Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
No one could tell if Joshua feels fear.
However, the present mood amongst Priest and the others fluctuated between extreme fear to extreme delight for seven to eight times.
“Are we still alive? Feels like we should be dead by now.”
Caster said stonily as he stood beside the observation platform of Hub Accrafa—his words were not unusual since he simply could not be sure if he was alive or dead.
At first, everyone had been thrilled to see Galanoud’s Nature Power manifesting in the skies. Regardless of who came, it was evident that the champions of Mycroft received their signal and hurried to the scene as fast as they could.
Soon, however, their mood at once fell to the depths when they saw innumerable tentacles of Chaos bursting down beneath ground, displaying their vicious form for world devastation. Legendary champions would not have boded well even then, and could Hub Accrafa, the place they sought shelter really resist the Chaos’s corruption before the Legendary champion arrived to repel it?
Then, Hub Accrafa’s charged retaliation and subsequent nullification by the Evil God of Wither’s witling ripples, once again leaving the Elite Party and Sol excited and subsequently crestfallen, a perfect three-hundred and sixty-degree cycle.
Four massive roots extended into the depths of the planet—the struggle between Order and Chaos was now white-hot, only for each to be hurriedly detached in a seemingly hurried escape.
How terrible was Chaos to actually inspire such fear in a Legendary champion!
Various emotions stirred in Priest’s mind at the sight. He did not believe that Legendary champions would fear to face an Evil God, but reality had proven that the origin of Chaos might be a foe too difficult for ordinary Legends…
And yet he saw no traces of Chaos corruptions on those massive roots.
Why? There was no distinct disadvantage.
Soon, he had his answer.
As the World Barrier utterly shattered with one echoing rumble, citizen of Moldavia, student of Winter Fort’s Victor Academy, member of the Imperial External Exploration Department, and pupil of the Northern Count, Priest Omni promptly sensed his master’s raging and frightening aura.
Along with that of a Void Behemoth that was the size of a half a planet and struggling endlessly.
“O mentor of mine,” the young warrior could not help muttering—everything now made sense. “So, you were here already…”
“Seven Gods above…”
The crystal ball that Clergy had been fiddling with fell from his hand, and he gaped at the star at the pinnacle of the skies plummeted at an unimaginable velocity, bright, fiery light more blinding than the sun thus illuminating the world.
Rider fell on his bottom and gulped, watching fearfully as the nine moons over the skies were knocked out of their orbits by the star that abruptly appeared and descended with a wild, terrible whirl in the air.
The white of Sol’s eyes flashed for a moment as if she was about to directly faint, but she stayed conscious, wanting to cry but without the tears after having sunk unconscious once earlier, holding the stunned Priest’s hand. Meanwhile, Alchemist downed herself in a potion for courage that allegedly helps to face Dragon Might directly, but it was clearly ineffective—could Dragon Might even compare to the presence that descended ever closer over them from the skies? But despite suspecting that it would be a futile act, Alchemist still kept downing himself in it just to stop his mouth that kept making noises unwittingly.
Only the Restoration Beam was moving at all in the chamber. Its luminous cylinder form kept squirming as if to fly and dash for the skies. But soon, Priest, the more clear-headed amongst the Elite Party, controlled Hub Accrafa, issuing his loudest command in recent times.
“All defensive systems activate—ignore all energy sourcing, deploy at full-capacity!!!”
Following orders obediently, Hub Accrafa wrapped itself in seven to eight layers Glorious Era Void Warship-class shields.
Just as the planet trembled.
First, it was substances that burst forth.
The Void Crab’s back being the contact point, earth, seawater and rock layer that it crashed into were as if squeezed butter, vaporizing, boiling and kicked out of the atmospheric layer amidst terrible, hot friction. Even more substances followed like ripples of a tide, unfurling towards the direction of the planet or directly thrown into a cold vacuum.
Soon, it was the atmosphere that was torn into pieces by the shockwaves.
All trees on the planet’s surface were destroyed in an instant, the searing impact, combined with mud had become tremors in the shape of ripples, warping and igniting the entire world. The sheer force blew away the entire atmosphere into a cluster of irregular vapors wafting in the vacuum, just as steaming seawater incessantly added to the vapors’ size, even gathering as large drops of water in the vacuum.
Then, in the end, the planet split apart.
The lithosphere splintered just as the earth’s mantle was left misshapen—the crash of the star of fire thus dismantled an entire planet. Infinite debris hence splattered away, soon followed by the larger pieces of the planet’s crust…
But that was not quite precise.
