Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Nostradamus, however, did not know what Joshua was talking about.
“Civil conflict?” He repeated in disbelief. “What are you talking about?”
“Perhaps the truth of the Lost Three Hundred Years.”
Joshua did not know where to start, for it was a very long story.
Time must be reversed to the last era, before the continent named Mycroft took shape.
In that period, all things were barren, oceans were havoc. The battle between Order and Chaos had shattered the skies, energy radiation from the Void shot over the land as dozens of races, millions of refugees tried to survive within crevices amidst the radiation, tremors, tempest and acid rain.
In that period, the sun and the moon were dying, the skies dimming. Darkness filled the entire world as seven continents were flooded by half-boiling seawater, leaving a bare few scattered shards. Most intelligent races of the seas were extinct, with only a few lucky ones surviving.
The gods had won, but before them was a problem more troubling than Evil Gods. In the face of their devastated homes, those beings who wielded divine powers were at a loss of what to do: what they now faced was not a formidable foe that terrorized the Void, but a broken world.
What was once seven continents were now nothing but shards that were of no considerable size. After judging the traitors, all the deities and the humans were now forced to face a begging question: Could they still stay in this world?
The southern elven survivors still had their Holy Lake in the highlands, but Father Nature had already left. The former holy land was now without value since they had lost their patron deity, with the surviving elves left in turmoil and loss of direction, urgently needing a leader to guide them.
The northern continent was only left with a chain of shattered mountains, for that was the main battlegrounds between the gods and the invading Evil Gods. The dimensional fissures that were yet to close were still unleashing raging thunder and energy storms, and no life could survive there apart from the dwarves who hit beneath the surface.
The eastern continent was essentially pummeled into fragments. Over a thousand shattered isles were now spread amidst boiling oceanic waves, leaving no resemblance of its former glory compared to other continents, even as the surrounding typhoons and cyclones could devour those isles at any moment.
To the west, at the former central continent, the mountain range that was once the sturdiest backbone of the world was preserved. Dwarves, Avian people and the survivors of other races hence dwelled amidst those mountains, hanging on their last breath… Even so, every continent to the west of the center of the world had vanished like smoke or sunk to the bottom of the earth. The homelands of halflings, the holy land of the sauroks and the grasslands of the centaurs were completely gone, the birthplaces of the many races destroyed in the world. The gods, having lost their pillaring faith, were also on their legs as the divinity backlash festered.
“Let’s leave this place. We will look for another world, so that the glory of Mycroft would not end here.”
One of the gods had said, the murloc tribes he sheltered being one of the few surviving intelligent marine creatures. His friend, the Lord of Murlocs had already perished from war, leaving no trace in this world. The God himself now longer bore any sentiment toward the seas of Mycroft, and only wanted to leave the now-decrepit world.
“We cannot give up on this place.” Another deity said, his voice bold and forceful like a swinging hammer, the Lord of Dwarves refuting that suggestion. “Mycroft is our home. The Great Mother and the Earth Goddess had fought bravely at the frontlines even as countless gods and countless lives fall in this place. Giving up on Mycroft is no different from giving up all that we have sacrificed!”
“No, we must leave as soon as we can for the tribes we protect. We could wait for Mycroft to recover in days to come, but now, our Children could no longer survive in this place!”
“Even if the world is broken, there is still much remaining that we shouldn’t abandon…”
The remnant deities argued. They were no friends in the first place and had been forced to unite for the Final Battle, and now, with the battle concluded, conflict exploded amongst them. Through it all, the more the gods conveyed their standpoint the more confrontational they became: one faction believed that the broken world of Mycroft was not worth saving, while the other believed that it was worth to be rebuilt on both sentimental and logical grounds even if it was broken. If the many equipment buried beneath debris could be excavated, more than a few ecospheres could be swiftly reestablished and preserves, and there was a chance that they could not find a new world that fulfilled their surviving conditions on such short notice.
