Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The Darkness vanished.
Before the burning light of the Flame, the dark fog and its core vanished like morning mist into the gales billowing through the Desert of God. The root of its existence was utterly crushed by Joshua, with all nanometer-class runic constructs incinerated by searing fire into fundamental particles, returned to heaven and earth.
Clearness returned to world of Kronos. As that portion of Black Mist was utterly destroyed, the incessantly pouring black rain that was eroding the earth vanished. Though the mother-form of the Black Mist still existed at the other end of the Multiverse, this portion of it has dispersed, with the hundred-meters deep crater being the only trace of its existence. Clearly, if the few Legendary champions did not quickly work together to defeat it, the Black Mist could have simply dived beneath ground and erode the world bit by bit.
High above, both Barnil and William raised their brows and exhaled. It was the first time they saw Joshua displayed the power of King of Searing Soul, and felt the great threat from that form—watching his figure alone, they could feel their entire bodies being seen through as a power that could study the most fundamental compositions of world burn ragingly, emanating the radiance of possibility.
The Ancient Dragon was starting at the figure too. A full contrast of the two Legendary mages, it felt an immeasurable affection toward the power of the Flame… The eldest child of Steel was the first life in Creation. It was born directly as a crystallization of Steel, and it was natural for it to feel affection for the Flame that gave birth to Steel. Now, vigilance against Joshua and its affection for the power of the Flame existed simultaneously in the Ancient Dragon’s heart, giving it a sense of extraordinary contradiction.
In the ancient ruins deep beneath the center of the Kronos Mountains, Lisa who was looking on blankly suddenly noticed that the Steel Chain wrapped around her body had suddenly broke. The unusual silver chain that appeared to have been made from flowing formations of runes had bound her due to the ritual, and now that the power of the ritual had vanished, she was the chains crumple into shades of light and vanish from the hidden underground chamber. Meanwhile, on the crystal walls, the Ancient Dragon landed slowly on the ground, another silver Chain reappearing over its body and connecting it to this world once more.
The battle was over—though the Ancient Dragon did not know that, it was for certainly so for Joshua and the others.
The warrior was genuinely content as he hovered above the crater where the Black Mist had vanished. To be truthful, he had come to do penance for the mistake of awakening the Ancient Dragon, and the mission was accomplished perfectly. The Black and White Dragon Kings, the Void Behemoth, the Golden Fleet, and one more… right, that Demon General that transforms. He had fought against many opponents and forced them to abandon the idea of stealing the Ancient Dragon’s power, which however one thought about it, would slightly atone for his crimes. He had even managed a single exchange of blows against the Ancient Dragon, experiencing the great power of the Primeval Being.
It was certainly not bad, but this time it had yet to unleash its full power. If the Ancient Dragon could display the peak of its ability, it might be a being as unreasonable as the elderly Pope.
And then there was the Black Mist.
It was a gain beyond Joshua’s expectations. He never thought that searching for the Ancient Dragon would also get him involved with the ‘Darkness Amidst the Stars’, which also gave him a deeper understanding of the Glorious Era thanks to the information gained from the dark core. Clearly, the world of Mycroft was not the only civilization in its own immediate vicinity then, what with the Shelter’s civilization capable of traveling through twelve worlds. There was no question it was an immeasurably powerful presence… and the beliefs about Evil Gods had also affirmed Joshua’s conviction.
Indeed, this world was dark and filled with mist, and both Evil Gods and other Order were enemies that one must be constantly vigilant of… but should they all simply view the entire Multiverse as a Dark Forest, with everyone spied upon each other in the gloom and none daring to raise a torch to walk in between?
If that was truly the case, this world would no longer have any civilization in existence. The entire Multiverse would become a dark hunting field, ultimately devoured by Evil Gods and Chaos.
Exiting the King of Searing Souls status, Joshua looked up toward the Ancient Dragon that was wrapped in chains and landing slowly, just as the two Legendary mages kept a subtle distance just as they descended as well. Joshua thought that Ancient Dragon believed the two men to be staying alert against it, and was ever-ready to stop its offensive against themselves… but in truth, the warrior was perfectly aware that both Barnil and William simply wanted to approach the Ancient Dragon a little bit more—their gazes were distinctly filled with enchantment and delight.
Barnil was even using his own fake eye—the runic hub that he had used to struggle for control of the Black Mist against the Black Mist Core. The Ancient Dragon did not notice those little energy ripples, but Joshua saw it all clearly!
—Their wish is fulfilled.
