Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Starfall Year 837, twentieth of January. A snowless winter day at the heart of the Central Dark Forest.
At the center of the Mycroft Continent was a primitive forest that occupied almost one-fourth of the continent’s surface. Ancient magical energy and the scent of Chaos polluted the land, fertilizing it beyond common sense—it was precisely why plants grow here at an alarming rate, just as countless enchanted beasts and draconian creatures lived there, flourishing freely within.
The Central Dark Forest was once larger than it was now. When the Starfall era began a thousand years ago, it covered fourth-fifths of the Mycroft Continent, with the minor few shelter regions maintaining normal environments of Order. But now, as various races developed the land by logging without ceasing, just as the Flame of Order eroded the mana of Chaos in reverse, the Dark Forest could no longer divide the four largest human settlements, and instead show signs of shrinking.
Be that as it may, the area of the Central Dark Forest still exceeded any singular human faction’s territory, not even the entire domain of Helgamoth, the Northern Empire.
The forest that survived from the previous era was so vast, primitive and filled with magical beasts, the main stage of various legends and adventuring tales since ancient times. Innumerable adventurers would head there to train in their youth, just as many champions made their name in that place. Former mercenaries even discovered ancient alchemical treasures in the depths of the forests, making riches and name at once, just as adventurers would excavate temples of ancient gods to rise at once to Supreme.
Even the rumored founder of the Far Southern Trade Federation had dug his first bucket of gold from the Dark Forest, thereby attaining wealth to oppose nations and gaining influence comparable to a country.
And at present, there was a party of explorers from the Northern Empire. They belonged to the ‘Imperial External Exploration Department’ and were undergoing a difficult training in the depths of that storied Dark Forest.
“Priest, I think training in this damned place is not useful at all.”
Deep inside the Central Dark Forest, up above the giant trees that threw a shadow on the surface far below, five young men who were dressed in camouflaging shades, filled in soil and sweat were lying down, prone and silent upon the branches, nervously looking into the distance.
They had daggers ready by their hips, while their helmets were equipped with protective visors. Their clothes had a layer of moving, lightless magical runes that reduced their presence, and they each had a dark, inconspicuous crystal by their wrist—it was the Information Terminal widely used amongst the Imperial hierarchy for more than a year.
And just a while ago, it was one of the party members who was complaining through the Information Terminal. “The Seven Gods above, our mission at the External Exploration Department is to study other worlds, and not pit wits or balls against a bunch of brainless beasts—or sprawling over the branches and pretend to be a bird! Heavens! We look like birds!”
“Like birds? Ah, the smell. I think I’m rotting.”
“Rancid! I’m puking!”
“Quit it! You lot have quite the mouths. The magical beasts here might not be dumber than you, and could even sense the spiritual signatures from the Terminal!”
At the center of the team, a young man who was probably the captain replied indignantly. “Stay hidden. The lair of our final target—a ‘Boros python’ should be nearby. The training would be accomplished perfectly when we determined their actual habitat, and we can return to the Empire as soon as possible!
The name of the Boros python originated from the ancient legendary behemoth ‘Ouroboros’, their ancestor having freed themselves of the mundane living essence and mastering basic ability to control the transition of matter. That was why they have mountainous forms and near indestructible powers of regeneration, while their Legendary-tier successors also have similar attributes. Each Boros python would have near-Gold abilities when they mature, while larger ones were over hundreds of meters long and a dozen meters wide, as well as Supreme-tier force of devastation. They would turn stalwart stone walls into soil, easily crushing an entire city.
The Legendary behemoth Ouroboros which used to wander the forests, but had attacked a human settlement for some unknown reason and thus died by the hands of the West Mountain’s second-generation Sacred Swordsman. The serpent’s bone thus became the city frame of Fort Trenton in the West Mountains, while its children flourished deep within the Central Dark Forests. Those mysterious beasts would cover a wide span of area daily, making it difficult for scholars specializing in magical beasts to determine their habitat.
