Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Starfall Year 837, the fifteenth of June. As the sounds of pen scrawling against paper echoed, light from luminous fluorite shone upon a desk, extending a mild, pale-gold radiance.
The sounds of writing wafted from the second-floor study of the Moldavian liege’s residence, as steady, rhythmic breathing emanated, proof that the writer was of clear and fluid mind. It was a piece of snow-white paper with exquisite crafting, while a large hand was holding a pen, writing words not quite swiftly but with great composure.
[To Saint Igor: Regarding the Essence of Mastery]
After the letterhead was a voluminous chunk of text. Since the first page had been flipped, only the start of the second page could be seen.
“In line with the conclusion above, you should understand my view, and the words I used to describe it.”
The writer did not use any elaborative wording, and wrote as if a machine, every stroke being identical to a standard font that would betray no difference even under a magnifying glass even as he kept writing with the same rhythm and pace.
“This is what I can say: if the brains of normal humans were hardware, the soul is a form of externally attached virtual processor that improves the hardware’s operations. Sentiency would hence install data vaults such as memories, DNA, and instincts through the running of the brain, animating the entire body.
“However, hardware has its limits. The fragile brain of humans could not operate above its load, and substantial resources are necessary for Aura and breathing cycles, as well as the action of magic and runes. In subsonic or supersonic battles, the human brain could not compensate for such speed of processing, and this is when the soul would assume part of the task and handle a portion of the information.
“In their training, I used Steel Strength to study every change amongst the White Dragon Riders in battle, whether it was soul or lifeforce… Under strenuous training, the brain would be protected by lifeforce or mana, keeping it running despite the overload, but when it came to battle, the brain would no longer run on overload, for that was when the soul assumes control of the body.”
“That is a change in essence… Silver glory, in that phase, the soul would develop rapidly with the nourishment energy. When the fighter could release aura externally or when the mage could manipulate external energies, their soul would mature comprehensively: ‘Sixth Sense’, ‘Danger Premonition’, ‘Way of Sincerity’, ‘Mind’s Eye’ as well as other abilities would take shape in that phase as well.”
With that part done, the writer paused for a moment as if considering his wording, and only resumed writing after a moment.
“The soul would grow along with Extraordinary ability, and at Gold-tier, it would no longer empower the brain’s processing, instead taking over all complex processing. Come Supreme or Legendary, the brain would be an unnecessary presence that could be abandoned at any time.
“I have every reason for such a conclusion: the soul is an organ that humans evolved to grasp the supernatural, developed under environment with high-energy concentration, not something we possess the moment our species were born. The soul is part of the consciousness of normal humans, but everything for most Extraordinary individuals. Its existence itself is the embodiment of ‘supernatural powers’ and ‘Initial Flame’ contributed upon ‘Steel Strength’ and ‘Lifeforce’ on the human body, a fusion of flame and Steel Strength.
“The so-called Soul Mastery is hence the moment the soul is freed off all restraint, becoming an independent body.”
Then, the writer appeared to take assume a somber mood. ” When that time comes, the primitive concept of ‘human’ would vanish completely, and a brand-new refined ‘Soul Human’ appears. They may still possess body of flesh, but that is no longer the main body of the lifeform.
“That is my understanding of ‘Soul’ and ‘Soul Mastery’
“—Joshua van Radcliffe.”
Having finished writing, the writer—Joshua put the letter into an envelope, where colorful magical radiance flickered, before turning into ash amidst an instance of fluctuating light. At the same time, in a faraway place, a letter bearing the exact same content slowly appeared in an exquisite crystal magical formation.
Igor had been very busy recently; the elderly pontiff’s workload was far more than others. Everything from the Holy Mountain Fortress to the advent of the Seven Gods were his responsibility, and precisely because of that, Joshua who often examined and debated various questions about supernatural power would now choose to communicate with him using letters, exchanging their respective views.
Although communications circle had progressed by leaps and bounds and even became intercontinental, Joshua found the sensation of retro not a bad thing. After all, he had time, and writing was a fine feeling.
Putting down his pen and rising from his seat, the warrior sat on a couch at a corner of the study and closed his eyes.
Now, Joshua had attained the solution of Soul Mastery that belonged exclusively to him, but he was not ready to walk that path.
For most people in this world, the reason the soul would strengthen along with ability was because the brain could not accelerate itself in processing various information as a hardware, and was often targeted by opponents as a vital. That is why to abandon the mind and to choose the soul was right… but it was not always so.
