Though her fists packed enough force to collapse planets, Yuri’s attacks had little effect on the Azi and his manifestations. Even when she landed a devastating dropkick against the original’s face, producing a visible shockwave that spread hundreds of kilometers and created a massive pit in the sea of lava below, Azi was barely pushed back a few meters.
“Just give up,” said the grinning, one-eyed Dragon God, massaging his neck with his right hand as he added, “Even if your supporter is the most powerful Poet in Creation, they can’t write out the existence of evil. They could dictate my defeat, but unless they include a ‘condition’ that permits my return, it’s simply too unrealistic to become a reality…”
Blocking one of Yuri’s punches with the palm of his hand, Azi casually added, “Even if there were only a single being left in all of Creation, they would invariably come into conflict with themselves, nurturing the seed of their downfall.”
Punctuating his statement, Azi landed a cataclysmic blow against the center of Yuri’s chest, creating a gaping hole that ran straight through her. She regenerated nigh-instantaneously, but due to the Laws dictating that beings with an assumed form suffered from the same weaknesses as the creatures they emulated, a trace of blood leaked from the corner of her lips.
Grinning from non-existent ear to ear, Azi firmly asserted, “You are not the one I’ve been waiting for. Only a human with a truly heroic nature has any chance of defeating me.”
Returning a dauntless smile, Yuri asked, “Is that so…?” before licking the blood from her lips and adding, “If your power and existence were half as ‘absolute’ as you believe them to be, you or your Master would have taken over the Divine Realm eons ago.”
Manifesting a red gauntlet that enveloped her right hand and forearm, Yuri launched herself toward Azi with tremendous speed, her fist sinking into his abdomen instantly. Azi could have avoided the attack, but one of the qualities of absolute evil was unbridled arrogance. More importantly, only Someone he recognized as a true Hero could deal consequential damage to him. Yuri had committed many heinous acts during her tenure as a High Ranker, so even if she was equipped with the most powerful holy sword in Creation, she could never hope to defeat him.
Seeing Azi staring at her with a glimmer of amusement in his singular pink eye, Yuri’s smile became especially vicious as she remarked, “You’re really starting to piss me off.”
As soon as Yuri was finished speaking, a spear-like tip protruded from the gauntlet, piercing the gap between Azi’s abdominal muscles. The moment it did so, Azi felt an encroaching power similar to the stakes used to seal his maw flowing through his body, compelling him to strike forward like an antagonized snake, biting into Yuri’s shoulder.
Though Azi succeeded in taking a bite out of her, Yuri retreated without issue, leaving behind the silvery nail in his abdomen and regenerating her left arm and shoulder before charging forward a second time.
Realizing that Yuri was trying to seal him, Azi’s casual arrogance turned to outrage as he tore the stake from his abdomen, removing a chunk of flesh in the process. Unlike Yuri, however, he didn’t heal. Instead, a tremendous volume of black blood erupted from the wound, staining his lower body and the white cloth around his waist black as he charged forward to meet Yuri’s attacks head-on…
After separating from Siddhartha, the first person Kurma thought to seek out was Scathach. The latter was among the greatest warriors in the Little Garden’s ever-shifting history, but, more importantly, she had the backing of Queen Halloween.
“Is this supposed to be a joke…?” asked Kurma, a visibly annoyed look on her face as she discovered Scathach casually relaxing in a cafe, relaxedly sipping tea in a Maid outfit.
Opening her distinctly aquamarine eyes, Scathach adopted a faint smile and replied, “I’m not particularly fond of jokes.” before rising to her feet, gesturing to the chair opposite her and asking, “Would you like to join me for tea?”
Though she furrowed her brows, Kurma didn’t hesitate to take a seat, allowing Scathach to fill her cup and sit back down before asking, “Just what is going on here? Your Mistress should have been one of the people most concerned with the return of the Demon Dragon God…”
“I’m not entirely sure myself,” replied Scathach, shrugging her shoulders and maintaining a relaxed smile as she speculated, “If I had to guess, the Sage Dragon Emperor did something to alleviate my Mistress’s concerns. I received a message from her informing me it was no longer necessary to take direct action, so I’ve just been following young and promising Players around to ensure they didn’t get gobbled up by one of the Demon Dragon God’s clones.”
Exhaling an exasperated sigh, Kurma took a sip of the tea Scathach had prepared for her, savoring its taste before huffily remarking, “It’s because of things like this that your Mistress has and always will be regarded as a problem child. I thought she had matured a bit after Shiroyasha-sama’s appointment as the Eastern Floor Master, but it appears I was mistaken…”
Narrowing her eyes slightly, Scathach was tempted to point out Kurma would pay for making such remarks about her Mistress but knew it was unnecessary. Queen Halloween wasn’t the kind of woman that needed others to speak in her defense, so Scathach remained silent, permitting Kurma to finish her tea before stating, “Regardless of the circumstances, if my Mistress says the matter is settled, we can assume it’s well in hand. I won’t stop you from running around like a panicked chicken, but there is no need.”
Rising to her feet and slapping the table between them, Kurma exclaimed, “This is the Demon Dragon God we’re talking about! Even if he hadn’t gotten his hands on the power of the Ouroboros Cycle, it would take all of us supporting Sidd to seal him away! How can you be so calm!?”
