Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
The black clouds in the night sky thickened above the Anson mountains within the former Ulan Empire. Drizzling rain soaked every inched of soil, bringing with them a chill that cuts into bone.
And so the moon vanished, allowing darkness to surge here like a tidal wave.
As it grew late into the night, fog cascaded, causing the still gumtree forest to dance like specters in the wind.
On his warhorse, Caesar stood before the village he watched over, falling silent as he watched the looming and seemingly endless armies of Death Shades.
After a long time, the heroic spirit knight gently stroked his mount that revived as a heroic spirit like him, making a speechless bitter smile. “Really, this number” he mumbled. “It’s even more than the time I died.”
Four hundred and eleven years ago, the Firemind Knight Caesar Darwell had set the Anson mountains alight all by himself to defeat the Gelug Empire ambush that consisted of three thousand elite mountain troops and four knights of the same title.
Though the success costed his life, it kept the Ulan Empire from total defeat in a direct armed confrontation and kept a large portion of their fighting force intact. After the battle, the knight’s descendants were appointed the lieges of Anson, while countless people who survived thanks to Caesar’s efforts came here, their hearts filled with honor, consecrating the hero’s statue and stone plaque.
Three hundred and eighty-four years later, darkness surged and his heroic spirit returned to the mortal realm. That was when he noticed that that the road he should be walking was at its end, but his war is far from over.
This time, instead of being alive, the enemy was the dead.
More than two decades ago, as the Death Shades came charging like a typhoon, the revived Caesar led his descendants and toiled as they carved out a village territory that was neither big nor small.
Human presence in the northwest mountains of the Grandia Continent was rareapart from the Death Shades of certain vicious beasts, there were not many awakened champion souls. That was why life here was stable, although the people did have to toil by farming daily as well as mining for protocrystal ores.
However, the peaceful days seems to be over for the darkness that was the Death Shade army had arrived.
Like a lone alone within the vast sea, the little town had completely no way of retreatapart from that protcrystal mining cave behind them that heads to some unknown place. Holding his lance tightly while his left hand pressed over the flail hanging on his lip, the knight spoke with a thin voice at the villagers behind him who had their belongings packed and waited impatiently.
“Run,” he said. “Run along the mining path and hide beside the underground river karst. Remember to block the mouth of the cavern and never come out.”
“Then, what about you, ancestor?” asked a young girl uncomfortably.
The heroic spirit closed his eyes as he laughed softly. When the Firemind Knight opened his eyes again, magical energy boiled within his bodyhis silhouette, formed from radiance became a crimson red instantly, as if a flame that burned intensely.
“I’m going to do what heroes are supposed to do.”
At the moment, the darkness was banished by the light of the flames, the sparks never dying even amidst the icy rain, spreading warmth and heat energy as it sparkled instead.
While the villagers retreated in an orderly manner, the knight drove his mount ahead. Meanwhile, the Death Shade army that should have no intelligence and only knew how to obey orders quickly retreated at the sight, as if instinctually fearing the flames that the heroic spirit ignited with his soul.
In the very next moment, a battle cry resounded, and an inferno that razed for ten days was ignited at the Anson Mountains.
Exactly like what transpired four hundred and eleven years ago.
The same scene happened in every corner of the Grandia Continent.
At a coastal fishing village, a mage froze tens of thousands Death Shade riders. Within quiet forests, a ranger with divine bow sprayed rains of arrowsas if meteors, the offense wiped out one dark legion after the other.
Countless uncorrupted heroic spirits were doing all they could to protect the people and things they cherished, but under the pressure of the endless ranks of the enemy, every single one of them met the same fate.
With Guetard the former Ulan Imperial Capital at its center, Death Shade troops that were starkly different from normal Death Shades marched out, heading towards each shelter within the mountains and forests silently. Under their assault, the villages and towns that had been guarded by heroic spirits and human champions fell one after the other.
With a certain mystical and malevolent spell, those heroic spirits that did not corrupt during the Cataclysm fell in a matter of days, assimilated into the ranks of their former enemies.
However, it was almost ten days after this went on that the four final large-scale human settlements southwest to the continent received this shocking news. The Death Shades faction had displayed an unprecedented power as they unleashed their full-strength.
Only now did those survivorswho were still clumsily trying to contact other sheltersnoticed that there were no other settlements left standing apart from theirs.There may still be some sparsely positioned settlements by the edge of the continent, but they could not reach them.
And now, these four settlements that fortified the resting place of bygone heroes in the world of Grandia was utterly surrounded by the darkness, isolated without any help in sight.
Meanwhile, torrential rain was falling upon the central western zone of the Grandia Continent, where the Dark Creek Forest stood within the Xayar Mountains.
It poured, as if the raindrops were spilled directly from the skies above, drowning the swampy forest that was surrounded by mountains completely in water and mud.