For example, Joshua’s hardware is tougher than everyone else’s added together, and was difficult to corrupt even by ‘divinity’, which was a certain virus that could assimilate consciousness and processing.
It was perhaps only Steel Pythons that held brains stronger than the warrior’s own. The body of those profound beings was the world itself, and they were the purest of Steel creations in this world. Their souls would naturally be the purest condensation of Flame, being also the fusion of Flame and Steel. It was a pity that ‘world’ could not be used as an organ for thought, which is why the Steel Python still had to use soul to think.
Like Steel Pythons, Joshua was different from ordinary humans. His body now was composed entirely of degenerate matter—any overload would not damage such substance. Indeed, that matter itself was unnecessary, with all that was needed being supercomputer, built from a special second-class supernatural alloy that embodied his soul and consciousness. If that was the case, the sheer speed of his processing would surpass most Legends, and with the extra aid of soul, it would reach the threshold of ‘clairvoyance’.
However, Joshua, who now had no vulnerabilities at the moment through his soul, has no intent of building an important vital and weakness for himself. He intended to have every bit of his body obtain independent processing and survival, so that his every bit and blood drop could think, reassemble and self-replicate… Did that not sound familiar?
To spawn an entire race with one drop of a blood or alter more than half of a world with one fragment, with Thought Particles left after dying over a thousand years turning into Divine Dungeon Shrouds, maintaining most thoughts and memories—such was the ‘Perfect Body’ of Ancient Dragons and the ‘Eternal Soul’ of the gods. Two beings that stood on the pinnacle of being, both embodying near-eternal strength, worshiped by all humans in the world.
Using those two symbolic abilities as reference, complemented by the sage Vahina’s ‘Soul-Substance Transition’, Joshua is prepared to his very own eternal power. When it takes shape, the warrior would be reborn from the fragments of his own body anytime and anywhere even if he were to be blasted into dust. His soul was his body, and his body could be converted to his soul as well.
When the time came, Joshua could not be killed unless he was utterly destroyed up to his very last atom. At most he could be sealed, until the day he rises again.
As he arranged his thoughts, Joshua nodded and opened his eyes. He has chosen his next path and objective for development—when his Steel Strength assimilation reaches a hundred percent and he rises to Legendary-intermediate, he would begin to complete his ‘Eternal Power’.
Then, what awaits him was the boundless progress toward Legendary-advanced.
Rising from the couch, the warrior left the study and arrived at the top of the Liege’s Residence. Magnetic fields cascaded around his body as he slowly rose into the air, accelerating when he reached a safe zone as he instantly broke into the cloud layer, gales drumming around him.
Today was the day of appointment. When the Infinite Horizon had completely fused with Mycroft and become a stabilized sub-space region above the West Mountains, one of the Seven Gods of humankind, the God of Might and Justice had sent invitations to the three Legends of the Northern Empire. The deity had written—as if to equals—to invite the trio for a meeting at the heart of the Lost Sea, the northernmost region of the world, to discuss certain issues that concerned the future of the world.
Joshua was not actually too mindful of the world’s future. In his opinion, present-day Mycroft was perfectly fine, and deliberate interference might instead cause discouraging outcomes. The gods and the Legends only need maintain order and stability to guarantee that the world would progress conventionally… but Joshua was interested in the Seven Gods.
To be precise, he was interested in ‘god’. He wanted to know what kind of a lifeform they were, or what they actually are. Why were they so powerful? Furthermore, the cycle of Order shaped by divinity that allowed them to maintain self-awareness under the erosion from the Source of the Multiverse—what mysteries lay within such a cycle?
And how would he fare, with a god as his opponent?
Joshua had simply agreed due to such curiosities, and now departed, flying toward the northernmost region of the world.
A dim silver radiance broke across the sky, past the Nissia Snow Mountain, the Icy Plains of the Extreme North and the Great Ajax Mountains. It was inconspicuous, but light contorted around it, and within breaths with nary a sound, he arrived at the frozen soil covered beneath eternal snow, the shores of the frozen white ocean, the [Lost Sea].
A chill from the edge of the world crossed the entire oceanic belt, billowing upon the frozen soil of the coast. The glaciers were as sturdy as steel under the never-ceasing cold winds—it was now summer, and yet there was no indication of rising temperatures around the Lost Sea. Majestic mountains stood above the surface of the sea, the peaks of ten thousand fathoms carved full of scars from time: those were mountains, formed after daily snowstorms, their existence alone was the amalgamation of every snowfall in the Lost Sea over a thousand years.
