Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The Expedition Party’s underground cavern at the edge of the Overwatch tribe settlement.
Caster was seated in front of a crude apparatus that somehow emanated an advanced, high-end presence, staring solemnly at the screen in front of himself.
“Passing through the Mother Lifetree’s bark, extraction of tree sap complete. The tree itself is growing well: energy values stored in the tree sap is 34% above the average of trees of the same unit.”
“By comparing samples of Mother Lifetree types provided by the Far Southern Elves, we can be sure that this tree is the most common ‘Third-Type Foster Mother Tree’ from the Glorious Era. Basically, we can be sure that these elves are Glorious Era adherents.”
Caster could not help laughing at that. “Quite the fine, robust specimen, this Mother Tree—most Mother Trees could only grow well in environment rich with water, never imagined that it would grow so robustly even in the salted grounds beside seas.”
“Stop it. Read the following analysis,” Alchemist the half-elf—or, at least, when he was born, urged. “Read the conditions of Chaos corruption, that’s more important.”
The Mother Tree could absorb all energies in a radius dozens of kilometers, accumulating any impurities it had absorbed within its body while slowly excreting it from the tree bark. Ancient elves had once planted Mother Trees and mining hills, obtaining metals by burning tree bark and leaves that were rich with metals, which was also how the elves who never mined could develop into the iron age.
That was also precisely why if a single place is polluted by Chaos, the Mother Tree would be the first to be corrupted.
The Elite Party was aware that the so-called ‘Otherworld Blight’ was another way of describing Chaos corruption, which made it evident that the nine moons over the skies contained Chaos power, and that the soil had been polluted as well. Verifying the extent of Chaos corruption in the Mother Tree was hence the fastest way to check the degree of pollution in the soil.
Suddenly, just as Clergy and Rider got bored of watching and started a game of rock–paper–scissors, Caster suddenly cried out.
“Impossible! Chaos erosion level is… 75%?”
Caster’s eyes bulged as much as it was possible in fear that he made a mistake in reading a single number. Even so, after reading through a few times, he was forced to admit that seventy five percent was indeed the number shown and not seven point five, which left him in greater disbelief. “Isn’t this already several thousand—no, ten thousand times the danger threshold?!”
To completely removed Chaos power was very difficult—such forces remained even in the depths of the land, in both present-day Mycroft Continent and the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds. However, such degree of Chaos would not affect the daily lives of intelligent creatures, but if the Chaos in Mycroft was applied as a standard value, it was ten thousand times that of normal threshold!
And what would that mean?
It meant that after a rat was thrown into such an environment, hours later a rat ogre would appear, fresh out of the oven.
Alchemist, Clergy, and Rider all leapt up in response. All four of them glanced toward the screen, and though the numbers and words used were extremely complex, even Rider, the least cultured of the lot could understand that ‘danger’ was filled in each gap between each word!
“How is that a Mother Lifetree! It’s clearly a breeding ground of Chaos—but why can’t we sense it at all?
Clergy quickly arched himself and grabbed a pinch of soil from the ground. Closing his eyes and focusing, he extended his senses to feel the various trace energies within, and frowned after some time. “There’s no sign of Chaos at all—this place is cleaner than the Mycroft Continent!”
The others each used different methods to check their surroundings as well, only to realize that it was true: this Otherworld was as verdant as it appeared to be, its environment fine and clean… there was nothing that appeared dangerous apart from the nine moons in the skies.
“Could it be… the Chaos in the bodies of the elves is transferred into the body of the Mother Tree?” Rider guessed. “After all, according to the information our leader gathered, there are different levels of Chaos corruption in the bodies of those elves.
Alchemist shook his head. “No, that is the one thing which is impossible,” he explained. “Leaving aside the mass of the Mother Tree, Chaos forces that could kill dozens of thousands of elves would at most infect one of its buds. When each Mother Tree first sprouted each of them possess strict self-defensive mechanisms that is selective of energy moving in an out of its body. After all, if any elf could infect a Mother Tree with Chaos, doesn’t that mean that if a single traitor keeps pouring Chaos toxic in it, entire populations of elves would be wiped out?”
It was naturally out of the question. Thus, Alchemist tightened his brow and carefully voiced his own guess. “Instead of saying that the elves infect the Mother Tree, I think it’s the opposite: the elves connected to the Mother Tree in spirit were infected by the Mother Tree’s Chaos… it certainly requires an enormous source of infection, and it’s not on the surface.”
