Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
Starfall Year 789, the borders of a small nation by the West Mountains.
In the Dark Forest within the West Mountains nation’s borders, a swarm of vicious daemons followed their instincts and attacked a border town nearby on a winter day.
The ambush was so sudden that the border town had fallen without mounting any sort of resistance. Thirsting for blood, the monsters broke through the city walls before slaughtering most of the humans with one swift stroke and ease. They munched through bones, tore at their flesh while breathing flames and frost, turning the entire settlement into ruins.
Despite being caught off guard, the city guard had sent out a distress signal earlier, but a bunch of mysterious people in black clothes had arrived before the kingdom’s armies.
These strange individuals, dressed entirely in hoods and robes while shrouding themselves in black were unexpectedly powerful. They used unusual spells to repel the daemons in town, before going about their business, hurriedly looking around the town for something.
They did not have a single shred of sympathy or compassion for the city’s survivors eitherthey simply gathered all of them into single cluster before returning to their search.
In the end, a middle-aged man with the gaze of a hawk found a tranquil boy in the corner of the crowd, the dark-red compass in his hand shaking violently, its needle pointing tightly at the other person.
The boy had long locks of dark green hair, his small and delicate face was splattered in blood but not his own. His expression did not shift a single fraction even after a demon assault on his own townhe was calm, as if the burning settlement did not exist.
Ignoring the black-clothed people’s who surrounded him with their judging stares, the boy simply turned to the middle-aged man and spoke softly.
“Are you here for me? I can see the thrill in your heartit seems that I’m definitely your target.”
“That’s right.” The middle-man could not suppress the wild delight inside at the boy’s words. He laughed sonorously before lowering himself to stroke the boy’s cheeks.
“My child of the prophecy, we’ve finally found you after seven whole years!”
Around them, the rounded-up survivors were in an uproar, with a middle-aged shuddering as she went to stand outside the crowd, and pointed fearfully at the boy.
“Good heavens, this child he, he’s abnormal! Every livestock or crops he touches would be taken ill or wither, even his parents were”
The woman had intended to warn these black-clothed people who had saved the citizens’ lives of the mysterious boy. However, in the very next moment, a streak of gray rays struck her, blowing her into a puddle of acid and bones in no time at all.
Amidst the panicked cries of the mob, the middle-aged man who had unleashed the vaporizing rays spoke the other black-clothed people with a cruel voice.
“This incident is the biggest secret of our fellowship Silence them.”
“Yes, lord priest!” At his words, the black-clothed people smiled viciously as they raised their weapons and turned toward the trembling survivors.
Blood splashed as the gory massacre began. However, there was still no change in the cute little green-haired boy’s expression, who simply watched all of it dispassionately from beginning to end. Whether it was the man known as a priest who was incredibly passionate toward him, or those neighbors who lived near him over ten years but were now being slaughtered like animals, all meant nothing to him.
Life is fragile like noontime snow, fading in the blink of an eye. The boy knew that definitively since the day his parents perished.
“Herlas, you’re special. A treasure our God has bestowed upon this world.”
Taking no notice of the killing beside him, the middle-aged man went to stand by the boy.
“Your body flows with blood of the Void!” He exclaimed with irrepressible excitement. “It has the power to entrap and manipulate life itself! You were born to join us!”
In the boy’s eyes, clusters of gray soul elements that were mixed with opaque lifeforce were breaking away from the corpses on the ground and assuming all sorts of extraordinary forms in the air. Yet, the boy knew that he could control them like his own limbs.
Since the accident that had befallen his parents a few years ago and after the boy named Herlas had deliberately trained his own powers; he could control life whether it was his own or others. Weakening livestock and withering plants were the most basic abilities. As long as Herlas wills it, he could even make a person ‘die of old age’.
That may have been the potential of that ‘blood of the Void’ the middle-aged man mentioned.
Ordinary humans feared this strength and gave him a wide berth, with the townsfolk attempting to chase Herlas out of town on more than one occasion but never succeeding.Even the brawniest man would be sent sprawling on the floor within five meters of the boy, becoming so weak as if they did not eat for days. His glare would rob the mob of their courage too, dispersing the rarely gathered crowd.
At least these people are accepting me willingly.Herlas thought as he followed the black-clothed people back to their base, a temple deep within the mountains.
