Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Starfall Year 837, Moldavia, the Northern Empire.
The bell rang thirteen times in the cold but clear April day. Under its clear sounds, Priest breathed in the cold Northern air that he missed, having returned to the land he left for half a month. Standing before the huge southern dragon-bone city gates of Moldavia, he looked up, dazed as he studied the buildings that were taller than the city walls.
“Is this still Moldavia?” Priest muttered.
After being just half-a-month away, the intern of Victor Academy and provisional member of the Northern Empire’s External Exploration Department found Moldavia unfamiliar due to its change in that period. While he did not live longer than half a year in that place, he still saw the North as his second home after those brief few months.
And it was also true that Moldavia had changed significantly.
In the suburban zone to the south, magical factories were still operating, spraying grey-white fog into the air. Purification magic had been recently applied and was working at full capacity, purifying most of the gathering mana dust. The factories towered and were very much small mountains to most ordinary people, with only the academic faculty of Victor Academy and the headquarters of the Northern merchant guilds comparable to them in scale.
The newly built Northern merchant guild was a huge black rectangular building almost eighty meters tall, forty meters long and thirty meters wide. It was more apt to call it a huge boulder than a building, having no ornament or sculpting and was simply a building built entirely of black stone. However, on its vast four walls were four huge screens.
‘That’s a Liquid Crystal Display. So, it has been popularized, huh?’ Priest had noticed the screens that were displaying beautiful sceneries immediately when he entered the city. An elegant and relaxing piano tune was also wafting from magical circles, which Priest listen to without gawking like the other pedestrians. He was no stranger to those things—in the time he training at the highlands base of the External Exploration Department, Priest often employed such unique alchemical creations.
In fact, apart from those, he had also come across many more things in the training base which he would never have come across: Mana Let, Points Redemption System, flying equipment for single person use, special-grade enchanted armor and all manner of alchemical creations. LCDs were but a mundane example out of all those, the greater functions of which was to create long-distance communications screens or broadcast videos and music like now.
Passing the trade district where the merchant guild was, Priest headed toward the small residential area by the edge of the industrial zone where his house in Moldavia was. As he took in the familiar sights of the streets around him, the man could not help but sigh.
“Just half a month… but it feels a lot longer.”
At the start of Starfall Year 837, after Priest was invited to join the Empire’s External Exploration Department when he joined Winter Fort Academy, his life had greatly changed.
After a week of basic training and learning through Systems in Victor Academy, Priest’s had basic knowledge of magic, aura and other supernatural powers. Then, he and other invitees were quickly moved to a training base in the East Barnett Highlands, where they underwent a month of intensive training, as well as talent cultivation and development tailored for each of them.
If he was being frank, one month was but thirty days— Priest had frowned when he received that particular information: what can they accomplish in a month? Was that really training and not a tour around the highlands? It must be said that all techniques, whether it was holy light, magic, aura or martial arts, all need time for development. Was there any grand mage or archpriest who were less than forty? And which famed warrior has not gone through a hundred battles? The time of a month would probably mean the training of a single apprentice—that was what Priest thought then.
Thirty minutes later, he knew he was wrong: the intensive training he had in mind was completely different from that great person who also designed it.
Either way, the one and a half man of hellish training, and Priest felt that he was born anew. He had learnt aura and could wrestle against violent Silver-tier bears, setting traps, raising fires, espionage and building simple shelters. Indeed, Priest had learnt eighty-one ways of surviving the wild, his memories filled with much knowledge regarding other worlds, even remembering the time when he recited every little detail in the book titled ‘100 Simple Techniques to Identify Edible Herbs Through Lifeforce’ as he ran a twelve-kilometer sprint. In the final week of practical survival sessions, Priest even learned how to build a small exploration base in the wilderness with his bare hands.
Now, even if he was empty-handed, Priest could live comfortably and smoothly wherever he was thrown in Mycroft. Still, those were all basics since his target was not to live cozily in his homeland, but to depart toward the Void, exploring worlds that were completely different from Mycroft.
Just as the entire External Exploration Department would.
Naturally, it now appeared that, compared to the change in Priest’s life, the changes in Moldavia or perhaps the entire world did not dull in comparison.
[Now, the news: In the Eastern Provinces, Arsene Gleyre, the Liege of Gleyre had been stripped of his noble title and territories. The Imperial Noble Court had ruled that the former Count was involved in human trafficking, torture, genocide against peasants as well as conducting cultist rituals. He was killed on sight, and was the highest-ranked noble ever involved in a case.]
[Inspectors are working together with the local garrison in a widespread manhunt in Gleyre, having taken over a hundred and twenty suspects into custory. The organization were involved in local human trafficking, drug trade, cult rituals, illegal distribution of unknown alchemical objects. This is the fourth large scale dark faction purged in this month.]
The calming piano tune had abruptly ended. The four large LCDs hanging atop Northern Merchant Guild—which held investment from the Imperial Family—quickly changed, and a female inspector with prim facial features and a calm voice read the news solemnly. Magical formation spread her voice across half the city, and even busy workers could hear her clearly.
The report ended quickly, after of which the LCDs resumed broadcasting sceneries and music. The piano tune was also replaced with a violin symphony, even as the pedestrians who had paused to listen to the news discussing the news with others around them rather emotionally.
