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696 A Glimpse At the Peak

    Without warning, the blue flames from Niflheim's shield erupted forward and covered the front of his body.

    As the last of the blue flames arrived in place, the ground before Niflheim where the single raindrop fell abruptly sunk as a strong pressure was released from the area of impact.

    The impact resembled something left behind by the edge of a blade. It was thin and a little less than two meters long; however, the scar on the platform itself seemed to travel down much further.

    Niflheim was pushed by an overwhelming force as the blue flames scattered and he was forced to forego his charge and retreat a couple of meters.

    "What was that just now? A raindrop? No, it looked a bit different." Niflheim internalized with a grave expression as the scattered blue flames gathered at his left arm.

    Niflheim was wary after the swords by Tal'Nis' side disappeared. If they were moving, it was at a speed that broke the sound barrier many times over. So much so that he could not even hear it, let alone keep track of its shadow!

    If the blades simply turned invisible, they should have at least made a sound as they sailed through the air and approached his position.

    But, Niflheim had a feeling that both of those assumptions were incorrect. And, it had to do with the raindrop that fell just as he was about to completely close the distance between himself and Tal'Nis. It passed right in front of his eyes and gave him a sensation that could only be described as dread.

    Given that the platform was surrounded by an unimaginably powerful barrier, even a drop of rain should not have been able to get inside. Not to mention, what kind of rain produced such frightening sword marks?

    If the blue flames had been just half a second late, Niflheim knew that he would not have made it out of there unscathed.

    "So, it can move on its own to protect its owner? How convenient, but... It really is too difficult for me to control. Just regathering the scattered flames took me a lot of effort. More importantly, if these blue flames are capable of protecting its owner-is her peculiar hair able to do the same? If it can, this fight just became a lot harder." Niflheim thought to himself.

    Tal'Nis' lips curled into a light smile.

    "Even if I was holding back, it has been longer than I can remember since someone last avoided my Everlasting Rain without having witnessed it beforehand. As a reward, I shall grant you an additional thirty seconds. Whether you can use that time or not-it is up to you." Tal'Nis said calmly.

    〈System Alert: 30 seconds have been added to the active time! [Time Remaining: 1 minute(s) 55 second(s).〉

    'Oh? It increased?'

    Izroth, along with the rest of the party, received a sudden alert from the system regarding the challenge's time limit. And, to their surprise, Niflheim's time limit went up by thirty seconds. That was a 25% increase!

    "Eh? Why did it go up?" Colorful Nimbus asked curiously.

    "I'd like to know as well. It looks like she's talking to him, but I can't hear anything they're saying because of this barrier." Sacred Blade furrowed his brows.

    "We will have to wait for Niflheim's return to find out. Every second in this challenge is precious. If there is a method to increase our time limit, I am certain Niflheim will not withhold such critical information." Morrighan stated.

    Izroth turned his gaze to the top area of the barrier.

    'Such heavy sword intent. It goes well past my third baneful sword. If she decides to release it all at once, I'm afraid he would not survive for long.'

    At the same time, on the platform, Niflheim was just as taken aback as his fellow party members. Tal'Nis claimed it was a reward of sorts, but was it really such a simple and whimsical reason?

    "Heh... How unlike me to overthink things to this extent. The last time this happened, nothing good came of it. Some people are easier to understand when taken at face value. In this respect, she's just like him." Niflheim internalized as he became momentarily reminded of the events that transpired during the Great Sea Palace raid.

    Though Niflheim did not allow these thoughts to linger and quickly cleared his mind. He had just gotten thirty seconds, but as Tal'Nis said, it was up to him and his ability to actually make proper use of it.

    "Since you're offering it, I won't reject your kindness. Just don't go regretting it later on." Niflheim responded.

    "Life is often full of regrets. This, however, is not one of them I can assure you. More importantly-do you have time to waste on words?" Tal'Nis casually pointed towards the sky.

    Lingering silently in the air above the platform was a massive collection of raindrops that appeared to be suspended in mid-air. However, these raindrops did not seem as though they were made out of water. In fact, when grouped together, it looked more like an ocean set ablaze by blue flames.

    Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands-there were more than Niflheim could count. To make matters worse, it covered every corner of the platform so there was nowhere for him to escape!

    "This is the true form of my Everlasting Rain. Those who have seen it and lived to tell the tale are among the few. So, do your best." Tal'Nis said as she pointed towards Niflheim.

    The next moment, in the sky above the platform, one of the raindrops left its suspended state and descended from the sky. This was soon followed by a second and third.

    At first, it could not even be compared to a drizzle given how slow the raindrops were falling. But, with each droplet that fell, the one that came after it seemed to leave its state of suspension a little faster.

    With the aid of the blue flames that acted as his shield, Niflheim skillfully avoided the raindrops as it began to develop into a constant drizzle. He even managed to block them a few times; however, each time that he did so, his connection to the blue flames would become weaker.

    〈Battle Alert: You have been hit! [4/5]〉

    Suddenly, just as Niflheim blocked one raindrop, another followed on the same path less than a second after it. Unable to endure the blow twice in quick succession, it slipped past Niflheim's defenses and counted as a hit against him.

    〈Battle Alert: You have been hit! [3/5]〉

    "At this rate, I'll just end up running around until I die or time expires. I have to interrupt the flow of battle." Niflheim thought to himself.

    Niflheim immediately moved into action as he used Unimpeded Rush to boost his movement speed as he charged towards Tal'Nis!

    Woosh! Plop

    A raindrop hit the location Niflheim had just been standing, leaving behind a mark of devastation no weaker than the first one.

    Thanks to Unimpeded Charge, after avoiding the second attack, Niflheim arrived within striking range of Tal'Nis as he brandished the sword in his hand.

    The blue flames that made up her hair remained unmoved as Niflheim's blade moved closer to Tal'Nis. There were also no signs of her swords rematerializing. Nor did she take any defensive actions. In fact, in all of her fights, Tal'Nis had yet to take a single step!

    It made Niflheim uneasy, to say the least. However, due to the side effect of Unimpeded Charge, he could not afford to pull back now! Though even if he could, Niflheim would not do so.

    "I won't overthink it. The fact that she has revealed her skill's true form-this alone can count as my success. But... Now that I've come this far, how can I be satisfied with just that?" Niflheim internalized.

    Niflheim understood that if he stayed on the defensive now, he would be quickly overwhelmed by the Everlasting Rain. If that happened, he could forget about having Tal'Nis reveal any more of her hidden cards. It would just end with him defending and running around until the time ran out, or with his death. If those were the only two options at his back, then he could only move forward and create a third option!

    "Just a little more..! I can reach her!" Niflheim thought to himself.

    As Niflheim's blade grew nearer, a smirk appeared on Tal'Nis' face.

    The next moment, Niflheim felt the platform beneath his feet tremble as a torrent descended right in between himself and Tal'Nis!

    Rmmmmmble! Crack!

    Before his blade could reach Tal'Nis, Niflheim was blown away several meters as he was knocked off his feet!

    〈Battle Alert: Your successful block has absorbed a hit.〉

    〈Battle Alert: Your protective aura has absorbed a hit.〉

    〈Battle Alert: You have been hit! [2/5]〉

    〈Battle Alert: You have been hit! [1/5]〉

    From above, it looked like a smaller version of the abyss on the first stage where the Headless Horseman lurked!

    The entire platform had been cut into two as the torrent came to a grinding halt.

    At that moment, everyone who observed from the platform's side had the same thought cross their mind-this is what it's like to glimpse at the peak of this world!
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