He lived there for twenty years.
In those twenty years, the boy became a teenager and then an adolescent. In the end, in a freezing night buffeted with snowstorm, the twenty-eight-year-old Herlas replaced his own teacherthe middle-aged man who found him so long agoand became the high priest of the underground cabal.
The feeble and old priest had stared at Herlas then, muttering as if intending to say something. He could see a gigantic vortex of life was whirling with his student at its center, stealing the lifeforce of every creature within hundreds of meters. It was the exact cause for his aging tooif not for that, his Gold-tier pinnacle ability would have kept him alive for another decade.
But so what? The old priest did not have a single shred of angerhe only smiled meekly as he looked at his student who had far surpassed himself and touched the edge of Supreme, a threshold he had only arrived over fifty.
He would die willingly, and allow his own corpse to be the child’s stepping stone.
Herlas could obviously see that.
“Be at ease, teacher,” the young man spoke calmly. “I shall fulfill your wish.”
And so the old priest closed his eyes.
The cabal’s business was plain and boring, with nothing done other than doing damage all around, spreading plagues or declaring the coming apocalypse. Herlas, however, solemnly completed all of those without getting frustrating or a single moment of idleness, just like a tireless machine.
He did not understand the concept of good and evil but was also fine with it, while destruction and murder were no different from eating and drinking to him. Although he did not even know the final objective of his own fellowship, his behavior was a symbol that represents the real meaning of subconscious chaos. Countless cultists idolized him for that, and worship this man who was so pure like a beast.
Though he held the high priest title, Herlas did not have a shred of authority within the cult, not even minding that most of the influence claimed by several priests who were his subordinates. Nonetheless, he did not mind such trivialities since all he cared about was spreading chaos day after day as he should do.
And thus his name and reputation slowly spread through the West Mountains.
After leveling more than ten cities and slaughtering millions, the high priest’s titles such as [Herlas the Witherer] and [Death’s Envoy] were enough to make children bawl, with the name itself becoming a curse.
In the meantime, the man’s abilities grew with every passing day without limit.
The speed of Herlas’s expanding powers left the entire kingdom of the western region in astonishment. His powers would appear to have increased apparently in every appearance he made, from Gold pinnacle to Supreme, the early-phase of Supreme and then the intermediate phase of Supreme before he finally reached the pinnacle stage of Supreme.
In short, he developed from an insignificant life into a tremendous threat to the Alliance of the Western Kingdom. It was more than years of nurture, but that was also because the man himself was a leader of his cabal and could not mold himself in every single second.
If not, Herlas’s powers would have been a notch above as it was now.
Attempts to besiege Herlas had concluded with several abject failures, with the high priest displaying a harrowing ability on the most recent occasion.
Three Supreme veterans had combined against him, only to have him slay two instead without any clear wounds as if they had simply atrophied and died. This meant that his capacity was slowly leaving the shackles of Supreme and slowly extending into the threshold of Legendary.
The very thought of a Legendary cultist priest would send shudders into sovereigns of smaller nations, and yet all of it remained meaningless to Herlas. The man who was slowly advancing into middle age silently strolled through mysterious forests, and where he passed plants would wither, creatures would fade. All lifeforce was simply snatched away and assimilated into his own body.
Power of Life is Steel Strength. It was the same where it was aura or the power of blood inheritance.
However, it was claimed the primordial behemoths that once wandered the void during Creation possessed bodies of the purest Steel crystallization, instead of flowing with lifeforce. Individuals who possessed similar powers would therefore be able to manipulate the lives of those below them.
That was why Herlas had a premonitionwhen the lifeforce in his body that was vast as the open sea condenses into Steel crystallization, that would be the moment he crosses the threshold into Legendary.
Obviously, that moment was not now, but in the future to come.
And so the man who could not understand morals, or the difference between good and evil, savage as a beast and yet possessed the discipline of machines, stopped the meaningless thoughts in his mind, focusing instead on his target.
Meanwhile, late night in Moldavia, the North.
Joshua was reading a notebook silently on the highest level of his residence.
The notebook looked sparkling-new, but someone had furiously scrawled a lot of information in the pages. In the darkness, the warrior was concentrating on reading its contents, appearing rather absorbed in it.
