The aurora hung like a curtain over the skies, up in the late northern night. Its light, gentle like tulle, drifted between the stars and the clouds, an enchanting scene just like a dream.
During each occasion where aurora engulfed the night sky, many beings with excellent innate mana would be born. According to research conducted by mages of the Skypiercing White Tower, this was caused by radiation from tremendous mana collision on high altitudes. As newborns were exposed to the concentrated mana illumination, they naturally would grow to have strong mana proficiency.
That was exactly why the northern folk would consider it a sign of good fortune. They would hold celebrations over it, inviting friends and family to gather and enjoy this beautiful scenery outdoors. Then, like the first human who saw the aurora thousands of years ago, exclaiming in praise and awe.
After several millennia, the sky and auroras never changed. Whenever mana throws up ripples and whirled in the sky above, it would come as if agreed upon.
On the other hand, the humans who lived on the earth was largely different from the past.
Starfall Year 833, the 17th of November. Outskirts of the northwest Dark Forest, Moldova, the North.
As if a blade, the dragging winds that carried chilling frost buffeted the ridges on Mount Mordus, prompting painful groans from the snowy pine forest, seemingly about to turn the trees into ice and shatter it.
For Moldova, this was the coldest moment within the region in around two hundred years. A bizarre wave of mana was exploding beside the Lost Sea, throwing the entire Northern weather into complete chaos that even the most experienced meteorologist could not ascertain the climate flow within three days. Even the armored deer and giant boars could not handle the frosty breeze of almost fifty degrees belowall of them had returned to their den to wait for the cold to end.
Mount Mordus stood southeast of the Dark Forest amidst the Great Ajax Mountains, a divergence on the edge of that colossal mountain range. It was named after the explorer who first discovered it, although the little summit that did not reach eight hundred meters above sea level initially never had a reputation.
Nonetheless, it had now become a famous locale in the Northor even half the mainland because ancient ruins were discovered here.
Months ago, a team of adventurers who had taken up a mission to explore the Dark Forest entered Mount Mordus but was never seen again. However, when Moldova’s administration was prepared to write them off for perhaps encountering hidden Gold-tier daemons, they resurfaced.
Having lost more than half of their party members, the adventurers who had been heavily bruised struggled as they escaped the forest. They brought back news that did not catch much attention then, claiming that there was a hidden underground karst on Mount Mordus, and at the end of it was a huge metallic manmade door.
At first, everyone thought that this bunch of poor souls were seeing things after fits of lunacy. But the prefectural government took it seriously, with Vale Dani even appointing several Silver-pinnacle knights to lead a team and find the karst. The truth turned out to be shockingthe adventurers were right!
It turned out that the karst did lead towards an antiquated building deep within the mountain, and behind the doors were old supernatural traps that still functioned. If not for the prudence of the leading knights, they might have suffered the same fate of the adventurers with half of them maimed or dead as well as escaping in panic.
It was a prehistoric ruin of the last Era!
The ripple effect of this news was only next to the occasion when the mages of the Skypiercing White Tower found the wreck of an ancient town in Central Dark Forest. That being said, how much danger lies within the embrace of Central Dark Forest? Mounting expeditions to that location simply required too many resources, which was why many mages brought their own teams to Moldova in days to attempt an exploration into the ruins within Mount Mordus.
Hence, it was a pity that a rare frost wave engulfed the entire North after a few days. Although the weather shift was not the worst in Moldova, the snowdrift and cold wind had completely blocked the path towards the Dark Forests. The teams of explorers were therefore forced to stay within Moldova and wait for the storm to stop.
In a small mountain cavern within the divergence of the Great Ajax Mountains, a brown-haired man wearing plain gray robes slammed a copy Magus Weekly on the floor. His rage was not quite quelled, howeverwith a point of his finger and a flash of gray light, the poor book was blasted into ashes and blown away by the wind.
“I should have been the first to find those ruins! Even the hole that leads the ruins was dug and cleaned up by me! These hateful northerners, how dare they find it when I wasn’t around, and even spreading the news!”
It took Randall a few deep breaths to hold down the anger inside, while several black-clothed men walked out from the deeper end of the cave, watching the gray-robed Randall carefully.
“Lord Priest, is something the matter?” They asked with a low voice.
