Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
[Continental War—Descent], [Continental War—Glorious Light], [Continental War—Draconic Plague], [Continental War—Distant Domain], [Continental War—Divine Advent], [Continental War—Ashes].
[Continental War]—a fantasy game that was wildly popular on the Earth Federation. Since the servers of the series started system-wide nine years ago, it had occupied a place in the top-ten of full-dive games while topping the board on several occasions thanks to its excellent production, comprehensive data, engaging storyline, and profound worldview. The game itself had over a hundred and eight million registered accounts, with forty million permanent players and almost nine million players who would log in for at least four hours daily since its third expansion [Draconic Plague]. Although a few players left when newer expansions were introduced, even more players joined and doubled the player population, with millions of players exploring and going on adventures in any given moment within the world that brimmed with the flames of war.
The era in which Joshua lived was one of great unity with extreme prosperity in terms of materials, and humans began to colonized space. Both menial and effortless labor were taken over by machines, with humans mostly killing time through a variety of entertainment or co-curricular learning beyond their four-hour daily work period. Under such circumstances, industries such as gaming, livestream, music, arts, religion, and novels began to develop exponentially, with [Continental War] considered as one of the outstanding figures.
Apart from the supreme production and intricate details, its realistic world building was also part of its attraction. In the game, no story or important item stood independently—they were all interconnected, with an unnamed steel sword once proving to be the possession of a former sword saint and subsequently leading to an immense chain of missions. On another occasion, a seemingly typical murder case could be involved in a greater cultists sacrificial plot behind the scenes. In short, any character that the player assumed in their adventure within that world meant incessant surprises. You could choose to wander the continent and take in the sights and communities, or you could be a soldier to experience the slaughter in the fields of war. As long as they were willing, any person could find the gameplay they desired from the game.
Usually, games with such profound world-building would require hundreds of specialist designers and data-miners, although even that would perhaps prove insufficient. In fact, for most grand-scale virtual-reality games, each update and new story denoted the repudiating of a portion of the original settings—or’book-eating’ 1 as gamers commonly called it. Such things were commonplace and not unusual with some even getting used to it since human ability was limited. To tailor a perfect and autonomous world from start to end was nigh impossible—even if it was the time wasted outweighed the benefits.
Yet, Continental War was different. Not only did the six updates that started from Descent and ended with Ashes did not ruin the original settings it expanded the world on each update. The transition was also as smooth as flowing cloud and streaming water—with not a hint of stagnation as if it was a real world.
In fact, that point alone would not be astonishing since any prime company that was willing to pay the effort and time could promote the quality of the game to such a threshold. However, what shocked the entire industry—perhaps even the entire Federation—was that the one who designed every story, setting and the innumerable characters who seemed alive was actually just ‘one person’.
Was that possible? None dared to believe such a thing. Even the most conceitful of individuals would not dare to say that they could design and complete a game with similar world-building and background setting to [Continental War] by themselves. Furthermore, that mister who was not willing to reveal his name had arranged for corresponding relationships, story and mission chains between tens of thousands of characters and factions. The aspect of data-mining in such a task would have been calculated in Ts—it was ‘mission impossible’, unachievable even if a single person dedicated their whole life in that task. For that, the First News Channel of the Federation even especially produced a program to interview the designer who did not want to reveal his name.
Joshua had mostly forgotten the content of the interview then since it was mostly boring chatter. The mysterious designer never revealed any information regarding how he designed the game, although there was a line that he remembered clearly. It was something the designer said at the beginning of his interview.
“Construct, design? No… I wouldn’t dare to say so. Instead of saying that I designed [Continental War], it was more appropriate to say that ‘it’ surged into my mind—” the mysterious designer who was interviewed through an online virtual image mumbled with a bitter smile. “It would be too far-fetched to even call it inspiration. I feel that I was purely retelling—right, ‘retelling’ a world. It naturally works just like how a channel is formed when water arrives, and just that.”
“He may not be lying.”
A dozen layers later, the warrior who was now an indeterminate distance away from his former home closed his eyes in the Void-Star Observatory, Israel’s words a few seconds ago still echoing around his ears.
The Abyssal Seal, the land beneath their feet, the Starfall Era and the shelters over a thousand years ago—those were information that the many Legendary champions and the Diamond family kept bottled. In reality, the gung-ho contextual research players had actually acquired many clues in the pre-existence and would have discovered the truth behind the scenes if not for the Abyssal invasion. Whatever the case may be, the two was so similar that none could suppress the curiosity.
Joshua had already several inklings regarding the truth of it all. He had lived for some time in the present Mycroft Continent and could completely ascertain that this was a genuine world. To the warrior, instead of saying that he had arrived in the world of a game, it was more correct to say that the information of the game from the pre-existence came from what was the world of Mycroft.