But now, as the exploration party kept pursuing and studying for two entire months, they finally found the actual lair of the Boros pythons. It was a small hill at the heart of the Dark Forest, and they just had to catch a hint of the pythons going in and out of the concealed cavern below for their mission to be completed.
“To be frank, I don’t quite get why the higher-ups would want us to find out the position and living habits of ‘Titan Dragonfly’, ‘Platinum Tendrils’ and the ‘Boros Pythons’.”
Although scolded by Priest, the captain, the observation process had been too stressful that there were those who could not stand it, and complained through their Terminals to vent. “Why would us, an exploration team that has not even reached Gold have to explore Supreme-tier descendants of Legendary beasts? This is actually the Dark Forest! If not for our good fortune, who knows how many times we’ve died?”
“Why else call it training and not trip?”
Priest, hailing from the Victor Academy of northern Moldavia and had gone through hellish training designed by a certain Legendary champion could not help feeling a little speechless. “Furthermore, it’s exactly because the Dark Forest is extremely dangerous that there is value in training here—otherwise, what should we do when we visit other worlds that may have even more dangerous environments?”
The five-men cell that was hiding above the trees and waiting to observe any Boros python movement by the hills were the youngest elite party of the Imperial External Exploration Department. While their conversation in their spiritual terminal appeared unruly, the five have perfectly accomplished every assignment in their Dark Forest training that would last three and a half months. Their exquisite survival skills kept them alive in the Central Dark Forest, a place which was generally said to be ‘the death of any less than Gold’, as well as successfully finding their targets, the Titan Dragonflies and the Platinum Tendrils.
Still, Priest paid no attention to his teammates’ grumbling. Otherworld environments were mostly now known, and while the Imperial External Exploration Department did their best to pick living otherworld for objectives, they still bore mortal risk, and none would know what happens in that world.
On the other hand, a place that was most similar to another world in Mycroft was the Central Dark Forest that had been polluted by mana of Chaos, and with forty percent of its reaches unmapped. It was followed by the bottomless Oceanic Abyss within the Far Southern deep sea, alleged to be connected to a real, otherworld centuries ago and having many unique otherworld creatures, one of them being the Oceanic Abyssal Dragon.
Moreover, as the leader, Priest was clearly aware of the true objective his party was exploring the various habitats of powerful magical beast in the Dark Forests.
Why were the various factions on Mycroft unable to remove the primitive forests? There were many reasons which sounded simple to Priest when he heard them in Moldavia: The Dark Forests brings more losses than gains.
If every Legendary champion of the world would combine their powers, they would definitely be able to uproot the entire Dark Forest, completely destroying eighty percent of the Dark Forests in a year, or perhaps months. The wanton destruction on the continent notwithstanding, the magical energies commanded by Legendary champions would cause significant drying up of mana. The millions, or even billions of magical beasts that outnumbered all humans and were living in the Dark Forests would unquestionably migrate over their destroyed homes, causing terrible destruction even if one-tenth of them charged into surrounding human cities.
The presence of the Mana Tide definitely left every nation seriously troubled, although it still brought great economical benefits. Magical ingredients made from the skins, fur, blood and flesh of magical beasts were virtually being delivered to their doorstep—each faction did not have to establish hunting parties for the harvest, while various adventurer parties could steadily draw out precious resources from the forests, not to mention the ruins in the Dark Forests. In fact, the adventurers appeared to gain extraordinarily from those places, and did their exploration party not train here because of the special environment in the Dark Forest?
Compared to such huge rewards, building fortresses and stationing different garrisons there each year were trivial.
But to let the Dark Forest be as it was was an outdated measure.
Since Starfall year 722, Mycroft’s factions no longer moved significantly. Although there were various little conflicts between nations and factions, such as the Far Southern Holy Mountain and the Skypiercing White Tower against the murlocs, the Council of Seven and the Skypiercing White Tower, the civil conflict of various kingdoms in the West Mountains as well as the Northern Empire and the orcs. However, those little conflicts and battles did not affect the bigger picture, nor leading to any severe consequences such as the fall of kingdoms.
