The restless spirits of nature were the reason the storms at Anos Abyss never calmed.
Green lightning danced across the thick clouds of gloom; it was pure mana discharged as destructive electricity. A breath of the Abyss was blowing winds and pushing tides, aggravating the weather even further.
But on the tenth of July, Starfall Year 833, although the sky and the sun were still concealed under gray rainclouds, it was a rare day in Anos.
There was no rain, and even the usual billowing rush of air had calmed, allowing a moment of peace on the usual tumultuous sea.
Still, anyone knew that it was calm before the real storm.
On the surface of the black sea, a white ark was tranquilly navigating through the waters.
It did not have a sail or pedal. Instead, its flanks carried a tremendous airflow around it, allowing the waves to push it ahead while golden ripples akin to the sun spread from the arc itself, purging the sea off the unclean.
The Church of Seven’s ship, ark [Epoch]
Like the Church itself, its appearance and presence were both inconspicuous and plain. Other than the fact that it was impeccably white there was absolutely no aesthetic value withinthe ship might be two hundred meters long, but there was not a single decoration whether on the corridors, cabins or walls. At most, there were a few carvings of the word of sages to remind the crew of their manners.
Deep within the arc, however, was a hall filled with curious studies and texts that was different from the other areas.
It was a domed hall. Lines of sacred silver radiance were spread across the four walls, forming circuits that resembled runes. A flawless crystal hung over the center of the ceiling, illuminating the room that corresponded to the arrangement of the runes just like the hub of divine spells.
Even without the silver lines, there were splendidly carved reliefs on the wall, each depicting epics including how the Seven Gods led men to the cataclysmic war against the Dark Forest and the other races, after of which sages and heroes rose among them and led their race into incessant progress while the Seven slowly distant themselves.
If one studied it carefully, every hero and sage who represented the flow of civilization could be found in the carvings. Even mages from the Skypiercing White Tower who led the explosive development of magical technology were included, standing side-by-side with ancient great people.
There was not a single soul in the hall. Apart from the occasional flashes from the holy silver lines all was quiet.
Suddenly, every single radiance vanished and all was darkness. The phenomenon was not missed by some people who happened to be outside. After a few sonorous calls for assistance, several powerful presences immediately rushed towards the hall from other parts of the ark.
The shift did not last too long. In seconds, an unusual but extremely sacred radiance appeared by the center of the dome out of thin air. It began releasing sacred forces of cleansing, setting free countless dots as bright as stars, spreading and moving by the ripples in time and space.
On the sky above Anos, dense clouds of gloom flowed ceaselessly. Soon, a silver star lit up and plummeted, breaking through the shade and turning into a streak of white light before hitting true on the moving white ark.
At the same time, the holy illumination slowly dimmed in the hall. Three silhouettes then walked out from the dimensional passageway opened by the light.
Of the three, two of the shadows resembled humans and the remaining one, a warhorse. The man who stood up front looked around at the dots of light about to die off and nodded ponderously.
“Since Anos has been contaminated by the Abyss, space-time here is fragile.” he reasoned. “That’s why normal warp doesn’t work, but dimensional divine spells that tether with holy light works? It’s almost like the North then.”
The three silhouettes were, as a matter of fact, Joshua, Black, and the Steel Elemental, Unit 01.
Joshua was wearing a rather simple light black armor without any enchantments or spell carvings, for it was just a set of common but sturdy equipment. Things were no different for Blackapart from a silver pendant on its neck there was nothing else remotely resembling horse equipment on it.
On the other hand, Unit 01 was equipped with compact runic shells on its body, as well as smooth steel plates on its sides. It was oddly reminiscent of an enchanted armor Joshua once wore.
It was an idea the warrior suddenly had on the Gale.
The armor that the old dwarf crafted for him was perfect, but it did not really boost his combat abilities as he was Supreme-tier now. Although there was no use for it, simply putting it in a corner was too much of a waste. That was why after the Steel Elemental had appeared, Joshua dismantled the core from the armor which he always carried around and gave it to Unit 01 so that it could fuse with the energy core along with the outer layer runic shells.
