At the exact confluence where Spirit Lumyst Water morphed into Life Lumyst Water, three enigmatic figures, each of distinct and diverse shapes and sizes, were gearing up to join the hunt.

Several skirmishes between Players from both sides were unfolding around them near the stream where they stood, yet none seemed to acknowledge their presence. Even more baffling, these very Players, be they friend or foe, unconsciously skirted around them, reshaping the battlefield along the riverbanks, yet leaving the patch of crystalline gray sand they occupied untouched.

"You sure it's a intelligent move to spring an ambush this big, this early?" A massive man, oozing dominant bloodlust, grumbled, his voice dripping with arrogance. "I could've taken them all down by myself. No enemy Player stands a ghost of a chance against me in hand-to-hand at this early stage of the Ordeal. Neither do any of you. Bring it on, anytime!"

Standing over 5 meters tall, with a body sheathed in metallic skin shimmering a deep iron hue, his condescending taunt was far from baseless. His eyes blazed with an intense orange hue, and his battle-hardened face dismissed any notion of misguided confidence. His gargantuan hands, ending in razor-sharp, clawed fingers, tightly gripping an equally oversized flail, only added to the intimidation.

"The Titan of Vrax, Kaelum..." A supernaturally melodious female voice, honey to the ears, cut through his tirade. "We're not stopping you from slaying them – far from it. But no matter how strong or swift you are, do you truly believe you can eliminate them all by yourself? Impossible. Recent events in Havocspire prove that our cornered foe still has its fangs and claws. Even with our overwhelming edge, we must always hunt our prey with our full might."

If Master Eldrion, the elder member of the Radiant Conclave, had been present, he would've recognized this tall and slender alien beauty with silver-blue skin as the one who provided the invaluable intel leading to the ambush of the Soulmancer King. It was therefore clear that the Kaelum she was addressing as an equal was also a Rank 17 Player.

"Weiss and I foresaw in enigmatic lore, how Duskwight Lands' Players would react once the scales tipped, revealing more." a second male voice, with a serenity bordering on aloofness, added to the discussion.

Of human stature but draped in a cloak that seemed torn from the very fabric of space, his features, or even his race, were indiscernible. Only his mesmerizing phosphorescent green eyes gave away that beneath, there was indeed someone, or something, lurking.

"Without peering through time's shadowed mist," he continued with the same puzzling zeal, "Lumyst Water's baptism is their singular chance to shake off Twyluxia's limiting trance and power enhance. Had all gone as planned, Players from our twin mirrored lands would've climbed battle's ranks, keeping identities hidden, their masks well-manned. Yet, a shift in the opposing camp did demand an altered hand. To hope for victory's dance, into Lumyst's waters, their entire existence they must chance."

"For fuck's sake! I can't make heads or tails of your enigmatic crap, Shadrex! Can't you just talk straight for once?!" Kaelum roared, on the verge of slamming Shadrex's head into his chest with a swing of his flail. "Even if they survive, the victory rate of those damn enchantments is set. The greedier they are for power, the more of them will die before reaching the strength that might have turned the tables."

Weiss, hovering away from the two, shot them a bored glance, clearly finding their antics ridiculous. Dealing with these two was no walk in the park...

Sadly, part of the reason they prevailed in most of their Fifth Ordeals was the unity of Players from their Mirror Universe. Their Oracle was much stricter about betrayal or self-centered acts that jeopardized the overall win.

Compared to them, their foes seemed to lack any semblance of teamwork, like various ant colonies without a queen suddenly forced to collaborate. Their victory was a foregone conclusion.

Unfortunately for Kaelum and his fiery temper, it was Shadrex who once again addressed his queries. His tolerant tone was about as irritating as listening to his damn rhymes that made no sense,

"Truth you speak, Vrax's mighty peak, yet some will defy the bleak. If but one stands against the numeric tide, surviving enchantments long and wide, our side in mere minutes could slide. Likewise, foes face a similar fate, if one of us elevates our state, enchanting self or Aether Artefact at a rate too great. Do the stakes now resonate, Kaelum, in this intricate checkmate?"