Joshua could not help but smile—he felt a fine mood as he watched the two Legendary mages showed a delight that came from the heart. He then turned, and looked toward the Ancient Dragon that was still staring at himself, and straightforwardly connected with it spiritually.
“I am very sorry for awakening you before…. This time, I’m here not to fight, but to aid you.”
Under circumstances of existing language barriers, spiritual communication was the most effective interaction. The silver Ancient Dragon hesitated for a moment when it felt Joshua’s abrupt spiritual ripples, before carefully accepting the message. Having felt Joshua’s sincerity, it shook its head slightly as if in good mirth.
—It wasn’t what you said when you punched me!
Be that as it may, the Ancient Dragon also relaxed its cautiousness. It was hard to fool others with spiritual ripples, and with the three powerful beings seemingly having not spy upon its power through it all… indeed, they might have been spying on other things, but there was definitely no malicious intent.
Unable to leave the ground for too far due to the restraint from the world’s Steel Chain, the Ancient Dragon crossed its limbs like a dragon in its lair, settling itself at the center of the Desert of God and growling once softly. At the same time, a wave of immeasurably powerful spiritual ripple poured out at Joshua and the others, turning into a gentle, androgynous voice in the minds of the trio.
“Though there is still no telling the intent of your arrival, I would not attack deliberately in the absence of malicious intent… So, rest here for a while before you leave this world.”
Compared to the Ancient Dragon’s majestic and imposing body akin to a perfect killing machine, its spiritual ripples were unexpectedly mild—Joshua and the others even blanked out for a while before quickly accepting the fact. It was not unusual either, given that Ancient Dragons were the Mother of All Beings and the Roots of the Life. In other worlds, they were towering trees that pillared heaven and earth or giant turtles that shouldered the world—whatever image they had, it was not as a being that left people fearful and shuddering. They merely wandered worlds, spreading the seeds of life, even fighting other powerful beings within the Multiverse for the continuation of life in certain realms.
As gentle as a mother.
Joshua also understood its reason for declining their prolonged presence. He was naturally aware of how terrifying a Legendary champion was to a broken world that once again experience considerable devastation. Their every move could pose a great threat to this world, which was why the warrior did not find anything wrong with the Ancient Dragon’s action.
In the first place, he had decided to leave as soon as the fight was over. But now that it was mentioned, it was truly pleasant—Joshua found himself very satisfied with the battle he had, although he still planned to help the Ancient Dragon with something, and one that he believed would help diminish all suspicion and caution it had against him.
Leaving aside the two Legendary mages that were beginning to interact with the Ancient Dragon with spiritual ripples, Joshua rested for a while, and then began to observe the world.
“What is the state of this world watched over by Ancient Dragon?” He muttered quietly to himself, his pupils turning silver as he scanned the world, his gaze penetrating stone and sand, desert and mountains.
In seconds, he could not stop himself from gasping.
“Weird. The Will of this world… It’s completely gone?!”
Joshua was promptly left in great disbelief. World Wills were profound souls like Steel Python, and existed since Creation. They would be a little ignorant in the beginning, but would attain intelligence as well when intelligent beings were born. For a world to face destruction did not mean that the World Will would die as well: in worlds like Karlis, its world consciousness remained alive and well. There was also no lack of World Wills having lucid though in the Abyss—those were known as Abyssal Wills, the greatest aid behind every Abyssal Liege.
But things were different for the world of Kronos—Joshua learned the world’s name from some of the information communicated from the Ancient Dragon, and now realized in shock through his scan that the world was deathly silent, having no trace of a World Will! While others could not notice, but as the Searing Soul who could communicate directly with World Wills, Joshua was sure that the World Will of Kronos was truly dead centuries ago, leaving a hint of irremovable hate and vengeance.
What kind of attack could it have been that even the World Will was destroyed?
Furthermore, Joshua could see the Steel Chain that was binding the Ancient Dragon… it was what connected it to the world, and every bit of its power gained in regeneration would reinvigorate the world as well. Perhaps, this world could return to its original state in millennia and the World Will would be reborn, but as of right now, the Ancient Dragon had taken up the duty as Kronos’s World Will.
Nonetheless, it was neither a bondage or restraint, but a link and splendor of utmost affection. The Ancient Dragon was connected to this world, becoming a part of it and thus unable to leave it.
So how did it leave the Void just now, and acted against the Darkness?
