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A Trading Post.

A Bishop left the consecrated blood-jars to approach Henry sighing at the broken window. As they neared, the holy figure's eyes glowed and their mouth, despite remaining motionless, began to sparkle and emit a hollow voice.

“If it ain’t the Starhunting Oracle! Shame you couldn’t snag the broad. That’s why I gave up on them. A woman can’t appreciate a man’s duty. When she loves a thing, she can’t bring herself to sacrifice it. The dissonance is beyond her. Before acting, she always kills the love first. Nasty creatures.”

The chauvinist addressing Henry through the surrogate was Suchi’s Pope, the short Miracleworker he’d met the other day out on the plains along with the Doomreaver, the leader of this territory and a key ally of The Company.

Henry paused before responding, wondering if the religious leader had identified him as The Tyrant from the big news or whether he'd figured it out himself while spying on the duel, Berbahaya missing little that happened in his dominion from the top of his tower.

Or maybe earlier. Karnon—playing every side of this other love triangle—could've been helping the holyman determine the ultimate target behind the convoluted obfuscations with Ramiro and the mind-slave ar—

Henry, who’d thus far maintained such mental discipline in Suchi to suppress even his thoughts of luring this vampiric cunt out of his cave and assassinating him, regretted the millisecond lapse. Although it didn’t matter anymore after his cancellation of that plan, purely out of habit, he directed his mind back to the mode of pondering his failed love and transforming the forthcoming tournament into a retirement party.

Henry’s expression—placid, flat as always—conveyed nothing. “Holy Father.”

“Please, ‘your grace’ will do.” Pope Berbahaya saw everything. “I have to apologise for not giving the welcome owed to such an esteemed guest. Our first meeting was interrupted by…a demon.”

“A balloon of a demon,” Henry corrected.

“It became a balloon after I slapped it around,” the Pope corrected him back. “But, if you’d follow the Bishop, I’ll be sure to rectify my previous rudeness in person. Come, my haggard friend. You’ve slummed it with the sand; let me show you the hospitality of the clay. I promise you, that wareeksa, by next sunrise, you won’t remember the colour of her hair.”

Henry might have followed along in the past. Unfortunately, the Pope had caught him in a foul mood contemplating his need to retire. The grief from losing his first love maybe giving him the last necessary nudge, Henry rejected any further entanglement in Saana and, committed to moving on, he took another step in the direction down from the summit.

“No, that’s too much of a hassle,” he answered the annoying NPC. “I’m not interested in meeting.”

The impertinence of his refusal caused the Bishop acting surrogate to frown in shock and anger. A wave of tension ran through the troops around Henry, wondering if they might have to stand their ground and die on this spot.

But the Pope, having dealt with many rash young leaders, was unbothered. “Ah, how could I be so presumptuous?! Now that you’ve emerged from the shadows, you must be pressed with invitations from mightier figures than my little self cooped up in this hovel.”

Henry, his gaze drifting in the direction of Silver’s departure, took a second heavy step. “Could it be possible? The old saint has not heard in his tower that The Tyrant is dead." He laughed. "No, you'll find out soon enough that I've retired - my schedule is gorgeously clear. It just happens to be past my bedtime, and I value my beauty sleep.”

Having sacrificed enough of himself for this game already, refusing to repeat the mistake of meeting with the Senior Director on the first day that’d triggered this chain of mishaps, he cut this nuisance NPC encounter short by simply logging off.

 

End of Volume 3 – The Return of The Cripple

Next up: Volume 4 – Unrivalled Under The Heavens; Invincible Beneath The Sun

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A note from Enchi

As Henry takes his much-needed rest and, having been purged of all other concerns, prepares for the grand spectacle of the duelling and absolutely nothing but the duelling, so will this humble psychic reciting his adventures in the far distant future of 2050. 

Before the next volume, the story will be on a three-month hiatus to let me research tournament arcs for the plot ahead, clean up some of the dragging sections in the previous volumes, and also finish up miscellaneous tasks I've put off like a glossary and list of all the class abilities.