Urbandy, Lord of the Xayar Mountains, King of the Forests, Shepherd of the Swamp and the Dark Creek King stood over the heart of forests. At the very peak of its body formed from tree roots, his single eye that was a purple flame scanning the distance.
The air was filled with silent and malicious scent as the suffocating fog spread abundantly in the air, so much so that even the downpour that was virtually a raging waterfall could not disperse it. There were countless squirming shadows within the thick fog as scarlet and ferocious light shot out from the eyes of souls long dead, focusing on the forest before them.
“Your Majesty, Dark Creek King, are things alright?” The slightly feeble voice of the dragon-winged girl rang from behind the body of the treant.
Hillya had just recovered from her injuries; her tone was rather hesitant as she spoke.
“If it’s really bad, I will go myself and”
”Silence, human.” Urbandy scolded severely with a voice that trembled the air. ”My resolve will not suffer your doubts. If I promised to send you safely away from the forest, I would never go back on my word.”
”What’s more, do you think these ants could stop me?”
Hillya smiled bitterly in return. She did not distrust Urbandy’s ability; she merely felt helpless and embarrassed due to her own strength.
Since the enchanted gown passed down from her family resonated last time, the powerful nature spirit had completely changed his behavior. Urbandy now even indicated that he was willing to escort her out of the Xayar mountains and send her safely to the southwestern human settlements.
But since that day, innumerable shadows came surging out of nowhere, keeping guard right in front of the forest and staunchly surrounding it.
With Urbandy’s help, Hillya had tried to break out of the encirclement on several occasions only to be foiled. The last occasion had been one of the best chances, but she made a mistake in her own fatiguecausing her not only to fail but also be heavily injured.
Nevertheless, apart from that disappointing news, she had largely understood the value behind her gown thanks to the information Urbandy unwittingly revealed.
[Saint of Origin Robe]
In ancient times, the Grandia Continent had been a barren and recently-born world filled with the heat energy of flames. Nothing else existed across the land, apart from boiling hot springs and lava pools.
But a wiseman had led millions of citizens across worlds to arrive here. He called himself an apostle of the ‘Sage’, and by using a certain ritual he unleashed a divine spell that escapes human imagination that cooled the world from its burning state. He then spread the seed and raised the infants of different animals, so that within just a hundred years the lifeless land turned anew and was now filled with the scent of life and plants.
The millions of citizens that had stepped across worlds with the wiseman were in turn the roots of all life in the Grandia Continent, while the Saint of Origin Robe was the costume he wore when he performed the ritual.
Although all if it were merely folktales spread within villages that could not be taken word for word, Hillya could not stop herself disbelieving that her gown was of some extraordinary sourceeven with Urbandy’s face that was filled with conviction.
Perhaps the ancient wiseman might not even have existed, but the gown was certainly an extraordinary object so powerful it surpassed rationality.
But now was not the time to think of such things.
Amidst the fog opposite the forest, the legions of Death Shades suddenly moved conspicuously. They parted in an orderly manner, forming a stretching pathway.
As the gigantic treant shifted its body, millions of tree roots moved while the mud swirled like a tide, the tremendous power causing the entire forest to quake. The Dark Creek King watched the scene before it, the large eye of purple-fire on its head flashing for an instant as its face, formed from brown-black wood became solemn.
A bunch of bedbugs.
Urbandy was unconcerned by the endless ranks of Death Shades. As one that had survived for almost a thousand years and was more ancient than most heroic spirits, why would it care about those minions? Even millions of these beings would never even scratch it. Diamonds would never fear the knock of a chicken eggand if anything, Urbandy was a diamond mountain.
That was why these pitiful Death Shades were never the ones that kept the Dark Creek King on its toes.
In the depths of the thick fog, three silhouettes were slowly walking along the pathway, Death Shades bowing and the raging rain splitting where they passed. Even the land that had long been turned into a muddy swamp turned solid and dry under their steps.
The one in front was a middle-aged spellcaster whose body was surrounded with seven crystal balls of varying shapes. He was leading a human-shaped fog that was imperceptible if one did not look carefully, as well as a skeleton archer whose entire body was engulfed in a green-blue radiance.
They arrived before the dark mountain forest, staring down at the giant treant who stood at the heart of the forest.
“Dark Creek King Urbandy, why do you protect enemy?” The spellcaster spoke to the treant with a voice that resembled a machine, enunciating every word. “For twenty-seven years, the Death Shade army had never intruded upon your territory. And yet here you are, abandoning your neutral stance and embracing the humans.”
”She had made an offeringI certainly have to keep my word and offer her sanctuary.”
Urbandy’s voice, nonchalant but rich and powerful, reverberated across the forest thicket, forming ripples even amongst the rain. ”The land and the forests never belonged to anyone. Such is my answer that would never change for all time.”
“Is that so? But we simply do not wish to fight you.”