Within the pages were memoirs of the past champions, who grasped Strength Mastery and improved into Legendary.
Although Joshua had essentially been grounded at the North, that did not mean that the Emperor would forget the warrior’s many contributions. Be it his presenting of the divine crystallization or dragon-slaying expedition, the Empire still owed Joshua many rewards and recompense.
Still, the warrior politely refused Israel’s offer of money or property, asking instead for any chronicles that were related to [Perfect Body] and [Strength Mastery].
Although the experience was indeed far precious than gold, the Emperor did not mind at all, even writing a few notes of his own and then giving it to Joshua. He believed that the warrior would definitely step into Legendary, with all that he has gone through merely being a gilding on lilies.
Thanking Israel’s trust inwardly, the warrior soon scanned through the last few lines of the notebook.
“Perfect Body is the product of elevating to the next level after entering the extraordinary and freeing oneself off the shackles of the mundane” he mumbled. “That’s why only individuals who possess strength mastery could touch that threshold. Israel himself is of skill mastery, which was why he would uncertain about the mysteries about another type of mastery. The memoirs too did not mention muchthere just weren’t many individuals who hold this innate talent.”
Joshua closed the notebook after finished reading it.
This little booklet was, in fact, worth more than vast treasures to Joshuahe was deeply enriched thanks to it. It should be noted that everything within were precious understandings of the Empire’s many Legendary champions or Supreme-pinnacle individuals. Through comparison and reference of the problems they faced during the course of their own training, the warrior felt that he was slowly acquiring the key to entering Legendary and Perfect Body.
That was the incredible purity lifeforce of improvement to ‘Steel Strength’.
All things were born of Flame and lived within Steel. The Initial Flame had triggered the birth and expansion of the multiverse, while the Primordial Steel created all things.Aura is the spawn of lifeforce, while lifeforce was a divergence from Steel Strength. After he had healed himself many times through the Azurite and was revived from the brink of death on several occasions, Joshua could now control lifeforce, and not merely aura. The instance he cured Ivan was proof that his power was shaping into flawlessness.
Despite that, Steel Strength was different from Lifeforce. Other than at the world of Karlis where the World Will Steel Python had caused steel rain, the warrior had never seen such unsullied Steel Strength. His own level had been quick low then too, and was unable to experience that cleansing power that could purify the entire worldwhich was definitely regretful.
“After returning from Moldavia, I might just return to Karlis to take a look.”
Joshua thought, and suddenly remembered the writings in that notebook he carried.
The Empire did not lack Supreme-pinnacle champions in its history. Most of them were warriors, but they these people who had arrived at the highest peak of the mundane world were largely stumped by the transition to Legendary, unable to budge an inch.
That was because they simply did not know which direction to take or how to progress.
Refining aura into lifeforce had been the limit to many Supreme championsafter all, how would they know their objective without witnessing the force that stood over them? Steel Strength covers the world, existing as if space itself. Exactly because of that, those living in this environment would find it difficult to experience such a formless yet extraordinary power. Even Israel would have to admit flatly that his ascension was not from a sudden moment of inspiration, but the awareness of a force in this world’s origin and therefore ascending into Legendary.
However, Joshua did not want to depend on luck. He had far more chance encounters than Israel or perhaps anyone else, and traveled different worlds which assuredly held certain differences in Steel Strength. Therefore, the warrior believed that the next time he stepped into another realm, he would start to trace the presence of Steel Strength through the miniscule difference between the origin forces of the two worlds, approaching the level of Legendary.
He had clearly seen the gap between Supreme and Legendary, and what was next is waiting and breaking through even as he continued molding his own body by training aura and lifeforce.
In the dimness of late night, Joshua raised his right hand and clenched his fist, and a layer of black-red fluorescence slowly appeared over it.
This fluorescence was his aura. The black color was the Glorious Strength that consumes the soul, while the red was pure strength symbolizing heat and impact.
A chilling winter wind blew through the streets, billowing a light hum out of the house’s eaves. As the racket blew towards the warrior, the black-red fluorescence became more vivid as it refined itself, until it became a dark black just like the abyss.
The Flame of life.
Pitch-black as if it was the summation of all colors, it was the sign of Joshua’s lifeforce. This power was so thick and immense like the ocean, and after he had used the Azurite on so many occasions the warrior’s body had long grown accustomed to it, giving him free rein as he healed allies and tore apart foes.
