Defiance of the Fall

Chapter 1163: The Shift

The rustling fields of Relver Serenity Grass stretched across the horizon in every direction. Only the cubic processing plants equally spaced along the enormous farming platform provided a break in the liminal nightmare. Floating barges were constantly funneling recently harvested crops to be processed or bringing back the refined dust.

Perhaps it would have been better to lose grip of reality. What dignity was there in crawling around in the mud, removing the flower buds that would compete for nourishment and slow the accelerated growth? All while having his energy sapped by the demonic plants and the Feeder Curse in his chest.

The only thing that kept Nolan going was the notion of funneling the indignity and rage into acts of sabotage. To go out in a blaze of glory, wreaking as much havoc as he could. He’d only have one shot before the Heart Curse triggered and ripped him apart. He needed to make it count.

Although, it was getting harder to ignore the whispers of defeat in the back of his head. Four weeks of this hellish existence, and he hadn’t seen the shadow of an opportunity. And even if he somehow managed to blow up the whole platform, what did it matter? There were dozens just like it surrounding the Worldfort.

The serenity grass was a necessary resource that helped manage the Heart Demons of these netherblasted cultists, but it was woefully easy to cultivate. It just needed space and sacrifices to grow like weeds. ʀᴇᴀᴅ ʟᴀᴛᴇsᴛ ᴄʜᴀᴘᴛᴇʀs ᴀᴛ NovᴇlFirᴇ.ɴet

“Hurry up, you bastards, or we’ll pick the next batch of bloodbags from your cohort!” a gruff voice echoed through Nolan’s quadrant.

Maybe he should settle for taking out that cruel bastard. It wouldn’t change anything, but Nolan felt he could meet his ancestors with a smile as long as Entu joined him in the afterlife. He’d have to endure a bit longer. His semi-awakened bloodline hadn’t fully recovered its hidden energy stockpile after that final battle.

Nolan would normally keep his head down and keep working, as the slavedrivers would use any excuse they got to torment the captives. It was the only available pastime of these pathetic little tyrants deemed too incompetent to handle anything but oversee Relver fields and sealed slaves. Just a few more days.

Today, Nolan broke the unspoken rules of the captives as his head rose above the stalks to look at the sky. A radiant light showered the purple fields in a refreshing white splendor. Nolan vaguely sensed that work had practically stopped with thousands of slaves straightening hunched backs. All eyes were on the white streak piercing the cosmos with unfathomable speed.

An immense aura erupted from the Worldfort as a gate the size of a continent formed in its exosphere. It dispersed like a shadow exposed to light as the blinding spear approached. In the blink of an eye, the celestial streak had gone from a distant dot of overwhelming radiance to a line of utmost white that split Nolan’s vision in two.

It consumed the Worldfort’s central tower and continued out the planet’s other end. For a moment, it was as if time had stopped, and Nolan’s thoughts ground to a halt as he looked at the impaled world. Then, the world shattered, releasing a tidal wave of glorious light.

The wave looked like a swarm of trillions of fireflies, and they moved even faster than the rubble left from the ruined world. The remainders of the Worldfort were consumed first, and then the moons and defensive satellites that could repel a Monarch’s assault. The armada tried to escape, but any attempt to break through the dimensional barrier created tears from which more fireflies emerged.

The wave looked gentle at this distance, but Nolan understood it moved with shocking speed. Nolan’s eyes shifted, spotting Entu staring at the sky with horror in his eyes. A smile spread across Nolan’s face as he hunched over, and painful lessons allowed him to creep closer unseen without causing so much as a ripple on the serenity grass.


Entu didn’t get any further before a bloody hand burst through his chest, covered in pieces of his shredded heart. An unbearable agony assaulted Nolan, and he tasted metal as blood filled his mouth. He pressed on, his other hand forming a large circle. His fingers were filled with the crumbling pieces of his soul, becoming the blade that severed Entu’s limbs.

