Ascenders Rift Chapter 70: The Eve of War!

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The night here carried an even deeper chill in the ruins of Belanore, each whisk of wind capable of seeping beneath the thickest leather, flowing through the skin as it reached the souls of those who now thrive in these murky woods. Still, despite the uneasy atmosphere, and coldness of this twilight, there were a few forms that found warmth in this setting.

A group of three, being a young man surrounded by beautiful girls. They each wore sturdy armors with their various weapons resting by their sides or on their person, the fattest one amongst them seemed to have stuffed himself into close-fitting light armor as his tucked in belly stuck out at various areas.

The two girls wore classy leather armors that seemed to have adjusted itself to size and shapes for females, some areas were quite revealing, but all vital spots were firmly protected.

Fatty Joe was humming as he polished his shield around a campfire that was lit in an enclosed sector of the ruins. As Joe wiped his shield spotless, his eyes shifted to the halberd on his leg as a smile came on his face, "Yes, my partner, my life... a weapon for the true king."

Hearing Joe's words, Emilia giggled as she looked at her brother and teased, "Hehe, brother, your acting like those main characters in fiction books. Careful, if you keep doing that, when Evan sees it, he may force you to act more bravely."

Joe's mood sunk when he heard this, he gnashed his teeth and spoke, "Che... that bastard, he's no longer acting like a good friend always seeking chances to bully me, just you wait one of these days I'll give him 'that' surprise."

Emilia knew her brother well when she heard him say 'that' her face paled as she unconsciously rubbed her nose with pity in her eyes.

Layla smiled and watched them quietly; she was quite fond of the brother-sister relationship, even more so as she was an only child.

'I wonder, what would it truly be like?' Layla asked herself while in thought, her eyes flashed when she looked towards the sky in a daze.

While Layla was in thought, Joe and Emilia were currently talking, but it was at this a voice sounded from nearby.

"You're right, that Evan is truly a troublesome and arrogant fellow, one day I will be the one to set him right," Rick said as he appeared from a nearby hedge.

"Oh, so it's you, Rick, it seems that you're faster than Breya and Evan," Layla said with a smile.

"Haha... yes, so it seems..." Rick said as he scratched the back of his head and came nearby the bonfire.

Emilia seeing Rick blushed as she lowered her head to stare at the flickering flames silently, no one knew, but with her recent increases of Spiritual Power and training, her attunement with nature was off the charts, even in this dead forest with low lifeforce she could sense many things, even the spying Rick from the previous days.

Joe's face grew even darker when he saw Rick, it turned savage as his appearance was now utterly different from any who would aspire to be a hero.


Rick was alarmed at this; he halted his steps and took a seat a little distance away; he didn't know why Joe's look had turned so fierce.

'What's going on, does he know?' Rick thought to himself while he feigned indifference by gazing at the fire; he glanced at Joe from the corner of his eyes.

'This bastard, daring to spy on my sister, he truly must have a lot of guts!' Joe thought to himself.

No one else knew, but Joe was always attuned to Emilia, whatever she felt, sensed, and dreamed about he would be able to experience indirectly, or on a lesser scale on rare occasions, much like her previous nightmare. However, with his rise in strength, Joe's senses became sharper, he was able to attune himself to her more easily and picked up certain things more efficiently, achieving an unthinkable level of a true sister con.

Joe looked at Rick and spoke in a sarcastic tone, "Ha, well, you reaaaly took quite the time to come out here, Rick. You must have been busy with all that 'training' of yours."

Rick didn't like Joe's tone, he thought to himself, 'How dare he speak to me like that?'

Rick was angry, as he felt his pride of a prince to be hurt, but at the same time, he felt embarrassed; he had a feeling he was figured out for stalking. He cleared his mind and replied, "Yes-yes, it was quite tiring..."

"Hmph!" Joe snorted no longer saying anything else.

Layla curiously looked at this, but as she didn't know what was going on, she no longer paid any more attention, Rick looked at Joe before shifting his sights to Emilia as he thought to himself.

