Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Most information in the data storage vault were public.
The Glorious Era, led by the Sage and the gods, had classified the members of society into seven classes. Ordinary individuals who are in active military service or held citizenship were grouped into the Fourth Class, while those above and below were classified as ‘Upper-Three’ and ‘Lower-Three’ respectively.
Amongst the Upper-Three classes, the Fifth Class were Supreme champions, local authorities. The Sixth Class were demigods, individuals pending ascension to godhood, Legends or anyone approaching that tier, leaders of greater factions. The Seventh Class—the highest of the hierarchy—meant the highest clearance equal to the gods and the Sage, leaders of a civilization.
For the Lower-Three classes, the Third Class included tourists from other civilizations, envoys and immigrants awaiting permanent residence. They have the right to use certain public facilities, but could not enter certain important zones. The Second Class include refugees from foreign worlds who were only allowed to stay in certain demiplanes, while the lowest were criminals with light sentences who were incarcerated and worked menial labor. They have no rights apart from laboring, but when their rehabilitation was valid and their crimes pardoned, they are directly promoted to Fourth Class citizens.
Those beyond the Seven Classes were the ‘Untouchables’. That group includes criminals on death row, Chaos corruptors, cultists as well as radical, harmful anti-establishment elements who were determined to be ‘uncorrectable’, ‘unassimilable’, ‘useless’ or ‘worthless’. There was nothing for them except death.
Apart from the Citizen Class that divided the Upper-Three and Lower-Three classes, the categorization of the clearances was not so useful in reality. It was vague when applied, but to the Archives, it was the only standard it uses when deciding the browser’s clearance.
Ninety percent of information was open to Fourth Class citizens, but only twelve percent were open to tourists of the Third Class, citizens of other nations or criminals. The remaining ten percent were vital, hidden information that only champions of Supreme-tier or above could browse.
Most Starfall Era individuals, having inherited the bloodlines of the Glorious Era were all granted the most basic clearance of Fourth Class. Amongst them were no lack of individuals who had deft ability and hence was granted Fifth or Sixth Clearance—just like Joshua himself. The warrior had essentially done nothing and stood outside the doors, and the Archives simply granted him Sixth Clearance, although according to the man himself, he could quickly obtain the special clearance of ‘Sage’s Heir’ if he was willing.
But Zero-Three was different. While many would be unaware or remember a certain incident, she had definitely obtained the Legacy Rune from Gale, the God of the Skies who reigned during the Glorious Era. She was—apart from Igor, the Pope of the Seven Gods Church—the only being of Starfall Era who had attained the ‘Seventh Class’—divine clearance without being a god!
And the reason Zero-Three herself was gaping had been because she found substantial ‘encrypted information’ in the many data that revealed information about the Evil Gods!
“It’s magical images and footage of the battle against Evil Gods! How were they preserved?”
The Artificial Intelligence girl was immeasurably shocked after scanning through the table of contents for a data chain—the encrypted information hidden right beneath the massive volume of surface data were all combat footage in first-person view! It was simply unbelievable since according to what most knew, the existence of Evil Gods was indescribable and unrecordable.
A point in case was like how Joshua, Ying, Ling, Black, and Roland had traveled to the world of Illgner and joined the decisive battle between Father Nature and the Evil God of Calamity, all five of them had witnessed first hand the apocalyptic meteor, that indescribable ‘Evil God Projection’ that was infinitely warped. However, none of them could precisely describe or relive the appearance of that projection up to this day—it could not be done, even after Joshua freed his memories to be replicated by William the Mind Lord.
Nevertheless, the Glorious Era had clearly solved the Evil Gods ‘Chaotic Information Disturbance Effect’ with profound technology, detailing the indescribable Evil Gods so that they ‘could be described’!
In the first place, Zero-Three should be contacting the other Legendary champions who were present into the Data Storage Hall, which included Barbarossa and Vahina, allowing them to accept and transfer that firsthand combat intelligence against the Evil Gods. However, the Artificial Intelligence girl was acutely aware that the encrypted information appeared to be stored in an extremely complex form, which would collapse naturally and vanish.