Although the atmosphere and pieces of earth collapsed with the powerful crash, most of the ground in the sealed world was not completely shattered. When everything was knocked into vacuum, it formed another small planet after being mostly drawn by a mysterious power and sheets of dull flashes, maintaining its original form and the appearance of the planet.
Meanwhile, both Joshua and the Great Khan fought on without noticing it.
At the moment, the enraged Great Khan’s soul form physique gradually thinned, the Void Behemoth that was half a planet and comparable to medium to small sized worlds vanishing as if an illusion.
That was the moment when Joshua felt a syringe, invisible and carrying a painful, jarring medicine was injected directly into his brain.
Although Joshua was now fighting without using his mind, his entire body was basically ‘eternal units’ used for calculation and thought. Still, that was all that sensation was, one that was indescribable for all human languages and exceedingly revolting for others: the same as having a seed latching onto one’s skin, the spoor of fungi permeating the flesh to grow. The formless soul hammer hence swung down upon every unit of thought the warrior had, and amidst the dull thuds, some massive, extraordinary presence was forcefully nailed into his soul.
It was the Great Khan.
It was the Great Khan’s soul.
The eight-legged fungi were not eight-legged in the first place.
Being the special variant of a certain zombie fungal species, they were gifted with souls amidst the mana-rich environment in their homeworld, thereby developing self-awareness early on.
At the time, the fungi were a simple race of parasite that latched on to small insects such as ants and bees.
It was a long, difficult process, and yet it was perfectly reasonable. Through the unification of intellect and instinct, the eight-legged fungi swiftly ensured the prolonging and existence of their civilization, evolving by generations with the advantage of their brief lifeforms, enlarging, making their own bodies and souls much more complex and having a closer affinity to magical energy. Soon, in a brief million years that was short for biological evolution, they established themselves as a race of coarse fungal bodies, possessing intelligence and were sufficiently complex to employ mana.
Afterward, not only insects—mammals and reptiles that had more brain and were more complex also became their host, their targets for control.
That was how the Starherder civilization came to be.
Eight-legged? Void Crab? No, that was never the true form of the Starherders. For they whose bodies lived for an all to brief moments but having immortal souls, only that aspect about them symbolized their essence.
And now, the Great Khan who had already reached soul manifestation and was powerful enough to simultaneously control twenty-four Void Behemoths hence determinedly launched its soul into Joshua’s spirit.
Devouring brains? Controlling nerves? The Starherders had long since abandoned that habit. If not for bodies that they utilized for move around smoothly and convey emotions in the physical realm, no Starherder would maintain that aberrative fungal strain form of theirs, and instead directly employ soul corruption to control bodies of inferior lifeforms.
It was the same for the Great Khan too—it had never been adept at physical conflict.
It would act in the spiritual aspect, to erode its powerful foe entirely!
Within the dark, vast realm of spirit, Joshua’s soul form stood in the center of it all, watching silently as countless fungal spores rained down to erode the entire realm.
Even so, he did not appear nervous, even if that meant that his spiritual realm would be occupied, and that his soul would lose its place.
“Fungus? I see…” the warrior muttered silently. “A parasite similar to the civilization that birthed the Evil God of Pestilence and Herlas’s.”
Joshua now understood slightly why it could control so many Void Behemoths, but he did not find the parasitic beings repulsive.
Like how humans consumed livestock, parasite simply consumed food in another method, and he laughed softly in return.
“You wish to consume my soul? Quick thinking.”
“This is your soul? Star Eater of the Forerunner Civilization, your kind had been eaten by fear as expected—which is why you never left the Lost Galaxy after all this time.”
In the spiritual realm, the Great Khan’s soul reverberated from inside countless fungal strains: it was a reverberation that ignored languages, and used words and meanings directly implanted into another soul, but embodied an ice-cold sensation all the same. “Small, skinny, shallow, insignificant. Even the rulers of my race are a class above you in terms of the soul.”
And such was reality—the profoundness of the Great Khan’s soul had the massiveness of Void Behemoths even inside the spiritual realm, while Joshua’s soul incarnation was a mere human form, a far cry from his Giant Steel God form.
Souls do not lie: the difference in size was the difference in ability.
Joshua, however, was not angered… for he did not have to be. “Forerunner, all this time, Lost Galaxy?” He said, shaking his head nonchalantly. “You appear to have an unusual opinion of this galaxy. Could you please explain in detail?”
Joshua had no sense of urgency even as he spoke. For one, time moved so quickly in his spiritual space that he did not have to worry about the Evil God awakening in that little bit of time, just as he appeared to be confident and unworried about their difference in soul power.
