Seeking summaries of Will Wight’s Cradle series? Need a recap of each book? You’re in the right place! See all Cradle-related summaries available on my website here. Obviously, these are designed to have spoilers. Don’t read any of the summaries if you are hoping to go in to the series without being spoiled! If you haven’t yet read any of the Cradle novels, I have a no-spoilers review of the first two books.
After discovering the existence of Dross inside Lindon, Northstrider takes an interest in the pair. Lindon follows Northstrider to a meeting of Monarchs, where he learns that the outcome of the tournament will determine whether the Dreadgods are allowed to reach the Western Labyrinth entrance in Sacred Valley. Reigen Shen, the Monarch supporting the Dreadgod cultists, hopes to unleash all four Dreadgods. A Hound of Makiel is present as well, and tells the Monarchs that if their enemies win Penance, they have a choice: stay and be killed, or ascend and join the Abidan.
Before the duels between the top eight Uncrowned begin, they are all given a month of tutoring by a Sage. Yerin is tutored by Min Shuei, the Winter Sage. Mercy trains with Charity. Lindon, meanwhile, has arranged to go to the Dreadgod battlefield. There, he takes advantage of a points-based bounty system set up by Fury to earn Diamond Veins, a construct that strengthens his madra channels. With the help of Northstrider, he also develops the Consume technique, which allows him to drain madra and more from enemies and use them to fuel his own advancement.
Mercy loses in the top eight duels to Sophara, meaning that Yerin is their final hope in the top four. She manages to advance to Overlord, but so has Sophara. In the end, she and her Blood Shadow are forced to come to terms with one another. They merge together into one, giving Yerin the power she needs to defeat Sophara. Yerin uses Penance on Seshethkunaaz, king of the dragons.
After losing, Sophara seeks to kill Lindon on the Dreadgod battlefield. Lindon, however, gains unexpected insight into his madra and fully manifests the Void Icon, becoming the Sage of Twin Stars at merely Underlord.
Eithan, meanwhile, has been busy in his own right. He’s advanced to Archlord and has also recruited Ziel to work for House Arelius for one year. In exchange, Ziel will receive an elixir to help heal his shattered spirit.
Report: death of Sage of the Endless Sword, Timaias Adama. After being in Sacred Valley for three months, the curse has drained his power, even his Soulfire. But Heaven’s Glory School allowed him into the labyrinth. Treasures inside it have been destroyed but the curse, and cabinets sit empty. Inside, he’s attacked by skeleton spirits – techniques launched by the prison’s lone inhabitant.
His techniques are weak – weaker perhaps even than Yerin’s at this point (note: implies curse disproportionately affects higher level SAs). Nevertheless, he runs away and out, waving at the techniques in case Subject One is watching. On leaving the HG Jades meet him, providing him a “healing elixir” that’s actually poison. He gulps it down like it’s nothing. He’s been reborn three times in soulfire, and they can’t hurt him with poisons. They’re suspicious, as he never comes out with any treasures – and they want them. He’s been hiding them inside his private void space, naturally. No void key – just a Sage with skill in spatial manipulation. Only this authority can open his pocket world.
Even Yerin’s Blood Shadow is quiescent here. The curse makes it the safest place in the world for her. She’s becoming frustrated being cooped up, however. Adama is hoping to find a way to remove the Blood Shadow from her with no spiritual damage. This cursed valley is the birthplace of the Bleeding Phoenix and mah have a clue.
The curse, of course, is not truly a curse. It’s a massive underground script formation across hundreds of miles, created to weaken everything within it. And to keep the father of the Dreadgods in. Subject One.
But before he can continue his research, the HG Jades stab him with halfsilver blades in his sleep. He makes it to the Ancestor’s Tomb, where he intends to open the door and allow the hunger madra inside to devour everyone present, but is killed there. As he’s dying, his two most prominent thoughts become opening the door to the labyrinth and Yerin succeeding him. The door and Yerin are the two things his Remnant inherits most strongly.
NS asks London who Dross is. He commands Dross to manifest, who greets him despite Lindon asking him not to. NS shows him the small construct the Oracle tree was downloaded into. He challenges Dross to absorb the info within. Dross rushes forward, gathering a great deal of info before being kicked out of it. NS says he’s passed the test… And will becoming with him. He scoops up Dross, and steps into a portal he’s created. London hangs tight to Dross’ thinning presence, focusing his entire being on it. London runs for the portal, but it disappears. Dross is fading faster and faster, but London holds on with everything he has to their connection. Just before it snaps, he manages to see their link as a silver thread, focusing even harder, leveraging his spirit and his madra, letting it burst from him.
The portal snaps open once more, and Dross folks his mind again. He stands, panting before NS, and thanks him for allowing him to accompany him, not understanding that it was he himself who opened the portal. NS looks on in surprise and consideration, and tells him to come with him. He leads him to an assembly of all the Monarchs present at the tournament. Akura Malice watches him, while the others largely ignore him. She gives him a smirk and a wink. He bows in return, earning a smile.
The Monarchs discuss the arrow the Abidan have brought, initially blaming NS for their presence. They believe it will cause chaos and strife. Reigan Shen notes that the only competitor eliminated before the Abidan arrived happened to be London, whom NS brought along to this meeting. NS implies that the Monarchs had discussed and agreed on final match ups and standing; the Eight-Man Empire had even agreed to a certain loss prior to knowing about the arrow. They agree to move forward with the matches they’d already set. They do, however, accuse NS of favoritism; Ziel is one of his, claimed as “a son of mine,” and the worry. NS throws it back, asking if his word is not good enough and if they think he’d violate an oath. He swears once more to arbitrate to the best of his ability, and a great power sweeps through the room to land on NS. They are worried about whom the Abidan target for recruitment, but accept it’s beyond their control.
The speak again of opening the Western Labyrinth in Sacred Valley. With the arrow, things have changed. That power means that whoever wins will decide the question of the labyrinth. Emriss Silentborn states she believes that war will be the outcome of this tournament. The Abidan Hound, Kiuran, appears in the room. Dross notes that Kiuran’s Precense looks an awful lot like him. Kiuran reminds them to play fairly, and states that the tournament timeline will be moved up to one fight per day. The Monarchs are pissed, as this ruins the propaganda aspect of the tournament. Emriss, understanding a deeper meaning, asks if they’ve truly run out of time so soon. If they do not compress the tournament, it may be interrupted by a Dreadgod. The Wondering Titan will wake in under three months.
Kiuran gives them all an option. If the Monarchs’ greatest enemy obtains Penance, they can stay and be killed, or they can ascend to join the Abidan. London realizes the Abidan is really here to pressure Monarchs to ascend. Sha “Leiala” asks for additional clarification, but the other Monarchs are dismissed.
London follows NS through a portal onto a rooftop in Ninecloud City. NS tells London to learn from this experience, having glimpsed a Monarch’s responsibilities. It could be valuable to him later. NS states that the competitors are safe for now, under his protection, from the Abidan’s scheming. London asks again why he brought him along. NS doesn’t answer, saying only that he’ll study Dross again but will leave him with London for now. He also states he’d intended to return him before they were harmed by separation anyway, but he’ll allow them to stay together from now on. He encourages London to train; if Sophara wins, she’ll use Penance on NS or Malice. Best if either Malice.or his fighters win. Even if not… the only true defeat, he says, is death. NS leaves them.