Unable to guarantee that the data would reappear, Zero-Three could only force herself to keep studying the data, while splitting half of her projection which left to inform the Legendary champions.
Millions of images and data wafted and sunk amidst the infinite and complex storage, although what caught Zero-Three’s attention on first glance was the war diary of a certain Legendary champion.
[Total War, day 41. The support squad that had headed to Karlis were ambushed by the Evil God ‘Famine’. The Beyonder was drawn into dimensional turbulence, with a hundred and thirty-four thousand men and women consumed by Chaos, the Ninth Independent Legion hence falling… At present, most worlds around us were fallen. Neighboring dimensional realms had been sealed, and we have now lost all links to other worlds.]
[Total War, day 288. The Seventh Abyss was destroyed, with His Majesty Gale destroying its sun and sinking that entire realm into a hell of frost, cutting off one million and seven hundred thousand demonic support troops. Why do these survivors who conspired with the Chaos not know that they are alive as well, that their world could be destroyed by Evil Gods just the same—so why are they helping the damned Evil Gods lay waste to civilizations of Order?!]
[In the process, His Majesty Gale was blindsided by Evil Gods, His fate unknown. That said, it’s worth rejoicing that the Avian people’s legion did not collapse, and even conveyed their intention to counter-attack. Nonetheless, the present situation did not accommodate hot-headedness or vengeance, we must stay calm and stay in our positions within the Fairy Fortresses, or the Children of Chaos that outnumbered us by a hundred times would trample over our resolve and honor.]
[Total War day 532. Another world had been drained dry by the God of Earth. The Flame at the center of the world is dying, and the surface is as white as a burnt torch. Even so, everything is done in the name of resisting the Chaos, and we had at least moved the undeveloped, primitive races into the shelters… The Evil Gods would have completely devoured that world even if we did not drain it. We’re not in the wrong.]
[We’ve drained a sun’s energy as well to block the blows unleashed by the Evil Gods ‘Disparity’ and ‘Decay’. The stars around us are dim an unlit—even if we win the war, the once beautiful and profound realm of stars would probably be naught but darkness.
[…The Sage has returned! He had killed the Evil God Fertility at the bottommost level of the Abyss! However, he does not look good, and was escorted by the Apostles into the ‘Genesis Hub’, not even the Mother of All had appeared so grim… Heavens. If we lose the Sage, we would never hope for triumph in such despair… or hope that peace would come.]
[The horn calling for the counter-attack has sounded. All that I cherish, if I could return home…]
Many sporadic images and footages followed the short diary. It was probably content recording the Glorious Era Legendary champion’s battle in the ‘counter-attack’ since there was no continuation after that war diary.
Clearly, he must have died in that skirmish.
Naturally, he could have survived since the Archives was blasted off to the edge of the Dark Domain before the war ended. Perhaps the Archives had incidentally been sent flying in that counter-offensive, which would explain why there was no more data.
Zero-Three sighed inwardly as she ‘browsed’ the boundless data stream and kept researching for actual information regarding the counterattack.
Until this day, the Starfall Era was in the dark about how that particular battle unfolded, and was unable to even imagine what the Mycroft civilization had done then to claim victory in the fight against the endless Evil Gods and their minions.
Now, they could understand a little from the data hidden in the Unified Archives.
Although the Glorious Era appeared to have resolved the issue of Chaotic Disturbance that originated from the Evil Gods, most of the combat footage was unclear and showed unusual perspectives due to issues such as energy ripples and perspective. There was not much valuable information obtainable, and it was after Zero-Three had browsed through thousands of photos and videos that she found several records that were visible.
It was an open battlefield against an unknown Evil Gods. Flames of massive power ignited over the skies as colossal Void warships crashed down from above. Clusters of squirming shades, warped and without form hung over the gray-dark skies—the sun was extinguished, the world was fated to die, and yet, in the very last moment, a blinding radiance of energy bursting from both sides shone across every corner of the world, brightening everything more than ever before.
