Chapter 598: Only One will Walk Out of Here Alive
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
There was a slight breeze blowing through the path between the ice walls. The breeze dispersed the white mist floating across the path as it blew towards Link.
A lone figure appeared from the mist. The man was wearing a flowing grey-white robe. His hair and beard were also a pristine white. It was Halino. He was holding a crystal magic wand in his right hand and a stone tablet which shone with an erratic light in his left hand. It was the fragment of the Book of Creation which had appeared on the platform at the ice cap of the mountain back then.
He had managed to retrieve it before anyone else.
"I didn't think you would be able to make quick work of Eugene," said Halino in a low voice.
"So you two formed an alliance?" Link lightly placed a hand on the handle of the Ode of the Full Moon sword, ready to strike out at the first opportunity.
Halino had the same idea as well. His power pulsated at the crystal tip of his magic wand, ready to conjure magical constructs around him at the first sign of trouble.
At that moment, both Halino and Link remained wary of each other. Neither one of them dared make the first move while the opportunity had yet to present itself to them.
"It wasn't an alliance exactly, just an agreement that had benefited both sides under the current circumstances. I handle Gretel, Eugene handles you. Once I have the fragment, I'll fight it out with him. I've figured out what the Guardian has in mind for all of us. Only one of us will walk out of this valley alive. There's no point in reaching the fragment first while someone else is still alive."
Saying this, Halino threw the glowing fragment to the ground. "I'll just put this here. Now let us battle. Whoever wins will have it."
Link chuckled coldly. "That sounds nice and all, but why would you pick this place as our battleground? Why didn't you just kill Gretel immediately? Is leaving her barely alive your way of trying to distract me?"
Halino smiled faintly. "Eugene was clearly outmatched by you. There's little to no difference in power level between me and him. Our methods are also the same. Our duels have always ended in a stalemate for years, so there's no way to tell who's stronger. I knew I needed to resort to less conventional means to defeat you. For the sake of all of Firuman, I will not let the High Elves destroy this world. I need the tablet, and this is the only way to make sure that I have it in the end."
His words sounded righteous and filled with a sense of justice. Link could not find the words to rebuke him. He would have done the same thing if he was in Halino's shoes.
To a true Magician, the ends always justified the means. For example, in order to further his own nefarious goals, a notorious Dark Magician like Eugene did not shy away from staining his hands with the blood of hundreds of thousands of lives. Link too had the blood of thousands on his hands. In order to aid Orida Fortress' resistance against the Dark Army, he had conceived the Sunlight Seed through experiments using live subjects. Ordinary Magicians might not be able to stomach his actions, but Legendary Magicians like Halino would have understood why he had to do the things he did.
Link took a long breath. "Well, it worked. I was indeed worried about Gretel's well-being. You were able to throw me off balance by torturing her."
Link's feelings for Gretel were complicated. They used to be close friends with something of a history behind them. Though their paths had split, Link's heart was still haunted by Gretel's shadow. He would never want her to die, not in front of him anyway.
More importantly, as the queen of the dragon race, she was more useful to Link and Ferde alive.
The Red Dragon Queen might have been stubborn and old-fashioned, but she was also a reliable person. Her personality was a constant. You never needed to guess when she would turn on you. Having her by your side was a boon in itself.
The dragon race was also incredibly powerful. Whenever something or someone threatened to throw the world out of balance, the dragon race would rise up as self-proclaimed peacekeepers to tip the world back into balance.
Right now, the High Elves planned on merging the two realms. This would have far-reaching effects on the world. Though Halino and the others had been working desperately to stop the High Elves, things might not work in their favor.
As a lord, Link needed to devise a series of countermeasures for all possible contingencies. If they were unable to stop the realm reunification, the world would descend into chaos. The High Elves would be a common enemy shared by all other races in Firuman, and the dragons would naturally become allies of Ferde as a result.
Evidently, a dragon race with the stabilizing presence of the dragon queen was a hundred times better than one without her.
Whatever the case might be, Link needed Gretel alive.
Halino was surprised to hear Link's words. "You actually told me what your weakness is. You should know that I could send my Spear of Light flying through Gretel with a mere thought!"
"So it would seem," said Link, nodding in acknowledgment. He then continued, "However, this will leave you completely unguarded. You'll be risking your own life just to end hers."
If Halino were to be distracted for even a hundredth of a second, Link would not hesitate to kill him as he had killed Eugene.
Halino glared at Link.
This human stood quietly before him, his black battle robe billowing around him. He looked more like a hardened Warrior than a Magician with that magic sword he was holding in his hand. The human before Halino gave him the impression of a volcano that was about to erupt at any moment.
Though Link looked serene on the outside, Halino could feel that he would not be able to survive this volcano's eruption.
