Clang.. Clang… clang…
The chiming of a clock sounded slowly, coming from somewhere unknown.
Garen dashed down the pitch-black corridor. The path in front of him was retreating rapidly, and the bones on the ground had been crushed underfoot. As he turned a corner, some of the powdered ashes was wiped off his clothes.
He didn’t pause at all, following the uphill-slanting tunnel as he advanced.
Leather boots stopped in their tracks, Nightmare glanced back while supporting Andrela.
In the dim evening sunlight, it was as though the huge stone statue had been plated in a layer of red-gold light.
The heavy clanging of a clock came from the top of the stone statue.
"How majestic," Nightmare murmured. "Garen, don’t you die now…"
By the beach, Weisman’s general with the black chest hair was waiting for the rapidly-approaching military ship. He turned back at the same time as Demon Hunter Elysha, to look at the black humanoid statue towering over the island.
There were only about a dozen Demon Hunter left, and there weren’t that many Weisman soldiers left either.
"It’s the final competition… To think that the twilight bells have already sounded… Truly a battle to look forward to." The general’s gaze was full of thoughts. "Too bad… Those two idiots will never hear it again. I told them living like they did was a surefire to not live long, but no one listened."
Elysha touched a scar that had remained on her face, a wound she had gotten in the mixed brawl.
"The Glorious Chan is dead, too. Aren’t you sad at all, General Milo?"
"Sad? It’s good he died, now my family is the sole dominating force. Once I get back, I’ll swallow two other clans! Hehe!!" The general with the black chest hair cheered up instantly. Suddenly, he saw the army ship approaching.
He rushed over and waved, yelling loudly.
"I’m here!! Cute little Sally!!"
Amidst the pile of bloody bodies, the God of Spear Mare helped up the King of the North Pole.
"Big doofus, you okay?" He slapped the King of the North Pole twice, hard.
The latter opened his eyes slowly.
"Not yet dead…"
"So this what makes a main force, your skin sure is thick." Mare sighed. When they had teamed up against the Immortal Palace’s Sylphalan earlier, this King of the North Pole was the quickest to jump into the fray, and naturally was injured the most as well.
But as expected of the man known as the Polar Bear, his body was so strong it didn’t seem human. He took four direct hits from Sylphalan, and could actually still talk normally.
Just then, the distant clock chimes reached them from above.
"It’s the twilight bells, the last battle has begun. Wanna go look?" Mare looked up at the top of the huge stone statue.
"I can’t… That guy is basically a monster, if I go I’ll just be asking for a quick death," The King of the North King snorted, and replied weakly.
"It’s alright, there’s another monster over in the Southern Territory. We shouldn’t even think of the Black Smoke Pot anymore, but no matter what we can’t let the Immortal Palace get away with the spoils," Mare said quietly.
"It’s alright… Hmph, no one who got hit by my Three-day Arctic Needles can live past three days!" The King of the North Pole laughed coldly.
"No one from the Immortal Palace is normal," Mare emphasized."
"Ugh… Fine, but I guarantee they definitely don’t have the strength to bother us right now. Why else would the two of us still be standing here safely?" The King of the North Pole said unhappily. "I advise you to just stay here obediently and wait for their reinforcements to fetch us. You’ll just waste your energy struggling blindly."
Mare shook his head.
"I have a reason I must go…"
"Then it’s up to you." The King of the North Pole snort
ed again twice, and sat in a corner alone. He began to rest, and checked his injuries. "Alright, your wife is still okay, right? If you lost your pathetic little life… I’ve been watching your wife for a long time, you know that. Don’t blame me later for not considering our friendship."
Mare was appalled.
"I say, it’s one thing for you not to help. But who takes advantage like that?"
"Either way I don’t care, you just go ahead. Don’t forget to make a sound before you die, I’ll go get your wife immediately." The King of the North Pole was too lazy to bother with him.
Mare applied some medicine to the wound on his shoulder, and tied a few rounds around it with the bandages he had prepared to compress the muscles and close the wound. His brow was already covered in sweat. Seeing the King of the North Pole resting with his eyes closed in a corner by himself, he shook his head speechlessly. Turning around quietly, he jumped into the pitch-black underground tunnel, disappearing into the darkness quickly.
The King of the North Pole waited for a moment. When there was no more sound, he opened his eyes.
"You actually went. Haih! I say, have you really gotten tired of living?" He turned around to glance at the direction of the stone forest, where he vaguely heard noises approaching. After a moment’s hesitation, he clenched his teeth.
"Gah! You suicidal maniac! You’ll be the death of me!"
He also jumped into the pitch-blank tunnel, sinking into the darkness.
Flamingo leaned on the stone statue, looking at the dried-up old man dressed all in black in front of him quietly.
"That guy ran off?"
The old man nodded. "First I got hit by the Three-day Arctic Needle, and then that guy succeeded in landing a sneak attack on me. But he was pierced by Sylphalan’s sword, too, so his injuries shouldn’t be any lighter than mine." He bent his back slightly. There was a gory knife wound on his abdomen, and it kept dripping blood.
Flamingo raised his head to look at the top of the giant black statue.
"Sylphalan went up already. That guy should still be hiding, waiting for his chance. I plan on going back now, what do you want to do?"
The old man was mildly surprised. "You’re not going to help?"
Flamingo shook his head.
"No, and there’s no need anymore."
Something seemed to occur to the old man, and his expression changed. "I’ll go with you."
