The Primal Hunter

Chapter 864: Nevermore: Twin Emperor Identified

Chapter 864: Nevermore: Twin Emperor Identified

For the longest time, Jake had found Sylphie’s version of stealth very endearing and silly while also naturally being utterly useless. She believed that by simply making a giant tornado and hiding within it, no one would notice anything was amiss and just ignore it. She thought the same when it came to hiding sound: just make so much noise no one can hear anything, and you’re good.

Well… it turns out Sylphie had kind of been correct all along? The problem all along had just been that Sylphie didn’t do her stealth technique on a big enough scale.

If a small tornado was ripping apart an area, someone would notice it. However, if a giant gust of wind flew by, while people would surely notice it, few would instantly connect it to a small green hawk. Especially not when said small green hawk was merged with the wind itself, effectively making her a natural phenomenon. At least it did work on this planet, as no one bothered Jake and Sylphie during their travels.

Jake could already imagine the horrors of Sylphie’s stealth technique when she got even stronger. Giant hurricanes would wash across planets just in her attempts to hide within.

Of course, Sylphie’s stealth did have the issue of not really working when not traveling swiftly, as a giant gust of wind not moving or just flying in circles creating a tornado was definitely suspicious. The giant gust did have some advantages unforeseen advantages, though, such as allowing Jake to ride alongside it.

Even with all Jake’s improvements to One Step, Thousand Miles, he was still not as fast as Sylphie, so having her adjust her speed to boost Jake was a big help. It allowed the two of them to travel across the Vast Plateau swiftly as they headed for the capital closest to the battlefield while the Sword Saint and Fallen King stayed back with Dina to protect her.

Jake didn’t doubt the two of them would still mess a bit with the battlefields, but they would definitely show restraint. The reason the two hadn’t come along for this scouting mission was partly because someone needed to stay with Dina and simply because they were both too slow. Plus, neither had good stealth skills, and if they did end up getting into conflict during their travels, Jake and Sylphie were the two best people in their party at escaping.

Alright, maybe Dina was equal to Jake, as they both had trump card escape skills, but Sylphie was second to none with her incredible speed and elusiveness. In either case, Jake was the king of stealth and was thus the best at trying to get a good look at this Twin Emperor to figure out what they were dealing with.

As Jake was the best at stealth, Syplhie sadly had to hang back when they got close to the capital. They found a small forest not far from the capital where Sylphie found a nice branch to sit on while Jake headed to the capital itself to check things out and learn more about the Twin Emperor. Who knows, maybe he could even manage to sneak into wherever the emperor lived and have a look around.

Setting off, Jake flew into the air with his stealth skill already active. He wanted to get some height first to get a good look at one of the two capital cities of the Vast Plateau, and when he did… honestly, he felt a bit disappointed.

It was so damn small.

Alright, it was still pretty big, probably large enough to house around fifty thousand, but compared to what Jake had come to expect from capital cities in the multiverse, it was pathetic. The Fort part of Haven was way bigger than this small capital, and when compared to some of the cities they had seen even on prior floors – or especially the Neverending Journey Challenge Dungeon – it barely looked like a town.Re𝒂𝒂d the latest stories 𝒐n nov𝒆lbin(.)com

However, as Jake scouted it from afar, he did notice one thing. After using Identify more than fifty times, Jake had yet to see a single individual below level 280. And there were a lot of people in the city, most of them crafters, though. The weapon industry was definitely in full swing, as well as large alchemy labs and others who worked on supplies for the war efforts. The city was clearly still underpopulated for its already smallish size, but he reckoned a few thousand should be living there, which also truly attested to how many were already on the battlefields.

In the center of the capital was a large burly tower, only about ten stories tall but damn wide. Jake wasn’t even sure if he could call it a tower, as it pretty much had the shape of a cake. He didn’t hold any doubt this would be where the Twin Emperor could be found, and not just because it was the largest central building in the capital, but due to the magical runes covering the entire thing.

Jake even felt a faintly familiar energy to the one in the bone spheres, making him certain this emperor was indeed involved.

Entering the city, Jake covertly made his way toward the large building. If the emperor was home, he wanted to avoid entering the building if he could. If the Fallen King was correct and they were dealing with a witch doctor or something similar, things could quickly get hairy if Jake entered. Casters like that were very similar to witches like Miranda and liked their well-established magical domains a bit too much.

Luckily, he didn’t enter before confirming the emperor was home. After circling the building a few times and sitting watch, he saw a figure at a window. There was a barrier to make one unable to look inside, but Jake didn’t face many issues to Perception-check it as he saw the full form of one of the two floor bosses.