After a brief silence, the middle-aged spellcaster pulled down his hood to reveal his true face that was a skull mostly composed of crystals. Using mana to vibrate the air, the Death Shade commander proceeded to speak with a stiff voice.
“So, there’s another suggestion that you could consider.” He advised adjusting his voice so that it was as soothing as possible. “Join us, Dark Creek King. Your ability is enough to become one of usI would even cede my throne to you as long as you agree to it. So what if we let the dragon girl go? What’s more, from this point forth, the Death Shade would never disturb the Xayar mountains or enter your domain.”
Hillya, who was still standing behind the treant became nervous immediately after hearing those words, having every intent to convince the powerful being to not be seduced by the other side.
The dragon-winged girl knew that her life was not even worth mentioning without that enchanted gown. It was fine if she died.
On the other hand, Urbandy was the oldest and most powerful creature in this world. Entrenched at the hub between northwest and southeast of the continent, it prevented the grand army of Death Shades from amassing into the borders of the Gelug Empire. But if the treant did defector allow the Death Shade armies to advanceit would turn into one horrible disaster for the surviving human factions.
Nevertheless, the Dark Creek King had sneered sharply after he heard the offer.
”Pitiful undead, heroic spirits already corrupted The darkness has obscured your once wise eyes,” the powerful being that appeared to be just a treant spoke with a curiously tranquil voice.
”Since when did you start believing that you could take me by bringing along a bunch of bedbugs? Why do you believe that I must join you to fulfill my promise?”
The skeleton spellcaster did not spell anything in reply. He merely stretched out his palmsalso formed from crystals and boneand clapped.
Lightning streak across the dark clouds as the skies suddenly thundered. Three behemoths with bodies wrapped in magnificent radiance thus plummeted plainly from the heavens.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Three bangs reverberated dully, and churning the muddy land in waves as three immeasurably huge puppets built entirely from crystals descended before the Dark Creek Forest.
Unspeakably huge, the three puppets were almost forty meters tall, built from uncountable crystals of varying geometrical shapes. Innumerable mystical runes were carved over them, and their bodies that did not lose out in size against the Dark Creek King. In the center of their frames were three Jewel Seeds, each swirling in red, purple and brown radiance respectively and supplying them with powerful energies as needed.
“It seems that you’ve refused,” the spellcaster shook his head, although his expression somehow was not one of disappointment. “You’re certainly powerful even to me. And though I’m unaware why the Grand Commander would hold you in such high esteem, you are not so powerful that we have to fear you.”
“It’s time to let you have a taste of pain, Dark Creek King.”
Behind him, the human silhouette fog had already vanished, while the skeleton archer slowly but steadily took the bow that hung from its break.
They stopped short of attacking, however, as they waited for the spellcaster to make a move.
As the strongest leaders of their own generation, be it the spellcaster who employed crystal puppets, the most powerful assassin that was shadow-less and shapeless, or the divine archer that had once killed sea-king behemoths and floating mountain whales, their heart possessed pride that solely belonged to themselves. Even if they became fallen for some reason, they would never easily interfere with the battles of others.
Still, the giant treant shook its head indifferently.
”Looks like you three still remember part of your pride.
”But that’s meaningless.”
Countless tree roots transformed into tentacles, lifting the dragon-winged girl and sending her to the other end of the forests. Meanwhile, Urbandy’s voiced gradually weakened as it faced the seemingly unstoppable advance of the puppets into the forest, the tree roots that formed its body shrinking back into the land in an orderly manner.
As the others were thinking if Urbandy was intending to flee without a fight, an earthquake-like rumble thundered across the land beneath the Dark Creek Forest.
It was the sound akin to some leviathan was slowly awakening and flexing its body.
“I, who am of the blood of gods, descended of the Mother Goddess.”
A dull but unfathomably clear voice was seeping out of the entire land.
“I breathe along with this land; I can hear its anger and resentment. Death Shade, whatever you or the being behind you wants, this path undoubtedly leads to total destruction.
“It would be best if all of you came at once.”
The second the voice spoke, a titanic wooden pillar that was a mixture of flesh, blood and roots broke through the surface of the earth and revealed itself to all. And the moment this lofty pillar of wooden muscle that was almost a hundred meters tall appeared, the earth, trees, stones as well as rainwater and gales around it latched on to it and shaped into an infinitely robust ‘arm’.
The arm had stone and mud as flesh, flowing water as blood and the roots of plants as veins. At the half-summit in the distant mountains, boulders shattered while peaks moved loosely as a giant head made out of sturdy black stone appeared. Two bundles of purple flames akin to the sun ignited over it, and with that, an unparalleled presence descended.
Having seen the leviathan whose half body was already several hundred meters tall, the crystal skeleton spellcaster quickly pulled its puppet to retreat towards the back. As it urgently pulled away, it screamed out a breath of cool air with nonexistent lungs.