Chapter 2339: Perception
Contrasting the chaos in the Outter Gates, things were relatively peaceful atop the three-tiered plateau overlooking the rest of the battlefield. Most of the Avataras participating as Representatives of 1-3-Digit Communities stood to gain nothing from achieving victory, so, with the exception of a few outliers, they were focused on collecting relics and biding time until the ‘finale.’
Representing one of the exceptions, World Dragon Kurma hovered in the sky over the area where Vahn’s palace would have been constructed if the two Little Gardens overlapped one another. She had much to discuss with the woman known as the ‘Ethereal Queen,’ but she couldn’t discover so much as a single trace of her.
With a slight pout on her face, Kurma muttered, “Not being able to make use of my Authority is more annoying than I anticipated…”
Though an Avatara would generally be able to benefit from the powers and abilities of their original, particularly their omniscience, this particular ‘projection’ of the Little Garden made that difficult, to say the least. It was part of a System that predated the existence of the Central Network, and, were it not for the power of Shiroyasha, they wouldn’t be able to access it, much less conduct a ‘Gift Game’ within it…
Understanding there was a high likelihood that Vahn’s Representative had made their way toward the central plateau, Kurma was about to return to her original location when angular, greenish-black tendrils attempted to skewer her. She managed to shatter them with an ostensibly casual wave of her hand, but a crack appeared on the nail of her pinky finger.
Noticing the tiny imperfection, Kurma’s brow twitched, her slit-like pupils contracting as she looked toward her attacker, growling, “You little brat. What’s the meaning of this…?”
Undaunted by the fierce aura exuding from Kurma’s body, what appeared to be a young girl with dark green hair, blade-like horns, and a dragon-like tail covered her mouth and giggled. She was garbed in a black, green, and gold gothic lolita outfit, but the first thing most people would notice were the bloodstains adorning it.
After laughing at Kurma’s expense, the young girl narrowed her emerald green eyes, her pupils contracting into similarly thin slits as she playfully mused, “This is a Battle Royale with a single victor. I’m clearly here to try and eliminate you, silly.”
Punctuating her words, the petite figure swung the crystalline spear in her hands. It was composed of a translucent, gradient green material and had a series of blade-like protrusions that gave it the appearance of a verdant, fierce-looking flame. When swung, greenish-black tendrils ripped through the space between the girl and Kurma, their velocity so great as to appear instantaneous.
Clicking her tongue, Kurma shattered the encroaching tendrils a second time, shouting, “You’re starting to try my patience, Lahmu…!”
Instead of responding with a retort of her own, Lahmu, better known as the Dragon of Chaos, issued a cutesy, “Ehehehehehe~” as she continued swinging her spear around with reckless abandon. Only a small portion of her attacks actually went toward Kurma, the rest impacting the ground or empty air to produce glassy green matter that gradually spread from the point of contact.
Understanding that Lahmu couldn’t be reasoned with, Kurma grit her teeth before releasing a thunderous bellow that caused the surrounding space to distort, bubbling outward. Even Lahmu’s body appeared to bend in the direction of the distortion, her laughter momentarily ceasing as her fair complexion paled further.
After space had distorted to the point of resembling a fish-eye lens from the perspective of onlookers, the ‘bubble’ promptly shattered. Lahmu was knocked from the sky, blood flowing from each of her orifices, but she still managed a child-like smile, remarking, “That’s the spirit~.” before massive tentacles abruptly erupted from beneath her skirt…
Seeing Lahmu targetting Kurma, a fierce scowl replaced Indra’s usually relaxed smile. Lahmu didn’t have enough reason to track down and target Kurma of her own volition, and the only person she willfully obeyed was her father, the Demon Dragon Emperor, Andramalech.
With his hands clenched into fists, Indra muttered, “That bastard…what could he possibly be thinking? Don’t tell me he genuinely believes he can replace that monster…?”
As they were watching events unfold in the same room, Shiroyasha rolled her eyes at Indra’s remark, retorting, “Wow, who could have imagined a being calling themselves the Demon Dragon Emperor trying to take over the Little Garden? Someone notify the press! Mobilize the Divine Army…!”
Losing a bit of his edge, Indra looked toward Shiroyasha and remarked, “You don’t seem particularly concerned…is this ‘Ethereal Queen’ really all that powerful? You know wh-”
With a deadpan expression on her face, Shiroyasha interrupted Indra’s words, stating, “I’m one of the people that’s been maintaining the seal all these years. Of course I know what kinds of monsters are sealed within. Just shut up and watch the damn game.”
Cowed by the fierce expression on Shiroyasha’s face, Indra appeared to shrink in place as he returned his attention to the battle between Kurma and Lahmu. The former was ranked much higher than the latter, so even if Lahmu’s power was a natural counter to Kurma, the outcome shouldn’t be affected. To that end, it was highly probable that Lahmu was just sent as a distraction, preventing Kurma from reaching out to the Representatives of the Aldrnari Empire and its affiliates…
After waiting several minutes to confirm Paragon wasn’t going to pop out and sneak attack her, Madara permitted herself a moment of respite. The prohibitions against Authority placed a tremendous burden on her Mental, Spiritual, and Physical Energies, so she was actually tired for the first time in centuries.
Despite her harsh words targetting the Heroes of the West, Madara had to admit there were a few capable individuals among them. Paragon was a good example, but, despite being the Rank 1 Hero, he was only Rank 7 in terms of Madara’s priorities. The person she was actually worried about was the Rank 9 Hero known as Dragon, a Technomancer whose brilliance and adaptability rivaled Da Vinci’s.