His frame was large and burly, the Twin Emperor standing nearly four and a half meters tall. He wore simple robes, with tattoos covering almost every piece of skin visible, and on his forehead was a small horn. He had the muscles of a warrior but the clothing and demeanor of a mage. His race was also a bit of a surprise, as Jake had fully expected to see an orc, considering they were the most commonly seen race in the Vast Plateau. Not that he was overly surprised at seeing an ogre, as there had also been quite a lot of those here and there.

It was a bit risky, but Jake still decided to go for an Identify, partly to confirm he was indeed looking at the right boss, and sure enough, it was one of them.

[Twin Emperor – lvl 330]

Level 330 was honestly just about expected. The event boss on floor seventy-five had been level 325, so this one had to be stronger. One also had to remember that level wasn’t everything. This Twin Emperor was clearly a powerful variant, making it incredibly strong for its level.

Not that this Twin Emperor was the event boss… because he definitely felt weaker than the event boss from five floors prior. In fact, Jake felt he could fight this boss in a one-versus-one, and even if it would be a damn difficult fight, Jake gave himself at least a sixty-forty chance. With Sylphie also joining in, they had better than a three-to-one, and with the entire party, they could definitely do it.

Jake’s still felt certain this boss related to the event boss, though. At least his gut told him so. Moreover, when Jake used Identify before, he felt as if something was off. His Identify hadn’t been detected by the Twin Emperor, but something had still interfered with it.

He did have a skill that messed with the bone sphere, so it wouldn’t be odd if he could also hide his own status, Jake mentally noted.

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Refocusing, Jake narrowed his eyes. This was far more risky than the Identify he had done before, but he was certain that a successful Identify would offer very valuable information. Primal Gaze partly activated as his eyes began to glow, and ever-so-vaguely, Jake felt as if he saw some kind of veil around the Twin Emperor. Something obscured his sight, making him see false information, almost like a shroud that was way shitter than Jake’s Shroud.

Forcefully, Jake pierced the veil. The moment he did, the boss noticed his presence as the ogre whipped his head around and peered out the window straight at where Jake was standing using stealth. Due to the nature of Unseen Hunter, the ogre now saw Jake very clearly as the two of them momentarily made eye contact.

Well, shit.

Jake didn’t have time to hesitate as the entire cake-shaped tower lit up with runes as the ogre barged out his own window, breaking it in the process. A staff appeared in his hand as Jake summoned his wings and quickly used One Step to try and get away, but he felt space around him begin to get supressed.

Dodging to the side, Jake narrowly avoided a descending lighting bolt aimed straight at where he had been standing. A massive explosion from the impact sent him tumbling through the air as he continued trying to get away.

The ground itself began to warp beneath him as a giant hand of stone rose and tried to grab him, and it didn’t help when he realized that it wasn’t truly space itself around him getting suppressed but the air actively working against him. Moreover, Jake felt as if his body was beginning to get heavy as even more concepts came into play. Far more than Jake wanted to try and deal with.

Arcane Awakening activated at the stable 30% as Jake lifted his foot and stepped down. Despite half a dozen concepts and elemental magics closing in on Jake, he still felt everything around him stabilize as his foot found solid ground, allowing him to teleport safely, courtesy of the best boots in the multiverse.

He appeared over two kilometers away, avoiding all the attacks coming for him. Even if Jake kind of wanted to strike back, he avoided doing anything, as this was no time or place to fight. He was still in the capital city, and all over, he felt auras begin to spike up. Even if it was nearly only crafters present, Jake didn’t want to try and deal with a few thousand of them.

Fleeing, he dodged several attacks as he felt the pressure on him lessen. The ogre behind him was preparing something big, and Jake sure as hell wasn’t going to stay back to experience it.

Picking up speed, Jake quickly saw that the boss had stopped chasing, though he was still casting something. For a moment, he felt relieved until something impacted his Shroud of the Primordial, as well as his soul in general. Energy had somehow appeared in his body that tried to invade his soul. It wasn’t a curse, nor was it death magic, but something odd Jake remembered seeing Miranda using.

A hex…

Luckily, the energy didn’t seem capable of finding anywhere to settle due to Shroud obscuring his soul. With a rush of destructive arcane energy, Jake managed to get rid of the energy from the hex, purging himself while feeling very happy he had been the one to go and not Sylphie or any of the others, as they would have had a way harder time dealing with the high level hex.

Far behind him in the capital, Jake saw a massive thunderstorm erupt as a roar of anger echoed out. Jake could only breathe a sigh of relief as he got further and further away. He didn’t dare head only to where Sylphie was hiding as he sent her a quick message.

