The swordsman demon ran straight at Neave and readied itself for a qi technique. Neave stepped forward and sent a true strike flying to its face, caving its skull in and stealing its sword.
“Thank you very much, bestie, kisses and hugs!”
Neave had spent a while practicing true strikes.
That was to say that he couldn't even pretend he had a realistic estimate of how much time he’d spent doing it. There was one thing he could say for certain.
The practice had paid off. Drastically.
Neave had learned the true strikes for countless different attacks. He had also learned that there was something of a side-effect to overusing them. If he did too many true strikes in a short period, especially if it was the same true strike, he began feeling vague spiritual exhaustion. At first, he ignored it since he’d become quite adept at handling pain by now, but then…
His spirit collapsed. It wasn’t quite shattered, but it suffered a lot of damage due to true strike abuse. Neave had assumed that there would be some consequences to abusing them. After all, they cost neither mundane physical energy nor qi, so there had to be a catch, right?
That catch was spiritual exhaustion. But it was far from a severe issue to Neave. Even pouring a tiny amount of life force into his spirit seemed to fix the damage. Neave sometimes forgot that using life force like this was a death sentence for anyone, hell, even for him. But within the confines of this realm, he didn’t have to care about how he spent it because he didn’t have to care about death.
Neave had developed a martial arts style over the last many attempts at taking on the sixth wave. He had decided to give it the most pretentious and arrogant name he could think of.
The immortal arts.
The immortal arts made one impossible to hit* due to their impeccable movement techniques.
*Impossible to hit for as long as one dodged properly.
As well as infinitely powerful by granting unlimited* mighty attacks.
*Unlimited for as long as one didn't run out of life energy or shatter their spirit.
Life was good for immortal arts users. Especially Neave, who was also the only immortal arts user. He grabbed the sword, whistled, and strolled to the archer. The shieldsman was blocking Neave from approaching as the archer fired arrow after arrow.
Neave casually walked toward them, either flicking the arrows out of the air with the sword or blurring and appearing behind them as they passed through where he was a moment ago. He approached the shield demon.
Neave stabbed forward. It was a relatively relaxed stab. However, as Neave grabbed the handle, it whistled in resonance, and golden runs lit up like sacred butterflies around him. The sword sank into the shield. The shield split in two, and even though the blade didn’t reach the demon, it still fell dead on the ground, its heart severed.
There were a few things Neave had learned about true strikes. The first thing was that the slower a strike was, the more powerful it was.
This was something the book never mentioned. Neave felt that it was likely that nobody knew this. After all, if somebody attempted to master a true strike, they’d want that strike to be as fast as possible, right?
Another essential thing to note about true strikes was that if one wanted to make a true strike faster, that was impossible.
One couldn’t just swing a sword or throw a fist the same way, but faster, and expect it to work. If one changed the speed of a true strike, it became a different move altogether. That didn’t stop Neave or anyone from learning several true strikes for several different attack speeds.
For others who may not even know the true nature of true strikes, that would seem like a ridiculous waste of time.
But not to Neave.
He learned most of his attacks at several speeds, especially the basic ones he relied on the most. He still preferred using the slow ones if he could. Neave could easily imagine that being an excellent intimidation tactic. You swung your sword casually at someone, and the more casually you swung it, the more devastating the aftermath.
Naturally, these attacks were far more challenging to use in combat, but there were ways to manage that.
Neave turned to the archer and flicked yet another arrow from the air. Then he blurred past the archer, leaving a golden trail of runes as its head popped off its neck. This was a fast true strike executed during a movement technique.
It was the single most challenging thing Neave had ever managed to achieve. The precision required to achieve something like that was so great it took Neave what felt like a lifetime to get it to work even once. He could execute this one move with relative ease now. He was hoping it would be the key to his success.
The true strikes were great and all, but they had several glaring weaknesses. The rigidity of the strikes made it super inconvenient to use them more often than not. The form of your strike had to be perfect, so if you had to dodge something or hell, do even as much as prepare a single muscle in advance, tough luck. It wasn't going to work.
The analogy with chess made more and more sense to Neave the more he used true strikes. Indeed, they were a powerful tool only when used correctly. You could check a king a hundred times and still lose.
They were also rigid and restricted. A rook could only move straight, and a knight could only move in L-shapes. It was only careful planning that allowed one to corner their opponent.