Nolan and the crippled cultist fell over at the same time, one forward and one back. Both sported huge holes in their chests, and neither were long for this world. The only difference was that the last thing Entu would see was dirty soil and darkness while Nolan looked up at the approaching ocean of stars.

It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.


“What shift?” Zac asked, realizing too late the veiled woman had disappeared when he followed her gaze.

The feeling of the timeline being split disappeared soon after. Even now, there was no hint on the Everfast Monarch’s face that he’d noticed anything. Was the Vigil observer that strong? Could they hold such a special position that the System didn’t hinder their movements, allowing even Autarchs to pass through the seal?

More shocking was that she called him Void Emperor. Until now, only Sendor had figured out that identity, and that was only after performing a thorough scan. This nun had seen through his secret while he actively was trying to hide any traces. Zac suddenly felt even more exposed and was relieved to see her gone, even if his mind was plagued with new questions.

Zac put the matter aside as Warlin suddenly shot to his feet, his expression wide with shock. He wasn’t the only one; even the Everfast Monarch’s impassive façade had cracked.

“It worked!” the strategist shouted.

“Is it the spear?” Average asked with a shaky voice, his eyes red. “Did it work?”

“It worked, it worked!” Warlin laughed. “We just received a report from our sentries keeping watch on the Kan’Tanu’s Warfort. They saw a streak of light passing through the planet. The next moment, an earthshattering explosion destroyed half the solar system. The base, the armada. It’s all gone! They don’t believe even the residing Monarchs survived!”

Zac mutely looked at the general. He’d caught a glimpse of the [Centurion Spear], but even he couldn’t believe it held such immense power. A Worldfort wasn’t some random base. The Kan’Tanu had only erected ten inside Zecia and a few more in the Million Gates Territory, with each directing the war against four to six Alliance Field Armies. Losing one had to be the Kan’Tanu’s biggest setback since the war started, and it wasn’t even close.

If Zac was shocked, it was nothing compared to the officials gathered in the room. It looked like they’d been struck by lightning. Some turned to Warlin like they couldn’t believe what they’d just heard. Others looked at Zac like he was a reincarnation of a War God. Even some officials who had been overtly hostile before suddenly looked at him like he was their first-born son. Even the staunch soldiers standing guard along the walls broke ranks and muted whispers spread through the halls.

“We did it,” Average whispered as he slumped back on the chair. “We actually did it.”

“Wait, did you say pass through?” Emily interjected. “It’s still going?”

“It looks that way,” Warlin grinned.

“This is an immense, unprecedented contribution,” the Everfast Monarch said. “As I said, the Alliance will not fail its heroes. We will deliver the reward you deserve as soon as possible. The Twenty-Sixth will always remember your service. Any outsider will have to go through us if they wish you harm, even if it’s the Havarok Dynasty.”

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“Thank you,” Zac said with a bow. “I haven’t decided on my next step. Right now, I’m more worried about my people scattered through the battlefield.”

“Your people are safe,” Warlin said. The strategist already had hundreds of communication tokens floating around him. He was undoubtedly sending out new sets of orders because of the news. “In fact, an event took place shortly after you entered the fortress, one we’d hope you could shed light on.”

“What’s that?”

“An ancient treasure shaped like a bell appeared.”

“Again?” Zac exclaimed, feeling like someone had splashed him with freezing water. “How’s our losses?”

“Among our people? Almost zero. However, not a single Kan’Tanu survived.”

“How’s that possible?”

“That’s what we’d like to know,” Warlin said. “We received a high-priority report from a subordinate called Elena Dossin. She reported a series of suspicious circumstances, from the appearance of an ancient bell and you being betrayed by extremely powerful cultivators. Finally, that bell reappeared just moments after you disappeared. However, an undead captain from your ranks suddenly flew to the sky and entered the bell. We believe her name is Vilari Blackwood.”


“The bell flew to the Kan’Tanu’s side after a few seconds, and they all ripped their hearts out of their chests. After that, the bell disappeared.”

