Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
When Kiara trod upon the frosted lands of the North, her memories could not help tracing back to that distant afternoon three or four decades ago.
The afternoon where her father brought her to the Sea of Sorrow at the edge of the world to watch the ice.
It was the southernmost point of the entire continent and was several thousand kilometers away from the Mycroft Continent. Her father once said that it had been a blessed land where life flourished and rested a thousand years ago—countless charmingly naïve and plump birds of a black-and-white plum living here pompously, with special humans known as the Sinreans inhabiting the continent composed entirely of ice, surviving by hunting seals and fishing, living peaceful lives under the protection of the Mother Goddess and the many oceanic deities.
Kiara did not care much about the black-and-white birds and the primitive people, minding instead the fact that it had been where the final survivors of the Earth Temple were based, devotees of a religion that once flourished and spread throughout the world. It was not as if she could not differentiate between north and south, but the young female elder of the Earth Temple could not help being stirred in her heart when she saw the familiar ever-present snow.
The Earth Temple was now in pieces. That lost citadel within the icy plains was no longer their base.
From the stony avenues of the outskirts to the satellite cities intermittently patrolled by knights, Kiara calmly walked right past those robust, young yet energetic guardian knights of the Radcliffe family. After she entered the city, her prim yet luscious appearance quickly caught much attention—while there were people with all variety of colored hair in the Mycroft Continent, one who had hair reminiscent of a purple gem was extremely rare. Furthermore, there was a mysterious charm emanating from the lady that drew everyone close unwittingly.
“A high-tier adept.” A knight, shaking his head to clear the natural charm out of his head, urgently spoke to the comrades beside him. “Ability should be Gold-advanced tier. Inform the White Dragon Knights, prepare for emergency countermeasures?”
“There’s no need to fuss, is there? There are now at least a few Gold champions who come to the main city every day to visit the liege… Who would dare to make any moves under the nose of a Legendary champion? That’s just suicide.”
Meanwhile, another knight was slapping the warhorse beneath him that was panting. The man himself was not charmed, but his horse appeared unable to control itself and was intending to kneel in reverence of the lady, causing the knight to reprimand it with a grudging smile. “This old man fed you for so long and yet I lost out just because she has a pretty face?”
Even so, news that a Gold champion entered town was quickly delivered to each ranked officer and spread throughout every corner of town. At the moment, Moldavia basically popularized the use of communication circles. Thanks to the exponential rise of mana concentration, the most troublesome and expensive energy charging links had vanished and simple magic circles were produced on a massive scale across the world today, with the North being just the first batch.
Kiara was certainly aware of the fact but she did not mind. Indeed, to inform that important person about the arrival of an envoy as scheduled was her plan in the first place.
And before the other side extended their invitation—or decree—she wanted to take a good look at the city itself.
Passing through most spots of the southern satellite city that was still mostly a foundation and a plain steel frame and arriving by the walls of Moldavia, Kiara watched as the northern city bustled in activity. Bands of youths appeared from time to time beside the road, holding skis as they headed outside the city to play. Where snow accumulated by the path, children less than ten years old were throwing snowballs at each other, while their parents mostly sat in a corner, lighting tobaccos or chugging down half-bottles of viscous alcohol, guffawing as they looked on.
The young elder of the Earth Temple could not help but sigh emotionally. She stopped, staring at the children whose safety nobody worried about despite being outside of town, her thoughts drifting away. It may be a daily sight not worth mentioning to the locals, but it was a supremely rare delight for intelligent beings in other corners of the Mycroft Continent—the world outside the city walls were the domain of monsters and robbers, and there would not be any assurance of peasant’s safety once they stepped out of town. Every farmer must prepare blades and bow, and must at least hold on until the garrison arrived even if they could not defeat the attacking monsters. For them, stepping an inch away from their own land was cause for great panic, much less going to play in the outskirts.
