Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Because he had challenged it in the pre-existence, Joshua knew that the being who left this particular huge and extraordinary Divine Dungeon Shroud was the god who ruled the skies, ‘Gale’– an Avian individual who had a pair of huge wings.
Apart from that, the priests, devotees, and children of Gale were all Avian people with twin wings who could fly freely, a race that followed their god with optimism toward the future all the way, living in the skies and mountains of Mycroft. They loved towering and sharp buildings just like how elves cherished exquisite arts and poems. There was also no question that the existence of Avian people had been an important part of the Mycroft Continent in the Glorious Era.
But they went extinct centuries ago—or more than eight hundred years ago to be precise. At the time, the last Avian remnants that were living in the West Mountains had become embroiled in the racial war that engulfed the entire continent, and were unfortunately wiped out. In that war that determined the Starfall calendar, intelligent races, and brutish monsters, the last Avian warrior had been incinerated into ash by the blaze of an Old-World Dragon, dispersing into the skies of the West Bank Mountains.
The reason Joshua could not ascertain that the Divine Dungeon Shroud belonged to Gale at the very start was because the Shroud of the Lord of Skies had been starkly different from how it was in the pre-existence.
In the past life, the Mark of the Prime Gods descended around Starfall Year 839. The Great Development Era was at its peak, and as the Great Mana Tide rose another notch, the stride of the adventurers spread throughout the Mycroft Continent, while the ancient Old-World Beast in the Central Dark Forest began to rampage—just as intelligence face-off against crudeness once again, the stars poured down, and the Infinite Horizon descended from the heavens.
At the time, all minds could not help lifting their heads toward the azure sky. The entire blue yonder of the world of Mycroft begun to stir like the oceans, with the stars appearing one after another under broad daylight—and more than that, hundreds of stars crashed down into the mortal realm, released from the curtains that was the sky.
That was the advent of the gods of this era, and the Mark of ancient gods. They brought even more concentrated mana, and endless Legacies that even an empire must view with care.
The other gods notwithstanding, the original name of the Divine Dungeon Shroud belonging to ‘Gale’, the Lord of the Tempest and the God of the Skies, was called [Heaven’s Raging Wind]. Its true form was a hanging city that floats over clouds and was guarded by endless materialized wind elements. Sixteen wind elemental giants held on to its edge, while a towering cyclone that pierced the oceans, the clouds and the Void acted as a pillar, holding it high above the skies. Beyond those natural obstacles, there were also the illusionary images of priests serving the God of the Skies, and only by defeating a dozen Glorious Era champions, entering the Great Temple at the center of the city and touching Gale’s divine Mark could his Legacy be obtained.
It was of note that Gale never once appeared in his own Divine Dungeon Shroud. There was only a single mural of a huge Avian individual at the depths of the Great Temple, and at its heart was the Legacy Mark.
Now, however, things were very different. Not only did the Prime God-class Shroud appear early on, Joshua had fortunately seen Gale’s body. He certainly was standing there, but his face had been utterly eroded by the corruption of Evil Gods. The once majestic hanging city was also now swaying—a ruin that was about to fall into the ocean. Still, that was not important, for everyone had felt the vigor and sacrifice of the former deity.
Thoughts turned back to reality.
“He is really talking to me!”
Zero-Three, the Artificial Intelligence that should have unshakable was left stirred at those words. Huge clusters of static promptly began to appear in the girl’s mana projection, just as the same abnormal mana surge began to appear within the briefcase Joshua held in his right hand—Zero-Three’s true body. There was no question that Gale’s words left Zero-Three with great doubt and shock. “No, even if He has wings as well, I’m an A.I. of the world of Karlis… Leaving aside the difference in worlds, there is no way I could be counted…”
Unlike the muttering girl, Joshua did not find it unusual. He had learned on Karlis a long time ago that the Avian people from Mycroft and Karlis had the same origins since the relations between both worlds were close and connected by several natural dimensional corridors. Leaving aside the fact that it was impossible for the advanced Mycroft civilization to not notice their neighbors, there would definitely be a phenomenon of racial migration by natural exploration alone.
