Levels truly worked in peculiar ways, and the correlation between levels and actual combat prowess was often muddy and difficult to pin down. For example, a low-tier genius D-grade could sometimes beat even pinnacle D-grades who focused primarily on crafting if they also happened to counter their skillset well, and the individual they fought was just overall weak for their level.
Jake was a great example of this, having even a class focused on fighting more powerful foes and a profession offering him many benefits in combat too. For him to fight an enemy tens of levels above himself was just to be expected. He was the Chosen of the Malefic Viper, after all, and a Progenitor. He had titles making his stats far exceed what one of this level usually would have, a class and profession offering, even more, stats further amplified by this, powerful skills, and so on.
This did mean that level itself was truly a poor indicator of actual power, yet it was the best people often had if someone didn’t outright release their aura and kept their presence and whatnot suppressed. Of course, anyone could still feel the grade someone was, but it was uncertain if the Monarch had any idea as to Jake’s actual level considering he couldn’t be Identified.
Now, using Identify not being a good way to gauge anyone’s strength didn’t mean there was no way. In fact, almost anyone with any talent in fighting could get a rough estimate for how powerful someone was merely by looking at them.
Jake’s bloodline didn’t create new instincts; it merely enhanced those that were there before to wholly ridiculous levels. As many beasts had displayed, some basic danger sense was present, some spatial awareness was to be expected, and even intuition was just a natural occurrence everywhere.
Intuition and danger sense working in tangent was what allowed one to estimate how powerful someone was by simply looking at them. Jake had both these boosted to levels beyond perhaps any other being in the multiverse meant his instinctual gauge of how powerful someone was proved far more effective than merely using Identify. Of course, it was not entirely perfect. Something like the damn blue mushroom down in the biodome was a good example of this, as while Jake could feel it was strong, he simply couldn’t properly understand it either.
Now, all of this is to say that Jake noticed some people be relieved for a moment after they saw the now-named Monarch of Blood had dropped more than twenty levels. Perhaps they believed he had given up some of his own power to spawn the elementals and the huge blood-like celestial object hanging above. But, unfortunately, this was an entirely incorrect assumption.
Because while they breathed out in relief, those in the air all prepared themselves. The Sword Saint got into a defensive position, Carmen used some magic to fully heal herself right away, and Sylphie, Casper, and Caleb all backed off even further away, knowing the situation had changed.
The Monarch made his speech as he talked of the True Ancestor as he spread his hands and launched the final act.
“Come. Let the will of the True Ancestor be done!”
Jake had no time to think about what the whole ‘crafty True Ancestor’ thing was about before he was attacked. He wasn’t the only one either. The Monarch had raised his hand and fired off a beam in each of their directions.
The Sword Saint pointed his blade up as water revolved around it. The beam struck the tip of the sword and was redirected away, hitting a Vampiric Blood Elemental below. Carmen crossed her arms as she blocked, her bracers activating some enchantment to facilitate this. Caleb dodged to the side along with Sylphie while Casper summoned a black wooden shield, successfully blocking the blow.
Jake simply stepped to the side, his danger sense having given him ample warning as he released an arrow in return. Not towards the Monarch, but someone else. He had noticed that the many spawning elementals below actively ignored a certain unconscious man, making Jake guess something.
If Eron was so useless that he could be knocked unconscious and die for real to a single arrow, he wouldn’t be worth shit anyway, so Jake decided to take a gamble and shoot him with one. The arrow fell and exploded when it hit the man below, blowing up his body entirely.
He didn’t have time to observe the result as mist condensed behind him. Jake took a step forward, appearing on a platform ahead of him just as the air ripped where he had just been standing, the Monarch now standing there with a sword made of blood-red crystal in his hand - clearly summoned.
The Monarch didn’t seem to be in a mood to talk much more but attacked Jake again, this time simply flying towards him. In response, Jake decided to get a bit more serious himself. Mana began condensing around him as crystalline orbs of highly explosive arcane energy appeared.