"..." The so-called 'mighty peak' was at a loss for words. "They do."

As prideful and aggressive as he was, he wasn't dumb. Not by a long shot. In fact, he was wicked smart, like any Rank 17 Player.

"So, we just wipe them all out?" Kaelum finally growled in frustration, realizing their endgame was essentially the same as his. The kicker was, he wouldn't get to be hands-on with the carnage.

Cutting off Shadrex before he could launch into another one of his insufferable soliloquies, Weiss subtly shook her head and stated,

"We're already on it, but it's not our hands that'll get dirty. Some of our top lieutenants are handling that. The three of us... we have another task at hand."

"And what's that?" Kaelum scowled, clearly miffed that his underlings had taken orders from someone other than himself.

Pausing for dramatic effect, the stunning alien female pointed in two opposite directions with two of her nine tendril-like tails, and whispered slyly,

"To get stronger, of course!"

"... And, by the by, halt their rising try." Shadrex chimed in with the same bombastic airs.



To the West, up the river, a bloody skirmish had already erupted. The shores of hundreds of similar tributaries were engulfed in the same chaos.

One might've thought this was the first occurrence of such an event, but the crystallized gray sand banks had long been stained with other colors: the blood of various alien or native species of Twyluxia spilled here.

It shouldn't be forgotten; this Ordeal had officially begun over three weeks ago. Nearly four.

Since then, from the arrival of the very first Rank 2 Players like Leo Vinson to the superstars of their respective Mirror Universes discussing their dark schemes, it wasn't the first time Players had come to the river in hopes of transcending their status.

However, it was the very first time the balance of power was so skewed. That's because the lower-ranked Players who had come here at the start of the Ordeal only had to fear rivals of the same Rank.

The weak were already busy enough trying to survive; how would they dare venture into enemy territory to ambush the opposing camp? It was unthinkable. If there had been surprise assaults, they were isolated cases.

That wasn't the case anymore. The desperate low-ranked Players coming to the river by the tens of thousands, though more numerous, had missed their best chance to put their lives on the line. Because now, they also had to deal with formidable high-ranked Players visiting the river for the first time.

And unlike the weaklings, the powerful weren't afraid to infiltrate the opposite camp to take out potential rivals…

"Chromy! Chewy! Fucking hell, where are all these bastards coming from?!" A petite young woman exclaimed, a mix of injustice and frustration evident in her tone, as she watched a group of terrifying individuals and creatures butcher two creatures as adorable as herself right before her eyes.

These two beasts, resembling oversized mutant otters, had been her pets for as long as she could remember and were just squashed to death by a massive hairy foot before her.

The poor woman herself was just a Rank 10 Player, having summoned all her courage just to dare to bathe alone here after narrowly escaping death multiple times in just a few days. Factionless, she had come here with the few Player friends she'd made during battles, but right now their still-warm corpses lay motionless around her, often not in one piece…

Now it was her turn to join them…

Facing her, a repulsive yeti-like monster, tall as a small building, and as hairy and filthy as a sloth, glared down menacingly at her, drool dripping from its lips. This creature was responsible for all the slaughter…

And judging by the bulge between its legs, it had intentions far more sinister than just eating her. Her state of undress after losing her equipment during her last swim certainly didn't help.

"Damn it! Am I really gonna bite the dust like this after all the risks I've taken without avenging anyone?" Although she hadn't given up the fight, she was consumed by regret.


The beast's massive paw swooped down at blinding speed into her line of sight despite her best efforts to dodge, and in a fury, she threw a futile punch back.


She braced herself, anticipating a pain that would sear through her entire nervous system. She pictured herself getting crushed alive by that monstrous mitt, followed by whatever nightmarish torments that would come next—or perhaps simultaneously. But the expected agony and hell never came.

Lifting her head, blinking in disbelief and hardly daring to trust her eyes, she was left gaping at the spectacle before her. The yeti still towered over her, but now it was missing one critical thing:

Its head. In fact, all the other attackers, whether they were monsters, aliens, or humans who had taken part in the ambush, were also lying there, deprived of that all-important extremity.

Jake and Hephais had made their move.