It was a distinctive ability for Unit 01. After it had melded with the warrior’s armor its ability rocketed up to the pinnacle of Silver-tier. Its strength alone could hold up against Gold-tier combatantsprovided that they did not use their aura, of course.
Nevertheless, its only flaw was that its speech was still limited to the buzzing noise it made.
“This is Anos Abyss and you’re now inside the Epoch’s core hall. Someone will be there to welcome you soon.” An ancient voice rang from the scattered dots of light around them. It was Igor who was communicating through holy light and speaking to Joshua across the land.
“Are you really not carrying a divine armament with you? If there’s a need, the Church could loan you one.”
“There’s no need, Your Holiness.” Joshua shook his head calmly at the radiance. “Just my fists would be enough.”
“Alright I’ll leave things to you then.”
The lights were dimming as Igor, who was on the Sacred Mountain, started to free the dimensional distortion.
“Then, please do sever that Abyssal connection.” He said before the particles vanished entirely.
Just look how you wrecked the dimensional doorway in Moldova that day.
Joshua swept his gaze across the room. He quickly glanced through the sculpted reliefs, before being reminded of a disappointed silver-haired girl once he saw the silver radiance lining the room.
Ying had not been surprised by her master’s choice, nor pout or complain as she usually did. She only calmly declared that she was not afraid of the warrior’s powerbe it fainting or worse, she would hold no regrets as a divine armament.
This was after all, their duty, and what they were born to do.
Her resolve notwithstanding, Joshua never showed any intention of changing his mind. Shaking his head and repeating his intentions, he handed Ling and Ying over to the elderly popehe would only be accompanied by Unit 01and Black in his journey to Anos.
There were footsteps clamoring towards the hall; the bizarre air show had obviously stunned quite a few people. The force in which the old pope had locked on to the dimensional coordinates and send them over was a spell too conspicuous, so much so that even the blind could sense the pressure surging from this hall, a pressure sent here from the distance.
The huge doors to the hall opened silently. Joshua, who now showered his attention over the carvings, turned towards it, and unsurprisingly saw several familiar faces.
The duo in the lead was wearing light armor too. The knight with graying hair was Robzek, the commander of the Sacred Hammer Platoon, while the handsome and younger blonde knight with blue eyes was Rolandwho had just left Moldavia months ago. The two appeared to have been in a conversation, with beer mugs in their hands.
Joshua made a weird face when he noticed that the cups had been filled with fruit juicehe thought that they had been breaking their vows by consuming alcohol.
And while Robzek’s mug was normal, there was an obscene amount of sugar inside Roland’s cup. Despite being in each other’s company for so long he never imagined that he liked such sweetness.
It almost looked poisonous.
Behind them was Saya whom Joshua had met in the Imperial Capital. The Great Nun who possessed an air of ordinary elegance was wearing clergy white, her platinum hair bound behind her head and a black eyeshade covering her eyes.
She seemed to have been workingbeside her a was a crystalline plate of light. Joshua recognized it as a crystal shield the clergies used in his pre-existence. It could be manipulated by spiritual will together with the sacred light, and it was impenetrable once fully charged.
It had also become a common item for wealthy mages and high-ranked clergies previously. But since it only started appearing in the middle of the draconic plague on that occasion, this one was probably a prototype.
“So it is really you, Count Radcliffe.”
Robzek’s palm flashed once, and the cup vanished from his fingers. He carefreely walked to the warrior and shook his hand.
“His Holiness told us a few days ago that he would send a someone who could get us out of this mess.” He smiled. “Come to think of it, you’re the best candidate.”
As one who had been rescued by the warrior from the Divine Dungeon Shroud, Robzek naturally knew what Joshua was capable of.
Beside him, Saya did not say a thing, but only greeted the warrior through the spirits instead. “Long time no see, Count of the North. Welcome to the Epoch.”
After exchanging pleasantries with the two, Joshua turned towards Roland, whose expression looked complicated.
“What? My friend, have you agreed with my opinion?” The warrior smiled and shrugged but there was no mistaking of that sneer in his tone. “Roland, I remember that your face was quite different then, not wanting my help and all I’ve never thought you would change your mind so quickly.