London finally goes to see Yerin. It’s slightly awkward at first, but the ice breaks quickly. Yerin is truly delighted to have seen his whole power. They compliment each other ridiculously. London interrupts, however, to tell them about Sha Miara actually being a Monarch. Since Monarch’s can sense their names, he asks Dross to show them Suriels visit so they understand. But the memory Dross sees is not the same as Lindon’s – it has Sha Leiala, and Suriel looks different and wrong. Dross is confused, as it looks right to him. Fortunately, although the memory is messed up for everyone else, Eithan had already figured out what was going on and reveals the secret – helped along by London having mentioned Miara to him several years ago. Mercy doesn’t want to take it on faith, though, and calls Fury. She asks him directly if Sha Miara is a Monarch in disguise. He poorly attempts to say no before giving in that they have the right of it. London then recounts his experiences with NS. Knowing that the match ups aren’t random, Eithan begins scheming. Initially, he’d meant to withdraw from the tournament before taking an Uncrowned title as too much notoriety would tie his hands. Now, however, he thinks there may be opportunity.
That night, Dross wakes London up on the middle of the night. He’s processed the memories from NS…. And thinks he’s stolen one. He can show London NS ascension to Monarch. When NS was Sage of the Hungry Deep, he hunted a black dragon causing destruction and feeding on death. He thought it was an Archlord, but it was a ride to draw him out; the dragon was a Herald. They battle, and NS uses a hunger madra technique to take not just the dragons madra, but also his life, strength, even some thoughts and personality. Everything. NS struggles to control it, trying to prevent the Remnant from rising. He fails, and the Remnant roses anyway. He manages to kill it, but is on his last dregs of strength – and senses more Archlord dragons coming. He has one chance. With the power he stole from the Herald, he can try to advance to Monarch. He begins meditating. He manifests his own Remnant in front of him. He draws it inside his flesh, a battle of wills ensuing. He wins, ultimately, weaving the Remnant into his body. Body and spirit become one, and he is remade. He takes control and directs the changes of his body. Dross loses the memory here, but London thanks him with all the sincerity he can muster.
Eithan is preparing for his battle. He does not know who his opponent is. He’s unusually candid with London and Yerin, expressing his doubts about what outcome is best and how to approach it. Even winning Penance is only a temporary solution that would restore the status quo between Monarchs. He asks their advice. They tell him that in the face of uncertainty, he should let fate decide. It’s a tournament. So, fight – show them what he can really do. The doors slide open. Eithan tells London to pay attention, and puts his scissors away. This is the Path of the Hollow King.
The Ninecloud Soul’s voice announces he will fight against Sha Miara.
He narrows his bloodline powers to the arena only. Sha Miara is a blind spot, as the Path of Celestial Radiance allows her to control others’ madra. She’s a blind spot, and he’ll have to rely on his own normal senses. He activates a simple device in his pocket which he was allowed to keep as it wasn’t a weapon. He reveals his techniques: The Crown if the Hollow King (forged pure madra stars overhead), the Hollow Spear (a hyper compressed beam of pure madra, which has more potential at higher advancement and may damage spirit), and the Hollow King’s Mantle (madra swirling around his to grab opponents madra). He even uses a non-Path technique in homage of London: an Empty Palm. He wins without flamboyance, the five stars from the Crown spearing down, severing her spirit. Such an attack would normally kill or permanently disable 99% of SAs, but he assumes Celestial Radiance artists have better spiritual defenses. finally, he drives the scissors into her temple, not activating the Archlord binding within, which he couldn’t do safely anyway. He activates the device in his pocket again: a stopwatch. Nine seconds.
London and Yerin are shocked and quiet, awed by his power. Fury immediately wants to keep him. Verus Aurelius, too, intends to tempt him home to become their next Sage. Reigan Shen, however, views him as an enemy who could potentially defeat Sophara and Yan Shoumei. Reigan wants Penance, not to use it, but as a threat.
Sha Miara is pissed, but her Herald Relliar gets her under control before she comes fully back into her powers.
Sophara is being stuffed full of divine treasures and elixirs. She’s seeking to advance to Overlord, but when she tries, her madra channels fracture. The dragon Herald Xorrus, her grandmother, is with her and stops her from damaging herself permanently, canceling her advancement. However, Xorrus states she can advance – but her Path would end at Overlord… Unless she won, and the Monarchs collectively healed her spirit. Win or die.
Most of the Akura clan and BE is preparing to leave to prepare for the Wandering Titan to awaken, including Pride. Naru Saeya congratulates London and tells him to present himself to the Emperor when he returns. Mercy confronts him about Yerin and his feelings for her again. London prevaricates, saying he’ll train with her, but Mercy presses harder. She demands they so something that is NOT training and not related to it either. London promises he will, cheeks burning.
Ziel makes it to top eight, defeating Therian Nills of the Storm caller Sect. After the battle concludes, London asks Yerin to go to dinner with him. She answers yes before he can even finish the question. Mercy double checks he got the best table at the restaurant, as the Akura clan will be fitting the bill. Mercy will help Yerin dress up, and she leaves Lindon to Eithan’s mercy. Mercy has to finish her march first, but she was negotiates an easy opponent and has no trouble. She uses her second page Dark Tide Incantation, Puppeteer’s Iron Body, third page technique Nightworm Venom, and Shadow’s Edge, Harmony’s favored technique.
London waits for Yerin outside the Sundown Pavilion restaurant. When they arrive, the maitre’d apologizes – he hadn’t realized that THEY were the Akura guests tonight. The owners son had just arrived and demanded the Twilight Room before they arrived. Sha Siris hears his name and belligerently tells them to come on up. The man tries to say he’ll to speak to Sha Siris privately, but Yerin grins with a feral edge and says they’ll go up themselves. Sha Siris and most others around the table are Underlords. Siris is drunk, and says they’ll be enfertainment. A woman next to Siris recognizes them and tries to warn Siris, but he ignores her. Siris says there’s a duelling room – if they do well enough, they can join their party! London simply asks if he’d prefer to face them himself or if they should face his friends first. Finally, the other Underlord gets Siris attention. He tries to cover his mistake, poorly, and ushers everyone out. However, London is unsettled – it was Yerin and the Uncrowned they respected and reassured after the gaff. Not him. Nevertheless, he focuses in on not what he lost, but enjoying what he has. And that is a lovely evening with Yerin.
Yan Shoumei of Redmoon Hall is pitted against Blacksword of Redmoon hall. Blacksword makes a good showing, but Yan Shoumei unleashes her Blood Shadow, a fifteen foot tall bear-like monster, with a burst of bloody madra… And it eats him.
Sophara naturally beats her opponent as well, one of Reigan Shen’s. She unleashes an overwhelming onslaught of Dragon’s Breath, nearly on the level of an Overlord, though she has not yet advanced.
The Sage of Red Faith, who has sacrificed most of his identity to his Blood Shadow and its cultivation, spats with the Winter Sage over the right to tutor Yerin. NS breaks up the fight. The Blood Sage argues that because Yerin is using a technique he developed, she is in some ways his disciple. She could revolutionize how people reach Monarch. NS nods once, and punches him. He tells Min Shuei that she will tutor Yerin.
Top eight of the Uncrowned, who all get the Broken Crown construct (symbolic only no extra power) in their soul:
– Brother Aekin of Abyssal Palace (wandering titan)
– Calan Archer of Stormcallers (weeping dragon)
– Yan Shoumei of Redmoon Hall (bleeding phoenix)
– Sopharanatoth (dragons)
Four vs four, politically. They’ll all be taken to receive month of personal training from a Sage. London intends to focus entirely on advancement during the month his friends are gone. He must reach the peak of Underlord and have another revelation to reach Overlord. He’s thinking he’ll head back to BE and put NS hunger techniques to use on a Dreadgod battlefield. Abruptly, NS pulls him aside to test Dross with the oracle construct again. Lindon braves talking to NS, trying to pick his brain about hunger madra, while Dross is being tested.
Outside, the Uncrowned ceremony continues. A Sage with yellow and grey hair and wrinkles appears before Eithan, wearing the blue of the Aurelius family.
