Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Northwest to the central continent on Midgard, the holy mountain surrounded by countless mountains of different heights was wrapped in white snow all day long, with gray-white stone and frost combined into the most revered sacred sight of the Midgardians. In the mountain range settlement that averaged four thousand meters above sea level and was the largest mountain chain, there were steep cliffs and ridges everywhere—apart from the few stubborn coniferous plants and frost plain mosses that were rooted here, it was virtually a barren land devoid of life.
And yet, in the center of those lofty mountains where even bacteria had difficulty surviving, and around the highest summit of the world, there was a gigantic and majestic chain of buildings. Innumerable imposing temples stood amidst the cruel and chilling winds that billowed—these stone walls that existed a thousand years ago might be speckled, but the inner structure was sturdy and perfect, its stone paths still accommodating for crowds. Now, thousands of devotees and ascetics were traveling in the midst of the many floating sculptures and inscribed text outside the temple, devotedly heading to the temple foot of the holy mountain for prayers.
It was now fifteen days after the Void Mother was killed by the blaze in the Sea God Star. After brief cheers and delight, the Midgardian civilization fell into monumental agony. Apart from the Mother Planet, only one colony—the Garden of Flowers—out of their three major colonies survived. Sixty-seven million citizens had died under the assault of the Void Mother. There were elders who lost their young children, Midgardians who lost their lovers, a single individual surviving out of an entire group of bosom buddies. The pain came like a tidal wave, throwing the atmosphere of the entire planet into a freezing point.
Losing two colonies and one-fourth of their full population was a severe blow for the Midgardians who were slow to procreate and never had that many citizens in the first place. There was also the deprivation of resources from two planetary systems which in turn was a huge blow to post-war supplies. Against the shrunken food supply and soaring prices for merchandise, the Central Midgardian Government were compelled to begin resource management and implement a by-need supply, forcing many Midgardians to scrimp and save while allocating what bare few resources and food they had on their children.
But just those alone would never bring down the Midgardians.
Late into the night, on the unnamed holy mountain in the Northwest Midgard Mountains that was much more famous than any other summit, a man wearing a black coat stood upon a precipice covered in snow. From that angle near to the peak, he looked out over at the entire mountain range, the temple regions and half of the Central Midgardian Continent.
The man’s gaze swept across a great many things. He could see pious priests running in the snow in distant cities under the chill below thirty degrees, distributing food and clothes, cheering the people in this difficult time. He could see, in another corner of the city, the government-built orphanages were well-lit, and in the warm rooms, diligent workers were hushing children who lost their parents in the war, so that they could sleep peacefully.
He could also see many officials solemnly discussing projects of reconstruction in the black government hall. They spoke on initiatives and bore no selfishness as they exhausted all efforts to think about their civilization’s future, a sight never once occurring in the endless years since Midgardian civilization was born.
The Midgardians lost much due to war, but it was also the precise reason that their entire civilization was so unified for the first time. In the desolate coldness of the stars, they finally understood that they could only rely on each other.
The man looked on as devotees prayed to the gods and those who had the ability aided others. In the distance, within a shelter town built for refugees from other star systems, a ranked priest was using his powerful psionic energy for construction work, undergoing the inferior labor that was once the task of normal Midgardians or machineries—the walls of hierarchy had been broken. There was not one moment that the distance between the Midgardian people were so close.
Joshua then turned his gaze from the distance to right below. He saw, in the temple region by the foot of the holy mountain, that Nostradamus was helping the specialists from the Midgardian government. The archmage was explaining the principle of the warp engine from another point of view while demonstrating how to use magic for short-distance teleportation. While delighted and pleased, the dozen old specialists whose leaves were yellowed also suggested a number of new insights and explained psionic aspects, broadening the archmage’s horizon.
In the empty snowy space around the temple, Ying was playing noisily with the children of some pilgrims to the holy land, making signs and boasting with a face full of pride about her past aberration-slaying accomplishments, earning worshipping gazes from the Midgardian children who knew nothing about monsters or Chaos aberrations. Behind the silver-haired girl, Ling and Light were working together—the luminous orb was spraying a pole of water out of nowhere that froze into a block of ice, while the black-haired boy proceeded to sculpt the outlines of the aberrations his sister was boasting about with his bare hands, the lifelike, fearsome appearance scaring both the children and the parents who were smiling as they looked on.
