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Neave was moving in a random direction. He killed and ate monster after monster. He was growing unsatisfied with the progress he was making. After he killed and ate the entire goblin tribe, he had plateaued rather hard. He still felt growth from eating, but that was a trickle compared to the initial flood of power he had gained.

Would he have to dive deep into a cave?

The rational part of him knew that was a terrible idea. The deeper he went, the higher the risk of getting overrun by high gold-rank monsters or encountering a platinum-rank threat. Those meant either he miraculously ran away or he died.

But his desperation was getting worse. He felt anxious and frightened.

The demons were hunting him again.

If he didn’t get more powerful, he would die.

Just as he was thinking this he felt it. Thirty-two spirits.

One on the bronze path, twenty-eight on the silver path.

Three on the gold path.

The very moment he sensed them he immediately started running the fastest he possibly could.

***

Radeon was in charge of the tactics for the group. The cultivators had hatched a plan and divided their roles. They were prepared and according to Gabrias, they were getting closer to the child. Mirna turned to Gabrias.

“You will stay here. We are close enough that we can track him alone.”

Gabrias breathed out a sigh of relief. But he wasn’t quite at ease yet. They would be leaving him entirely alone in a monster-infested forest after all. Mirna just smiled as she knew what he was worried about.

“Don’t worry, I can’t sense any particularly dangerous monsters within the range of my spirit senses. I can barely sense any monsters at all in the nearby area…” She frowned. “So you can wait here in safety. I trust you can at least defend yourself or run away from weaker monsters. At the peak of the bronze path you shouldn’t be a total pushover.” Mirna winked at him, but Garbias wasn’t very amused. He did look like a massive boulder had just rolled off his chest, however.

Gabrias nodded to them and climbed up a nearby tree.

Mirna had shared a ton of equipment with the other group. They were all plated in extremely heavy and thick dark gray armor. It was the type of equipment that completely sacrificed maneuverability for the sake of protection.

But this group of cultivators did not need mobility. They weren’t going to be fighting in melee combat at all. Mirna had also provided them with gigantic crossbows. The entire second group of cultivators would stand back and shoot bolts at Neave.

After finalizing their preparation, a pillar of ice rose beneath Radeon’s feet. He was lifted dozens of meters into the air and he scouted ahead. Neave indeed couldn’t be sensed with spiritual senses, not until one could sense his life force directly. Even if one could it would be a serious chore sensing him from such a distance. To a gold path cultivator, however, if the target was within the field of view, eyes were enough. Radeon could see Neave moving across the landscape, decimating any monsters he came across. He noticed his unusual weapon.

The power the child was showing was significantly above what he had expected to see, even after witnessing the carnage he had left behind.

He jumped off the pillar of ice and floated down on an ice disk. Once he had landed they ran forward for another hundred or so meters and he went up again.

“Shit!” Radeon screamed.

The others immediately panicked.

“What happened?”

“He started running away and he is moving at insane speeds! Mirna, I will have to go ahead!”

“Alright!”

Radeon landed off the ice pillar. Mirna’s hands were enveloped in a blue mist and she manipulated the mist over to Radeon. He calmed himself and accepted the strange mist into his body. He began glowing with a faint blue light and his eyes lit up like small blue stars.

Then he started running so fast the wind he picked up pulled the grass out of the soil beneath him.

***

Neave sensed one of the gold path spirits coming at him at incredible speed. He cursed and panicked, doubling down on his running. However, it was hopeless. The gold path cultivator was on top of him within less than a minute. Neave parried a gigantic spear of ice, his bones squeaking as they bent under the force.

What the hell kind of gimmick is this now?

In Neave’s eyes, all he could see was a demon. A gray, eyeless creature with a gaping maw. It was the same as it had always been. He was staring at yet another challenge too great to tackle. But this time he didn’t have the privilege of failure. This time, it was do or die.

Suddenly, within a hundred-meter radius, a gigantic wall of ice rose from the ground. The trees inside the walled-off area froze and crumbled into dust, while the entire surface within the hundred-meter radius was covered in ice. Neave immediately ran towards the wall, the ice on the floor not hindering him even a bit.

Radeon’s eyebrows furrowed as he noticed the complete lack of hindrance in Neave’s movements. He was running over slippery ice as if it were solid ground. Radeon stood atop the wall of ice and spikes of ice shot at Neave out of the floor and walls.

Neave dodged them with razor precision and kept running.