One of the images showed five luminous dots of energy as bright as the sun hanging in the skies, with the being whose perspective the image had been captured from being the sixth. They were facing a giant Black Vortex that was swirling without stopping and occupied most of the skies, launching itself forward while violent energies crumbled mountains after mountains around it. Extreme heat radiation melted most of the peaks, turning them into surging lava.
Another image displayed erratic shards of energy. Four of the Black Vortex’s spiral arms had been shattered by the combined might of the luminous dots, the dark domain of Chaos at its center directly pierced and revealed a dim, obscure cloud that could hardly be recognized.
Around it, three circles of substances akin to planetary rings danced with warped and sinister runic patterns. The cloud was unleashing substantial black ripples and indiscriminately attacking everything around it—the person whose perspective the image was captured from had raised their hand to raise a translucent defensive barrier, appearing to attempt blocking those ripples.
The perspective changed on the third image. It appears that the owner of the lens had fallen onto the ground—all was scorched blackness while a blazing inferno burned at the background. Moreover, of the five other luminous dots, only one was seen hanging on bitterly amidst the assaulting dark ripples, while every other was sent flying to different corners of the world. Still, that was not unusual since it was not unusual for their opponent, an Evil God to be so formidable. It does pique one’s curiosity, however, the hands of the lens’ owner which was initially weathered, middle-aged, broad and powerful was now a pair of dainty and fair juvenile’s hands and seemed to have no strength at all.
The owner of the lens appeared intent on rising. He could be seen pressing his hands into the ground—it was an easy action for even normal humans, but the person appeared to have tremendous difficulty doing that then.
By the fourth image, every luminous dot had fallen, although three more had risen in their place. The Black Vortex above the skies was now very bright, with its core turning into a gray-white shroud. However, unusually, after the core of the Black Vortex turned into that color it no longer attacked, allowing the three dots to unleash all kinds of terrific offensive without response.
It appeared to have entered a perplexing state of stagnation, right until it was about to be destroyed.
When Zero-Three looked on to that point, the processing across her entire soul hub appeared to freeze for an instant. She could tell from her rich experience that the gray-white shroud was very similar to Joshua’s Steel Strength—it was indeed that power, something which the AI girl could tell affirmatively after having seen the warrior display it countless times.
‘But why?’ Those luminous dots were clearly Glorious Era Legends, demigods, while the vague shroud at the center of the Black Vortex was undoubtedly the true form of a powerful Evil God. Even the deadly besieging of multiple Legends could only shatter its outer barrier, while the faintest of that entity’s counter-attack sent all Legends crashing down to the ground, as well as turning them young and powerless.
Be that as it may, how that Evil God could suddenly spawn such immense Steel Strength? What was more, why did it suddenly pause after creating that power, allowing the Legends to freely level devastating attacks upon it?
“Damn it, hurry and reply!”
A thousand question rising in her mind, Zero-Three now was infinitely anticipating that the other Legends—or Joshua—to hurry to the Archives and examine these images and information as well after being notified by her clone. She could pick up a faint scent that appeared normal.
Then, after saving those images, the AI girl opened the videos.
The first footage began with passionate war cries and the shrill hiss of winds as heaven and earth shifted. Veins of silver beams descended from the skies, blowing out rift after rift over the land directly down to the planet’s core. At the depths where all energy had been drained, magma had cooled and froze, but it burned anew as the silver beams descended, showing signs of revival.
“Evil God [Wither] has changed its form? That’s unprecedented, but it’s unable to distort our forms now. When it reverted us to our weak states, it could only use futile energy beams… the time is now!”
Even in the noisy battlefield, an unnamed Legend’s sonorous, raging roars could be heard. “Follow me, block the beams and keep going forward!”