“No.” The priest replied in a deep voice; he seemed to have calmed. “Is there still people around the ruins?”
The silhouettes, dressed in black hoods and robes bowed respectfully. “Yes, my lord. Almost every expedition team had left a few scouts near Mount MordusMoldova’s government even sent half a platoon of knights and made camp beneath the mountain.”
“Sure enough.” Randall was not enraged again since he already guessed the outcome; he started to think about the possibility of a frontal assault. “Then how is their ability?”
The men looked at each other, before speaking with a tiny voice. “Lord Priest, those gathered around the ruins are high-tier mages, elite adventurers and famous mercenaries, while the ones sent to watch the perimeter around Mount Mordus are the cream of the crop”
“Just answer me,” Randall interjected impatiently. “I’m prepared.”
“Yes, my lord!” They quickly replied, and a black-haired man took a small step forward and gave a crisp report. “There are at least twelve Gold champions, lord priest, with more than half of them heading over to keep guard. Both of Moldova’s Gold-tier lords, Vale Dani Scarlet and her fianc Brandon Kaos are also in camp I don’t think there’s a chance.”
It was perhaps a slip of his mouth that made the black-clothed man revealed his thoughts, but Randall also sighed helplessly when he heard it.
Because he thought so too.
Randall was one of seven high priests who served the Cult of Pestilence. He was here in the north to excavate the ruins of a bygone era inside Mount Mordus.
The Cult of Pestilence itself had started life as a plain cabal founded around seven hundred years ago from refugees, the poor and the sick, essentially a little group for people to warm each other in final days. There were at most some arbitrarily crafted form of doctrine and salvation used to soothe the psyche, but it fundamentally changed in an instant after an unusual mage of mysterious origins entered their circle.
Through the use of certain magic that healed the many incurable diseases various cult members had, the man soon became the high priest of the fellowship and the de facto leader of the cabal. Underneath his guidance, like the millions of other religious factions on the Mycroft Continent, they were named the [Order of Healing] and began to recruit aggressively to propagate their creed.
Through the use of abilities that cure wounds and plagues, the cabal members had increased to a hundred and fifty thousand in several years. On a Mycroft Continent that was engulfed in war and strife, they could already be counted as a powerful faction.
If things had continued as such, the future of this world would definitely have not been like it was now. The Church of Seven Gods, whose influence was still limited to the Far South at the time, saw that the Order of Healing based within the West Mountains did in fact have the capability of healing sickness. As such, they decided to enter an exchange and work with the Order so that both could bring salvation to even more people.
However, a vigilant holy knight discovered the Order’s machinations as he journeyed toward their headquarters. It turned out that the so-called Order of Healing was, in fact, the many carriers of plagues amidst the West Mountains. After spreading the contagion and raising panic, they would heal then the patients themselves and in turn harvest their faith.
It was much a more terrifying fact that the ones ‘healed’ would display unusual behavior. Their state of mind would gradually grow murkier before eventually becoming living corpses who only knew enough to eat. They must therefore enter the cult and acquire special exclusive medicine to maintain their rationality.
In no time at all, the merciful and saintly Order of Healing became the feared Cult of Pestilence. After they had found out the truth, the many kingdoms in the West Mountains sent in their military to besiege the cult, with royal champions and holy knights from the Church of Seven Gods fighting side by side to attack the cult headquarters.
It was unnecessary to go into details regarding the battle. One way or the other, the Church of Seven Gods eventually established themselves in the West Mountains while the Cult of Pestilence was annihilated. The lucky survivors also lost most of their inheritancethey could only use the divine spells unique the cult without knowing where their power came from. They only learned through bits of information within old tomes that their powers perhaps originated from some grand existence of another world.
Today, the older leaders of the Cult of Pestilence were mostly hidden behind the scenes, drawing out all sorts of schemes and plots. Meanwhile, the younger generation with wild ambitions stepped upthese people thirsted for the bygone glory of the cult, setting their eyes on the many ruins mentioned in the tomes.
Randall was one of them, but now there was no way to enter the ruins even if they did find it.
The forces that the Cult of Pestilence had sent here was their finest within the northwestern zones. Amongst their seven high priests, four were still at the Distant South spreading berserker dragon plagues and collaborating with the Pentashade Dragons, whereas the other three were stationed here. That being said, they were helpless against twelve Gold-tier champions.