Dross is exhausted by the testing, but nevertheless passed and did well. NS demonstrates his hunger technique on a sleeping sacred beast he had stored in his spacial pocket dimension thingy. He shows London the process of siphoning it’s life and cycling to process it. He says it is the Consume technique. If he can master it, he no longer needs advancement resources, only enemies.
Emriss Silentborn report: emriss is subtle and focused on cooperation and information sharing. Implied connection between Emriss and The Silent King (Dreadgod).
London says goodbye to his friends at the cloudship docks before they head out with their Sages. Charity notes that his performance met or exceeded her expectations, and that she intends to provide an appropriate award when she is able. London asks for transportation to and from the Dreadgod battlefield. She says they’ll talk in a few days when she returns. The Winter Sage says goodbye to the Arelius Sage as well, the Sage of a Thousand Eyes or the Oracle Sage. Yerin notes she tried to convince the Winter Sage to take London too, since she’s doubtful the Winter Sage can help her bear Sophara on a month anyway. Min Shuei isn’t amused. London and Yerin share a hug, and a moment. He alllllmost kisses her, but gets self conscious at the last moment feeling the others’ eyes on him. Even Little Blue says goodbye to Yerin, scuttling up to embrace her cheeks. Before the go, Eithan gives London a dream tablet containing the basics of his Hollow King Path for inspiration as well as the Arelius technique library from wayyyyy back on Blackflame. Finally, London asks if Eithan has any tips for overlord. He say to think about the will, significance, and intent behind his three types of madra. What do they have in common? Is there a purpose that unifies everything he can do? Also, how do others see him? What is he to them? These perspectives will help him understand his revelation. London is then left alone on the docks.
Eithan and the Sage of a Thousand Eyes, Cladia, are back in the Arelius homeland. It’s fallen far; even the gatekey they used to travel was costly in terms of budget, which is telling since they really aren’t that expensive to maintain. It means they have very few powerful SAs left. The buildings are a network of underground bunkers now, hidden with scripts that prevent even Eithan from penetrating them from outside. Cladia asks why he’s still an Underlord directly. Largely, it had been to avoid making Naru Huan feel threatened and to wait on London and Yerin. Now that the Abidan are descending and the Dreadgods waking, however, he accedes it’s time to advance to Overlord. Cladia states that Frozen Blade should also get Yerin to Overlord. She also asks if he wants to win. He says that depends on the highest bidder. Charity says he can advance, they’ll have dinner, and then spend the next month hunting. Eithan begins to advance. His relegation: “I see.” It describes who he is, fully. Eithan is one who saw. Overlord soulfire passes through him in a breath, refining and strengthening him. He goes to have dinner.
Later, he explores the remains of his homeland. It is utterly destroyed; ashen ruins and jagged corners due to shitkng earth and the sky having rained down lightning. He tries to remember the pain of his own bad decisions, some of which led to Reigan Shen’s success here, but the scar is too old and deep. He’s numb to the pain, and now is only focused on changing the system.
Reigan Shen appears. They discuss the past and the mistakes made by Tiberius Arelius in how he expected Reigan Shen to act. Further, it’s revealed that Reigan Shen at some point had the opportunity to destroy the Dreadgods – he either had a weapon that could kill them, or could have ascended with one made from them. Shen states he’s never been interested in ascension. His ambition has only ever extended to Cradle. Eithan has to work hard to control his emotions – he’s desperately angry about Reigan Shen’s unwillingness to ascend, destroying the Dreadgods in the process, simply for his own comfort. How can he justify leaving the Dreadgods alive just because he doesn’t want to ascend?
Reigan Shen gets down to business. He’s come to bribe Eithan to bow out of the tournament. Before they start, he notes he’d like a void key to contain the cloudship Shen gave him earlier. Shen claims it was an oversight, though Eithan has his doubts. He hands one over immediately, an ornate golden ring. Eithan asks for financial support and protection for House Arelius. Shen agrees immediately, even putting his Herald Yushi at the service of Cladia for a year and providing a restoration package of a billion scales. Eithan also asks for attention from the Rootfather, the Herald of the green dragons named Garrylondryth, and a guarantee of behavior from him, to assist with the state of his homeland. His mission ks restorkng the natural world after clashes of great powers. However, he has a grudge against Fury and Northstrider. Reigan Shen agrees. Eithan’s also requests is to ensure that the BE is evacuated before the danger of the Dreadgods. Shen gives an outline for a plan to respect Malice’s evacuation efforts. Finally, Eithan asks for help with his advancement as either House Arelius nor BE can fund him from here. Shen agrees to sponsor him to Herald. He also asks for the Soulforge. Shen agrees, reluctantly, stating it is the last concession he’ll make.
Report Tiberius Arelius: Path of the Raging Sky, water, wind, light madra. Extremely competent and perfect when young. Previous Arelius Monarch ascended to make room for him, pleased to leave it in good hands. He kept peace with their neighbor, House Shen, until his youngest advisor used relics from the tomb of the founding Patriarch of House Arelius to embark on a new mission: destroying the Dreadgods. He approached his neighbor, Reigan Shen, for an alliance. Shen responded with violence. This Monarch battle destroyed most of the Rosegold Continent. Even the Weeping Dragon was drawn in. Ultimately Tiberius was struck down.
Charity and Mercy work on mastering the fifth page of the Book of Eternal Night. Each page holds a mental and spiritual space created by Malice. This one is a dark, vast cavern of nightmares. The Dream of Darkness technique attacks heart, mind, and soul as one. She must endure the fear first before she can control and weaponize it.
Yerin is at the Frozen Blade school and very unhappy with it. It’s snow and ice and wind and horribly unpleasant. Only Truegolds on the Path of the Frozen Blade can even visit without freezing to death. She’s also uncomfortable with the way the Winter Sage acts so familiar, almost like family, with her. She enters a room with the Sage, who is nursing an injured baby bunny back to health. She asks if Yerin would like to hold it. Grudgingly, she says that yes, yes she would. It’s cute. She presents Yerin’s training schedule, and is shocked to discover that Yerin doesn’t know how to read. She exclaims she’ll bring in some literacy tablets. Yerin asks for tips on developing her Sage powers, her authority. Being a Sage means contacting a greater power, a symbol of a greater concept of reality they call an Icon. She’s already touched the Sword Icon. The first step is to become a symbol of swordsmanship. The Winter Sage can touch. Oth the Winter Icon and the Sword Icon. Sages and Monarchs can command the world directly, but only in ways related to their Icons. The scope of that is their authority. Min Shuei encourages Yerin to starve her Blood Shadow, viewing it as a distraction, and saying it may prevent her from becoming the next Sword Sage. Yerin, however, sees it as power and a chance to win, though she’s uncertain.
She develops her Sage sense through battle, honing her abilities. After successfully defeating a Remnant that had been causing a village trouble, she’s approached by The Blood Sage and his students. He again attempts to convince her to follow on his footsteps. She blasts him with a Final Sword, which he stops – but he’s delighted by it’s power, saying her will is far more developed than an Underlady should be capable of. The Winter Sage noticed The Blood Sage at that point, however, and he bounds off. She challenges Yan Shoumei and Calan Archer, but they defer saying they aren’t her enemies. She states that Dreadgod cultists are enemies to anyone with eyes, but they respond saying that not everyone has a family to foot the bill for training. If you’re born in the gutter, there are few options. They don’t support the deaths caused by Dreadgods, they just use their madra. It’s a way to improve without spending a fortune. Yan Shoumei doesn’t even view the Blood Sage as her Master; she dislikes hmm, and aims to no longer need him. She’s devoted herself to protecting a city. She also reveals she has an enemy – possibly associated with the BE. They also say that they aren’t even here to kill or recruit her. They genuinely just wanted to meet her. They also don’t even care that Yerin wants to kill the Blood Sage; in fact, Calan says his is even worse than the Blood Sage. Yerin starts to think they might be able to get along.