Radeon built walls in Neave’s way but he just teleported through them. He even covered the entire path before Neave in ice spikes, but he walked on them as if they were solid ground.

Neave was just about to reach the ice wall. He flipped into the air, rotated his torso, and touched the surface of the ice with his left foot. His movement technique completely collapsed.

The wall is too damn thick!

He instead ran up the wall, dodging the spikes and barriers that Radeon was putting up every second. As Neave went higher so did the wall itself until suddenly a giant bald man dropped down from the edge. He was glowing blue and his eyes were blazing with azure light.

Kayix swung his giant sword at Neave.

Neave was going to block the strike, but when he noticed the force behind the technique he wasn’t willing to risk getting his sword destroyed. But he couldn’t dodge. The technique shot out a lot faster than Neave was expecting. Neave contorted his body and burned life force to throw himself back as far away as he could from the sword swing, but the outer edge of the blade still cut his stomach open.

He used his elastic body power to manipulate the skin on his stomach and keep it intact as he burned more life force to seal it together. But the man persisted. He dashed at Neave and punched him with a mighty technique. Neave shot out at incredible speed and bounced off the ice.

Neave first thought he was lucky the man didn’t slash at him again. A punch like that, although rather mighty, was not a very big deal to him. His body was like rubber, his entire cardiovascular system was crystalline and his entire nervous system was like steel. He burned a bit of life force and recovered from what minor damage he had suffered there.

And then he noticed the armored figures lining the walls.

All around, over the entire ice wall, armored cultivators were holding large crossbows and shooting at him. He desperately dodged around, but the sheer density of the volley of bolts was making it damn near impossible to dodge all of them while also dodging the ice spikes that were constantly jutting out of the ground.

Kayix charged at Neave again, this time landing a solid slash at him. The blade would have probably cut through Neave’s entire body if it wasn’t for his crystal veins and steel nerves dulling the blow.

Neave was knocked back at incredible speed away from the blow, but suddenly he was dragged back by something and stabbed. The sword penetrated Neave’s torso.

Kayix punched Neave again. Neave was knocked back but then pulled back again.

It was only then that he saw the silver threads connecting his body to the man. The threads were slowly wrapping all around him and the man tightened the bonds as he pulled on the threads and Neave flew back again.

Neave swung at the threads with the sword, but the sword went right through them. The faint image of the centipede did a bit of damage to the threads, however. Neave didn’t hesitate. He immediately shaped a dagger out of spirit and cut the threads apart.

Kayix’s eyes shot open and his jaw dropped.

How the hell did this kid cut the threads? They are entirely impervious to physical attacks!

Not just that, but Kayix could tell that Neave was brutally tough. His punches felt like they were little more than shoves and even after stabbing him, the boy didn’t appear to be slowed down at all. Kayix was even under Mirna’s boost power and he was still struggling to do proper damage.

Neave freed himself from the threads. More bolts embedded themselves in his skin, but they weren’t doing as much damage as it may appear. Most of his organs were insanely tough. Not just that, but the steel nerves and crystal veins were doing an incredible job of resisting the impact of the bolts. He wasn’t bleeding much and the attacks had little success in the way of paralyzing his limbs. His rubbery body absorbed a lot of the force of the arrows as well, so they didn’t sink quite as deep as they usually would have.

The biggest issue the bolts were presenting was that they were limiting his range of motion. Not just that, but they were damaging his muscle, although that was significantly less impactful given his troll muscle spirit power.

Even if his muscles were completely damaged beyond repair, his elastic body spirit power let him move his body completely independently of his muscles, although at a lot less speed and force. Neave dashed at Kayix using a rapid movement technique.

Kayix readied himself in a stance perfect for a counterattack.

Neave instead attacked exactly where the man was best defended. Golden runes flashed into the air and a massive centipede crashed down on Kayix.

He groaned with exertion as he held the centipede back. The phantasmal monster bit his sword and kept it in place just long enough for Neave to strike again. He pulled his sword back, got into a stance, rotated his torso, and pulled his arm back.

Neave ignored the bolts as they pelted him over and over again, blocking only those that were aimed at his head. His legs were getting cut up by the ice spikes but he put all his focus into this one strike. Neave pushed his fist out, blazing in a red fire as the life force burned like a torch. He added extra speed by stretching his arm further.

Suddenly a thick sheet of ice appeared in front of the man to defend him from the attack. Neave slammed into the barrier of ice, crushing it into fine flakes as his fist continued onward. The punch landed on Kayix’s armor denting it in the process.