By the next footage, it was no longer a Black Vortex surrounding the Evil God shroud that gradually brightened, but a dark gray orbital ring that flowed with an unusual rainbow halation. Nine Legends were rallying to charge at the Evil God known as ‘Wither’, while ground troops were firing various advanced magical weaponry to stop the entity’s minions from interfering with the champions’ battle—in seconds, however, all of them were startled to realize that the Evil Gods’ minions that had blanketed heaven and earth like clouds of gloom began to disintegrate by the dozens, turning into dots of black before vanishing without a trace.
“What’s going on? Chaos signatures are falling rapidly, and the minions are all dying?”
“What’s that Evil God doing—suicide? Could its name be ‘Self-Destruct’?”
A loud voice thick with dwarven accent echoed in the skulls of all Legendary champions, but none of them glared at the noisy fellow since everyone was left dumbfounded by the Evil God’s bizarre actions.
In the third video, the battlefield has already shifted from the world to the Void beyond. Excessively powerful energy rays colored the lightless, barren Void with dazzling hues, while almost ten Legends stayed in hot pursuit of a silver ‘meteor’—the true form of the so-called Evil God of ‘Wither’. Somehow, its erratic and shapeless cloud form had now turned into a silver meteor emanating Steel Strength, which at once gave it a solid form and added to its vulnerabilities.
After baptism by long years of war, the owner of the lens and his comrades naturally did not let that chance slip past them: the Evil God of Wither could no longer use its signature move of withering ripples, reverting its foes to their weakest state. Having lost its core Chaos ability, the entity that was not formidable in the first place naturally could not hold against the attacks of multiple Legends and their Void fleet, which was why it quickly retreated to the edge of the galaxy.
“The Evil God of Wither is disintegrating!”
“We’ve repelled an Evil God!”
“It’s too special—Central Chaos Research hopes that we could pursue it, or better yet, grab part of its living parts! Evil Gods that could convert Chaos and Steel Strength is something never before seen!”
In the same video, many luminous dots gathered together, including the owner of the lens. Leading their own troops and warships, they dashed at the direction of the feeble Evil God.
The footage soon ended, and all information flow ceased.
Unwilling to give up, Zero-Three continued combing through other images and videos, but was finally forced to admit that the third video was the last moment captured—nine Legends, pursuing a bizarre but maimed Evil God together with their Void fleet have not been seen or heard from since.
Perhaps it was because of the detachment of the Archives, perhaps they had been wiped out by other Evil Gods in their chase, just as there were many other possibilities. But one way or another, that course of events had concluded.
“…What, that’s it?”
Zero-Three stared at the serial number of the Data Storage Hall she was in, Hall 447. It was clearly not the last Data Storage Hall in the Archives since 551 was, which meant that the counter-offensive against the Chaos had dragged on, with unimaginably vast amounts of combat information and intelligence gained regarding Evil Gods within that period.
But that was precisely why Zero-Three found things unusual.
Information of nine Legendary champions and one severely injured Evil God had seemed to be entirely ignored since then. All data from that point forward did not indicate the nine Legends reappearing or that any Evil Gods had been slain. The Evil God ‘Wither’ was not even amongst the twenty-one named Evil Gods, but one special entity which existence had been deliberately concealed from all historical information!
It was simply unthinkable that the Evil God of Wither had somehow spawned so much Steel Strength from Chaos. That conversion was what the Sage himself had pursued, and there’ no reason the champions of the Glorious Era would not notice…
Precisely because the Sage and the gods were obsessed over that Evil God of ‘Wither’ that afterwards… or more correctly, there was no afterwards. Even the Archives had concealed the story, making it a genuinely secret information.
Imagine that. Nine Legends missing from the battlefield and one maimed Evil God… Zero-Three was in slight disbelief over what secrets could be hidden beneath that deliberately buried history.
Soon, shuffling of footsteps echoed outside of the Data Storage Hall 447. Zero-Three opened the doors after it had been knocked, and three Legendary spellcasters—Barnil, Barbarossa and Vahina entered together. They stepped forward curiously, unsure why Zero-Three had called for them with emergency notifications.
“Madam Zero-Three. Have you found some vital information?”