What Neave had done with true strikes had utterly obliterated conventions in using them.
After all, his style was akin to flipping the whole damn board.
The archer demon lay dead on the ground, and Neave immediately started moving. He was neither attacking nor dodging. He had been practicing just surviving in the sixth wave for a while already.
If he simply dodged around, the sixth wave became incredibly exhausting, and there wasn’t much room for improvement. However, he had practiced incorporating specific true strikes as parries rather than attacks. They could hold a ton of force behind them, serving as an improvised defense technique. This had allowed him to move his survival time from a couple of puny minutes to at least more than ten minutes.
Usually, he wouldn’t even bother trying to do this, but it was almost necessary for the sixth wave. He had to learn its intricacies before he could take it on properly.
It was complicated.
The demons all appeared in random but not entirely random order around Neave. They seemed to group almost depending on specific characteristics or properties. At first, Neave didn’t understand why they did this until he realized how many strategies they could use when paired together in particular ways.
It was honestly a massive pain in the ass.
However, countless attempts later, Neave was somewhat confident he understood the possible strategies well enough to give it a fair shot.
As he dodged in the sixth wave, he eventually ran too low on qi and failed to execute a movement technique. The dagger-throwing demon landed a precise throw that tore Neave’s side open. Before he could recover from the damage in any way, a poison arrow hit him as well, and he found himself snuggling the spiky demon.
Neave closed his eyes. He fixed his spirit, and then he broke into the foundation realm. Demon one was just about to walk up to him, but a quick true strike punch was all it took to explode its head. He casually dismantled the demons of waves two and three and then similarly took care of the fourth wave demons.
The fifth wave started and ended in seconds. Neave used a true strike kick to shatter the swordsman's wrist and steal his sword. The shield demon was split in half, and the archer was decapitated. Then the sixth wave started. This time, Neave wasn’t going to be dodging around.
He glanced at where all the demons had appeared. His eyes flashed around him as he rapidly absorbed the information about his surroundings.
The morbidly obese one with the spiky ball is close to the one with the heavy war axe. In front of them is the unarmed tall one. Next to them are the armless spitter demon and the one that used the twin hammers. To their right is the female-looking one with the long sword, spear demon, halberd demon, and the one with the lethal sword techniques. Crap, the weapon master gang is together, and the armored horseman is right before them. Shit, that’s too close.
Further right and behind them, the poison bowman sits on a small boulder. A little in front of him is the tiny demon with the daggers, and slightly behind him is the one with the scythe. Up next is the demon with the titanic hammer and the spiky one right before it. A little behind and to the right of them are the throwing dagger demon and the shield plus mace demon. That’s terrible news. Finally, the hatchet demon is guarding the javelin demon.
Neave finished the observations within less than a second. And the demons were already running towards him.
The short one with the twin daggers sprinted at Neave, dashing forward and using its movement technique. Neave dodged to the side as it jumped at him. He barely dodged a throwing dagger that whistled through the air, and the spiky ball missed his nose by millimeters. The tall, unarmed demon was upon Neave immediately after the small one. Neave wanted to take care of it first, but the short one with the daggers appeared in front of him again, and Neave had to dodge a slash to his legs
He moved away just in time for the spiky demon to fly by him and land next to the unarmed demon. The unarmed demon grabbed the spiky one off the ground and threw it at Neave. Neave was about to dodge it, but he noticed the javelin at the last moment.
As he was about to dodge the javelin flying at his face, he heard the whistle of the throwing dagger. Neave gritted his teeth and used a rather expensive movement technique that allowed him to blink away from all three projectiles flying at him. He appeared in the path of the horseman, who swung a quick strike at Neave.
Luckily it was caught off guard by Neave’s sudden appearance, so Neave had a chance to save himself. He used an upwards swing true strike to parry the blow. It was a fast one, so it just barely had enough energy to slow it down so Neave could get out of the way.
The spiky demon Neave had dodged flew right into the small demon with the daggers. The little demon got impaled several times and dropped dead to the ground.
Neave took account of his surroundings as he noticed the demon with the titanic sledgehammer approaching. He still had some time until it reached his position. He dodged another throwing dagger and barely managed to avoid getting a poisoned arrow in his leg.
