Soul Of Searing Steel Chapter 660


Chapter 660 I Shall Watch Over This Nation

Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation  Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

The tempest continued surging from the North, carrying unusual heat and a distinct metallic odor.

Beneath the backdrop of a dull sky and dark clouds, Israel Diamond stood upon the huge watchtower at the center of the East Barnett Highlands, watching as the warm, humid air stretched along the steel grey horizon. Torrential rains descended, turning little streams in surging rivers, the lakes that dried over winter thus welling up again while stagnated packets of water flooded incessantly, with withered plants sprouting new shoots.

Spring has come, but this one was different from the ones before. The warm air currents that flowed from south to north had been redirected toward the opposite direction by the power of a certain Legend, breaking the thousand-year tradition where the searing tempest and chilling rains that had always streamed from the Northern Ural Plains, returning it tidily to the Helgamoth plains at the heart of the Empire. It did not stop there either, and arrived at the Empire-West Mountain border, the Barnett Highlands.

The Emperor watched as rain poured down from overhead, the rainstorm striking the canopy over the watchtower and the expanding magically-powered base. There were now more and more surface buildings of the Void warship production line that was now named ‘Apocalypse’, burning tons of magical crystals and emitting myriad-colored smog at any given moment. At present, the rainwater was pushing the smog back into ground, forming clusters of waterholes that had different hues, the multicolored like of mana flowed over the land like rainbows.

Israel was watching the land that was his Empire. His gaze could sweep across all borders of the Empire, and he could distinctly observe the Dark Forest Fortress to the south and the Lost Sea at the Icy Plains of the Extreme North. Whether the person he saw in the forest was a druid isolated from the world, or a villager living in seclusion amidst the mountains, he would know it all.

And yet, the only thing he could not tell was the human heart.

Under such torrential rains, most hardworking citizens would not venture outdoors. Only those people who are forced to work outside due to special reason and merchants moving their stocks would bite down and advance against the lashing of the rain. Apart from them, there was also a certain type of human who especially liked such weather… or more precisely, they loved any weather as long as it was no bright, peaceful day.

Israel could see a merchant convey moving purified Kaman Cinquefoils powder were hurrying along under the rain to the southern mountain chain of the Helgamoth plains, with four leather-armored escorts staying vigilant and surrounding the dragon caravan. They dashed along, ignoring wind and rain as they traveled past the rugged path toward a city nearby—but just as the lights of the city were in sight, shuffling sounds echoed from the forests on both sides of the road. Dozens of unorganized men with worn weapons leaped out at a whistle, laughing as they charged toward the carriage, madness concealed beneath their apathetic eyes.

Bandits never mind the weather when prey worth hunting for appeared before their eyes.

His coronation having passed over dozens of years, Israel had originally believed that he knew the sins within the borders of Empire well. He had come across much, whether it was the triads who extorted protection money from the elderly or nobles who oppressed citizens and rob virgins off their virtue. Even in the army, there were scoundrels who drank heartily over spilled soldier blood and concealed reports of troops who died in battle—though the Emperor sentenced such people to death on more than one occasion, such actions were meaningless: Tearing apart the shadows from the face of the Empire would only reveal more shadows that lurked beneath. Lust, tradition, hidden rules, bloodlines, passions, profits… policies itself were the breeding ground of evil. Culling the first batch would come the second and the third. There is no end to it.

Human society is imperfect in the first place; it could only wander between lasting and endurable. Typical dynasties would change over a few centuries, with even empires that hosted Legends unable to avoid decline: what was born from ashes could never bloom perfectly.

Israel himself had been irreparably dejected in those days where he was slowly dying due to his internal injuries—he smiled bitterly over his own throne as he watched his own advisers and lieges make eyes at each other. The war against the orcs was over, and those new nobles who ascended thanks to the skirmishes were certainly unwilling to relinquish their authority. They would bribe advisers, even princes, and try to incite war against the West Mountains or the Eastern Plains by any means necessary.

‘Let them be.’