'I can't let this continue, I must remain indifferent at all cost, there's no proof that they even discovered me in the first place. Hmph! Who am I? I am Ivan Erickson. This man shall not break my will!' Rick thought as his eyes shone in a determined light.

Rick then looked at Joe and saw that he had a piece of cloth on his shield, as well as a flashy halberd on his leg. His eyes flashed as he made a sly smile and spoke, "Oh, that shield sure looks good, and halberd, almost like a weapon from a heroes legend. Emilia was right, Evan might bully you..."

Joe, hearing this soon recalled his previous concern, he gripped his fists and cursed, "Damn! Maybe I should hide them; I don't want to be sent to the frontlines again!"

Rick seeing how easy it was to diffuse Joe's current weariness and shift his anger, smiled as he thought to himself, 'Heh, so simple...'

Rick felt pleased with himself and thought that he got back a bit of pride, but he soon noticed at Emilia was looking at him deeply. The last person he wanted to see his true face was Emilia, so his face turned pale before quickly returning to normal, he then shifted his sights onto his surroundings as if he was scouting.

Emilia didn't like others teasing her brother; she'd usually snap if someone would dare to have the nerve to do it. However, those who were considered her friends would typically be given a right of passage.

When she saw how Rick quickly shifted Joe's focus, she peeked at him curiously, but as she saw his reaction that seemed much like a child that did something terrible, though she was a bit shy for being spied on she smiled while thinking to herself, 'H-he might be a bit strange… but that child-like side, it... it's somewhat cute...'

Soon, the area had returned to quietness, as everyone was off into their own thought. However, Layla, who was in a daze, had awoken as she felt someone staring at them; her eyes knitted as she reached for her daggers by her side.

Joe and Emilia promptly acted by placing their hands on their weapons and glared at the surroundings, their manner far different from the first time they came into these woods.

Rick looked at their actions and nodded as he thought, 'Truly an incredible amount of growth...'

Not long after, the bushes shook as Breya appeared with a smile on her face, she looked at everyone and spoke, "Wow, you guys grew well, to think you could sense me so easily."

"Haha, it was nothing, only a minor skill of a true warrior," Joe said with a slightly red face as he scratched the back of his head, he now seemed to have forgotten his previous worries and anger, as if an even stronger feeling replaced it.

Breya looked at Joe and teased, "Oh, I didn't think you'd fit in such fine armor, it seems that I can proudly rest at ease from now on with you standing before us."

"Well... t-technically, I..." Joe was a bit worried as he felt that he truly was going to be deployed on the front line, he wanted to share his opinion, but Breya promptly ignored him and walked over to Layla and Emilia as they started to chat.

'Shit! Just my rotten luck!' Joe said as his anger started to gather up again, he wanted to find an outlet, but Rick was acting with decor no longer showing any strange behavior as if he diligently watched the woods.

With no place to vent, Joe could only close his eyes to meditate and ease his mind. However, who would have thought that the moment he did this, a cause for concern would appear.

Swish-swish-swish!

With no sudden warning, five different projectiles came from all directions at alarming speeds. The instant they were sensed, it was already too late, for they were only moments away from a collision with everyone.

In an instant, everyone reacted, Emilia waved her hand causing the projectile to fall to the side, while two flashes of sharp lights appeared by Layla and Breya, a dagger could now be seen in Layla's hand while a thin thread wrapped around Breya's finger.

Looking at their projectiles, one would see that they were stones that had been sliced apart into many pieces. Rick efficiently managed to parry his stone by simply using the shaft of his spear to hit it to the side.

While everyone was on point, Joe was the slowest to react, looking as if his fat slowed not only his body but his mind.

Slap! Based on the sound of the collision, it was clear that Joe's stone was harsher than the others by many levels as it hit him right in his forehead.

Yet, if one paid close attention, they would find that not even a bruise had appeared on his skin and the stone was crushed into dust.