That night, the Blood Shadow escapes her soul while she sleeps. She awakens to find that it’s gotten into her advancement treasures and is eating her food. Further, she spies a bloody bandage on the ground. It’s stolen the baby bunny.
But… Rather than having hurt it, the Blood Shadow says it, too, wanted a chance to hold it. It also says it doesn’t want to be alone. It would rather lose together than win alone. Yerin rejects it, however, and says shells sink or swim without it, and marches off to practice connecting to the Sword Icon.
London experiments with the Consume technique in the Ninecloud hunting grounds. He fails at first, but refines it with Dross. He so reads The Seven Principles of Pure Madra, which was mentioned in the GW facility dream tablet for soul cloak, as Ninecloud library had a copy. He aims to adapt the Heart of Twin Stars core split technique into a filter for madra and to create a pure madra boundary field that disrupts techniques within but flooding an area with pure madra.
Charity arrives dressed as a peasant worker with a stained smock, hair tied with a rag. This is familiar to London, but he can’t place from where. For his reward, he asks transportation to the Dreadgod battlefield between Uncrowned marches. She said she’d been planning to give him the inheritance of an Archlord Soulsmith. An incredibly detailed dream tablet of the sun total of their knowledge. It’s a hard choice, but he still takes transportation. She also reveals that there is a balance within the world such that it is dangerous to have too many people of certain levels at one time. If an Archlord shows signs of advancement and they believe it would upset the balance, they encourage them to ascend.
They reach the Wandering Titan. It has crushed a town beneath it’s hand as it slowly crawls from the ocean, still not yet awakened fully. London is placed with the Seishen King Dakata, whose son he killed, much to his dismay. He sneaks out to hunt dreadbeasts and take bindings for bounties, and continues to work on his Consume technique. With Little Blue’s help, he manages to filter the madra correctly. Pure to his core, life to his lifeline, blood to his blood, etc. Little Blue is delighted to be helpful. He also works with her on his boundary field technique, which is still rough and not yet working correctly. A major roadblock is his unwillingness to risk Little Blue’s safety or health, which she’s frustrated by as she feels she can do more.
Fury announces the bounty system now that Abyssal Palace is arriving soon. He places London a team with Grace, Pride, and Naru Saeya. He’s not thrilled to be alongside the Akuras, given that historically they’ve not much cared for him. Pride explains how bounty points work after insulting London, though after seeing him fight he’s a lot more willing to work with him – especially since he thinks he’ll be paired up with Mercy romantically in the end. The bounty rewards include Diamond Veins and more – and he wants them. He immediately goes into command mode, separating everyone out onto teams of two to maximize point acquisition. Saeya compliments him on his leadership and confidence, saying he should act like that more often. Yerin would love it.
He even recruits a thief who tried to con Saeya out of some bindings to help them get points.
While hunting, he’s ambushed by Prince Daji, who is still holding a grudge after Prince Kiro’s death. He disables him quickly with Pure Madra and steals his armor. He yells at Daji, unleashing pent up frustration. He NEVER wanted to kill Kiro, but he was backed into a corner. He lets Daji go. Pride approves, saying it’s better to put enemies I’m your debt than to kill them.
Abyssal Palace has arrived on the battlefield. Masks of it’s acolytes are, of course, worth points. There are floating towers spread out designed to catch and store Dreadgod madra with multiple acolytes at each. London targets them. He doesn’t kill them all, as they goal is simply to slow them, not eradicate them, and too much attention would mean they get targeted in turn by AP Overlords or their Herald. However, he also uses his hunger arm to Consume part of their power. His team is on equal measures disturbed and desiring to learn for themselves.
He pushes himself hard each day, never stopping for rest, until his team gently forces to. They set up dinner right outside his workspace, where he’s altering his old Skysworn armor, so he can’t bow out.
Later, he goes up against one of Abyssal Palace’s strongest Underlords, and older man named Maraan. He attempts to take Pride hostage, but London sends him back with a gatestone. He ends up using his prototype armor: Maraan escapes at the minute and is convinced he gave up his life and damaged his spirit to do so, bit London simply shrugs it off after. After, Pride is angry at London for using the gatestone; he’d not been in any danger as his bloodline armor would have protected him.
They have enough points for the Diamond Veins, which Pride holds on to for the moment since they agreed to wait to divvy up prizes until the competition is over.
Charity speaks to him before they head back to Ninecloud Court. She tells him that Malice has instructed them to tie London to the family. She mentions that Grace is eligible for marriage, and that London would be allowed to marry her. On fact, Grace had brought it up and is more than willing. London, however, admits he’s only interested in Yerin. Charity had suspected as much, but had still hoped he wasn’t too attached.
Back at Ninecloud Court, he’s summoned by NS. NS reinforces that he’ll be an important player in the future, and suspects he’ll reach Overlord in a matter of weeks. After, he tries to visit Yerin, but is blocked by security measures. The contestants have been separated for the duration of the fifth round.
Report: Eight Man Empire, wandering conquerors, and collective Monarch. All of Eight Man Empire are on separate Paths. Monarchs are people who have advanced to both Sage and Monarch. The goal here was to link Sages and Heralds through a network of Divine Treasures. This is the only instance of this working and the SAs not being torn apart by their own spirits. Abidan intervention in their suit creation is suspected.
Eithan “duels” Yan Shoumei in the next Uncrowned match. It’s best two of three. Eithan flamboyantly throws the match, having a ridiculously outfit and Remnant revenue. He owes a favor to Malice for allowing the joke now, which he’s not overly pleased by. Yan Shoumei is pissed, as the match made her look bad – as though Eithan could have destroyed her but chose not to. After the match, she gently probes his spirit… And realizes he’s advanced to Overlord.
Ziel faces Brother Aekin of Abyssal Palace. House Arelius has offered him an elixir created by Tiberius Arelius, the Pure Storm Baptism, which can also heal some of his damage and restore him to Underlord. Combined with Emriss elixir, he might even be able to advance again. Still, he struggles to find motivation for the fight. He loses the first match, but discovers a hidden well of motivation going into the second. Losing was more frustrating than expected. Unfortunately, just as he’s about to win, his spirit fails him. The damage overcomes his determination, and he loses.
Eithan approaches him after. He tells him that *he* can perform the Pure Storm Baptism – his private garden is being prepared, a refiner is in the works, and he has scales to power it. He tells Ziel he’ll pay up front with the Pure Storm Baptism in exchange for a year of service as an employee. Ziel thinks it is too good to be true, and says no…. But he keeps the scroll Eithan tosses him. Eithan says to let him know if he changes his mind.
Mercy is preparing to face Sophara. A lot is riding on her win: showing the Heralds that the Akura clan is stronger than the gold dragons, meaning they’ll stop them from reinforcing Sky’s Edge; the Eight Man Empire will support Malice; proving Charity’s faith correct and saving lives. And… She just wants to win.
Sophara, meanwhile is making her own preparations. She carries Ekeri’s Remnant in her void key, feeding her scales and intending to develop the Remnant until it has full awareness. She intends to treat it as family. Seshethkunaaz visits her, telling her to fight all out; Mercy is an honorable opponent, and win or lose, he’ll be proud. But he’s prefer she win and be raised up as his third Herald.
Mercy easily wins the first match, using the Darktide Incantation. Sophara is pissed and shocked. She uses the break between matches to advance to Overlady, ignoring the damage to her spirit.
Sophara wins the second march, but only by a hair. Mercy used her book to temporarily advance to Overlady and used the more powerful nightmare inducing Dream of Darkness, throwing Sophara off. All rests on the third match now.
Mercy unleashes the full power of her bow. Not Suu, now, but Eclipse, Ancient Bow of the Soulseeker. Two hundred violet arrows of shadow, force, and destruction. But it’s not enough. Not quite. Sophara survives it, and lashes out with her whip, killing Mercy.