His Imperial Majesty had such a thought then, having no time left to amend his own Empire and not even caring about where it would end up in the future. After all, he had wiped out the orcs, sending the behemoth that had entangled with the Empire over four hundred years down to hell. Israel believed that he had done enough that he could hold the great name of Emperor, with no monarch in the last few centuries accomplishing so many feats as he did.

And now, Starfall Year 837, tenth of March.

Israel’s eyes were flashing with divine radiance, a series of runes reflecting behind his back. Pale-blue data flow surged like a waterfall, as if calculating, adjusting—Israel stared as the bandits charged at the bewildered merchant convoy thousands of miles away, and extended his right hand.

Thus, amidst the raging flow of runic data, his will became Light of Divine Retribution. Dazzling radiance of gold transcended space, turning into thousands of fiery arrows hotter than the blazing sun that pierced the clouds and gloomed and rained down alongside the downpour, turning the bandits to dust before they could feel the pain.

The corners of Israel’s lips lifted at the sight.

He realized that there is still much that he could do.

Hiss—

Nearby, dimensional signatures rippled suddenly as pale-blue light appeared to his rear. Two profound presences that would make anyone shudder arrived, causing even the ‘Apocalypse’ production line paused for an instant as the magical energies over hundreds of miles froze due to the two presence, ignoring the commands of their wielders.

Israel, however, did not turn. He knew who the arrivals were as well as their intentions, and that one of them was his most loyal and closest comrade, the other a friend worth fighting for as well.

“Master Nostradamus, Noble Radcliffe.” Israel kept standing on top of the watchtower, watching everything in the distance. “My dream is about to come true.”

“Wasn’t your dream leading the people beyond this world, toward the other side of the stars?”

A voice that was monotonous and unemotional as if it was scraping steels wafted to him. It was the voice of Joshua van Radcliffe, Sage’s Successor, Godsent Hero— and yet his voice was as unsentimental as the person he was, carrying a fearsome spirit that would make mortals shudder and kneel. Still, there was hints of emotion when he fought or when he was with family, resembling a man and not a deity of death.

“What, the Void warship is completed?”

Joshua’s voice appeared relaxed as he arrived right behind Israel, but the Emperor sneered in response. “Lead who to the other side? A bunch of conmen, robbers, thieves, cowards, and sadists? Leading madmen beyond this world isn’t actually my dream.”

“I would not dream so innocently that I could reach the heavens with a single stride—I would walk slowly to the things I desire, even if it takes my whole life to reach it.”

There was slight emotion in Israel’s voice at first, but his voice became more determined the more he spoke, until it turned calm as it always had been. Be that as it may, everyone present could sense that the air around them was heating and boiling, for an indescribable might was spreading from the Emperor. “And it’s all thanks to you, Noble Radcliffe. There won’t be the Empire of today or Apocalypse Installation if not for you, nor would there be the Information Terminal or the Mana Net. Of course, that also includes everything that exists now and myself.”

“You once asked me why I did not promptly enforce reforms? That’s because I knew very well that the time has yet to come. Purging one crowd and another would come because sins are like weeds: they grow taller the next year after you mowed them. The strong would naturally oppress the weak, just as those on the same level of hierarchy must oppress those of another level.”

“And now, that time has come?” The warrior’s curious voice wafted from behind him once more.

“Yes. The time has come.” Israel nodded slowly.

“Let him witness the fruits of labor over these few days.”

Nostradamus, who had been quiet all along suddenly spoke. Flanking His Imperial Majesty with a smile, the old mage suddenly drew out a bizarrely shaped steel bar forged from unknown metals. Joshua could see that it was half of a prism, and that Israel had taken out another identical one while taking the other half from Nostradamus.

‘That’s the Information Terminal!’ Joshua promptly realized. ‘Why is it so huge?!’

Just as the thought struck Joshua, Israel closed his palms and combined the two. Light blue radiance shot out from beneath the prism at once: it was data flow constituted entirely of runes, containing such massive volume of information Joshua could not analyze it all instantly.

“Look, Joshua.” Israel’s serene voice could be heard. “The time for revolution is at hand.”