Joe grabbed his head and shouted, "Ouch! Which bastard dared to do this?"

As Joe shouted, he jumped to his feet poised for battle as he grasped his shield in one arm and the halberd in the other. His appearance was now looking no different from a might warrior ready for a fierce bout.

Still, this demeanor only lasted for a moment, as it faded when he saw the brown-haired youth that calmly walked towards them from a nearby shrub.

Clap-clap-clap!

Evan clapped as he looked at everyone and spoke, "Wow, you guys are good, I used ten percent of my full power, and you could still block it so easily."

Layla and the others didn't mind this; they only smiled and greeted him.

"Welcome back Brother Evan," Emilia said happily.

"You're finally here, it took you long enough," Layla said with a smile.

Breya gave a slight wave as Joe seemed to be looking down, trying to put away something quickly.

Evan looked at them and spoke, "Great to see you're all doing fine, thanks for waiting on me."

After Evan said this, he looked at Layla and teased, "Oh, what's this, did you miss me that much?"

"O-Of course I did not, hmph! You didn't even cross my mind," Layla said with a pout no longer looking at him.

Evan looked at her and tilted his head before he smiled, he didn't want to tease her too much, so he didn't make a follow-up. He glanced at the shifty-looking Joe and smirked, but at this time, he heard a dissatisfied voice from Rick, "Tsk! So arrogant, Evan, I'm now at Level 3, soon it will be time for our rematch."

Rick was far more prideful than the norm; he would never allow himself to face such a humiliating defeat; in his mind, he would defeat Evan sooner or later.

Evan knew Rick to a certain extent, or rather, his personality, he knew he wouldn't live down his previous loss. Still, as Evan recalled his current state and powerup, he could only peek at Rick with a hint of pity as he knew that in this life, Rick won't ever have a chance to beat him up as he did in his past life.

Evan gave Rick a thumbs up before turning to Joe with a happy light in his eyes; his pupils eyed the flashy light armor, bright green scale shield, and mighty looking halberd as he spoke, "Joe! You are the only person to receive 20 percent of my power with your forehead and remain at ease. Oh my gosh, look at that equipment, you truly know your place in this world. That's right, Joe, only you can be the hero, but to become perfect, you'll still need more training, you should have at least been able to react to that stone."

Joe had a bad feeling when he heard these words, but before he could speak, Evan clapped his hand and spoke, "Okay everyone, tomorrow is our true battle, I am proud of everyone's gains. Only by overcoming the hurdle of this great battle will you truly earn the right to tackle the Ascenders Rift. The leaders of this Raid Space were quite smart, they took back the exp we could farm, and had bolstered their army together at the core of Belanore's ruined city. Despite having killed a few hundreds of them, I am sure that there are roughly one hundred or a little less than two hundred of them remaining, not to mention the Twin Conquerors that are awaiting our arrival."

As Evan spoke, everyone looked at him seriously as when they heard his words, they couldn't help but feel a tinge of fear. Still, after recalling their level ups and equipment, their fear soon turned into anticipation.

Evan seeing this look smiled, especially when he saw the looks of Layla's, Emilia's, and Joe's somewhat forced face. Rick and Breya remained at ease; they both had the demeanor of experts.

Evan then continued to speak, "Good, you're not scared, but I want you all to remember this, our battle tomorrow is only the beginning after we face those brutes. You must each be ready to face the final threat. They are guaranteed to be far superior to those Twin Conquerors."

"What?" Everyone asked in unison; it seemed that there would be no end to the surprises that Evan would pull out at the last moment that could threaten their lives.

Evan seeing their somewhat worried looks smirked and spoke, "Don't worry, I'll go into the details later... for now, let's focus on getting some rest, we'll set out before morning for battle shall be at dawn's first rise. Joe, make sure to prepare yourself, tomorrow is your day."

