Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
The foot of Mount Mordus was a series of uneven ridges, but the winter snow would fill the hollows making it appear as if a white plain.
It was late night; frosty gales were billowing in the darkness. Still, the men could see a ray of golden radiance amidst the wild snow that obscured their vision.
The lieges of Moldovathe Scarlet family had set up camp within a pine forest on a hill below Mount Mordus. It had been the den of frost wolves but was now occupied by humans.
Pyroxene lights twinkled within the encampment, but the most dazzling of the lot was that gigantic hexagonal star symbol that was emitting golden radiance.
The Scarlet family had thought about it before camping here. This particular hill was taller than the others, and if there were powerful mages stationed here, they would be able to suppress the entire foot of the mountain by using the high ground. Beyond geographical advantage, there was a broad view towards the south where they could easily communicate with their own elite heavy infantry forces that were camping beside Lake Barnill not too far away.
In a huge tent at the center of the encampment, Brandon was frowning as he listened to the ranger who was giving a report of the situation. He saw that the other man had rushed here against the snowstorm, and so invited him to sit and give his report over a cup of tea.
After that, the blond swordsman could not help clenching his fist as the ranger narrated his story with a thankful tone.
“Those relentless cultists!”
Brandon punched the wooden table heavily in a fit of ragethe fragile furniture simply crumbled at once, the teacups breaking apart along with it. He then inhaled deeply, forcing himself to calm down.
“It’s fine, just a brief loss of control. Please continue,” Brandon said, reassuring the stony-faced knight errant before asking in a calm voice, “You mentioned that Herlas the Witherer was traveling along the forests beside Magel’s Unfrozen River, heading straight for the Moldovan Dark Forest. None survived in the two villages that he passed by Then? Are there more villages in his path?”
“Yes, my lord. There are still the White Leaf Town, Ruz Village and a couple of hunting camps, but Dahl and Andeni had already gone ahead to warn them.”
The ranger gulped when he remembered the two villages that were now ghost towns. Even as he explained the current situation, he could not stop himself from shivering when he described the scenes.
“The Witherer wasn’t moving very fast,” the ranger added. “My brothers were riding dragon-blooded horses; they could get the settlements to evacuate beforehand. Herlas never pursues creatures that aren’t within his field of vision, that’s his habit after all.”
Brandon let out a long sigh after hearing that message, but his expression did not relax. After a few more questions between the blond swordsman and the ranger, Brandon waved to dismiss him, telling him to get some rest.
The ranger closed the tent doors respectfully. Brandon remained inside alone, staying in silence for quite some time before sighing again.
“The situation is worse than previously though Although I know there will be unexpected things in any plans, such development still escapes imagination.”
Since May, Starfall 833, the entire cult movement on the Mycroft Continent suddenly started becoming active. Colluders of the berserk dragons at the Distant South and the lunatics spreading plagues notwithstanding, cabals such as abyssal summoners as well as demon worshippers also appeared one after the other. While even the outskirts of bigger cities were fine, there had been many cases of entire villages being massacred as offering in isolated regions.
The North naturally was no exemption even though the number of cultist saboteurs here were fewer, but their ability far surpasses that of every other area. Most demonic summoning and sacrificial rituals for Evil Gods tend to be conducted by corrupted but ordinary individuals. Even if there were cultist involvement, most of them would only be fringe members who understood just a little of their own doctrine. On the other hand, the cult members who had appeared thus far in the North were largely formal members, including several priests who could use blasphemous divine spells.
Moldavia has Lady 03 stationed at the main city and could easily pick out all suspicious characters, but Moldova was not so lucky. Vale Dani simply could not do the work all by herself, and was forced to ask Brandonwho was in the Imperial Capitalfor help.
Not too long ago, Brandon and Vale Dani had worked together and cleared out most of the cult assemble points and Moldavia and Moldova. The blond swordsman initially thought that the case had thus come to close, before the ancient ruins were discovered at Mount Mordus without warning.
Countless adventurers, archaeologists, mages from all around the world and other extraordinary characters moved towards the North at once, their single objective being Moldova itself. This northern realm that had been quiet and peaceful was suddenly filled with footprints and accents from every corner of Mycroft, with every tavern and inn within the main city and the surrounding villages brimming with people. Of course, there were rotten apples even amongst the adventurers, causing problems for the territory’s security.
To quell discord and keep an eye over these formidable mages and adventurers who do not lack in ability or Gold-tier champions, Vale Dani and Brandon had to split the workone would stay in the main city while the other would move to the ruins near Mount Mordus. With no time for anything else, they had to send their daughters to stay with the rather-leisurely Joshua once more.
In truth, both Vale Dani and Brandon had zero interest in the ruins since all they wanted was to safeguard their territory and its citizens. Now that the snowdrift appeared to be ending, it meant that the excavation and exploration could finally begin. The pair wanted those fellows to quickly finish their work and let everything return to normalbut the unforeseen kept happening, with Herlas now being the biggest piece of bad news they got.
The blond swordsman rubbed his forehead in slight fatigue.
