Saroviny's power and speed had improved dramatically thanks to the Abyss of Despair battle robe. With its Foresight ability, her offense and defense were now impeccable.
She was now the perfect Warrior!
On the other hand, Link had also received a great deal of power after absorbing Frost Queen Lily's soul energy. However, he was still slightly weaker than Saroviny with her Abyss of Despair battle robe. Fortunately, his nigh flawless swordsmanship, complemented by various support spells that he had cast on himself, was enough to compensate for this difference in power level between them.
They had been going at each other for ten seconds, and still, their duel was no closer to a conclusion.
In the span of ten seconds, both sides had exchanged 325 blows with each other, setting off ripples of power which spread out in all directions. The ground undulated beneath them like the surface of a stormy sea. It was a truly horrific scene.
In the realm of Aragu, most duels between two Level-16 masters would not last for more than two seconds. As a rule, one blow was all it would take to end the other. This was due to the fact that Level-16 masters had access to various methods of execution, which most of them were usually not in the habit of advertising to the world. Any misjudgment on their opponent's power level would prove fatal for them.
The outcome of a duel also hinged on the stamina of its participants.
For instance, with just five powerful swings of his sword, Frost Warrior Therodeau's power reserves would be depleted completely.
Only combat masters of unmatched skill and power were capable of trading blows with each other for ten seconds!
Link and Saroviny were two such masters. One of them had the body of a dragon, while the other was a demon from the depths of the Abyss. One had full mastery of the essence of his own power, while the other was in possession of Legendary Pinnacle equipment. Both sides seemed to have come to an impasse right now.
Frost Warrior Therodeau had wanted to join the battle. However, the power released by both sides was so intense that he was pushed back 40 miles away from the action.
He watched as the duel raged on before him, a look of astonishment on his face. Both Warriors had attained power levels beyond his wildest imagination.
Therodeau had no trouble understanding how Saroviny came to become this powerful. She was the child of a god, after all. However, Link was a different matter entirely. On the surface, he simply looked like an ordinary-looking, if somewhat well-built Magician. The ferocity that he had displayed in his attacks had caught Therodeau completely off guard.
Still, waters ran deep indeed.
Three seconds passed. The duel before Therodeau seemed to have come out of its standstill. Link now had the upper hand, forcing Saroviny to assume a defensive stance. She lashed out a few times in retaliation but was ultimately pushed back by Link.
Heavy, sonorous clangs rang out from their swords every time they collided against each other, due to the huge amounts of power flowing inside them.
Every time Link stabbed his sword out, numerous black rune circles would appear around its blade, causing severe distortion to the space around it. The spatial distortion was the result of an invisible forcefield that Link had conjured around his sword.
As a result, every blow from Link's sword was driven by the sword's own power and the forcefield that had formed around it. Every time Saroviny swung her sword, her power was greatly weakened by said forcefield. Despite the power boost the Abyss of Despair battle robe had given her, Saroviny now found herself being driven into a corner by Link.
Thankfully, her combat abilities were not terribly affected by this sudden drop in her power. However, Saroviny soon realized that the battle robe's Foresight ability was not as effective as she hoped it would be.
Foresight: During battle, its user would be able to see one second into the future.
If Saroviny's opponent had been a Warrior or a typical Elemental Magician, with such an ability activated, she would be able to finish him or her off with a single blow. No matter how powerful her opponent was, she would be able to triumph over them with ease.
However, even though the ability was still in effect, the predictions she had received from it during their fight had become less accurate.
What made this ability so powerful was the precision of its predictions. If she could no longer predict her opponent's movements accurately in such a tense battle, what was the point of having it activated at all?
Link's swordsmanship was indeed flawless, but his accomplishments in the field of magic were what made him such a formidable opponent. Though he had yet to master time magic, he had learned enough of it to be capable of disrupting the flow of time and consequently rendering Saroviny's Foresight ability useless.
Saroviny began gasping for breath as Link continued his assault, seamlessly combining his combat techniques with his magic.
She now felt as if she was stuck in a mire. The more she tried to struggle, the deeper she felt herself being dragged down into an invisible pit. Anger began rising in her until finally, she snapped!
"Argh!!!" screamed Saroviny. "Die!"
Taking advantage of the Abyss of Despair battle robe's damage reduction effect, she decided to charge at Link with everything she had.
Reckless as it might seem, this technique was also extremely effective!
Link's sword pierced Saroviny's arm. The sword's tip sank into the battle robe's fabric, which managed to absorb much of its impact. Link felt as if the sword had plunged into a layer of thick, viscous mud.
