Never one to care where etiquette was concerned and always living as he pleased, Joshua rarely bowed.
As the leader one of the world's top martial arts dojo in his past life, people would bow to him most of the time in hopes that he would take them in as a student. In this world, he's a formidable Gold-tier warrior and a noble count. Unless there was an existence that could earn his veneration, he would not need to bow.
Still, as he encountered a godespecially a sagely name like Father Naturethe warrior willingly paying homage.
Late in the Battle of the Dark Abyss in his past life, large tracts of lost ground on the Mycroft Continent was reclaimed. However, the demon-polluted earth was uninhabitable; should people or livestock drink or eat within the contaminated zones they would be infected by the magical malady known as Corruption.
It was a horrifying malady that could change any living thing gradually into an ooze, a monster that resembled slimes. The infected person would only be able to watch as every muscle and gut (save for his bones) stink with putrefaction and melt into the sentient mud. In the end, the squirming puddle would replace the infected person's brain, killing them.
The divine spell needed to cleanse such zones was too enormous; even a single deity would have trouble sterilizing the land as big as a country. That was why when the heroes claimed each victory over the Dark Abyss the tough responsibility of rebuilding fell on the common folk.
Then, the Reformers of the World appeared.
Though they used one tenth of the energy required for Divine Purification, the effect was seven to eight times more effective than the original. The success had caught the eye of every faction on the continenteven the gods. However, it was still a time of war, each faction was unable to provide casters for world-cleansing purposes.
Thus, it was solely thanks to the materialistic support the Organization had provided, many players joined their ranks and cleansed the land alongside the druids. According to one who managed to enter the higher hierarchy amongst the Reformers, the power they employed came from a divine source of another worldin other words, His Majesty Father Nature who now lives before Joshua.
Illgner must have been invaded by the Evil God of Calamity in the preexistence too, although according to the data recorded by the Reformers, Father Nature had fallen into eternal slumber then. Furthermore, just before he went dormant he had given his power to all lives who were intent on preserving naturewhich explained why the druids had such incredible powers of purification; all they were using were pure divine power.
And now, Father Natureotherwise known as the Soul of the Forests, had just been awakened. This meant that the battle which would return him to his eternal nap was yet to arrive.
Meaning that there was a still a chance to turn the tide.
"All elven souls are yet to be recalled completely."
The Soul of the Forests and Joshua looked at each other. Its overlapping speech was slower. "I had a plan against the Evil God of Calamity, but things have changed now that you're here."
"I see." The warrior watched the flashing bunch of lights without blinking. He nodded thoughtfully with his hand pressed on his chest. "I understand. What would you have us, do Your Majesty?"
"Truly the successor of the Sage. You see things quickly." The green light slowly rose and seeped into the gigantic stone tree, and it slightly shuddered as if satisfied. "I'll be counting on your party before I truly awaken."
WAIT A MINUTEFriend, hold up, HOLD UP! What did you guys just say?
In a corner, Roland was taken aback by Joshua's conversation. The elven deity or His Majesty, Father Nature had suddenly revealed his identitygripping him in genuine wonder. That amazement did not dull against that which he experienced when he witnessed the descent of the Seven Gods.
According to the Church of Seven Gods' data, Father Nature was a deity that had descended in the Glorious Eraa time lost almost three hundred years ago. Now it appears that not only did he survive, his power as tremendous as it once wasmoving mountains at ease.
What amazing news! If this were the Mycroft Continent the word would probably shake the entire world. Elves of the Far South would even go crazy immediately; though some the Sevens Gods were patron deities of elvescould they even compare to Father Nature?
Nonetheless, Roland quickly and completely dropped the idea of spreading the news. He had recently discovered that his friend had come to some sort of mutual understanding with the divine existence.
Blinking forcefully and shaking his head, Roland gazed once more upon the towering stone tree and Joshua with a muddled and befuddled expression. The blond holy knight reflected on the dialogue between them and promptly felt a stomach ache.
What are they saying? How could they suddenly understand each other?!
Black, Ling, and Ying could not grasp what was happening either, though unlike the holy knight they simply went along with it. As long as they followed Joshua there would be a waythere wasn't any need to worry.
Therefore, their response was unanimous towards the fact that their owner could see through a god.
"Ah, Master is so impressive!"
"Such terrific knowledge and wisdom"
"Roar (Good job! Skillful!)!"
Noticing that Joshua companions were feeling a little lost, the stony skin of the Divine Tree of Beginnings began to shift. Infinite pieces of grey boulders began to peel off and fall, revealing a brown skin brimming with life force that bore the face of an elderly man.
He gazed upon the party, and a gentle voice rang in their head.
"We are Him, We are not Him. We are the Soul of the Forest, the will of the Divine Tree of Beginnings, and also the soulful composite of every Elven King. Divinity, Father Nature and the Guardian of the Forest Elves only come when those two combines, and that process would take some time.
"Thousands of years ago, I built a Dimensional Bridge with all my power to escape the Mycroft world that was sealed by the Chaos Evil God and the Dark Abyss. It was then that the elves were guided into this world; the price was my long slumber. To recover, We absorbed the magical powers of this world and reformed it.