“What about Vilari? Did she return?”

“She did not.”

“Is this a weapon of yours, or one that has been borrowed from your allies?” the Everfast Monarch asked. “Don’t misunderstand; we have no intentions of taking it from you. However, its power is immense, and we hope to invite you for certain covert missions in the future.”

Zac barely heard Prostez’s words, his mind abuzz from the news. The ancient bell and its evil aura were still fresh in his mind. To hear that Vilari had entered it was beyond horrifying. Zac quickly opened his quest screen, breathing out in relief when his [One by Nine] quest remained listed as complete. Vilari was his only sealbearer of the Anima Court, which hopefully meant she was still alive.

“It’s not mine,” Zac sighed as he closed the screen. “The only thing I know was that Vilari felt it resembled an inheritance she’d stumbled onto. However, it was like the bell had been corrupted by an evil entity. Can I ask, has there been any news of it since?”

“No,” Prostez said. “The spear has made it difficult to communicate in this region. Many matters will remain unclear until the turbulence has calmed down.”

Zac took a steadying breath before shifting the topic. “I have another companion inside the fortress base. Has there been any news of it?”

“It’s been located, and we’re heading there now,” Warlin assured.

“I have to leave you now. The others will fill in the gaps,” the Everfast Monarch said, giving Zac a last look as his body faded. “Stay or transfer; I will support your decision.”

Zac and the others bowed, and Prostez Dravorak was gone the next moment. The generals kept asking questions for another ten minutes, and Zac answered the best he could without exposing any sensitive secrets. On a few occasions, Average was asked to clarify. No one questioned Galau or Bubbur’s affiliation, though that could just be Everfast Monarch and the others looking the other way.

Suddenly, the half-step Monarch opened his eyes and disappeared. From the moment Zac entered until now, he never said a word. First the Everfast Monarch, and now him?

“Is there something wrong?” Zac asked.

“Nothing major,” Warlin smiled. “There are some rats skulking about in our vicinity. We’ll have to stop here for today.”

“Do you require our assistance?”

“Where would the Twenty-sixth put its face if we let you youngsters do all the work?” Tusko laughed.

“Then, with your permission, I’d like to seclude myself,” Zac said. “I’ve pushed myself too hard over the past couple of hours and need rest.”

“Of course,” Warlin said, glancing at one of the attendants by his side.

“Oh, we might have to call on you in an hour or so,” the strategist added as Zac and the others were led away.

“Is there something else?”

“We’re already at the coordinates of the fortress base. We’re just waiting for our shields to recover enough to force a path through the dimensional turbulence,” Warlin explained. “Seeing as you and your companions have the greatest understanding of its intricacies, we might have to lean on you again.”

“The base… how’s the situation?” Zac asked.

“The boss went there ten minutes ago,” Tusko grinned. “What problems could there be?”

So that’s where the Everfast Monarch disappeared to. Zac finally relaxed, feeling everything was in hand. The Kan’Tanu should be in disarray after losing their Worldfort. Their Monarchs should have bigger things to worry about than the scraps of a broken fortress.

Their small group was quickly led to a private wing with large common spaces and twenty individual apartments.

“You guys okay?” Zac asked as he looked around.

“We’re fine,” Average grunted. “Not sure how we’d fare if the spear failed to activate, though. Good job there, boss.”

“It was the least I could do.”

“I can’t believe I used to feel a bit bad for those Havarok jerks after hearing the stories,” Emily muttered. “You should have kicked them while they were down back then.”

“Well, I had my hands full just staying alive,” Zac said with a wry smile.

“I knew you didn’t just sit around after disappearing,” Average grinned. “To think you’ve already managed to make a B-grade faction your enemy. Even my crazy grandma would be lost for words. I’m looking forward to hearing the stories.”

“We’ll catch up over a drink or two later. Right now, I really have to rest for a bit,” Zac said, glancing at Average with a small smile tugging at his lips. “Speaking of, your grandmother actually left seclusion while you were trapped. She’s also a Monarch now. Unfortunately, she was wounded in an earlier battle, but I’m sure seeing you will lift her spirits.”

