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Harel was currently training. She had been training for the last twenty hours straight. Marven and Harel continued their journey and reached a bigger settlement. Here, they had rented a large building and dedicated it to Harel’s training.

And the training was dedicated indeed.

Harel was thoroughly exhausted, but she didn’t want to say anything. Marven was watching her intently.

Was he angry?

She couldn’t tell. Ever since she blew up on him he had been strangely quiet. A stern expression was permanently stuck on his face and he was making her train every waking hour of the day. Harel was rather confident that he was angry at her and that this was some sort of petty punishment, but she couldn’t deny the results of the last few days.

While her progress in cultivation wasn’t as fast as it was in front of the lotus, she was improving much faster in her skills. She had already mastered nearly all the forms of Marven’s swordsmanship. She was currently practicing the eighth form. Harel hadn’t started the eighth form all that long ago, which regretfully signified she was going to be training for at least another few hours.

Although Harel didn’t want to speak up against this treatment, mostly due to her pride, she couldn’t hold back anymore. The eighth form of Marven’s swordsmanship was bad. It was a form designed to prepare a fighter to react to counterattacks. She couldn’t keep this to herself anymore so she stopped her practice. Marven raised an eyebrow.

“I do not remember telling you to stop.”

“Wait, I’m not stopping the training, but there is something I have to point out.”

“And what exactly may that be?”

“This form is bad.”

Marven raised the other eyebrow as well.

“Oh really? Mind if you enlighten me as to why?”

Harel then took a few swings and showed off a few of the moves.

“This attack, this attack, and especially this attack, this stance, and this footing are just useless in practice.”

“Why do you believe that?”

“Well, first, I have to ask you a question, did you add the eighth form because you were one form short of ten forms? Was nine not a good number?”

“I did not ask for sarcasm, young lady. Either speak or continue swinging.”

Harel sighed.

“The entire eighth form is pointless. It is a form that is designed to allow one to react to counterattacks, right? But the form itself essentially opens you up for counterattacks.”

“Indeed, that is how it’s designed. It was created to face someone willing to take risky openings. The form is strong at defending a few critical areas, while also putting you in the position to defend against strikes directed at areas that are not protected. Had Elder Kaphor not been so arrogant in the fight against Neave, he would have used this form and decimated his opponent.”

“Had he used this form he would have lost immediately.”

“And what makes you believe that?”

“Because the eighth form has a hard skill ceiling. It only really works against opponents up to a certain level. Past that, the defenses just became more openings and the openings became worthless.”

“Which is when you would use another form.” Marven sighed, “Look, I understand what you’re saying, but no swordsmanship style is perfect. Which is why it's best to have a set of tools to face specific circumstances.”

Harel remembered the way Neave fought. The way he held the sword. She hesitated for a bit, but then she asked.

“What about…? What about the way Neave fought?”

Marven sighed again at that one.

“What about it? Look, Harel, it is almost certain that the book was some sort of inheritance. If Neave had acquired the skills of some long-deceased swordsman, it is pointless to fantasize about replicating such a style.”

“But… It was so… Fluid. All he did was dodge the strikes he could, parry those he couldn’t, and strike when he found an opening. There was no form, no set rules he followed. He just created and broke the rules as he went along.”

Marven raised an eyebrow at that. He hadn’t witnessed Neave’s swordsmanship personally, so he was having trouble believing Harel’s words.

How much work would one have to do to accomplish such a style?

“So what are you suggesting now? You want to learn a style like that?”

“I… I want to believe. I’ve seen something like that and I can not help but feel like my style is far too inferior.”

“You mean my style?”

“Yes.” Harel nodded. She did think Marven’s swordsmanship was inferior to Neave’s.

“Were you not the one begging me to teach you?” Marven frowned. “And now you’re diminishing my work? Calling it inferior?”

“Your swordsmanship is superior to most other styles. And it is a style you have created entirely on your own. Mas–No, Marven, I wanted you to teach me not because I believed your current style is the best. I wanted you to teach me because I believed in your swordsmanship. Is this style not merely just a step on the path to reaching true greatness?”

“Those are childish dreams, Harel. I don’t see us coming across any inheritances like that any time soon.”

“Whoever made that inheritance must have been a childish dreamer then? And it is a dream that your child has already realized. Perhaps it is time for you to be a bit more childish again.”

Marven smiled a bit at that.

“Alright then. I can be childish. If you wish to accomplish what you’ve set out to do, we will have to change our approach to your training.”

Harel did not like where this was going.

“And how will we do that?”

“By fighting monsters, of course!”

Harel wanted to scream.

"However, we are not going to be doing it here."

"Do you have any specific place in mind?"

Marven nodded.

"We will do it on our way to the capital of the empire."

***

It was nighttime. Gabrias sat around a fire with the three gold path cultivators. At first, he felt a little left out. It was obvious these people were friends and they have been chatting amicably for a while now. But, little by little they worked their way to involve him in the conversation.