When it does return, there'll be a few noticeable changes, the chapters briefer, the story obviously way faster with a whole entire week condensed into only one tiny minuscule volume - such lightning pacing might be impossible for others, but I believe I can be the first to pull it off.

In the meantime, there might be one massive dumping of notification spam from hacking the earlier chapters apart. I don't know. I have to figure out if the site has a way to disable that.

For those who follow along, I'll catch you all sometime in February. For those like Silver walking away in disgust from The Tyrant of Saana and his madness, thank you for reading this far and farewell.


About the author

Enchi

  • Somewhere between Venus and Mars

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NotStart ago

I really do like this story; thank you!

    Enchi ago

    That's great to hear! It's a bit of a worry on my end. Harder to know how a downer moment will be received, whether the beauty and hope will be able to slip through the loss.

    Thanks for reading!

AndrewRL ago

Exhausted sigh after finishing 191 chapters

Well, I caught up. Did I plan to start reading right as you finished an unmarked volume 3 and you were about to start editing the first 50 sluggish chapters during a 3 month break? No, did I somehow end up doing that anyways, yes!

Secret confession time, I started reading this 3 years ago and it's been sitting in my reading list updates for 3 years since then. The only details I remembered of the novel were Henry using his magical avatar surgery box to transmogrify and him shooting gangsters as a crazy monkey archer in chapter 21. I literally recalled nothing else and the 21 chapters it took to get to the only details I remembered very much so confused me if I was even remembering right.

 

With that out of the way, wow. This is easily one of the best novels on the site, and criminally underrated, probably due to the first volume's pacing and the excessively wordy style that is certainly not standard for this site. The story's slow crawl into the depths of insanity in Henry's mind make this one of the darkest novels I've read in some respects, but the real masterclass here is the incredible worldbuilding you put into Saana, and to a lesser extent the overdream and boring old earth. There's better world building on earth in the dozen or so chapters we actually spend there than there is on most of the novels on the site, to say nothing of Saana itself: the first video game world I've found that feels like an actual world influenced and moulded by its game features, rather than a stock standard fantasy world with litrpg mechanics thrown so lazily into it for the purpose of MC power abuse like pretty much every other novel on the site. I think you mentioned being influenced by Greed and the world of RoyalRoad (the videogame in the book, of which I'm blanking on the name despite being on the site that used to translate it), but you've clearly surpassed the master. The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor, that's it!

 

I'm anticipating the fourth novel now; good luck editing that first volume; I wish I knew that was happening before I binged it all. >_>

 

 

    Enchi ago

    😁 Yeah, maybe not the luckiest time to have picked it back up - or maybe it was the luckiest, you narrowly managing to catch the full masochistic slow crawl as intended before some of it has to get sacrificed to the gods of Normal Pacing, Clarity, and Fun.

    Forgetting details after three years is to be expected in a story that dumps so much. Heck, there's even a strange rumour the author forgot the name of one of the central plot devices. No solid evidence of this exists, but, if the rumours were true, that would be embarrassing.

    Thanks for the high praise! Let's hope I can keep meeting this standard through vol 4.

    And thanks for the corrections!

Loco ago

A wonderful ending. Thank you.

HerringSalad ago

Great ending to a great arc!

I understand that you intend to rewrite some of the early chapters. Will the old versions still be available for comparison?

    Enchi ago

    Glad you liked it!

    I'm not sure yet...I'll think about it. Either way, there's a fundamental limit to how much the opening can be changed - the majority of the stuff that seems pointless at the time ends up eventually being relevant to the central plot. As such, the adjustments I'm restricted to making are rearranging pieces into a more exciting order and changing their presentation to make it a bit more obvious what the point is.

      HerringSalad ago

      Haha... I remember being very annoyed with the first chapters. The story never seemed to start, it was just worldbuilding and characters disappearing as soon as they were introduced. I had some idea of rereading them, to see if they make more sense to me now.

      Anyway, I am very glad that I persevered.

      Enchi ago

      I'd probably wait until the edits are done. The opening chapters also just have independently awful pacing.