—I shall explain things to you clearly. It’s not as if I can’t spare your lives later.
The Great Khan naturally was unaware of what Joshua had in mind, but a little confused as to why Joshua was not resisting. Even if his soul was weak, the warrior could employ various measures as the owner of the spiritual realm to his own advantage, but he was not moving at all, allowing it to corrupt him as he wished… The lack of value in the information he asked for notwithstanding, the Great Khan thought that it would not be an issue to maintain his opponent’s inaction by telling him something everyone beyond this galaxy knew.
“You, to have utterly forgotten the stars beyond and your own majesty after being isolated for a mere twelve thousand years, not knowing the anomaly in your own galaxy… how sad.”
Despite its mockery of Joshua’s ignorance, the Great Khan started to speak seriously and reverently of the Forerunner Civilization, and the great calamity twelve thousand years ago. It described their glory and generosity, praised their virtue for improving life yet to develop intelligence—even the Starherders themselves greatly benefitted from the Forerunner Civilization and would never forget their grace, which was why they kept everything at heart.
“The Forerunner Civilization had repelled the army of World Eaters, sealing them all within their own galaxy so that not one of them could leave… Although it all happened so unusually and abruptly, every civilization beyond hence survived and developed to the state as they are now.”
At that, the Great Khan grunted coldly. “But don’t think too much on it—we respect the Forerunner Civilization, and not some bastard that hid themselves in the Lost Galaxy, pausing and never improving over ten thousand years!”
As it spoke, the Great Khan did all it could to erode Joshua’s spiritual space. Nonetheless, in that extended process, not only did Joshua not show any intention of ‘resisting’, he had lowered his head and pondered.
“Forerunner Civilization… Why does it sound like a combination of the Shelter Federation and the Glorious Era? There might even be some other Void civilization in the mix, even if they were not as advanced as both…”
Joshua’s soul incarnation muttered to himself in seeming deep thought. “World Eaters would be Evil Gods, and if there are no surprises, that so-called war would be the Final Battle that occurred all those years ago.”
However, it happened twelve thousand years ago…
Or at least twelve thousand years ago.
But even that was too long.
Their galaxy, moved to the edge of the Multiverse, a ten-thousand-year gap wedged between their civilization and those beyond due to Time Dilation… Joshua looked up at the fungal strain before him.
To the Starherders, to civilizations beyond this galaxy, that war had happened more than ten thousand years ago, a battle in days long past, becoming a legend covered in dust, just as the legend itself became broken pieces of ancient rumors. Everything was shrouded by ‘time’, the most powerful force and great illusion, leaving none aware of the actual course of events.
It was a form of ‘seal’.
Suddenly, Joshua understood what it all meant.
Indeed, it was a seal, one that was far sturdier than any magical circle, far more reliable than all subjugation. The prison of time, the seal of age!
The effect of Time Dilation meant ten thousand years for worlds beyond when it had been just a thousand years for Mycroft, flipping the Multiverse and galaxy and reversing all constants. In that brief Millennia, as the Starfall civilization that had grown out of the ashes of the Glorious Era, the Evil Gods had readied themselves over ten thousand years from beyond, ready for their next devastating tour of worlds.
“So, we were a sealed civilization, huh.”
With that epiphany, Joshua looked up at the dark skies of his spiritual realm, whispering to himself. “To only notice all this now after that fine time-manipulating performance… Impressive, most impressive. A seal so discreet that both sealed and bystanders could not tell that anything was wrong.”
After that, the warrior said nothing more—there was no sound in his spiritual space apart from the rustling of fungal strain. The Great Khan naturally could not understand Joshua’s shift in mood, and simply categorized it as ‘unable to resist after being stunned by reality’.
But slowly, it realized that something was not right.
“Wait. Why hadn’t I conquered much of this spiritual realm even if I’ve consumed it for such a long time? How vast is this place? Impossible! How could a soul so weak possess a spiritual space so profound?!”
At the same time, a laughter that was at first suppressed and soon emboldened resounded from the center of the spiritual realm.
“Haha… Hahahaha! So many sealing measures, even warping time itself.”
With his eyes fixed at the dark skies, Joshua appeared able to see the endless stars in the Multiverse beyond. He laughed sonorously, heartily and without restraint.
“Extracting the galaxy from the Multiverse, placing it at the edge to compress time… so ‘He’ can be scared too!”