“We’re bailing out of here. Fly back toward the party immediately, and keep a steady pace till I catch up,” Jake warned the small hawk.

“Ree,” Sylphie responded, screeching telepathically into Jake’s head.

Jake kept flying for a good while longer, as he did have some pursuers, but they quickly gave up. While still flying, Jake deactivated his boosting skill, happy he didn’t have to use it above 30% so he could avoid the period of weakness. After reactivating his stealth skill, he sent a message to Sylphie for them to meet back up as he had a telepathic virtual meeting with the party.

“So, some good and some bad news,” Jake told the four others. “What do you want first?”

“Bad news,” the King responded without hesitation.

“I didn’t manage to infiltrate the main building controlled by the Twin Emperor, and I ended up getting chased away when he noticed my presence. So, still not entirely sure exactly what his plans are, and I doubt I can try and sneak back in now.”

“Alright, and what is the good news?” the Sword Saint asked.

“The Twin Emperor was level 330 and pretty strong on his own, which must mean the event boss is even stronger, so we’ll have a good fight ahead of us!” Jake sent with a smile.

“… and what else?” the Sword Saint sighed.

“Oh yeah, and I figured out what’s up with the Twin Emperor… or should I call him one part of the Twinhead Emperor,” Jake said as he referred to the successful Identify he managed to sneak through just as he was found.

[Left Twinhead Emperor – lvl 330]

Jake would lie if he said he wasn’t excited at what he saw… because what they were dealing with was an insanely rare variant of ogre. One he had seen quite a bit about, as one of the more powerful gods who once worked with the Order had been one and had even authored quite a few books Jake had read.

“Are you saying it’s a…?” Dina began.

“Yep, we got a genuine Twinhead Ogre on our hands,” Jake said with glee.

“What is this Twinhead Ogre you speak of?” the Sword Saint questioned.

“Oh man, they are quite something…” Jake said as he began explaining this fascinating race.

Twinhead Ogres were as rare as they were interesting in the multiverse. For creatures to have more than one head wasn’t actually that rare – see hydras as one example – but those heads were just natural parts of the main creature. They were more like extra arms or something. It wasn’t as if every head was its own living entity.

A Twinhead Ogre legitimately had two heads and two minds. Mind you, they still shared the same Truesoul, but the rest of the soul was split in two. Each could have entirely independent thoughts and act entirely on their own. This meant that one Twinhead Ogre could also do two things at once and research two topics at the same time, far more effectively than borderline any other race. In combat, they could also do two things at once, making them formidable foes… when the two heads got along, that is.

Because Twinhead Ogres also had quite the disadvantages. First of all, as each head was its own, but they shared one body, there could be a lack of unity, especially when it came to combat. They had to be in agreement, or they could often fight very sloppily. Growth-wise, they were also facing some challenges. They were a bit like Jake and his Anomalous Soul in this regard. Their souls were very different from usual creatures, making them require more experience per level and evolutions a lot harder, resulting in most Twinhead ogres never making it to B-grade despite being naturally born C-grades.

The biggest downside of this race was, by far, the lack of independence for each head and the Twinhead Ogre being two people forced to share one body. This resulted in a phenomenon where many Twinhead Ogres ended up actively plotting to take full control. They would work to completely kill off their counterpart and either make them mindless slaves no different from a powerful Virtual Mind skill or even cut off the head entirely and evolve into a race with only one head.

Of course, some Twinhead Ogres also tried to find another solution… which was what Jake thought this Twinhead Ogre was doing. He had managed to split himself in two and was now working on a grand ritual, perhaps with the purpose of making it a permanent thing, allowing the two of them to exist independently.

To clarify, this was impossible.

They only had one Truesoul. Which also gave Jake another thought.

“If they are a split Twinhead Ogre, they will have to meet up once in a while. Seeing as the Twinhead Ogre is level 330, they will probably have to meet up physically every month to a month and a half to maintain their split state,” Jake shared with their party. “Oh, and also, while the split doesn’t halve their power but allows each to maintain most of the main body, the combined version of the two will be even more powerful than them separate, even if they fight together.”

“So we think the event boss of this floor is the merged Twinhead Ogre?” the Sword Saint asked clarifyingly.

“Sure as hell fits the criteria,” Jake answered. “Now, killing just one of them would result in the permanent deaths of both in their current state, so that would be the easy way to beat this floor. To unlock the event boss, we likely need them to merge, but I think the two of them are legitimately competing in some way to kill the other and absorb their twin permanently.”

“I assume that means-“

“Yep, Sylphie and I are headed to the other capital city to confirm… and this time, I’m not gonna give myself away too soon but find some actual evidence to this theory.”

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