Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
What was actually death?
The flesh would lose its vigor, the heart would stop beating. The brain would cease functioning, just as the soul would utterly diminish… Those were all signs of death, a countdown to death ninety percent of the time.
But were all those things absolute?
Not quite. The body of liches had no vigor at all while ents had no heart. The heads of headless knights were mere decorations, and a pumpkin could be put in place as it pleases, while some beings lived comfortably without a soul, or perhaps greater than others would.
Nevertheless, death is unavoidable for all beings in the dark and cruel Multiverse. Even supernatural individuals have to step past huge thresholds to free themselves from its pursuit.
“Priest, I have to say something.”
In the septic underground lab at Winter Fort Academy, a man with a deep-voice spoke to his own pupil who was half-kneeling before him. “Every elf of the Overwatch Tribe has been corrupted by Chaos and attacked spiritually by the Evil God of Wither and are in dire straits. They are now being healed by the elves of the Far South, the time in which they would come to is indefinite.”
“However, it is fortunate that before the Mother Tree used its last remaining power to shelter their body and soul before it was destroyed. There is no immediate threat to their lives despite being severely harmed.”
As he spoke, the man realized that his pupil’s body shuddered.
“But… Sol wasn’t connected to the Mother Tree.”
“She should be dead if that’s the case.”
The youth’s jaw clenched in response, while the man narrowed his eyes to study his own pupil. “Priest,” he asked quietly, “Why are you so sad?”
The warrior then laughed softly. “You are an Extraordinary individual. Do you really believe that death is the end?”
“Death is just the beginning.”
Starfall Year 840, 17th of March, 7 a.m. The second floor of the Moldavian Liege’s Residence.
Humans favored using the term ‘without equal’ to describe precious or rarely seen things, and ‘could be seen everywhere’ for things that are commonly seen and widespread.
It was common for Mycroft humans without supernatural powers. Almost eight to nine out of ten humans would have no supernatural powers at all, while the single one left might not be an official adept as well, and would only know some magic or Aura tricks.
Conversely, there was no question that Extraordinary individuals were rare. In Mycroft, a high-mana world, everyone knew of the existence of magic, but those who could really transcend through the barrier of Iron-intermediate and rise above were certainly uncommon. It is the same with how everyone knows how to go on diet, but only a rare few could diet successfully.
Still, although a distinct divide existed between ‘normal humans’ and ‘Extraordinary individuals’, no ‘normal person’ actually exist in this world.
Ling Acroll, the chief administrator of the Moldavian Liege Residence, supervisor of Winter Fort Academy Mana Net, the honorary vice-chief of the Northern Liege Residence’s official merchant guild, full-time butler and possibly a former weapon was seated before the desk in his own room. With a solemn gaze, he browsed through the forum in the Spirit Terminal before commencing the second grand purge of the year.
“Do these people live on the Net? Where do they get the spirit!”
The black-haired youth heartlessly deleted every spam post, advertisement, and decal post in the forums, banning the many uncompliant students and drawing cries of foul play and shudder amongst them.
“A good deed a day.”
With that done, Ling spiritedly clapped his hands and logged out of the Mana Net.
Being a seventh-generation divine armament crafted in conjunction with the Empire’s artificial fairy project, Ling and his sister have psionic bodies like the fairies, allowing them to log on to the Mana Net without having to use the gemlike spiritual terminal like normal humans. In fact, their existence was in itself a giant spiritual terminal, easily connectable to the Mana Net with a single intent in any environment.
That was also precisely why he, along with Miss Zero Three and Ying had all become some of the supervisors managing the Mana Net who provide the growing userbase of the information terminal a clean online environment—officially speaking. In truth, the black-haired youth was a little obsessive compulsive and could not abide by any irregular post formats.
Rising from his desk, Ling slightly adjusted the notes and books he read last night, keeping titles he yet to finish including ‘Imperium’, ‘City of Faith’ and ‘Modern Magic Rune Improvement: Ether Edition’ in a corner and set the notes in order. Then, he placed ‘How to Delight Your Leader—The Way of Promotion’, ‘Thirty-three Focuses in Rearing Dragons’ and ‘Social Movement’ into his book cabinet.
There were two pictures on the side of the cabinet. One was Ying’s monthly schedule that was filled with densely packed highlights and red circles, while the other was an enchanted photograph that depicted a black-haired man bringing the youth on a black dragon along in a joyride during a snowstorm.
