When the skies above returned to normal and the stars in the middle of day returned to regular sunlight, it signaled the end of the terrifying Gods' proclamations. Everyone was able to sigh in relief.
Everyone present with me could easily sense a windstorm brewing on the horizon, and this wasn't even taking into account the possible impact of these proclamations.
This came as a complete surprise for everyone, apart from Harloys who had some prior knowledge of my plan. Even I was surprised as I didn't expect Ayer to be decisive enough to break off from the God of Holy Light's faction.
"Consequences? Relationship with the Holy Light? Who cares about all that? Just do what you want. I'll back you up."
Ayer's incarnation vanished after leaving me with that sentence.
His casualness sometimes made me speechless, but I had to admit that he possessed enough power to not be afraid of the Holy Light Faction. He had also always been incredibly perceptive, and now was indeed the best time to be choosing sides.
The undead armies had arrived, and there was no more stopping their invasion of the mortal plane. It could be said that the Holy War had begun in all its glory. Acting as if we were the ones proclaiming the Holy War in order to grab everyone's attention was doubtlessly the critical point.
Well, since the goal was to grab everyone's attention, it could also be called stealing the headlines.
Right now, outside our forest, the situation hadn't changed. Undead armies from six Undead Planes had successfully arrived, and the area here had eternally transformed. The Undead Calamity was here, and no matter what the undead were motivated by, their next step was inevitablewar.
Indeed, no matter if their reasons were excusable or not, or if they viewed their own actions as justified, this was still a war, a war where the undead were the invaders. It was a major war that was destined to end with the loss of innumerable lives.
The undead wanted to reestablish their country here. However, the Tark Republic had died long ago in the mortal plane, and this land now belonged to the Bardi Empire. While the undead may have the right to return to their homeland after thousands of years, wouldn't the citizens living here for the past thousands of years also have the same right to protect their own land?
Quite often, wars didn't start because of so-called conflicts between good and evil. Wars were merely tools to fight for space to live in.
A ruler could make his own retainers cooperate with dangerous terrorists, but no ruler in the world would be able to make their own citizens give up their homes. In fact, the moment any ruler tried to force their own citizens to do such a thing, he would be then viewed as their mortal enemy. Even his loyalistretainers would rebel.
The citizens were able to accept a minor amount of intelligent undead as high-level nobles, but that didn't mean that they were willing to be ruled and enslaved by the undead. Mega-empires had their own pride, and the Bardi people would naturally find it unacceptable to be ruled by outsiders.
I didn't know what Aso's original plan had been, but now, since both sides' basic needs were in conflict, there was absolutely no way to mediate between them. Battle was inevitable.
"I'm returning to the capital. I need to ask His Majesty Orloss just what he's thinking!"
But even after learning about the undead, Halent was still worried about the situation in the capital and insisted on returning there. All his dragon knights went with him, and in order to help Halent firm his resolve in breaking with Emperor Orloss, I was kind enough to give him a research report on Kasolan's Tears along with the undead's likely future plans, such as the one where they turned the entire population into undead.
Of course, my report contained plenty of questions about why the Bardi Empire's ruling class responded so slowly or pretended to ignore things, along with some advice on how Halent could incite the citizens against Emperor Orloss.
"Halent, Nightrain City needs to prepare for combat as well. When the undead finish their troop organizations, if they directly attack Nightrain city, you can consider contacting the Mage Country for assistance. The Mage Country is far likelier to assist you than the Bardi Empire. Right, since your opponent is the undead, don't forget to ask the Holy Church for assistance as well. They make excellent righteous cannon fodder."
Halent hesitated for a moment upon hearing my words but didn't say anything. It would seem that he had accepted what I said.
Not that the Undead Calamity had commenced, the Tark Republic, Bardi Empire, and Mage Country were exactly like my System's Quest described"Infighting Among Three Snakes." They were just like three gigantic boa constrictors tightly entwined with each other, fighting for living space as well as authoritythe clash for benefits was unavoidable.
The Bardi Empire and the Mage Country were already enemies to begin with, while the battle for living space between the living and undead had already occurred many times in history. It was practically a situation where each of the three countries were enemies with the other two. In fact, a three-way fight like this was common in the past.
Stop it? Use what was there to stop it? Allow me to use a perhaps not entirely suitable proverb here. In front of the gears of history, any that tried to stop such a thing would be as foolish as a person who tried to stop a train with his body. Before, the battles were of a much smaller scale so perhaps they could still be controlled. But when two powerful countries like the Bardi Empire and Mage Country went all out, and when the Tark Republic, which consisted of six Undead Planes and twelve surviving SemiGod Undead Emperors, went all out as well, personal strength and even an entire military squad's strength became meaningless. This was now at the scale of a battle between major countries.
