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Jacob opened his eyes as he exited his brief meditation. He felt the currents of fate, and he knew that the Monarch of Blood was coming towards the plains. Of course, detecting anything was hard with all of the people present in the Treasure Hunt, but he at least could read something that simple.

He used a skill to swiftly contact Bertram and his team, telling them to retreat from fighting the Vampiric Blood Elementals while also tossing a quick message to the undead through tokens they had exchanged. The parties out fighting had a rotation of sorts in place for people to retreat and regenerate, and with Sven and the people from Valhal recently rejoining the battle, Bertram and the others had more space.

It didn’t take long for Bertram to make it back, joined by the healer of his party. The swordsman, Maria the archer, and their caster had stayed behind to finish off some more elementals before returning themselves. But that was fine, for Jacob only really needed Bertram.

“They are returning?” Bertram asked, some concern in his voice.

“Yes, they are. It is time to use the Holy Sword,” Jacob stated. His guardian gravely nodded as he knew what it meant. They went over to the ritual grounds as Jacob saw the people who stood around the ritual circle.

“My friends, our time has come,” the Augur said as he went into the middle of the ritual and, out of his spatial storage, took a weapon. It was a gilded sword that seemed to be made of pure gold. He didn’t hesitate to stab it into the ground at the center of the circle as holy energy breathed to life. He hurried out of the circle as he motioned for the ritualists to begin the infusion.

There were fourteen people in total. All of them had barely reached D-grade and, under normal circumstances, would have little reason to remain when they were given a chance to leave the Hunt. They were individuals who had only just reached D-grade through a final push of resources, and many of them would likely never even reach mid-tier of D-grade.

So… this was for the best.

The ritual began as they all kneeled, and Jacob closed his eyes as he summoned his lantern and held it out.

“Thank you.”

One by one, the fourteen ritualists collapsed as the holy energy in the ritual circle intensified. Bertram stood solemnly beside him, Jacob knowing the man disapproved. However, Jacob stayed determined that this was for the best.

Wisps of light came from each of the bodies as they entered his lantern – at least their souls saved to be given entrance to the Holy Realm where their lives would continue in some form. It was the least they could do for those who sacrificed their lives for the Holy Church.

When the final ritualist lay dead on the ground, the ritual circle collapsed in-upon itself as the sword was fully infused and ready. Jacob Identified it as he sighed, glad that at least it was a significant success.

[Holy Sword (Ancient)] – A blade infused with intense holy energy, forged by a talented blacksmith with unquestionable faith in the Holy Church. The sword has been further elevated through a sacrifice of faithful believers to infuse the blade with further power and Records. Using the blade will grant the user incredible holy power for a limited time at the cost of their own life. Due to the intense holy energy in the blade, it can only be used once. Enchantments: Holy Ascension.
Requirements: Soulbound

“I don’t like this,” Bertram said, vocalizing his distaste of what they were doing. Jacob understood. It seemed unsightly from the moral perspective of the pre-system world. But… things had changed. Life had less value than before, and sometimes the best destiny was to at least die for the greater good of others.

“Do not speak ill words of those privileged to ascend before others,” Noor, the priestess and healer of Bertram’s party said.

“It is fine,” Jacob soothed her, continuing. “The choice was ultimately theirs, the same as the choice is yours if you want to wield the blade or not.”

“Not much of a choice when I am the only one who can be resurrected,” Bertram countered but walked forward nevertheless till he stood before the Holy Sword, ready to claim it.

Jacob conceded that one, as Bertram truly was the only one who could use it, outside of maybe the swordsman Lucian. However, Bertram would undoubtedly be the best, as his toughness allowed him to wield the Holy Sword longer than anyone else.

Truly, for anyone else to wield it would be a waste and potentially make the sacrifices of all those involved in its creation in vain.

Now, Jacob had considered many times if this was even worth it, much less required to defeat the Monarch of Blood.

To answer the question, if it was required, then the answer would likely be no. Jake, the Sword Saint, and all of the others could likely defeat the vampire without the Holy Church even doing anything. However, ultimately this didn’t matter due to the answer to the second question.

Was it worth it? Most definitely.