The Great Khan was simply unable to comprehend what that weird fellow before it was laughing about. It was left inexplicably irritated by that laughter, and hence unleashed a fungal strain impatiently and whipped it towards Joshua. It was aware that the gesture was futile—regardless of how weak Joshua’s soul was, he had the ability to move freely in that spiritual space. Therefore, it was not bothered to slay the soul it was facing, instead focused on corrupting the spiritual space, uprooting the very roots of the warrior’s soul.
And soon the Great Khan realized that things were awry: Joshua neither evaded the full-power lashing, nor was he left in pieces.
Raising his hand and point out with his index finger, Joshua used his soul force that was no stronger than a Supreme champion’s to block that spiritual strike, one which surpassed typical Legends and could pulverize his very soul.
“To be frank, I’m guessing your soul is more powerful than William the Mind Lord himself, just as the both of you are equally matched in technique. A fight between you two would be fair, and that Wandering Poet might even be beaten—everything is possible.”
His laughter thus fading, and perhaps because he could not directly turn his thoughts into words in his own spiritual space, Joshua shook his head. “It’s a pity. After our sparring last time, William no longer played such spiritual games with me, just as I’m unsure about his present ability.”
As he spoke, the warrior simply pointed—the Great Khan’s endless tentacles hence broke off from its base, before being shattered by a mysterious power into a milky-white spiritual powder that vanished in the dark, silent spiritual space.
“I actually don’t have a soul—to be precise, my cognition organ is powerful enough to fight and think in extreme velocity even in the absence of soul. It’s just for the convenience of clones that I simply shaped a little soul for everyone else to see.”
Joshua grinned indifferently, watching as the Great Khan pulled back its soul force after realizing something was wrong while mustering a full power assault. “In the very beginning, I was already unbeatable without a soul, just as you are ignorant of many things—such as how everyone else called my spiritual space a ‘Soul Pool’.”
With those words, tides began to stir in the spiritual space around the warrior as wild storms engulfed the dark, silent spiritual realm. Everything was thus warped and wrung violently, and amidst endless cries and screams, bellows and wails, bleak yet bold trumpeting from the distance, the infinite ocean of perished spirits and remains of souls thus transcended the warped space, appearing in every spot above that spiritual space.
Boundless, endless and incalculable. Billions at minimum.
The depthless yet dark spiritual realm was no longer silent as it had been before, with the voices of countless beings praising and signing in its bottom of nothingness: there were old and young, male and female, human and beasts. They praised, screamed, cursed, sung, just as they moaned, scolded, laugh or whispered.
Infinite corpses of beasts, humans, aliens and Chaos aberrations thus danced, wandered, floated, rolled, leaped, expanded or shrunk as if the nightmare of nightmares. The innumerable noisy human voices swirled, mixing in the once silent and empty spiritual realm, gathering to form naked hatred, dripping intent to kill and unconcealed malice.
And Joshua thus stood in that boundless malice, reaching out to stroke the skull of a monster’s remains without minding its rotting blood and cries. Every perished soul would prostrate themselves in worship when they approached the warrior, as if to bow their heads in pledging loyalty towards that human which had killed them, the Giant God who had destroyed everything.
A giant eyeball, formed from incalculable corpses, blood, skulls, blunted weapons, burning steel, frigid wind and sand, broken citadels, magma and all objects that were filled with more destruction and death standing together appeared behind the warrior. The center of its pupil was a planet which was mostly devoured and its core lost, whirling emptily and releasing the company of death.
The Great Khan felt an iciness creeping from the depths of its soul as the giant Eye of Corpses gazed upon itself. Now that things had come to this, it must admit that it had truly underestimated the Forerunner Star Eater.
How many lives had he actually killed, how many existences had he destroyed that he came to hold such terrible malevolence, wandering at the depths of his soul?
That question went unanswered.
For Joshua’s final call resounded from the center of the spiritual world.
“By the way, I actually know this trick called ‘Soul-Substance’ Transition.”
The echoes diminished, and Joshua’s human figure disperse as clusters of silver mist.
In the very next moment, something rose slowly from the depths of the unlit spiritual realm that was far larger than what the Great Khan could ever imagine.
As the boundless dark tides rapidly receded, Joshua’s spiritual space finally unveiled its true form: it was a dark abyss in which something scarlet churned at the bottom. Meanwhile, the hand of a Giant God that blanketed sky and sun, seemingly able to grasp the entire world reached out from the depths, ignoring all feeble and futile retaliation and grasp the Great Khan’s fungal form it had transfigured into.
With a funny sound, the Giant God grasped it in his palm, clenching it softly as if a person holding a sparrow in their hand, carefully so that it would not be squashed.
The Eye of Corpses watched it all in silence.
Who was the one frightened?