Right away, Jake knew this time was different than any prior. The feeling he got was one not from a perspective… it was one where he was purely an observer of the world - of everything that happened. He was not bound by the figures in the Records but merely a historian gazing upon it as he experienced reality as it once was.
Before him was a vast wasteland of red rock, stretching infinitely into the distance. Pillars of sizes incomprehensible to him marked the surface. On top of two of these pillars stood figures, each spread thousands of kilometers apart, yet they spoke as if they were right next to one another.
“You really don’t know when to surrender, do you?” one of the figures said. It was a primarily black dragon but with a dark green sheen to its scales. Spikes of pure power covered its spine as it had a lithe form, yet it still looked more powerful than ever. It was only about twenty meters long, and Jake guessed this was a purposefully smaller form.
This was Jake’s first time seeing the Malefic Viper in this form. This was clearly an evolved form of the B-grade dragon, but based on the sheer difference and aura, Jake reckoned this wasn’t A-grade anymore but a fully-fledged S-grade being. Late S-grade, based on his instincts.
Across from him stood a man. Just a regular human from the looks of it with a half-burnt beard, his armor was broken now, making him wear little more than a loincloth and a simple-looking axe in his hand. It looked worse than the average one from any hardware store as it was rusty and chipped.
Needless to say, this man wasn’t just a regular human despite his looks. He gave off an aura of an S-grade, but one quite a bit weaker than the Malefic Viper. Perhaps he was only mid-tier S-grade? Jake wasn’t sure, but he had a strong feeling that was the case.
This man breathed heavily as he looked around him. “Damn, everyone else just left like that?” he muttered.
“It appears that to them, failure of the event was preferable to death. A logical choice you seem to not comprehend,” the Malefic Viper answered.
“Bah, why leave when I still got fight left in me!?” he said with a huge grin.
The Malefic Viper looked down on the human as a scoff resounded through the empty wasteland. “You humans and your hubris. Forever ignorant of how inferior you are. You don’t seriously think you can win, so disappear from my sight. I have wasted enough time on you already, you cockroach.”
Just after those words were said, the sky suddenly parted as light bathed the entire wasteland. A golden orb descended from out of nowhere, giving off an aura that almost made Jake’s mouth water. He couldn’t Identify it… but he was certain this was something special. An artifact? Natural Treasure? No matter what, it was what these two were there fighting for.
However, only the Malefic Viper looked up towards it as the human kept his eyes trained on the dragon before him.
“As every other human fell, only one stood before the evil black dragon that had terrorized the human race… despite how injured and how much weaker he was, he refused to back down and eventually managed to beat back this evil. Isn’t that a good story? One the bards will sing songs of for ages to come?” the bearded man said as a laugh as he lifted his axe and threw it over his shoulder.
“A better tale is how the stupid human was killed by the dragon as he was too moronic to know when to quit,” the Viper said, still looking up towards the orb. The treasure was still sealed, but soon it would be released.
“I like my version better,” the human shrugged.
Finally, the Viper bothered to regard the human again. “If you want to die that badly, be my guest.”
With that, the entire wasteland suddenly turned dark green as intense mana gathered. The human responded as a golden aura emanated from him, protecting him. “Come! Let us make a legend of the ages!” he yelled as he took the initiative and flew over with speed that may as well have been teleportation.
Jake could only keep up due to the special state allowed by Path of the Heretic-Chosen, but he was still shocked as they impacted each other. A claw met the axe as a shockwave was released, tumbling thousands of pillars all around them as a crater formed underneath – the only unaffected thing being the golden orb floating above.
The clash had an obvious winner as the human was sent flying back, leaving a trail of blood as his shoulder was torn up. He instantly attacked again but was repelled as hundreds of dark green orbs of mana formed and fired beams towards him.
Yet he refused to give up as he managed to dodge them and continue his assault. The golden aura around him only intensified as he got slightly faster for every moment, and soon he managed to reach the Viper again.
