Amidst the gloomy skies, the ear-piercing sirens over the battleship had stopped blaring after the battle ended. Once more, the humming of the magical core running on full capacity echoed under the torrential rain and violent winds, and searchlights swept across the clouds.
The black dragon had retreated after taking a single severe blow, while the other frenzied dragons scattered and fled after their leader. All that was left had been an airspace filled with ash and remains as they tried to escape the human’s pursuit, not quite caring whether they were flying into rainclouds or thunderclouds.
On the Gale, the maintenance team were hurrying around the central zone of the ship. This might not be the craft’s first battle, but it was the first time it faced off against so many dragons as well as pushing both cores to full power. Such precious combat data had to be gathered immediately and sent back to the Empire.
On the bridge, the Gale’s captain sat on his huge chair, and listened calmly to every report from the crew around him. Those naturally concerned their kill count, energy consumption, backup supply feasibility as well as the remaining distance to the Sacred Mountain.
Most would have been good newsusually.
He would have been excited too, but he was not right now.
Glancing at his subordinates who spoke ceaselessly about things that did not matter, he asked them coolly, “I don’t need this crap. Where’s the Count now?”
His poor mood was caused by the sudden appearance of Grundy of the Death Smoke. They had almost died quietly within the airshipthe black clouds it used that was brimming with negative energies had bypassed the sturdy armor, slipping in through cracks and even penetrating dimensions to enter and drain their lifeforce. The ship was a killing machine against existences of Gold-tier and below, but against Supreme-tier forces, it was no better than a metal coffin.
As a human, nobody would be glad about their own fragility and helplessness.
Noting the captain’s current state of mind, a crew member working on an observation spell quickly responded. “The Count has returned on deck two minutes ago, and just arrived at his own cabin.”
“ Then stay on course for the Sacred Mountain.” The old captain inhaled deeply and looked towards the horizon that was lighting up with holy illumination. “They are coming to welcome us, be ready.”
Joshua’s cabin on the other end of the Gale.
The door swung open forcefully after a flurry of footsteps rang from the corridor. The warrior then entered with a solemn expression, a menacing air permeating the atmosphere despite the rather spacious quarters.
Standing outside was the Steel Elemental who could not come in due to its size. Black, who had been resting inside the room, looked towards its Master whose temper was flaring.
Something unexpected happened in the battle?
The half-dragon guessed, but quickly threw that thought away since it was impossible.
After all, it was just dragons. If not for its own acrophobia and the scarce fire elements due to the elevation, Black itself could have kept the airship safe. It had torn through swarms of golems at Illgner, so while the berserk swarm was threatening, what was those few dragons against the armies of Chaos that could cover heaven and earth?
Leaving the matter of the dragon’s doubts and blind guesses, the greatsword in Joshua’s right hand glowed radiantly in the company of elemental waves.
Soon, an alarmed silver-haired girl appeared before the warrior.
The moment Ying returned to human form, she quickly grabbed the black greataxe from Joshua.
“Ouchso hot!” She squealed painfully after touching the axe’s edge. Her palm also quickly reddenedmeaning that the heat was above what the spiritual incarnation of the weapon expected.
She was speechless, staring anxiously at her own master.
“ It still can’t take human form now. Seems bad.”There was a brief silence as Joshua studied the huge black axe in her hand.
“Let me try,” he then said gravely, and reached out to touch the scorching steel of his weapon.
This weapon is the real form of the divine armaments. Ying being a white giant sword, and Ling being a black giant axe. Their human forms were created for easier communication and traveling. The size of humans, they were too cumbersome to be carried around, while as two humans they could even walk around to their hearts’ content.
These weapons were also created expressly to fight against the minions of the Evil God of Famine. Their sturdiness was above most equipment in this world, and while they lack special abilities they were capable of cutting steel and boasted supreme durability, which basically made them divine. They were also self-conscious, capable of strengthening their master through their blood contracteven legendary divine troops may not beat them.
