Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Igor appeared rather interested in Joshua’s exclamation, and stayed to press him. “You heard prayers from the Great Shrine? Or hymns of the Sacred Mountain? If that’s true, your hearing is astonishing.”
“What I heard wasn’t those,” Joshua muttered doubtfully to himself for a while, deciding that he had nothing to hide from the old pontiff, and thus recounted what he did to a certain balrog in the Sixth Abyss.
“That’s about it. I used Steel Strength to alter its entire body to become stronger, purging most of the toxic and radioactive substance in its body and basically cleansing it utterly, making it as harmless as a slime. It was also precisely the reason that its body still keeps part of my Steel Strength, and it appeared to be praying to me just now.”
At that, the warrior laughed rather feebly. “Perhaps it had actually consecrated me after encountering those things? I had merely spared its life because it was rather obedient, or could it be another omen of divinity awakening?”
“Most demons worship the powerful. You have spared its life and cleansed its body’s toxicity—that expands its possibilities albeit denying it a weapon as well. I would not be surprised if it does consecrate you.”
Unlike Joshua who found it bizarre, the old pontiff found the matter interesting. “Perhaps you could recruit the demon to our cause,” he suggested excitedly. “And don’t look at me like I’m a fanatical missionary, I’m being serious. In the future, we would certainly be fighting the Abyss—a demon familiar with the locale of the Abyss is of utmost importance. Unless you don’t intend to launch a counteroffensive against the Abyss, and instead have the Legendary champions of Mycroft fight a war against each other?”
Joshua thought about how Igor and other Legendary champions would unleash their full power, and the spectacle where they each unleashed their ultimate skills such as Radiant Domain and so forth… The warrior gazed at the old pontiff as if he was a great enemy, before shaking his head, indicating that it was unacceptable.
Igor smiled as he saw that Joshua understood, and fell into deep thought. The pope’s expression was obscure on the other end of the communications circle because his ability was simply overcompensating, and therefore magic could not reflect his face distinctly while the Great Mana Tide interfered with the link as well. “As for why you could hear its prayers,” he said after a while, “it is related to divinity, but not entirely.”
Both warrior and pontiff leveled their gazes as each, even as Igor spoke flatly, “According to what I know, there is a set of method that the gods use to dispel divinity assimilation. You have not learned the way and hence should not hear the prayer, but since you heard the balrog’s it would not be untrue… Therefore, there is only one possibility.”
“What possibility?” Joshua asked.
Drawing a deep breath, Igor spoke solemnly. “Do you know about the Sage and his Thirteen Apostles?”
“Of course, I do.” Joshua stared blankly for a moment. He never thought that the pontiff would draw the topic at hand to that aspect, and so recalled a moment before making his reply. “In the Legacy left by the Sage, I once saw the thirteen figures standing behind the Sage. They supported him, completing the harmony and balance of the world, and it was precisely because of their support that the Sage could become the Sage.”
Igor nodded at Joshua’s reply. “Indeed,” he said mildly. “The Thirteen Apostles were the greatest support for the Sage; they came from different races, civilization, and worlds, but share one similarity.”
“All of them used the power of holy light,” he added with emphasis, and paused before continuing. “The power founded by the Sage in the beginning.”
“…I think I know now.”
Joshua certainly would understand with the obvious way Igor was putting it. Although users of holy light were now found across the entire continent with every clergy of the Seven Gods Church being specialists in the field, the Thirteen Apostles had undoubtedly been the first to receive instruction form the Sage about the presence of holy light!
While Joshua would not establish a brand-new power system like the Sage, his Steel Strength was also unquestionably one of the rare high-end powers in this world that only the Majestic Mountain Titan and Mother Goddess possessed back then—in other words, only those related to Mycroft’s Steel Python. And now, there was a residual ounce of Steel Strength in Syndicate the balrog that should have been completely absorbed after such a long time had passed. It was also precisely why Joshua would have such a curious link with it.
“If you put it that way…” Having understood every part, Joshua showed the hint of a surprised smile. He touched his chin and turned to look toward the skies, as if his gaze could pierce space to see distant worlds. “That balrog,” he said, his tone ponderous, “is my ‘First Apostle’?”
The old pontiff, unable to hide his amusement, smiled as well. He stroked his beard, the corners of his mouth lifting. “For a demon to learn praying, that is definitely your influence—I never heard of demons who would!”
“But I never prayed to the gods.”
“Then I would not know the cause.”
The topic concluded quickly—the so-called First Apostle was but a tease. Having ascertained that he must visit a Divine Dungeon Shroud in search of a way to train his soul, Joshua ended his communications with the pope.
