Freya glanced around. The open area was vastly different from the entrance of the earlier canyon. At least the towering blue glaciers, cracks along the ice and narrow openings were no longer in sight. The geography was no longer confusing- There were no layers of scattered ice walls along with ice cones and ice beams that stretched on forever. The only thing visible was the steep canyon walls and the open valley bottom, which was blanketed by a layer of soft snow that rolled off the cliff.
She took the scene in curiously as she limped over to one of the canyon walls. Her steps were imbalanced, the force occasionally tugging on her wound painfully, each spike of discomfort forcing her to suck in a mouthful of winter air. Freya’s shoulder armour was missing a piece and her breastplate was completely out of shape. The girl was in such an incredibly flustered state.
After a distance, she lifted her head and studied the white cliffs. The valley’s end could not be seen at all, it just seemed to stretch on infinitely. Freya took another look back, the monster was already getting close.
She clenched her teeth tight, trying to think if there was anything on her that could be useful. Her dagger was lodged in the Pale Son’s body. She had forgotten to retrieve it before leaving but it wouldn’t be of much use either in the current situation.
The only weapon left was the Lionheart Sword, which had been in good care, along with some miscellaneous belongings. Freya rummaged through her satchel, only finding a few day’s worth of dried food that had been frozen solid by the cold. Underneath it was a jar of wild berry jam made by Romaine, something that even Brendel didn’t possess. This was an item that Freya declined constantly and it wasn’t meant to be a joke. The merchant’s cooking standards were akin to the fairytale witches.
But again, it wasn’t that Romaine was bad at cooking. The merchant’s creativity was just far too spontaneous, she had a tendency to add unorthodox ingredients into her creations.
Then, she found six of the Explosive Crystals gifted by Amandina. Initially, she was supposed to share this with Brendel equally but the latter had found no use for it. That was why he gave all of the crystals to her, saying that it would be useful against unforeseen emergencies during the ambush.
As she studied all the items, Freya stroked the ring around her finger in a daze. She felt slightly calmer now. The ruby ring was first given to her by Brendel. She had returned the ring to Brendel on the day he left for Braggs out of concern for his safety.
And then a year passed when they finally met again. Compared to their first encounter, Brendel was much stronger now. Naturally, the ring was no longer useful to him anymore. Hence, the ring was returned again. The exchange of rings between the both of them held a special meaning to the girl.
It looked like she wasn’t out of options but the only usable things were the Explosive Crystals and ring. Fireball skills could be manifested with the ruby ring. Freya had already used it once in the battle yesterday, it should be charged with enough power soon. However, yesterday had proven that fireballs were not effective against the monster. She couldn’t place much hope in the Explosive Crystals either.
Freya looked up. She was getting closer to the cliff’s wall. She turned around, the silver monster had arrived at the bottom of the valley. There was barely a mile between them now. To the monster, this distance was only about a finger snap away.
Freya took a deep breath, anxiety pooling at the bottom of her heart. She suddenly recalled that there was something else that could be useful, quickly rattling her satchel bucket open. The heavy slate was indeed inside in undamaged condition.
She sighed in relief. The slate was a gift from Brendel. She could still remember the odd legends Brendel relayed when he handed the slate to her. It had something to do with the War Goddess and bloodlines, but she couldn’t understand a single thing. Brendel too hadn’t bothered to provide any explanation. Seeing that there was a correlation between the slate and her predicament, the faintest hope was birthed. Perhaps the slate might be her saviour.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the girl to notice that the slate still looked the same as it did normally. No matter how she fiddled with it, it gave no response. In other words, it was no different from a regular piece of rock, just that it was icy due to the harsh temperature.
A sigh escaped her. This wasn’t the first time she doubted Brendel’s judgement. It was just a rock… And the slate wasn’t anything novel either. Many black markets in Vaunte would market some sort of rune slate as a scheme. From ancient documents to rune slabs used by first-generation witches, the only thing they had in common was its inauthenticity.
“Did Brendel fall for some scam...?”
Freya began to entertain irrelevant thoughts in an attempt to calm her nerves. But even so, she could only beat herself up over her compulsive decision. She certainly hadn’t thought this through. She wasn’t the only one at risk, everyone was compromised.
Though she wasn’t sure if she was a stubborn commander, Freya understood one thing- When everyone needed to gamble for a slight chance during a desperate situation, she had to come forward and shoulder the responsibility.
If she failed, Freya might face death or even doubts. Brendel would be struck with troubles too.
Despite that, she decided to gamble.
Brendel didn’t want a plain Freya. She too shared the sentiment. At this moment, she felt like she could understand the hope in Maynild’s eyes.
This was her final attempt. Freya wiped the blood on her forehead and smudged some on the slate, just like the necessary process for a divine tool to recognize its master in the knight novels. Though this seemed a little stupid, her failure was sadly the reality. The slate hadn’t changed the slightest bit.
She couldn’t help but feel defeated.
In the next moment, she suddenly halted in her tracks.
Freya silently gazed upwards, the silver figure was indeed in her field of vision. At some point, the monster had managed to circle to her front. She wasn’t expecting their gap to be so small after such a short moment.
However, this time, she made no move to back away or flee. Freya unsheathed the Lionheart sword languidly.
Adjusting her grip on the hilt, she stood still and grounded herself. Almost as if her nerves had dissipated, Freya’s light brown eyes were concentrated into a firm gaze as she pointed the tip of her sword at the silver monster.
