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CHAPTER 402

THE LIMITS

A man clad entirely in black was silently sitting on his knees, observing the youth above him with the corners of his eyes. The youth sat with one leg crossed over another, leaned against his arm, the other one busy tapping against the armrest of the stone chair. In front of him, spanning nearly two meters across, fluttered a screen depicting speedy blurs and flashes of light that made it nearly impossible to discern anything.

Yet, despite that, the youth seemed to have reacted at every point of contention with one expression or another. There was a faint smile of amusement on his face throughout, only vanishing once the screen in front of him faded. Silence tapped over the two for a long while as the young man turned to his thoughts, his gaze dulling somewhat.

The black-clad man sat and waited patiently, never making a sound or even moving a muscle. It was nearly four hours later that the youth had finally come to, lowering his gaze to match the man's.

“... invite the Empyrean to see me.” the youth said.

“... Y-your Grace? Didn’t... didn’t the Empyrean lose?” the black-clad man asked, clearly shocked.

“Oh, yeah, he got smacked proper,” the youth chuckled. “But, he hardly lost. He got played, at best.”

“... are... are we really going to go into open conflict with the Descent?”

“It was only a matter of time,” the youth shrugged. “Besides, it won’t be our conflict, anyway. We’ll just sweep in for the easy pickings afterwards. Five years -- no, two... two years is all it will take. In two years, Great Descent will cease to exist.”

“Huh?!”

“We only need give the Empyrean the assisting hand for two years, giving him some space to breathe.”

“...”

“You think I’m overvaluing him, don’t you?”

“I--”

“It’s fine. Just say what’s on your mind.”

“...” the black-clad man took a deep breath before replying. “All our estimates certainly underrated the Empyrean severely -- but, he still fell under our general framework. He has failed to become a macro variable. If anything, he just confirmed that rumors of Two’s weakening were hideously wrong.”

“... no, rumors of her weakening are correct.” the young man said, startling the black-clad figure. “She relapsed, most-likely, and failed another Origin Awakening.”

“... h-how... how do You know?”

"Her last attack," the young man said, smiling as he once again began tapping the armrest. "Wasn't merely a warning -- it was a full-on effort to at the very least cripple, if not outright kill the Empyrean. However, he took it squarely... and survived. Not just survived but avoided any sort of a long-term injury. Now, even I would have to admit that if it were Two at her peak, she would have splattered him across the skyscape. So, she's definitely weakened."

“...”

"But, not to the point a budding flower barely fourth decade into life should be able to contend against it. If I can throw out an estimate without judgment... I'd wager that the Empyrean's Vitality at the moment of impact breached sixty million."

“W-what?!!” the black-clad man cried out, shooting up to his feet. “T-hat’s impossible!! Th-that... that would put him near the very top!”

"... I know," the youth nodded, sighing. "And, though in my heart I wish to attribute his survival to luck or some item or another, it's true. I imagine most of it comes from the bonuses of his items, but even still, it would mean that his base Vitality is around ten million, and I garner he could hit a hundred million if he truly went all out. There are perhaps only two beings with the capacity to deal that much damage in a single blow."

“...” the black-clad man fell to his knees once more, his shoulders slumped. “I’ve still much to learn...”

"Don't chastise yourself," the youth chuckled. "I'm merely making assumptions with some basic calculations. The Empyrean's growth is not unprecedented," the youth added somberly. "If anything, he only really hits the ‘upper talents' category. Eldon, by the twenty-fifth year of being an Empyrean, had already undergone his Origin Awakening. Eve, had she lived longer, would have undergone hers in at most twenty. Even outside the Empyreans, there are thousands of figures throughout history that had speedier climb than him. I wager that the Sword Maiden had already shot past all our expectations, but, well, she's an exception, after all."

“...”

“The reason why I’d rather stand on his side... is his Will.”

“His... Will? Your Grace?”

“It’s already become Unbreakable.”

“...” the black-clad man had seemingly no energy to react past the gaping mouth.

“Realms, Arts, Cultivation... these are just shallow reminders of our own narcissism. In actual battles, they account for less than ten percent chance of a victory. My guess is that, in terms of Cultivation, the Empyrean is probably currently undergoing his Fiendish Awakening -- yet, he fought against those who had with ease, nearly wiping them out. He then contended with five Descenders, all of which at the very least underwent the Universal Awakening, and then managed to take a full-brunt attack of a Quasi-Origin Awakened.”