This particular session had been pleasant, although Joshua soon noticed that Igor was rather distracted since their bout last time around, as if he was considering a vital problem. Still, the warrior never liked probing the private affairs of others, which was why he would not inquire deliberately even if wished to help Igor. On the other hand, if Igor himself spoke about it on his own accord, he would never hesitate to aid the old man who had helped him much.
And when Joshua returned to the liege’s residence, his thoughts shifted from Igor and returned to Syndicate the balrog.
“My Apostle… is a demon?”
Picking up and taking a sip of the tea brewed by Ying, Joshua thought about it and smiled even as the silver-haired girl looked on puzzledly. “It’s not bad, though.”
Ultimately, balrogs were a fundamentally powerful race equal to dragons. In legends, the most powerful Abyssal balrog lieges’ advent alone could incinerate a world, turning an entire continent into a radioactive wasteland nothing could survive upon. From the aspect of power and talent alone, Syndicate was flawless.
Even so, it was a demon—there were other aspects that required urgent guidance and alterations from Joshua even if its power were in line with his requirements. There was no question that the balrog was still some distance away from becoming Joshua’s apostle, whether from a perspective of nature or something else.
“But it’s undeniable that he had aided me in battle… he prayed to me just now, right? I’ll just have to sense what he was praying for attentively.”
On his chair, Joshua closed his eyes and sought out that vein of Steel Strength resonance. “I could grant it if it’s not too ridiculous.”
A Drakonid village in the Kronos Mountains, an unknown world.
It was nighttime, but the village was well lit. Joyful songs and cheers could be heard distinctly even from hundreds of meters away, and a huge bonfire was burning in the central square of the village. The white Steel meteor was placed at its center, with innumerable adult Drakonids drinking and laughing in delight, singing and dancing in celebration of the harvest.
The tremor from the meteor fall had filled the once-flat square with potholes and craters, but no one seemed to notice. Countless juvenile Drakonids were also following behind their parents, forming pairs of different genders—it was a Drakonid tradition for boys and girls that had reached adolescence to seek partners who fit their requirements to cultivate a partnership and build a family after they matured. This was a result of the hostile environment in the Kronos mountains: partners often had to fight together against monsters, which was why they must develop a cooperation since they were young. It was true for all Drakonids, and especially so for monster hunters.
But if there were pairs, there would be people left alone as well. Lisa the Drakonid was, at the moment, curling herself in a ball at a corner in the festival, hugging her own legs and not moving.
Lisa was not tall in the first place, and even more petite when she curled up. A long green tail extended from her back, wrapping around her legs together with her hands. Her long, black hair wafted as the night winds billowed, conspicuously revealing her two long green horns, her long and narrow eyebrows, and her burgundy eyes.
She could be called beautiful from a certain point a view, but the slightly outdated village fashion concealed her lusciousness, instead making her appear to be a typical village bum. Still, Drakonids were not concerned with issues of appearance, instead emphasizing muscles, ability, and fertility.
It was a festival to celebrate the Divine Metal find, and to prevent ambush from other villages, which was why their combat faces were all gathered in one place with vigilance.
Skyfall Steel had actually appeared a few times in the Drakonids’ brief history, on each occasion great empowering one or multiple villages—the Divine Steel could be used to forge powerful weapons and armor so that hunters could take down more powerful prey. In return, with the flesh of stronger monsters, there would more Awakened in the next generation. It was a positive cycle, and the opportunity finally fell to the village.
Monsters in the Kronos mountains were categorized by the Drakonids as inferior, superior, and tribal kings. Apart from them, there were also powerful monsters that were named, most being unnamed aberrations that came from the Desert of God, while some were rulers of powerful races. The combat force in this village known as ‘Cloud Yarn’ had been strong once, able to hunt monster kings—however, a titled monster that came from the Desert of God had crushed their monster hunters a few years ago, greatly lowering their ability.
“God loves us!” A Drakonid suddenly bellowed halfway through the festivities, pulling his weapon—a sharp scimitar—and holding it over his head. “We are the People of God!”
“Oooooh! We are the People of God!”
Countless voices abruptly echoed, pushing the atmosphere into a climax.
The People of God were a self-adorned title for the Drakonids. They bore the conviction that their blood originated from God, and that all hardships in life were but trials. These positive fellows would smile in the face of death, so what was Divine Steel to them?
Everyone was immeasurably excited, leaving Lisa alone, clutching her legs as she looked on. It was at that moment that a speck of white appeared—it was what appeared to be a Flame Slime that seemed to have withdrawn all its fires and was poking out of the young girl’s chest collar, emanating a faint spiritual undulation.