With Dragon’s ability to manipulate all forms of technology, even objects as mundane as a stone wheel, the ruins of the original Little Garden were both a treasure trove and an ideal battleground. They had yet to make an appearance, but Madara knew it was only a matter of time before an army of Dragon-themed automatons began swarming the battlefield, much like when Vahn gave Bulma access to her own personal Moon Cell.
Fortunately, as troublesome as Dragon’s abilities were, Madara was the closest thing to a perfect counter against the enigmatic inventor. She was capable of creating tens of thousands of Shadow Clones, and though the rebound would probably liquefy her brain, she could sustain a moon-sized Susanoo with each of them.
While searching for an ideal place to rest, Madara sensed a powerful intent spying on her position, triggering her Rinnesharingan. The intent vanished the moment she attempted to lock onto it, but Madara was able to approximate its position and manifest one of her Limbo Clones over the area.
As the pale, white-haired version of Madara looked around, the smell of blood immediately caught her attention. The intent emanated from what appeared to be a long-abandoned battlefield, yet, despite the apparent passage of time, many of the corpses still oozed fresh, luminous golden blood.
Recognizing the thousands of deceased as former Gods and their kin, a curious glimmer reflected across Madara’s eyes as she softly mused, “Are these the remains of the Divine Army…?”
Sensing the same intent from before, this time locking on to her Limbo Clone, Madara directed her attention to the decapitated corpse of a 3m tall man wearing golden reminiscent of an ancient Persian warrior. The moment she looked over, the plating covering the figure’s chest began to bulge before bursting open to reveal the head of a strange, bone-colored lizard with round, emotionless, unblinking amethyst eyes.
As if it was confused by Madara’s presence, the strange lizard tilted its head to one side, the ridges above its sunken eyes raising ever so slightly as a piercing, bone-chilling voice echoed through the area like a whisper from the void, remarking, “I thought I sensed an ‘outsider,’ but I dared not believe it. Tell me, woman. By what means did you enter the place…?”
Furrowing her brows, Madara ignored the creature’s query as she softly remarked, “Now I understand…this place wasn’t selected because of its convenience. Those bastards in the Inner Gates want us to clean it up for them…”
Instead of getting annoyed at Madara’s apparent disregard, the bone-white lizard managed an uncanny smile as it mused, “I see…you come from the Second, or is it the Third now? Either way, it was a mistake to come here. Once I’ve devoured your flesh, I will find the path back and lay waste to as many playgrounds as those pathetic Gods have prepared.”
Though others might be intimidated by the creature, especially those that knew its identity, Madara rolled her eyes and crossed her arms, stating, “I have no interest in relics from the past. Get in my way, and I’ll crush you like the insect you are…”
Unable to contain itself, the eerie lizard threw its head back and released a cackling laugh that caused visible cracks in the surrounding space. The ground beneath it appeared to heave as if influenced by an overwhelming gravitation force, while everyone unfortunate enough to be observing the scene felt a sense of existential dread.
Unaffected by the aura of malice that had descended upon her like a veil, Limbo Madara extended her hand toward the cackling creature and said, “Begone…” in a cold, icy tone. The peculiar lizard heard her and adopted a taunting smile, but before it could retort, a skyscraper-sized pillar of black energy impacted, seemingly erasing it from existence…
As one of its countless offshoots was slaughtered, a vaguely humanoid figure with three draconic heads, each sporting stakes, awakened from its previously assumed eternal slumber. It had shackles on its long and thin limbs, shadowy wings protruding from its back, loose trousers sewn from its own flesh, and a red cape sporting a symbol that appeared to blur and distort when viewed directly, making it impossible to make out.
Rising into a squat, the creepy white creature raised its three draconic heads, the outer two sniffing the air while the centermost head inquired, “How long has it been since one of our brood met its end in this timeless place? Did they stumble across one of the remnants of the Old Gods…?”
Though they shared the same body and purpose, the three heads each possessed unique Egos, the left-most growling, “This is why I suggested we devour everything…”
Disagreeing with its left-most counterpart, the right head retorted, “There was good reason to believe those fools would eventually return to try and reclaim their lost heritage. If this turns out to be them, you’re going to end up looking even more foolish than usual…”
Snorting through its nose, the left-most head growled, “We look exactly the same…” before following the gaze of the center head. Because of the restrictions on Authority, its perception was severely limited. The corpse it was inhabiting also got in the way, so, after a moment of silence, it raised its left arm and blasted a massive hole in the ‘ceiling.’
Feeling a little annoyed, the center head took control over its left arm and pulled on the tassel dangling from the left-most head’s stake. This caused all three of them tremendous pain, but the bulk of it was experienced by the left-most head, telepathically screaming, “You bastaaaaaaaaaaaard-!” until the central head released it.
As the left-most head attempted to use the horn-like ridge above its eye to stab it, the central head just ignored it, choosing to stare up at the hole overhead. It was annoyed by the left-most head’s act of autonomy, but it couldn’t deny the gaping hole made things easier. Various ‘scents’ rained down on it from above, some familiar, others entirely brand new. Thus, for the first time in eons, it cracked a malevolent smile and mused, “We have visitors…and quite a few, at that…”
(A/N: Alternate Titles: ‘Chaos Deities can be a pain in the ass xD…’,’Madara doesn’t play around…well, not too much…’,’*triple kek*’)