Now, it all comes down to Yerin.
Mercy is broken up over the fight, but attempts to keep her head up. London breaks through the Ninecloud defences (with a little sneaky help, outside his knowledge, from Malice) to come say he’s sorry she lost. She has a good cry on his shoulder. She’d really wanted to win.
Yerin has a similar idea to London, bashing her own way in.
Calan Archer is preparing himself mentally for his fight with Yerin. He wants to win not for politics, but for his own sake. He steps into the ring to fight; he attempts using his trump card, spatially transferring behind her, but Yerin had been prepared by the Winter Sage for that. She slices his head off.
In the break, Yerin tells Min Shuei she felt the Sword Icon for the first few seconds. However, breaking his first attack had broken her concentration. In Min Shuei’s estimation, it’s amazing she can hold onto it even a little at Underlord. Extraordinary, even. Normally, Sage’s don’t sense their Icon until Archlord.
London breaks in to see her too and wishes her well. The Ninecloud Soul isn’t pleased, saying they thought the additional security measures would have taught him a lesson. London, being London, thanks the Ninecloud Soul as he did indeed learn a lot.
In the second match, Yerin fails to touch the Sword Icon, but does accidentally let her Blood Shadow slip out. Her Blood Shadow looks nearly human now, other than its ruby eyes and bright red hair. Yerin uses the binding in her Master’s sword to freeze everything in the arena with sharp, icy madra that restricts and slices Calan. Together, she and her Blood Shadow overpower him. Her Blood Shadow draws power from his wounds, to Yerin’s horror. She hasn’t allowed it to feed directly this way, not since it killed her parents. She attempts to kill it with her Endless Sword, but it cancels her technique with its own Endless Sword. In the end, she kills Calan to end its meal. She wins.
Min Shuei and Mercy argue over whether the Blood Shadow is a liability while London comforts her over it. Adama, he says, would simply be proud she won.
Charity arrives and tells London he’ll be going back to the Dreadgod battlefield immediately with Fury. Charity and Min Shuei will focus all their combined attention on Yerin. The Blood Shadow fights inside Yerin, and Min Shuei insists it be sealed. Charity, however, overrules her: it needs to be improved given what a huge advantage it is, and it’s excellent willpower training.
Malice calls Mercy in to discuss her loss. She opens portals allowing the entire Akura clan to witness it. She tells Mercy she is a disappointment, dragged her name through the mud, and let her down. She will dedicate her mind and soul to repaying this debt, or she will lose the right to call herself Malice’s daughter. Mercy hangs her head. All she can say is Yes, Mother.
Eithan, Mercy, and London accompany Fury to the battlefield. They use portals and Eithan’s cloudship. Fury has taken a dislike to him; he doesn’t like those who give up.
He talks to Merch again about the battle. She views him as someone who never gives up, and says she’s surprised when London says he could never beat her. Dross and Mercy both tell him that he’s like a different person when he’s fired up, showing him how he changed from unmotivated to ready to battle Yerin during their fight.
When they reach the battlefield, there’s more chaos than expected. Redmoon Hall and the dragons are there in addition to Abyssal Palace. They’re there to position themselves to secure the labyrinth assuming Yerin loses, and have enough force to retreat without reprisal if necessary and Yerin wins. London is determined to improve himself enough to help here, and there’s only one way available to him right now at this moment.
He makes a bind with little blue, opening his core to her. She solemnly agrees and finishes the contract. She becomes more solid, more defined, and grows to a foot tall when his power crashes into her. Lindon’s own pure core carries a touch of her cleansing, emptying aspect now. Little Blue chimes a victory note, excited to finally help him.
On the ground, the Underlords and Golds are enacting a series of duels against one another. The Seishen and Akura Underlords are broken and bloody; this is just am excuse to mock and beat them up now. They’ve already had a handful of Gold deaths. London and co arrive – london proposes to fight with the winner taking whatever is on the loser’s person. His void key is at stake. Juvari, a dream artist who was previously in the Uncrowned Tournament, takes off her valuables and steps into the ring. She begins weaving dream aura, but London punches through and grabs her throat with his hunger arm. And begins draining her. He leaves her alive – but barely. It’ll take expensive treatment to return her to fighting shape. London asks who’s next.
After that, they blast London until he’s forced to retreat. He’s ruined their game. Pride, grudgingly admiring, gives London the Diamond Veins saying there’s no one else on the team who can out them to better use. London sincerely thanks him. It’ll take him three days to process the Veins, and then he’s going hunting.
They all escape on Eithan’s ship, including the injured.
Yerin is opening up her prizes for reaching top four. Emriss Silentborn has given her a sword codex containing the memories of thousands of sword artists. The Arelius gave her a dream tablet with a soulfire control art. The Eight-Man Empire gives her a construct to help her concentration and decision making. From the dragons, she receives a madra engine. She’s disgusted; it’s been made with the Pure Remnants of human children. However, it will convert life and blood essense to madra mkre quickly, meaning her spirit refills her core faster. Sophara has one. But it eats into her lifespan – and would eat Yerin’s even faster. It’s valuable, but useless. Yerin is angry, but Charity notes that their gift to Sophara was also “carefully” selected. The Ninecloud Court gives her a Heart-Piercer Fruit, which is the last elixir for life or blood essense she’ll ever need. Further, she’s told her next opponent will be Yan Shoumei of Redmoon Hall. She eats the fruit immediately. From Northstrider, she receives the gift of time. A pocket universe at slower speed. It will support three to five people for one day; within it, thirty six days will pass. There is a full training course for Yerin within.
The Blood Sage arrives to give his gift in person. He’s gifting on behalf of Reigan Shen. He gives her a Heart’s Gem, an ultimate source of blood aura. It is condense blood of a Redmoon Herald who was once his own Blood Shadow. He tells her not to trust her Blood Shadow; his betrayed him. He fused with his Blood Shadow instead of his Remnant to become a Herald, but his Blood Shadow fled to become a Herald in it’s own right and they could no longer become one to become a Monarch. He tells her not to fuse with hers until she’s a Sage.
Yerin insults him until he leaves because he’s very elitist about her following in his footsteps. Charity offers to help her with better insults for next time.
Inside NS pocket world, she’s attempting to find her Overlord revelation. It’s frustrating, and nothing she tries quite works. The pocket world is small, but has several resources of sword aura plus a dream and spirit well like in Ghostwater. She’s still not quite at the peak of Underlord, so even if she finds her revelation she can’t advance quite yet… But she’s close. Meanwhile, Min Shuei is training the Blood Shadow – she’s ruthless and insults it, still filled with hatred.
Now that Yerin has processed the Heart-Piercer Fruit, Charity recommends using the madra engine as they balance each other out. However, she warns that pushing to Overlord so fast with so much fast growth will make it difficult to reach Archlord. Even if she manifests the Sword Icon, she won’t become a full Sage – unless she wins, and the Monarchs reverse the injury.
Yerin weighs her choices. She’s afraid that London would leave her behind if she were damaged, despite knowing he’d never rest until he found a solution and would never abandon her. Nevertheless, she chooses to use the madra engine. She’s the last hope to prevent the Dreadgods from being allowed to rampage through BE and Sacred Valley. Charity pushes the madra engine into her chest.
She cycles after. To her surprise, the Blood Shadow sits next to her to cycle on its own – and is using the Sword Codex dream tablet. She taunts it, asking if it plans to beat her to Sage. She says she, personally, intends to win a tournament. Her madra freezes in her veins when it respond in a perfect echo of her own speach: “Well, cheers and celebrations for you.” It’s developing.
Sophara feels the toll on her spirit. The symbiote veins and madra engine are wearing her channels thin, and she feels unstable as an Overlord. If she doesn’t win, she’ll begin falling apart and likely die within ten years. She soothes herself with Ekeri’s Remnant, but it only does so much. She’s still fueled by her anger and rage, but there’s a lot ouch of fear too.