At that, Alchemist narrowed his eyes at the ground. “…It’s definitely beneath ground,” he said softly.
The others considered it for a moment, and understood at once.
The Mother Tree’s roots extended far and reached deep, with a single one able to stabilize water and soil over several kilometers. Its roots would stab dozens of thousands of meters to reach down for underground water sources and mineral deposits, even absorbing magma energy to grow. It was what the Divine Tree of Origins, Father Nature created for his children as a replacement for himself, one of the most powerful supernatural plants in the world.
And if the infection origin point of the supernatural plant was not on the surface, it was beneath ground. It must have touched the roots of the Mother Tree, gradually corrupting it!
“It could be either an aberration of Chaos, or the corpse of an Evil God spawn…” Clergy clenched the crystal ball in his hand which flickered in silver-gray sacred radiance—he was slightly unable to hold back his impulse for purification. “This place is a relic of the Glorious Era. It must have been corpses of Chaos aberrations left from the Final Battle of the previous era!”
The other three including Caster nodded, all of them clearly acknowledging that possibility since it was reasonable.
Still, Rider mumbled. “It’s quite curious that it has the Chaos power to corrupt the Mother Tree. How big could that corpse be? It must be more than a mountain, so could it be…”
This time, everyone else ignored him because Priest’s footsteps could be heard by the entrance of the cavern.
Everyone turned at once towards the entrance. Alchemist had even intended to go ahead to greet him, only to promptly pause.
“Wait, that sound…”
‘Why is there the sound of footsteps from another person?’
Soon, as the footsteps approached, Priest and Sol’s figures appeared before the four inside the cavern. Without waiting for his teammates’ teasing such as ‘why you’d bring an outsider back’ or ‘maybe she won’t be an outsider soon’, he lowered his voice and spoke with a grave expression.
“Ready up. We’re going out soon to Hub Accrafa soon.”
“…Why so sudden?”
Caster, who had been ready to hand the Chaos report to Priest never expected his leader to be so swift and decisive. “And…” He turned, looking hesitantly at Sol, who was looking around behind Priest.
“Her? Tour guide. The mountain paths are tangled—if we are to depart early and move in the night, we need a local to guide us.”
Priest was aware of his teammate’s curiosity as well, but his mind was somehow clear and himself inspired, although he had a hard time explaining the series of ideas he suddenly though of at once. Be that as it may, his pupils dilated when he received Caster’s report on Chaos corruption. “75%? It’s already that serious? Well, it does mean that my thinking is right—we must leave this place as soon as possible and get to Hub Accrafa.”
“Wait, Leader. You must have your reason for doing this, but can’t we wait for the elves to bring us their historical records?”
Although Clergy was not sure why his leader was in such a rush, he had already collected his belongings and was ready to equip the enchanted armor that was only fully charged after a few days. Obviously, he could not stand staying in the cave as well.
“Their historical records would be no different from a pile of junk sheets—there’s no valuable information to collect about the history of this tribe, when they want no progress be it millennia ago or recently. I’m guessing that the time for these elves’ sacrificial ritual to extinguish the Chaos corruption in their tribe is coming, and the Chaos concentration you mentioned proves my guess as well.”
Priest then moved to have a word with Sol before equipping his own enchanted armor as well. “Furthermore,” he said, the young warrior’s voice becoming deep after wearing his helmet, “I thought of a fine idea to fool Hub Accrafa’s clearance verification… we just might get to the data vault of that ancient ruin, there’s no need to care about a bunch of elves!”
“Alright, you are our leader after all.”
The others shrugged nonchalantly after Priest had put things that way. Ultimately, they did not have any urgent missions to be completed, and since Priest had so earnestly claimed that he had a way to bypass the clearance, they could just trust him.
The five-man cell’s relationship did not need too many words after all.
Minutes later, the Elite Party had sorted out all their resources, equipped their enchanted armor and left the cave in an orderly manner. Sol, who was sitting on Priest’s shoulder gasped softly and happily said with a deliberately lowered voice, “Ah, it’s quite cool to sit on it—it feels unexpectedly good!”
“It’s fine now, but don’t complain when we accelerate.” Priest laughed softly, before turning to his teammates and saying quietly, “Let’s go!”
In an instant, five dark shadows hence vanished in the thick shade of the forests.
In some nearby woods, the antler-crowned elf looked on as the Elite Party left. Beside him, two brigades of elven archers had their bows at their ready.