Stability between factions meant accelerated development, just as those small-scale conflicts quickened technological development. With year after year of focus and implementation, the Extraordinary force of Mycroft civilization strengthened to the point that it could crush magical beasts of the same levels, and come Starfall Year 810 and the quite expected Great man Tide, the beasts could not even take a single fortress.
The benefits from the ancient pelts and magical ingredients gradually became unable to fulfill the demands of civilization. What was more, after various factions had collected sufficient data from Dark Forest explorations, the leaders of various factions tacitly agreed that it was time to fix that old wound left from ancient Chaos, turning it into civilization’s back yard.
And Priest was the advance team to determine the situation.
“According to news from the Information Terminal, the Dean himself would handle ten thousand square kilometers of Dark Forest, developing the Empire’s domain!”
Priest could not help be moved as he remembered the hints from the news he read. “After the mission is over, I might witness the Dean in action!”
It was then that a dark shadow rose from the hidden cavern below, just as the surrounding hills and crevices trembled. Priest and the others held their breath subconsciously as the colossal dark shadow showed its true form under the shine of the winter sun. It was a red-black python covered entirely in metallic scales, its head filled with sharp protrusions while its two pairs of eyes, as large as a house, emanated golden light. Waves of energies were spreading from its serpentine gaze, like ripples in the water.
It was their target, the Boros python—a supernatural creature that lived all year long below ground, surviving on metals and earth! It appeared that their tracking was not mistaken: the hill was the pythons’ entrance and exit to subterranean reaches. Therefore, the party who was complaining just before went on alert, activating the special function of the Information Terminal to capture a video of the distance, and then transmitting it to the Imperial External Exploration Department headquarters.
Meanwhile, in the headquarters of the Imperial External Exploration Department, Joshua van Radcliffe, the ‘Dean’ Priest was speaking about was having an idle chat with Nostradamus in the guest hall.
“A few days ago, Fairyland had sent an emergency foreign relations notice to the Empire, complaining that your true form often passed by the most frequented observation point of Fairyland and making them stare blankly at the Void.”
The old mage, holding an Information Terminal on his left hand whereupon a screen appeared, made a few flicks to find the notice then while laughing, shaking his head. “The researchers in the Observatory are complaining too—they often get alerted about ‘massive Void object approaching Mycroft’, only to find out that it’s that giant silver cocoon passing by. Summon: Wandering Frost Elemental.”
As he spoke, the old mage’s other hand clicked on the Fairy Cards table in front of him, summoning an elemental lifeform that was covered entirely in frost with a humanoid upper body.
[Wandering Frost Elemental]
[3 Mana Cost, 5 Attack, 5 Health]
[Battlecry: this minion freezes itself for a turn]
[Chain: You can’t summon any minion other than elementals]
“I can just say that there are substantial Steel Particles outside Fairyland. My true form would home itself automatically and patrol places with the highest concentration of particles.”
Joshua shook his head in return, glancing at the Fairy Card table and playing a card. “Take it as a natural phenomenon—they’d get used to it… Summon: Pirate Commando, attack enemy hero, and again with the Twisted Cutlass.”
[3 Mana Cost, 3 Attack, 3 Health]
[Chain: Gain Charge and +1 attack if there are any other Pirate card on your field]
[2 Man Cost, 2 Attack, 1 Durability]
[Chain: Gain +1 durability for every other Pirate card on your field]
The Pirate Commando directly attacked Nostradamus’s health sign, creating a red ‘-3’ sign.
At present, there were already three minions on Joshua’s side, each having the ability to deal direct damage or to attack the player when it was played. On the other hand, Nostradamus only had the Frost Elemental that froze itself, while his life points were down to seventeen.
However, Nostradamus appeared not to be paying attention. He watched happily as Joshua ended his turn, before saying, “You’ve been too discreet recently. There are even rumors claiming that you were maimed while exploring the Void, and now have to hide in your territory to recuperate or you’d die out of a moment of carelessness.”
