That was Roland’s thought as he surveyed the main hall decorations after being led inside Joshua’s residence by one of his maids.
The Radcliffe family’s taste for interior design was simply too gloomy. There was nothing that sets it apart from those infamous castles infested with vampires.
Now before him was a tidy hall styled in northern-realm fashion. Whether it was the potted plants or the furniture, hung paintings or ornaments, it was arguably nothing was left out of place. However, the cold color of the floor and the gray walls, as well as the faint pyroxene lighting gave a persisting and instinctual feeling of melancholy.
Even if that were so, the holy knight had to admit that there was attention to detail for every decoration. Though it was slightly miserable, there is a definitive elegance befitting of the Radcliffe family’s rich history and rank.
Still, the taste behind that arrangement was a far cry from that within the Holy Mountain. It made him uncomfortable every time he was here.
Sighing, Roland looked to another corner.
Hanging on that more conspicuous piece of wall was a map depicting the world of Mycroft, along with several other smaller domains of the Empire. There were maps of Moldavia’s territories and the southern lands too, but those seemed to be added later.
On the latter were quite a number of special marks of red dots and black crosses. The holy knight noticed at once that the red dots were concentrated at few points far south, at the heart of the land where dragons were running rampant. The black crosses, on the other hand, were rather scattered across the entire world, and he could not tell what it was quickly.
So red dots for dragons, and black crosses for cultists? Roland thought. He found quite a few of them in Moldavia’s domain. It also happened to be where he patrolled and places where the cult members were spotted.
As he pondered over those signs, a set of clear and rhythmic footsteps rang nearby.
Soon, the door to the visitor’s hall swung open.
“Friend. It’s late, what’s the trouble?”
“Joshua.” Roland quickly rose at the familiar but rather curt voice. He turned to look at his best friend and shrugged.
“Just a little something.”
“Let me guess.” Hanging up his coat on a hanger, the warrior twisted his wrist while sweeping his gaze across the holy knight’s almost fully-equipped white armor. “You’re heading back to the Sacred Mountain,” he said softly.
The holy knight was slightly taken aback, but quickly nodded calmly. “That’s right,” he replied. “The place needs me and my comrades are waiting for me. I’ve pretty much cleared most of the cultists’ lairseven if there were some loose ends they probably wouldn’t be that much of threat. So, it’s time to go back.”
“That’s something I have to thank you for, you’ve really helped me a lot.”
Gesturing for Roland to take a seat once more, Joshua walked towards a heavy cabinet where a cumbersome pot of plant was placed above.
The visitors’ hall was a place the warrior rested in the afternoon, which was why there would always be liquor there.
Right now, he was taking out a black bottle of wine from that cabinet, carved with a magic circle that preserves freshness. There was also a logo of the refinery on the bottle.
He asked wordlessly if the holy knight wanted a taste. When refused, he simply took the bottle with him and found a spot to sit.
“Would have been my treat, but it seems that the holy knights are quite disciplined.”
The warrior uncorked the bottle with a light stroke, but did not drink it immediately. Instead, he turned sideways to look at the large hanging map, and started mumbling to himself.
“The Sacred Mountain of the Distant Sea is within waters belonging to the Southern Kingdom. If the dragon plague wants to move to the continent they’d have to take that summit first, which was why the Pentashade dragons have split into two forces.”
“With the Church’s ambushes and impenetrable defenses, their attacks had been foiled one after the other. However, with the retreat of the elite forces from the central forces of the Kingdom, they would definitely turn back and focus on them to take down and eliminate the threat that stands on their flank.”
“Indeed,” Roland agreed. He knew the warrior was speaking about the current state of affairs far south. “Now that the dragons are moving their main force towards the Holy Mountain, I’m honor-bound to return as a Holy Knight of the Church.” His words were clear, simple and resolute.
“Yes. It’s your duty, after all.”
Having experienced this part of history, Joshua nodded. He was aware that the formidable Pentashade dragons had suddenly combined with the army of berserker dragons and almost taken down the Sacred Mountain. It was only through the continent’s diverting of an incessant number of clergies to hold the line there that they resisted that final wave.
After that battle, the Pentashade Dragon God was also surrounded by the Seven and banished from the Infinite Horizon. It was forced to enter the continent as a Sage, but when the Seven refrained from chasing It down, the humiliated deity spread more draconic plagues across every nation on the land.
Many could not fathom the Seven’s choice then. All they need was just a little push to slay the Five-headed Dragon God (Pentashade Dragon God) and put an end to the draconic plague once and for all. Nevertheless, they had suddenly stayed their hand and even vanished for a period.
It was only now that Joshua understood that the Seven may have been fighting against the Evil God of Pestilence who had pulled the strings behind the Pentashade Dragon God, and seduced it to spread the dragon plague.
“Whatever the case may be, a toastto the brave.”
With those words, Joshua simply raised the bottle of wine and in a symbolic gesture to the holy knight, and had a mouthful.
Whether through its age or the production process, the wine had a sweet aroma, and neither felt too thick nor too astringent. It was clearly a great product from a famous refinery that any connoisseur would appreciate and enjoy to the last drop.
It would, however, be wasted on the warrior. He was only capable of giving a two-word review’tastes good’.
After his drink, he placed the bottle at a side and frowned, as if pondering what words he should use in parting, only to simply shake his head.
“Now that I think of it, there’s nothing to remind you about.” He said. “A mere draconic plague would not be able to end your lifeunless you were looking for death on your own. I could only wish you good fortune to reach your own goal.”
