Soul Of Searing Steel Chapter 779


Chapter 779 To Herd The Stars

Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation  Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

On the coastal docks, the busy elven fishermen looked up at the sky that was darkening.

Overhead, the orange sun that just rose briefly rose was already covered by gathering clouds, while countless gloom vapors assembled from across all directions to the shade. The dull but sonorous echo could be heard resounding throughout the world.

“What is that?”

Although the antler-crowned elf appeared shocked and frowned at the imposing presence suddenly arriving over the skies, his tone remained calm. “It looks like a very huge crab…”

On the other hand, Priest was not just shocked and puzzled—his inner alarm was blaring, unlike the antler-crowned elf who did not understand what was happening and considered thought that it was some phenomenon similar to an ‘eclipse’!

—The eight-legged fungi had clearly pursued them here!

‘How did they move so fast?! Damn it, if they really broke through the world barrier, we have no place to hide at all… do we really have to ask for protection from Hub Accrafa?’

Thunder rumbled continuously high above. At first, Priest was extremely nervous as his mind furiously considered any possible countermeasures, but he soon realized that no matter how forceful the pincer had struck, the sky showed no change or distortion, remaining as sturdy as it always had been.

The pincer’s strike was quite simply, loud but ineffectual… then, after some time passed, it simply left, seemingly knowing that the world barrier could not be pierced.

“Ah. Such things often happen here, so you don’t have to be too surprised. You humans have short lifespans, and might have lost knowledge about that.” The antler-crowned elf said soothingly, noticing Priest’s expression beside him.

“It happened twice in my lifetime alone: once was a hundred and twenty years ago, when the phantom of a whale appeared over the skies and crashed as forcefully on the skies as it could. The second time was more than fifty years ago, when phantoms of a school of small fishes—they too, struck the skies for a long time but to no avail.”

Noticing Priest’s eyes widening in shock at himself, the antler-crowned elf curiously righted the crown over his head. “That’s just my memories,” he added. “There are many similar incidents recorded in the Mother Tree’s memories, which is why I’m not too surprised… although I am puzzled why it’s a crab’s pincer this time. Might the ancestors have been right that it’s a borderless ‘Ocean of Void’ beyond the skies? That’s some rich marine produce.”

Around them, the elven fishermen who had noticed the anomaly overhead simply pointed and gestured at it for a while before resuming their work. Everything was as the antler-crowned elf had said: it was nothing new for them.

“Blunder. We simply don’t understand the ecosystem in this world or the surroundings in which the elves had survived under… Still, isn’t the outer layer of this world too tough? If these elves were right, Void Behemoths had attempted to invade this place a few times but had simply failed!”

It was then that Priest finally realized that his party and himself might have committed a great error—they had carried forward their impression of Mycroft elves to the elves of this ‘unknown world’.

Although both specimens appeared remarkably alike, they were essentially different races—they have split apart in all aspects after who knows how long had passed, and were now distinct be it in their customs, world views or even living essence.

At the very thought, Priest quickly decided to seize the chance and ask the antler-crowned elf about some general customs.

“You’re asking about our past? To be frank, I won’t remember much if I’m not connected to the Mother Tree.”

The middle-aged elf said in return as he led Priest to stroll along rows of coconut trees beside the beach. “There’s not much to tell actually,” he said hoarsely, “after the first ancestors had planted the seed of the Mother Lifetree at the heart of our home, they soon succumbed to Otherworld Blight—for our part, we relied on the Mother Tree’s protection and unified wills to flourish until today.”

“This is definitely a fine place. There are coconuts by the shores, while berry bushes and fruit trees grew amidst the forest, not to mention the many flocks of beasts. Apart from the Otherworld Blight and otherworld aberrations, we virtually have no enemies.”

As he spoke, the antler-crowned elf picked up two coconuts from the coastal sands. Both were probably the size of three fists, and the elf passed one to Priest. “Hence,” he said softly, “we flourished generation after generation, living here peacefully until now… And that’s our history.”

Priest quietly poked two holes into the coconut with his fingers and drank from it. The juice was rather lacking in flavor but was fragrant and refreshing, pure and unsullied, having good quality. He could also see some of the tired elven fishermen picking up the coconuts from the beach as well, having a drink as they rested as well before going back to work.

Each elven boat could only carry two or three persons and was at most near ten meters long. Logically speaking, such boats could only move through rivers and lakes—it would too dangerous for it to be used even by the coasts, making fishing simply impossible. However, most of the elves had some supernatural powers and they would use magic to stabilize their boats, therefore not only are they able to move freely in the sea, they could even move to deeper areas to lure schools of fishes.

Moreover, since fishes and other marine produce were not their main food source, the consumption of two to three thousand elves was not even as fast as the natural replenishment of the oceanic region. Most fishermen who simply worked for one or two hours would already have obtained enough food for their entire family for up to a fortnight—most of which would be dried as reserve rations for winter.