"You... darn it!" Joe cursed out loud as he heard this, he wanted to say more, but Evan came over and tapped his shoulder while speaking, "Joe, there comes a time when a man must learn to be a hero, you were born for this, it is your destiny."

Joe seeing Evan's look knew he couldn't reject it; he grumbled as he turned around and sat himself down to rest.

Layla looked on curiously, but she didn't bother to think about it too much and looked for a cozy place to spend the night.

Emilia looked at her brother and sighed with pity in her eyes before she drew closer to Layla and spoke, 'Sister Layla, let's rest together."

Layla hearing this replied with a happy smile, "Okay,"

"Count me in," Breya said as she tossed an object on the ground, which expanded into a large tent.

"Oh, a Pocket Tent, I didn't think you had one with you, Breya. Why didn't you use it before?" Layla asked curiously.

Emilia also looked at her with wonder, Breya was a bit embarrassed as she replied, "W-Well, my sister always said not to rely on it. A soldier must treat the earth as their bed and the sky as their cover. I typically only use it in case of emergencies."

"Oh, you soldier sure have it hard," Layla said with a hint of pity.

Breya smiled as if it was nothing and walked while gesturing for them to enter the tent as she spoke, "Come, let's go sleep, we can't stay out in the open, who knows what kind of things will happen to us poor girls in the domain of men."

"Ah, yes, I'm coming right now," Layla said as her face turned a bit crimson, she quickly ran into the tent while peeking at Evan who as outside.

Emilia promptly entered as well, not daring to look outside. Joe seeing his sister entering the tent, felt at ease, he shifted his eyes towards Rick but saw nothing, so he paid him no mind.

Evan seeing their actions nodded, though he didn't know full well about the hidden bosses, he had an estimate with a power he could use as a comparison. Hence, he didn't feel all too worried, he knew things would work out so long as he saved his strength for the right moments.

Evan saw that Rick had a hint of displeasure in his eyes, especially when he looked at the tent as if it was some kind of enemy. Evan's face scrunched up as he thought, 'This guy... was he really like this?'

He tried to recall more from his previous life but didn't recall Rick having such behavior. Evan shook his head, clearing these thoughts and shifting his eyes towards the sky, gazing at the dim lights as he thought to himself, 'Let's see what secrets were taken by those Heaven Eyes...'

***

At the center of Belanore, within the ruined gigantic temple covered in fern and vines, a large army of a hundred and fifty mighty crocomen and goblin warriors had arranged themselves together. Their sinister eyes were glaring in the dark of the night as they stayed on high alert awaiting their enemy's attack.

At the farthest position amongst their ranks, two more enormous eyes that glowed even more brightly stood out. They belonged to the Reptile King Dreadtooth and Goblin Sorcerer Gragtaasz.

Gragtaasz looked at Dreadtooth and spoke, "I shouldn't have made such a foolish blunder, it seemed that they were even more powerful than we'd thought. It was wise of you to send the command to call back the strongest amongst our ranks."

Dreadtooth hearing this replied with proudness, "Tsk, it's only natural, I am used to this kind of thing. If anything, these humans are a rather troublesome bunch..."

Gragtaasz shook his head as his eyes shone in a curly manner when he spoke, "Indeed, but I suppose none of that matters, with our current forces. They won't be able to do anything; when they come here, we'll claim their lives with our full power."

"Grah-grah-grah!" Dreadtooth made a hearty laugh, which sounded across the silent area, he then replied, "Mm, I've heard of those other fools trapped in these realms refusing to work together because it would hurt their pride. I want to see the look on these human's faces when they see that both of us are working in complete unity, we will crush them directly holding nothing back, for this is our path to freedom!"

As Dreadtooth said this, his aura grew fierce. Gragtaasz also had a similar look when he stared out into the distance and spoke, "Come, little humans, come quickly to face your ends..."

His words seeming to have traveled across the distance with the nightly winds, the darkness slowly began to fade away as bright sunny rays had risen from the edge of the forest, as dawn fell upon the world.
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