After two major ripples, Moldavia returned to its original state. The main city finally obtained a peaceful and quiet night.
The lights across the business district were gleaming as usual. Even though it was already late at night, the district was still as populous as ever. Businesses such as the smithy, the grocers, the pharmacies as well as other material shops were prospering. Meanwhile, the adventurers, regardless of whether they were mercenaries or just travelers, were having a great time at the bar with beer in hand. They were singing and drinking joyfully. Some of them even started arm wrestling to prove their might amongst each other.
Riding on his battle horse, Joshua was observing his territory from a dark corner while he headed towards his mansion.
The population in Moldavia currently numbered several million. The population across the entire northern region was nearly five million. That was about 5% of the entire population of the Empire. Truthfully speaking, this figure was minute.
The northern territories had occupied 25% of the entire world map. However, the population in all four northern territories combined was still less than the population of the main cities in the southern region. It seemed like all worlds were similar. There would always be less people in places that are too cold.
Of course, Joshua knew about it as well that the few millions of people in his territory were actually not that concentrated after all.
On a vast land such as this, there were only 420,000 people under Joshua's jurisdiction. Meanwhile, the combined number of dwarves, the midgets, and the goblins was only about 400,000. The remaining 70,000 to 80,000 people were composed of the Halfling Blacksmiths, the Adventurers that wandered and traveled around, the mercenaries and other minority races. Including the small number of elves and savages, the total population of the region had indeed numbered nearly a million. However, most of them were paying taxes to him only on paper. Some of them decided to live underground as well, and thus, there was not much sign of there being people on the surface at all.
Among the ninety-seven knights that the Empire bestowed upon Moldavia, there were less than twenty who were capable of possessing their own manors. Meanwhile, most of the others were military officers. They were currently scattered, living in the fortress and towns. They were hoping that they could render great merits in battle and be conferred a title as well as handsome rewards for their deeds.
Big problems could potentially arise when many races were coexisting on a piece of land. However, it would not pose a problem to Moldavia.
Unlike the people of the east who loved the idea of 'pure bloodlines', the northern Empire and the Far South Alliance could not be bothered about the many races cohabiting. In the far north, humans marrying elves was actually a common occurrence. The number of half-blood human-elves consisted of up to 20% of the entire population in that region. In the capital of the Empire, humans and dwarves lived together in harmony and without discrimination. They had been coexisting for hundreds of years and it had developed into a societal norm. There were no racists that would discriminate their dwarven or elven neighbor. The most they did was to get into fights with the goblin merchants in their shops.
Naturally, there existed a reason for why every race of Continental War was able to coexist in harmony. That reason was the Dark Forest.
[The Dark Tide]
The mountains would tremble while the beasts in the forest would run amok. This unnatural disaster looked like a raging tide of black waves gushing across the land.
Those who had not seen the Black Tide before would feel unbearable despair. Without the existence of such a horrific calamity, how would the races live together willingly despite their differences then? The resources and rich magic across the land permitted all the races living together to be free of the worry about food and supplies. The only thing they had was how to battle so that they may prolong their fate. Wars occurring over the millennia left countless corpses in its wake. Thus, the land was named 'Continental War'.
Joshua was riding into the city from the west. He narrowed his eyes and spotted the mansion he lived in.
"Silver-tier, high level, a man, he's not young"
Joshua was muttering to himself as he rode past every obstacle, making his way to his mansion. There was a Silver-tier warrior standing near his residence in plain sight. His body was radiating a golden hue. There was another person beside the warrior, and that person was Joshua's own Divine Armament.
"This is someone I'm familiar with. I must have known him from before."
Hustling his horse, Joshua no longer observed his own territory. Well, the city was his to begin with. He could look and observe around for as long as he wanted to.
After a brief moment, he closed up on the warrior.
Upon seeing the familiar black coat with red sides and a golden badge in the shape of a scale, Joshua knew that this must be the examiner sent by the Empire. He probably felt familiar because he had examined Joshua before.
"It's been quite a while, young liege."
This middle-aged examiner by the name Mengsk bowed lightly and said, "I've been waiting here since before the sun set."
"I had no idea you would be here. Nobody informed me of your arrival."
Hopping off the back of his horse, Joshua gently touched the neck of the horse and looked at the face of the examiner seemed calm. He could not help but feel uneasy. "Could it be that you're here with more bad news for me?"
"Unfortunately, yes. However, this is not a good place to speak."
Mengsk turned his head to the side and looked towards the mansion. Meanwhile, the silver-haired girl was running towards the two men. Mengsk shook his head and said, "By the way, your little follower is very loyal. She didn't even allow me to approach the porch of your mansion."