“Rumors. They even say that the Nature’s Magister and the Elven Queen are having an affair, and Pope Igor have seventeen children born out of wedlock.”
Joshua shrugged in response, not intending to waste strength over nonsensical allegations. “Leaving aside what relationship actually exist between Galanoud and Hernvallo the Ninth, His Holiness Igor has been working hard for life—where would he get the time to produce so many bastards.”
There was all manner of weirdness in folk rumors, although they were right on a point: Joshua had been very discreet recently. After returning from the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds to Moldavia, he had stayed in the Main City, never leaving the North. Apart from walking his dragon and watching the sea, he would only bring his family along for a stroll in the streets, patrolling Winter Fort Academy or occasionally taking the sights in the Abyss, capturing one or two demons to be interrogated about the Sixth Abyss.
There was certainly no event of note. There was no further news from Karlis or Deep Space Observation, while there would not be any tremendous change in the Void Vortex in one or two months. That was why Joshua basically kept to his territories, calmly refining the Authority he recently developed—the ability to created brand new substances in his own body.
If Steel Strength represented the origins of everything, as well as manifesting all known phenomenon in the physical realm, the power of Flame was the complete ideal, the ability to change world through will.
The Steel Strength Joshua possessed could imitate various objects at extreme states, such as degenerate matter armor, absolute smooth surface with near-zero friction, mirror that could almost fully reflect radioactive waves. Such special objects were great help for the warrior’s daily battles, as well as helping him adapt to various battles and environment.
Furthermore, the Flame from his Authority as King of Searing Soul would burn souls as its source of energy, directly reversing and destroying reality, reigniting the Flame of a world and combine with an Ancient Dragon’s power to create life, even returning Order to a chaotic world nearing its doom.
Those two powers complement each other, and Joshua’s own existing Soul Pool would make him a tiger with wings. The warrior hence had absolute confidence in his countless battles, although he was beginning to find things strenuous as he started to face various bizarre Authorities, or Legendary champions that completely disregarded fixed principles. That was why, with creating a small world as a start, he developed various physical ability that ignored common sense.
A world should have Order and be consistent, and exist in stability. Even if common sense and established theories differed slightly between worlds, just like how there were different organs and circulatory system in varying creatures, the world did not demand perfection—it was enough for mundane survival.
However, how were common sense and established theories determined in a newborn world/ According to Joshua’s experimenting and deduction, it was ‘Orderly Resonance’ similar to the phenomenon where numerous worlds were born in the Void Vortex. Such worlds born around Simboa would have similar aspects to Simboa, and by the same argument, Karlis, which was near to Mycroft would have a largely identical environment, allowing the races in both worlds to migrate.
If Joshua did not care for the small world inside his own body, the theorems within would become extremely similar to Mycroft which in turn would reduce it of meaning. That was why Joshua relied on the advantage that his true form itself was a newborn world, forcefully adding a special element that [possess quantum entanglement only if it exists in Joshua’s body, a fundamental particle that could deliver information beyond lightspeed].
But adding such a substance alone had almost crumbled the shape of the world, forcing Joshua to recuperate for a long time—he therefore understood that substances that went beyond common knowledge and principles of the world are difficult to produce, and every try presents a challenge that flips Order.
Still, everything was worth it. For Joshua, having a medium that could exchange information over lightspeed would make him several times stronger than before.
Humans, or perhaps all living things had a limit to their speed of thought. Since information transmittance was not instant, everything from information transfer, acceptance, storage and withdrawal within micro electric flow in the nerves, fiber optics or even multi-core processing require corresponding durations. In the soul, even the countless basic Soul Particles require time for linkage, although the upper limit of most creatures’ thought process was faster than the physical brain.
Even the pontiff’s speed of thought and velocity for information storage and withdrawal was just lightspeed, despite Igor being light incarnate. There were also restrictions for storage volume in certain wavelengths of light, which was why even Legendary champions would make mistakes such as ‘unable to react’, ‘unable to foresee’, ‘never imagined’ or ‘did not notice’ during certain brief durations, although such mistakes had little chance of happening.