They clashed once more as the winner remained clear. Jake observed intently as the claw and axe impacted one another, and Jake noted how the claw of the Viper seemed to inherently infuse poison into every blow, and he felt oddly familiar energy from the claw. Fang of the Malefic Viper… in the claw? Jake investigated this as he also kept following the battle.
The man was pushed back as another wound appeared on his arm, with the poison also seeping in. With every clash, the difference in power was obvious, and yet Jake got an odd feeling as he watched. The Viper was dominant and menacing, an absolute powerhouse with an aura that made him seem supreme, Yet…
Jake couldn’t see the axe warrior lose.
It was truly odd and confusing to him. The power difference was there, wounds were accumulating, yet the axe warrior just kept going – the grin on his face not fading for even a second no matter what happened. It was as if not a single fiber of his being even viewed losing as a possibility.
The battle between the two S-grades looked simple, but the destruction they wrought was earth-shattering. The Viper was superior in every way, even if magic seemed to be his forte. Meanwhile, the human just swung his axe in a straightforward way. There was no profound feeling like when Jake fought the Sword Saint. In fact, the S-grade seemed less skilled in using a weapon than the old man.
But he just had a presence to him. One that just kept growing with every moment. Jake then felt like the fight sped up. Flashes of the two clashing repeatedly dominated his mind as the situation progressed. The golden orb that they were fighting for also intensified with every passing second as they both fought.
Time suddenly returned to normal as in a huge clash, the human was sent barreling backward as the Viper followed up with a breath of pure dark green energy. The man barely managed to block but was still smashed into the ground as a huge green pulsing crater formed.
The man got up as his golden aura was still strong, but just as he looked stable, he coughed out black blood as he fell to his knees. The poison was getting to him.
“Even a cockroach has its limits, it seems,” the Malefic Viper said. While the warrior was injured and bloody, he himself barely had a few chipped scales. “You humans never fail to amaze me. So fragile and so inferior, yet you keep trying. It is almost cute.”
“Bah, what does an overgrown lizard have to brag about?” the warrior answered as he managed to stand up.
The Viper stared at the man with contempt as he briefly tossed the orb above a look. “A human so old, yet so ignorant. Creatures and races of the system exist on a spectrum, and on that spectrum, so-called “overgrown lizards” are on another league than you pathetic humans. You are merely fodder for the progress of those competent enough to evolve away from their feeble humanoid forms.”
“Sounds like something an overgrown lizard would think,” the man said as he laughed. He raised his fist and slapped his own chest as he grinned. “But this right here? This is perfection.”
Jake wasn’t sure if the guy was referring to his ripped chest or his race as a human, but the man looked confident either way.
“Skin that tears at the slightest touch, hands with nails unable to cut even the lightest of hide, teeth not made for killing a single creature. Before the system, your race could barely walk without hurting themselves. You have nothing that makes you-“
“I got this!” the man said as he raised his axe.
“A weapon? So what? Is the result not clear already?”
“And this!” the warrior also said, pointing to the broken scraps of armor still on his body. “I got everything I need already!”
The Viper looked at him, and Jake was certain that what the Viper was doing was just waiting for the orb above to become claimable. Moreover, the poison within the man was still spreading and slowly whittling him down.
“I do recognize humans have value as a collective. But you are makers, not destroyers. Your purpose is to uplift those who break the shackles of humanity and ascend. Those who toss away their inferior forms. Why else do you think you humans have professions?”
“I dunno,” the man just honestly answered as he lifted his axe. “But I do know I don’t need any of that lizard crap. I got everything I’ll ever need right here!”
The axe began glowing with energy, but the Viper didn’t bother. To him, the fight was already a foregone conclusion. So… he decided to finish it.
“A pity. You are the strongest human I have ever met, despite your shortcomings. Now die, proud to be killed by a superior being,” the Viper said as the entire environment changed. Jake felt the activation of what he guessed was Pride as well as several other skills that all created a domain.
Then, he charged, clearly insistent on killing the man using his superior physique. The man responded as he lifted his glowing axe and charged. Axe met claw as they were knocked away from each other again, something that clearly surprised the Viper.