Joshua even foresaw that if his power maintained its nurture and his Glorious Strength soars even further, he would be able to manipulate the lifeforce of other beings and use it as his own. Just as mages with formidable ability could dominate the mana of lower-tier mages, countering them as they wish and manipulating their spells, Joshua too could absorb the lifeforce of others just like those great demon kings in fairy tales.
But who would do such a thing? The warrior shook his head noncommittallythe life of every other person had a unique mark, and he should not rob it as long as they are normal beings. That was a way to lose self-awareness, and to turn into a lunatic akin to a beast.
The black flame burned without a sound. If viewed from energy sight, Joshua’s body would have resembled a sun that had fallen upon the earth, covering the entire main town of Moldavia and even the wastelands around it. Within that region, daemons would retreat in fear, insects would shrink back into their hives, while every human would feel a curious comfort in their hearts, as if being in a warm embrace.
Long red-black strips of energy patterns spread and shrouded the warrior’s body, with his right hand being its origin point. That meant Joshua had used his full power, and as the shapeless ripples spread across all directions, any person in the town who had certain ability would be shocked.
Artanis had rushed out of bed in the cathedral and hurried towards the window to look at the liege’s residence nearby. Although his vision was not good, he could still see that silhouette clearly through the help of a divine spell.
An instinctual fear spread from the bottom of his heart, a suppression of his very being. Taking a deep breath, Artanis mumbled with slight envy. “So you’ve reached such a level Joshua Beirut and Fang would be proud of you.”
In the night sky, the artificial intelligence lady also turned to stare at the topmost floor of the liege’s residence. She wanted to go there and check on the warrior, but the powerful ripples of lifeforce were churning the entire city’s mana elements, so much so that Miss 03 could feel that her own projection was about to severed from her main body.
So, she simply stopped where she was, and smiled bitterly.
Apart from them, there were many others who noticed the quaking that came from the liege’s residence. They were mostly elite adventurers or powerful guards watching over the traders, but unlike 03 and Artanis’s who both paid full attention, they fearfully stayed within their own rooms and waited for the surge to end.
Still, Joshua took no notice of his surroundings. He continued evoking his strength to let the black flames burn intensely, thereby producing a sherd of change.
Black-red circuits now fully encrusted the warrior’s body. All his muscles, veins, and organs were beating and flowing intensely. Even as long draconic rumblings echoed as his robust lungs inhaled and exhaled, Joshua never relaxed as he glared on the flames in his hand.
There was no telling how much time has passed when a shred of silver light appeared in the black flames.
Joshua paused slightly. He did not know if he was mistaken or if it was real. But when he prepared to confirm it at the very next moment, the black flames of life had died out.
The warrior stumbled a step behind. This experiment, an attempt to sublimate lifeforce, had actually exhausted his aura that was as thick as a sea, causing Joshua to fall into his weakest state apart from the moments he was heavily injured and was on death’s door.
However, four hands held up the warrior from behind. Joshua turned to lookit was Ling and Ying.
The two divine armaments had gone up to the top floor of the residence as soon as they sensed the warrior unleashing waves after waves of lifeforce, watching him quietly from his back.
“Such good kids.”
Leaning on the wall, Joshua used the opportunity to hold them affectionately in his arms. He looked up to the night sky, at the twin moons, his eyes flashing with red radiance.
The power of the Azurite cascaded, allowing the warrior to recover his aura and mobility urgently.
Was that bit of silver flash the shape of Steel Strength? The warrior did not know, but he did know that this path was possible. As long as he kept going, Legendary-tier and Perfect Body were sceneries of that path.
“Ling, Ying,” he uttered softly. “I will leave tomorrow for Moldavia.”
“I have a feeling that if I fought an opponent of equal strength, I would clearly notice the essence of Steel Strength It might be Ogner’s gift, but since then my predictions have always been useful.”
The warrior’s words were more of a mumble to himself than explaining his own decision.
“Okay.” The young boy and girl replied softly in Joshua’s arms. They were his divine armaments, his weapons. They would always support what their Master had decided to do, and never protest against it.
That was trust.
And for this loyal trust, they would always accompany the warrior until the ends of this earth.