There were few chances to so directly contribute to the community more than in an event like this in the multiverse. Jacob was fully aware that a single talented person being uplifted was worth more than ten ordinary people getting benefits. In this way, their deaths would directly contribute to Bertram gaining a higher level of contribution against the Monarch of Blood, netting him a better reward, and through that, ultimately making the Holy Church on Earth even stronger as a whole.

Reality was simply cruel like that. Jacob – or Bertram, for that matter – didn’t have to like it, but they did have to adapt to it. A fact that at least Bertram accepted. It did help that the Holy Church had ways to still keep people alive in some form by allowing them to pass on to the Holy Realm.

His thought process was interrupted as he saw the dark sky in the distance and the approaching aura of the Judge, AKA Jake’s brother. Swiftly, he took out a small token and sent a message to the undead faction, communicating for them to be ready as he tossed Bertram a look.

“The time has arrived.”


A high perception stat was great. Jake loved being able to see far away usually, but sometimes it just led to more frustration.

He was flying and using One Step Mile as he chased Caleb and the Monarch, who were both flying at incredible speeds back towards the Mistless Plains. The Monarch was slightly faster and intermittently clashed with his brother, but luckily Caleb could handle himself in his current boosted form.

It also helped that whenever the Monarch did manage to touch Caleb, his claws just seemed to phase through the dark lightning mage, not truly injuring him. Jake was aware this situation was only momentary, and after only a few minutes, Caleb was beginning to get a little bit slower, showing his boosting skill was beginning to weaken.

This did allow Jake to get slightly closer and even fire off a quickly-charged Arcane Powershot here and there. His eyes were also hurting from using Gaze of the Apex Hunter, every use of it allowing either one of his arrows to hit or for Caleb to smash the Monarch back a bit with his staff.

Luckily, they soon got close to the Mistless Plains. The Monarch did try to summon a clone or two and send them after Jake, but he just ignored them as he flew past or used One Step Mile, showing that the Monarch wasn’t the only one who could act like a little bi…

Anyway, when they got close, Jake saw the fighting in the distance between the humans and the Vampiric Blood Elementals. He saw far fewer on both sides, making it clear a lot of humans had either died or been forced to leave due to the prolonged battle.

He also noticed that some Ekilmares had joined in on the fun at some point but had been swiftly slain. No doubt they had still contributed to the chaos of it all. Honestly, this entire final phase of the Treasure Hunt had just been a fucking mess, and Jake would have preferred if he could just have fought the Monarch alone. But, sadly, things hadn’t worked out like that.

Jake kept following and firing potshots and saw that Caleb had slightly changed his direction with a clear target in mind. Frowning, Jake wondered what the plan was… an answer that came just a moment later.

A large figure of pure ghastly light raised itself towards the sky right behind Caleb as he flew by, separating him and the vampire, surprising both Jake and the Monarch. Countless chains suddenly shot out of the hooded phantasmal figure, with the Monarch trying to turn to mist and get away, but at that moment, Jake felt like something had changed in the environment. His one One Step Mile failed, and so did the vampire’s escape as the chains connected to his body and pierced into his body.

They didn’t appear to actually interact with his flesh but simply phased through it and held him in place. The Monarch tried to release a blast of energy, but it failed. Before he could do anything more, a pillar of light shot up, this one of pure, holy light.

Jake felt a familiar aura from the light, and a moment later, it subsided and merged with a person who flew upwards. Glowing wings of holy light were on his back as his entire body was covered in similarly golden heavy armor. In his hand, the person wielded a shining blade that made Jake’s danger sense react as he became clear that the weapon wasn’t simple at all.

Bertram was behind the armor and wielded the blade as he attacked. The Monarch reacted with clear concern at the approaching figure. Armor of red crystals covered him, and he also summoned a multi-layered barrier as quickly as he could.

However, it all quickly proved in vain. The holy blade tore through the barriers and impacted the vampire’s armor, sending large parts flying off together with blood and gore. The first slash broke the armor on his chest, the second cut off a blocking forearm, and the third one tore through the shoulder and down to just where the heart was supposed to be.

Every attack released shockwaves of light and burning holy power that ravaged the terrain around Bertram and the Monarch, and even the ground below looked scorched. Every attack was more powerful than Jake’s fully charged Arcane Powershots. Jake didn’t idle during this time but split his attention. Trying to attack would prove meaningless, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t prepare as he held out his hand and began channeling Arrow of the Ambitious Hunter, never taking his eyes off the two fighting figures.