The watchtower at the center of the Apocalypse Installation started to tremble suddenly. The steel plates at the roof started to whirl and protrude outwardly, forming an elevated platform. At the center of that platform was a deep pathway whereby a blue beam shot out from beneath like the prism, blending with the light from the ‘key’.

[Information Terminal Codename 00-00. Intercession with highest administrative privileges detected, executing Project One.]

[Highest Administrator-Codename Israel. Energy signature confirmed, soul resonance confirmed.]

[Project commencing—]

[May you illuminate this world like the sun.]

The metallic prism in Israel’s hand was already liquefied under the rush of high-intensity energy, but instead of being destroyed it was more akin to being reverted to its original state. The silver metal that contained light blue radiance unfurled and transformed in the palm of the Emperor, shifting unpredictably like the human heart.

A tremendous rumble echoed; everything was now ready. As if alive, the lofty watchtower began to shift as well—as the acknowledged program executed itself, the three Legends watch as the massive magical machine transformed. Amidst the scraping noise between steel and the muffled hum of mana resonance, the lower half of the watchtower detached from the colossal installation of steel, floating in the air through incredible mana anchor and rising incessantly up above.

Neither Joshua nor Nostradamus paid attention to the now-transformed watchtower even as they stood over its unchanged section, their gazes remaining on that person—at that very moment, His Imperial Majesty spread his palm, the liquid metal slowly rising from it and spreading in the air rapidly, turning into a throne seemingly built out of light. Israel looked on as the throne eventually landed, inserting itself into the elevated platform reserved for it.

The Emperor settled upon his throne, and conveyed his first command.

“Display complete observation angles.”

[As you command, Highest Administrator.]

The unemotional voice replied with a voice that was pure information. As invisible energy waves swept through every corner of the Empire, countless screens hence displayed themselves before Israel’s eyes.

His mind completely befuddled, Joshua’s widened as he watched those screens with Nostradamus.

Everything in the entire Helgamoth plains were reflected in his eyes. Furthermore, from the Eversong Lake to the Thomas Grand Canyon, the Tartaros Highlands to the Great Ajax Mountains, every city and every domain northwest of the Empire were displayed in those screens. Even mountain villages and underground dwarven dwellings were shown, and the warrior could even see some dwarves herding some moles to build a tunnel that stretches deep underground, which was a bare few meters away from another underground cavity.

Meanwhile, the hot and humid winds blowing backwards from the North had yet to arrive at the southern fortresses, but the dull dark clouds had already appeared over the skies of the North. The military families hence hurried away to retrieve everything they were hanging out to dry sot that the clothing they had cleaned with much difficulty would not be wetted by the filthy rain. In the southeastern swamps, thick grey clouds wafted slowly like mountains, with lightning weaving amongst them, although the local tribes were used to that and simply continued their daily rituals.

By the eastern coasts, the residual golden light from the setting sun was reflected upon the sea surface beside stony harbors, illustrious as pure gold itself. The tides overlapped, and starry radiance slowly appeared over the horizon. On distant islands, the illumination from the lighthouses guided merchant ships to evade corals and sail smoothly toward their respective headings.

In other words, the innumerable screens reflected every change in the very corner of the Empire, whether it was famous or little known, inhabited or isolated, barren lands where magical beasts wreak or overpopulated trade cities. In Morlaix Palace within the Triplet Mountain Holy City, the silver-haired Empress frowned, sensing a familiar gaze but not knowing where it came from. In the castle within the ancient Fairy Island, there was nothing above the Elemental Pillar—the fairies had long ince left that place, wandering throughout the Empire with a certain youth.

The swordsman on a trip with family, the Drakonid girl roaming around the northern mountains, the warrior’s mount who slipped off for a dip in the Lost Sea when he was not around, the First Party who was carefully conducting missions, the Artificial Intelligence who was having a stroll with the silver-haired girl around the city, purchasing novels and magazines… All that was familiar or unfamiliar were displayed in the endless screens.

“I’m neither sage nor saint. Nostradamus and I are aware that to inspire civilian wisdom is the first step to changing society, but even before that very first step I must break all chains of hierarchy. It’s an impossible mission since there is a distinction between men: oppressed and oppressors are destined to exist.”