There were connections between worlds. The knowledge within the Azurite described much regarding the Initial Flame, existence and the mysteries of the world. In the Multiverse, countless planets unleashed their own ‘ripples’ externally, and those endless ripples stirred each other, giving birth to chaotic Void turbulence that blocks the link between worlds, while making the links between certain worlds even more profound.
Projection, linking, twins, divide—along with the even more common information delivery, it was as if a pioneer unexpectedly created magic, while a certain sage from another world also attained an epiphany of the mysteries behind mana. Brown bears in Austria would learn to wash their food with water, while other brown bear tribes on the other side of the world learned the same trick too. Such a connection could not be explained through logic—it was a deeper origin, a resonance from existence.
Joshua usually would not consider such issues because he had more important things to think about. But now, the warrior appeared to understand the reason he appeared here, although deeper consideration revealed that the reason was not solid. Soon, Joshua swept away the sporadic thoughts in his mind—he knew that minding what had happened would neither change past nor future, and so the only thing worth his concern was the secret that Israel Diamond was about to divulge.
That truth regarding the deeper layers of this world.
“Please speak, Your Majesty.” He said thus. “I am listening solemnly.”
“You couldn’t understand here in the Void.” Israel moved his gaze away from the Mycroft Continent beneath him and looked up at Joshua. “You don’t seem surprised in the slightest—but you are you, and you do hold the Sage’s Legacy.”
“Don’t worry. While the Void Star-Observatory is a distant frontier fortress for the Empire to observe the worlds out there, it is also the medium point that links to Fairyland as well as where you and I are about to go.”
Even as Israel spoke, waves of majestic energy waves began to pour out from the concealed meeting room in the Observatory that lifted the Emperor’s dark blond hair while flipping Joshua’s clothes. The two looked at each other, with Israel then nodding and looking above.
“Queen, begin the teleportation.
“Alright.” A rather easy-going feminine voice resounded just as Joshua felt a familiar presence.
It was the presence of one of the fairy queens he had felt recently in Fairyland.
In the very next instant, with an immeasurably powerful traction force, a door that glinted in ink-black light opened in the heart of the meeting room. Streaks of dull, indescribable radiance shone upon Israel’s body and made the Legendary champion’s body disappear between breaths.
Joshua allowed the same light to touch his body as well. He felt an ancient dimensional power engulfing his entire power as if to bring him to a distant and deep space. Unlike the usual teleportation, this one did not require the warrior to deliberately enter, only requiring him to be towed.
And there was where the problem appeared.
Within the very moment the dull radiance had covered Joshua’s entire body to transport him away as it did for Israel, the light suddenly flashed and dissipated into specks of light around the world. Joshua had already closed his eyes earlier, but now doubtfully opened them.
“Eeeeeeh—it failed? How could this be?! A realm circle could not move you away?!” That unnamed fairy queen squealed in a shocked high-pitch voice. “It’s impossible, Israel and that old codger were recently teleported together at once—your energy level should not exceed theirs!”
The startled mumbling continued for a while. Joshua could even imagine the fairy queen was whirling incessantly anxiously, although she seemed to have found the key issue soon.
“You’re… Joshua, right?” She asked gingerly. “May I know how much you weight?”
“–Probably over a hundred thousand tons.”
Having fought the Demon General Helm not too long ago, Joshua was not too sure how much of his mass had evaporated due to the demon’s ultimate skill. Still, in the last few days of rest and recuperation, he had recovered a little by using the resources in the Great Ajax Mountains, which was why a hundred thousand tons was definitive. Ultimately, his true form was a genuine body of steel.
“… It’s better for you to walk in yourself…” The fairy queen spoke with a baffled voice after a long silence. “No wonder the circle displayed a Void Behemoth that was several hundred meters tall… I can’t send you over.”
It was until Joshua himself touched the dark dimensional doorway and vanished from the portal that a silent voice wafted from some unknown place.
“So, he’s the type who looks slimmer with clothes…”
Not knowing that he had been given some weird assessment by a certain fairy queen, Joshua opened his eyes when the teleportation and looked around to find himself arriving at an unusual space.
Noting crimson light, broiling heat, ever-present reverberating booms, and lava that was streaming across all directions, Joshua just needed a fraction of a second to understand what place he was actually in. He raised a hand and shattered a thick energy bolt that had just leaped out of his flank, before turning towards Israel beside him.
“The earth’s core?”
“Yes,” His Majesty nodded, not minding why Joshua arrived later than himself. “A special space opened around the core—or more specifically, a joint of a seal.”