That was also precisely why gigantic creatures would have slow reflexes. Like ultimate Void Behemoths that were comparable to the mass of red dwarves, attacking it would at most trigger countermeasure at the corresponding location. Due to the exceedingly bloated body of thought, its mental faculty simply could not accept or process information of itself being attacked.
But if Joshua’s thought exchange and information process rose beyond lightspeed, his thinking and reaction would elevate with no shackles! Even if his body was larger than planetary systems, as long as his speed beyond light was quick enough, he could instantly react to any information even on his outermost body! What was more, the larger his organ for thought, the quicker he would think—he could even divide his mental hub into thousands of pieces to be placed in every corner of the Multiverse, just as he could still guarantee his ability to think!
That was how the super-lightspeed medium of thought reigned: it could raise the speed of thought without end and elevate Joshua as a being beyond the mundane physical realm. Everything from the collision of microscopic particles or fission which happened in brief moments even for Legendary champions would be slow motion to him… it would certainly be the most perfect state, and in fact, impossible to accomplish for the time being.
It was because such special beyond-lightspeed particles only existed in Joshua’s body, and the world in Joshua’s body had yet developed. Additionally, his body mass was limited, and it was only after development that it would expand incessantly, thereby granting him the capacity to mass produce those Extraordinary particles, in turn rapidly improving his speed of thought.
Still, Joshua could at present ensure that he could contact his family on Mycroft, even if he was in the Void or the other side of the Multiverse through such ability to transmit information beyond lightspeed. That way, unless the enemy could attack through quantum entanglement as well, no one could instantly destroy the warrior.
As long as there was sufficient super-lightspeed medium, he could comprehensively maintain information delivery at every given moment. If one clone was destroyed, his true form would accept the information with other clones.
Right now, Joshua was chatting away with Nostradamus over their game of cards, discussing the plan to cleanse the Dark Forest, which was considered the most significant move of various factions.
“Israel mean to turn the Dark Forest into an imperial nursery that would safely produce various magical beast resources, while others want it as their back garden as well. But to achieve that goal, all dangerous magical species in the Dark Forest must be subjugated or wiped out.”
The old mage’s life points were left at 3, his board having been cleared and was very much a candle in the wind. On the other hand, Joshua still had 20 life points, five minions on his board and could defeat the mage straightaway on the next turn.
But Nostradamus appeared to not mind that at all. “We would certainly be at ease if you take action. However, Joshua, I must warn you—don’t kill excessively. We need a safe Dark Forest, not an empty land!”
“…Do I really look that callous?”
Joshua appeared a little speechless. “I always thought myself especially kind and benevolent, the kind of person rich with a sense of justice. How could I cause wanton destruction?”
Nostradamus simply muttered a word, and Joshua could only promptly sigh, assuring that he would not operate out of bounds and carelessly purge the imperial frontier into empty land. After all, the balance of ecosystems around the Ural Plains was yet restored after it had been overturned in the warrior’s efforts to search for the Mother Goddess’s temple.
It was then that a message arrived at both of their information terminals. Joshua and Nostradamus paused for a moment before learning what it was.
“So, the habitat of the Boros pythons are found as well? Well done. This way, I could suppress them at once without them fleeing everywhere when they pick up Legendary presence, causing great destruction for no reason.”
The warrior’s lips curled up, appearing pleased with the efficiency Priest and the others showed. “That’s great partnership showed by the exploration party, and I think they could try real exploration in a different Void world.
Nostradamus clapped his hand in pleasure as a response. Compared to Joshua, he was much more delighted about the growth the younger generation showed. “Those few youths only lack a little experience before reaching Gold—considerably quicker than those of our generation.”
“After all, present-day resources are much richer than they were decades ago. The average height of Imperial citizens in the new generation is a whole eight centimeters more than it was the last fifty years.”