And not too far away from the vast snowy land beneath the holy mountain, the construction of two gigantic sculptures were underway. Powerful psionics had cut two boulders that were over a hundred-meter-tall out of the ridges of the holy mountain and placed there, where several famous Midgardian sculptors combined to chisel them. There was already a general shape following days of continuous labor—one of the statues appeared to be a four-armed giant who stood upon the head of a menacing aberration, with two arms folded before his chest, while another was leaning upon an axe and the last one grasping a greatsword, pointing towards the distance.
Hearing the footsteps behind him, Joshua did not turn and simply spoke. “There is no need for such gestures—Milhabus, Tarquin.”
Standing upon the cliff, the warrior showed his back to the Midgardian Grand Consul and Central Fleet Commander, his coat flapping along with the chilling winds from the islands. Closing his eyes, Joshua turned away from the sculptures and memorial plaque beneath the mountain. “Your resources should be used on key aspects,” he said calmly, “instead of carving some sculptures for Nostradamus or myself in consecration.”
“My lord, all the resources needed for a sculpture and a memorial plaque is just the brief time of rest an Omega psionic have after lunch.” The middle-aged Grand Consul reverently bowed towards the warrior, even as he shook his head and refuted his notion mildly but determinedly. “Nevertheless, the spiritual support it could provide is inestimable for the Midgardian people—especially now. We are a psionic civilization, and there are times when the spiritual is much more influential than the physical.”
“That’s not important.”
Joshua opened his eyes, keeping them away from the pair and at the faraway mountains. “I recall telling you on the Pioneer that I would not be some new gods of yours. I do not require such honor, but it seems that your people are still spreading the fact recently… Look, there are even temples consecrating Nostradamus and myself right beside the Saint’s. You lot sure move quick—but what’s the point? All of you had truly wasted a week holding a council over the changes to doctrine and scripture.”
“My lord, we need an ideal.”
Before Milhabus could explain the actions against Joshua’s rather accusing words, Tarquin spoke, taking a slight step forward. Though slow, his words were deep and powerful. “To resist the evils of the Void, we need an ideal.”
The warrior did not respond at once, and following brief thought, Milhabus continued Tarquin’s words with a serious expression. “You may now comprehend, but the Midgardians are in a precarious position… There are those who now fear the stars and the darkness behind them. Most now simply wish to be a normal individual, rather staying in their homeworld for life, than head to the distant universe to explore new planets… The fear and calamity the Void creature wrought are now rooted in their hearts, and if that wasn’t changed, the Midgardians would have no future.”
Joshua nodded silently—Milhabus’s words were undeniably true. At present, most Midgardians were beginning to fear space and the unknown, refusing to have anything to do with exploration or mystery to distant quadrants of space. They wished only to stay on the little island to call home, refusing any voyage to the boundless stars. These Midgardians, having experienced firsthand the disasters and the death of their kin the Void Mother wrought, now believed that all journeys into the unfathomable Void or the distant stars would end up in catastrophes. They were even suggesting sealing all Midgardian psionic powers, cutting off all connections from the voices behind the curtain.
That, naturally, would not do. A race that had lost it heart to explore and its curiosity toward unknowns and mysteries would only be gradually lost in the long and winding river of time, turning into rotten bones without a name. That was why neither Tarquin nor Milhabus, as well as certain other Midgardians disapproved of such pessimistic notions.
“That is why we need your name and your acts.”
The Grand Consul of Midgard knelt together on one knee with his friend towards the warrior who still had his back towards him, and said earnestly but firmly, “Your temple is under construction, your legend is spreading, your statue would soon appear in every city square alongside the Saint—the refurbishments along the Sea God Star have been tabled as well. There will be a colossal monument hanging in orbit, telling the tale of how your lordship and Nostradamus triumphed against the Void Mother, while the great red spot in the Star would be a monument recorded in textbooks.”
“It doesn’t have to be that way.”