Most of the gifts she’s received for top four have been lovely. An opulent pocket world from the Arelius, a Tear of the Deep that produces water aura from Eight Man Empire, etc. NS however sent her a second droplet of Ghostwater with a note: “this is the prize your sister failed to win.” The Akura clan… Well. They sent her a life size statue of Ekeri crafted by the Heart Sage herself. Sophara tore it apart with her bare hands.
The Akura clan and allies are holed up in a fortress. Because Fury is there, the dragons won’t attack directly, but they train them from the walls. Daji is antsy, so when an assignment to wipe out a nearby Abyssal Palace tower comes up for points, he jumps at the chance and takes five allies with him. When he arrives, he discovers a few dragons who raise a fuss, but enters anyway hoping to clear it before dragon reinforcements arrive. Inside, he finds london has already cleared the Abyssal Palace acolytes. Daji is thrilled, though: he has the upper hand with five other Underlords, and he intends to attack London now. Meira, unexpectedly, stops his attack. She apologizes to London and asks him to let Daji go. London is surprised + he expected her to be the one coming for his head. Meira responds saying that they are not all idiots blinded by revenge. Daji, feeling Lindon’s Blackflame core and his immense spiritual presence, is abruptly overcome by fear. Meira promises to keep a leash on Daji, and London states that of he attacks again he’ll have no choice. The dragons outside begin retreating; they were in the tournament and remember London. London uses void dragons Dance to destroy the tower, though he leaves acolytes alive and intact – albeit barely.
On their way back, Daji tries to say London made a deal with the dragons and that’s why they didn’t attack. Meira reprimands him for being an idiot. Daji attacks her in anger, and she sweeps his feet from under him and disables him almost instantly.
Back at Ninecloud Court, an Abidan Hound summons the Monarchs. But only some; NS, Malice, Seshethkunaaz, and Reigan Shen. Kiuran has come to moderate a bargain. The Monarchs are pushing at his instructions not to interfere with the tournament with the way they’ve been positioning their SAs elsewhere, like the Dreadgod battlefield. The four agree to bind themselves within the city and limit the actions of the Heralds and Sages until the tournament ends.
This means that London, Eithan, and Mercy are trapped in the fortress. Yerin is furious and afraid for them, trying to convince Charity to save them. Charity explains she can’t – but Yerin can. By winning her next two matches.
She’s set to fight Yan Shoumei and her bestial Blood Shadow next.
They face one another in the arena. Yerin summons her Blood Shadow, and Yan Shoumei unleashes Crusher. Crusher is unique; usually, SAs will raise theirs as a weapon or shifting tool. Yan Shoumei originally did this, but used blood from Ghostwater to enhance hers into a separate, bestial creature. He’s has no Sacred arts, but he does have overwhelming physical power. With him, Yan Shoumei wins the first match.
Back in the waiting room, Yerin’s Blood Shadow argues with her – yelling that THAT is the power they could have if Herjn wasn’t afraid of her. Charity encourages them to cooperate. If they don’t, they’ll lose. Min Shuei, on the other hand, tells her to break it down for power. Yerin thinks back on the actual actions of the Shadow. Fighting with her to save London, saying her from Meira’s scythe, and slipping out in the night to change the bandages of a wounded animal. She tells the Shadow is needs a name. They settle on Ruby. They’re in this together now.
In the second match, Yerin activates the Archlord binding in her sword while Ruby covers her. Crusher and Yan Shoumei are frozen, and Ruby uses the binding in the sword Yerin took from the treasure vaults in round two on Charity’s advice: Netherclaw, a black sword with a murderous Forger binding. It forms a bloody claw that swipes down with Archlord power. Yan Shoumei is defeated.
The third round is a near thing, as Yan Shoumei reveals her own Archlord weapon. A bow that shoots Silver and red aura that shreds it’s targets form the inside out. Ruby saves Yerin from it by pushing Crusher into it’s path, but she’s annihilated in the process as well. Yerin takes her chance and slices Yan Shoumei’s throat with an Endless Sword.
After the battle, she’s returned to Malice’s chambers rather than the waiting room. Malice explains Shen was trying to contact her, so she brought her here instead. Shen intended to attempt bribing her to lose, though Yerin mistakenly assumes he would be out for revenge.
They chat briefly about what Yerin must do to win against Sophara (advance or fully manifest the Sword Icon). Malice notes it used to be more common to become a Sage earlier, though that was back when Paths had a much lower survival rate. Yerin, realizing Malice life is in her hands due to Penance, chooses to confront Malice on her treatment of Mercy. Malice says that the Akura name is greater than any one part. She’d sacrifice anh of them for the good of the family, though it would tear her heart out. She also tells Yerin that if she loses… She’ll have to face Malice’s disappointment. Yerin responds saying she’ll bring everything she has, but not because her life is on the line. Because she’s thinking of London, Eithan, and Mercy.
Malice gives one last piece of advice. To manifest the Sword Icon, she needs needs to symbolize swordsmanship in her own right, not be a copy of her Master. She asks: what is *your* signature? She recommends meditating on it. Further, if Yerin wins, she’ll be granted status as though she’s Mercy’s sister if she wins and can even marry into the head family if she desires. Malice will grant her every wish, as long as she doesn’t fail. Yerin says she might take her up on that… But she’s seen what Malice thinks of her daughters.
Sophara, of course, obliterates Brother Aekin and moves on to the final round against Yerin.
Prizes are given prior to the final round. Yerin receives The Moonlight Bridge, which allows near-instant transportation anywhere in the world. However, it can only move Yerin, and can’t be used in quick succession. If she moves a long distance, it can take days before she can use it again. However, within sight, it can be used nearly as much as she likes.
Sophara receives the Totem of the Dragon King, a projection of the Dragon King that has some measure of his spirit and authority. It exerts only as much power as Sophara can control.
Ruby is thrilled by the Moonlight Bridge and wants to try it immediately. Yerin ks more cautious, wanting to try it with the Sages. Ruby wants to go to London. Ruby’s begun to develop her own feelings for London, independent of Yerin; he pulled her out of Yerin’s spirit and has been alongside her this whole time, even when she was still more fully bound to Yerin. Yerin is unhappy about it, but thinks they need to train with the Bridge and prepare for the final battle. Ruby disagrees… And activates the Bridge independently, transporting just herself to London.
London, meanwhile, has been fighting dragons on the Frontline, using his Consume technique to grow ever stronger. At this point, his cores have both reached their limits; near as he can tell, he’s reached the peak of what an Underlord can reach. Now, he just needs his Overlord revelation. He meditates on what unifies his madra aspects, trying to discover what makes them all united. Pure, Blackflame, and Hunger. Blackflame devours material, pure madra devours spirit, and hunger devours everything… But he senses there’s something deeper to it all.
His meditation is interrupted by the arrival of Ruby. At first, he thinks Yerin has been taken over, and a sick feeling grows in his gut. He asks what she’s done to Yerin. She swears she has done nothing – and she says Yerin stayed back to train. Once the news comes about the tournament, she says it will confirm that. Dross, further, says it’s not Yerin’s body; if she’d taken her over, she’d be more solid. London notices Ruby’s nerves and lack of confidence, and feels bad for her despite himself – and curious too. He takes the opportunity to ask her about Hunger madra, as she’s a being made from both the Blood and Hunger madra of the Bleeding Phoenix. She notes that it’s something that can’t be filled up – or it’s not hunger any more. It’s always greedy for more. She also recommends he ask the Titan. He’s sleeping not too far away.