Average’s face turned pale as a sheet, and Zac laughed as the door closed behind him. Kantaja Peak, or the Knuckle Butcher, had created some waves during the war, prompting some unbelievable stories from her past to resurface. The Peaks all had a screw loose, and the partners they chose were even crazier.

Zac spent the next few minutes reviewing everything he’d experienced since stepping onto the frontlines, identifying mistakes and lingering threats. He wasn’t too worried about his conflict with the Havarok scions after the Everfast Monarch made his stance known. None of them posed a real threat, and Zac sincerely doubted the Monarch behind them would dare target him.

The Havarok Dynasty’s backer would never let a Monarch directly involve himself in a struggle of fate between the younger generation. If he acted on his own and ruined their plans, the whole empire might be eradicated.

The real problem was the Imperial Clans, now that his involvement in Yselio’s death had been exposed. He’d hoped any trace of his actions would have disappeared along with the tower, but that didn’t pan out. It didn’t make a difference whether the Havarok Dynasty followed the Imperial Clans or not. The news would reach their ears sooner or later.

Yselio’s gambit cost him his life, but that defeat didn’t mean the Seven Heavens would give up. There were still over two years before the inheritance started, which was more than enough time to turn things around. Ancient factions like that wouldn’t blink at sacrificing a whole generation if it gave them a small chance at seizing an Eternal Heritage.

Shifting the blame to the Sindris Clan wouldn’t protect him against retaliation, and this was a threat that could haunt him after Ultom was dealt with. It wouldn’t take any effort on their part to send a punitive squad to Zecia after the sector was unsealed. Zac needed to figure out safeguards for the Atwood Empire beyond the Assimilation.

The second problem was borrowing the Tayn’s prestige when he felt the situation was going south. Iz probably wouldn’t care, but Zac knew her family wasn’t so easygoing. The Tayns wouldn’t be feared across the Multiverse for no good reason. He would have to figure out a way to repay the debt before they decided to test Earth’s or Zecia’s fate.

Powerful gathering arrays had sprung to life while Zac mulled things over, and Zac’s parched body greedily swallowed it all. The speed was significantly faster than before, almost reaching the levels of normal cultivators. He had already noticed the difference during the interrogation, but it was far more noticeable inside a cultivation ground.

It was all thanks to the shadowy motes in his cells. He was still unable to cultivate, but his body exerted an inherent pull on the ambient energy. Zac was curious to see whether the pull would continue when his Cosmic Core was satiated or whether the ability was limited to recovering energy.

Human eyes closed to focus on recovery while Abyssal eyes opened in the Ensolus Ruins. While one half fought off Havarok scions and answered questions, the other had focused on consolidating his breakthrough and taking control of his bloodline. He couldn’t let any hints of the Void leak before a Middle Monarch.

With his human side taking over the baton, Zac could deal with the pressing matters back home, the first of which was the transformation around him. The Ensolus Ruins were fortunately spared Void’s full attention, though Zac sensed that a handful of treasures had disappeared during his breakthrough. Around 15% of the breakthrough had been fueled by Ensolus, leaving most of the temples intact. That number would have been even lower if not for the chaotic events leading up to the breakthrough.

The ambient energy was still improving, already approaching the equivalent of Middle D-grade. It was the work of an incredible Gathering Array. It was even gathering the planet’s providence into one spot, meaning anyone cultivating inside the ruins would enjoy a temporary boost to their effective Luck.

The ruins were fast becoming a holy land, but Zac only felt a headache as he flew toward the exit, keeping a wide berth around the new additions. He still didn’t have any good solution to how to deal with the situation. The cathedral possibly held something that could help the war effort, but getting through it might require the strength of a Monarch. Teleporting such a powerful being to his budding empire was like inviting a fox into the henhouse.

But could he live with covering it up when so much was at stake? Was it even possible?

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