As the horseman and the unarmed demon closed in on Neave and several others, Neave used the opportunity to dash over to the javelin demon. The hatchet demon stood beside it but wasn’t prepared for Neave’s sudden appearance. Neave caught the javelin demon mid-throw and bisected it horizontally with a true strike.
The hatchet demon had already started swinging at Neave, who planned to dodge the strike. But the incoming throwing dagger and poison arrow forced him to use a movement technique to get behind the hatchet demon's back. The poisoned arrow flew by, missing them both, but the throwing dagger flew at the hatchet demon. It blocked the throwing dagger, allowing Neave to use a true strike and pierce its heart.
Out of the corner of his eye, Neave noticed the morbidly obese demon throw the spiked ball in a seemingly random direction.
That’s almost certainly going to be some fucking bullshit.
Neave had more pressing matters to deal with, however. The horseman was about to reach him, and he saw the throwing dagger demon preparing another throw.
However, he was forced to put his attention back onto the spiky ball as the demon with the war axe dropped his weapon and grabbed the chain. He swung the spiky ball at Neave with incredible force.
Neave barely managed to duck under the strike in time as it shaved a lock of hair off his head and pulverized a large boulder behind him. He winced as several shards of stone hit his face.
The second he needed to dodge put him right in front of the horseman and the unarmed demon again. Neave clicked his tongue. The halberd demon, spear demon, sword technique demon, and the crazy strong demon with the long sword were already immediately behind them.
He noticed the war axe demon was preparing to swing the spiky ball at him again, and even the titanic sledgehammer demon was getting close. Neave used his single most expensive movement technique to appear immediately before the titanic sledgehammer demon.
“Come on, you ugly fucker, I’m right here!”
It pulled its hammer up into the air and prepared to strike. The unarmed demon threw the spiky one at Neave again, but Neave just ignored it, instead dashing over behind the horseman and landing on the horse demon’s back.
He used all his focus to initiate a true strike kick aimed directly at the armored demon's head. It wasn’t enough to cause serious injury, but it was enough to launch it off the horse demon and right onto the spiky demon, who got crushed under the weight of the armored one. And then doubly crushed as the immense force of the sledgehammer effectively pulverized both of them into mush.
Neave used the cover of the dust cloud to dispatch the demon horse. To his surprise, he spotted the throwing dagger and the poison arrow flying at him through the smoke. Panicked, he dodged to the side with a rough movement technique, cursing himself for the qi expenditure.
Just as he was thinking this, the unarmed demon ran at Neave, lifting its claws for a slashing attack. Neave didn’t even give it the time to reach him. He bisected it with an upward slash true strike.
The weapon master gang was also approaching him again.
Just his luck that those four would appear immediately next to one another. Neave ignored them for now and then ran at the morbidly obese demon. The war axe demon dropped the spiky ball and picked its weapon off the ground. But before it could reach for it, Neave used the opportunity to dash over and sever its neck.
He quickly ran over to the obese demon pulling the spiky ball back to itself. Neave caught it as well and used a slow true strike to bisect the upper part of its large body.
However, the extra second he took to charge up a more decisive true strike allowed the demon that wielded the war hammers to throw them directly at his head. He frowned and barely moved his head to the left to dodge the first one, then to the right to escape the second one.
The armless demon was being unusually docile this time, or wait, now that Neave thought of it, it might have been spitting at him the entire time. It was likely he dodged the spit by dumb luck. It didn’t have the greatest range or accuracy. It tried running at Neave, but to Neave’s surprise, the twin hammer demon grabbed its leg and swung it at Neave like a weapon. Neave bent backward, avoiding the spittle flying from its open mouth.
He noticed both the throwing dagger and the poison arrow flying toward him. He jumped up into a backflip, simultaneously dodging the armless demon again. However, the armless demon wasn’t quite as lucky as the throwing dagger shattered its skull, and the poison arrow sank into the mushy brain matter. As Neave landed, he used the opportunity to slit the now-unarmed hammer demon's throat.
This time, however, he was finally cornered by the weapon master gang. And unfortunately, just as he was about to initiate the fight with them, he had to also dodge a poison arrow, which started the fight very poorly.
More by luck than skill, he managed to dodge under the halberd demon's swing and just a little to the right of the spear demon's thrust. He was forced to parry the sword technique coming his way without a true strike, so he had to use a bit of his life force to get the strength needed to deflect the blow.