“...”

“We’re talking difference in Levels that reaches hundreds of thousands, Y. And though his items definitely played a role, not so much that they’d allow him to bridge that gap -- it was his Will.”

“--I’ve once again failed to realize it. My apologies, Your Grace.”

“I don’t blame you,” the youth said, smiling lightly. “After all, it doesn’t sound physically possible... and, truth be told, even I’m having trouble reconciling it with the conditioned set of beliefs in me. In his case... as long as he isn’t killed... he’ll never cease becoming stronger. That’s why I said two years is all he’ll take. The problem for the Empyreans was always the beginning stage of their life -- any time an Empyrean managed to live past it, they became the horror of the world. His time has come. Within two years... you and I and billions of other souls will witness something that hasn’t been witnessed in a long time -- Age of Empyrean.”

“--won’t One prevent it?” the black-clad man said. “After all, I imagine he has vested interest in keeping the Descent running.”

“Though I’ve praised the Empyrean, I’ve never said he alone will achieve all that, Y.”

“... ah. The Sword Maiden.” the black-clad man chuckled faintly.

“Elanor...” the youth mumbled. “I already rated her as a cosmological variable when she was six, Y. Six. There is something... off about her. Though Origin Soul individuals always dwarfed the rest of the world in terms of quick progress... it was never quite the same as with her. They all would usually flare out by their Universal Awakening, as they simply beat their bodies too much for them to handle it. Yet... her...”

“... do you think she will persist further?” the man asked.

“She has to,” the youth said. “After all, she knows far better than the Empyrean who One is, and just how strong he is.”

“Could it be that the Empyrean knows too, and he played along to get Your Grace on his side for that reason alone?”

"No," the youth quickly dismissed the idea. "I imagine the Empyrean is aware of theoretical limits of strength, though I can't imagine the Maiden has told him much of it. At most, he'd see the strength as a curving axis that loops over itself inside an infinite grid. Meaning that, theoretically, there can't be a limit to strength, since reaching omnipotence creates paradox -- so, we forever chase that vestige, only to never reach it."

“--I don’t think so, Your Grace.” the man mumbled, seemingly surprising the youth for a moment.

“Oh? How so?”

“Though I didn’t realize the extent of his Will, I did manage to notice something strange. I was unable to put it together until You have mentioned his Will is unbreakable, but I think I’ve managed to understand it now.”

“Understand what?”

“He most-definitely knows there is a cap to strength, both potential and actual,” the man said. “As strength, effectively, is just raw energy channeled in a fixed form. In his Will, though still immature, I found trace amounts of Entropy.”

“...” the youth frowned for a moment, thinking back to the screen. “That blurb... was Entropy?”

“It is still very much in its embryonic form,” the man said, “And he doesn’t quite have the grasp over it, but it indicates that he understands underlying problems of the curving axis... and is trying to solve them.”

“... you’re saying he already understood that Chaos and Entropy and, in extension, their Laws... aren’t the same thing?”

“... yes. I think he did.”

“Interesting... quite interesting indeed,” the youth said, stroking his chin. “If he, indeed, understood that difference... and is trying to childishly reconcile the fundamental problem every single living being since the Dawn of Cosmos has encountered... he certainly is a creature full of surprises. Extend the invitation,” the youth said. “And hand him a redacted copy of the ‘Cosmological Questions’. We can’t have him traveling astray and wasting his time, after all.”

“Yes, Your Grace.”

“... little Empyrean,” the youth mumbled as the man in front of him vanished, leaving him alone inside a room lacking any form of decoration past the glowing gem of light and a single chair. “Will... I’m afraid... isn’t the answer to it. It’s just like Qi... or any number of ‘em... just a form of energy made up of base particles. But... perhaps you and the Maiden may truly be the key to unlocking the Cosmos’ oldest question... perhaps indeed...”

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A note from beddedOtaku

Trivia n23: Though it is impossible to calculate the real-time distances between Noterra and 'dimensional pockets', a few scholars have managed to locate one of the pockets in the night sky -- it was a small, moon-like sphere orbiting a much larger one, and had estimated the distance to anywhere between eighty billion and several dozen trillions of kilometers. 


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About the author

beddedOtaku

Bio: Bad writer, worse painter, terrible singer. Accumulation of all things gone wrong. Rather proud of it, actually.

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