Some of the fishermen were even sunbathing leisurely at the moment.

“…How long has your tribe been living like this?” Priest asked quietly, putting the coconut shell beneath a tree beside him. “A few hundred years, or…”

“At least one or two thousand years. Perhaps even longer.”

The antler-crowned elf simply answered, appearing nonchalant. “The five generations of leaders before us had done well—the only thing which I outshone them in was probably in living longer.”

“No… what I mean is, has your tribe never thought of change?”

Priest stopped in his tracks and looked up at the skies where the clouds had yet to disperse entirely, and then down towards the quiet and peaceful seas around him. He remembered many things… his old home, trampled over by draconic beasts when the Berserker Dragon Plague struck the southern fortresses, his kin and neighbors feasted upon by dragons and the many ordinary citizens of Mycroft who still struggled to survive until this day.

The young warrior glanced once more at the traces of Chaos corruption on the arm of the antler-crowned elf, and recalled the long shadow carved upon Sol’s back. “You have encountered so many sudden anomalies,” he said, holding back his emotions, “and there is also the Chaos, Otherworld Blight, and otherworld aberrations… Had you never thought of developing technology to solve those problems?”

“Your homeland is so abundant; your environment so peaceful! Even if this world is a little… unusual, how could your kind stay like this over two thousand years? Do you not fear death, or wish to live longer?”

The antler-crowned elf did not understand why Priest appeared rather emotional. He spoke as he always did, calmly and serenely, “Technology? What is that? If you’re referring to the crafting of your armors, we certainly desire it—which is why we were willing to exchange for it.”

“As for anything else, we could simply follow the measures we inherited from our forebears.”

The middle-aged elf slowly buried his own coconut beneath the san and rose. “The Mother Tree stores knowledge of the

He turned and level his gaze at Priest—for the first time, the young warrior grimly saw and observed in detail the entire face of the leader of the ‘Overwatch Tribe’.

The elf’s features were rather withered, unlike young elves who were just one or two-hundred years old. As with most elves, he appeared androgynous, although his long, dark-green hair was blackened and yellowing… it was a sign that an elf’s lifespan was reaching its end.

The antler-crowned elf’s lips were tightly pursed, making him appear solemn, but the most distinct aspect about him was his eyesight. His eyes were slightly turbid as well, but even as he leveled his gaze at Priest’s own, his sight was wandering, with both his pupils that had whitened shifting slightly towards different directions. Magical energy occasionally flickered in his vision as well, making his gaze appear unfocused, even unnatural.

“I might have forgotten to tell your team something, too.”

The elf smiled mildly, tolerantly, carefreely and without hostility at Priest, who now appeared cautious and intent on leaving at any moment. “The spirit of the Overwatch tribe is connected together through the Mother Tree. We know your every move, how you treat our fellow tribesmen: you are kind, friendly, prudent, principled and know the gap between good and evil. That is why Overwatch consider you trustworthy humans, and not otherworld aberrations.”

“…What?!” Priest exclaimed in surprise; he was earnestly bewildered this time. “Your… spirits are connected?!”

***

In truth, Priest had heard before that elves had such ability a long time ago. However, since Father Nature ascended—in other words, after the truest elf and god of the elves was born, that ancient ability to link spirits vanished from the pages of history.

And these otherworld spirits… retained that power?!

The antler-crowned elf smiled, showing his teeth as Priest ruminated, and said nothing. Meanwhile, the young warrior calmed and then quickly thought of something. “Now that you mention it,” he said, frowning, “did Sol approach me to probe my reaction?”

“No.” The elven leader’s tone suddenly turned cold, and his eyes narrowed even as he continued. “Sol is my daughter. She was born with a naturally defect— it’s not an attempt to probe for a reaction, I’m unaware that she has spoken to you.”

The elven leader, who had spoken fluently suddenly started to stutter just as his gaze cooled, and it was a long time before his tone recovered. “We could sense the thoughts of each of our own kind through our Mother Tree, exchanging our mood, communicating. That is why our tribe would never have any conflict and everyone is one, big family, sharing all happiness, anger, sadness, and delight, even when it came to the Otherworld Blight.”

“Sol, however, is different. She was born separated from the Mother Tree, unable to connect to its store of knowledge and therefore required our gradual education across a long time to learn common tribal knowledge. It was why she often ran off to places our forebears had visited, places of no significance… most of the time, she would often ask to go far away, to see frivolous things, a complete aberrant in her own tribe.”

“That’s also precisely why—without everyone being there to share her burdens, the Otherworld Blight exerts a heavy toll upon her.”

At that, the elven leader turned to Priest. “Just as how those humans had vanished without a trace several centuries ago,” he said calmly, “beings not connected in spirit could never rely upon their will to withstand Otherworld Blight—our forebears had invited the humans to join our spiritual collective, but they were reluctant to the last, claiming that it holds no future. But now, they are gone, and our own ‘future’ still lives.”