Link's sword had left a deep cut on Saroviny's arm. To Saroviny, however, this was no more than a flesh wound. She could still fight. Her retaliation would be a hundred times more terrible than what she had received.
Ignoring her injury, Saroviny thrust her sword out towards Link's heart. Link would definitely die on the spot if he were to take this hit.
Link immediately avoided the attack. However, this allowed Saroviny to turn the tables on him. Realizing that her self-harming tactic had paid off, she decided to continue with it until one of them finally collapsed.
For the next few seconds, Link managed to land a few hits on Saroviny. However, he was now in a precarious position himself as well. The moment he slipped up, it would be the end of him.
Five seconds later, Link had left 18 cuts on Saroviny's body, which was now completely covered in blood. His sword had also left a hole through her abdomen.
Link was no better himself. Despite his efforts to dodge her attacks, her blade managed to land a few hits on his arms, thighs, and back. His flesh flapped loosely around his wounds. Blood flowed out of them profusely. He could also feel Saroviny's Abyssal power lingering on his injuries, hindering his body's ability to heal itself up.
His injuries were evidently more severe than Saroviny's.
Her Abyss of Despair battle robe had managed to offset the difference between their combat powers.
The duel went on for another five seconds. Both sides had depleted much of their power reserves. Their attacks also became more erratic.
However, Link seemed even more ragged than Saroviny. The latter had decided to focus more on her offense, knowing that her battle robe would be able to reduce the damage she would receive from Link's attacks.
Two seconds later, the sound of tearing flesh rang out in the air as Saroviny and Link flashed past one another.
When she finally came to a stop, Saroviny's feet gave way beneath her, and she collapsed to the ground. Her body was riddled with cuts. Link's sword had left a particularly deep wound through her stomach. Portions of her intestine had been torn apart by it. The pain that now assaulted her entire body was more than even a demon with a sturdy physique like hers could handle.
However, the look on her face was one of ecstasy as she turned around to look at Link.
Link was still standing on his feet. However, he remained motionless like a statue. Seconds later, blood spurted out of his chest. It then flowed down his body, staining his battle robe along the way until it reached the soil beneath his feet.
Link fell to a half-kneel on the ground, with one hand pressed firmly against his chest and one hand holding onto the Ode of a Full Moon sword. His head was limply drooping over his chest.
He was unable to avoid Saroviny's final attack. Her sword had pierced through his chest and sliced his heart in two. The fact that he was able to remain standing for so long was due to his own sturdy constitution.
"Hehehehe..." Saroviny was now laughing on the ground. Her laughter was punctuated by coughing fits which sprayed out blood from her blood. Though her injuries were severe, it did not change the fact that she had won this fight.
Finally, Saroviny had finally defeated Link, who had been the bogeyman in her dreams for so long.
"I've defeated you, Link! Your soul will be enslaved by my father for eternity! Hahaha... cough..." Saroviny coughed up even more blood.
Link remained kneeling on the ground. He did not hear what Saroviny was saying to him.
He was now looking back at everything that had ever happened in his life, from his time on earth to all that he had accomplished during his time in Firuman. Faces of those closest to him in this world flashed before his eyes: Celine, Herrera, Rylai, Gretel, Eliard, Vance, Nana, and even Ferde. Finally, every other face faded into oblivion, leaving only Celine's before him.
His sight was beginning to blur. He could now feel his spirit leaving his body.
"Goodbye," whispered Link. There was not a hint of regret in his voice. He was about to die a hero's death on the battlefield. This was more than enough for him. He was simply passing on into the afterlife before everyone else in this bleak and empty world. As for his soul, he had no intention of handing it over to anyone. He had a plan in place to snuff his own soul out before anyone could lay their hands on it.
Link's body relaxed, ready for the cold embrace of death.
At that moment, nobody seemed to have noticed the wooden box hanging from Link's waist. It had been holding the Shadow Divine Fragment all this time. Due to the intensity of Link's duel with Saroviny, a small crack had appeared on the box.
Link's blood had seeped into the box through the crack and was now dripping on the Shadow Divine Fragment.
The black crystal skull's eye sockets started to glow with a black light as it was gradually being soaked in Link's blood.
At first, a few weak rays of this black light radiated from the skull's sockets. Then, the light expanded across the entire black crystal skull. It then trembled for a moment. Without warning, the entire fragment evaporated into a column of silver-black smoke which burst out of its wooden container and dove into Link's body.
In an instant, a jolt of electricity exploded in his head. The fog in his mind lifted, and he was once again back in the world of the living.
An ancient voice boomed out in Link's mind moments later. "You who would rather die than be someone else's slave, you whose veins are filled with the blood of a hero, shed off your mortal skin for I now proclaim you ruler over all!"
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