“Leader, are we letting them go?” The archer in the lead asked quietly.
“It’s fine… Elves and humans who can’t assimilate into our ranks were perhaps of their own kind in the first place.”
The antler-crowned elf looked down at the Otherworld Blight scar on his arm and laughed carefreely. “Sol could not share the Otherworld Blight with us, nor could she move it to my body… It’s precisely why if she died out there, she wouldn’t infect her companions… Let her go. She’s alone, and thus free.”
“Prepare for the sacrificial ritual—the anomaly in the Sacred Mountain a few days ago was perhaps to remind us of that.”
Meanwhile, in the forest.
“To the left. Wind around that crevice and turn right to the mountain path. We’ll take a small path, it’ll be faster… Ah, you guys are much faster than I am!”
Priest was sprinting ahead at the fore, just as Sol happily pointed directions for him, her other hand grasping his helmet. “That way, that way—there are a bunch of magical bears living on that side, although they won’t be threat, it’ll be a waste of time.”
‘We would have been even faster with our flying car.’ Priest could not help but think about their specially modified flying vehicle, his mind thus a little emotional.
Right now, after learning about the true identity of Hub Accrafa, the Elite Party could easily tell the reason their fling car crashed before—the roof of an important facility such as the dimensional hub was undoubtedly a no-fly zone, and it was fortunate that they were not vaporized by a death why when they had flown over it so flamboyantly.
Indeed, crashing after their vehicle’s power was drained dry was a great fortune. That is why they walked over there on the ground this time, while Priest also wanted to try if the idea he had worked.
‘I hope what my mentor said was true,’ he thought quietly. ‘ Really, don’t let it be some blurting!’
Along the way, all five members of the Elite Party said nothing. Only Sol’s voice could be heard as she pointed the way, and as they cut across various shortcuts in the forests, all of them soon arrived at the foot of the Sacred Altar Mountain, where Hub Accrafa now was.
If what once was the Sacred Altar Mountain had indeed been a real mountain, then the dimensional hub which stony outer layer had peeled off was a colossal building comparable to a mountain.
And the latter was much more profound than former.
Even when looking at it from afar, one could clearly make out the full form of Dimensional Hub Accrafa. It was a massive, smooth and round building constituting mainly from three arches. It was almost two thousand meters tall, with most of its structure still buried beneath mountain stone—the entire building simply stood amidst the mountains as if a titan deity that held the skies aloft.
A screen of mild silver energies shrouded it, a sacred presence emanating distinctly from within.
“It’s so huge.” Priest was left in awe.
Larger than the entire Starherder Palace.
Larger than even real mountain chains.
What was more, such a massive building that was built entirely out of mithril alloy was not one of its kind—perhaps many were spread across ten thousand worlds.
The grandeur of the Glorious Era was truly awe-inspiring.
Still, Priest and the others were here today not to admire the mighty acts of ancients and wonder about the grand scale of the things before them. Soon, with the powerful machinery momentum of the enchanted armors, they were once again by the mountain, reaching before the translucent, near-invisible energy ripples.
“This will do.”
Priest stopped, putting Sol down from his shoulder and approached the ripples. “It’s this thing that scanned us and then threw us dozens of thousands of meters away last time—I’m not sure at the time, but now it appears to be some energy field.”
“Entering the boundary means going through Hub Accrafa’s screening. With the clearance us Gold-tiers possess, there’s no way we could enter.”
Beside him, Caster had taken off his helmet sand shook off his tangled hair. “Leader,” he said, staring at the ripples layer, “you said you have a way to fool Hub Accrafa… While it’s not like I don’t believe it, it’s time to tell us about your plan now, right?”
At those words, the other three of the party all turned at Priest curiously.
Before, the five of them had experienced firsthand the power of those invisible ripples. According to Clergy’s projection, it may be the high-end effect of a certain Holy Light, even Order Power. It was a huge spell used for detecting Chaos concentration and individual ability, and unstoppable without Supreme-tier ability.
Still, was there even a need to resist with Supreme-tier ability? The Hub would naturally grant them entry.
Beside them, Sol, who did not understand what the others were saying at all coaxed as well. “That’s right, tell us!”
“It’s actually simple, but we just never thought of it… Rider, the Restoration Beam is with you, right? Give it to me!”
The Elite Party was not unintelligent—even the frequently teased Rider actually scored above a hundred forty in a hundred and fifty points test papers. What they could not think of was mostly because they were in the wrong train of thought, preventing them from being inspired.
