Chapter 760: King vs. Emperor

Shortly after his first exchange with Ottar, Vahn very quickly realized that the latter wasn’t known as the ‘strongest’ without a reason. Not only was Ottar 30cm taller than he was, built like a mountain, but the vast disparity in their strength appeared when Ottar extended out his sword, as if he had swung it, even though Vahn had been pressing all of his Power down on Ottar’s blade. It was almost like he had been tossed like a loose stone, flying back nearly twenty meters before he was able to get his footing again. As for Ottar, he had a plan and implacable expression as he dual-wielded two large greatswords as if they weighed less than feathers.

Vahn exhaled and, without trying to directly engage Ottar again, jumped back, extending his left hand outward as he exclaimed, “Magic Arrows, Three Fire Arrows. Gather, 19 spirits of flame. Magic Arrows, Series of Fire~!” At the same time as his chant, a large red magic circle appeared behind Vahn’s body and, stunning the crowd, began rotating in clockwise as Vahn began to levitate into the sky. He pulled out [Laevateinn], wielding it in his right hand as the nineteen fire arrows shot out from his magic circle and veered towards Ottar.

Instead of trying to dodge, Ottar’s eyes flashed and, like a meat grinder, he began to swing both of his swords without taking a single step. Blades of energy flew every time he swung his swords, bisecting and dispersing each flame arrow with impeccable accuracy. On his twentieth strike, however, Ottar flexed his right arm, causing it to expand slightly before he cut at an upwards arc. This time, instead of a formless blade of energy, a blue crescent shot towards Vahn in the blink of an eye. If not for Vahn’s ability to use [Shundo], causing the blade to cleave through empty space, it very likely would have taken off his arm.

Unfortunately, [Shundo] didn’t serve him well this time as, the moment Vahn appeared next to Ottar, the latter swung his sword with unstoppable momentum, cleaving directly towards him. Using [Laveateinn] in an attempt to parry, Vahn’s mind dulled when the relatively low-grade sword used by Ottar bisected his S-Rank sword and veered towards his chest. Though he could tell that the wound would be shallow, it still caused all the hair on Vahn’s body to stand up seeing the glint contained on the edge of the blade. With the fastest speed he could manage, in his base state, Vahn used [Shundo] and moved backward.

Ottar, instead of following, looked at the sword in his hand, noticing that the edge had started to turn red hot. A few seconds later, without him even letting go of the handle, the blade began to melt and he remarked, “That weapon of yours…was very high quality…sorry…” When he heard this, Vahn just laughed lightly and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll just reforge it even stronger next time…” Though it didn’t have a true consciousness, Vahn could ‘feel’ the half of [Laevateinn] he still held ‘screaming’ that it could still continue fighting. Replacing the previous blade, a crimson flame blade began to emerge from the remaining half, causing the air around to begin warping.

Seeing this, Vahn smiled, whispering, “Next time, old friend…this isn’t an enemy…” before putting it back in his Inventory. Ottar’s expression didn’t change in the slightest as he asked, “Do you have more weapons…?” In response to this, Vahn gave a small nod but, instead of pulling out a sword, commented, “Well, I have a feeling that swords won’t have much of an effect on you…” Even now, with his [Eyes of Truth] active, Vahn could see another strange energy covering Ottar’s entire body. At this point, he was pretty confident he had identified all three of Ottar’s Innates, determining he had one related to Swords, one that increased his defense, and one that altered his state of mind. Giving Ottar’s ‘quirks’, making him seem relatively simple and taciturn, it wasn’t difficult to see there was ‘something’ influencing his mind…

Ottar simply nodded in turn, pointing the sword in his left hand forward while unsheathing one of the two he kept crossed on his back. He seemed very accustomed to losing his blades in battle, considering he carried four large greatswords, a sturdy looking dagger, and what looked like a set of knuckle-dusters affixed to his belt. As for armor, Ottar only wore a plate to cover his heart and a band around his head that had a small curve visor to deflect liquids and protect his eyes. Even if he was considered ‘Invincible’, it didn’t mean he was complete without weaknesses, all of which could easily be seen with Vahn’s vision. The area around his heart actually lacked the protective membrane of the rest of his body, similar to how Fafnir’s durability didn’t extend to the scar on his chest…