“As all others have fallen, a single man dared challenge the evil dragon,” the warrior spoke as he charged. The golden aura around him intensified even more as he released power that Jake had no idea where came from.
“A hero of the day,” he yelled loudly as for the first time, the Viper lost out in a clash. “A legend forever.”
Jake just looked on as he saw the man’s gaze and felt something he had never expected. Something straight from his Bloodline as he felt it hum to life upon looking at another human. It was not a feeling of wanting to challenge him or one of fear… but one of pure recognition.
At that moment, Jake knew who the winner would be. The Malefic Viper was a monster many levels above the axe warrior, yet that inkling the man wouldn’t lose only amplified as his golden aura intensified. From the man’s gaze, he didn’t believe losing was even a possibility either.
The Viper was what Jake could only describe as flabbergasted as he was pushed back and a few scales broke. The dragon clearly saw and felt this as he was enraged. The Viper roared as he flew forward, smashing the man flying, but it was only momentary.
“I don’t need any fancy claws.”
The axe descended as the Viper bit forward. They clashed as the human was blasted away, leaving a trail of blood. But at the same time, the Viper roared in pain as a fang had been broken and thrown to the ground far below.
“I don’t need any scales.”
His body pulsed with golden power as he lifted his axe again and chopped. The Viper responded as he released a blast of magic, knocking the man back before snapping forward with insane speed as his neck seemed to stretch. The man dodged, but he was still hit partly and smashed down onto the ground as a claw came.
The Viper roared as he released a Dragon’s Breath straight down at the pinned man. He managed to raise his axe as he shouted in response, the axe glowing gold. It released a glow that managed to block the breath for a few moments before suddenly his weapon exploded in a golden light, beating back the Viper.
“There goes your axe,” the Viper said as he stabilized.
The human managed to stand as his one arm was gone, entirely eroded away, and his entire body was half-decayed, showing bone. Yet the golden aura hummed stronger than ever.
The human looked down and saw a fragment of the broken fang of the Viper he had smashed off before. He picked it up as the dragon scoffed, but he still spoke.
“I don’t need my axe.”
He raised the fang as energy went into it and carved it into the rough shape of an axe. It almost conformed to his will as he looked towards the Viper with bloodshot eyes. “I just need whatever the hell I can get my hands on.”
His body erupted as he charged forward faster than ever before. He swung with his one good arm. The Viper blocked, but his barrier magic was shattered as blood and scales spewed out. The axe warrior cut again as the Viper was sent flying, but the dragon barely managed to stabilize before he was hit with the follow-up.
At that moment, Jake felt panic. For the first time, the Viper felt fear towards the monster he was facing. He tried everything as magic collected, but nothing worked.
“I am not merely a human!”
The words echoed as the man cut down and ripped away a large chunk of flesh.
“I am a warrior!”
He hit again as the Viper was pushed back, and the golden aura covered the horizon.
“I am a legend!”
He swung as the Viper’s maw of teeth was broken.
“I am Valdemar!”
A crack resounded as the spine of the dragon broke.
He pulled back the broken axe-shaped fang as it pulsed with energy that formed a massive golden axe.
“IS THE FANG!”
He swung as the world trembled and the ground cracked. The orb above shuddered as reality itself was cleaved in half, revealing the void between universes.
The Viper was nearly cut in two as his chest was cleaved open, and a torrent of blood flooded the landscape.
At that moment, Jake felt the usual feeling of Path of the Heretic Chosen as he suddenly became one with the Viper. He felt the fear and reluctance as a skill was used. The two broken wings on his back instantly returned as phantasmal versions appeared and burned with green energy.
The entire broken body of the Viper turned green as suddenly his whole form shot into the distance, and Jake felt the many concepts interact as space itself parted, and the Viper disappeared.
Having fled a battle to save his own life.
Yet the thing that dominated Jake’s minds was the words of the man Valdemar. Another Primordial and future founder and leader of Valhal.
Fang of man…
Time rewound as Jake returned to the beginning again.
“You really don’t know when to surrender, do you?”