He drew his scimitar and his Nanoblade to block. Jake clashed with the vampire, finding himself outmatched in both skill, speed, and power. But not diversity and defensive abilities. Dodging the sword several times, he didn’t manage to retaliate but only finished his arcane bombs.
Jake wanted to pack a bit more power into them but found himself forced to block more and more from the left side. That is when he noticed the Nanoblade that had already taken a beating begin to struggle. He saw a faint smirk on the face of the vampire as suddenly a red aura washed over Jake, restricting his movements slightly.
Fighting back with his own Pride of the Malefic Viper to wrest control of the domain back, he was still not fast enough. The crystalline sword of the Monarch grew to resemble a two-handed heavy sword and, with a mighty swing empowered further by the vampire’s energy, barrelled for his left side, trying to bisect him at the stomach.
He was forced to block with the Nanoblade despite knowing it was a bad idea. The Monarch hit him as Jake prepared himself to be launched away. He heard the crack as the heavy sword hit the far more narrow and fragile-looking Nanoblade, and Jake could only grit his teeth as he was blasted away – the only thing remaining being half of the body of the Nanoblade.
Oh, and a dozen or so arcane bombs.
A second shockwave rocked the terrain as an explosion blew up where Jake had just been, sending him flying even further away. He didn’t have time to mourn the loss of his weapon as he instead drew his bow again and fired into the remnant arcane energy left by the bombs. He ignored the wounds left by the blade and his bruised arm and side, not having time to deal with it right away.
The arrow split into five as it got close, and soon after, another explosion sounded out. However, Jake knew that this one had done nothing as he still vividly felt the Mark of the Avaricious Arcane Hunter he had left on the vampire, and with this attack, the charge did not increase.
Two crescent blades – one of water and one of wind – cut through the terrain towards the Monarch, parted the arcane energy, and impacted the barrier the boss had made around himself. Two large cuts were left on it, one leaving a barely noticeable trace, while the other caused faint cracks. The Sword Saint was naturally superior to Sylphie when it came to fighting prowess, but the bird was no slouch either.
With a swift hand-motion, the Monarch made the barrier explode as shards of glass-like blood crystals flew everywhere, even hitting the people below who were now in a bitter battle with the blood elementals. A few of the weaker ranged fighters found themselves taking deadly injuries, while others were caught off-guard.
Gotta get him away from here, Jake reckoned.
There was also a risk the Monarch could absorb the blood of those below like the Counts could, making them all living health potions. He didn’t want to risk that happening at all cost as he could see what kind of shitty situation that could lead to.
Jake fired another barrage of arrows, but his shots were swiftly dodged by the Monarch who chased him again. By now, it was clear he was the primary target. Perhaps the Monarch believed Jake was dangerous if left alone, or maybe the boss just wanted to fight him as he was the one the vampire saw as the strongest. Either way, Jake invited it.
Retreating as he blocked, the Monarch gave chase as the crystalline blade repeatedly fell. To make it more difficult, the weapon changed shape to a heavier version sporadically as it seemed everchanging. Yet when he focused on being purely defensive, Jake could handle it.
His danger sense and ability to survive were what had allowed Jake to get where he was today. The first truly strong foe he had fought was the Alpha Badger back in the first tutorial dungeon, and against that beast, he had been so outmatched it wasn’t even funny when it came to physical stats… but he had still won and survived.
Because while Jake was good at archery and magic and all that, it was his survival instinct that was his greatest weapon.
The Monarch cut and changed the weapon, summoned magical attacks one after another, yet Jake was always one step ahead – sometimes literally with One Step Mile. The game of cat and mouse was one where the mouse clearly had the upper hand as every move of the cat was predicted and countered near-perfectly.