In front of these three tremendous existences, the small amount I had in the Northlands wouldn't even compare to their little fingers. Even the martial arts technique of using an opponent's strength against them required one to have a certain amount of foundational strength to begin with. How could we compare when we were only a pinky finger?
Try to mediate between them? That would only be possible once they had sacrificed enough for them to understand that they wouldn't be able to defeat their opponents without paying a small price. Or there would need to be a force powerful enough to suppress all three sides in order to force them to mediate.
And, among the three sides, the undead Tark Republic would be the unjust invaders as well as the common enemy of the mortal plane. If they successfully grabbed land away from the Bardi Empire, the mortal plane's residents would find it unacceptable when the undead began large-scale slaughters of the living to create undead ingredients or transform the living into the undead.
Of course, in the end, all three sides would want peace, but that would be impossible anytime soon. In that case, I might as well plant a seed for peace in the future, instead.
Perhaps Aso saw through all this already. One of his goals in giving me these memories of his was perhaps to make me the third-party mediator when conditions allowed. Since I was considered Wumianzhe's God Envoy as well as a former Undead Emperor, I was probably a mediator that all sides would be able to accept.
What Aso had wanted as the best result for the undead was to conquer over half of the Bardi Empire and then achieve peace with the other factions through negotiation. However, this goal of his would obviously be unacceptable to the Bardi Empire, nor would it be acceptable to the Bardi Empire's citizens who would lose their homes, family, and friends. The nobles wouldn't accept this, either, so that meant war. The undead would have to achieve their goals through use of force.
The undead were still currently building defensive bases and organizing their troops. Their current behavior spoke volumes about their overall combat strategythey would refrain from antagonizing additional factions if possible while gathering all their troops in one go for a huge battle. And once they were fully prepared
"With the rate at which the six Dimensional Doors are increasing their soldiers, they will run out of space sooner or later. If the undead start expanding their territory, the Forest of Dreams to the west and Nightrain City to the east will likely become the frontlines of battle. Both these locations will become real lively soon."
In a way, Halent's preparations weren't wrong. They would even serve a critical purpose in defending the Bardi Empire. If the Bardi Empire was going to defend against and fight the undead rather than accept their rule, then Nightrain City was destined to become the farthest frontline fortress for stopping them.
"By that time, many of our 'Contract Heroes' will probably come over to Nightrain City to join in on the fun. On our side, the Forest of Dreams' situation will change once again"
I didn't think that the undead possessed the courage to attack the Forest of Dreams since even the Undead Emperors knew how difficult it would be to deal with a dimensional will. Surrounding it without attacking it was the most appropriate strategy. However, that didn't mean that the Forest of Dreams wouldn't attack the undead! The Forest of Dreams was still a big problem for the Tark Republic's plans.
The undead would obviously transform the area around the six Dimensional Doors into their homeland, and it would become most important defensive base of all. However, there was just a single problem: the Forest of Dreams right next to them that had already become an independent dimension of its own. Not to mention that this forest was located at a formerly famous port so the forest was right by the sea in an area that was easy to dock from. And right across from the sea was the Mage Country, making the Forest of Dreams the best frontline battle location of all.
No matter if it was to help defend the living or to defend against future undead invasions, the Mage Country was certain to send people here eventually. It was even quite possible that a long-term naval route would be set up to the Forest of Dreams so that adventurers not belonging to any faction could conveniently come as well.
"The Mage Country will definitely come, and perhaps they'll even send several military squads over. Since this is a completely safe zone, it will also attract many who desire Justice Points."
No matter if it was because this was the place where the wood spirits originated or because this was going to be one of the frontline locations for the Holy War's battles, it would soon become a flourishing location with a huge uptick in population. Perhaps there would even be those that would greatly profit from the war, making this place into one of the grandest and most flourishing cities in the world. But as the frontline location of battle between the living and the dead, this place was also destined to undergo endless combat. The wood spirits would have to mature through warfare for a long time to come.
As for the Holy War, the original enemies we had planned for weren't even actually the undead that suddenly descended. After all, even Ayer wouldn't be able to predict the exact timing of the undead's arrival.
