"J-just how old… are you?"
Edward didn't know why he was blurting out such a question. He was at death's door, and this information would do nothing but sate his curiosity before his inevitable demise. Regardless, he asked away.
"Who knows? I remember about seven centuries." The Martial Blade God shrugged.
He didn't seem overly interested in his age—or in that of others too. What held the utmost value to him was one thing… Martial Arts.
Or, rather loosely; strength.
"Why then, do you side with the Nether Cult?"
"What do you mean?"
"You're not evil. I can see it. You wouldn't kill unless it was required… at least I would hope so. This philosophy of yours about life… How does it apply to the Nether Cult?" Edward didn't know how to articulate his thoughts, but he had a major problem with the Martial Blade God's involvement with the Cult.
Somehow… it ruined the sanctity of his focused life.
"It is because the Cult is necessary. If it wasn't. I wouldn't have joined—or rather, depending on the circumstances, I would have struck it down." The Martial Blade God gazed upon the heavens and inhaled deeply.
"This, also, is a result of my selfishness. Do not consider my path to be that of virtue. It is trodden with corpses and death. It has led to the death and destruction of many—so much unfathomable peril. Even I, am left empty now that I stand at the pinnacle."
He then looked at Edward with sincere eyes. His gaze felt kind and warm, yet also very distant. Edward could not comprehend the depths to which they went.
"I desire to transcend even this state I am currently in. To reach the primordial waters and advance in strength."
Edward understood his reasoning. This was the very drive of every Martial Artist; growth, transcendence, breakthrough. Yet, the more he conversed with the Martial Blade God, the more he realized something.
"But, after that… what next?"
Edward realized the futility of the pursuit.
"There exists nothing after the primordial… at least none that I am aware of. If there is, I shall seek that too. I simply cannot remain stagnant."
Edward realized the ironic loop—one in which even he was currently trapped.
'Seek strength. Find strength. Get strength. Seek more. Find more. Get more.' On and on, again and again.
This process continued until one finally reached the zenith.
Unfortunately, any who had trod the path for so long would be dissatisfied unless even more power—more heights—existed for them to reach. They needed this for a purpose.
'He seeks even more power despite having unfathomable abilities.'
In the end, what would await an immortal, invincible Martial Blade God? Edward knew the answer to that.
"This path I tread… can only lead to absolute despair." The Martial Blade God told Edward as soon as the boy was done figuring it out.
That's right. Once he reached the end of his journey—unable to live on and incapable of succumbing to death—an emptiness called despondency awaited him.
Both Martial Artists understood this as they stared at each other.
"However, I cannot stop. Not until I see… not until I feel for myself, the very essence of the primordial heights."
Edward nodded—both in respect and in sorrow.
This man had killed his friends and would kill him for the sake of this pursuit of power, yet Edward could feel no animosity. He could feel no anger, rage, or fear. He was simply enthralled by the life of the Martial Blade God… as well as repulsed.
ƥαṇdαηθνε|"What is your answer, young lad? What is your purpose as a Martial Artist?"
Edward already realized that he could never be as strong as the Martial Blade God. He didn't have the resolve to begin a path that led to ultimate emptiness. He could not throw away his friends. He could not abandon his life.
He could not forget his love.
"I want to live as a strong person, but die happy."
In the past, he had always announced his desire to be the strongest. However, now? Now, he began to realize where that road would lead him… and what awaited him at the end.
Ultimate power, alongside ultimate boredom.
"Well, considering all I have seen now… I would say you've fulfilled that well."
Edward mulled over the words of the Martial Blade God as he watched him unsheathe his blade. Something about the man's fluid movements, as he brought forth his blade, captivated Edward. Regardless of this, he could not fight away his thoughts.
'Did I live strong? Am I dying happy?'
Edward knew the answer to at least one of those questions… and it was a NO!
"NO! I'm not happy yet! I haven't raised Martial Arts to the status it once had in my Kingdom. I haven't helped my friends to achieve their dreams yet! I haven't had my rematch with Jared! I haven't confessed to Lemi yet! I haven't felt the warm touch of a woman on my lips. I haven't had a wife… or children. I haven't built my family or seen the family of my friends. I want all of these things and more!"
His desires were far more complicated and elaborate than the Martial Artist's goal of simply being the strongest. However, Edward realized something as he battled the Martial Blade God. As much as he sought strength, he could not… would not… reach the very peak he once admired.
"Enough power to maintain my happiness and protect the ones around me. That is what I crave." Edward let go of his blade as he stared at the Martial Blade God.
His face was filled with resolve, and the tension in the air suddenly ceased.
The cloudy sky suddenly cleared up, revealing two men floating in the cloud. They simply remained there, suspended in the air.
"Very well. So, for your final trial… are you ready?"
"I'm ready." Edward closed his eyes, inhaled deeply, and awaited what was to come.
Neither of them spoke another word to the other. Such things were meaningless in the event that was about to unravel.
All that remained now… was action.
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