“It must be so, my lord.” Milhabus shook his head in return to Joshua’s repetitive response. “These aren’t efforts to get in your good graces, but to prove that our enemy—those creatures of the Void had once appeared, destroyed and rampaged… but were also defeated. The value of those monuments isn’t in flaunting victories, but to tell our citizens and generations to come, that we once defeated despair, monsters that came from the Void.”
And it would hence be unnecessary to fear the darkness and the unknown.
Milhabus left that last part unsaid, but both warrior and Tarquin were aware of his meaning.
After a short silence, Joshua nodded—an acknowledgment. “Listening to you, does that mean your people are still prepared to stand against the Chaos, or what you call those Void creatures?” He asked in curiosity, before putting more weight behind his words, “however, if you don’t simply carry out the Void Door ritual, they would never come to this world again.”
“Unless it was some helpless situation, we would never carry out the Void Door ritual.”
Milhabus shook his head, slipping a glance at Tarquin beside him, who then spoke with a rather unusual tone. “On another note—you might not believe it, my lord, but most of the leaders in the fleet and the government received a sign.”
Though the old Midgardian appeared fatigued, there was an extraordinary inspiration in his presence as he spoke with a deep voice. His eyes were turned to the gray and obscure sky from which snow was falling heavily, but appear tangible if one would just reach out with their hands. “In that dream, there was a profound and warm being who presented us an omen for us Midgardians, or perhaps across the stars… It said that evil was already invading, and that there are enemies from the Void spying upon our stars from every corner of the galaxy. We must act first to defeat them, destroying them before they could grow—or we would never have a day of peace!”
Steel Python ‘Star’.
Joshua quickly understood that the immune system of Stellaris was activating, which was why the World Will manifested, announcing the auguries of war to all its children. Through an indistinct foretelling, the warrior could see images of the future: Innumerable warships from different civilizations and races assembling on the edge of the galaxy, forming a river of steel in Stellaris and advanced against the seemingly endless swarm of darkness. The battle between the stars would rage across countless galaxies and lightyears, extinguishing millions of suns even as trillions of beings were fated to be reduced to ashes, dust indiscernible in the universe.
The sight was so profound and magnificent that it never ended over millennia. With the darkness of the universe as its stage, there would come limitless tales and stories—although Joshua did not know who was the final victor, he was willing to trust in the power of life.
It was exactly so that Joshua granted his counsel.
“Milhabus… I am aware that the Midgardians has a glorious civilization that stood for thousands of years. However, what you face are evils that existed before time, evils born even before your ancestors awakened their intelligence.”
“Your technology isn’t weak—in fact, it far outshines my civilization’s—but the peak of your military ability lacks much… It is caused by the special aspects of civilization, but whatever the case may be, you must never stand against them out of a moment of inspiration. At least allow your wounds to recover first.”
“Your counsel will be the principle by which we act.”
Lowering their heads in reverence, both Milhabus and Tarquin looked up, before the Grand Counsel spoke rather hesitantly.
“By the way, my lord… may we know when you plan to leave?” He asked, before pausing for a moment and lowering his head. “It’s not that we don’t welcome your stay in Midgard, but your companion Nostradamus mentioned a few times that there are still work to do for both you and him on the other side of the Void. We would never dare interfere with your mission, which is why we wish to know your time of departure—we have a return ritual at the ready.”
Joshua’s reply left the two looking up and staring at his back in astonishment.
Joshua looked up as well, never once turning towards the two most authoritative figures in Midgardian society. He watched as thick clouds swirled in the tempest as if his gaze could pierce the gloom and into some corner within the world. “There’s no need for some return ritual,” the warrior said calmly. “In fact, I should have left seven days ago. I’m just here, waiting for a late reply and reward.”
“But now, it’s here.”
Before Milhabus or Tarquin could understand what Joshua was talking about, a vague silver light flickered beneath the holy mountain in the very next instant. Light, who was helping Ling carve an ice sculpture, abruptly began to flash with obscure starry splendor throughout its body. It was as if time had stopped for all that its light touches—be it human or object. Snowflakes froze in the air, frost stopped their spread and soon, both Light and Joshua vanished from the real world.
Inside the world and beneath the Vault of Stars, the warrior looked up at the Steel Python ‘Star’ that wrapped itself around the galaxy.
“You’re late,” Joshua said rather helplessly, shaking his head.