Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
“Not sure… I think I forgot about it…”
“Probably a harmonious state of mind, immune to external influences. As long as you are able to calmly and rationally face any situation, you would truly grasp the power of the mind and resist all external disturbances.”
“I ascended during the Great Mana Tide, my liege. If I have to describe a definitive experience, I really don’t know what to say…”
“My lord. As your humble servant, I’m not fooling you, but there’s really no words to describe that sensation.”
After bidding farewell to William and Barnil, Joshua’s subsequent visits and inquiries were met with failure.
Across the North, every wielder of Soul Mastery—wandering or hired—were all visited by Joshua. Most of them ascended unwittingly under the Great Mana Tide, and though they certainly refined themselves they were not sure about the actual process. Some had seriously explained their experience, while there were also some who were reluctant to discuss it. Joshua took no exception, and merely told them that he was willing to exchange that knowledge with skills of equal value, and would never try to treat them shabbily.
It was until the warrior really had no other solution but to seek out certain old friends that he attained a little result.
“Soul Mastery? It had been decades ago for me. Although there would be some holes in the details, it should generally be correct.”
Nostradamus smiled in return to the warrior’s question, explaining the details of his ascension to Joshua with such vividness, that it was completely unlike how it would be holed as the mage put it. Still, the contents were nothing to speak of—according to what Joshua understood, the mage had simply meditated, meditated and meditated until he simply made a breakthrough. While the archmage could even remember the amount of dust around him at the time, there was truly nothing of value. Toward Joshua’s troubles with divinity, Nostradamus indicated that he was sympathetic but unable to help at the same time. “Your mind is sturdy enough, friend,” he said. “Even if it had not reached the limit it must be close, and there is no guarantee you could stop the erosion even if you truly attained Soul Mastery.”
Although there was a rapport in their personality, it was clear that Joshua could not aid Joshua much in that respect, although he did leave one valuable advice in terms of Soul Mastery. “If I were to put my finger on the difference before and after my awakening, it would be that I find ‘body and soul’ a single body before awakening. After my awakening, the body became rather unimportant—an expendable part.”
Though the way the mage put it appeared not valuable, it gave Joshua a vague idea. He thought that he might have caught on to something even if it was not clear. After thanking and saying goodbye to Nostradamus, Joshua pondered for a while before looking for the next person, who was also the last one in his list.
“Soul Mastery, huh? I think of it as ‘unity in action and thought’. To excel it was considered perfect, and impeccable in aspect of the mind.”
Pope Igor, pontiff of the Seven Gods Church muttered to himself for a while as they spoke through a communications spell. “There is no direct link between Soul Mastery and the ability to resist divinity erosion,” he said slowly in return to the warrior’s inquiry, “especially for you, Joshua—you are a little too matching for divinity, and it is occasionally completely in harmony with your thoughts. I suspect that the imperfection of your mind was incidentally self-doubts and resistance.”
“In other words, it is precisely because you did not attain Soul Mastery that you could withstand the erosion of divinity.”
“How could man improve if they had no self-doubts? Furthermore, that way putting it is a little too far-fetched.” Joshua shook his head on the other end of the spell. It was clear that at that point, Igor’s words were a little dubious and completely different from his idea. Joshua found that the soul was merely a second mental organ apart from his own brain, while divinity equated to a change like cancer, although it was unclear whether it was benign or malignant—it could bring massive vigor power, and yet would mold the independent soul into something just like it. Soul Mastery was hence cultivating that organ to its limits so that the soul itself had the resistance to withstand abnormalities and maintain autonomy.”
In other words, as Joshua saw it, the soul was the same as muscles. It could be trained and augmented, or to put it a little far-fetched, it was nothing other than having the soul do push-ups, sit-ups and run a marathon. And what he wanted was the way to train the soul.
“Everyone has different perspectives of the soul, but who would know the truth? You must have seen Divine Dungeon Shrouds—those were remains of the gods given form as souls of deities from the last era were destroyed. That should precisely be the form of certain souls arriving at its limit.”
Igor had no intent to convince Joshua since, just as he had said, it was a matter of different perspectives. Therefore, he gave another suggestion in respect to Joshua’s troubles. “The ancient gods command divine powers—take a look at the form of the souls of those pioneers, it would certainly aid you.
“You’re right.” Joshua blinked a few times and nodded in agreement. He had certainly ignored overlooked that angle—the ancient gods could command divine powers and compel the skies, the land, the winds, and the seas. Now, the remnants of their souls had become Divine Dungeon Shrouds that were indeed the best reference. He had actually forgotten about the fact despite having observed it himself before, and it was quite clear that he had been in too much of a rush.
“By the way, Your Holiness, your tone does not conform to clergy norm.” Joshua teased after thanking Igor, although the pontiff did not mind.