With everything arranged, the prim Ying turned off his table light and tidied his cuffs, prepared to leave for work in a new day.
A while ago, his master had awakened from slumber and raised a ruckus for a while when he returned to his domain. The Liege’s safe return and successful ascension had drawn many old friends from different parts of the world who came to congratulate him: His Holiness the Pope himself had come and brought along his godson Roland, while Brandon, who had been training his sword skills in the Abyss brought his entire family as well, not to mention the other Legendary champions. Over more than a month, every Northerner was shrouded beneath the presence of multiple Legendary champions, with any local magical beast that could not escape in time basically domesticated. Not only would they refrain from biting after encountering humans, they would even prostrate themselves, wagging their tails and making a pitiable face.
It had been a really busy time, a month that Ling grimaced and shook his head as he remembered it. If their master had not given them fairy training data from Fairyland so that they could learn entire categories by singular examples and improve their ability, they might have been dazed by the busy schedules then.
Nonetheless, things were much better now. Their master’s exchanges with the many Legends was over just as the mayhem from his Ascension cooled, and everything was back on track.
As the black-haired youth walked out of her own door, he walked past a statue.
Its features were identical to the youth’s, with most people simply unable to differentiate between the two if they remained still. Ling stopped in his track and studied the statue thoroughly, unable to repress a smile.
It was a statue that was amongst a series that his master made for everyone in the Liege’s Residence when he trained in Creation at the atomic level, perfectly replicating their features and expression to an unbelievably intricate level. Ling even mistakenly thought that he was looking at himself when he first saw it.
Ling’s statue was wearing his butler uniform and did not actually have many special aspects. It was sitting normally on a chair, a book in his hand that he read silently, his expression appearing thoughtful and having certain understanding.
It was very detailed but had no noteworthy aspect, unlike the statues of his sister and Zero-Three that were beautiful and captivating or imposing like Black’s dragon form. On a single glance, it was a rather simple statue of a youth reading a book.
Still, it was natural.
Ling was aware that he was not a person of special attributes.
All he could do was work meticulously, obeying commands and instructions as he completed tasks assigned by his master, with neither excess ideas nor complaints.
To do everything he should perfectly, he would keep everything he was told at heart and scrupulously care for his sister, who had been abandoned during her own creation and hence became rather unhinged. When his master was away, he would bring a certain black dragon and Light out for a stroll, assisting Miss Zero-Three when needed to handle technical issues, while using his supreme Fairy Cards skills to consolidate his leadership in the family… A normal person, inconspicuous and hidden behind the scenes.
Even so, he was not a normal, mundane butler found anywhere.
The black-haired youth knew that and held conviction over that.
He was a perfect divine armament—the finest weapon, servant, and butler.
That was his identity, and he was without equal.
At the very thought, he opened the door and walked past the corridor to leave the Liege’s Residence, heading for the nearby headquarters of the merchant guild.
On the way, there were still signs of the recent festival. The broadcast system and LCD screens were broadcasting relaxing daytime music, and the sounds of the nearby district opening for business could be heard. The doors of many civilian residences nearby were open, with many residents coming out to clear the cumulated snow and popsicles beneath the roofs. They were of a variety of race, with dwarves, elves, halflings and even pygmies amongst them—a human who was ready to purchase food ingredients from the trade district was chatting away with a murloc, which was making sounds that no one could understand.
One of the doors in the residential district opened then. A man with platinum hair, carrying a shovel to scoop off the snow outside looked up and found the black-haired youth passing by the street.
“Huh, isn’t that Butler Ling?”
The man paused for a while before shaking his head. “Going out to work so early—how dutiful.”
“What are you doing, brother?”
A rather lazy feminine voice wafted from inside the house. “Hurry up, clear the snow and have breakfast—we have to report to the human resource department of the Royal Mage Guild today.”
“Yes, Amelia, I know.” Smiling as he responded to his younger sister, Ivan Makarov rolled up his sleeves and leaned over to clear the snow.
In truth, being the laureate graduate of Winter Fort Academy and wielding Gold-tier ability, Ivan could control magic at will and clear away the snow on his own house and the entire street. Still, it was not a bad thing to labor away once in a while, and the urban district restricted use of any ability beyond Silver-novice. Those who violated the rule would be dumped into magic-powered factories as a human battery for a while—enjoy firing away with your Extraordinary powers? Then fire away while contributing to the public.
Although it appeared to be a policy that considered the safety of civilians, Ivan, who was joining the Empire’s policy makers knew that things were not so simple.