The reason they would meet here was primarily to avoid being seen by others. Moreover, resonance between divine and Legendary powers might cause frightening natural disasters, which was why it was best to choose an unpopulated area, so that any possible repercussions were at a minimum.
It did not take long to search for His position. As Joshua looked around, a reserved but still frightening energy signature appeared in front of him, presenting itself in a complex form in his energy vision. It was as if a circle was turning endlessly, a dark-gray kaleidoscope that never repeats the shapes it showed. When Joshua approached, the energy kaleidoscope started to compress, finally forming a black halo that whirled without end.
It was the heart of the Lost Sea, but unlike the shores where tempests raged, it was unexpectedly quiet here. Joshua landed slowly on the white frost plain—there were no towering obstacles around, and rather dull sunlight shone upon the land, piercing the clouds. Joshua walked forward at once when he descended: a rather inconspicuous gray-haired knight was standing there, awaiting his arrival.
“They’re not here yet?”
Joshua slowly approached the knight whose long gray locks were rather unruly. His visage was hardened, but the lines on his face were rather gentle. The god had donned thick, sturdy full-body armored sculpted with detail and uniqueness, with a black cape flapping behind him without any sound.
“No, Joshua. They’ve been here.”
The gray-haired knight—Zinsen, the God of Might and Justice’s mortal incarnation replied. His voice was imposing but not as much as it had been before, and the warrior could even hear a hint of relaxation.
“I’ve met you three at different points in time. Israel and Nostradamus had come and spoke with me and left, you’re the last.”
“Is that so.”
Joshua was not surprised—or, simply did not mind, as he fixed his gaze upon the human incarnation of the deity.
It was different than when they met in the Void. At present, beneath the shell that was the gray-haired knight was the essence of the deity’s existence, where their divine pattern, divinity and divine powers gathered. Joshua could even hear the faint sounds of prayer from his body, shrouding these lands with a holy atmosphere.
They stood a dozen meters away while facing each other, solemnly studying observing every inch of the other. A silence lasted for almost five minutes, after which Joshua spoke slowly, “Legends are the greatest beings in this world, and it is normal for gods to want to understand them after descending upon the moral realm… But Zinsen, I don’t believe that you wished to see us for such a shallow reason. What be your purpose, Your Majesty?”
“To ask some questions, to get some answers, to ascertain certain matters. Furthermore, Joshua, you had strengthened considerably.”
Zinsen responded patiently, nodding and conveying his praise. “Divinity was still stirring restlessly in your body the last time with met, but now your will and your body are one, and you are about to cross the greatest checkpoint of Legend… To say that I’m delighted is arrogant, but I am indeed pleased that there are champions like you amongst humans.”
Joshua could not help blanking out for a moment when he heard such forthright praise from a divine being, and then laughed, shaking his head. “Your Majesty, Legends are many, and everyone contributed to protecting this world—I am but one of them.”
“You are worth the praise, the One who Rekindled the Flame.”
Zinsen waved his hands nonchalantly and concluding that particular topic. Then, standing where he was, the god looked up toward the sky at the sight he never saw in the Infinite Horizon.
“You’ve asked about my purpose; my purpose is very simple. When the Seven Gods convened on the Infinite Horizon, we distanced ourselves from the mortal realm, merely conducting our duty of protecting civilization and world.
“But in the last few days, I walked across half the continent anonymously, understanding many things just as many questions arose.”
Lowering his gaze from the skies, Zinsen looked into Joshua’s eyes, his pupils flickering with cold, hard metallic luster. It was dark-gray divine radiance that dominated air and dust as it spread traces of divine powers, which was perhaps why there was now no tempest at the center of the Lost Sea.
The God of Might then spoke, with an extremely solemn tone, “Us gods are born to protect our tribes, maintain Order and civilization… The Seven Gods had jointly watched over the Order in the human world, while other gods of other races would shelter their own Children. Before the threat of Evil Gods, we could coexist peacefully and work hand-in-hand, but such circumstances would not last eternally, for conflict exists even amongst the Seven Gods. It’s only thanks to various reasons that it did not boil over.”