London goes to speak with Fury, who’s been napping and bored as hell on the fortress roof. Pride, Mercy, and Ruby (who’s stuck to Lindon’s side since arriving, sometimes literally) joined him, wanting to see what comes of this crazy request. He asks for permission to drain madra from the Wandering Titan. Fury, however, says no; the will of the Wandering Titan is too strong, and he thinks even a tiny bit would leave him “drooling on the floor.” London tries to argue, but Fury gives a demonstration: focusing his own spiritual pressure onto London. The others are pushed away, but London stands strong. Much like when he opened the Way portal to Northstrider, his concentration narrows down to just his struggle to push. When it stops, he’s on his knees, drenched in sweat. Fury cheerfully announces that he was wrong, and says London can recover tonight and head out in the morning. He also gives London dream tablets of Yerin’s battle again Yan Shoumei to study.
Yerin, alone, continues meditating on her Overlord revelation. Min Shuei duels her, pushing her, telling her to follow in her Master’s footsteps. He’s the reason she’s alive. She has his Path, his sword, his Remnant, his clothes. And when Yerin pushes back, yelling that she’s not him and not trying to be, her spirit flickers. The Winter Sage goes pale, and tells her to cycle, immediately. She advances to Overlord. She’s disheartened by her revelation, shaken that not being someone else was so important to her. She feels numb.
Ruby follows London into his room. Little Blue dislikes her, chiming warnings at London. London gives her the bed, and very, very firmly states he’ll be on the floor. Ruby asks him to make sure she doesn’t skip back to Yerin, but London prevaricates on answering, saying she’ll have to go back eventually.
She sleeps fitfully, awakening to a nightmare where she was back in the dark. London comforts her, holding her hand. At dawn, she bolts up – saying Yerin’s an Overlady now. Ruby isn’t yet, until she goes back.
As they prepare to depart to the Wandering Titan, Eithan appears, saying his invitation must have been waylaid. London simply states he assumed Eithan would be along. Pride tags along as well, and naturally Fury, Mercy, and Ruby were specifically invited. Ruby is excited to be on her own, and to have an independent identity, though she mentions she still shares nearly everything with Yerin. But only nearly.
Soon, they reach the Wandering Titan. He absorbs a tiny spark from it, and is swept into its thoughts. It sleeps now, but has nearly shaken free of sleep. He’s hungry for the powers he feels in the earth, but further: he wants to go home, to his brother tucked away between four peaks. Subject One.
London fights free. Dreadbeasts fight around him, held back by his friends. He’s terrified; the Dreadgods home and his home, Sacred Valley, are the same. He passes out.
He awakens in a medical area with everyone around him. Dross says it had felt like he was dead, but he’s recovering fine now. He reports that the Titan is heading east, won’t be distracted, and could wake within a week. Mercy says everyone is being evacuated and that it’s fine, but Dross states that Lindon’s home won’t be – it’s designated a special danger zone and is illegal to enter even for evacuation purposes. Eithan promises they’ll reach Sacred Valley to help before the Dreadgods do. London decides to trust him.
Ruby says she needs to go back now that the Bridge has recovered. She says goodbye, but before she goes… She kisses London. London is deeply uncomfortable, and apologizes to her. She’s not Yerin. He wants Yerin, not Ruby.
Ruby forces a smile, painfully hurt and confused. She says goodbye, and goes.
Reigan Shen father’s Calan Archer, Yan Shoumei, and Brother Aekin. He says they’ve done him and their masters proud. No matter who wins, three of the Uncrowned belongs to Reigan Shen. He has one final assignment. He gives them each a gatekey, which will take them to Malice’s youngest children. He tells them they are to kill them. They’ll be accompanied by Overlords, and an agent will contact them when Merch and Pride are isolated. The Sage of Red Faith will lead the expedition, and Reigan Shen will hold Malice. This is revenge for Malice’s interference when he attempted to bribe Yerin, and has nothing to do with Penance. When they return, he offers anything they desire. Yan Shoumei can have Anagi’s head on a plate. Calan can have the city he grew up in, Rak Jagga. He will heal Brother Aekin’s master’s injury.
Sophara’s spirit continues to decay. Cracks in her channels are hair thin, but will widen over time. She’s not weaker – yet – and her performance in the next battle will be extraordinary. She believes wholeheartedly that she will win.
Yerin and Ruby walk side by side to the waiting room, arguing over her disappearance. Yerin is immensely frustrated all around, but Ruby makes the point she might not have advance with her there. They focus in on preparing for the battle.
Sophara walks out with smug confidence. Yerin and Ruby want to wipe it off her face. It will be the best of five matches, and the winner will receive both Penance and be granted one request by the collected Monarchs.
They fight. Yerin and Ruby hold their own, the battle turns in their favor, and Yerin touches the Sword Icon – but loses concentration. Sophara takes the opening to slice her head off. Match one goes to Sophara.
Charity and Min Shuei tell her she must either master the Sword Icon, or not use it. Yerin intends to master it. She feels it on the second match, even more closely, but is just a hair off beat. Match two goes to Sophara.
Charity and Min Shuei argue over whether to continue trying for the Sword Icon. Yerin feels Ruby’s despair – she asks a moment alone with her. She asks Ruby whether she could win if she swallowed up Yerin’s spirit and body, thinking NS could split them again after. She’s afraid, but willing. Ruby says no, not certain it could be done. And… london would hate her for it. That answer enrages Yerin, and she asks what RUBY wants. Ruby says she just wants everybody to live.
Yerin proposes a different plan: combining like Heralds do with their Remnants. The Blood Sage wanted them to do it at Archlord, but they could do it now. Ruby looks back at Yerin. She’s in. They’re both afraid, but they’re more afraid of losing. They clasp hands.
Their spirits fight each other, despite their shared willingness. It’s not easy, and their madra acts instinctually. It’s a spar and a balance. Soon, their wills snap into place. The both want the same things. Red and silver madra flow together through her channels in reversed directions. Then, Min Shuei bursts in, furious. She says STOP with authority, and they freeze, afraid she’ll separate them. But then the push against her authority, and it snaps. Their madra flows again, but min Shuei tries again too. Charity forces Min Shuei to stop.
They begin again. Ruby’s memories, and her regret that her time is done, flow into Yerin…. And then it’s her grief and regret. And soon, they are one. Her body tears itself apart, and she Forgets herself back together. But there are some choices to make. She keeps her hair mostly black, but with a red stripe. Her eyes remain Ruby’s red. Her Goldsign is a bright scarlet. She could make other changes, but she’s happy with her body now.
The Monarchs take notice. Charity and Min Shuei are shocked.
She remembers both being Yerin and being Ruby, but they both feel like her. She isn’t really on the Path of the Endless Sword anh more, and she can’t sense the Sword Icon at all – but her madra feels boundless. She moves into the arena. It takes her a single leap to reach NS from the waiting room.
NS notes that there is an issue. During the Uncrowned King Tournament, there is a rule against advancing past Overlord. Archlords cannot compete, nor can Heralds. But Yerin hasn’t advanced. Until now, there was no such thing as an Overlord Herald. NS quirks into a small smile.
The Monarchs vote whether to allow her to compete, as she would certainly win unless disqualified. It is a tie. NS calls for Kiuran’s judgement. The Hound says to let them fight it out.
NS doesn’t allow Yerin to cycle leading up to the start. If she starts at the same time, the fight will be too short. They begin. She cuts Sophara in half seconds into the battle.
NS notes she’s not a true Herald without Archlord power, but she’s certainly more than any other Overlord. He also says the Dragon King is quite displeased.
London, meanwhile is stressing over Yerin’s battle and lacking information on how it’s going. The first message arrives saying Sophara won two fights and there’s a delay in the third. London is crushed. The dragons outside the fortress cheer. The Akura have an emergency evacuation portal, and are preparing to use it.
Then, moments later, another message arrives. It was so fast it can only mean one thing: Sophara annihilated Yerin. But that’s not the case.
Yerin has won the Uncrowned King Tournament.