But even that sturdiness had limits.
“Nothing too serious.” Joshua breathed a relax sigh after using his own Combat Aura to examine the integrity of the black axe carefully, while communicating with Ling’s spiritual realm. “Ling’s simply fainted from a little overdrive.”
Nothing inside was broken. Although there was a scalding residue of his aura over the axe, it did not really exceed the upper limits of the divine armament.
“The heat on the axe’s face is extraordinary but within the acceptable standards of the armament. It was the way I injected aura during the fightI forgot how Ling would feel.”
After summing things up for Ying, the warrior’s expression suddenly turned awkward and helpless despite a ridiculous joy in his heart.
The divine armament was knocked out by his own power.
Before him, every head of the Radcliffe family carried divine armaments bound to him by blood contract that allowed them to unleash their abilities that ultimately depended on their innate gifts. Just to be able to hold one and wield it freely in battle was a sign of immense talent.
His late father, Beirut van Radcliffe could only use Joshua’s old butler ‘Fang’ as his single divine armament, and yet could still carve a name for himself in the Empire and even made an impression in front of the Emperor.
When it came to his turn, it soon came to light that he could use two without any troubleand now, even overloading the divine armaments.
Still, he was an unprecedented Supreme-tier champion in the family. Although the designs did not take that into account, it still showed how powerful Joshua truly was.
“Ling’s breath had suddenly vanished after the battle, that really shocked me.”
After ascertaining that the black-haired youth was just simply unconscious, Joshua’s expression calmed. The warrior sat down and shook his head at the still-troubled Ying who sat by the bed. “I even thought that some accident happened, which was why I didn’t give chase, and allowed Grundy to escape easily.”
At the mere mention of the dragon, his voice turned chilling and he showed a mirthless smile. “I’ll remember its smell.”
Obviously, the warrior had completely transferred his shock and worry onto Grundy. In his mind, that damned black dragon was now a corpse that was about to face the pain of being torn apart.
“Hmmm. Understood, master.”
At her corner, Ying was still hugging Ling’s real form distractedly. She might seem comfortable after hearing Joshua’s assurance that her brother was fine and it was not a problem, but her spirits were not lifting. Even fighting with her master after such a long time did not really make her happy.
That was when Black approached the gloomy silver-haired girl. After some thought, it protruded its tongue to lick the girl. It was not until its second helping that the girl finally switched from melancholy to embarrassed annoyance.
“Black! How many times I’ve saiddon’t lick me!”
Ying had always been a little obsessed with hygiene albeit not in the extreme. That being said, she still hated foreign substances on her bodyespecially wet saliva.
As such, she would throw a fit whenever Black attempted to lick her but the beast never seemed to learn its lesson. It was as if it was a joy to bully the divine armament.
Nonetheless, Black was doing it now to cheer her up.
Joshua touched his own chin. Although his mood was still somber, the scene still made him laugh quietly.
Black’s intelligence had now reached the level of humans. It could contemplate things as well as experience emotions, and now, even giving its friends a push out of a bind. That was not usually obvious but it was due to its sheer size that prevents rapport in a way.
Perhaps the shapeshifting pendant was no longer enough now. The half-dragon might need some item even more precious or a certain spell to truly fuse into Joshua’s life.
As he watched Ling and Black raised a ruckus over the bed, his face suddenly froze. Blinking, he swept across the room before quietly leaving his cabin for the corridor outside.
Unit 01, who had been waiting by the door greeted him with its buzzing sound the moment it saw him. Joshua nodded in response, but gestured for it to keep quiet.
Raising his white hand, he unleashed ripples of Combat Aura that suppressed every magical circle of observation within the passageway. At the same time, radiance gathered out of thin air and formed an aged holy rune. Acting as an anchor, it spread rich holy luminosity that slowly formed an instinct silhouette of a human made of light.