The moment Ottar unsheathed his replacement sword, Vahn took to the sky to avoid the two blades of energy that cleaved through his position. They continued forward, slicing clear through the barrier and continuing through the walls of the Coliseum until ‘vanishing’ before they reached the crowded streets outside. Vahn, noting this, continued to go even higher into the sky, causing some to believe he was running away. In truth, he just wanted to see Ottar’s range while buying a little bit of time to cast his next magic spell. Ottar’s previous attack had ‘cut’ through his magic circle, which should have been impossible, but that was simply how Laws worked at times. It was obvious that Ottar’s Innate gave him control over ‘Sword Laws’, allowing him to cut through almost anything, much to his [Laevateinn]’s misfortune…

After retreated to around 700m, Vahn noticed that Ottar stopped attacking and just stood still as he patiently waited to continue the fight. Vahn lightly waved, showing an apologetic expression on his face before chanting, “Tyrannical Flame, Create an Endless cycle of Purgatory. Come unto me, Crimson Blaze, Fiery Inferno, Raiment of Destruction! Avatar of the Sun! Flame Emperor’s Wrath~! Fixate. Seize. Load magic, ‘Imperatoris Ignis Mk 1’~! ” Though it wasn’t quite at the level of true ‘named’ magic, Vahn had put a lot of effort into creating a unique spell of his own, making full use of his fire elemental affinity, the one reliable element he had been able to make use of.

As if a second sun had appeared in the sky, everyone in the stands shielded their eyes or looked away from the vibrant crimson-white light. Though nobody was truly surprised that Vahn had powerful fire magic to make use of, they were absolutely shocked when they bore witness to what was in front of them. Instead of his skin turning onyx-black, Vahn had a red hue to his flesh, covered with blazing white tattoos. He now looked completely different than his original self, growing to a height of 200cm, fully displaying his muscular figure that was now shrouded by ‘physical’ flames, forming a ‘cloth’ around his waist that extended to his knees. Behind his back, there was a sun-shaped ring with nine wavy spikes that had a smaller sphere hovering in the center, looking exactly like a small sun.

For the first time, Ottar’s expression changed slightly, brows slightly raised with a small smile affixed to his lips. In a voice only he could hear, Ottar commented, “Lady Freya made the correct choice, Vahn Mason…even though it had been my fate to serve as your stepping stone, it looks like you have already risen to a height I can no longer reach…” With his personal soliloquy coming to an end, Ottar’s expression turned into a fiercely competitive grin as he released a loud warcry, creating a shockwave with his voice alone. In an instant, his muscles had expanded nearly 30% and, as he let his swords hang naturally in his grip, the ground around Ottar began to ‘collapse’ from the pressure exerted by the simple movement.

Since Ottar had given him time to prepare, Vahn extended the same courtesy to the proud King below. It was a shame they had met under such circumstances as Vahn had always had a very good impression of Ottar, ever since their first meeting had come to an end. He was a man worthy of respect and Vahn couldn’t help but wonder why Freya had sent him here, even though he was also grateful for the challenge. Now that he thought about it in greater detail, that might have been the actual reason for Freya’s actions. She may have sent Ottar to ‘show’ the City that he was no longer the strongest…or perhaps to ‘convince’ the members of her own Familia…

Realizing the potential truth of this line of thinking, Vahn resisted the urge to pity Ottar and, instead, showed the unwaveringly loyal man the respect he deserved. For better or worse, Ottar had never budged on the loyalty he had towards Freya, even if she treated him like a convenient tool. Though Vahn couldn’t truly understand the reasoning behind such a train of thought, he knew there were few people that would be able to stay true to themselves in a situation where most people would have broken. Vahn suspected it had something to do with one of Ottar’s Innates but that could be considered at a later date since the proud King looked prepared to do battle.