After all, the number of Extraordinary individuals were increasing.
A dozen years ago before the Mana Tide, the world’s energy density was not high, with most Extraordinary individuals’ legacy typically following the master-apprentice model or small academies. That is why there were preciously rare Extraordinary individuals—even after including the most common army training and simple civilian mage spells.
But now that the Great Mana Tide has come, many large academies were founded around the world, and the number of Extraordinary individuals grew distinctly.
It was especially apparent from Ivan’s own perspective. Since he and his sister Amelia had graduated from Winter Fort Academy and moved out from their old place at Grandpa Edward’s after buying a house in the center of the city, he would hear news of neighbors’ children or relatives joining Winter Fort Academy. Some parents were even registering for the ‘Ascension Practical Workshop’ that the Liege’s Residence started specifically for adults, learning some spells or Aura skills.
In half a year, the number of Extraordinary individuals that was around one to ten percent of the total population rapidly bloated to the point that there were three or four Extraordinary individuals out of ten.
Although most newly promoted adepts were crude and lower-ranked Extraordinary individuals, they could still use magical machinery and activate runic formations, applying considerable power through enchanted instruments… That was also precisely why as the number of Extraordinary individuals increased, special regulations against them also increased.
With the snow cleared away, Ivan returned indoors and put away the shovel before heading to the kitchen for breakfast. When he sat down beside a girl who had platinum hair like his own, he simply asked, “How is our dragon?”
“Still sleeping. It’ll probably a few days before it wakes up.”
Amelia replied rather nonchalantly as she spread jam over Ivan’s bread. “By the way, are we really getting into the Abyss, brother?”
Ivan poured a cup of milk for his sister, shaking his head puzzledly in return. “Don’t you remember what our mentor told us few pupils several days ago?”
“Mycroft is at a key period. In the past, we are imprisoned in a dark, ancient cage, but now, we have freed ourselves from the decaying and rusted locks and leave the cage—clearly, our mentor and his lot had found something huge in their adventure this time, with resources being diverted to the ‘New World’ he mentioned.”
At those words, Ivan took a bite of the jam-filled bread and said rather gloomily, “I know you’re thinking why we should go to the Abyss since resources are going to the New World? That’s simple, sister of mine—repelling outside influence would keep the world stable from within. Mycroft is close to the Abyss, which is why before we go to new worlds, we have to get rid of all threats beside us.”
Swallowing his food, Ivan then turned and smiled at his sister. “The External Exploration Department enjoys their adventurers, so all that people like us who don’t like moving around have to do was to keep the peace in our homeworld whenever they are away. Moreover, weren’t we looking for chances to go to the Abyss even without that reason?”
It was natural. The two siblings who had sworn to take down the Pentashade dragons smiled as they looked at each other, before lowering their gaze and silently ate their breakfast.
They would go wherever the Pentashade dragons were—of course they would go to the Abyss.
“Of course we are going to the Abyss!”
Lisa the Drakonid girl loudly announced the plans she just made. “It’s about time we send Mister Syndicate home!”
Lisa’s words were slowly becoming more straightforward recently and almost tactless. There was no telling where she learned that from.
” Bzzt-bzzt .” (Agreed)
A silver alarm clock in the living room jingled twice in support. Even as Zero-One’s clone dutifully turned its clock hands, it continued, ” Bzzt-bzzt-bzzt-bzzt?” (When are we leaving?)
On the other side, the other Drakonid in the room resembled Lisa very much albeit with masculine features was reading a newspaper on the couch. “What do you mean,” he retorted subconsciously, “sending me home?”
“Eh? You don’t want to go back, Mister Syndicate?”
The Drakonid girl had thought that the balrog would be very happy with the announcement. She never imagined that he would react like that, and at once lowered her head disappointedly, here expression vague.
“No, Lisa, I mean, look—I’m not a balrog now!” Syndicate promptly became nervous at the sight of Lisa’s forlornness, and hurriedly put down his paper and went beside Lisa, holding her hand as he explained, “I’m no longer demon after my living form had changed, and the Abyss is also… Wait, you’re not crying?!”
“Of course not.” Seizing the chance and grabbing Syndicate’s hand, Lisa looked up, a sunny expression on a face with zero disappoint. She shrugged, before tip-toeing to whisper into the balrog’s ear. “I just want to see the place you’ve lived in before… What, you don’t want to?”