The brunette woman was laughing hysterically at a joke Gabrias shared. He worked as a construction worker most of the time, so he was rather good at telling jokes. Carrying stone and lumber around got quite boring at times, so the crew kept each other entertained. He shared a raunchy joke about a man sleeping with his neighbor's wife. The other two cultivators were eyeing her oddly. The bold man spoke up.

“I didn’t think it was that funny.”

Then the blonde man spoke up.

“Ah, shut up, Kayix. You don’t always have to be a buzzkill.” Then he chuckled and turned to Gabrias. “Thank you, my friend, for sharing your anecdote with us.”

“Anecdote?”

All of the cultivators paused.

Then they broke into laughter. Even Kayix.

Gabrias clicked his tongue when it sank in.

“Ha, ha, very funny. You wouldn’t happen to have a wife yourself?”

They all went silent and stared at him, slight hostility apparent on their faces.

They took a hard, long look at his face.

Then they broke out into laughter again. The bald man was slapping his knee so hard the sound made Gabrias ears hurt.

Gabrias knew best what being made fun of by a group felt like. When the jokers were their own crowd, you would always get laughed at, even when the joke wasn’t that funny. Such was how his construction crew did things when talking to a stranger.

Even funnier, at least to Gabrias, was that the people who they made fun of tended to be quite important, like high-ranking elders of sects. If they weren’t the best around, there was no way they would be tolerated. He should have been able to manage even when faced with such a group, but he was nervous. Even his superiors’ direct superiors weren’t on the golden path. So to him, this was like hanging out with the colleagues of the boss of his bosses’ bosses.

The sect master of the Bentheta sect was only at the third step of the golden path. Well, you couldn’t say only in such a case. The Bentheta sect’s power was overall greater than that of the Zearthorn sect of the past. Marven just wasn’t good at growing a sect. When everybody kept each other down, nobody would ever really grow.

The blonde man calmed the others.

“I apologize, but you just seem so tense, I couldn’t help but jest a little. Relax, you’re going to be safe with us.”

That wasn’t really why Gabrias was currently tense. Even if it did play a role. He had a question he wanted to ask ever since he’d seen the blonde man standing above the graves.

“In the group that had… Who were they to you?”

All of them adopted serious expressions and the woman even looked a little offended. The blonde man waved at her to calm her down.

“It’s okay, Mirna. I’m sure he is just curious.” Then the man turned to Gabrias. “I tutored that group ever since they were kids. Two of them were my direct disciples. I’ve always wanted to pull them out of that line of work. Doing the dirty work of a sect was dangerous and frequently dishonorable, but somebody has to do it. It has never been easy for me to come to terms with it. And now…” His hands were shaking and Gabrias could feel his anger radiating through the spiritual pressure he passively gave off. “You said that monster was traveling?”

Gabrias nodded. Nobody among them was referring to Neave as a human anymore. Nobody believed he was.

“How fast is it going?”

“We were within fifty miles of it at closest, but it seems to have picked up speed recently.”

“Alright. While there is still the risk of running into dangerous monsters or other groups, I think we should pick up the pace.” The man got up and walked over to a tent. “Get your rest tonight, next time we sleep will be after we’ve caught that thing.”

***

On the other side of the forest was a band of roughly thirty cultivators. They were also resting around fires. But this ragtag collection of cultivators was much, much rowdier.

They were cheering and drinking. It wasn’t something they usually did on important jobs but managing morale was very important. Lank was a professional mercenary and he was very good at his job. His greasy hair flopped around as he danced with the others, hand under hand, and finished his fifteenth mug of beer.

“Cheers, you motherfuckers!” Then he downed the sixteenth one.

After the party had died down and the cultivators were finally resting, he sat on a boulder a bit outside of the camp they’d set up and just stared at the ground.

The night was cold and the weight of his own shadow, cast by the remnants of the campfire behind him, looked like it was crushing the grass.

A chubby man with a waxy mustache walked over to him, sat on the boulder next to him, and hugged him with one arm.

“How are you doing, brother?”

“Honestly? I feel like boiled crap. I’m tired, Bev and I’m scared. No, scratch that, I’m shitting my fucking pants.” He flicked a rock he had been playing with into the grass.

“We can still quit this job. You’ve heard the report from Pavarrie, chasing this thing might not be worth it.”

Lank looked at him, smiling with his mouth but not with his eyes.

“But we are running out of time. We are never gonna get the money needed through our regular work. The Yixine empire is just too damn fucking big. Without a teleportation circle to get us over the biggest danger zones, we will never make it. And teleporting nearly thirty people will be expensive. Really fucking expensive, shit man, I wish we hired someone to do our finance.”

The other man laughed lethargically.

“What if we… What if we stayed? Is it worth risking our lives over this?”

“There is no risk-free option, Bev. If we stay on the Yixine continent we will almost definitely be dead within five years. You remember what that woman had said?”