Pulling out [Longinus], Vahn then pushed his [Will of the Emperor] to the extreme, releasing a similar war cry to Ottar’s as they both shouted, “Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa-!” at the top of their voices. To the spectators, it suddenly felt like gravity had increased on their bodies and, as Vahn began to descend upon the arena, it felt like the very sky above was falling down upon them. The weaker members of the audience had collapsed to their knees as the temperature in the arena began to rapidly increase. This was the case, even though Vahn was doing his best to contain the fire elemental energy within his body…

As he hadn’t used [Shundo] for the attack, feeling as though it would dishonor Ottar’s conviction, Vahn relied on his levitation and normal flying speed, which could easily reach 2300km/h, as he descended to the ground like a bolt of lightning. At the same time, Ottar had let go of his left sword and, using both hands, swung his weapon towards the sky in a beautiful arc that seemed to embody all the principles of perfect swordsmanship. Vahn tilted his body as quickly as he could, extending [Longinus] forward as his left arm and shoulder were completely ‘annihilated’ by the meter-thick blade of Sword Laws that had emerged from Ottar’s sword like a pillar.

With the same momentum he had started his descent with, Vahn struck forward with [Longinus] towards Ottar’s own shoulder, feeling a powerful resistive force feed into his hand as the defensive Innate of Ottar attempted to repel his attack. Vahn could actually see the strange energy in Ottar’s body converge towards the contact point, almost like a ripple condensing inwards as a golden light shone at the spear’s tip. Still, [Longinus] was his current masterpiece and, as Ottar drew some of his strength from his pseudo-divinity, Vahn’s spear pressed forward, undaunted, burying itself into Ottar’s flesh, even if only ten centimeters.

Using the flat of his blade, Ottar swung it across and smashed it into Vahn’s chest, sending the later flying while [Longinus] stayed buried within the former’s shoulder. Ottar released another loud warcry and, for the first time since the start of the fight, charged toward Vahn like a meteor descending upon the world. Confusing the spectators, who had seen Vahn’s arm obliterated previously, Vahn struck towards Ottar’s blade with both palms covering with a dense energy coating. Before anyone had realized it, Vahn’s arm had completely regrown and the ‘sun’ at his back had vanished as a surging heat spread from Vahn’s hands.

Without backing down at all, Ottar cleaved downwards and, even though his blade was turned into liquid metal before it collided with Vahn’s hands, the formless sword energy continued forward, cleaving through Vahn’s body and bisecting the entire arena’s floor. A 10cm wide crevasse appeared that seemed to continue down into the ground deeper than light could travel. Still, though there were some who believed Vahn had been slain by the blow, the more observant among them saw Vahn’s bisected body simply reform at the same time it was being cut through. There was almost no time lag between when he had been cut, and when his body had reattached…

As a result of his regeneration being kicked into overdrive, Vahn’s attack had continued forward, striking Ottar’s chest and sending him several hundred meters into the sky. On his bare chest, as most of his clothes had been burned away, there were two white-hot handprints that were causing the surrounding tissue to begin glowing from the ambient heat. Amazingly, it seemed like his flesh was resisting this effect and, at a rate that only people like Vahn could discern, it could be seen that Ottar’s resistances were overwhelming the intense heat. Vahn felt his mind dull a little at this realization but it didn’t do anything to the excited smile on his face as he kicked against the ground with full force…

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It could have been a result of Ottar’s sword attack disturbing the foundation, but Vahn’s kick against the arena floor caused the entire thing to collapse as he ascended towards the sky in an instant, slamming his foot into Ottar’s crossed arms. The moment the force of his kick had been dispersed, Vahn felt his ankle gripped by an inviolable strength as Ottar shouted, “Graaaaaaah!” and threw him towards the ground, seemingly twice as fast as when he had leaped upwards. This time, the already collapsed arena floor sunk an entire level deeper, putting a heavy strain on the underground area where all the monsters were contained. Fortunately, it was even more durable than the bedrock located deep within the Dungeon, allowing it to bear the burden, at least temporarily…

When Ottar landed, it happened to be outside of the arena and it caused the crowd to immediately recede away from him, almost as if he were a dangerous beast. However, instead of attacking and jumping back into the fray, Ottar just sat down in a seat of his own and used his good arm to pull [Longinus] out of his shoulder. He gave an appreciative look at the spear before confusing everyone present by lightly tossing it into the cloud of stone debris in the arena’s center. At that moment, a powerful wind caused the cloud to disperse in an instant, revealing Vahn’s uninjured body as he caught the spear in his hand, remarking, “Thanks…” with a casual smile on his face.