Reigan Shen begins setting his plan against Pride and Mercy in motion. The dragons outside the fortress prepare their own retreat.
Fury continues taunting the dragons, including Xorrus, and London fears he’ll get them killed. But then… He touches the Strength Icon. He shakes reality with the authority of a Sage. Fury is ascending to Monarch. He and the other three Heralds do battle.
Report: Malice. Path of Eternal Night. Whole she created Path of Seven Pages, she herself has no book. Her only goal is to remove all threats to her family. Protect the weak by father j der her banner.
The Monarchs negotiate who will Ascend. Seshethkunaaz is seething. Reigan Shen puts up a good facade. Malice taunts Sesh, saying she remembers him destroying the Rising Earth sect. She laughs, and a power grows in the distance. Seshethkunaaz attacks her, and they teleport away to do battle.
NS challenges Reigan Shen after. He uses his black orb, his oracle codex. His experimental Presence, to similate a combat report on Reigan Shen. It has taken Dross to complete it. NS uses both the Dragon and Strength Icons in the battle.
Sophara is panicked. How can she dig herself out of this hole? She’s failed. Then, the Blood Sage appears before her, saying they’re going to kill Mercy and Pride – and if she helps, Reigan Shen can extend her life. She accepts.
Battle rages between Fury and the Heralds. Chaos breaks out below, and London finds himself fighting for his life while evacuation proceeds. He notices Pride and Mercy fighting across the roof. He goes to join them, but then… Seishen Daji pills something out and drops it before Mercy. Reigan Shen’s assassination team. London runs, but Eithan is faster. The group disappears before London makes it.
Eithan finds himself in a wide open room, still close enough to hear the Monarchs and Heralds battling, but far enough away they are isolated. All but Eithan retreat up the tower’s stairs. Eithan drops his veil: Archlord. The Blood Sage uses his authority, but Eithan pushes back. The other Underlords and Sophara follow the others upstairs to do battle. Eithan and the blood Sage are alone. Their spirits clash.
London, back in the other roof, studies the teleportation anchor. He sweeps the area with his perception and feels a strange sort of “bump” in the air. It reminds him of a spatial crack. He pushes against it, desperate. It starts to open.
On the other side, Eithan battles with the Blood Sage. So far, he’s not winning, but he’s still holding something back. He feels London trying to drill through, and adds his will to Lindon’s. London tumbles through.
Eithan creates a distraction, allowing him to run up the stairs for the others. First, he runs into Brother Aekin, who is attempting to finish off a wounded Naru Saeya. He’s trainee against Aekin’s projection seventh five times. He destroys him in seconds. He takes the Uncrowned Construct from his Remnant tossing it in his void key.
Next, he runs into Calan Archer. He’s trained against him thirty eight times. A Hollow Domain and Wavedancer annihilate him. Using Consume on the Remnant, he feels what the Hollow Domain had felt like to him: absolute emptiness. Death of the spirit.
London can feel Mercy above, and hurries forward. Yan Shoumei comes down to meet him, unleashing Crusher, who turns and runs on sensing Lindon’s arm. London jumps on him, Consuming him. Yan Shoumei has already gone, though the small bit of red remaining flows back in her direction.
London reaches the top, greeted by Akura Grace’s body. Her Remnant is slowly dissolving. Her death weighs on him, as do Courage and Douji’s. They’re dead because he’d been standing too far away. Nearby, Pride is swaying on his feet, left arm mangled. He faces two Redmoon Overlords. London has Dross distract them with a projection, and he destroys them. He brings out Little Blue to do what she can for Pride.
Finally, he teachers Mercy and Sophara. Sophara presses down on Mercy with the Dragon King’s Totem, and Mercy is releasing arrows in retaliation. Mercy is on her last legs; he tells her to go back to Pride.
London faces Sophara alone. He has trained again her six hundred and forth times.
Yerin watches Malice and Seshethkunaaz fight, standing alongside Kiuran. She asks why he’s not aiming to keep civilians out of their fight; Kiuran says she’ll understand when she Ascends that nothing happening to those people effects anything real. She’d like to put a sword through him. Kiuran casually hands her Penance. He says she has to use it now; letting it sit here would be too much disruption. She asks to be shown Sophara.
London fights Sophara. He’s thinking, throughout the battle. He’s holding his own, stronger than any Underlord has a right to be. Pure Madra devouring, like a whirlpool… Suddenly, Sophara’s senses black out. She’s surrounded with whiteness and silence. London attacks her as she comes out of it, suddenly shouting: that’s it! A bottomless pit, emptiness, endless… That’s it.”
“I am the end.”
And something trembles around them. Not Overlord, but something else.
NS, battling Reigan Shen, suddenly senses another Icon manifest near Sky’s Edge. He wonders if Fury had two sources of authority, and then realizes… It wasn’t Fury.
Below, fighting Eithan, the Blood Sage asks Eithan who has done this. My apprentice, says Eithan.
Yerin sees that London doesn’t seem to need help. She chooses to kill Seshethkunaaz. And he dies, just like that. Kiuran leaves shortly after. She uses the Moonlight Bridge to go go to London.
NS retrieves Seshethkunaaz corpse after Malice crushew the King of Lions. He’s not dead, but certainly slowed down. Reigan Shen escapes whole he gets the corpse.
Dross tells London he’s not an Overlord. That wasn’t his insight. But overhead, a black hole, a void, swallows the sky. He feels it as a reflection of himself. He’s linked to it, or it to him. Sophara is dying, and he Consumes what little is left of her.
He returns to Eithan. The Blood Sage has retreated, and left Eithan bloody. Yerin arrives as well, and London is relieved to see her and not Ruby. Yerin tells Eithan to get out his cloudship so they can get him to a healer, but Eithan gestures to London. London tears open one of the spatial tears in the room, telling it to OPEN.
Pride and Naru Saeya survive, barely. They all make it back to Ninecloud City. London corners Eithan. Eithan says his fight against the Blood Sage was closer than he might think, as he’s not a Sage. London asks if he is. Eithan says that, well, to manifest an Icon it’s important to understand and sense hour madra deeply, and to have a technique to regularly trian your willpower. Such as the Heaven and Earth Purification Wheel. The Icon you manifest depends on nature of madra, but also on a concept core to your identity even in childhood. He takes out a lump of white ore and begins to mold kt. Back in the day, Sage was separate from a rank, but a mark of distinction. Badges for Heralds were usually red, and Monarch blue, though different materials might be used. When Sage became it’s own rank, it got its own badge.
Eithan presents him with a new badge made of Wintersteel. He etches a single character on it. “Empty.” Or, as they would say in Sacred Valley, Unsouled.
Orthos, back in Sacred Valley, is in a ruined and burnt Wei clan outpost, where he is helpjng Kelsa advance to Jade. He suspects two outsiders who had also arrived and we’re hiding in SV are behind it. He suspects the are from the Jai clan. Kelsa completes her advancement. He’d already helped her get a new iron body, the Skyhunter Iron Body, which had been harder than Jade. She emerges, apologizjng for the wait, saying they can begin now. He’s hoping they can find the Jai intruders and enlist them to help rescue Kelsa’s mother. But then…. They feel something grow in the air. The spiritual pressure of a Dreadgod washes over Sacred Valley. The Titan has awoken. He extends his spirit, and feels someone else doing the same – someone in a sword and light path. It’s Jai Long
Orthos finds him. And tells Jai Lkng he’s going to help him.
The join skyship that London and Yerin won in the first round arrives, interrupting a near kiss. Eithan’s arrives as well – and settles alongside their, slotting in as though it was meant to be. And then… ziel and his ship arrives. He took the offer of the Pure Storm Baptism for a year.
Before they can begin preparing to leave, Yerin grabs him by the back of the head, up on her tiptoes, and kisses him.