It was an easy question for Joshua. His eyes traced the Steel Chain, following it as it cut beneath ground and stretched toward the distance… He saw the Kronos mountains, a place now filled with corpses of demons and wyverns, downed Golden Fleet aircraft. He could also see tens of thousands of Drakonid cadavers, rotting monster remains and burning abandoned villages—in every corner within the mountains, ruins of wooden and stone thousands were spread everywhere.
The primitive civilization of Drakonids was effectively destroyed in one stroke. Any survivors left would have to begin anew if they wanted to redevelop to that state.
Joshua could not help becoming silent. It was a norm for the battles of the strong to involve weaker societies. In fact, the Legendary champions had chosen to not fight inside the world to not destroy the little cycle of Order, but even also, the extreme change in weather, rapidly changing torrents of energy and the havoc laid by their minions had greatly harmed the primitive civilization.
It was when Joshua kept looking and he finally reached the heart of the mountains that the warrior breathed a sigh in relief. “So, there’s still many left. That’s good.”
The demons and wyverns had found the ruins of what was formerly the Iron Hill City in the heart of the mountains—but at the same time, the battle between the Legendary champions reached a climax. The distinctly disadvantaged Demon General had recalled its minions to aid it by navigating the Magma Fleet, while the Black and White Dragon Kings also halted the wyverns, putting them on standby and await further instructions. That was how those fellows did not really invade the Drakonids’s final settlement.
Joshua counted more than fifty thousand Draknoids around the surface and underground reaches of the Iron Hill City. Half were in the underground shelters whereas the others scattered beyond, beginning their search for edible rations and usable materials in their surroundings. Joshua noticed that the shelter seemed to be renovated out of ancient ruin, and so kept his eyes on it with slight interest.
Thus, he was surprised again.
“Eh, that being Syndicate is actually in this world?!”
Sensing the familiar Steel Strength ripples, Joshua was truly shocked this time. He had interacted with his apostle that came out of nowhere for a while before he arrived here, even specially granting him a hastily-named idea on magnetic manipulation after its earnest prayer and supplication. Given that the Actuate Bolt was a cultivation method for all lifeforms as long as there is energy in their bodies, he never suspected that the balrog would fail in grasping the technique.
However, Joshua would never have thought that his own apostle was in this targeted world from the very beginning… Come to think of it, was the girl that made a pact with it a native of this world?
As the Ancient Dragon looked on cautiously, Joshua left and started to fly toward the Kronos Mountains, and the dragon itself followed suit after some thought, driving magnetic fields and following right behind the warrior. Barnil and William kept up behind the Ancient Dragon in turn, and the party hence flew to the center of the world.
The world of Kronos was, in fact, very small—the entire world’s surface was probably just as large as the Northern Empire, a classic example of a plane, a hemispheric zone. Still, thanks to its lesser size, the energies were dense and concentrated, allowing the birth of Extraordinary societies.
Joshua flew swiftly, breaking through a dozen times the speed of light solely through electromagnetic fields without any form of acceleration, kicking waves of sonicbooms in the air around him. He only slowed down when he almost reached the Kronos mountains, so that the surviving Drakonids were unaffected. He directly streaked to the heart of the mountains, Ancient Dragon in tow.
“Heavens… What is that?!”
“It—It’s the Dragon God!”
On the ground, many survivors were digging through debris tiredly ins search of usable materials. Their homes were destroyed and they have lost communication with most of their kin, but even so, life goes on—therefore they exhaustively dug through stone and sand, prying away soy and dug out emergency rations from beneath the ground.
But at that moment, as the skies echoed with a dull rumble and the rapid throb of bloodline power, all Drakonids looked up toward the skies. Thus, the huge form of the Ancient Dragon appeared in everyone’s eyes!
“God is with us!”
“The Dragon God has triumphed!”
“It has come to save us!”
Seeing the Ancient Dragon alone promptly filled the many Drakonids with the courage to live on. Most of them bowed and prayed devotedly at once, begging for the passing of all calamity and the arrival of a brand-new day.
Joshua became even more resolved for what he was about to do when he noticed how they toiled for survival. But before that, he wanted to meet his apostle whom he had not seen for a long time, and find out how it was doing.
Arriving at the heart of the mountains, he looked toward the great doors leading deep underground, and was gone in a flash.
The Ancient Dragon arrived there too, worried that Joshua would cause the Drakonids harm, but never once stopping him on their journey since it did not feel ill-will from the warrior. And now, it was slightly bewildered as the Drakonids bowed and prayed to it—it had been slumbering over a few hundred years, and as such did not know why its former allies would now saw it as a god.
The things that could change in centuries was assuredly many.