“I respect the gods for they were pioneers that watched over civilization,” he replied. “worthy of my respect and consecration… What do you think us clergies should do—spread the good word every waking moment?”
Igor then laughed for a moment, before turning serious as he continued over the spell. “Now that you mention it—Joshua, why not consider joining the Seven Gods Church? With your place as Steward of the Seven Gods and a Legendary champion, I could induct you as a Guardian of the Great Shrine straightaway. The title: Champion of the Seven Gods, the First Holy Guardian awaits you anytime.”
“Of course not.”
“…I am fine with it, but it’s a little sudden.”
Joshua furrowed his brow. He certainly could tell that Igor was not joking, and the pontiff had sufficient reason and motive—he was a successor of the Sage, an individual whom the Seven Gods watched with interest. He aided the Sacred Mountain in standing against the berserk dragons, helping them in their expedition to the Abyss and obstructed the advance of the abyssal dragons, not to mention helping the Seven Gods Church accomplish a task they inherited since ancient times: to find the Fourth Successor, and sustain the Flame of this world.
If he were being frank, Joshua only lacked official titles now—by the sheer number of accomplishments, it would not be a stretch to have him go to the Sacred Mountain and take on the title of Pope. If not for certain unusual reason and that his reputation on Mycroft leaning rather close toward the sinister, he would already have been billed as the First Holy Knight or something similar.
“Just an invitation.” Igor did not elaborate further, and closed his eyes softly, his tone turning rather deep. “The Abyss in the front, the Evil Gods behind—the world of Mycroft still faces many threats, and yet the civil strife between humans on the continent continues. The conflict between the Northern Empire Royals, peasants and nobles, the war in the West Mountains Kingdom, the dark tides between the Far Southern elves, the human kingdom and the Trade Federation, the direct and discreet confrontation between the two great mage organizations in the Eastern Plains… I wish to end the strife, and balance the world like the Sage.”
But alone, your power is not enough. Far from enough.
Joshua now understood Igor’s thoughts. He wished to focus the power of all humans in the world into a single body just like Sage once did, to fight the powerful enemy fated to come in the future, but even the old pontiff’s ability could not realize that. Ultimately, he was not the Sage—even if he was, he had the help of the Thirteen Apostles all those centuries ago.
While Joshua was seeking instruction from Igor over Soul Mastery, and began to examine things alongside the pope, a white and incandescent flame streaked through the Void on the other end of the Multiverse.
Not too long ago, it had been evading the pursuit of its enemies, and out of desperation, chose to cast the most dangerous of emergency teleportation spell—the spell worked, and it escaped the enemy’s pursuit, but hence fell the depths of the Abyss. Not knowing where itself was, it could only wander the Void.
The white flame left a vein of fluorescent trail in the Void. It was already fatigued, but incidentally sensed that there was a profound energy ripple in the world around it. It was brutal and frightening, and yet carried a hint of lively vigor that self-circulated. For the being that was born in the Abyss and was ash from the very start, the vigor was so precious that it would approach even in the face of death, just to touch that light. The White Flame was nearing unconsciousness, but through its instinct, it swiftly shifted bearings and approached the world emanating with vigor.
It was not alone. Many darknesses that wandered the surrounding worlds were closing in as well, but the White Flame had not the spirit to mind those things. A long time afterward, when it finally reached the vicinity of that world, it used its last archdemon powers and broke through the world barrier, entering that world which was not too big, before turning into a bright meteor that dragged a long arc, crashing toward the surface.
In the center of that white flame that was about to extinguish, one could vaguely discern the silhouette of a balrog.
But since when were there white balrogs in this world? What could it have unfortunately encountered that a balrog was reduced to such a state, devoid of any fallen and evil presence of corruption?
The White Balrog—Syndicate knew very well it encountered and who was it that wielded such power. In spite of that, it completely had no intentions of remembering the cruelest torment of this world… That being was unquestionably a demon of demons! Nonetheless, it was not time to think such things. Just as it was halfway into its descent, it suddenly found that its landing point appeared to be a small village that stood between mountain ridges, and its own velocity would definitely destroy and wipe out all life in the village.
In the past, the balrog would be nonchalant about destroying a mere village. Although it never entered a physical plane to kill, it was never concerned about any being other than itself. But now, for some unclear reason, Syndicate was influenced—gritting its teeth and burning the last iota of its strength, it launched itself toward a hill near the village.
Boom— A tremendous explosion echoed across the mountain ridges. Syndicate, not even fathoming where its sudden kindness came from, exhausted the last of its strength and utterly fainted in the detonation.
A long time later, with the sound of urgent hooves, a party prudently appeared from the direction of the village. They noticed the crater formed by Syndicate’s descent, as well as the white flames that slowly burned deep within that molten crater.