Now, even Robzek and Saya had unnatural expressions.They had never intended to let people outside of the Church to join, but with the Anos expedition failing time after time, they had to seek quite a large number of helper to aid their team on the Epoch.
The blond knight hesitated, but soon decided to admit the fact forthrightly. “ Have to admit, we do need your help,” he said, shaking his head. “But I never thought you would come so quickly. So you really could dump the Northern territories behind just like that, poor Miss 03.”
At that, Roland looked around, his face doubtful. “Odd. Where’s Ling and Ying?”
In Moldavia, the warrior and the twins were inseparable. Since they did not really sleep, they would simply sit down at the study for a bit if they were tired. Ling and Ying would each rest on Joshua’s arms, a memorable sight for Roland.
But now, there’s only the half-dragon and the unfamiliar armored puppet that does not even seem to have a presence. There were no twins, not even their armored form, which in turn baffled the holy knight.
“They’re not coming this time,” Joshua voice became rather cold but remained steady. “This time Black and I would be the main combat support. The Steel Elemental you see here is almost a familiar and has a little fight in itbut that’s enough. Totally enough.”
Noticing the shift in atmosphere, Robzek quickly switched topics.
“Now that we have a Supreme champion like our Count here, we’d definitely reach the heart of Anos Abyss, and lay waste to the Abyss cracks deep within the Central Vortex!” The knight commandera Supreme-tier combatant himselfsmiled.
“Indeed.” Saya, who had been listening quietly to their conversation, sighed softly. “We found the Central Vortex but were forced to retreat due to the treacherous weather and assault by colossal sea monsters. With Count Radcliffe’s inherited sacred powers of purification, we would definitely complete our objective.
As the air cleared between the four of them, Black, now completely free from its airsickness, detected something. Its golden draconic gaze glimmered, and it growled once.
On the corridor outside, a sound of incoming footsteps suddenly stopped for a bit. Then, the owner of the voice sped up and appeared by the door.
A heavily drunk but youthful velvet voice rang. “Another sea dragon?”
Meanwhile, inside the Great Altar at the summit of the Sacred Mountain.
There was an archway here inscribed with the prophecy that read, “The lonely sun, twin moons, endless stars, the Thousand-year Plains, only the Light prevails eternally.”
By its edge, an elderly man with white hair, golden eyes, and a crown of sacred silver slowly opened his eyes and looked compassionately upon the young silver-haired girl who just walked out of a dimensional doorway.
“Your name is Ying, right?” Pope Igor asked gently from his chair. “The seventh-generation of a complete divine armament form? I guess the Empire’s technology has really improved Ha-ha. The Church had contributed to the first generationthat was a time that involved the forces of Chaos, after all. There was no way the Church could just sit and watch.”
The old man studied the girl carefully, while Ying quietly held on to a giant black axe and leveled her own gaze at him fearlessly. Igor nodded in satisfaction at the response.
“You seem to want to help your master.” He smiled kindly.
“Yes, Your Holiness.” The girl embraced the axe tightly and nodded furiously, her eyes widening as she looked at him. “Both of us want to help, but Master doesn’t seem to need us.”
She felt dejected by her own words. Though she always knew that Joshua’s power improved at levels far beyond that of normal human warriors, she never thought that the day would come when she became dead weight.
If one day, the warrior reached the level where he would fear destroying them just by holding them aloft, what meaning was there for their existence? It would be better to simply
“Don’t worry, Ying. There are no problems as long as you wish for it. And since the Church of Seven Gods has agreed to Joshua’s terms, we would definitely see it through.”
The corners of the pope’s lips curled up as he cut the girl’s ridiculous thoughts short.
After all he had been through, how could he not see Joshua’s unconcealed thoughts? The warrior clearly thought of the divine armaments as family, and sincerely hoped that they would be improved.
Instead of them being a burden, it was simply the girl’s thoughts being skewed by worry and was in need of correcting.
As if remembering something, Igor’s gaze twinkled with the light called expectation. “If your empowerment starts early, you just might help your Master earlier too.”
“He must be waiting, too, for the day you two fight alongside him again.”