As a Prime God-class being, Gale would assuredly know the origins of the Mycroft Avian People, which was why it was not unusual for Him to call the world of Karlis ‘homeworld’.
The deep, hoarse and slightly echoing voice wafted again, as ‘Gale’ residual Mark spoke slowly to Joshua and the others while it stood at the top of the Central Tower. “I have waited for more than a thousand years for you to finally appear… Whether you are a foreigner from my homeworld or a survivor of the Mycroft Avian people, I have something to entrust upon you.”
“Not as a god, but as an Avian individual. I wish…”
Just as Zero-Three, Joshua, or the seemingly-fainted-but-was-actually-listening Black paid full attention to learn what Gale wanted to entrust, the deity suddenly paused in silence for a moment, before letting out a long sigh.“No… you’re not…”
“Similar. So similar. A wonderous technology that is virtually real—in a time I am unaware of, the Avian people had arrived on such a threshold. I am truly pleased.”
The huge Avian person stood at the top of the tower, purple lightning streaking across the skies behind him, shining dull purple light over his Chaotic face. Gale ‘looked toward’ Joshua and the others, or more specifically, ‘stared at’ Zero-Three. Though He had no eyes, everyone knew that He was solemnly gazing upon the bewildered A.I. girl, before speaking softly, “Ultimately a replica, not a true Avian person.”
Zero-Three said nothing, and neither did her expression change. Joshua, however, could sense that her mana ripples in the briefcase he was holding had paused for an instant—due to information overload, the A.I. girl had frozen for an instant. Even if she did quickly reactivate, the warrior could sense a great sense of loss spreading from the depths of her heart.
—Yes. In the end, I’m not some lifeform but an artificial soul.
One that did not even have a body, but an imitation through magical energy… No matter how similar the imitation, it remained one, and cannot be real.
Sensing the profound sadness and loss in the girl’s heart, the warrior could not help clenching his left fist.
“Soul made by men… Though you are no Avian, you certainly are greatly linked to them.”
In that moment, Gale’s voice echoed in the hearts of the trio. He appeared to not know the outcome of His words, and was merely voicing all His thoughts.“May I know if there are any Avian people surviving in this world? Those who created your race, my descendants and children… could you tell me if the people of the sky still soar amidst the heavens?”
Zero-Three’s mouth was open. She had unwittingly wanted to tell the whole truth: there were no longer Avian present in both worlds of Mycroft and Karlis. One could perhaps find some Avian corpses or surviving arts in ruins deep beneath the ground or in the Dark Forests, but living Avian people had all vanished eight-hundred and thirty-six years ago—or perhaps earlier. It was so for Karlis before Mycroft, as the mobile fortress had wandered the wastelands over a thousand years without finding any trace of a survivor.
But the girl did not say it. Though the deity’s words were injuring, she could tell that Gale was not discriminating or looking down on her. The divine being was even willing to speak to her as if to an equal, and her own mere disappointment and sigh came from Him not viewing her as an Avian.
That was why Zero-Three did not want to tell Him the agonizing truth: The Avian people were long extinct. His thousand-year wait was but a fruitless effort.
But could anyone deceive a god? It was another case for Legendary champions, and Zero-Three clearly was not equipped with abilities of such level. In an instant, Gale appeared to have read the truth He desired from her slightly atypical mana signature. The God of the Sky, however, neither lamented or became saddened, and merely raised His Chaotic face toward the churning black sky. “Is that so.”
“Though disappointing, it meant that we had triumphed against the endless evil given that there were still intelligent beings who could enter the remnant of my soul… Though imperfect, this is enough. I should free myself from my obsession.”
As He spoke, Gale turned, his entire body began to surge with dazzling flames of light with his back toward Joshua and the others. Massive energy was unleashed from the decrepit divine soul and ejecting toward the outside world, waves of green-gold cyclones cascading out from the Lord of the Skies’s body, sweeping through the entire dilapidated hanging city, the dozens of hurricanes and the darkened heavens—
Under the waves of buffeting tempest, the floating city that began to dip toward the ocean began to rise slowly as if time was flowing backward. Those huge hurricanes were also gradually purified, and soon died out even as muscled titan-like Windstorm Giants that was over hundreds of meters tall appeared beneath the floating city and held its base aloft.