And at that moment, Joshua reached the subterranean depths.
The secret passageways and the baiting traps were meaningless to him, nor did the bloodline checkpoints set up by the Drakonids stopped him. Before any of them noticed, Joshua was already deep below in the underground ruins, arriving at the crystal corridor where he unwittingly slowed his pace.
The birth of the merfolk civilization… the progress of the merfolk civilization…. The merfolk civilization rising to land and the Void.
An optimistic and joyful civilization, exploring the Multiverse and advancing to worlds beyond out of curiosity for the unknown, energetically facing all hardships, treating any beings with friendliness.
Then came the Ancient Dragon and the war against the Darkness… the war ended, their world was destroyed, and the merfolk became Drakonid under the influence of the Ancient Dragon’s power, until present day.
Another civilization with talent, destroyed by the Darkness. Joshua’s resolve was empowered once more.
If the weak held a torch and walked in a dark forest, the light of which would likely attract beast to attack and devour them—what should the hunter who carried a gun do?
Or what should a fully-armored soldier do, for that matter?
Or simply, what should a tank with steel armor, or perhaps an entire tank division do?
Nothing would be a problem as long as they could become stronger. The former Mycroft had almost achieved that only to fail—Joshua certainly found that the successors of the Starfall Era would never assume the old path of the Glorious Era.
Walking through the corridor, Joshua ventured deep below and into the earth’s mantle, finally arriving at the ritual hall.
He saw the pyramidic altar, smelled the pungent odor of blood in the air, heard the humming energy circuits on the walls around, and touched the girls’ feeble arm.
Joshua frowned and carried Lisa, who was now slumbering. He sensed the meekness of the girl due to blood loss, and the little life essence belonging to Syndicate inside her body. The warrior hence nursed her with his own lifeforce, wiping off the deep wounds developed in her body due to overexertion.
“Monarch… Thou art here. It’s a pity I don’t have a body now to pay my respects…”
The archdemon’s weak spiritual ripples wafted from the girl’s heart. In the very last moment of the ritual, Syndicate abandoned his physical being and passed its profound Origin as a balrog to Lisa, greatly strengthening the Drakonid girl’s bloodline concentration. Now, it was effectively one body with Lisa, leaving just its soul that survived mutually with the girl.
“…Syndicate, you have done well… Very well, exceeding my expectations and very much so.”
Joshua inhaled deeply, learning the course of events through an exchange with the balrog spiritually. He saw the Drakonids stalwart will in the face of calamity, saw a father’s unhesitating sacrifice for his daughter. He saw every Drakonid individual doing their part so that their civilization lived on, and saw the Drakonid Elder smiling in the face of death as he freed the Ancient Dragon from its chains.
He also saw the sadness, curiosity, delight, astonishment, sorrow, and bewilderment of a young girl. He felt Lisa’s despair, and her heart that kept her going even so.
There would always be a spark in civilizations, no matter how weak it was. It was not natural for life and civilization to continue every day, but it was an outcome of their incessant striving, sacrifice, and progress.
The demon was moved by it. It encouraged the girl and acted as its shield, so that she could go forward without worry. It had made its own contribution for the continuation of this world.
“I never thought that an act in passing would give birth to such an outcome… If you two didn’t remove the Ancient Dragon’s restraint, this world may have trodden on another path.”
“This girl, and all those who sacrificed themselves, were unquestionably heroes. You included.”
It was his own mistake, Joshua thought. If he had not disturbed the Ancient Dragon, the Drakonids’ quiet life would never have stopped. Although theoretically speaking, the two Legendary mages would have found it anyway even without him, with others pursuing the power of Creation as well—when that happens, there would be another battle that was perhaps even greater… but this remained his mistake. And he must atone.
Syndicate and Lisa’s acts were coincidences yet necessary—any cycle would behave so naturally, so unimaginably as well. Clutching the young girl in his embrace, Joshua left the underground ruins and arrived above the mountains.
He leveled his gaze at the Ancient Dragon, while it noticed the young girl in his bosom, recognizing the young girl who granted it temporary freedom so that It could fight the Darkness. It growled nervously once, as if worried that Joshua had hurt her.
Lisa slowly woke up amidst that growl. She felt that her body suddenly did not ache, while her daze and headaches due to blood loss were gone as well. After a brief giddiness, the Drakonid girl realized she was no longer deep below ground, but in the skies above the mountains, with a huge and imposing man holding her in the air. Beside them, the true Dragon God was watching herself mildly, so close that it was almost right in front of them.