“That’s… not really…”
Syndicate certainly wanted to say no since the Abyss was nowhere good, and his life back there had only been a dull one of devouring and killing. Life on Mycroft was pleasant and comfortable like its people—he liked the place so much he simply did not want to return.
Still, he relented in the end. “Fine. We’ll go since Lisa wants to go so badly… The experience could be useful.”
“Mister Syndicate is the best!”
Meanwhile, next door down to Lisa.
The atmosphere inside a house within the southern residential district was completely different from the happy one next door.
The cold winds of winter echoed as frost spread within the glass. On a couch beside the living room’s hearth, a gray-haired girl was chewing her lip and staring blankly at two pots of flowers of different forms.
One pot had furry flowers resembling dandelions although there was a gold tint in them, as well as bristles that did not detach easily. The ‘Dawndelion’ was a special fire-element magical herb, with body-nourishing roots and physical strengthening effects. Most importantly it felt nice to touch, warm and suitable for winter.
Flowers in the other pot were much more mysterious, having seven translucent geometrical petals that resembled frost crystals. Each petal also had different magical radiances encircling them, and whenever the radiances swirled, the six elements in the atmosphere would gather around them, thickening the mana concentration in the house.
Britney was staring worriedly at the flowers, sent to her by Priest.
“Brother hasn’t smiled for a long time…”
Ever since Priest had returned from the distant edge of the galaxy, Britney had rarely seen her brother smile in earnest.
The Dawndelions and the other pot were presents that her brother prepared for her. He had hidden them on the attic thinking that she would not notice, but she now had to water them after not returning for so long… Britney had thought that she would be angry at him for breaking his promise, but could not say a thing when she finally saw his tired face. She simply held the waist of her only kin, thanking the Seven Gods that he returned safely.
The other pot was known as ‘Seven Colors’, a gift that her brother claimed to have come from the Nature’s Magister, Legendary champion of the elves and a high-grade herb that rarely came by. Its fragrance could effectively improve the rate of druids’ Nature Power sensory.
However, her brother never once smiled despite accepting such a precious gift, appearing fraught with worry instead.”
“You look sad,” Britney asked forthrightly then, “Brother, why?”
“Because I’m too weak,” Priest answered simply and sighed. “All anger and sadness originate from one’s powerlessness—Britney, train well so that you won’t be like me in the future and appear so poorly.”
‘But you’ve clearly done well,’ the gray-haired girl thought then.
However, it was certainly not enough—or at least that was what her brother believed. Being a little greedy was not an issue since drive only came through desire, just like herself, who would care to study hard if there was no little red flowers and reward sweets?
But when there are problems that one could not solve themselves, they could ask their teacher.
Even little children know how to do that!
“If you have something you can’t solve, why not ask the Liege?”
That was what she had told Priest then. “After all, he is your mentor… Since he’s so powerful, he could solve anything you can’t, or at least tell you the solution.”
After that, her brother indeed went to look for the Liege, and never returned even now.
” Sigh … brother’s so sad that even I am not eating well…”
At the thought, Britney rubbed the Dawndelion and thus calmed a little. “If he still can’t handle things after that… I’ll let him rub the flowers too.”
Just as Britney thought reluctantly about how many days she would loan the flowers to Priest, she suddenly heard familiar footsteps from outside the door, as well as her brother’s voice as he conversed with someone else…
More than that, she could hear that her brother was no longer emanating negative energy like before!
“This is my home… Your father and the others are being healed physically at the Far South
“Priest! The buildings here are very tall—so wonderful! So beautiful! So you live in such a place?”
It was an unfamiliar girl’s voice.
“Britney, I’m home!”
The sound of the front door being opened.
The gray-haired youth was holding the hand of a green-haired, golden-eyed girl who was passionately curious, leading her into their house.
However, one could vaguely see some defects on the elf’s form, with the hand that Priest held appearing translucent. There was also a huge empty wound on her back, and her entire body appeared illusory and rather faint like a phantasm in the environment with buffeting winds, only appearing a little more lively when they entered the house.
There was no question that it was a ghost.
A self-aware ghost.
When the ghost saw the young gray-haired girl that had run all the way to her, she promptly grinned widely and crouched in a very serious welcome. “Greetings. Are you Britney, Priest’s sister? I’m Sol!”
“Have no fear. Though I am already dead, I can’t hurt anyone.”
The world was very cruel.
War, devastation, calamity, Chaos… Death lurks beneath shadows like a sickness within the marrow.
However, the world was very kind too.
For as long as there is sufficient ability, even death could be surpassed.