On the throne, Israel’s demeanor became colder as his voice began to echo heavily—his tone was icy, his words now thick with killing intent. “I have thought for a long time, and could only come up with a single solution.”

“And that is for me to become the one and only oppressor.”

Brilliance of divinity danced within Israel’s eyes, his profound pupils gradually shifting into pure light—at present, his gaze was now two clusters of golden blazes, burning all who leveled their gazes at him like the sun as the Emperor watched over every screen upon his throne. “Thank you, Noble Radcliffe,” he said softly. “You brought forth the Mana Net and the Void warship production line, and now our joint project has reached its final stage—a network that monitors the entire Empire.”

Joshua understood then. He looked up toward the Void with flickering silver radiance in his eyes, seeing countless runic chains of light rising all across the Empire directed to a certain place in the Void. That was the first Imperial Void Warship that was recently completed, a vessel Israel had christened, along with the entire production installation with the name ‘Apocalypse’. The ship itself carried an incomparably colossal core terminal that received signals emitting from observation circles from everywhere across the Empire, directed to Israel’s throne.

Before, the warrior had been unsure why Israel would name it ‘Apocalypse’.

He now did.

“No wonder the server is experiencing intermittent downtimes even with a few Legends maintaining and improving it day and night… It’s all because of your experiments.” Joshua mumbled, and turned toward Israel.

“Nostradamus is definitely a co-conspirator. But do Barnil and William know as well?”

“The Information Terminal is built from my resources, after all. They’re only following professional ethics and refrained from asking me anything.” Israel nodded slightly to the warrior in apology for concealing the fact from him, and then reached out to point at the screens.

“Look, Noble Radcliffe,” he said softly, “at the ever-present evil.”

Joshua followed his finger and turned toward the screens. The angle on the foremost screens hence shifted simultaneously into infinite footages that were different from those before, and yet, with a single glance, the warrior clenched his fist subconsciously, unable to suppress the rage rising in his heart.

He saw the sins lurking beneath the Empire’s appearance of prosperity.

There were bandits who wreaked havoc amidst wilderness and the depths of forests, robbing merchant convoys and tourists who travelled alone. They made countless names appear on missing lists, robbing many elderlies off their children and children off their father. Merchants after merchants were bankrupted by their activities, thousands of families left broken by their actions.

There were adventurers who, smiling kindly, murdered their fellow party members in the wildlands. They faked mild appearances leading novices who were filled with hopes into the isolated wild before killing them all in their sleep. They harvested the dreams of others to enrich their moneybags, never guilty of their hands that stank of blood which in turn only made them sneer with disdain.

There were nobles who hid in secret chambers, thinking that they could not be seen. Having tried all forms of excitement and delicacies, demons were birthed within their hearts. Now that hunting beasts and magical creatures could not satiate them, they turned their eyes to those of their own race. Therefore, every month, every week or perhaps every day, one or two children would go missing peasant residences, or an entire crowd would be kidnapped by masked knights in a mountain village. They would end up as ‘new materials’ in the blood-filled dungeons beneath castles, to appease the indescribable cruelty and lusts of those nobles.

“Triads involved in human trafficking, merchants indoctrinating female slaves, nobles who take joy in harming peasants, mages who take up hobbies of dissecting humans… They believe themselves hidden, that they are protected, which is why they did as they wished.”

There were scoundrels dragged weeping daughters out of their own homes in the name of high interest, mocking the foolishness of her family; slave traders were using magical potions to break the minds of their ‘merchandise’ excitedly, molding entire personalities; nobles who whipped peasants until the sounds of bone breaking could be heart were screaming in euphoria, even as they throw greater weight behind their lashes; and mages, who used no tranquilizers as they simply wanted to see sheer terror in the eyes of their test subjects, smiled inhumanly.

Israel’s cold voice echoed upon the watchtower; His Imperial Majesty laughed mirthlessly on his throne. “But now, I, the law of the Empire, sees all.”

“And I shall judge them.”