Lisa almost faint once again, but through the firm will she trained in recent times she held on—even so, she felt her entire body softening and was unable to speak.
“Stand straight, little girl.”
“Eh, uh, okay.”
Lisa heard a low masculine voice. Though she did not understand the language, she somehow understood his meaning. Subconsciously straightening herself, she realized that the man had put her down—beneath her feet was air, and when Lisa finally reacted, she tried to use Actuate Bolt to harden her own body and soften her fall, only to realize in seconds that though it was definitely transparent air beneath her feet, it had become as hard as steel, enough to let humans stand upon it.
“Tell us what you’ve encountered over the last dozen days,” the low masculine voice continued. For some reason, the girl did not dare to decline—in reality, she would not have refused either. Thus, as a comforting feeling welled in her as if all calamity had left her, she closed her eyes and stuttered, detailing her experiences that were so unusual it was unreal.
Her sadness in being unable to awaken, shock in meeting the balrog, delight in awakening, labor in training, happiness in being recognized, excitement in going out for a hunt, accomplishment in the successful hunt and the astonishment in the sudden ambush… the young girl spoke about all her feelings and experiences with a plain tone, and soon it came to her father’s death, her bewilderment, the Drakonid elder’s sacrifice, the balrog’s offering, and her final resolve.
“It is definitely the saddest.”
Joshua, the Ancient Dragon, Barnil and William had all listened attentively to the girl’s story, even if she was insignificant in terms of power. When she was finished, the warrior nodded.
“Your name is Lisa, right?” He asked softly.
Lisa still found it disbelieving and unreal in the presence of That Person the balrog mentioned—the champion who founded Actuate Bolt. She found it hard to comprehend how things became like this, but Joshua was not concerned about her puzzlement and doubt, and reached out to pat her little head. He laughed softly—her dual-horned head reminded him of Black back home before speaking, “Lisa, do you know? Although everything had already happened and has become the unchangeable reality, as long as your ability is enough, any sad conclusion could be turned into a happy ending.”
At that, Joshua’s whole body ignited with sparks. Fissure-like patterns of magma appeared on the warrior’s body, making his voice echo deeply and profoundly.
“Look, little girl.”
Think of it as a surprise I have for you, just have the one you gave me. I shall bless you and this world with a gift, to repay for troubling your lives.”
The Light of Flame ignited. Warm radiance illuminated the Kronos Mountains, and thus countless myriad colored specks rose and assembled everywhere around the mountains… One illumination after another flew within the warm Light of Flame—those were countless souls that had yet to disperse, but was mobile now thanks to the Flame.
It was also the souls of countless perished Drakonids.
In those infinite specks were the shadows of millions. There were mothers carrying their child, monster hunters who were still fighting, and normal folks who trembled as they raised their weapons, to stand against foes they would never hold up against.
With Joshua’s power as King of Searing Soul, countless souls received dazzling Light. Lisa seemed to see her father’s shadow amongst the ever-present specks of light—the specter of the middle-age Drakonid saw her daughter’s surprised expression and smiled calmly. On another side, the aged Drakonid elder’s phantom looked around over the Kronos Mountains, and lowered his head devoutly when he saw the Ancient Dragon that was levitating in the sky and just as shocked. Smiling, he prayed for one last time.
“What are you blanking out for? Ancient Dragon! Work with me and reignite the Flame!”
Catching the attention of the Ancient Dragon that was startled by the sight with a low scolding, Joshua ignited the endless Chaos forces he acquired by killing Void aberrations and the Void Mother on Stellaris, and drove the power of King of Searing Soul at full capacity. He laughed, spreading his arms, allowing the warm fiery light to fill the world. Circles of concentric Light of Order hence reverberated over the world, promptly enlightening the Ancient Dragon about what it should be doing.
Fire and Steel were the powers of Creation. The King of Searing Soul grasped the authority of Flame, while the Ancient Dragon was the Eldest Child of Steel. The combined might of the two would far surpass having one of them act alone by a thousand times.
Joshua’s eyes were filled with pleasure and determination.
If the World Will had been destroyed, leaving just cycles of life and Order, then he, Joshua, could temporarily assume the duty and reshape the world.
Indeed, he had certainly made a mistake, but it was a stroke of luck that he could bear the responsibility for the mistake.
The power of the strong could revert destruction to rebirth, turn tragedy into comedy. The power of the strong could skew futures, alter fates.
And Joshua was strong.
At the center of the world, the light of scarlet Flame flickered.
The light called new life.