After that brief exchange with Israel, Joshua continued observing the environment around them. This place was unquestionably around the earth’s core—viscous magma found beneath the earth’s mantle was surging at wild and unimaginable speeds under tremendous heat, just like rivers pouring down snowy mountains. In this place, charcoal would be compressed into diamond while adamantine would lose its form. Apart from Legendary champions, this place was hard for even Supreme-tiers to survive, and yet a giant and empty spherical expanse exist within such a hostile environment. Although there were streaks of energy bolts that were thousands of meters long darting within, it was enough to prove its mystery.
Israel stood in the heart of the expanse that was filled with crimson magma and raised his left wrist, where a plain and undecorated gray bangle glinted. Runes after runes containing innumerable enigmas started shining one after the other, each of which Joshua subconsciously understood their pronunciation and meaning once he saw them. Such powerful and prehistoric ancient language almost surpassed logic by existing alone, representing existence and the divine language used by the gods to communicate.
Every rune illuminated, and Israel clenched his left fist. The gray bangle leaped out of his wrist and autonomously levitated in the air, with ancient circuits leaving the bangle and unfurling across all directions. Chaotic energy bolts that had been scattered across the expanse were guided by those runes and turned into straight lines, and in seconds, a huge three-dimensional magic circle started to well across the entire empty expanse. Immeasurably powerful sealing pressure emanated from within, causing even Joshua to frown in alert.
“What’s that, Israel?”
“A legacy from prehistoric times.” The Emperor lowered his head at the warrior’s question, staring at the earth core that was covered by infinite golden-red magma.
“Resonance, begin,” he added with a deep yet tranquil voice that was without any emotions.
At those very words, as if really in resonance, three other similar giant circles shone over the distance, likewise encircling the edge of the earth’s core, although the distance was so far away that it was almost half a continent separated them. Nonetheless, all four circles occupied four different directions as if to enshroud the core in circles, with mana rays that passed diagonally over tens of thousands of kilometers to link each other, while giant runes glinted in holy radiance and utterly sealed the core.
“Four shelters, four seals. After the Lost Three Hundred Years, countless survivors walked out from the enclosed shelters. What they face was a home that was completely converted into another world and the onslaught of berserk magical beasts.”
Israel spoke softly as he stared, watching as all the shift ended. Even so, he was not mumbling, but narrating the situation for Joshua. “After centuries of strife, the four great human settlements appeared over the land one of the other while the faith of the Seven Gods of men spread unwittingly. My ancestor at the time, the Diamond family who virtually united the entire Northern settlement met the fairy queen and God of Justice who had descended upon the mortal realm. He supported my ancestor in establishing the grandest nation, but in return, our family has to bear some responsibility.”
“And it’s his sealing circle deep within the core? What does it seal?” Joshua asked, his brow furrowed tightly since he was certainly aware of what Israel was speaking about, before suddenly remembering something. “Wait… Right… The Sage used the remains of the Evil God of Fertility to reshape the Mycroft Continent, could it be?!”
“No. Would the Sage leave such a hidden peril? But your guess is not too far off—to humans, it might even be worse.”
Laughing softly once, Israel looked up and around at the empty expanse that could hold its ground and not be destroyed after a thousand years. Israel also looked relaxed, as if he finally could that cumbersome secret.
“Look, Joshua.” The Emperor extended his hand and pointed towards the solid core that was emanating searing heat, as well as the endless ancient runes that appeared around it. “That is the seal left behind by the gods of the last generation.”
“It divides us and the heavens, holding the World Will tightly in the earth’s core—since that day so many incalculable years ago that the star belonging to Mycroft fell, it vanished within the Multiverse until you recently relit it.”
Joshua’s pupils contracted. He finally understood that lingering doubt in his heart was! It was regarding the World Will of the world of Mycroft! He once communicated with Karlis, spoke with Illgner—even the newborn World Will of Grandia that had already died once begged him for salvation. He was the King of Searing Soul, a medium between world and life—as long as he existed, he should have been able to sense the Steel Python of the Mycroft Continent!
It was not that Joshua did not ponder similar questions before, but consecutive chains of events tend to disturb each meditation of his. Additionally, with the Mycroft Continent being a world that was already dead, the warrior felt that the World Will may have been long dead. However, Karlis proved by itself that the durability of World Wills surpassed the imagination of any being.
If Karlis, a Steel Python that was about to wither for a millennium regained vigor through the injection of new flames, then the world of Mycroft that had received every flame on the world of Grandia should not remain so dormant.
The fact that every god of the last generation was silent had been the most baffling event. If Father Nature could survive under such monumental difficulties, why would the victorious gods of the Glorious Era vanish entirely, leaving deities that were clearly of a new generation?
Now, the secret was generally revealed.