Barnil the Rune Master, unlike Joshua, addressed the AI that was older than himself as ‘madam’, before proceeding to make a joke out of habit. “Could you have found a treasure map left by the Sage, and obtained the wondrous arts he cultivated? That would be a magnificent find.”
Naturally, Zero-Three ignored the rigid idle conversation, and simply transmitted the important information she processed to every Legend present.
At first, all of them were nonchalant since it was the combat diary of a Glorious Era Legendary champion. Though much of history’s blank spaces was filled and many combat records was found, it was all in the past and no more important than an ancient training manual for Extraordinary powers. However, as they kept watching and saw that nine Legends and one heavily injured Evil God disappeared entirely from the Void, their gazes began to become somber.
“Wait. You’re saying that there’s no more information about them?”
Barbarossa skimmed through the data again and again, but facts remained facts—he could not find what he thought he would no matter how many times he studied, and thus the wise spellcaster’s gaze began to sharpen. “We have a list of Evil Gods that had been purged and those that had survived, but ‘Wither’ is not in both…”
“It’s either destroyed or alive… it’s impossible for it to vanish into thin air,” Vahina the Sage said quietly, frowning. “According to Count Radcliffe, the Steel Python of Mycroft was corrupted by Chaos precisely because it was conducting an experiment with the Sage to ‘convert Order and Chaos’. While that ended badly with the Steel Python being consumed and almost fallen, the outcome was not too bad: our once collapsing world recovered temporary Order, which Count Radcliffe restored completely recently.”
“That said,” Barnil added with a little groan, “it’s obvious that the Sage did not attempt transition between Order and Chaos out of a moment of inspiration. Something must have given him the idea for such a critical trail, and he must have come across many examples before he thought of using such a way to restore the world of Mycroft.”
“There is no doubt that the unique conversion that this Evil God ‘Wither’ displayed was how the Sage got the idea… It has to be dead, or at least have been made by the Sage into his test subject, which begs a few questions: where did the Sage conducted that test? Could we find where his laboratory was? Are there still anything left of ‘Wither’ that we could keep experimenting with?”
Everyone nodded in agreement. The Sage could not have left Mycroft or venture away from their galaxy right after the Final Battle, and he must have a hidden place no other being was aware of to carry out several experiment in relation to Order and Chaos… After all, with the war having just ended, the Sage probably would not want to overstimulate the nerves of all races by attempting to control powers of Chaos.
It was just a hypothesis but a reasonable one, which also corresponds with the information of how history unfolded that everyone was aware of. Even so, it should not be treated as valid for further guesswork.
As the three Legends conjectured, Zero-Three said nothing, but there was a rather bold idea she had in mind.
—For unknown reasons, but if Chaos pollution caused by Evil Gods could really be restored into Order, could those corrupted and polluted worlds such as Karlis, which was now just deserts and sandy lands be really restored to a normal world of Order?
‘The Sage had failed before because he had too little time to experiment with: the world of Mycroft, being at the brink of destruction, did not gave him much chance.
But now, while the time left for Mycroft civilization now was not exactly abundant, they could at least try…
That process would definitely be infinitely difficult and dangerous, but if they did not attempt it, that danger would simply linger forever. There has to be one person to take that step, to explore that path.
“At least,” the AI girl closed her eyes and sighed inwardly once more and said, “this is one of the few things I could do for my homeworld.”
… Time passed.
Just as the three Legendary spellcasters left Hall 447 to the halls of later numbers and see if they could find any clues about the ‘Evil God of Wither’ and the Sage’s mysterious whereabouts, the dimensions rippled distinctly and heavy footsteps soon resounded over the corridors of the Unified Archives.
Zero-Three, who was continuing her task of data transfer turned around in delight. Before long, a familiar voice spoke from outside the doors of Data Storage Hall 447.
“That sudden emergency communications really startled me… Zero-Three, what happened?”
The door opened, and the latecomer Joshua promptly stretched his hands to catch the AI girl who had abruptly dove at him and held his waist.
“Why were you looking for me?” he asked puzzledly, blinking.