      If you do go back, I'd first recommend actually re-reading this brief chapter we're on right now very, very closely. Henry's unspoken mountain is one key to understanding the confusing things happening early on, but there's also a second.

IsaacF ago

🔫 This is a water gun. Give Henry a happy ending, or I’ll find your files and squirt them. I’ll do it, don’t question if I am crazy enough, because I am.

 

( Thanks for The Chapter)

    IsaacF ago

    Also what books inspired this one? Aka give us some books to read while we wait for more.

      Enchi ago

      I'd be surprised if you find anything even remotely similar. That's not to toot my own horn, but the inspirations have just been so schizophrenically random that I doubt many others happen to share all of them.

      In terms of web novels, I drew mostly from the biggest ones that everyone's read, Legendary Moonlight Sculptor and The King's Avatar, and then a bunch of Chinese cultivation kung-fu novels that I binged so fast I can't even recall their names anymore.

      Those bits aren't too unique, but I also pull a lot from classic literature. Expanding a simple two-week affair into an overdetailed, overly-digressive doorstopper is maximalism, specifically James Joyce's Ulysses. Paradoxically, the way Henry's motives are only slowly revealed is a minimalist technique from Hemingway and Japanese novelists like Yasunari Kawabata - the most important book would be Hemingway's first novel, The Sun Also Rises.

      There's a heavy amount of philosophy, mostly European Continental philosophers like Nietzche, Schopenhauer, Hegel, Cioran, and Foucault. Nietzche is the most directly relevant to the plot, the theme of cyclicality being related to his idea of Eternal Recurrence.

      There's also other random stuff: the manga Vagabond, parodied anime, Korean soap operas, anthropology, psychology, world myths, Warcraft, Freud and Carl Jung, epic poetry. Even music - the whole duel with Ramiro is based off Metallica's Orion and partially mirrors the song structure.

      But none of those inspirations, individually, are very similar to this story.

    Enchi ago

    You can stow away the weapon. It was going to be a miserable Hamlet-style every-single-person-dead ending, but thanks to some recent inspiration, I've changed it to a joyful Henry X virtual-beast harem finale.

    (Thanks for reading!)

Ahante ago

I binged all of this in something like four days. I’m sleep deprived, behind on my work, and looking forward to rereading this in its entirety to examine in more detail how you’ve structured some of the chapters and the work as a whole. The juggling of and experimentation with a variety of different writing styles/approaches feels like a meta parallel to Henry’s explorations of the martial arts, not to mention his (hilariously) mostly off-screen conquest of all of literature.

I think others have said it’s a pity you don’t have more readers for this story; I agree, though I can also see some reasons for it — you’ve already flagged the early pacing, but also the sometimes wild swings in style and tone can be disorienting, and some of the chapters made me cringe quite a bit (I appreciated the A/N on that chapter at the theater). Still, it’s ambitious, skilled, and (I think) takes advantage of the web format in new and interesting ways. Thank you for writing this.

    Enchi ago

    Anyone bingeing the whole thing's always a great compliment. I'll take your sacrificed sleep and work as spiritual tribute! 😈. HAHAHAHA!

    If you do ever re-read the earlier parts, I'd probably at least the very wait for the opening to be rewritten - it's only about a month and a half away now.

    Yeah, I can also see the other barriers beyond the sluggish opening. I guess it's just easier to focus on that issue because it's the main one that at least veers away from my own ideal of the story and the problems are obvious to me after learning more about writing in the years practising with the rest of the story. With the readers lost to the stylistic stuff, it's way, way more complicated.

    To some degree, the barrier's just unavoidable. This story does have some metafictional parallels with Henry's 'ultimate pleb-bait', in terms of multiple hidden plots, but where it differs is that it's not fine-tuned in the slightest to appeal to multiple types of reader, which is a task I have neither the ambition nor the capacity to perform - you'd need a hyperbolic time-chamber to pull off a feat that complex. Ultimately, this story's written for people who can be comfortable--who can ideally even find pleasure--in disorientation, in stylistic novelty, in 'post-maximalism', and that's always going to be a tiny minority.