Mirna, who was standing on top of the wall next to Radeon tensed up. The blue light surrounding Kayix flickered and Mirna spat out a bit of blood. Kayix went flying at immense speed as he rammed into the ice wall. He bounced off it and quickly got up, ignoring the damage.

Neave clicked his tongue. He pulled some of the bolts out of his body while loading his body with more life force to keep up the healing.

He spun through the air, dodging and deflecting the endless bolts and ice shards flying at him. Radeon was manifesting massive pillars of ice and dropping them on Neave, but he just used true strikes to completely obliterate them. He would have dodged with movement techniques, but the nature of true strikes made them a lot more cost-effective.

Neave was starting to get into the rhythm. Kayix was just about to approach Neave, but Neave disappeared and reappeared behind him. Neave didn’t attack Kayix, however. He spun so fast the air whistled and he kicked one of the bolts with a true strike. The bolt was redirected as it went flying straight toward Radeon. He quickly manifested a barrier of ice, but the bolt shot through it. It was redirected a bit by the sheet of ice and Mirna barely dodged it as it cut a shallow line on her cheek.

“Holy fuck!” Radeon exclaimed.

Mirna held he breath for a second before allowing herself to breathe again.

“Holy fuck indeed.”

Neave dodged bolts, avoided Kayix, and kicked the bolts back every once in a while. He was aiming them at the armored men lining the walls, although even when he managed to hit one of them, the armor completely mitigated the damage. Even though the cultivators lining the walls weren’t suffering any damage from the attacks, Neave’s stunt was seriously shaking them up.

Just how precise were his kicks if he could pull something like this?

Lank was beginning to sweat, partially due to the sweaty armor, but mostly due to the insane level of power this tiny child was demonstrating. What the hell kind of thing had he come across that he was capable of doing that?

Neave was surprised at the sheer quantity of life force contained in his body. Excess life force was expended slowly. Neave had built up a ridiculous amount of life force over his time in the forest. Kayix was an insanely fast warrior, especially with the addition of Mirna’s power, but he was struggling to get close enough to Neave to attack. Neave kept teleporting around.

Neave could barely feel anything at the moment. He didn’t feel pain, excitement, fear, or anger. He was merely flowing like a calm creek. This was where he felt at home. This was his zone. Pushed to the edge and beyond by insurmountable odds.

This was where he excelled.

But it couldn’t go on forever.

His life force reserves were still going very strong, but his qi reserves were rapidly dwindling. If he had a small monster or anything he could eat alive he could regain some qi, but at this rate, he was like a candle flickering in the wind. Now it was time to act or he might lose the chance to do so. Just as he was about to switch his focus to Kayix again, Radeon screamed out.

“Reckless assault formation!”

Kayix’s expression darkened. All three of them pulled a small vial of black liquid out of their dimension rings and drank it.

Mirna and Radeon jumped down into the fray. Mirna yelled out to the armored group.

“Keep shooting, you don’t have to worry about hitting us!”

She opened her dimension ring and four massive artificial iron golems popped out. She focused and the golems were enveloped in blue light. Radeon put his arms together and ice armor materialized all over the golems’ bodies. He manifested armor, a giant sword, and a shield on all of the golems. Kayix put his arms together and the silver threads encased themselves into the ice armor and weapons in rune patterns. Neave was already on top of Kayix before he could fully complete his runes. Kayix released the threads and firmly gripped his sword.

Kayix used a movement technique to lunge at Neave. Neave was about to move out of the way, but Radeon blocked Neave’s escape with a wall. Neave clicked his tongue and used a movement technique to get to the other side. One of the massive golems kicked at him, another one swung its sword, and a third thrust at him. He just barely dodged out of the way of the three attacks. His qi reserves were still dropping.

The bolts were still flying in his general direction, but the fight was so hectic the men were struggling to aim Neave. Radeon lunged at Neave. He got within melee distance and materialized small ice blades he swung and threw at Neave. Meanwhile, he was generating as many obstacles around him and in his way as possible. Mirna used the pressure Radeon was putting on Neave to dash into a kick, using a powerful attack technique.

Neave flew right into the path of a bolt that got embedded deep into his back. It was in one of the worst places it could have hit, as it made it almost impossible for Neave to twist his torso. Which came into play almost immediately as Kayix swung at Neave and cut deep into his left arm. The silver threads appeared again, this time wrapping Neave’s entire arm up, but he once again used a small spirit blade to sever them.