After standing in front of each other for half a minute, Halino began to sense his sense of inferiority growing in him. Realizing this, he sighed. "I'll admit, you may be the strongest Battle Mage in all of Firuman I've ever seen. In one-on-one combat, your magic is the equivalent of an unstoppable tank. But it does not mean that I have no chance of beating you, Lord of Ferde. Unencumbered, no one is your equal. However, that is not the case right now. If I leave you now, you'll be able to take the fragment from and save Gretel as well. However, you will be at your weakest when you're burdened by both an injured person and an invaluable stone tablet."
Saying this, Halino began to step back slowly until his body slipped into the white mist behind him. A faint voice echoed out from it. "So choose wisely, Lord of Ferde."
There was a sudden bang beside Link. The Spear of Light embedded in Gretel's body exploded into specks of light.
The explosion managed to widen Gretel's wound even more, causing her extreme pain. However, it was not powerful enough to kill her immediately.
"Arghhh!!!" Gretel shrieked out in pain. Her entire body then collapsed on the ground. Blood flowed out of the gaping wound between her chest and abdomen in rivulets.
If Link did not cast a healing spell to stop the bleeding soon, the Red Dragon Queen would most certainly die before him.
Link turned around and was about to do something about the Red Dragon Queen's wound when suddenly he stopped. In an instant, he drew his sword out and stabbed it out to his side. A Despair Ball appeared before the sword tip, swallowing half of the sword as it extended outward.
In one fluid motion, Link had lashed out just as quickly as when he had delivered the final blow to Eugene.
A soft groan echoed from the white mist. It was the Light Magician Halino. Link's Ode of the Full Moon sword had pierced his heart.
From the sword, Realm Essence power flowed into Halino's body like a moonlit stream. Gradually, a Ball of Destruction began to form in his heart.
The Ball of Destruction did not explode immediately in him, which was the reason why Halino was still alive.
Halino grasped at his chest in pain. From a few hundred feet away, he asked, "How did you know I was about to attack?"
Link pointed a finger at Gretel and cast a spatial sealing spell on her, sealing her body in a spatial bubble. He then slowly said, "On the Golden Plains, if a Beastman wished to become a Warlord, he would be required to overcome a series of challenges. Once a Beastman declared his candidacy for the title of Warlord, one of the trials he would be required to take on was to survive a series of assassination attempts. Powerful Assassins would try to kill him at every opportunity for a whole month, day and night. He would only be deemed fit to bear the title of Warlord after having survived this trial."
The candidate could employ whatever means necessary to overcome this trial. If the new Warlord was not able to stay alert even in his sleep, this meant that he sorely lacked training and would probably have to stay up all night for a whole month on a lookout for Assassins. He would probably die from the exhaustion if no Assassin had managed to kill him at that point.
The only way any potential Warlord candidate could get through this trial was the Legendary battle technique, the Soul Furnace.
The perfect unification of soul, strength, and body would naturally sharpen one's sensitivity to all forms of danger, allowing it to surpass even a wild beast's instincts. A Beastman Warlord who had mastered the Soul Furnace technique would be able to sense an enemy's presence even in his sleep. He would be ambush-proof.
This was the true strength of the Beastmen's Soul Furnace technique.
Halino might not have lost to Link so easily if he had put up a fair fight. It was a shame that he had chosen to fight so dishonorably. When Link turned around, Halino thought that this was his chance to move in. However, it was then that he took a hit from Link's sword.
In a fight between two equally powerful masters, whoever slipped up first would be instantly killed by the other. This was the cruel reality of any life-and-death battle.
Link then cast a soul barrier around Halino's body, preventing his soul from escaping. Eugene's soul was more than enough for Link. He wondered if he needed to keep another enemy's soul.
Halino instantly knew what Link was up to. Panicking, he shouted, "I'm not like Eugene. He's a banished Dark Magician. His soul will wander around the mortal plane if it's let loose. My soul, however, will ascend to the God of Light's kingdom!"
"You're right, but I won't make the same mistake twice. Even if you'll be ascending to heaven, that's not your call to make. It's mine!"
At that moment, the Ball of Destruction exploded inside Halino's body, blowing it up into pieces. The soul barrier that Link had set up immediately shrank around the explosion until a single Soul Crystal was all that was left of Halino.
Link beckoned at the Soul Crystal, and it flew into Link's hand.
"Don't worry, your soul isn't of much use to me anyway. I'll be sure to personally take it to a Church of Light and let an archbishop send you to heaven."
Keeping the crystal away, Link walked towards where the Book of Creation's fragment lay. He had defeated everyone. The fragment was his to keep.
However, as he reached for the fragment, there was a glimmer of light from it. The guardian's image appeared on the tablet. He looked at Link and pointed at the Red Dragon Queen. "Young man, you still haven't dealt with everyone. She's still alive," he said.
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