The main enemies were all the elemental lifeforms that would awaken together with the Elemental Gods. They wouldn't be strong at all, and they would be excellent for becoming practice enemies for newbies to help them grow. Eliminating these elemental lifeforms would also help suppress the Elemental Tide's increase, a good thing for the Holy War.
The rather weak "monsters for beginners" were the most vital. They would deepen the connection between "newbies" and the Ayer Faction and create the first step in a relationship of trust. The first batch of adventurers, aka the "beta testers," that were successfully rewarded by us would become legends among other adventurers. They would attract more newbies to us and gradually increase the scope of my plan to turn the citizens of this world into gameplayer-like existences. Elemental lifeforms' bodies were also perfect magical ingredients, and they would help reduce our costs. This was why I strongly recommended listing elemental lifeforms to be marked as our primary enemies by the star net.
Since the undead had already begun invading, it was impossible to not add them as enemies in to our system. Hopefully the newbies knew how to run if they faced defeat against the undeadboth Nightrain City and the Forest of Dreams had iron defenses. At the very least, newbies shouldn't meet the ultimate bosses and be instantly killed.
As for the other already major field of battle, that was at an old familiar acquaintance's home, the Auland Empire's capital, Kagersi. The Seafolk there were currently in a war of attrition with the humans, with the Seafolk that worshiped the Queen of Storms obviously being the Chaos side and our enemies. They also met our requirements to be listed as enemies to be farmed for Justice Points.
Of course, the Seafolk weren't any easier to deal with than the undead when taking into account their combat strength in water. Those who weren't strong enough would be courting their deaths if they went.
I mentioned my worry for the newbies to Harloys, but she was less worried than I was.
"Danger? Only with high risks will one obtain high rewards. Otherwise, why would they deserve the Gods' rewards? Besides, we're not babysitters. All the warriors willing to sign contracts with us are adults that can take responsibility for their own decisions. You think our current opponents might be too dangerous for them? Won't our future opponents be even more dangerous? True top-level warriors can only be obtained from those who survive when everyone around them dies. Since improving power level has always been a competition for survival of the fittest, why are you hesitating?"
"I suppose you're right. Since they're willing to fight on the frontlines for the sake of exchanging Justice Points for the Gods' rewards, they wouldn't be any commoners that have never even seen blood before. Of course they'd be mentally prepared."
From a certain standpoint, I had indeed underestimated the citizens of this worldthey lived in a different environment from me in my previous world, after all. Warriors and adventurers were long since far different from commoners, so professional warriors who were used to fighting with their lives on the line in order to make a living wouldn't possibly be unprepared when getting ready to go to the frontlines of battle. The rash that rushed to battle without knowing their own limits had long since died in action.
Rather than considering such things, it was probably a better use of my time to think about how I wanted to deal with this battle between three huge countries that would have major repercussions.
Obviously, doing nothing at all was something I wasn't accustomed to.
"Samantha, it seems your mother is still going to remain asleep for a while to come. But there are still things you all can do."
With bright red hair, "Temperance" Samantha was both the wood spirits' tribe leader and the oldest sister of the Seven Virtues. The strange part, however, was that even though she was transformed from a rose, the symbol of passion, she always had an icy expression and spoke as little as possible.
Although she and Rosa were both transformed from roses, and she greatly resembled Rosa in physical appearance to the point of almost being twins, not to mention the Three Virtues that currently existed had all been living symbiotically with Amelia and knew much about me, Samantha was quite different from the friendly and hesitant Rosa. She seemed to quite dislike me as a lack of expression was a good expression for her when she saw me, while an expression of distaste was more the norm whenever she talked to me.
"Well, you all will probably have many visitors coming here soon. Their target will mostly be the undead. I hope you'll be able to do three things. First, try to help as many of the visitors survive as possible. Second, provide resources to them that will attract them to stay here; for example, that fruit you have that can improve one's Constitution. You can trade them to the visitors for Justice Points or large amounts of gold coins, but make sure you only give it to them in limited amounts. Third, learn communication skills for communicating with other species so that you can quickly adapt to living in this world."
When talking about who had the most treasures, very few would be able to compare with a dimensional will. This was just like how no small businesses would ever be able to compete with the government. While the former earned money, the latter printed money. A dimensional will was basically like the existence that printed money.
Special fruits that could permanently increase one's basic stats of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, and so on, nectars that could recover one's HP and mana stats, antidotes that could cure the most vicious poisons, and so on were all available in this forest. While alchemy could create potions and antidotes to replicate the effects of the latter two products, items that could completelyand foundationallyimprove a person's stats were exceedingly precious. Just this local specialty alone would attract countless strong individuals to come work for the wood spirits.