Stopping just short of sipping her tea, Scathach calmly replied, “Your fear and sense of urgency make the Demon Dragon God more powerful. Just trust in my Mistress, Lord Indra, Shiroyasha-sama, and the Sage Dragon Emperor. If the Demon Dragon God were a genuine threat, Someone like Vahn wouldn’t be content to sit on the sidelines, placing his loved ones in danger.”
Though she wanted to argue, Kurma, like most people in the Little Garden, was aware of Vahn’s personality. He was the type that only allowed his friends and loved ones to take action when he was certain there was no danger. When real or perceived threats appeared, he was always the first to act, taking on entire Pantheons of Gods as if there were little more than trash to be taken out…
Catching Kurma a little off guard, Scathach set down her cup and asked, “Have you tried asking the Sage Dragon Emperor for his assistance? The people he allowed to participate in this event are clearly just here to show off or have fun. If you’re truly concerned about the threat represented by the Demon Dragon God, you could appeal to him to resolve it.”
Recovering from a brief stupor, Kurma adopted a serious expression as she asked, “And you believe he would do so, even if it violated the rules and restrictions of the Gift Game?”
“Vahn allows himself to be bound by our rules, but he fundamentally exists outside of them,” replied Scathach. “If someone petitioned him for assistance and he believed in their cause, I doubt even those occupying the single-digit Gates could stop him…”
Hearing Scathach’s borderline blasphemy, Kurma’s eyes became as round as saucers. She knew Vahn was exceptionally powerful, but if he were beyond those that ruled the Little Garden, he would have returned to the place he referred to as home…
Seeing through Kurma’s thoughts, Scathach closed her eyes and pointed out, “The Sage Dragon Emperor cares about those around him and has a very prominent sense of responsibility. For the sake of all, I believe he will see things through to their natural conclusion. Whether that places him atop the throne of the Little Garden or somewhere else entirely remains to be seen…”
Dropping back into her seat, Kurma paused to consider Scathach’s words, staring at her empty cup in contemplative silence. She found it difficult to believe that Vahn had already transcended the power scaling of the Little Garden, but it was relatively easy to accept he didn’t care about claiming one of its thrones. His Aldrnari Empire had immense power and authority, but when it came down to it, Vahn only truly cared more about spending time with his family, friends, and the loved ones he kept safely within the Sage Dragon’s Hearth. He was Someone with an unparalleled capacity to rule, but other than ‘maintaining order,’ he didn’t care about implementing policies or guiding people’s actions in the slightest…
Deciding to humor Scathach’s words, a frown marred Kurma’s face as she met the purple-haired Heroine’s aquamarine eyes and asked, “So he’s just going through the motions so we don’t feel as though our actions have no purpose…?”
Shrugging her shoulders, Scathach contended, “Life undoubtedly has intrinsic value, but it is given meaning by the wants, desires, and actions of those who live it. If my interpretation of his actions is accurate, Vahn already possesses the power to create a new Order, but he cannot ignore the desires of others. Thus, until Someone worthy steps forward, he will create a power vacuum at the very pinnacle of reality, preventing anyone from standing at the top…”
Furrowing her brows to their limits, Kurma muttered, “That’s insane…the only way such a reality could endure is if those who hold it together were destroyed or had their power stripped away…”
Adopting a faint yet terrifying smile, Scathach replied, “Maybe that’s for the best. The innately powerful and fortuitous have ruled over the weak for far too long. And those at the pinnacle allow it because that is how the current Order is structured. They believe the most powerful should stand at the top, but they have also created a system that prevents any singular entity from acquiring absolute power. As such, the trio that rules over the Divine Realm keeps one another in check, ultimately becoming little more than lynchpins obsessed with maintaining the current Order…”
Rising to her feet, the usually optimistic twinkle in Scathach’s eyes was replaced by a cold glimmer as she added, “Individuals like myself should not be able to slaughter billions without repercussions. Such power takes away the meaning others assign to their life, denying them even the most basic right. Thus, even if the Sage Dragon Emperor chooses to slaughter us all, I will welcome my end with a smile, spear in hand.”
Punctuating her statement, Scathach manifested a rune-covered crimson spear, sweeping it at Kurma without warning. The latter was able to react by darting backward and countering with a torrent of golden lightning, but the jagged tendril of energy swerved around Scathach’s body without her having to dodge, causing her to laugh aloud as she pressured Kurma with a series of swift, seemingly random strikes.
“Have you lost your mind!?” screamed Kurma, teleporting away as the tip of Scathach’s spear grazed one of her horns.
Lowering herself like a predator ready to pounce, a battle-hungry smile developed across Scathach’s face as she cheerfully exclaimed, “This is a Gift Game, not a forum for discussion! The people of the Little Garden are eager to see us trade blows, so let’s give them a show to remember…!”
Without waiting for Kurma to respond, Scathach whipped her body like a slingshot, the spear in her right hand transforming into a bolt of crimson lightning as she threw it with all her might, shouting, “Gae Bolg…!”
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘The Uzumaki Clan would be proud…’,’I feel like Scathach has put more thought into Vahn’s actions than Vahn himself xD…’,’Life is motion!’)