The man’s face soon solidified, revealing an aged man with white hair and a golden gaze. He looked at Joshua before him and nodded.
“Greetings, Joshua van Radcliffe.” He said in a soft voice.
“Greetings, Your Holiness.”
After the brief exchange of pleasantries, Joshua went straight to the point. “Why are you here? I’ve almost reached the Sacred Mountain, and we could simply meet there. Why would you hide yourself here with a Sacred Light Projection and have me snuff out prying eyes?”
The warrior had received the Pope’s communication in his cabin just now, telling him that he wants to talk a bit but without anyone else present. Although a curious request, Joshua had no reason to protest, he still needed an explanation.
However, Igor did not respond to the warrior’s question immediately.
“Young man, I had never imagined such developments to your power,” he said, studying him carefully before nodding and smiling happily. “Having the power of the Sages and working for justice, it’s all but smooth sailing for you in the road ahead.
“And yet, the speed still surpasses my imagination.
The old Pope’s projection is far more realistic than the one he last saw at the North. If not for the dots of Sacred Light that forms his body, the warrior would probably be unable to differentiate between the man himself and this one before him right now by appearance alone.
Still, Joshua simply shrugged at Pope Igor’s expression of awe and did not reply.
His meteoric rise in power was, of course, thanks to the system and his incessant daily training. This was the real world after all, and there was a limit to dungeons and beastsit was only thanks to the Grand Armies of Chaos in Karlis and Illgner that he got to raise his power by leaps and bounds.
Noting his coyness, the Pope finally answered the warrior’s question. “Israel had already made the proper arrangements with every faction whose land you’ve journey past along the waythis new aerial battleship would not have navigated through their territories so easily otherwise. The fortress at Naga also notified us when you arrived here in the South, and the bishops also noticed your presence before your ship fought the dragons.”
Joshua understoodsuch a huge airship would not escape the notice of the outer circle of the Sacred Mountains after all. The reason they did not rush forward to escort them was perhaps due to a curiosity to see the Gale’s combat capabilities.
And he could tell that Igor was quite pleased.
“This ship might not be able to fight Supreme-tier dragon leaders or Legendary dragons, but it could definitely hold back the countless ranks of berserker dragons. It’s a genuine advantage in this war.” The old clergy said, showering his thanks towards the Empire’s support formally.
His voice, however, became dispassionate as he went on. “Joshua, the reason I want you to conceal yourself is because what I’m going to say next must not be heard by anyone one else.”
“The reason the Church called for me?” Joshua replied seriously, gathering himself and nodded lightly. “Please speak freely, Your Holiness. I’ll honor my promise to help you since I’m already here.”
“So, am I supposed to decimate the draconic troops and cut down their leader?”
“No.” The old Pope shook his head gently. “The defense of the Sacred Mountain shall be left to this ship and the clergy stationed here. As long as we can ensure that the dragons could not make it past the divine spell formations, the presence of a Supreme-tier combatant does not matter.”
“Are you sure?” Joshua asked in surprise, his eyebrows dancing. “I’m not really needed? Though I’m young, I can assure you that my strength is definitely up to par as a Supreme champion. With me here, the Sacred Mountain will never fall.”
“I believe you, Joshua.” Igor’s tone was so trusting, it was as if the old man had more faith in the warrior than he did in himself. “To send [Death Smoke] Grundy fleeing in a head-on encounter alone proved that you are among the stronger Supreme champions. There is no doubt that you alone could push those dragons back.”
“And it is by that belief that I give you an even more important mission.”
Igor paused, and he said in a serious but hushed tone, “With me holding the Legendary dragons at bay, the Church of Seven would never be lost. However, there is a foreboding sensation over at Anos Abyss.”
Finally, the elderly leader of the Church finally revealed his intention. His golden eyes now flashed with a holy radiance that seemingly pierces the fog of history and glimpses into the future. His voice became grave as he narrated his prediction to the equally somber Joshua.