“What conflict?” Joshua could not help asking, frowning in doubt, “You have worked together for a thousand years, jointly defending against external enemies including the god of orcs and the Pentashade Dragon God. It is also the Seven who subjugated the World Will, and no Abyssal Liege would dare cross you… and there is actually conflict between you?”
“Those conflicts are not as simple as mortal grudges… Joshua, it is a fundamental issue: we have different opinions over Order.”
Zinsen’s voice was calm and unemotional since He already understood the problem itself.
“That is why we would never be working together forever—all of us wish to implement our own Order. That is the greatest of conflicts.”
Joshua could not help frowning in return. He comprehended the gap in so-called ‘different Order’ since that was an integrated difference between worldview outlook and values. However, it was impossible for those three aspects to be completely different, and the Order of the Seven Gods could not be mutually exclusive.
If that was truly the case, they would have fought each other early on.
“Differing Order can coexist since it’s not like how it is with Chaos and Order—a struggle with life-and-death at stake,” Joshua said, revealing his thoughts. “Your religion was never limited in one area, and the conflict is not too great.”
“Perhaps, but different Order would split civilization. If every human is not united under a single Order and though, we may never reach the same magnificence of the Glorious Era.”
Zinsen nodded at shook his head at Joshua’s understanding. He knew that the warrior was not wrong, but could not work in line with that explanation due to various reasons.
“Order is society that runs with methodically and with organization. It is stable, and any change has continuity and coherence… and great power is the roots of Order.”
As he spoke, the God of Might and Justice began to walk slowly toward Joshua while speaking in a serene voice, “Justice is the definition of my Order: without it, society would be in chaos and shambles, corrupt and rotten. Might in turn is the roots of my Justice, without it, Justice is so fragile that even children could mock and sneer at as mere laughing matter.
“With the power to dominate all things comes the right to control the world. Without power, who could judge good and evil amongst men, who could calm the chaos within societies? Justice is powerless by itself, only Might could protect it.
“Order is power, power is Justice.”
With those words, Zinsen had arrived in front of Joshua, and no more than half a meter was left between their faces. The cape behind the knight had also started to flap—it was the gravity from the warrior’s body starting to show its influence.
Meanwhile, the god became silent, having stopped speaking.
The eyes of the God of Might could no longer see. What burned in His eyes was only dark-gray radiance of divine power, and though he did not speak, the silence triumphed against all sounds. Everyone would know what the silence was for, and what the deity awaited.
‘Joshua, what is your opinion on Order?’
Joshua did not respond to the unspoken question at once, first looking up at the sky, before lowering his eyes again at Zinsen. The God of Might was quiet as well, his gaze remaining on Joshua.
“Your Majesty,” Joshua said slowly after the two watched each other for some time. “Does that mean you’re ready to select a Successor?”
Joshua more or less confirmed that fact as he watched the God of Might’s form abruptly stagnated for a moment. “I could tell from a moment ago,” he said softly after breathing a sight. “Your presence now is stronger than when I encountered you in the Void… And in the last few minutes, you were getting stronger at a rate I could observe… You…”
Joshua stopped—Zinsen was shaking his head, smiling and cutting him short.
“There’s no need to guess. It is an inevitable outcome,” The deity said indifferently,“We have been searching for Divine Evokers for a long time, seeking candidates deliberately since centuries ago just to prevent the present result… Humph. Combining two worlds while subjugating the World Will, and then purifying all souls across the world—the workload has been a little too great.”
Joshua stayed quiet again.
Thanks to Father Nature, the hidden legacies of the Mother Goddess’s descendants along with various knowledge, the warrior was definitively aware of the various attributes of divinity… such as the more powerful a god was, the closer they were to ruination.
Deities remained living because they could rely upon divinity to absorb boundless power from the Source of the Multiverse. They were mighty from the start, eternal, indestructible and incorruptible. However, it was precisely due to that excessive power that divinity would slowly assimilate the god’s soul and view, and the assimilation would become stronger as the god does.
The gods formed circulation of orders through contradicting attributes of divinity to suppress such assimilation, while the tidal thoughts of the masses from their religion would also mitigate that assimilation. If they wish to strengthen, that circulation must be maintained as they do, which in turn was equivalent to dancing in fetters and handcuffs—causing extremely slow progress. It was fine if they were wounded in the process, since they would maintain their existence as a finer deity.
Nevertheless, there were no gods who would shackle themselves for such assurance. Did they not become gods for power that surpassed all Legends?