    And then, from a completely different angle, experimental styles are also just plain harder to write, and, when you're churning out a chapter a week, some of it's bound to flop. That problem, maybe one day, I can fix.

    As for Henry's cringy romance, whenever my editing catches up to that section, I'll definitely try to make it more bearable since it's not crucial. Personally, it was just funny to me to watch him flounder - and, once you get the deeper plot hidden there, horrifically sad. In retrospect, as weird as it might be to say as the author, I think I might be less attached to Henry as a person than most readers, so him making a fool of himself doesn't really bite me back at all. I could be wrong about this take, and perhaps the problem's just the execution. But, for me at least--and this applies to the rest of the story, too--Henry's the main character, but he's not really an 'MC' in the conventional Litrpg sense - as in, he might be the dominant point around which the story revolves and through which it's told, but you're not necessarily meant to always root for him. While he does have part of that in him, he's also part Shakesperean tragic hero; he's Hamlet, he's Romeo, he's Julius Caesar. Ideally, with a character like that, you should have enough distance to see his madness, to second-guess his perspective, to find problems with his actions, to maybe disagree with his motives. (And that, of course, is yet another thing that will inevitably turn some Litrpg readers off).

    Anyway, thanks for reading, thanks for the praise, thanks for the feedback, thanks for the thanks! ✌

      Ahante ago

      Thanks for the long and thoughtful response!

      And yes, I agree that some of the barrier to entry is unavoidable, at least if you continue to be ambitious with your writing style and structure (and I absolutely think you should do that — it’s one of the aspects I most appreciate about your work). We, your totally-not-stalkerish fans, understand that most of the world is simply not ready for the genius of asparagusenchilada, plebs that they are. 🙃

      Also, I don’t mind Henry’s cringy romance — it’s entirely unrealistic, of course, but Henry doesn’t strike me as intended to be a realistic character at all. His over-scripted behavior is consistent with the character traits that set him apart, and also emphasizes how NPC-like he himself can be, especially in the world outside Sanaa. I think it supplements his view of NPCs, and it emphasizes how unsuited he is to ordinary human interactions. I think this might also relate to your point that he’s not really a traditional MC, and that he carries traits from archetypal characters from Shakespeare’s plays, whose actions are literally scripted. I agree, though, that those sections don’t need to be as over-the-top as they are to make these points.

      (My comment on cringing was primarily referring to Chapter 174, which was objectively very well-written but horrifying to read. Not because of the violence, per se, but because of the way it slips so seamlessly into the minds of two monsters. I’m not advocating for changing that chapter either — it does an amazing job expressing Oliver’s depravity, plus it’s so far in that it shouldn’t significantly affect readership anyhow — but I was very uncomfortable reading it.)

      Anyway, long story short, I like your artistic choices and am looking forward to the rewritten opening!

l611 ago

oh boy, missing this story so much. I want to reread this story(would be my first reread of a story). put an update chapter or comment in this thread when you are done cuz if I'm gonna reread I might as well check out the new edits/rewrites.

    Enchi ago

    Glad to know the mountains still weigh on your mind!🌋🌄🗻

    It'll probably be impossible to miss the update, just because of the notification spam. I still haven't figured out a way to upload the changes discreetly other than repurposing the existing chapters, which would cause the old comments to completely desync with what's occurring due to sections being rearranged or cut. (But if I do go with that option, I'll make sure to comment here.)

    Enchi ago

    Finished updating!

    Luckily they've added a new option that lets you add chapters without sending out notifications, although I don't know if it worked because I've already had people comment on random parts.

      l611 ago

      Thanks for letting me know!
      I don't have a premium account so I don't get notification but it came at the top of my follow list with the message that chapter posted is not the latest one.

WaryorWeary ago

This is a really beautiful Thousand Tools display. If it all crashes in the end, wasn’t it destined to do so?

Loved the vignettes, the 🐶 👅 example, proud 🥲 of how overwritten you’ve done this.

Magnificent!

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