“Every resident of two villages or perhaps more And here I was thinking that the cultists had all been driven off. Never thought they’d be interested in ruins too.”
He then smiled bitterly. “Herlas the Witherer. Wasn’t he supposed to be active in the West Mountains? He actually came to the North for the ruins, and wasn’t even spotted along the way What the hell are those border patrols doing?”
Though his mood was terrible, Brandon knew that complaining would not help things. Standing up, he started to pace back and forth in the tent, making plans in his heart.
“The man is a Supreme-pinnacle champion who approaches Legendary I guess Nostradamus or grandfather are needed for this one.”
While Brandon appeared to mild and humble, he did have his own pride. He never liked having others help if it were something he could solve himself, but there was simply no other way this time. All he could do was ask for help from his seniors who were Supreme champions just like Herlas. The other was a high priest of the cultthe blond knight believed that they would never refuse such a reasonable request.
“As for Joshua”
Brandon stopped in his tracks as a name floated into his mind. He frowned and pondered for a long time, but slowly exhaled in the end.
“It’s fine He just returned from the battlefield against the berserker dragons.”
Since he was at Mount Mordus, Brandon had not received the notice from the Moldavian liege’s residence that the warrior was already on his way.
Brandon himself always had complicated feelings regarding his younger friend whose ability seemed to develop in godly proportions. He had admired Joshua’s personality and was in awe of his ability, but was also slightly jealous of his improvement in power. The blond swordsman knew all that very well, and acknowledged all it with the awareness that human emotions were opaque. Even if he did envy Joshua’s progress, he knew what the other man had paid for it.
The warrior had always been fighting or journeying towards another battlefield since they’ve met each other two years ago, whether it was the Dark Tide, the Great Ajax Mountains, different dimensions corrupted by the Chaos, dragon nest, the war against the berserker dragons on the Sacred Mountain. Through it all, Joshua had never paused and never tire, pouring heart and soul in combat.
Brandon admitted that such a pure lifestyle and personality would always escape his grasp. He understood that even if they were both item holders of the Sage’s legacy, he would never acquire cultivation that was parallel to Joshua’s own.
“Furthermore, Herlas is of Perfect Supreme tier, an Evil God patron rumored to be progressing into Legendary”
Turning to stare at the map that was hung in the middle of the camp, Brandon muttered, “There’s no way you could beat him even if it’s you.”
In the distance.
Cold winds billowed like sharp blades as gloomy clouds surged.
Violent snow fell from heavy cloud layers as thick as ink, dyeing everything on the land whiteapart from a single black river. The waters cascaded violently even amidst this white world, churning and bellowing angrily amidst the gales, unable to freeze it a little even if the temperatures were below several tens.
A small and unexceptional town sat beside this Unfrozen River that gushes.
It was Magel’s Unfrozen River, and the small town was the White Leaf Town.
This was a little trade town that was situated beside the river, with houses built with gray roofs crumpling together beside a tributary of the stretching river, forming settlements upon the manmade canal and tributaries. Long and narrow arch bridges were scattered all around, dividing the settlements into little regions.
The White Leaf Town got its name from the white colored leaves of a magical herb used for potions that blooms within the area. Known commonly as Frost Flowering Weed, it was one of the main ingredients for tonics that enhances focus. The town itself would become crowded during very harvest as countless merchant boats swarmed here.
Although White Leaf Town citizens would hence be forced to pay expensive commerce taxes, their lifestyles were far more affluent than most inhabitants in the North. There were frequent midnight gatherings, and sounds of the settlers’ laughter could be heard at all times.
But now it was in a state of deathly silence.
Raging snow poured down as the ink dark clouds descended overhead and connecting with the ice plains in the distance. A blinding bolt weaved around the depths of the clouds, before viciously turning into lightning that tore the sky apart.
The lightning split in the shape of a tree, taking half of the sky. As thunder reverberated, even the snowstorm seemed to shudder.
Still, even if the thunder overlapped every sound across the world, it could not stifle a rhythmic set of footsteps.
Tap, tap, tap.
A burly man walked silently across the stony path of the little town, his footsteps muffling the roaring snowdrift and the cracking thunder, becoming the only sounds of this space.
All sounds were powerless because of his sheer existence, and all things withered visibly with his every step forward. Insects that hid within their nest stiffened and die under a curious ripple, just as the little bacterium within the soil as well as the ancient trees that stood beside the roads for a thousand years. Everything atrophied with the man’s pace, before the gales blew it all into dust.
The land thus became barren in the absence of life.
The man did not move quickly; he was rather slow instead. Each stride was in perfect rhythm and without a single varianceeven the most pedantic mage with the most precise ruler could not find a difference.
Another thunder rang, and the white flash of light that followed illuminated the man’s face for all to see.
He was physically fit and wore black robes. Each edge and crevice of his face was prominent as if a statue, and his dark-green curls drooped around his temples, making the face that was expressionless and machine-like appear even more ruthless.