In other parts of the world, most peasants would never have seen the sights a hundred miles away from their home, and would never have left the soil they were born upon. But here, in Northern Moldavia, children did not have to worry about their own safety even as toddlers and could freely frolic outside the city, treading on ice to cross rivers, climbing mountains and taking in the distant sights which were a sublimation in the aspect of knowledge and experience.
Many believed that the region in which a Legendary champion was present derives reflected glory from that illustrious son, with boundless champions and wisemen would appearing in town, joining under their banner. Most ordinary individuals believed that to be the Legendary’s contribution thanks to their instruction, but Kiara was convinced that while the Legendary was indeed the decisive factor, the fundamental reason for change was that their vision had been broadened. A child who had experienced a more profound world in a meager age would be clearly different from another child who only roams the reaches of his own residence—the ‘heart’s size’, such was the point where the two clearly differed.
“Honorable Elder Kiara, the liege awaits you.”
With the soft clicking of horse’s hooves, a fifteen-men party suddenly appeared around Kiara even as she admired the city. There were three knights, eight archers and four shielded lancers, each of which wore leather or steel armor adorned with the symbol of the city guard before their chest. Upon seeing their arrival, the peasants around them quickly retreated to make space for them, although the youthful female elder merely smiled and shrugged. “That was fast. As expected of true elites.”
“We’re honored by your praise.” Nodding slightly, the leading knight’s expression did not have the slightest indication that he was swayed by that charming face of Kiara’s. “Please follow us.”
As they moved, the female Elder who did her homework and had a general idea of the city’s topography became doubtful. “This isn’t the way to the liege’s residence.”
“The liege isn’t there right now,” another knight replied with a low voice. “His lordship had been inspecting the city guard encampment; he would meet you at a nearby tower instead.”
It was a fine explanation and Kiara did not sense anything wrong with it. She was the weaker faction from the very beginning—the other side could do whatever they want without a care over what she thinks.
Even so, the armor these knights are really luxurious.
Watching as herself was encircled over several circles, it was more appropriate to call it detainee transporting instead of an escort. Kiara also noticed faintly discernible magical circuits over their armor, meaning that it was enchanted in the very least, and it was soon clear that every single city guard was equipped with the same armor. It meant that enchanted armor was almost widespread here—an unimaginable thing before the Great Mana Tide.
Before she could delve in her thoughts, Kiara soon arrived at a nearby tower over the city wall. In the entrance of the tower, her city guard ‘escort’ dispersed on the spot and returned to their post, while the Elder who appeared relaxed on her journey unwittingly panted for a few breaths to relax a sudden tightness over her chest and shudder.
“Such a presence… It’s equal, or perhaps a greater reaction compared to the sacred items in the Great Temple…”
Taking a profound look at the top at the tower, Kiara promptly shook her head and smiled before striding towards it. She had already prepared her heart the moment she learned that she would meet that Count who was rumored to be a cruel butcher, and would not hesitate even in the face of death, much less mere presence.
She arrived at the top of the tower and found the back of a man. He was wearing a huge black cloak that had neither ostentatious decoration or circuit, and did not react to Kiara’s arrival until she half knelt on the ground.
“You’ve arrived, huh—traitor,” he said coldly.
That word unquestionably pricked Kiara’s heart but she had no retort. She knew that no matter what noble reason her faction had or compelling agony, they had ultimately betrayed every being on the world of Mycroft. If things transpired the same as it did centuries ago and they succeeded, they could have been heroes of this world in a roundabout way—now, however, the Flame was reignited while they also failed, and were hence unforgivable traitors especially in the face of this man, this… hero who led the rekindling of the Flame.
“Oh, a divine descendant?”
Turning, the man’s voice roused slightly as if curious. “The Earth Temple is truly sincere, then—actually sending a not-cannon-fodder to placate… Alright, stop kneeling. I am not unleashing my presence, just stand and relay the message your high priest wished to convey.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Lowering her head and instinctively averting her gaze, Kiara somehow had no thought of resistance and merely obeyed him docilely, swiftly imparting every word the old high priest told her within the great temple.