As Joshua looked on in silence, the ruined hanging city was repaired by unequaled divine powers. Under the support of a dozen Windstorm Giants, the imposing city rose rapidly, moving above the now-purified azure sky. In the air, countless materialized wind elementals began to assemble, shifting into the sturdiest of pillars and lifting the throne of the Sky Sovereign high above.
—All of it was as Joshua had seen in his past life. A giant hanging city, a beautiful Great Temple, Windstorm Giants that held the city aloft and materialized wind elementals pillars… As well as the remnant soul of the God of the Skies that was about to vanish, having no facial features but just one mural and Mark.
“Successor, this is what I could leave behind…”
Gale’s remnant soul began to turn translucent just like Ogner’s once did, and began to vanish. He appeared intent on saying something, but was soon forced to silence. A sharp, fierce and extremely pure powerful presence, as if a fire that was slowly burning and slowly blazing had appeared behind Him.
“Do you plan to vanish just like that? Disappearing so nonchalantly after hurting your final descendant, just like that?
‘Gale’ turned. He saw that the powerful human who had called Him by His true name, awakened His soul remnant and yet kept silent until now was landing at the top of the central tower as well. That man waved his hand, ignoring the urgent protests from the Avian A.I. and the black dragon in human form, approaching Him step by step.
However, the soul remnant of the God of the Sky did not notice the rising power of the warrior that appeared intent on handing Him a beating. “No, she is no descendant of mine.” He said dispassionately. “She is fine. Very close and virtually identical, but not.”
Zero-Three’s projection quivered again at those words. Noticing it, Joshua shook his head at Gale.
“She is.” He said, putting weight behind every word. “Even if you were a god who saved the world and protected the Mycroft Continent, I must still ask you. By what right is she not?”
“It’s alright—it’s alright, Joshua, it’s nothing… Are you affected by divinity again? Why are you so agitated?” Zero-Three said softly, and promptly becoming even more nervous slid a peek at Gale’s chaotic face. “After all, His Majesty is right…”
Joshua, however, shook his head. His expression was so serious that Zero-Three could not find a retort at once, and could only allow the warrior to keep advancing toward Gale and almost touch the face of the Sky Sovereign with his own.
“Human, there is a familiar presence over your body. As for your question…” Gale did not appear concern over Joshua’s approach, and calmly replied the human who dared to face his own broken one. “Vanishing like this? Of course not. I have waited a thousand years for this, not to simply disappear with the wind. But since there are no more Avian persons in this world, my existence is now meaningless, and thus I shall leave my Legacy as promised with the Sage.”
“And then,” Gale said softly after a pause, “return to my Children.”
“Your last Child is right in front of you,” Joshua said.
“But she is artificial…” The God of the Sky replied calmly, even as His body slowly scattered, with speckled starry green dispersing from the remnant soul of the god and entering the illusionary world. While Gale’s soul diminished, the mirage became more and more solid as if materializing.
The Divine Dungeon Shroud was the place of a Divine Legacy. Now, the place of the God of the Sky’s Divine Legacy, [Heaven’s Raging Wind] was rapidly changing into the most perfect of form.
But in that moment, Joshua grasped Gale’s shoulder with a single move with no concern that the backlash from the power of a True God could instantly shatter his arm. As a mysterious energy flowed, Gale’s dispersion began to slow, and in the very instant the God of the Skies appeared to be surprised, the warrior said, “Though you didn’t say it, I could even guess your wish. It was nothing other than revive the Avian race, so that your bygone splendor would not disappear.”
There was an unusual light flickering in Gale’s chaotic face as if His mood was stirred, although it retorted dispassionately. “But what use is there in knowing? Could an extinct race reappear in this world? The fakeness of the artificial would never continue the legacy of a race.”
“Why not?” Joshua leveled his gaze at Gale’s own, not budging, his pupils glimmering with a fiery light. “Who says that artificial could not be real?” He said with the most serious and solemn voice.
“An artificial soul is also a soul. The union between man and woman, gestating a life for ten months and giving birth to it, that is natural. So why can’t the artificial soul, given birth by a bunch of scientists who labored for decades, be counted as life? Could the soul be even divided between so-called natural and artificial?”