Finally, with the silent support from the Sage, the faction who advocated migration were suppressed. Given authority, the countless gods who advocated that they stay created small demiplanes with their divine power where their Children could inhabit. It was a valid short-term measure, but their godly power would be exhausted if that prolonged, and the gods themselves would fall into eternal silence.
But how could one rebuild this broken world? Even the Sage himself was left with no options—it might be easier for him to create a new world than to repair a Mycroft that was now essentially a rag doll diced into pieces. Rivers were now cracked ice that stopped short of breaking, the World Will and the Mother Goddess all hanging on their last breaths: any drastic alterations would completely destroy all of that.
As the gods argued, the World Will had fallen into a slumber before its death throes. Being Mycroft itself and having endured excessive malevolent blows from Evil Gods and the Abyss, while it had the supporting faith of life during war, its spirit began to diminish after that, so much so that the World Will itself could not hold on.
But though the World Will was silent, the Mother Goddess was still lucid. Even if her true form—the seven original continents of Mycroft—were mostly fractured, she could still maintain Her own will.
Having seen the conflict amongst the gods themselves, She, unable to abide by it, stood out and said, to all the gods and the Sage himself: I’ll do it.
Her voice was mild and firm, weighing down over all bickering and discord. All the gods turned their eyes to the Goddess, and she showed no hesitation.
Now is not the time to argue, she said. Look, we are falling into the Abyss, and Mycroft itself is slowly leaving the heart of the Multiverse. We are sinking, and if that continues, we will sink into the Abyss, and become our former enemies.
Therefore, I shall combine the continents.
I shall reassemble the remnants of all seven realms.
I am born from the continent, the first spirit of this world. Though I ascended as a deity latently, my existence itself is a symbol of the entire continent.
With me as offering, and the continent shall reunite… even if that reunion would make it smaller than before, it could carry all remaining tribes in this world.
The Earth Goddess was willing to bind the torn world, with Herself as a sacrifice. It was a fine decision from a rational point of view, but if the gods would only do things logically, they would long have been robbed of their will by divinity. Therefore, how could they agree with melding with the Source of the Universe?
“You have already favored the world greatly and sacrificed too much, even the ‘Drakes’ you’ve sheltered are virtually extinct.”
The gods of who advocated migration were actually shaking their heads in response. “It should never be you who be sacrificed.”
There were also gods who were willing to take Her place, to voluntarily sacrifice all that they were. “I am the God of Mountains and Swamps, therefore considered a part of the earth.”
A short yet determined voice. Another god stood out: He was the God of Rivers and Lakes.
Every deity of the bygone Earth faction arose, just as many other powerful gods came forward, for to them, life is but an eternal dream. If their sacrifice could indeed save their world, their name would live with forever alongside civilization, the utmost of honors.
“That’s not necessary.”
The Sage spoke in that very moment, shaking his head. “No one has to be sacrificed.”
“Look to the Void. The corpses of our enemies are many and hold endless power… We can reshape the world, by burning Chaos with what remains of the Initial Flame.”
The Sage’s words turned the eyes of every deity to something they never cared about before—the remains of the Evil Gods. Before that, no beings thought that they could use those corpses that welled with vengeance and Chaos, for a single touch would corrupt one soul, and only the most powerful of gods, champions and the Sage himself could resist that kind of power.
Anyone would sneer at the suggestion of using them to reshape the world—if the one who suggested it was not the Sage.
But since it was the Sage, all the gods were willing to believe in that crazy idea.
“Then? What happened next? Joshua?”
Over the underground lake, Nostradamus was frowning as he recorded everything Joshua described into his grimoire. By searching for correlations from the bits of information he collected from old texts, the old mage quickly realized that while Joshua’s narrative appeared absurd, it explained everything in the past perfectly.
“Then… came the illusion I saw back in the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds.”
Joshua sighed, recalling the mirage he seen during his first arrival at the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds. Those were broken, scattered memory fragments and rewinding of history where the voices of Sage, apostles, deities and anonymous people overlapped. And amongst those many jumbled information, Joshua vividly remembered that angry question that trembled the world, and the Sage’s helpless answer.