On the other hand, Joshua’s heart sunk a little as he listened to the mixed-blood divine descendant who had hair like a gem.
So, the one who came isn’t any major character, huh. He thought grudgingly.
The one before him now had contacted the Imperial Family a while ago. The Earth Temple Elder who indicated a wish for truce with the Radcliffe family repeated her high priest’s words, which, after removing the meaningless parts had the few following general gist: The original Earth Temple faction—the hidden faction that incited wars behind the scenes over centuries and conspired with the Pentashade dragons, Abyssal demons, and Evil Gods was now torn apart due to the reignition of the Flames. Divisions that never supported the initial plans had now completely broken away from the organization and starting over with a clean slate as nobles, mages or regional factions. Even the ones who originally supported the ‘Abyssal Fall’ plan has now ruptured into a dozen sporadic groups.
Kiara’s faction was a conservative faction maintain the great temple, most members were divine descendants of the Mother Goddess who shared Her bloodline. They had all once felt agony along with the Mycroft Continent itself, and so exhausted all efforts to remove that agony by repairing nature through any method, even reshaping it. Naturally, it was futile since the Mycroft Continent had died from its very roots—repairing would not help, which was why they became part of the ones who joined the Abyss. Incidentally, Nolan’s own former denomination had been a radical one that fell into madness out of that agony, thus deliberately contacting the Abyssal demons and even the Evil Gods. Instead of describing it as an effort to remove their agony, it was more apt to say that their faction wanted to share that pain with every person in this world, allowing them to experience the terror of apocalypse.
Now, due to the collaboration between the southern nations and the Seven Gods Church that were executing a comprehensive subjugation against the Earth Temple factions, both conservative and radical factions were now in a predicament. Things were almost actually fine since for the radicals since they were as insane as cultists anyway, but it was a true headache for the conservatives. They had assuredly schemed much at first, but with the relit Flame and the reinvigorated earth, all of them had lost their original motive and drive and now had zero interest in mobilizing, much less stand up against the Seven Gods Church and other powers. The faction was indeed now vocally calling for surrender and armistice, and so the Temple could only helplessly dispatch a mass of envoys to every faction they once provoked—no matter how severe their transgressions against them—paying gold and blood for peace talks.
Joshua, being the conqueror of the Anos Abyss, a participant in the war against the berserker dragons and one who endured a direct blow from the Longsword of the Ashlands, the Earth Temple definitely owed him an explanation. They also wished—if possible—for an endorsement from the warrior to the Pope of the Seven Gods Church since he was known to be close to the pontiff.
It was evident that they were not lying when they mentioned even such things. Joshua nodded since not many dared to lie before him now, and Kiara was certainly one of them. While she could calmly and smoothly speak for his openly hostile self, it was a far cry from unfettered deception—she did leave things unsaid, but that was typical of human interaction.
Nevertheless, since Kiara was no main character, Joshua was not too interested—peace talks were meaningless without grudges after all. But just as he intended to end the conversation and send her away from Moldavia, Kiara seemed to sense something and suddenly said, “The high priest also mentioned that you probably wouldn’t be interested in such matter due to your personality. That’s why we are willing to offer you the [Majestic Mountain Envoy] which carries the highest authority within our denomination of Mother Goddess descendants…”
“Majestic Mountain Envoy?” Joshua promptly frowned at the name. He had once cleared the Mother Goddess’ Divine Dungeon Shroud named the [Colossal Mountain God], and was of course aware what the Majestic Mountain Envoy denotes.
It was the authority that compared to the high priests, along with the privilege of directly communicating with the gods.
The warrior temporarily suppressed his inclination to send Kiara away.
“But… Isn’t that just a title for Titans?” He asked puzzledly.