Of course, such fruits weren't limitless. Fruits that could permanently increase one's basic stats required many resources for the forest to produce; they were limited. Amelia's Forest of Dreams' power of Creation was limited to only fruits and plants so only the living that were capable of eating these fruits would benefit from them.
As the Holy War continued, I extrapolated that perhaps Justice Points would become more valuable than even gold coins. Just this newly-born currency alone, which represented glory as well as a way of doing business, was highly likely to increase the Goddess of Wealth Beyana's divine power, giving her far more than what she spent to help us create the exchange system. And this was just the beginning. According to my plan, all of the True Gods in the Ayer Faction would greatly benefit from my plan in the end.
I also knew that with every contract and every fair exchange, there would be an increase in the power of the Concept known as Contracts along with Wumianzhe's power as he was the Guardian God of Contracts. And after the recent Gods' proclamation, the faith of his believers would further increase, along with the believers' devoutness in the other Gods that did the proclamation together.
"This is destined to be a long-term battle. Don't let the warriors die meaninglessly. This is also for your mother's sake."
I wasn't lying about this. After all, all the corpses and souls that died here would become nourishment for the Forest of Dreams. As long as there was a sufficient number of blood sacrifices, not only would Amelia awaken, but she would be far more powerful than she was before. From a certain standpoint, the entire Forest of Dreams was now part of her physical body, and the entire wood spirit species was living in symbiosis with her.
Samantha nodded at this. I supposed that meant she agreed.
As I watched Samantha leave without a sound, I heaved a sigh of relief. Her glares at me were just too vicious, and the complaints and anger in her expression made me feel so uncomfortable, as if I owed her a lot. When I thought about everything I did in the past, which she probably knew about because of Amelia, I felt a mysterious sense of guiltit made me feel like an irresponsible father that wasn't paying child support.
"Sister Samantha is quite delighted. She looks really happy that father wants her help." However, little Rosa came out to ruin her sister's image.
What? That vicious expression was actually one of delight? Astonished, I hurriedly asked Rosa just how she knew.
"Father, you were unable to tell? Don't look at Sister Samantha's expression. Actually, she was so happy just earlier. Just look at how the vines behind Sister's head are jumping up and down, just like a dog's tail Ahhh!!"
Alright then. Vines suddenly reached out from a nearby tree, tying up and kidnapping Rosa. When I saw how the oldest sister Samantha had a face that was now turning red as she continued walking off, I felt like I understood these young wood spirits more than before.
Meanwhile, by a small river, the first artificial construction in the Forest of Dreams was underway. Only four to five hundred square meters, it was a tiny court constructed entirely of stone. It had seven or eight rooms, and was, indeed, the Church of Law's church branch and court in the Forest of Dreams.
Its planned use, apart from being able to provide some Justice Points for the future Contract Warriors that would be coming here, was to spread the teachings of the Church of Law. It would even be able to help people enter Law related job classes, and as the Divine Concept of "Contracts" continuously entered people's dictionaries, not only would ordinary merchants begin using contracts, adventurers and mercenaries would also start coming to the Church of Law as well. "Team contracts" would be a new popular product as well.
As the church branch located on the frontlines, who to make its head priest was naturally an important decision. I chose
"Krose, are the preparations ready?"
"Yes! The wood spirits are quite easy to communicate with, and they're quickly learning about Law. I think that before long, the Church of Law will have its first group of wood spirit Law job class members."
Krose was smiling brilliantly, a beam of utter bliss. Apart from being able to work in a foresta place all elves preferred to beit was more because the wood spirits had promised to cultivate a special plant potion for her that could change her body.
Alright. Everybody probably figured it out already. It was just a plant potion version of the "Spring of a Drowned Man" as it was indeed within the Forest of Dreams' power to produce such a potion.
However, the rules were already set in stone. Even Krose would need to earn Justice Points in order to exchange for such a potion. And since it was a custom order for her, it would probably be far more expensive than usual.
I ended up deciding against hurting her morale by telling her what I was thinking when I saw how brilliant Krose's smile was as she busied herself with her work.
The church's support will be here soon. With your popularity in the church along with all those abnormal fans of yours, I feel like even if you're willing to pay 10,000 Justice Points for that potion, your coworkers are willing to pay 30,000 Justice Points to prevent you from doing so. And even if you succeed in obtaining the potion of 'Spring of a Drowned Man,' they'll develop the potion of 'Spring of a Drowned Girl' just for you.