“The gods of the last generation sacrificed themselves… to seal the World Will?” Joshua shook his head as he tried his best to digest the information. He shook his head, not because of his doubt, but simply because he found it inconceivable. “If not corruption by the Evil Gods, what other reason would there be for the gods and the diverse races to seal their own Mother?”
The answer was simple. Indeed, Israel did not have to reply—the warrior himself had already come up with the answer.
If not for the Mother acting first, would the gods or the races that inhabited this land go through the trouble to seal of the world they live in?
“Exactly. Perhaps She believed that the source of all calamity was humans, or perhaps It thought that existence itself was the source of destruction, or even perhaps It was aware that it had already died and so desired the descent into the Abyss—there are millions of reasons but one outcome, and that was this Mother of All Things wanted to wipe out everything over the land and restart the cycle of life.”
Israel’s tone returned to calm, and he spoke once more with an apathetic voice. “Compared to us, it far favored the enchanted beasts that spawned when we still resided within shelters. Leaving aside the survivors of the divine bloodline descended from the Mother Goddess, It no longer view us as Its own children… And yet I could say nothing, for the innumerable citizens would never accept that the land beneath their feet was their enemy.”
“If the seal was removed one day, we have but three choices—to kill our own Mother, to be killed by Her or leave this world.”
“Abandoned races, huh…” Joshua somehow could not help remembering the Celestial Dragons when he heard Israel’s rather helpless voice. Be it the Pentashade or Metal Dragons, all of them were races that were forced to come here so as to escape a great calamity in their own world. “They were aware,” the warrior promptly said, “otherwise they would not trigger the Draconic Plague so extraordinarily and rampantly attack the human-elf federation.”
And it seems that was that. The existence of the World Will, the whereabouts of the gods, the numerous ruins buried deep within the land and the origins of the Starfall Era—the answer to every complicated question, in fact, originated from a single circumstance: The Mother of Creation no longer loves Its former children, and solely that.
Though the Lost Three Hundred Years in history had no explanation, the other questions had answers that were not at all delightful.
“Yes, the Pentashade Dragons became aware of the fact at some unknown point in time. They desired to struggle for dominance over this world against us who are the abandoned, in turn attempting to become the sovereign of Mycroft and be utterly accepted by It.”
Israel showed an ironic expression. “Too bad, they failed, and could only flee to the Abyss. It was the Metal Dragons instead who earned the right to continue propagating in this world—how laughable.”
At those words, the Emperor took a step toward the earth’s core. It was as if the broiling heat and tremendous pressures did not exist to him, even his clothing did not appear to be dwelling in an underground region of thousands degree hotness.
“That is why I never gave a damn about those who shamelessly seek personal gain,” he said as he walked without any trace of being burnt. “All of them know nothing, that this land completely not worth conquering.”
Israel approached the earth’s core with Joshua walking alongside him—never once stopping, there was a bundle of inferno in the Emperor’s gaze that was much more intense than the magma around him. “These lands nurtured our ancestors as well as you and I. This is our home, but it also ultimately neither belong to us or our descendants.”
“Joshua, I think of you differently.”
Turning abruptly, Israel leveled his gaze at Joshua’s and spoke straightforwardly. “I’m Emperor. I have to rule over my nation, and before I could search for the possibility of a future, I must be responsible for the present lives of my citizens. I am shackled to this land, and though I desire to head for the stars, I have no way of severing my bonds… Unlike you. You have transcended many different worlds and completed your objectives perfectly. You understand how to search for worlds with life, and also understand what kind of environment humans need.”
“I understand your point.”
Joshua narrowed his eyes, unable to stop himself from recalling the information Karlis had given him: many World Wills need him to uproot the seeds of Chaos that had latched onto their bodies. Without question, it was a duty that must be completed by crossing worlds, and searching for a land that the diverse races of the Mycroft Continent could survive upon in the process would not be too challenging.
At the thought, Joshua could not help shaking his head. He felt that everything was flowing according to a certain tide—exactly like how the mysterious designer who was interviewed by Earth Federation had put it, that everything flows naturally and that a channel is formed when water arrives.
“I have to say, Israel, you’re the one emperor I’ve met who least resembles an emperor.” Joshua smiled unwittingly as they arrived above the earth’s core and felt the searing heat, before continuing calmly. “Your thoughts and your pursuits are completely different from what I’ve known—perhaps that’s the difference between reality and fantasy. I’m really in awe.”
“People who are indifferent and cowardly would never know success or failure,” Israel smiled too, despite not understanding what the hell Joshua was talking about. He closed his eyes, before opening them again. “Those afraid to act would be mocked by the heavens.”
“And I am, after all, a warrior. Courage and victory are my principles.”
“Even if the opponent was this world?”