They would never defeat so many of them head-on.
“Actually Lord priest, there’s more bad news.”
The leading black-clothed man gulped, and stuttered a little after he saw Randall gave a nod. “We’ve actually also lost contact with Madam Xena and her elite team for almost half a week”
Randall could not help frowning at that piece of information.
“Xena? Wasn’t she supposed to be leading them into the Icy Plains of the Extreme North?” He pressed the other somewhat anxiously. “Why would we lose touch? Any specific details?”
The entire cult was distinctly segregated into two generationsthe elders’ abilities were now at a bottleneck and were either in seclusion or hatching conspiracies in the darkness. On the other hand, the Seven High Priests of the new generation were either apprentice or descendants of the elders.
That was exactly the case for Randall and Xena, who were both apprentices of the same Elder Priest and usually sharing a good relationship. Xena had aimed to raise an uproar in Moldova sometime ago and use the ensuing confusion to slip inside the ruins, which was why she led a team to search if there were residual plague toxic gases inside the dragon nest at the Icy Plains of the Extreme North that she could use.
Hearing that a friend was missing, the gray-robed priest began to sense that something was amiss.
After breaking the news, the black-clothed man paused for a moment before using a curiously careful tone, enunciating every word as he spoke. “According to the intelligence, our spies in Moldavia had gathered On the day Madam Xena last contacted us, the Count of the North was coincidentally at the Icy Plains of the Extreme North too Taking Taking his dragon for a stroll”
The mountain cave fell silent immediately.
Meanwhile, Joshua was sitting in a dragon carriage, watching the scenery as the snow dance outside the window.
The warrior had kept himself anonymous and went out alone, finding a band of merchants who were also heading for Moldova and becoming their passenger.
Not knowing what sort of VIP they were transporting, the leader of the merchants took no mind about bringing along a mysterious character who concealed his face to Moldova after getting his payment. It was not because he did not dare to offer an excuse against the man, but it was quite simply a custom for merchant groups. They could deliver their goods while guaranteeing their own safety, and of course would not mind bringing one more person alongwhat was there to stop them from earning that side income?
Joshua did not mind the crude seat at the back of the carriage eitherin fact, he was enjoying it. He had taken all sorts of transportation in those years at the distant south, and it was a common thing to travel using zergs, horned dragons or chimeras. Compared to those exotic mounts, a draconic caravan was quite comfortable.
More importantly, he wanted to relive his experience as an adventurer. It would not be nice if he was too comfortable instead.
Joshua headed to Moldova, half to see if the formidable individual the Gold-tier priestess mentioned was a familiar face he had known, the other half being to relax his mood. Since the warrior had broken through in Starfall Year 831, Joshua’s life had been even more legend of legends.From start to finish he had faced all sorts of Chaos beings and Pentashade dragons head on, even going into two different realms and meeting an Evil God with his own eyes.
Any ordinary person would have perished, their spirits broken. Even if Joshua had sturdy spirit and did not mind these things much, he still would not refuse if he could take a trip to soothe his mood.
“So Brandon and Vale Dani are now near Mount Mordus, waiting for the snowstorm to end before finally exploring the ruins.”
The warrior looked at the little enchanted booklet in his hand that could communicate directly with his own residence, nodding ponderously. “I’ll make a trip to Moldova’s main city, before going to visit them.”
03 had especially made this little booklet so that Joshua would be quickly notified of any happenings. The artificial intelligence just needed to think about it and the magic would deliver all sorts of information and data.
Of course, they could use it for leisure conversation too, but the pair rarely used that particular function.
The draconic caravan was fast, the drake’s pace was not slowed even against the frost wind. Just as Joshua contentedly followed the merchants and relived the sensation of being an adventurer all those years ago, he had crossed the border of Moldavia and arrived at Moldova.
During this time, the warrior has closed his eyes, meditating to adjust and improve his aura circulatory composition. Joshua would never forget his cultivation even on a trip awayin fact, there had been a little breakthrough in terms of his aura.
Focusing his attention inside his own body, he constructed the next path for his training.
Suddenly, a clutter of noise rang from outside the carriage, with a dull crash echoing across the rear carriage and disturbing Joshua’s deep thought.
He opened his eyes.