“Life itself is the most detailed machine created by the Creator that is Nature. Just as it is with the soul.”
As Joshua kept his hand pressing down upon Gale’s shoulder, divine powers flowed between warrior and god, maintaining the existence of the God of the Skies who was about to vanish. Right now, he was not only rebutting a god’s stubbornness, but also answering his own doubts.
“It’s fine if it’s imperfect,” he said sonorously. “If it’s good enough and detailed enough, manmade could triumph against natural, learned could compare against innate—there was never once a claim that anything is more powerful the older it was, nor is there a claim that anything is more perfect the more ancient it was!”
“You claim that Zero-Three is artificial, a fake Avian… But to me, she is the crystallized wisdom from countless individuals of your race, the last of the Avians who was born in a lab—Zero-Three! She operated in a world where destruction looms just to find hope and relics, so how could you insist that she’s fake? I’ll never agree with you on that, just as those great alchemists who created Zero-Three on Karlis wouldn’t!”
Gale became silent under Joshua’s interrogation. There were times when He wanted to retort, but He remained silent in the end.
Golden green hoops of wind encircled the hanging city, thundering the elevated skies.
As if the heart of a god was stirring.
Through it all, Joshua kept his hand on Gale’s shoulder, temporarily tethering His existence through his own divine power. He kept his eyes fixed on the other’s without weakness, standing by his own belief. And thanks to his own retort out of a moment of excitement, the warrior’s heart suddenly gained clarity over so-called Soul Mastery.
“The thing called soul was ultimately nothing unique or sacred, artificial or natural. What contrast was there? Just like the body—if I could refine my body into the form it is now, why I can’t I do that with my soul?”
“That path is the Soul Mastery that only belongs to me!”
Meanwhile, after a long while, Gale ‘laughed’.
Though there was no expression on the face layered with Chaos, a faint voice echoed in the heart of everyone present.
“Huh… Hahahaha. I, the Sovereign of the Skies, was actually given a lesson by a successor with such a tone… Without fear and without hesitation—such vigor and familiar presence, you must be the Successor of the Sage.”
The God of the Avian people was shivering. Countless feathers were turning into light and shattering, showering the surroundings of the central tower like starlight.
Thus, after His laugh, Gale turned and ‘looked toward’ Zero-Three.
“Apologies,” He said with a mild and slightly apologetic voice. “The last of my kind.”
The God of the Sky lifted both His hands, and a paradoxical presence that was gentle yet chilling unfurled. As a dazzling green light flickered, an ‘Mark’ that appeared to be a pair of wings formed from endless abstruse runes wrapped in gales thus appeared in His hand. Gale held the Mark aloft before His Chest, and spoke with a relaxed, freed yet somber tone, “Take my Mark, and inherit my being.”
At those words, He kept silent for a long time.
The ancient god appear to be recalling an ancient memory: He led the Avian people to flourish amongst the mountains, did battle against all varieties of monsters and thousands of foreign races, surviving all those hardship and pain, blood and fire over thousands of years. Thus, He finally lifted the Avian people, turning them into one of the most powerful races on the Mycroft continent, with their nation and civilization prospering while He became the Sovereign of the Skies.
But those past memories left, gone with the wind as everything was reduced to nothingness in that final battle against the Abyss and Evil Gods.
Almost all of the Avian people had fell in that war of resistance in the Void.
Did he regret it? Of course not. He merely blamed himself for not protecting His own Children as a deity, leading to the outcome that He could not even a find second kin who could accept His Legacy even after a thousand years had passed.
And yet, at the very end, all of it was given a perfect answer.
Clapping his own hand on Joshua’s and pulling it away from his own shoulder, Gale began to disappear without the divine powers from Joshua. Even as the robust god began to vanish, He began to walk toward and arrived before the puzzled and doubtful Zero-Three, who was not sure what was going on.
Gale slowly kneeled under the light, and placed the Mark in His hands into the A.I. girl’s own.
“Be it artificial soul or body… The last of the Avian people, please bring the Avian race back to this world!”