“Child of the plains. If your party is willing to connect with us in spirit, you will become one of us—and not just partners as we are now. We will aid you with however we can.”

“No, thanks. Goodbye.”

Priest quickly waved him off, shaking his head and declining that suggestion. It did not appear to surprise the elven leader, who simply nodded and skipped over the topic.

Now, the pair had already left the coast, and began walking back through the forest path.

“…huh.”

Priest could not resist rubbing his temples after learning so many unexpected information. “Otherworld Blight—let’s call it that for the moment,” he said after taking a moment to calm down. “According to what I know, although that illness could be resisted by collective spirits in the short-term, its corruption remains irreversible. If this drags on, the Blight itself would accumulate within the tribe’s very psyche, leading to worse consequences—how did your tribe solve that?”

In truth, there were still many users of the elves’ system of collectively connected wills in recent times, with the psionics of the West Mountains being the most reputable amongst them. Then, when the Great Mana Tide arrived which saw a rapid development in supernatural powers and technology, West Mountain psionics also developed a unique ability of spiritual communication: through various psionic spells or certain unique magical hubs, they would connect several or up to dozens of individuals into a single body as they fought.

It was an effective skill. By joining in spirit, every connected individual’s casting speed and combat endurance would rise by thirty percent, just as they would have considerable strength to resist Chaos corruption, along with certain ability for self-purification. If it was a weaker Chaos and spirit corruption, it would have been utterly cleansed.

Nevertheless, things remained like how Priest had put it: such a union would do nothing other than delay the speed at which Chaos corrupted. Apart from the prime Holy Light that the hierarchs of the Seven Gods Church embodied, each Legend’s unique methods and Order Power that each Sage’s heir possessed, there was basically no other force that could resist the corruption of Chaos. It may not be distinct at first, but eventually the entire psionic network would erode and corrupt, becoming a body of Chaos.

These Otherworld elves had endured Chaos corruption for a long time, and their connected spirits should have long since fallen. Even so, they lived—comfortably and harmoniously at that, which was something very unimaginable.

That’s why Priest wanted to know how the reason behind it all.

***

“It’s quite simple. Sacrifice.”

Unlike what Priest imagined, the antler-crowned elf did not hesitate to reveal the secret. “Through sacrifice, and the Sacred Altar Mountain, we greatly reduced the corruption of Otherworld Blight.”

Then, the elf simply revealed how his tribe could flourish for so long despite the corruption of Chaos.

“The Otherworld Blight is an unusual malady that spreads on two fronts: the flesh and the spirit. There would be root of the malady within the body of everyone here, unremovable but varying to different degrees. However, through the power of the Mother Tree, we could transfer the Otherworld Blight from most others to those with greater abilities who could endure it.”

At that, the antler-crowned elf smiled nonchalantly. “Those, such as I, who would carry the Otherworld Blight of hundreds while temporarily stopping the turn into otherworld aberrations.”

“And then?” Priest could not help but pressed.

“Then, we head to the Sacred Altar Mountain.”

The leader of the Overwatch tribe looked up, gesturing for Priest to look at the direction of Hub Accrafa. “The Sacred Altar Mountain has a power to completely cleanse all Otherworld Blight,” he said serenely, “so that excess Blight would not return to the Mother Three after the death of its host. In each one or two centuries, we would select ten champions who could host the Blight who eventually heads to the Holy Mountain for prayer.”

No, wait, no—that’s not sacrifice!

That was essentially no cleansing… It was seeking death.

Priest exhaled, and leveled a complicated gaze at the antler-crowned elf. Even if others did not understand, would he, one who was almost incinerated into ash, not?

Was that so-called cleansing not simply using the extremely powerful magical ray to crush body and soul into nothingness?! Whatever returning to the Mother Tree was impossible! Even Supreme champions would be maimed and at death’s door if they were struck by that level of magical ray!

And yet, these elves did it without fear—in each one or two hundred years, the tribe would send their strongest elites to be cleansed, while those remaining would continue their peaceful, leisurely, unchanging and unadvanced lives.

They connected to each other in spirit, each of them sensing each other’s emotions and thought, therefore developing no doubt, envy, argument or competition. They only had to labor a day to rest a week, staying in a region with fine climate and inhabiting caverns offering perfect temperatures—it was too perfect, even for a civilization that had barely begun developing, a flawless threshold the elves of Mycroft never reached.

Even when they had seen the Elite Party’s enchanted armor, they never once thought of ‘researching’, instead willingly exchanging it and keeping it in the Mother Tree, just like squirrels that hoarded food.

They would share delight, anger, saneness, and joy, while the technology their forebears left for them allowed them to live blissfully and safely, so much so that the elves had no motivation for progress or to explore faraway places.