The other man nodded and sighed.

“I just wish there was a better way.”

“Don’t you now, you fat asshole?” Both of the men laughed. “Who the hell doesn’t wish for that?”

Suddenly they spotted two men walking in the darkness. Immediately both Lank and Bev grabbed for their swords.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, boss, relax! It's just us!”

“You dumb cunts.” Lank blew air out as the tension left him. “What the fuck are you doing out in the wild in the middle of the night anyway?”

“Recon.”

“Yeah, my fucking ass.”

Bev then took a jab at them.

“Pone, Nehval, you two have something to tell us? I’ve seen you two sneaking out in the woods a few times already, don’t worry, we ain’t gonna judge you.”

“Ah, shut the hell up you fatass.”

The men walked past them and as Bev was about to slap Pone on the back of his head, Pone jolted as if he was about to stab him.

“Hey, man, what’s with the tension? You know I feel about people calling me fat.”

Pone stepped back nervously.

“Lank does that all the time, man, give me a break.”

“Lank is my brother, man and I beat his ass just the same, hahaha!”

Pone tried running, but Bev was a step higher than he was. He was caught with little effort. Bev slapped the back of his head. And the slap resounded with a metallic thud.

All of the men paused. Lank ran over, distress plain on his face.

“Come here, Pone. Let me touch your skin.”

“No, boss, please.” But it was too late.

Lark pinched Pone and reeled at the sensation. His skin felt metallic. Lark’s face contorted, first in shock, then in disbelief, and then in anger…

And finally, in despair. Then he started crying.

“Pone…? Don’t tell me, Nehval, you as well?”

Both the men lowered their heads in shame.

“Are you fucking…?” He turned and put his fist up to his mouth, eyes reddening as he did his best not to weep. “Are you braindead? Did you think you would get away with this?”

“Boss…”

“Don’t… Don’t call me that, please. Just get out. Please just leave.”

“Boss listen…”

“I SAID GET THE FUCK OUT! You're a disgrace, both of you. You could never have gotten away with it! The gods’ agents would have noticed immediately!” He screamed at them. Then he pointed his finger into the forest. “Just get the hell out. And don’t come back.”

Lank and Pone walked away, Lank in tears and Pone with a disapproving expression on his face. The two men dejectedly walked back into the wilderness.

***

Neave was running through the forest at incredible speed. He had learned how to utilize the body morphing power to accelerate his running drastically and after coupling that with his long-distance movement technique and his general increase in speed and physical performance, he could run several times faster than before.

As he ran through the forest, he eviscerated any monsters he came across. As soon as he killed them and sometimes even before he killed them, he would eat their meat and absorb whatever he could out of it. The speed at which he increased his physical abilities was already drastically slower than it was at the beginning. Even though he was consuming several times more flesh at several times greater speed, he was only slowly making progress.

It was then that he noticed something unusual in the distance. A patch of the forest where the trees were thinner. After he came closer he saw them.

There was a massive tribe of goblins ahead.

He didn’t hesitate for even a second before he ran at them and started slaughtering them.

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A note from Robert Blaise

[VERY INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT UPDATE YES]

Hello everyone! 

The first thing I want to say is that the last chapter of book one of The Jester of Apocalypse will be coming out this Sunday!

And I am here to announce a hiatus. :/

Do not kill me, please. 😅

I know I promised no hiatuses, but there is no way I can make the second book as good as the first (or as I'm intending, better) without properly plotting and planning everything in advance. But that isn't the only reason why there will be a hiatus.

For now I have several priorities. And the first one of them is reading my own damn book. 

I have read every chapter individually like a dozen times, but I still haven't properly sat down and read the entire book start to finish. I need to see how it flows, how it feels. And I also have a crap ton of stuff to fix in the first book. A polishing is long overdue. And grammar is only one of the things I have to polish. 

I promise it won't be a long hiatus, however. But it will be as long as it needs to be for the book to be great. 

Also, I am already slowly starting work on publishing the first book, expect an [ULTRA MEGA IMPORTANT UPDATE] on this with the release of the last chapter. :)

Thank you for reading The Jester of Apocalypse. 

(By the way I'm super happy with the last few chapters, you can look forward to those. ;) ) 

Cheers! 

///////////////

[SHOUT-OUT]

In a galaxy-spanning utopia where societal leaders are networked together for instant communication, nothing goes unnoticed.

 

There’s no crime. No secrets. No privacy. And no way to escape.

 

Until Thomas unintentionally captivates the top super-genius influencer. If he’s going to help his enslaved friends, he’ll need to trick her… plus her audience of thirty trillion self-important mind readers.

//////////

If you haven't already, go check out Torth! 

https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/61947/torth-op-mcx2


About the author

Robert Blaise

Bio: Man do I love recursion. Man do I love recursion. Man do I love recursion. Man do I love...

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