Joshua simply made a number, before prompting Nostradamus. “My turn is over. Play a card or concede.”
“No rush, no rush.”
Now, both sides’ mana crystals had reached ten, with Nostradamus having three cards in his hand, still no minions on his board, while his health points were at 3—but despite looming defeat, the mage unhurriedly drew a card from his deck and smiled. “The game had just begun… My turn, playing a card.”
Then, he played the card at the rightmost corner of his hand!
Hum — A dull magical rumble echoed. The moment the card was played, the half of the board that belonged to Nostradamus turned into a pale-blue domain of magical energy. In that spot of infinite water ripples, a mage with white hair and white beard appeared on the board: the appearance of Nostradamus in his advanced age!
On the Fairy Card table, that aged version of Nostradamus opened the grimoire in his hand, and three cards at once darted out, entering the old mage’s hand.
[Nostradamus, Shade of Time (Legendary Mage)]
[10 Mana Cost, 4 Attack, 4 Health]
[Battlecry: put three ‘Dimensional Distortion’ in your hand]
[Deathrattle: Destroy all ‘Dimensional Distortion’ regardless where they are]
[—The wise and mysterious shadow, hidden behind endless dimensional ripples]
The white-haired mage stood in front of a dimensional rift, and was melting into the Void, and behind him the Void Observatory could vaguely be seen. He was looking towards the distance.
[Legendary Spell, 8 Mana Cost]
[Reduce 1 mana cost of every spell card you use from now on]
[Before your next turn, enter the ‘Dimensional Distortion’ status. Damage dealt upon you and all your minions would be limited to 1 by every spell, 0 by any summons or weapon. Effects cannot be stacked.]
[—Your attack is slow close to me, and yet it would never reach for eternity.]
Joshua’s eyes bulged at once after Nostradamus played the card. “Wait, your own Legendary Card?! When was it made? And there were no new expansions packs recently!”
“Those little fairies invited me to make it a while ago.”
Nostradamus beamed, stroking his beard before composedly playing a ‘Dimensional Distortion’ that had its cost reduced to 0. “I could tell—you didn’t put any spell cards that deal direct damage in your deck. I’m invincible for the next three turns.”
Joshua glanced at his Aggressive-assembly of cards that were all weapons and Charge minions, nodded and admitting Nostradamus’s point.
And in the next two rounds, Nostradamus played two ‘Extreme Explosive Magic—Explosion’ and two more ‘Dimensional Distortion’, dealing 10+10 damage to Joshua and pulled off a perfect counter-kill.
[Extreme Explosive Magic—Explosion]
[10 Mana Cost, Crystal Mage Epic]
[Deal 10 damage]
“Alright, game’s over’.
After clicking on the voiced conceding, Joshua rose. “Now that we have finished the intel collection, I should go back to prepare for the Dark Forest purging.”
“Ah. Actually, I did cheat this time, since my Legendary card actually had not entered circulation.”
At that, Nostradamus shook his head. “Didn’t those fairies find you?” He asked curiously. “And the main manufacturers of Fairy Cards were clearly in Moldavia. I thought that your card was finished, and thought I’d find out what your card’s effect is this time.”
“Of course they came to me, and as for my Legendary card…”
At that, Joshua smiled, having already stood up. “That little fairy kept following me, saying that it wanted to witness my cleanup of the Dark Forest and determine my power, before she could make a few drafts for the designing.”
“Really? Can’t wait.”
Nostradamus, staying in his chair, waved as Joshua turned to leave. “I’ll see you again when the operation commences… By the way, I’ll say it again, Joshua—don’t focus too much on purging the magical beasts in the Dark Forest, they aren’t our true target.”
“Of course I won’t forget.”
Joshua stopped in return, having reached the door of the guest hall and turned to grin. “Recovering the last remnants of the Evil God ‘Fertility’s body, cleansing the last remaining forces of Chaos and completely removing the beacon the Evil God left here.”
“That’s the true objective various factions are working together to cleanse the Central Dark Forest, after all.”