Simply enviable.

Simply lamentable.

***

As Priest conversed with the elven leader, colossal Void behemoths that bore the form of hermit-crabs slowly drifted along the endless Void, carrying a semi-spherical planetary world.

“Great Khan. The Fourth Behemoth had discovered an unusual world in the Dark Star Region. It had intended pry open a dead world to replenish its resources, only to realize that its World Barrier was so unimaginably stalwart that it could not even leave a mark.”

At the bottom of the beehive city, a black shelled octapedal fungus was reporting towards a spiritual void reverently. “What are your instructions?”

“…Stay away from that world. Do not simply touch such special worlds.”

It was a long time later that the spiritual void slowly communicated. “This is the Lost Galaxy, and the stalwart world you refer to is perhaps a Sealed World where some ancient aberration was kept. It is by fortune that it was not shattered—if it had been, it would be nothing good waiting for us.”

“But the subjects require sustenance… We have crossed the long layer of material vacuum, and now both behemoths and subjects could hardly bear the hunger.”

The black shelled eight-legged fungus stayed motionless, maintaining its ‘reverent’ posture as it spoke softly, “Great Khan…”

“Hmmm.”

Another long silence ensued before a rather delirious voice echoed. “Eat freely, apart from those… unusual worlds. Be it those with life or dead, devour them all… We have held back for long, we must collect stores before the ‘Hunters’ come…”

“This is far from our finishing point—there is still a long road ahead… go forth and heard, Kumocinda, my King of First Akasha. Herd the stars, so that our world… become… fertile…”

The voice disappeared, but the black eight-legged fungus did not move.

Dozens of minutes later, it slowly rose after it was certain the voice vanished entirely, and left the white palace.

“Your Majesty.”

Outside the palace, a team of gray eight-legged fungi elites were waiting. The one standing up front quickly approached the black fungus one he saw him, bending its own limbs. “What are the instructions of the Great Khan…?”

Kumocinda stayed silent for quite a while, before saying with a tone that could have been either somber or delight, “devour. Devour as you will, subjects of mine—the Great Khan of the Utmost had given permission, we could vent as we wish… search for those worlds with life and flesh to herd, that our world feast upon the meat!”

“This galaxy will be our new farm.”

***

Meanwhile, inside a certain gigantic silver cocoon in the Void outside the world of Mycroft, Joshua’s will was left troubled.

“A little mana, elemental energies, ether, stir and stir… tsk, it’s much.”

“Holy Light, psionic energy, and paint trace Order Power… hmm. A little loose, paste together with Steel Strength, adjusting, adjusting…”

“Ah, too much Steel Strength!”

Boom!

In the dazzling outline of the world, radiances of supernatural energies stirred in all colors. However, when a streak of silver radiance abruptly enlarged, a small explosion erupted inside the outline of a world.

It was only then did Joshua, who had been learning the Fairy Queens’ method in creating worlds and barely restored the world’s outline, realized at once that those little rascals were unreliable.

“I say… how did those damned little butterflies create Fairyland?!”

The will of Joshua’s main body had been considering in the giant silver cocoon on how to create a whole new world.

He was not learning to imitate Void Behemoths which shaped worlds through some grand self-destruct—the warrior led a happy life and had no intention for suicide. He wished to imitate the fairies, employing various Steel Authority and elemental forces, starting from a demiplane as he completed a world.

The process was certainly difficult, with frequent explosions due to disharmonious forces—it happened especially with Joshua’s single-minded aim to shape a more complete world than the Fairy Queens that he added more elements of supernatural powers from the very start.

It was certainly laborious, and it was then that Joshua sensed his clone arriving at the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds.

“It’s definitely time to ask the Commanding Will to ask about Priest and the others.”

Joshua glanced once at the dazzling and flawless Steel Strength crystallization—the complete outline of a world, only to shake his head.

“I’ll save that for later.”

Even if he should not be directly asking about world coordinates in fear that the Commanding Will of the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds would crash, Joshua knew its processing style well enough to interact with the Artificial Intelligence.

After all, he had another AI in his own home, and he had since become very familiar with it after so many years.

Thus, a profound will emerged from the giant silver cocoon, following a formless trail as it descended upon the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds.

Ooom.

In the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds, the human form of Joshua had just use Steel Strength to materialize his body. Then, as his eyes sparkled, his presence increased further.

Sensing Joshua’s arrival, the silver sun of the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds slightly flashed, and a sonorous voice could be heard echoing in the depths of the warrior’s mind.

“Do you wish to ask about your pupils’ location? It is a shame, but I have lost my data in that respect.”

Joshua, however, shook his head.

“No, I’m not asking about that,” he replied in his mind resonantly. “Commanding Will, could you tell me truthfully how old is the earliest recorded data you could retrace?”