“Why aren’t you celebrating with your kin?”
“I’m now just a failure…”
“Funny.” The balrog snorted in contempt. “I could smell the power of your bloodline—and I don’t have a nose. You’re far above those refuse dancing around the bonfire… but now that you mention it, why are you still so weak with your great depth? Did you even train?”
Lisa was left frustrated by the unknown creature’s doubts, but unable find some excuse to retort at once, she could only grumble in melancholy. “I, I can’t awaken! But, you’re truly something unexpected… Your body seemed to carry something that could stimulate my bloodline. Just staying with you for a bit and I sensed an unusual impulse in my body.”
The girl extended her hand, her burgundy gaze fixed upon her index finger. In moments, soft bolts began to dance around it, and the girl sighed, showing a smile. “Although it’s weak and almost non-existent, there is at least hope… It’s just so distant…”
While there was disappoint and loneliness in her voice, the Drakonid’s innate optimism gave her the capacity to smile. “Either way, I will strive to fulfill the pact and help you recover!”
“Hope so,” the balrog said softly.
Not too long ago, in the place where the meteor fell, Syndicate and Lisa signed a pact with their souls.
Lisa wished for the ability to protect her family and to freely journey in the outside world. In return, she must do her best to help Syndicate the balrog to recover its ability. If either of them violated their oath, the violator’s soul would be taken by the victim.
It was a classical pact made by Abyssal demons, and Syndicate certainly deserved the name of demon—although it appeared to have made the pact, it had not said how it would carry out the pact or when it would complete it. On the other hand, Lisa must diligently recover its ability.
While the balrog had joined the just in some unknown point in time, it was ultimately a demon. Although it was a little chagrined about fooling a young girl, it still did it. Despite that, Syndicate had thus decided that if it recovers its abilities, it would give Lisa some powers—depending on its mood. It does not have to be much either, as long as it was enough for her to grasp her own bloodline ability.
“Damn it. The power contained in the lass’s body is just a little lacking than my own at my peak… And I am supposed to be an archdemon!”
Syndicate could not help but become gloomy at the thought. It soon looked toward the center of the square again, and seethed. “You bunch of natives; how dare you use my body to make weapons… You people aren’t Him! When the time comes, all of you have to repay me with interest, and not one of you would escape!”
Meanwhile, unlike the spirited Syndicate, Lisa appeared rather crestfallen today. Having spent substantial spirit to make a pact with the demon, and with the comfort from being wrapped in her own tail, she unwittingly fell asleep. The demon too hence shrunk back into her clothes, turning itself into a white gem pendant.
While it was not so intelligent as an archdemon, it knew instinctively that ‘awakening’ for Drakonids were equivalent to balrogs developing part of their body’s talent. Lisa’s circumstances now were akin to stronger beings creating seals in a progeny so that they would not be destroyed by the great power within their bodies, preventing them from awakening in a meager age, and tapping into it when their body composition could withstand it.
It was the same for Lisa as well. Due to the profoundness of her talents, she could not quickly improve—only until after her body matured years later would her powers be developed step-by-step.
Syndicate also had some inkling as to why its presence could bring forward her awakening. Its original radioactive toxic could cause malignant shifts in beings, but it had since suffered a heavy injury, itself become weaker and Him cleansing it of toxicity. Although it was still radioactive, it would at most stimulate its body for accelerated growth. It could also precisely be the reason Lisa could not unlock part of her powers.
“Still… My radioactivity ultimately remained a move to hurt. The Drakonid girl would only be accelerating the loss of her lifespan, incinerate her own future just to bring her awakening forward.”
Feeling Lisa’s slow heartbeats after she had fallen asleep, Syndicate kept silent for a long time. Reasonably speaking, as a demon, it was already fine toy have such an ordinary partner—it was impossible for it to be concerned over her diminishing life. Comparatively, it was better for the balrog to imagine when it would actually recover its powers.
Come to think of it, did the other demons that were pursuing it not fled? They would definitely pursue them here since they were so far away!
Syndicate relaxed considerably at the thought, although it somehow had a lingering unease.
Unable to find out the reason, the former archdemon could only sigh. Out of habit, it silenced its own mind while praying to that Lord, beseeching that calamity, fear and death would not come to him.
“Take it all, and give it to all enemies of mine!”
Ending the prayer with such a line, the balrog tried to slumber and recover some of its strength, but soon exclaimed in surprise.
“Eh? There’s something added to my spiritual sea?