But now, as if someone had pierced that paper window, everyone understood at once.
“Good job, Leader!” Rider exclaimed in sincere wonder even as he passed a silver metallic cylinder—the original form of the Restoration Beam to Priest. “As expected of That Person’s pupil—no, it’s exactly because you’re his pupil that you could think of it!”
Beside them, Clergy and Caster were nodding fervently as well. “That’s for sure… We ignored that thing after we realized that it can’t connect to Mycroft. Never thought that it actually has such a function too.”
Meanwhile, Priest ignored his teammate’s flattery. He simply accepted the Restoration Beam with a solemn expression and then spoke the password to activate it. “Don’t be in such a hurry for boot-licking,” he said quietly, “I’m not sure this is going to work—it’s not too late to cheer when it succeeds.”
Although that was what he said, Priest was in fact ninety percent sure that his solution would work.
At its core, the Restoration Bema was a part of Joshua’s Steel Strength. It was autonomous, and from a certain point of view, it was a small clone of the Legendary Count Radcliffe.
Back in World Zero One, Joshua had used that clone to reach it from beyond worlds, blocking the Black Fog which was attempting to wipe out the Elite Party. Many would perhaps consider it a tool similar to a summoning beacon, and that it was not useful apart from healing since it could not connect to Mycroft.
But Priest was different.
He was aware of the essence of the Restoration Beam, and thought of the way to use that essence for achieving his objective.
And that was ‘borrowing power’.
Soon, three minutes quickly passed, even as Sol kept poking the enlarging and expanding Restoration Beam while exclaiming things such as ‘so soft’ and ‘so elastic’. As for the Elite Party, they simply watched as the Beam slowly become a three-meters tall, two-meters wide cylinder.
“It’s almost time.”
Having ensured that the Restoration Beam was opened completely, turning into something that looked like a ray of light but was actually a healing pool of compressed Steel Strength, Priest left his enchanted armor and strode inside it.
He sensed his body being engulfed by a warm force that was akin to the depths of the sea, the formless power quickly healing all internal injuries inside him.
‘So comfortable, it’s like soaking in a hot spring… no, it’s a hundred times cozier than that.’
Priest could not help be left in wonder. The feeling of his body behind restored from within was much more pleasant than any form of entertainment. This completion and refinement of life at its essence was probably much more exhilarating than using any magical potion—if his will was not firm, he might have grown to indulge himself in the elation of such healing.
At the thought, he moved his body so that the Restoration Beam followed his actions, taking one step forward.
A dull echo. Some of the rocks beneath the Restoration Beam was crushed.
Even so, Priest, wrapped inside the Restoration Beam, hence simply and slowly moved toward the layer of invisible ripples surrounding Hub Accrafa, step by step.
Both Sol and the rest of the Elite Party held their breaths and looked on.
Priest did not delegate the responsibility of being the first to attempt that idea, but it was not out of the fear of death that they did not stop them. Hub Accrafa would not kill humans, at most throwing them several dozen thousand meters away, so it was nothing too important.
The reason everyone would stay quiet and allow Priest to have the first attempt was mainly because he was a pupil of Count Radcliffe—compared to others, he was more suitable to act beneath the shroud of rich Steel Strength.
If it was not the Elite Party but normal individuals who had approached the Restoration Beam, they would have fainted at once in the instant that they entered it due to the extremely frightening presence, much less feel any form of comfort. They certainly would not be able to carry the Beam around either, just as the other members of the Elite Party were not sure that they could move freely within the Restoration Beam.
Whatever the case might be, Priest was successful, and about to touch the ripples of Hub Accrafa.
The silver beam thus came into contact with the invisible energy flow.
Formless voices at once echoed within everyone’s minds.
“Target identified as ‘Non-Standard Superior Being Incarnation’… main body of energy is ‘Steel Strength’, identified as derivative of ‘Mother Goddess’, ‘Majestic Mountain Titan’ and ‘God of Mountains’, identified as specialized elite of ‘Steel Strength’.”
“Target identified as non-Chaos being, removing ‘Hostile Label’, inserting ‘Welcoming Label’. ‘Level Six Clearance: Mandate of Heaven provided’, ceasing observation sequence and commencing ‘greeting procedures’.
“Welcome, revered Legend. Hub Accrafa salutes your arrival—please head to the VIP entrance, the autonomous service sequence is ready.”