Extending his right hand grasping thin air, every scene on every screen that showed the spawns of evil welcomed their own divine retribution. Searing arrows rained down from the skies, killing every bandit with precision. As others watched in shock stiffly, every nest of scoundrel and triads were turned into seas of blaze. The headquarters of slave traders crumpled beneath heavenly flame, the residences of nobles diced into pieces by the beam, the nobles themselves included. The mages in their towers even self-combusted out of nothing, turning into a pile of dust on the floor, while the test subjects they had yet to dissect looked in bewilderedly.

Infinite evil doers stared at the skies in panic before their deaths, mouthing prayers and repenting from their sins in front of the gods. The Emperor’s rage, however, would not give an inch of mercy under such unpersuasive repentance, burning those he sentenced to death as if withered grass into dust.

“Thirty days.”

When it was all done, Israel suddenly declared with a raised voice. “As long as there are enough materials, the Apocalypse Installation will produce one second-class aerial cruisers that could carry four high-energy crystal beam cannons, and embody my power like a transit. In After thirty of those thirty days, I will build a monitoring and response network spread across all of the Empire, and I will dispatch an airship to subjugate whichever area I saw evil.”

“The ultimate dystopia…”

It was in that moment that Joshua muttered such a term, speaking it in the language of Earth. That was why neither Nostradamus, who watched it all with a smile, or Israel who was simply calm did not understood. But just as the pair made a curious expression, the warrior closed his eyes lightly before opening them again at Israel.

“Is that your choice, Israel?” He asked with a sunken voice. “To use absolute power to subjugate all of the Empire? Monitoring everyone with the Information Terminal?”

“Yes, that is my choice.”

Israel made an immeasurably determined face and answered with no hesitation, widening his own eyes as he returned Joshua’s gaze. “There would be no crime or expression. Bandits would be extinct, triads would be imprisoned, every noble who torment the peasants would be terminated with extreme prejudice, and all criminals who plan murder would be burned, by my hands, into dust—I, Israel, Legendary champion, has the power to do that!”

“There would no longer be a hierarchy in this world. The peasants would live in peace, merchants do not have to worry over ill-intents or bandits, the upstanding could hold their heads high while the despicable has only hell to go. That is what I want!”

***

Joshua studied Israel’s face, intending to find a hint of selfish desire but failing to do so, for there was none from within the Emperor to without. His actions did not contradict his words, and there was no flaw as he put his words to actions.

‘What if it was his most genuine wish?’

“This is absolute power.”

Joshua took a deep breath. Many thoughts streamed in his mind, and for the first time, the warrior was not sure what to think: his rationale told him that absolute power would only breed absolute corruption, and Israel himself would be no exception.

On the other hand, he had faith in the will of a Legendary champion. If Israel declared that he could perpetuate eternal justice, Radcliffe would believe that he could do that.

Conflict? That was not it. Faith had always been unreasonable.

“Master Nostradamus, Noble Radcliffe.”

As if picking up Joshua’s complicated emotions, Israel lowered his voice, although it echoed heavily even as he kept his eyes fixed at the screens before him.

“I know that such absolute power is nothing good.

“But now, I definitely feel ‘Justice’ that has been brought forth by ‘Might’.”

Sitting upon the ‘Throne of Apocalypse assembled by the Information Terminal, Israel looked down from the watch tower that was twelve thousand meters above upon the surface, upon his Empire. Turbulently surging light of divinity unfurled from the body of the Emperor as Israel slowly closed his eyes.

Thus, a gigantic black halo, a sacred symbol resembling a pinion gear slowly appeared behind him.

It was the divine symbol of the God of Might and Justice.

***

In the Infinite Horizon, a certain majestic will stirred.

“Divine Evoker…” He murmured softly, and leveled a complicated gaze at the world of Mycroft. He then turned his attention again, absorbed once more in the fusing process of the Infinite Horizon.

Meanwhile, in the skies over the East Barnett Highlands Israel opened his eyes once again, his eyes unleashing powerful radiance that burned like the sun, permitting none to feast their eyes upon it.

“Before the day I envisioned arrived, I would never leave this throne,” the Emperor declared.

“I shall watch over this Nation, until it becomes what I imagined.”