many heroes had sacrificed their lives to eliminate powerful beasts and open up new living spaces, and they were fondly remembered as pioneers who brought Klandor to its current glory.

However, sitting at his own fire and silently roasting some dried meat, Richard was hearing something completely different. The biggest problem in the mainland of Klandor was the lack of water and food. Norland had once been on a similar boat, but they had solved the issue with planar warfare. This seemed to be more of an issue between two conflicting ideologies: the Beast God was more focused on improving his worshippers' strength, while the Eternal Dragon encouraged exploration and exploitation. The latter was certainly working out better.

Norland and Klandor worked off entirely different systems of power. Norlanders were a civilisation of magic through and through, while Klandor admired the power of the physical body. Even the smaller lords of Norland were used to calling upon the power of magic to change the environment, turning what was once barren into a beautiful land with alchemical mines sitting right next to grassy plains. On the other hand, Klandor had nothing but a number of turbulent rivers that only irrigated a kilometre of so around themselves. Out here, hundreds of kilometres away, all he could see were dry fields reliant on rain. Proper irrigation canals would have doubled the food production of this continent, but in thousands of years such a thing had never been attempted.

Along the way, he had seen about a hundred tribes of varying sizes. He could say with confidence that his own army could wipe out at least twenty to thirty of them with only minor losses, and this was truly a gap between Norland and Klandor. Greyhawk's original expedition had been defeated completely because it was one prince's army against the absolute elites of the entire continent. If there weren't a large water body between the two continents, Norland would most certainly have levelled Klandor entirely.

Of course, that would have come with its own set of losses. Klandor still had a number of powerful legendary beings hidden away that served as a deterrent to any invasion.

While he was lost in thought, a woman's voice suddenly rang out next to him, "Thirsty?"

He looked around and saw a young woman who was about twenty years old, quite beautiful with the unique aura of the barbarians. Seeing him turn over, she handed a cowhide waterskin over, "This is the wine we brew in our tribe. It tastes good and isn't very strong, just perfect for thirst."

"Thank you." Richard took the offered bag and drank a swig, immediately feeling a burning heat travel down his stomach that forced out a few coughs. The woman had said it wasn't strong wine, but it was still hotter than anything he was used to.

A loud laugh suddenly rang out from behind, "What's this sheep doing here, coughing from just some wine? This is the fellow you're looking at?"

"Bearchild, this is none of your business! If you have a problem, let's fight."

The fellow called Bearchild snorted, "You better hope this kid doesn't meet me on stage tomorrow, or I'll let him know what pain feels like."

Richard just continued sipping on the wine and looking at the bonfire, already lost in his thoughts once more. The young woman misunderstood this and sighed, "You don't have to be afraid of him, he doesn't dare to do anything. You… look nice, unlike most of the other rough people here. My name is Gesang, and my tent is over there. You can come over at night."

Just as she finished and walked back to her tent, Richard suddenly snapped out of it, "Your wineskin!"

"It's yours!" she called without looking back.

There were whispers all around the bonfire, mostly with disdain for Richard's weakness. The barbarians were a race that cared a lot about dignity, and for someone to ignore provocations was looked down upon by most. Even Gesang was quite disappointed. However, Richard couldn't care less, just eating and drinking almost by instinct as all three of his minds were running at full capacity. His primary consciousness was studying all of his skills and magic to work out optimal strategies, with his secondary still focused on the Church's martial arts. The third was working on his swordplay, simulating specific landing points for each slash and stab. This was why he appeared to be so absent-minded, even ignoring Gesang completely as he returned to the camp and slept on his own.


The qualifying fights of the ceremony began the next morning, the main platform being divided into dozens of smaller areas to host fights simultaneously. One would lose so long as they were knocked out of the ring.

"No. 1098, Richard!" a voice rang through the crowd, and Richard left the audience to enter the stage. It immediately caused a flurry of discussion: he was shorter and thinner than the average barbarian, while his opponent was enormous in comparison.

"Haha, it seems like the Beast God has blessed me! It's the coward who can't drink wine! Okay, I won't be bullying you. Win and you get to slap me twice, lose and I'm fucking Gesang tonight until she can't walk!"

Bearchild's words immediately roused applause from the warriors below. It was barbarian tradition for the strong to get whatever they wanted, including women.

Richard frowned slightly, erupting with the killing intent he had hidden for days. The bastard in front of him represented every single thing he hated about the barbarians and the sacred ceremony, and Mountainsea's image shot into his mind. He quietly pulled his hands back into his sleeves, hiding the blood-red fingertips.

"Oi, Bearchild, stop speaking so much and finish! There are still a lot of people waiting!" the warrior presiding over the contest urged.

Bearchild sneered, screaming until all of the muscles on his body popped out. The phantom of a bear formed behind him as he charged over, every step causing the earth to quake. When he made it all the way to Richard and lifted his enormous hands to smash down, the arms that could crush rock suddenly froze in mid-air.

Richard's right leg was planted into Bearchild's belly, the calf almost disappearing into the muscles. Nobody had seen him react at all, and even Bearchild himself only reacted after a moment. Richard then recalled his leg, stepping back.

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