The man’s eyes were akin to a vortex of death deep within the sea, capable of consuming and burying anything. Lightning could not steal away his presence, inversely, the snowstorm engulfing the region and the lightning that cuts across the sky were meaningless and powerless like a child’s bawling, because he lived.
Ice-cold corpses were scattered behind the man. The bodies were all dried and shriveled, as if their blood had been burnt to the very last drop. There was sheer despair and suffering upon their creased faces.
In front of those shriveled corpses were the remains of a ranger who held a longbow. It was clear that he was leading the townsfolk away and prepared to run, but ran into the target he needed utmost vigilance against instead. From his body that had now been shrunk into mere skin and bone, the ranger wanted to retaliate but had died with nary a sound before he could grab an arrow from his quiver.
Suddenly, the wails of a little girl rang out from one of the houses around. It only lasted for a moment, quickly stopping as if someone had covered her mouth.
But the man who had slaughtered half the village kept walking forward as if he never noticed that.
He never seemed to go around any obstacles either. He would step across ditches if there was one, and walk over rivers if it was in his way. If it was a building he would leave a hole in it, and any tree that was offering resistance would be snapped. Like a machine, the man stubbornly advanced towards his objective without a care for his surroundings.
Herlas the Witherer would only kill all enemies within his sight, shattering anything that stands between him and his goal. If he does not see you, he would not make a move.
Nonetheless, the sharp wails and cries broke past the walls and echoed across the town. The man who never seemed to stop, halted.
Before him, several silhouettes of wearing gray or black robes appeared.
The man spoke with a calm voice that was reminiscent of machine sounds formed from clashing metals. “You should have been waiting for my arrival at the cavern near the target area. Your actions are in conflict with the plan.”
“High Priest Herlas”
The man in the lead who wore an old and plain gray robe went down on one knee. Despite his temper, the priest Randall did not dare to do anything reckless in front of Herlas, and spoke with a distinct but calm voice.
“There’s a change in the plan, we’re here for that reason.”
Just after he spoke, several black-robed men exited a house beside the road. The blades in their hands were dripping with fresh blood, one could imagine that it belonged to those survivors.
“Forgive me for speaking out of turn, Your Excellency, but your habit often leaves survivors,” Randall spoke with an advising tone. He nodded towards the black-robed men, gesturing for them to keep searching the other houses for survivors. “It is quite damaging to our order”
Before he could finish, Randall’s voice gradually grew thinner before vanishing entirelyHerlas was staring at him with an extremely dispassionate gaze that bore no warmth.
“What changes are there?” Herlas’s voice that was as cold as ice pulsated across the street. “Be specific, don’t leave any details.
“Yes, yes, Your Excellency!” Facing the high priest that was almost a machine, Randall did not dare tarry. He knew that Herlas would never hurt a comrade, but an irrepressible and instinctual fear remained within him. As such, the priest quickly explained the many inconveniences the Cult of Pestilence had faced in the Northern Lands, naturally mentioning the other priest named Xena who was lost in Moldavia.
“Priest Xena.” Herlas closed his eyes and reached out with his senses, before concluding. “She has been cut off, but not dead.”
“Really!” Randall was delighted at the piece of news, especially with the knowledge of the other man’s power. He had believed that his friend was already dead, either killed by the North Count himself or down gulped down by the dragon.
Though Randall had never once believed that the other was alive, the situation was still the same. He was prepared to speak when he quickly clamp his own mouth shutthe man with dark green hair shook his head, telling Randall to keep quiet as he turned towards Moldavia.
“Priest Randall,” he spoke tonelessly. “I understand your intentionsyou want me to retaliate against the faction that had imprisoned Priest Xena. I will accept the call since it’s in line with the order’s doctrine.”
“After the ruin excavation plan had completed, I will head for Moldavia and rescue priest Xena, laying waste to the main city and annihilating its citizens.”
Herlas’s tone was plain and straightforward as if it was not some malevolent plan for slaughter. Indeed, it was a more suitable voice that discusses trivial things such as going to work tomorrow or having bread for dinner.
Soon, a radiance flashed like a vortex in Herlas’s eyes.
“But now, the plan to excavate the ruins takes priority.”
“Yes, Your Excellency!”
Randall, whose mind had been completely exposed, felt his back drenched in cold sweat, despite already used to Herlas’s ability to see through people.
The gray-robed priest, and then said hesitantly, “But Your Excellency, Moldavia’s ruler is Joshua the dragon-slayer. He too possesses Intermediate Supreme-tier abilitymaybe even pinnacle Don’t we need to prepare”
Randall stopped, because Herlas no longer cared or reacted to his words, and was striding ahead again.
It was neither arrogance nor contempt.
It was duty.
The whistling snowstorm finally became forceful and distinct again after Herlas. The White Leaf town was also fluctuating with screams as well as pleas for mercy, as the cultists were wiping out every single survivor.
Being left behind, Randall stayed silent for some time. It was until the other priest vanished within the screens of snow that he let out a drawn-out sigh.
“Perhaps” He smiled bitterly. “He really does not give a damn.”