[You people actually want my daughter to become one with that filthy being of Chaos? I’ll never agree to it! I’ll never allow it!]
[That’s the only way to save you and your daughter. Forgive us, but that is the only thing I can do.]
[Aaaaaaaaargh! I curse you! Curse you! Humans, elves, dwarves, every… living within… I curs…]
It was the enraged inquisition from a profound being, answered by a tired and feeble voice.
It was an exchange between Mycroft, Steel Python and World Will, and the Sage inside that world itself.
The process of using the body of Evil Gods to reshape the world appeared to have gone awry. At first, the gods intended to use the remaining Initial Flame in Mycroft to incinerate Chaos and gradually revive the world, which could in turn give birth to a new continent larger than the original seven. As for the Flame that was about to die, it would burn brilliantly once more, and they would not have to resort to the project of Rekindling the Flame.
Nevertheless, they overestimated the glory of the Flame that remained in Mycroft… After burning continuously for years, on one day nobody expected it to happen, the Flame extinguished.
And on that day, the Sage had left for the world of Grandia, to inspect the exile grounds of sinners.
It was too late when he returned.
Chaos spread once again, only this time, it was the gods themselves who had planted Chaos into the world.
Sensing that a presence he hated at the utmost was spreading in his very own body, the Steel Python that had slumbered for a long time jolted awake in rage. And the first thing he saw then was the Earth Goddess, forcing all Chaos into herself and embodying it. Its body being invaded by Chaos, its daughter that had accompanied itself for the longest time being corrupted as well, the Steel Python descended into madness and turned its will to destroying all things, only to be stopped by the gods and the Sage.
“All the gods and Sage believed that there was a conspiring presence—one that did not dare to face the gods directly, and so acted behind the scenes by extinguishing the Flame. That opinion was not supported by any evidence, and with the priority being to calm and subjugate the rage of the World Will at the time, they did not investigate it further… and there was no chance to do so later on.”
Joshua landed slowly beside the shores of the underground lake, strolling along it as he looked down at the ancient temple beneath the lake, his gaze calm.
“I do not regret my choice. It’s just that I might not see this world blooming with vigor once again… Hah! I am vain after all, to desire my name being praised.”
The Earth Goddess did not rue her own choice, having planned to sacrifice herself in the first place. Even so, she remained saddened that her own mother falling to insanity due to corruption from the remains of Evil Gods.
“One day, it would come back to us.”
With that, she entered the near-eternal slumber of the gods.
However, in the world external, the gods fell into terrifying civil conflict after paying a great price once again and jointly subjugating the World Will.
Believing that the world was improving, many deities had moved their tribes from demiplanes to the new Mycroft continent, but the rampage of the Steel Python wiped out dozens of tribes, or leaving a scarce few survivors in better cases. Left with nothing in the blink of an eye, the raging gods searched for any being that could have doused the Flame, first singling out the God of Dwarves in charge of watching the world’s core, before turning to the God of Fire Elements who was erudite in all aspects of the Flame. However, those two powerful gods were certainly unwilling to be tied down and interrogated by lunatics blinded by rage, and having their own friends and supporters… a bizarre war thus began.
The conflict that was growing since ancient times, the usual unhappiness that accumulated over the days, contradicting ideals and paths, natural nemesis and rivals… the gods were no united force in the very first place, and the situation was only made complicated by some of them falling into madness.
Even if the Sage stopped one of those meaningless and chaotic conflict, another would pop up: when the flame of hate was ignited, it would definitely never be doused.
“That meaningless civil war hence lasted three hundred years. Every race living on the new continent shuddered in fear of the gods’ fury, while some who did not lose their minds to rage built shelters for them, allowing them to survive.”
Joshua arrived at the edge of the subterranean lake even as he finished that sentence. He headed toward the bottom of the lake with Nostradamus, who had fallen silent as well.
That’s ridiculous, the old mage had intended to say. Why would the gods war over such nonsense? They worked together to defeat Evil Gods, quelled the mad World Will, and were even willing to sacrifice themselves for this world!