“You’re not going to run?” A hollow, mocking voice rolled out of the silver monster’s wide mouth. “You put yourself at risk to lure me to this place so that you can sacrifice yourself for the sake of your comrades?”
“According to human standards, I guess your actions can be considered noble.”
“But it’s just a pity that such behaviour is nothing in the infinite flow of time and the whole wide world. It’s essentially pointless. Your choice is destined to be meaningless.”
Freya allowed it to speak patiently, using the downtime to ease her bodily pain. She gave its words no response but a quiet muttering, “That’s enough bullshit, monster.”
The monster jolted slightly in surprise before it broke into a bark of maniacal laughter.
“What were you trying to say? Don’t tell me you actually see yourself as the War Goddess? There’s merely a speckle of the bloodline flowing through your veins. It means nothing,” came the silver monster’s jeer. “Alright, little girl. It’s about time to end this game.”
It raised its hand. With its right arm morphed into a silver blade, it lunged forward for Freya.
Freya had seen this tactic before. She held her sword and - Clang!- blocked the monster’s arm blade. Though she had received the attack with the correct sword technique, she did not consider the power difference between them. As soon as the Lionheart sword came in contact with the arm blade, Freya immediately felt that something was wrong. Almost like a merciless storm, its power was channelled through the contact point of the swords. She couldn’t respond in time and was thrown into the snow.
Despite the soft snow, the heavy fall was stronger than Freya’s earlier impact. She could feel the concave state of her breastplate. The armour piece was pressed into her ribs, causing fractures and driving the shards into her lung. Immediately, Freya began to spit blood.
“Wah.” Another mouthful of blood escaped her lips. She could only bear the pain and roll to the side on reflex. The monster had indeed morphed its blade into a whip. The whip struck her initial spot, flipping snow up in the process.
The silver monster probably wasn’t expecting a Silver rank fella to be so sharp. It was stunned momentarily but quickly came to a realization. It had been repeating attacks from earlier but the girl had managed to remember everything at first glance.
Since it had realized that, it quickly changed its approach. This time, it morphed its right arm into a spear and began stabbing it in the direction where Freya was rolling to.
All movements were calculated in advance. Under normal circumstances, there was no way Freya could avoid this blow. Suddenly, a dazzling light began to glow amongst the snow and a pair of golden light wings fluttered open. With a light flap, the wings brought Freya away from the ground, allowing her to avoid the attack.
“An incomplete War Goddess?” The silver monster looked up. Freya was already flapping her wings for the skies. Her eyes were a complete silver and the mark of the War Goddess shined once again on her forehead. It was radiant.
She had once displayed such ability during a cavalier tournament by accident. Then, it was used again during the battle of Ampere Seale. This was the third time she had triggered the mark of the War Goddess during combat but this instance was visibly much more skilled than before.
Ever since she received the raw energy stones from Brendel, her powers had grown significantly. After entering Milo’s Dying Breath, she was already in the Upper Silver category. And at this moment, she had transcended into Gold rank, though with some external help.
Taking advantage of the silver monster’s stunned state, Freya wasn’t about to slack off. She adjusted her wings, turned around and began flying towards the canyon walls.
“Where do you think you’re going?!” The silver monster wasn’t expecting the human girl to start escaping again in its daze. The monster was shocked and angry, it quickly began to chase after her. Unfortunately for it, Freya in the War Goddess mode was faster. Before long, she neared the wall.
As soon as she reached the wall, Freya halted abruptly and made a circle in the air. She had circled to the adjacent cliff.
The silver monster tilted its head upwards, suddenly realizing the girl’s strategy. It growled, “How dare you!”
Freya paid the monster no mind. But of course, the Bucce bumpkin was nervous as hell. She feared that she’d miss a step, hence the silence to its angry questions. She couldn’t even afford to think about provoking it.
She swept across the snow and came behind the monster. Freya raised her hand and the ruby ring gleamed. “Fme.” An unfamiliar word rolled past her lips. The ring glowed bright and a basin-sized fireball came whizzing out.
The fireball wasn’t a threat at all to the silver monster. Yet, it wasn’t weak by all means. When it dragged its long tail to the rocky wall above the monster’s head, the true capability of the spell was properly showcased.
The fireball had struck a spot with a thick blanket of snow and the spell had happened to explode on the supporting rocks below. The huge fire blast created by the fireball was enough to crack the rocky wall open. The snow above began to slide downwards. An abnormal avalanche was about to occur.
But this was not the end.
When Freya flew by the pile of snow earlier, she had thrown the six exploding crystals onto it one by one. The magical fluctuations generated by the fireball explosion earlier had detonated these unstable energy polymers instantly.
In that split moment, multiple bright clusters of light were produced along the top of the cliffs. The explosion sound shook the whole valley and the supporting rock walls fell apart. Snow began to cascade like a ruthless flood, rushing straight for the silver monster.
“Ahhhhhhhh! Damn it!” The silver monster finally let out an angry screech.
But Freya’s eyes went wide.
The monster’s screams were not out of fear but out of wrath. It was angry because it was toyed with. It quickly buried its head as thin strips of liquid silver began to grow out of its back like water droplets. Soon, the metal strips had become a pair of long silver wings.
It could fly!
“Shit…” Freya’s heart went cold.