“Thanks, but I’m not being brave. I’m just doing what I should, and it was time for me to return to the battlefield anyway.” Roland replied nonchalantly, taking no mind of Joshua’s title for him, before adding seriously, “And thank you for your help this whole time.”
Joshua quickly shook his head. “Only those who would perform their duty despite danger can be called brave,” he retorted. “I should be the one thanking you. If not for the help from you and Artanis I wouldn’t easily clear this place of cultists. Look at Moldova right next doorthe couple had labored for more than half a month but didn’t make half of such progress.”
The hall then fell to a brief silence before Joshua spoke again.
“Roland. Do you know how powerful ‘Supreme’ is?”
“ I do.” Roland replied carefully in a low voice, his eyebrows raised. “Supreme means breaking past the concept and limits of human and completely entering a whole new threshold of extraordinary existence. That level is more a phenomenon and calamitytheir powers are no longer within the bounds of common sense.”
“A very proper answer, but not quite enough.” Joshua shook his head at Roland’s answer. “You don’t know how powerful it is.”
Without waiting for an irked response from the holy knight, he simply raised the bottle of wine once more and chugged it down. Then, looking up at the ceiling, he started muttering to himself.
“Before the Great Mana Tide came, the world was not powerful enough as a whole. Silver meant high-ranking officers; Gold meant regimental leaders; Supreme meant ruling an entire army or a province; Legendary meant the conquest of entire empires.”
“It’s far harder to improve my tier in my past life, but I still reached Supreme,” Joshua added, before shifting his fiery gaze into Roland’s own eyes. “What does that mean?”
“It means I could decimate the dragon army alone if I were to head to the Far South.” The warrior’s grave yet dulcet voice echoed in the visitor’s hall, trembling even the potted plants and the bottle.
“If I were to head there, the Kingdom’s central defense line would be nigh impenetrable with my participation.”
“Because with an Supreme-tier combatant, the grand draconic forceswould be kept in check and no longer run rampant as they like. The fortresses would finally get time to rest and rearrange their defenses.”
At that, Joshua shook his head at Roland and said rather regretfully, “That’s the power of Supreme. To change the tide of a battle, to change the fate of a nation.”
“I’ve asked you if you knew how powerful a Supreme-tier individual was. You said you do, but you don’t.”
Roland was left speechless. It was only thanks to his mentality that he could swiftly respond and find a flaw in the warrior’s argument. He agreed with Joshuabut there were still fallacies in his words.
“It’s exactly so. If the Southern Kingdom were to have an Supreme-tier champion, the threat would definitely be neutralized and we might even go on the attack.”
“However, Joshua,” he said, shaking his head forcefully. “You’re a noble of the Northern Empire, a Count of the North and the Liege of Moldovia. There is no doubt that you would be able to protect your domain as a Supremebut what does a kingdom far south had to do with you?”
Clearly annoyed by Joshua’s tone just now, the holy knight’s own tone now was almost testing. “Oh, that’s rightyou won’t care exactly because it does not matter to you.”
Joshua did not mind the holy knight’s tone, and merely had his own say.
“You think so,” he said slowly. “The Kingdom thinks so, the Seven thinks soand so do the dragons. That was why the latter refrained from angering the powers of the Continent and merely sent cultists to infiltrate the land.”
“When they finally take the South, the fires of war will rage in Mycroft from every direction. But everyone would just watchcold to the eyeas the Kingdom falls, because it has ‘nothing to do’ with them.”
“Roland, you’re a holy knight and possess the power of the Sacred Light only few could use. Nevertheless, your thinking is hampered, held down by meaningless things.”
Joshua spoke calmly even when his words were clearly out of line; his eyes were also steady, unemotional. “It’syour opinion that as a Liege of the North I should simply stay here, expand my territories and prepare against the approaching calamity. The South has nothing to do with me, so I should just sit and watch.”
“That’s an almost unspoken rule, of course. Merely because of the difference in land and nationality, we should just watch our own flock and ignore even as our neighbor’s fall to the wolves.”
“But why I should I care about all that?” The warrior laughed coldly, and said, in no uncertain terms, “Rules are made by the powerful.”
“I’m an Supreme-tier warrior. This power is mine, and I would help whomever I want without permission or reason. And I don’t feel that the Church of Seven would refuse my help.”
“But you’re a nobleman of the Empire. The Emperor The Royal Family of the south” Roland tried to argue, but his thoughts were scrambled. The warrior was making a case against his norms, leaving the holy knight unsettled.
“Do I care about my place as a noble?” Joshua chortled carelessly and shrugged. “Would Israel kill me because I was helping the South slay dragons? Kill me, a warrior who has the power to enter the threshold of Legendary.”
He shook his head and said tonelessly, “Stop fooling around, Roland, and throw away the rule book. I’m willing to do all thisI have the power, and the rules are my call.”
“Because everyone has been worried that helping others meant hurting themselves, the able stayed their hand, and in turn invited greater disaster. Don’t you think that’s too funny if that happens?”
“The fate of the world would fall to the Dark Abyss exactly because of that.”
With those words, waves of Order power surged in Joshua and a green circle of light surfaced upon the warrior’s chest.
In the blink of an eye, Roland could see the shadow of an apparition fusing with the warrior’s figure. It had white hair and white eyes; its body flowing with glorious light no man could keep their eyes on.
A thick but determined voice rang closely in his ears.
“This world needs a hero.”