Neave used a barely executed movement technique to dodge the impossibly strong demon’s downward swing and dash behind the weapon master gang’s backs. The sword sank into the ground with a smash, crushing the solid stone like a hoe plowing wet dirt. The sword technique demon used a different technique, but this one he could parry with a true strike. Not only did he repel it with a true strike, but he also managed to break through the technique and bisect the demon.
Almost by instinct, he ducked a bit downwards as a throwing dagger flew over his head and into the chest of the impossibly strong demon.
When he noticed the shadow encroaching, he didn’t hesitate for even a second. Neave immediately used a movement technique to get as far away as possible as the titanic sledgehammer came flying his way. He almost entirely avoided the impact, but the halberd and spear demons were thrown back by the blow. His qi was starting to get dangerously low.
He used the chance to chase down the poison archer. As he ran out of the dust cloud, he spotted the poison archer readying itself to use its movement technique. It was a terrifyingly fast dash that could carry it straight from one high ground to another.
Neave wasn’t going to let it get away. He focused every bit of his attention on estimating where the demon would be in the next second. The air whistled as it flew like an arrow, but just as it reached a few meters away from the boulder, Neave flew through the air right next to it, delivering a clean sword swing and decapitating it. Its head and body flew separately, and both smashed into the boulder with a splat.
Neave used the cover of the boulder to hide from the throwing dagger demon as he scouted the area. He decided he would take care of the halberd and spear ones first. After all, the throwing dagger demon had helped him more than anything else in this fight.
The halberd and spear demons also seemed to have lost their weapons when they got caught up in the sledgehammer smash. The halberd was just gone, and the spear was a dull stick. They made for straightforward targets. Both demons had a clean thrust delivered to their chests and dropped dead to the ground. Neave ran toward the throwing dagger demon.
He had decided to leave the titanic demon for last. Neave dodged another throwing dagger. A throwing dagger that ended up embedded in the leg of the titanic sledgehammer demon.
The massive demon roared, and it threw the sledgehammer at Neave.
“Holy fucking shit!”
Neave had never seen it do that, not even once. Panic clouded his mind, and he only just managed to dodge it by using a movement technique, almost entirely out of qi now. The sledgehammer obliterated the shield demon, causing a small earthquake. The shockwave knocked the throwing dagger demon back.
Neave caught the throwing dagger demon with a true strike before it could get off the ground. Then he faced the titanic demon. Neave prepared his footing and practically went flying at it. Then just before he hit it, he executed a mid-air true strike kick directly into its chest. One of its lungs collapsed, and it spewed blood everywhere, but Neave pressed the attack. He landed and used a true strike to sever the demon's legs. As its large body plummeted to the ground, he used an upward slash to sever it in half.
“I did it. I fucking did it!” Neave heard footsteps behind him.
He turned around and spotted the scythe demon.
“You sneaky little fucker.” Neave squinted at the demon in irritation. Then he smiled.
Neave laughed. He roared in laughter and strode slowly towards the demon. Neave knew he was right. Or rather, he hoped he was right as he stood in front of it. He was tired. His qi was at its very limits.
Neave lifted his sword as it prepared to strike with its scythe.
Both Neave and the demon lit up with golden runes. The crash of two true strikes meeting sent all the dust and debris flying away.
Neave’s left arm dropped to the ground, cleanly severed at the shoulder. Little blood flowed out of the wound. He had used life force to make it stop bleeding.
“Hey, reaper.” Neave stared at it with a crazed expression as it approached him, “Your cut was too clean.” Neave kicked his arm up into the air with his left foot, grabbed it with his teeth, and placed it back where it belonged.
He expended almost all of his remaining life force to heal it back into place. The scythe demon was already about to take another strike at him, but Neave stepped forward, preparing to counter it. However, just as the two weapons met, Neave's sword went flying into the distance.
Neave was gone.
Golden runes lit up behind the scythe demon’s back. The thud blew dust and debris away as its guts splattered all over the ground.
The demon dropped its scythe and fell.
Neave was effectively paralyzed. Entirely out of qi and nearly out of life force. None of that was on his mind, however.
What’s gonna happen next?
Is this it?
Then another demon appeared.
A single demon.
Support "The Jester of Apocalypse [BOOK 2 FINISHED]"
Bio: Man do I love recursion. Man do I love recursion. Man do I love recursion. Man do I love...