Jake saw and felt the frustration of the Monarch but paid it no mind as he was in the zone, focused only on his sphere and danger sense. Every faint movement of blood energy, every twitch of a muscle, or slight tension in the vampire’s body lay bare before him as the two of them got further and further away from the Mistless Plains.
He felt Sylphie chase after him, followed by the others, with the Sword Saint dragging along Eron. She kept him updated so Jake could focus on the Monarch and not divert his gaze for even a moment. Finally, the Monarch made a too wide swing, and Jake pounced like a starved beast as his own scimitar flew up and left a cut on the Monarch’s arm.
Instantly, the Monarch refocused and tightened up his technique. Magic began burning brighter around him as blood clones appeared all around him, all of them summoning their own crystalline weapons of blood energy.
Jake swiftly used One Step Mile to get away as he left a Mark of the Avaricious Arcane Hunter on each of them to keep track. There were five clones in total, and three of them headed towards the approaching humans – and Casper – while the other two joined the Monarch in his assault.
Arcane bolts condensed around Jake as he took this slight reprieve to counterattack and sent all of them towards one of the clones as he prepared himself. The clone dodged two of the arcane bolts but was hit by two as they blew up, sending it tumbling back slightly, meaning only two figures appeared before Jake a moment later to strike him.
The Monarch teleported to his back while the clone attacked from the front. Jake chose to charge ahead towards the blood clone and engage that, avoiding the blow of the Monarch by a slight margin as he clashed with the far weaker clone.
Yet even the clone was able to block Jake and fight him rather well, giving the Monarch ample time to get close again and attack. Narrowing his eyes, Jake went back on the defensive for a while as the wings on his back began secreting poison mist. He knew this would have little to no effect on the Monarch, but the blood clone was another story.
He also noticed that his arcane mana burned strongly within the clone. As a magical construct, it was far more susceptible to his arcane mana, he reckoned. The poison also seeped into the clone quite happily, and while it didn’t affect its movements, it did put it on a timer.
Dodging back even further, he let the chase continue as he finally detected the destruction in the distance. Not towards the plains but far away from it. The cataclysmic power of the world breaking apart as space collapsed could be felt from over a thousand kilometers away, and it was clear that it was coming closer by the second.
Far enough now, Jake decided, not wanting to get any closer to the spatial collapse. Even at this far distance, his danger sense made him acutely aware that he didn’t want to enter the edges of Yalsten and experience that kind of destruction firsthand.
This meant Jake changed up his tactic and began fleeing downwards instead of flying through the air. Throughout his time, Jake had gotten quite good at aerial combat, primarily through practice against birds on the cloud island, but he still felt more comfortable on the ground. Sure, it could be argued that dodging in a fully three-dimensional space was easier than when you only had to the sides and upwards, but he still preferred the ground.
Flying down, the Monarch chased him as Jake dodged orbs of blood and beams during his descent. The clones were lagging slightly behind, not releasing any ranged attacks, making Jake believe they could only fight in melee. Or maybe ranged attacks were just a waste of their limited energy pools.
Honestly, Jake had to admit that he was surprised at the lack of diversity in the vampire’s skills. He had many types of blood magic, but most of it could be boiled down to orbs, beams, clones, and melee fighting. Alright, he also put Eron to sleep and some mental magic, but nothing Jake had noticed so far really put him on edge.
It was inarguable that the Monarch was still powerful, but there was no way he retained the skills he had as an A-grade. Far from it.
After his transformation, he had gotten stronger, but not overly much. It was more the reset that had caused that had the biggest impact, as it healed his wounds, and as far as Jake could see, the guy now had more resources than before and used them more liberally.
But… ultimately, the question was… could Jake win? Because while this was indeed the strongest foe he had ever faced, that didn’t mean it was the most dangerous foe. Jake was also more powerful now than ever.
Could he beat the Monarch alone? Uncertain, but maybe? It would take a while, though.
Could he beat the Monarch with the help of nearly all the strongest people on Earth?
Unless the Monarch had more interesting things to show, that is.