The most important thing for deities was not to employ power that ‘exceeded limits’. For ordinary gods, divinity was endless, but that did not mean they could use it. The size of the tap’s opening was one matter, just as the matter of limit was another. If a god used divine powers that were above their control, He would be partly assimilated by the divinity that was abruptly empowered—when the time comes, divinity would rise while the circulation of Order weakens, until the god was finally assimilated and vanished within the Source of the Multiverse.
In other words, it was the death of a god.
Now, Zinsen was strengthening visibly in Joshua’s eyes, a speed that undoubtedly exceeded normal deity’s empowerment. There is only one explanation for this: in the previous operations of the God of Might, He had employed power surpassing His own limits…
He was being assimilated by Divinity.
“It’s not unusual, Joshua. Divine powers are formidable beyond compare, and is capable of twisting reality and logic when used to the extreme, making two-plus-two-equals-five. Could such power be easily controlled?”
Zinsen was not worried about himself. His expression was calm, and there was even a hint of pleasure in His voice. “Searching for Divine Evoker… If I do not want my will to be assimilated into an unconscious mechanism of Order and let this power wastefully vanish in the Source of the Multiverse, this is the only choice. I must seek a Successor.
“Well? Could you answer my question? Joshua, what is Order to you?”
In return, Zinsen was replied with silence. He waited hopefully in that quietness: He would be fine even if it was an undesirable answer—the God of Might simply wanted to know Radcliffe’s own answer was, and had no other want.
But He did not get an answer.
Joshua stayed quiet. He leveled his gaze with Zinsen’s own without concealing anything, but still did not say a thing. The warrior was reluctant, and find it below his dignity to state an answer he himself could not understand or verify. Which is why he remained hushed.
However, the gray-haired knight sighed. Zinsen slowly turned, and said with his calm and unfettered voice, “Joshua. We, the Seven Gods, hold high expectations of you.
“You are the most powerful and most perfect Extraordinary individual on Mycroft who had the quickest Ascension.
“Across both eras of Glorious and Starfall, your power is only next to the Sage, only next to that Holy One whom even the gods could only look up to, never to understand his threshold. You are the only one who could approach him, to become that existence who gave Mycroft order.
“We could not determine your future, not that we have to. To us, your existence is satisfaction, bliss, and pleasure You could aid us, take our place in watching this world.
“However, you have not found your Order.”
Standing amidst the windless snowy land, Zinsen had now turned his body completely, shaking his head slowly as he looked toward the boundless snowscape. “In that respect, Israel and Nostradamus are more accomplished than you are,” He said softly, ” They hold staunch convictions—while it’s not like you don’t have it, in their hearts is a world they desired to realize, an Order they wish to reach.”
At those words, Zinsen’s body began to disintegrate. The gray-haired knight turned into countless dark-gray fragments, swirling and gathering like starry clouds in the air that finally turned into a pure-black floating halo.
The halo whirled once, an imposing voice wafting for within.
“You are the person closest to the Sage… I wish to know your answer, such is my simple objective.”
With faint, flowing light, the black halo vanished from the ice shelf at the center of the Lost Sea. As the ever-present divine powers dispersed, the noisy Northern Wind kicked up again, tearing sharply against the atmosphere and whistling sharply to the ear. Standing at the center of the snowy land where sound reappeared, Joshua kept his brow furrowed, saying not a word.
“My Order…” The warrior muttered softly after some time, countless images flashing within his mind—of battles, of development, of the distant starry oceans, of the Void and the infinite world… Joshua could not help laughing softly, only to sigh.
He understood Zinsen’s intention… but he still could not give an answer.
Joshua had seen much and done much. His gaze transcended countless worlds, having seen the unique values about time and procreation of the Midgardians, as well as the exceptional magical technology of the Displace Elves. Joshua’s eyes never remained in Moldavia—or the Mycroft continent, for that matter, for his gaze permeates the Multiverse.
With such broad vision, how could he obtain an answer for ‘Order’ that encompasses all?
Though he put it that way, Joshua was not without a clue. Many shadows flashed through his mind: The Imperial External Exploration Department, Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds and Light… He thought about many things, to become stronger, to fight, maintain ceaseless exploration—that was a conviction that always supported Joshua. If he were to find an Order that belonged to himself, such keys would not be absent.
Joshua could not help shaking his head again as he repeated the word.
“That’s a really good question.”