Mirna kicked him again and this time he flew right into a kick of one of the golems. The bolt was embedded even deeper into his torso and it shattered, sending splinters deep into his chest. The kick sent him flying right into a shield bash by another golem and that sent him over to a third golem which was in the middle of taking a swing at him with the sword.

He just barely managed to twist in the air to dodge the blade, ignoring the agony the shards of wood were causing inside his chest. His pure blood ability was already removing them.

Neave was in a desperate situation. He ran through his options, mind whirling to come up with anything at all. He was immensely surprised at how much life force he had built up over his time in the forest. But that advantage wasn’t going to be enough. Not on its own. His body was suffering from severe life force abuse and his qi was running low. His spirit was almost entirely fine, but that was only because he just didn’t get any opportunities to use a true strike. His mind whirled and he wished he could think faster.

Then he got another crazy idea. He overloaded his nervous system with life force, praying that his steel nerves spirit power stopped them from disintegrating. The entire world appeared to slow down as his thoughts sped up massively. He could see the bolts and shards of ice flying toward him and Kayix was getting ready for another lunge at him.

Neave concentrated a ridiculous amount of life force into his lungs as he prepared to eject all the fire he could at once. Kayix dashed towards Neave. Neave took a breath so deep it felt like his lungs were going to burst. Then he blew out a massive jet of flame toward Kayix.

It hit him head-on, but Kayix grabbed his sword and it lit up with golden runes. He used a true strike to blow away the mass of flames. The absolute devastation this move caused threw Neave up further into the air.

So that was what it looked like when a gold path cultivator did it…

The fire kicked up a ton of smoke and steam and the true strike blew it all over the place, obscuring the vision. Radeon launched a massive spike of ice at Neave and Mirna lunged at him again, preparing another kick.

Yet another one of the golems took a sword swing at Neave. He used the absolute last of his qi to twist in the air. As the blade swung under him, his foot landed on it.

And he disappeared.

The steam and smoke were making it damn near impossible to see anything at all. Everybody was panicking.

Suddenly, a brilliant golden light started shining behind one of the golems. Before it could turn around, Neave landed a titanic true strike punch at its back, sending it flying at insane speed right into another golem, momentarily incapacitating both of them and leaving Neave all alone in a clearing.

Kayix, Radeon, and Mirna gaped.

Neave was completely out of qi.

Neave swung his sword in a true strike thrust and he launched a gigantic golden centipede toward Radeon. Radeon used a sheet of ice to block it, but it burst through with little effort. Mirna and Radeon kicked at the centipede in tandem and managed to redirect the strike upwards.

Kayix used the opening to lunge at Neave.

Neave could see him slowly taking a step forward. Everything was moving in slow motion. He felt at his current state. He felt drained. His body was battered and even after the healing he still felt aches all over his body.

However, there was one part of him that felt like it was endless.

He could feel the sea of life force of the countless monsters he had consumed burning inside his body, threatening to tear him from the inside out. So he decided to release it.

He lifted his sword high up above his head. Suddenly, his entire body was enveloped in searing crimson flames. His beautiful hair shone and his skin lightened, his entire body looked like it healed in an instant, but in reality, the life force had done a lot more damage than it did healing. Kayix was already lunging at Neave and it was far too late to stop himself.

“Kayix, no!” Mirna yelled out.

All of them could feel the intense energy blazing around Neave. The bestial screams and wails of agony send shivers down all of their spines. Kayix appeared right before him, desperately using a defense technique to stop Neave’s blow. Neave moved the sword.

The centipede appeared for just a second until the tides of life force shattered and obliterated it. As the sword moved through the air towards Kayix it screamed with the dying howls of the countless monsters Neave had consumed. The quasi-spirit within the sword emitted a high pitch shriek as well until it shattered into a million pieces.

The moment Neave’s sword touched Kayix’s defense, both of Kayix’s arms and legs immediately shattered under the force. The sheer impact of the strike sent cracks through the entire dome of ice and the walls collapsed from the shockwave. The group of armored cultivators flailed through the air as they dropped like flies. Mirna spewed blood out of her mouth from the backlash.

Neave’s sword was now little more than a chunk of bent iron. Kayix was still alive, but Neave finished him off with another life-force-empowered strike, shattering his head into tiny little bits.

“Kayix!” Radeon screamed out in despair and Mirna recoiled from the intense impact.