Running up to Joshua, Ying seemed a little puzzled as she stared at the two of them. "Do you know him?"
"Oh, I do know him. He's an acquaintance from before."
Patting the head of the little girl, Joshua smiled and praised her. "You did great. You deserve to be praised and rewarded. So how's today?"
"Very good, I assume. I've understood most of the things in the house. I've learned how to make a dish as well."
"Oh? That's not bad at all. You're a fast learner."
Mengsk could not help but to make his presence known to the two of them that he was still standing there while they became increasingly absorbed in their conversation. "Ahem are you guys going to stand out here and chat?"
Joshua looked around and nodded. Then he gave a gentle pat on Ying's shoulder and said, "Ying, take Black to the stable. I'll escort our guest in for an important conversation."
"Black grew up to be so strong. It would have been much better to name it the Black King. So why did you name it Black"
"If it's a dragon, I won't just name it Black King. I might name it Neltharion. But it's just a horse anyway. Alright, enough talk. Let's get going now."
Ying led Black to the stable while Joshua escorted Mengsk through the front door.
"She called you Master?"
"That's right. Ying is my main female attendant."
The royal examiner who had no expression on his face shook his head. "Child labor is illegal I can't believe you actually have such a hobby."
Joshua pushed the main door open and frowned. "She's as old as I am. How can she be a child that I condemn to labor as you have just mentioned?"
Ying's core was made out of the wrist bone of Joshua when Joshua was born. Technically, the two of them could really be considered as the same age.
"I can't believe it at all."
Mengsk seemed to be deep in thought. "Could she be a hybrid of an elf and a human? A Halfling? Could that be the reason why she developed slower than others? Or could it be because of her elven heritage?"
The two of them conversed while they walked, and shortly after, they arrived at the guest room of the mansion.
"Alright, please have a seat."
Gesturing at the chair politely, Joshua then proceeded to sit down as well. He had a serious look on his face. "I would very much like to learn about the news that you wish to convey. You've actually waited outside the mansion for half a day just to deliver this news to me. It must be important and urgent as well."
"Although it's important, it isn't really urgent"
Mengsk scanned the red-eyed warrior and said, "Although I've heard rumors and I've had the same feeling while I was traveling out there, I've never thought it possible that you've achieved Gold-tier. One month. You've managed to grow so much from being just a Silver-tier It's really unbelievable."
It is merely three levels. Should anyone be so surprised?
"It was actually an accidental experience though. I've only traveled around for seventeen days without realizing that I've gotten stronger. There can be no other reason but that."
Brushing the examiner off casually with words, Joshua looked at the examiner in his eyes. He could tell that the examiner wanted something. "Please don't tell me that you've traveled far across the northwestern flatlands of the orcs just to admire me for breaking through to Gold tier."
"Of course not."
Upon shaking his head, Mengsk stopped talking again. He seemed as if he did not know where to begin. After a brief moment, he decided to change the topic. "My liege, did you know that the number of people passing into Fort Ural had been limited to only a maximum of ten at a time?"
"The merchants only recently informed me about this."
"Then you should also know about the 'disturbance' that happened in the capital of the Empire then."
The examiner continued probing.
"Alas, it must be true then." Joshua was tapping his fingers on the handle of the chair as he frowned. Then he spoke, "You don't have to beat around the bush, Mengsk. Just say what you came here to say. We're both soldiers. You don't need to be so careful with your words."
After staying silent for a brief moment, the royal examiner who was representing the will of the Emperor sighed. His face turned serious. "The corrupting wind blew from the South. An unknown plague has begun to spread slowly across the lands of the Dark Forest The plague has spread across the mountains of Ural. It has finally arrived in the North now. That being said, the Dark Tide should come much earlier than we anticipated. It's going to come much earlier than before, and it's going to be much harder to deal with. It's unstoppable."
"The Empire has decided. The catastrophe of the upcoming Dark Tide will be deemed as Level 3. There might even be a large number of Gold-tier daemons."
Mengsk's face had never looked so grim. He reached his hands into his pockets and retrieved a box. "My liege, you're really quite the unfortunate one. You had to experience such a catastrophe even though you have just inherited your title. Although you've crossed into the realm of the Gold-tier, you still have quite a long way before you can become as powerful as your father That and the fact that the court is under the care of the Empire."
Mengsk's last sentence had a tone of admiration. Judging by the look on his face, the examiner seemed to be puzzled as to why the Empire would give the man before him such special treatment. However, he did not hesitate at all. "Take it then. It's a gift from the Emperor himself."
As he finished uttering his last sentence, he placed a red box which had countless runes inscribed all over it in Joshua's palm.