“Good catch! Good kill! Human traffickers should all die!”
“It’s really been a lot more peaceful recently. I had been talking to my cousin to the East the other day, and he said the local triads were gone, and better days has come. He’s even ready to take me around for a trip if I go there!”
“Isn’t that right? After catching a few thousand people, even the nobles are decreasing. Looks like His Imperial Majesty is really doing his thing—no more games!”
“Do you even have to say it? Although I don’t know who on earth that is, but it’s still a count, and he’s actually killed on sight… Is that possible before?”
“I remember that our Liege is also a little…”
“Is that the same thing?”
Though not quite used to it, there was no question that it was not the first time Moldavian citizens came across such news. At present, they were simply left in wonder of the upheavals within the Empire, but never imagined the secrets revealed from the seemingly mundane operations. The peasants would never care about those: all the see is that the Empire was shaving off every tumorous growth on its body, while the lives of the common folk were made easier.
Priest could not help pausing as well when he heard the news, having almost reached home. He turned for a glance at the LCD, and then breathed a soft sigh of relief.
It felt good.
If he were to be honest, Priest never held positive opinions on nobility as a native of the southern parts of the Empire. In those cities where the magical beasts of the Dark Forests assaulted human settlements, most nobles lived in sturdy citadels and fortresses, living in security with the city’s garrison.
Priest and his family never interacted with those nobles apart from paying taxes, and neither did any soldiers guide them toward shelters when the Draconic Plague struck. Still, such nobles were fine since they merely ignored their subjects and reveled in their prided luxuries—there were even more territories where the noble lieges held complete authority over their subjects, oppressing them as deities over the common folk, exploiting the peasantry when they already had a hard time making a living.
It was not detesting of the affluent—Priest simply preferred the feeling that Justice was served. Certainly, not all shared his sentiment, with many in the External Exploration Department indicating their dissatisfaction with such excessive show of force. They believed that the Emperor held too much authority, the inquisitions being so swift and merciless that Israel and his Noble Court were essentially ignoring all special rights the nobles had. Indeed, they were ignoring law, taking those respectable persons into custody within their own residences without regard for evidence.
Everyone was denied a sense of security, believing that their freedom and honor were subjugated. They protested against such plain and crude ‘violence’, claiming that if this continues, the entire Empire would be ruled by His Imperial Majesty’s voice alone, and Israel would hence become the worst and most evil dictator.
And the man sneered in return.
Freedom, honor? One must first survive to consider such things, and it was solely by possessing those in the first place that others could oppress them. What was more, most citizens in the lower reaches of the Imperial hierarchy had neither been honored or given freedom: they were bullied by triads, impoverished by nobles, and still had to worry about being attacked by magical beasts when they walk amidst the wildlands. Living was already so toiling for them; would they even think about such matters?
If His Imperial Majesty could give the peasants a comfortable life, honor and freedom, why should he refrain from such violence? Indeed, why not? If a ruler could uproot all inequality and darkness, dispel all filthy cruelty and oppression from the lives of the common folk, if he could cull all magical beasts from every trails and roads leading to cities and grant peasants lives free of worry and hunger, there was no question that he has the right to dictate, the execute such ‘violence’.
He even has the right to demand prayers.
At that, Priest unwittingly looked up to the southwestern skies. At the very edge of the distant horizon, layers of faint spaces were flashing as if boiling steams, with the occasional vague white light flickering.
That was the Infinite Horizon, the residence of the gods.
It had been more than a week since the majestic sight of the divine realm had descended upon the mortal world. The people who had been chattering away about it had now very much retired the topic—in the larger cities, even illiterate farmers learned from the ‘news’ broadcasted by LCDs that the gods had spent all their power to prevent the heavens from crashing down into their own world. Tired, they now required rest while the Horizon gradually melds with this world. And because of that holy ripple that cleansed the world in its entirety, many non-believers had recently begun to make their way to churches and offer prayers toward the sacred symbols.
The world has changed… Though he could not feel it now, Priest knew that all these was but the prelude. When the gods leave their residence, when the Horizon fuses completely to this world and when the entire Empire has been purged, the ancient world of Mycroft would be reinvigorated with new life.
It was assuredly an exhilarating future. Priest could no help imagine things before quickly withholding those thoughts—now was not the time for that. Such questions were grand and it was not up to him to worry even after he considered it.
It was up to that Liege of theirs.
And whatever the case may be, he just has to be himself in this world that possess supernatural powers.
Now, Priest stood before the small and ordinary two-floored house, composing himself before taking out his keys to open the doors.
“I’m home,” he said, keeping a lid over his excited heart.
Soon, the exclamation of heartfelt delight from a girl wafted from within the house.
“You’re home, brother!”
Almost at the same time, the Liege’s Residence resounded with the suppressed exclamation of the young Artificial Intelligence girl, echoed by the helpless complaints of divine armament siblings and black dragon who were long used to it.
“You’ve returned, Joshua?”
“Master you’re finally back!”
“Master you’re finally back!”
“Master you’re finally back!”
The voice of a man resounded from the top floor of the Liege’s Residence, who was holding a luminous orb that kept jingling as if intending to lunge toward the head of a certain black dragon girl.
“I’m home,” the man said calmly.