Neave didn’t even wait for a second as he imbued all the life force he could into the sword again and threw it toward Mirna’s head. Her momentary inability to move made it impossible for her to dodge. Radeon put up an ice barrier but it got pulverized on impact. He tried blocking the attack with his arm, but his arm was smashed into pieces as the sword cut through it and then right through Mirna’s head. The golems immediately stopped moving as she dropped dead.

“Mirna!? Mirna! Oh heavens, why…?” Radeon wailed and hollered as he hugged Mirna’s headless body.

The armored cultivators were desperately getting up to their feet and running away.

“Run!”

“Run for your fucking lives, that thing will doom us all!”

And Neave was standing.

What is the demon doing?

That behavior makes no sense.

Then he blinked. Why did he think that? That wasn’t a demon, that was a cultivator. These were people, weren’t they? But why were they hunting him? That made no sense. No, it made sense. They were destroyers.

They attacked him and he should kill them off. So why… Why did the sight of the man crying over the woman's corpse make him feel so… Sick?

Radeon got up, fury and despair burning in his eyes as he bared his teeth and spewed curses at Neave. He held his mangled arm and fumbled forward, thoroughly exhausted from how much he’d abused his spirit power.

“I’m going to kill you! I’m going to kill you, you demon!”

Neave couldn’t believe his ears. Did this man just call him a demon?

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

Radeon paused and recoiled at Neave’s tone of voice. He recoiled at the mere fact that Neave could speak at all.

“Did you fucking idiots not hunt me down first!?”

Radeon was caught off guard. For a mere second, he didn’t know how to respond, but his irrational anger and anguish took over, so he spluttered.

“You killed our men!”

“Yes, after they came for my life.”

What is happening? This child, it…

“They didn’t come to kill you!”

“They sure seemed like they were trying to.”

“And they should have! You are nothing but a monster anyway. I do not care if it costs me my life. I swear I will avenge them.”

Beneath all his rage, even Radeon felt those words echoing empty. The incongruousness of this child’s behavior bewildered him.

Why?

Why couldn’t he just act like a beast?

Why, why, why!?

Neave shook, but it wasn’t in mindless rage. He hated himself for being here, for getting himself into this situation. What was he thinking?

No, it was the world that was wrong. It was the cultivators, he was the victim. He wouldn’t blame a victim for being attacked, would he? It was obvious whose fault it was. It was them. So he shouted back.

“You dare… You fucking dare. You dare talk about vengeance to me? You lowlife. Are you and your men not the ones hunting down a child? What am I to you? What have I ever done to you to deserve being hunted down like a rabid animal!?”

Radeon hesitated but pushed aside any remaining reservations he still had.

“You’re a heavens cursed menace! Have you not slaughtered your sect members!? No righteous sect would let a monster like you run around unchecked!”

“And according to what evidence did you decide that I was a menace?”

Radeon simply ignored him and walked forwards. Neave continued, his eyes growing more and more empty.

“You must have fucking known. You and whoever sent you here. There is no justification for what you’re doing. I was right. You cultivators are all the same. Given enough incentive, all of you become destroyers!”

Radeon was stepping closer to Neave. He materialized a sword out of ice. Neave could barely move but he took a step forward.

Neave lunged at Radeon and Radeon thrust at Neave’s cheat. The sword of ice stabbed into Neave but stopped dead upon hitting his crystal heart. Radeon’s eyes shot open and he took a step back, readying himself to materialize another sword.

That was when Neave’s gaze grew completely vacant. His eyes turned into the back of his head and his mouth opened. Then it opened wider. His teeth sharpened into points and his neck elongated. Radeon froze with terror. His sword was just about to finish materializing, but It was too late now. As Neave’s gaping maw approached Radeon, his teeth vibrated with a resonant screech. Golden runes appeared around his neck and head.

Radeon watched with horror as Neave’s mouth closed around his head in a true strike bite.

Splat.

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A note from Robert Blaise

[SHOUT-OUT]

When everyone expects you to become a hero if you have a supreme magical relic, why not just make pastries instead?

Forget quests and adventures, I'm more interested in finding a wife in this fantasy world. It doesn't matter that Elves don't like Humans at all, a good baker like me won't have a problem finding cake. So if you want some delicious pastries, come by where I work. If you just want to bother me, though, sorry but I'll have to report you to the Watch for loitering.

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

Go check out Casual Heroing by Fowl! 

 


WAS THAT THE BITE OF '87?
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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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