His doubt, however, abruptly turned into a sigh: though it appeared crazy, examples of that were innumerable. Comrades, who fought to side-by-side and vanquished mutual enemies, later turning against and slaughtering their former allies was simply nothing to be shocked about.
“Who did those memories belong to?” The elderly mage asked rather tiredly. “Could the Sage’s departure… have been out of disappointment toward the gods?”
“The Earth Goddess. This land itself, in other words.”
Joshua replied. “As for the Sage… He wasn’t disappointed in anyone, nor did he found anyone to be in the wrong. He believed that conflict is certain between all minds with independent will, it’s just that he did not expect it to burst out on that day.”
“He is only doubtful—doubtful of the essence of the Multiverse itself.”
“Why do Evil Gods and the Abysses exist? Why does the cycle between Order and Chaos prevail in such a state in this world?”
Arriving beside the temple beneath the underground lake, Joshua reached out and touched the building that was slightly vibrating and emitting ripples of divine power.
“Therefore, he left for the depths of the Multiverse after putting some hidden measures in place,” the warrior said softly. “He desired that Ultimate Answer, otherwise he would only end up watching as every civilization he groomed to fall time after time.”
Joshua then laughed. “It’s funny. This temple mistook me for a pure-blooded Titan and hence gave me most of its memories. It had also passed on those ancient memories through Steel ancestry to all who had carried the blood of the Mother Goddess, but probably only I could witness it all clearly.”
“As for intentions… Nostradamus, that’s the thing I mentioned which escaped our imagination: this temple has two functions, and one of them is forewarning.”
“The seal on the World Will is about to be reinforced,” Joshua said, turning and leveling his gaze at the elderly mage. “But before that, it had sent a message across the entire Multiverse—using its World Will status as leverage, it has summoned all who could hear its voice to come forth and destroy us all.”
“Status as World Will?”
Nostradamus was left stunned by Joshua’s flat words, but soon reacted to it. “Right, that’s not unusual… Remnants of World Wills indeed existed, supporting Abyssal Lieges and was equivalent to an Abyss… That might be its so-called leverage.”
While it seemed unimaginable, it was in fact no rare case. Apart from Abyssal Wills and Abyssal Lieges, the most powerful elemental lieges of certain elemental planes were likely to be the will of that plane itself. That was nothing incomprehensible to mages, even comparable to common sense.
“As for another function, it is a hidden measure the Mother Goddess left for herself.”
With those words, Joshua looked up. His gaze pierced thousands of meters of rocky layers and saw the overlapping divine ripples over the skies. It encircled the world, and as the warrior looked on, gradually formed the great phantasm of a goddess, slowly assembling itself above the heavens.
Just as how divine myths put it, gods also carried individual preference and desires. The goddess wished to know the outcome of her sacrifice and whether this world could really be saved—that was why she forged thousands of temples such as this with her own flesh and blood before she went into the eternal silence, unironically concealed deep beneath the earth.
“These temples held the Earth Mother former divine blood as a source of divine power. When the Flame is reignited or when the world shuddered, those temples would slowly but surely be reanimated, finally rebuilding the vestiges of the Goddess’s will… and observe this world.”
Nostradamus blinked and looked up to the skies as well.
“Is She pleased?” The elderly mage asked in curiosity.
“That, I do not know,” Joshua said slowly, enunciating each word firmly. “But relax.”
In the aged temple before them was a mural. It depicted the history of the ten thousand races, beginning with how they ignited the Tinder and brandished stone tools. There was peace, there was war; there were majestic wonders just as there were mundane farmlands. The earth watched over it all, embodying it all.
Outside, the radiance of divine power gathered, forming the image of a goddess with an indiscernible face. She looked over everything in this world and nodded slowly, before turning into splinters in the wind, sprinkled all over the world.
It might be a year of harvest.
The earth trembled, stone layers swayed. Joshua stared at the temple, as if watching the goddess from a thousand years ago.
It was shining.
“She would definitely not be disappointed.”