Seeing Vahn, once again, completely uninjured, people began to assume that his current form actually made him ‘invincible’, even more so than the seemingly invincible King. Then, as if asking the question that was on everyone’s minds, Ottar’s voice sounded out in the arena, “That form…it is very powerful…what do you call it?” Vahn, still hovering in the sky as if it required absolutely no effort, smiled as he explained, “This is my ‘Imperatoris Ignis’, meaning ‘Fire Emperor’ in an Ancient Tongue…what do you think?”

In response to Vahn’s question, Ottar gave a nod of affirmation and said, “It’s a good name…very fitting…” Then, as if he had just finished a menial task, Ottar stood up from his seat and said, “This is my loss…” before walking towards the Coliseum’s exit. When they heard this, the awestruck crowd went completely wild, exclamations of shock and disbelief infinitely compounding on each other. The fight they had witnessed, to some people, was like watching a battle between two gods, one possessing of infinite strength while the other was the embodiment of fire itself. In the end, however, surprising almost every single individual present, the ‘King’ had been overcome by the ‘Emperor’, making it obvious for everyone present that a new era had just been ushered into the City…the era of Vahn Mason, Sage Aldrnari, and the ‘Emperor of Flames’…

Though there were still a few hours remaining for the challenge, nobody jumped into the ‘ruins’ where the arena once existed. Seeing Vahn casually ‘standing’ in the sky, few people could even look directly at him, much less consider fighting him. There wasn’t a single person present amongst the crowd who harbored the delusion that could defeat someone that not even Ottar had been able to best.

The fact that Vahn seemed to recover from any wound, regardless of how severe, was just another reason for the absolute powerlessness that many previously proud Adventurer’s felt. Even those few Level 5’s, who had been thinking about contending against Vahn later in the competition, now sat in their seats and just waited for someone else to take up the challenge. Unlike Ottar, they didn’t have nigh indestructible bodies so, as long as Vahn was in his ‘Imperatoris Ignis’ form, none of them had any intention of seeking death…

Just as he had done previously with his water barrier, Vahn waited patiently in the center of the arena, even going into a meditative seated position in mid-air. Strangely, even as the hours whittled away, very few people bothered to leave the arena. Everyone just sat, talking amongst themselves about what they had witnessed while wondering if anyone else would rise to the challenge. After Ottar, they didn’t believe anyone was brave enough to fight against Vahn’s current form and, judging by how calm he was, nobody believed it would fade away any time soon.

This was the reason Vahn had developed his ‘Imperatoris Ignis Mk 1’, as his control over fire elemental energy had always been much higher than his other elements. He could sustain the form almost indefinitely after assuming it, as long as his energy reserves weren’t drained by other attacks. While meditating, his efficiency increased even further, allowing Vahn to remain seated for the remaining duration of the challenge without issue. The moment the loud gong sounded out, followed by Ganesha’s boisterous and booming voice, Vahn opened his eyes and allowed his body to return to normal, exhaling a sigh before smiling contentedly.

While Ganesha was still making his comments, Tiona had flown through the sky like a bullet, tackling him in mid-air as she tightly squeezed his body. Much to the crowds’ amusement, he made a sound like a frog being crushed as the over-excited Amazon used her titanic strength to strain his bones and tenderize his organs. Some, though they were a marginal group, even prayed that she might ‘accidentally’ kill him since a cold sweat had been pouring down their back for the last couple of hours. As for who these individuals were, they were people Vahn had taken the time to ‘mark’ while he was meditating, inserting small wards into their bodies while using his domain as a medium. Now, the instincts they had cultivated over several years within the darkness of society were telling them that unavoidable danger was about to fall upon their heads…

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