Majestic Mountains, Thunder, Forests, Great Rivers… Many such titles should have been exclusively given to children of the Mother Goddess—the pure-blooded titans. For these bunch from the Earth Temple who were willing to drag the world into the Abyss, they would never have made such a move even if the Seven Gods Church was facing annihilation.
“Aren’t you a being with the bloodline of Majestic Mountain Titan?” It was Kiara’s turn to be shocked now; she even unwittingly raised her head. “The Steel Strength within your body is the greatest proof!”
“Interesting. When did I become a Titan kin?” Joshua smiled, touching the battlements on the tower. He did not find the Earth Temple’s guess to be wrong since his Steel Strength certainly received instructions from the Majestic Mountain Titan Urbandy, while his true form was also a Titan-like Steel Giant. It would not be unusual if the familiar presence confused them, he would in fact have to praise their acute senses.
And now everything connects—having provoked a member of their own family before, they must now reach a truce at once.
“But that isn’t reason enough. Keep talking and reveal every truth.”
Joshua undoubtedly knew that he was no Titan progeny, but having remembered Urbandi’s teachings the warrior now intended to give the Earth Temple faction a chance. “Your heart is beating rapidly,” he said, letting a little presence out. “I could see your blood flow and the quiver of your muscle fibers… you can’t fool a Legendary.”
As long as she was willing to reveal the entire truth, everything was not too impossible.
It was only when she sensed the gradually increasing pressure that Kiara found in astonishment that Joshua had indeed withdrawn his presence. Now, amidst waves of monster howls, she held on under the illusion of spreading darkness to explain herself.
“Because… Only Majestic Mountain Titans carried the shape of Steel Strength in this world, while other Titans only wield ordinary elemental strengths… Even when the Temple of the Mother Goddess was at its peak, there were rarely any who possessed the power of the Origin, and in this world, in this very moment, you are the only one…”
“We have lost the Legacy of Steel and so lost one aspect of the great temple, while the radical faction grabbed all authority…”
Now, her entire body shaking, Kiara’s voice was gradually stifled. In turn, Joshua withdrew his presence against after having sensed that she was about to faint, and so that she could speak unimpededly. “What the high priest meant was that pay any price would be paid as long as we could get in your good graces. For that, we are willing to offer classical volumes dated thousands of years ago and even up to the Glorious Era, left behind by the Majestic Mountain Envoys and individuals who cultivated in the power of Origin!”
Couldn’t she just say that earlier?
Blinking, Joshua truly did not expect such a surprising reward. He thought about it for a moment, and planned to call for someone and lead the quivering, sweat-drenched Elder who was about to collapse away for some rest, before he contacted Igor in a moment to ascertain the circumstances before making his decision. What he never anticipated was that Kiara, believing that the warrior still intended to decline, raised her head with a hint of madness in her expression, levelling her eyes into the warrior’s own.
“You would definitely be interested!” She managed to utter between coughs, her voice showing a sickly distortion even as she almost suffocated from the blasts of vengeful wills and presence from Joshua’s body. Then, apparently remembering some horrible thing, her beautiful features showed a terrible and overwhelming fear.
“In that period when we endured the agony, we did everything—infiltrating nations, researching ancient spells, searching for prehistoric ruins and studying the dark forests to repair the environment… Such was our limits in the first place. The Earth Temple was a free faction formed from divine descendants in the first place, we would never have come up with the way to throw the world into the Abyss in ten thousand years, nor would we be involved with Pentashade dragons or Demon Generals… How could we have done that? It’s only because of the external help from otherworldly beings…”
“What are you trying to say?” Joshua’s expression swiftly became solemn. He never thought that there would be any mysterious information, and kept pressing her. However, Kiara was now prone on the floor and about to fall into a coma—her spirit had reached its limit as her own feared memories of the past combined with Joshua’s presence. Now, she could only manage to mumble.
The darkness amidst the stars…”