“There is a crack at Anos that leads to the Abyss, and the Pentashade dragons have clearly made a deal with them as well as the Evil God of Pestilence. I’m worried that they would use the crack as a focal point to temporarily unlock the Abyssal door and send in their backup armies.”
The Pope then narrowed his eyesit was clear that his prophecy has not yet ended. “And I could almost see it,” he said with a deep voice. “In several decades it would become one of the roots of the apocalypse. If we don’t remove it now, it would become a cancerous tumor residing in Mycroft, bringing forth disasters for millennia.”
“ Precisely.” Joshua nodded slowly in agreement with the Pope’s prophecy. He could acknowledge it easily because it was the exact same thing that happened in his past life.
Anos Abyss had later become the Eye of the Sea, the most horrendous of the Three Great Doorways to the Abyss. It was perhaps due to the fallen Pentashade dragon races having done something thereotherwise, a normal dimensional rift would not have been blown into such unholy proportions.
“Then, Your Holiness wishes me to head for Anos, find that Abyss Seam and destroy it? No problem.” Joshua said calmly with a clenched fist, giving his promise without a shred of hesitation. There was no need for any inspiring oath. The warrior’s words is a promise, and promises will be fulfilled.
“Yes, but you won’t be alone.” Igor nodded and smiled. “Through providence from the Seven, I know the approximate location of the crack. It’s in a gigantic vortex beneath the depths Anos. You probably can’t find it alone, so assisting you there will be champions such as Commander Robzek, Sir Roland, Great Nun Saya and several others. With Robzek and you being the strongest leaders in the team, they will listen to your instructions.”
Having had his say, the old Pope shifted his attention away from Joshua. He glanced at Unit 01 curiously, before lifting his brow when he noticed what was happening in the cabin.
“Joshua, your weapons seem to have issues” he spoke softly, his tone carrying concern. “Need help?”
As an old fighter himself, the Pope naturally knew about the meaning of a contract between divine armaments and their users. It was a kinship and partnership of the utmost intimacy, and he worried that having them in poor condition would affect Joshua in turn.
“If you are willing to trust the Church’s skill, we could restore him for you.” The Pope assured, before adding rather humorously, And in the name of the Holy Light, I swear that there will be no backlash.”
“Thanks.” The warrior showed gratitude over his grace, but shook his head seriously. “But there’s no needI have a better idea.”
Then, the warrior kept quiet for a few moments while the Pope waited silently.
Inhaling sharply, the warrior frowned as he made a decision.
“If it’s possible, I need a little help.” Joshua leveled his eyes at the ancient and golden gaze. “I hope you can allow Ying and Ling to climb the Sacred Mountain,” he said earnestly. “And then condition them so that they could be comfortable with my power. It might be a hassle, but I hope you could take good care of them.”
“No, it’s not a hassle, I understand how you feel.” Igor waved him off and nodded lightly, while looking at him with an unusual expression.
“To the Church, taking care of two divine armaments is no issue, however, Joshua” The old pope’s voice turned ponderous. “This means that you have no weapons. The Church’s power could indeed augment your divine armament, but it would never be finished in time before the expedition to Anos. And from your face, I can tell that you won’t wield Blessed Weapons from the Sacred Mountain.”
“Are you really going to journey to Anos unarmed? That is a place of eternal storms, and within the vortex and tidal waves are leviathans within the sea. You might not even reach the target even if you were fully equipped!”
“Ha-ha, Your Holiness.” Joshua’s expression had relaxed after Igor agreed to his request, and then laughed lightly at the Pope’s doubts.
“I’m going exactly because it’s a treacherous journey. From your point of view, if I find it difficult, won’t it be even more so for the others?”
“To raise the spirit of armies and bring salvation to dire affairs is why I’m standing here, and”
The warrior clenched both his fists, his face looking relieved while his eyes showed a cool, fearsome glint.
“It’s both a challenge and enjoyment to be unarmed occasionally.”