Not even five seconds had passed since Jake became aware of Bertram before he noticed something that didn’t seem right. The armor on Bertram was already beginning to fade, and when it did so, Jake saw the glowing veins spreading all over his face as the skin around it flayed.

He is overloading his body…

It was like when Jake pushed Limit Break far further than ever intended during the fight with the King of the Forest, except with even more potent energy. The holy energy clearly came from the sword, and Jake was absolutely clear that whatever was happening couldn’t be stopped. Whoever chose to use that weapon would die doing so.

Bertram didn’t seem to let it bother him as he kept attacking, likely due to the bullshit powers of Jacob allowing him to resurrect him. A bullshit combo, actually. The Monarch was lined with golden cuts, his entire body filled with holy energy. For the first time, Jake saw the Monarch truly be stressed and filled with anger as he visibly barred his sharp teeth and appeared to almost hiss at the golden warrior.

Blood energy exploded out as his hair was raised, and his eyes began glowing an even deeper color than before. The forearm and hand that had been cut off regenerated as the vampire attacked back, tearing off a large part of Bertram’s armor. Bertram countered by cutting a leg off the vampire, with the Monarch going for even more. The Monarch released a massive beam of energy that cut Bertram apart at the stomach – his legs falling to the ground below, not even able to hit it before the holy energy turned them to nothing.

The man seemed entirely careless as he raised the holy sword above his head. The Monarch attacked again and stabbed a large spear through Bertram’s chest just before the already-dying man released the final attack.

“Judgement's Fall.”

For but a moment, it felt like the entire Treasure Hunt was enveloped in light, as the faint mirage of a six-winged angel appeared behind Bertram. The blade extended as it grew, and the man cut down. Jake didn’t see exactly what happened next as everything flashed, and an explosion of holy light pushed him and everyone else back.

It was like a new sun had appeared, and without his high perception, Jake would have been blinded. The aura of Bertram disappeared with the appearance of the explosion as his body was unable to handle the power he had just deployed.

But…

Light subsided as the sky returned to normal, and in the air, the spectral chains from the undead, as well as all traces of Bertram, were gone. All that remained was a tattered robe with what looked like wriggling flesh within.

For a moment, Jake wondered if the Holy Church had actually managed to do it, but his senses told him otherwise. His intuition once more proved correct as the vampire’s form was revealed beneath the robe. He lived but was far from fine.

A long golden scar now went him the top of his head and down to his one thigh, crossing over the already present mark left by Carmen’s fist. His entire body was a mess, and he was even weaker than before. Both legs were gone, only one arm remaining that just dangled uselessly. It was the perfect time to strike.

“Thunderfall of Tenlucis.”

At that very moment, a figure dropped from far above. The Monarch barely had time to look up as Caleb descended and passed right through him like a living thunderbolt. A shockwave of dark electricity was released as Jake once more found himself slightly pushed back.

However, he didn’t miss the opportunity as he raised his bow and channeled Arcane Powershot while flying back. Then, before the blast from Caleb’s blow had even subsided, he released his own attack as the Arrow of the Ambitious Hunter was released.

It flew true as the Monarch once more failed to respond, and the arrow sunk into his body, sending him tumbling back. Jake had nearly expected a notification from that… but the vampire still lived. He quickly followed up as he activated his Mark of the Avaricious Arcane Hunter charge, making the vampire flash up one more time.

No mercy was shown by anyone else as attacks began arriving from all over the plains. Sultan fired from his ship, arrows, bolts, beams, and all manners of ranged attacks bombarded the already battered form of the Monarch. Although individually, most of these were too weak to truly do anything, combined, they still had to add up. Under usual circumstances, the Monarch would have dodged them easily, but he was in no condition to currently.

Jake nocked an arrow to keep attacking but stopped at the final moment. On the tip of his arrow, he saw a reflection of the moon above. He looked up in shock and saw the moon looked different.

An eye stared down upon Yalsten from above.

The eye of the Monarch.

Jake stared back as the red glow of the eye intensified, and the voice of the Monarch of Blood echoed all around him.

“Color of Night.”

And the world turned the palette of blood:

Sanguine.

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Zogarth

  • Denmark

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