Flamingo turned around and walked towards outskirts of the stone forest. There was a puddle of red-black blood on the spot where he had previously stood.
The old man in black hurried to follow him.
On top of the stone statue, Sylphalan’s long figure seemed almost inhumanly beautiful. He was holding a long red sword upside-down, quietly watching Garen as the latter rushed up the slope.
Going up the tunnel’s stone steps, Garen gradually slowed his pace, and looked up at Sylphalan, who was standing at the tunnel’s entrance.
This was the man that had been involved with him from the very start. Right now, he was wearing a long silk black robe. It made a striking contrast against his pale white skin.
The strong winds kept blowing past them, sending Sylphalan’s long black hair flying to the left. His black robes also rustled in the wind.
He raised his right hand in front of him, and splayed open his fingers. A simple book necklance was lying quietly in his palm.
"The Eternal Starry Night, it’s still with you, right?"
Garen steadied his step, pressing the necklace in front of his chest in his hand.
"If I remember correctly, didn’t you take it away from me in the first place?"
"I didn’t take the necklace, but something else…" Sylphalan turned around to leave the tunnel entrance open, walking to the edge of the platform. The maelstrom blew his long, watersilk-like hair into a constant dance.
Garen walked out of the tunnel slowly. The tunnel was built inside the stone statue, slanting upwards to the statue‘s head, and the exit opened up to the platform on top of the head.
On the very top of the huge black stone statue, on the platform in the gap there, Sylphalan and Garen stood about a dozen meters away from each other.
The whole black platform was about a hundred meters wide. It was oval-shaped, and was surrounded by black stone guardrail. Some parts of the rail had already been damaged and fell off. There were minute words and symbols carved everywhere, on the floor, the walls, the ceiling. As though the breath of a whole other civilization was recorded here.
The distant chiming kept coming from above them. It was heavy and ancient, carrying with it waves of faint echoes.
The evening sunlight shone inside, landing by their feet. The whole platform in the gap was lit up, a bright golden-red.
Garen stares at Sylphalan’s back, walking around him to reach the guardrail. He looked down.
Underneath the guardrail, a sea of white clouds formed a white garland, turning around the stone statue slowly in a circle. Underneath the gaps in the ring of clouds, many tiny black dots were boarding a boat by the edge of the island, one after the other. Some ships were leaving, others were drawing near.
A wisp of white cloud floated past Garen. He reached out his hand, and lightly grabbed the vapor.
The cloud vapor actually twirled around his hand and remained there, like a white translucent silk ribbon."
Garen’s fingers were like the petals of a flower freshly bloomed. Spinning it around naturally, softly and delicately, without a hint of hardness. He actually managed to keep the cloud wisps there, unable to escape.
"Northern-style Cloud Capturing Hand."
Garen flicked his finger. Psst!
The white cloud vapor transformed into a strand of white silk, shooting at Sylphalan. Soundlessly.
The white string reached a meter of Sylphalan, and stopped abruptly. It was as though it rammed into an invisible wall. Then it exploded without warning into tiny white shards, fading away.
"I remember that the last time I met you, you were far from this level you are now." There was a strange smile on Sylphalan’s face. "Do you hear the clock chimes above us? Those are the twilight bells, signifying that the first stage of the Black Smoke Pot’s activation."
"The first stage?" Garen looked at him with narrowed eyes, waiting for the rest.
"That’s right, there are two stages to the Black Smoke Pot." Sylphalan put his hand on the guardrail, a glimmer of reminiscence in his eyes. "The last time the Black Smoke Pot activated, I heard the chimes of the twilight bells. As for the second stage, in fact it has already begun. From the moment we entered here, it has begun."
A layer of platinum slowly formed on the surface of Garen’s skin.
"That is, only one living person can remain here." Sylphalan smiled, carefree, and slowly waved the Sword of the Sprites that he held in hand.
Garen’s right palm made a grab downwards, and absorbed wisps of the white cloud vapor around him.
The strands of white clouds gathered like white thread, gathering under his palm from all direction. Finally, they formed a white cloud ball in the middle of his palm.
"When it comes to martial arts, who on this earth could be stronger than you and me? To think that despite that, the two of us will have to decide on a victor here." He walked towards Sylphalan slowly, each step carrying the majesty of a tiger stalking or dragon’s prowl. It was soundless, traceless, but it was as though the whole stone statue and the floor were trembling.
"This has nothing to do with the Black Smoke Pot. The truth is, we’ve waited very long for this battle." Sylphalan held up his long sword horizontally in front of him, tracing his finger lightly across the blade. The entire blade gradually began to glow a blood-like red.
He tossed the blade lightly, and a strand of red thread floated off of it slowly, severing the guardrail on the right without so much as a sound.
"Let’s start… Right here, let’s end it all."
The Sword of the Sprites slanted diagonally downwards, pointing at the ground.
"Nothing to do with the Black Smoke Pot."
Garen raised his palm suddenly, and pushed forward!!
A clap of dull thunder exploded in the sky.
In the gap on top of the statue, a great deal of cloud vapor erupted abruptly with the red light, forming a halo of red and white that slowly drifted apart.
An unknown air spread from the top of the statue. It was colorless and shapeless, gushing into the sky.
The sky darkened in an instant. Countless dark clouds gathered, growing thicker, growing darker. The whole island began to shake slowly, the pebbles on the ground jumping and trembling. A large amount of smoke wafted out of the crevices in the ground, forming a lot of white vapor, drowning the whole giant stone statue in its midst.