"As the environment turned friendly towards the elves' survival, the elements weakened on Illgner. The 'Calamity Shift' thus attracted the Evil God [Scourge] who had been wandering amidst the dimensional planesleading to this very moment."
At those words, the Soul of the Forests' gigantic tree face glanced sideways at Joshua and his friends as if mocking himself. "Looking at your group, I know that civilization has returned to my homeplaceand for someone who fled the strife such as I, ultimately there's no running away from the fight."
Nobody would be left out of this struggle. Justice could not save the kind just as evil could not save the malevolent.
Cowards had no place to hide, only the courageous live.
After a few moments of emotion Father Nature said calmly, "As you can see, our body is yet to revive completely. Sleeping underground for thousands of years had turned our tree crown into the Mountains of the Origins and our trunk into stone. To recover our power a lot of time is needed. The Evil God's brethren had noticed this too and would not sit idly by."
Roland finally got it. Though he realized the fact with a start he still looked doubtful. "Your Majesty still needs some time to completely awaken, which is why you need us to hold back the golem assault? But as you could see, our power would probably be enough for self-defensebut it won't be enough to resist the bulk of the golem army!"
Father Nature turned to Roland; the holy knight promptly felt an enormous pressure. The focus of a goda yet to fully awaken one at thatheld him with the sensation of being crushed at the bottom of the ocean, holding his entire body down and immobilizing it.
This was also after the deity had withheld most of his pressure. Once he thought of that Roland turned towards the calm Joshua, and his blue eyes were filled with shock. Only after experiencing it firsthand did he understand how strong Joshua's will was to interact normally with Father Nature.
"User of the Sacred Light, there is no need to be nervous." Father Nature answered unhurriedly, after Roland grew comfortable under his pressure. "You have no choice either way, the Evil God of Calamity has his eyes upon this world. Once you step out you would be struck by [Skyflare]; that wouldn't happen in my domain right here."
"Since it's death one way or the other, why not help us?"
His sober tone staggered Roland once more. Skyflare? That pillar of light that blasted them right after they arrived in this world? Father Nature's words made the holy knight recall that scene; the pillar that vaporized an entire volcano and tore atoms apart. He had mixed feelingshe was unsure if he should utter the swear word at the tip of his tongue.
"Relax, Roland," said Joshua, who had been quiet for some time. He shook his head and turned to the giant tree face, smiling lightly. "His Majesty Father Nature is not that selfish, he would definitely assist us."
He was a divine existence that didn't mind going into a long sleep while supplying his strength to every druid who aspired to save the environment. Such a deity wasn't self-centered.
"That's right, I will give you power power enough to stand against the armies of Chaos."
The lips of the gigantic face curled as if smiling. The echo in his voice was slowly dissipating, leaving a thick, warm voice that sounded across the karst. "I shall grant you, my protection, and blessing."
At that, green light wafted from the bark of the treethe pure life energies freezing into green thunderbolts that streaked across the atmosphere. Shreds of luminescence floated in the air, and all those energies formed a brilliant circle of illumination suspended on the heads on Joshua and his party, giving them a striking resemblance to mythical angels.
The circles vanished slowly, turning into a watery belt of light that gleamed before entering their bodies. That was how the enormous strength was infused into their physicality, simply and directly raising their power.
Everyone save for Joshua was suddenly drowned in divine blessing, struggling to cope with the unexpected and tremendous force that could break hills. The warrior himself stretched out, clenched his fists, and then moved his arms and muscles around without any hint of discomfort.
He wouldn't lose himself even if it was power of such heights. Lifting his gaze, he smiled at the face on the tree. "Your Majesty, such generosity is this. Seems like you do this often too by the looks of it."
There wasn't any misgiving in his voice; the warrior was merely saying what he thought.
"Successor to the power of the Sage, trees are not used to fightsyou know that. This is the method we have employed since ancient times, to grant the strongest elves the honor of becoming our blades."
Soul of the Forest, Father Nature watched the black-haired red-eyed warrior below him, adding softly, "As long as you are within my sheltered domain you would have the power to stand against the Chaos. It is my hope that you could shoulder this burden."
"Certainly," Joshua answered crisply. "I never run away from any battle, and I will never lose. As long as the fire of life burns within me, I will not allow any agent of Chaos approach your body."
"This..." the corner of his mouth raised, the warrior grinned confidently. "is my promise."
The huge face stared at Joshua. He recalled the moment when the elven continent had fallen thousands of years ago, and when he brought a band of despairing elves to leave the battlefield that had once been their very birthplace.
He had heard a sigh then.
The sigh wasn't accusing; as the deity that lived mutually with the elves, it was the Divine Tree of BeginningsFather Nature's intention to protect them, and not the Mycroft Continent. That was why his departure wasn't out of the ordinary, and the sigh was merely one over regretthe regret of seeing a friend leave.
"Successor of the Sage"
Father Nature recalled the pure-white silhouette as he watched the warrior. His voice was absolutely serious while carrying shades of nostalgia towards the distant past. "I believe you."
"Fulfill your promise."