Soul Of Searing Steel Chapter 818


Chapter 818 Sorrow And Despair

Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation  Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

While Joshua had no soul, his plugin mental faculty was heavier than a mountain, and no detail slipped him by when he started to think.

“Your Holiness, you’re at the Far Southern Kingdom?”

Joshua said, having made out the style of the palace behind the pope. “I’ll be right there.”

With those words, he disconnected from the communications, his form dispersing into countless starry particles.

***

At the same time, in the Mycroft Continent, a black-haired man appeared in one of the courtyards of the Far Southern Kingdom’s Royal Palace.

Being one of the older factions in the continent, the Far Southern Kingdom still had a powerful mage guild that placed various defensive spells in the palace despite the Kingdom now being a shadow of its former glorious self. Some of the spells which include anchored spatial teleportation and anti-portals were but the foundation, and theoretically speaking not even a cockroach could crawl inside the palace without permission.

However, such class of spells was futile against Joshua. All spell effects had upper limits, with incorporeal bodies allegedly being capable of staying immune from all physical attacks, while fire clones could ignore heat and flame entirely. Even so, when the attacker’s fist could trigger nuclear reaction while burning blazes reaches a billion degrees that could sear all things, even souls would be shattered, and flames would no longer be flames.

By the same theory, when a being whose mass was equal to a celestial body wanted to teleport himself, mere mundane spells were ineffectual.

Just as Joshua’s clone materialized behind the aged pontiff, Igor has already turned to him. “What’s the hurry, Radcliffe?” He asked, puzzled. “I never thought of you as a man of politics.”

To Igor, the warrior’s actions were certainly unusual—the pontiff was simply making a few remarks, complaining that the state of the continent was unwell for now. For Joshua’s part, the warrior had actually boasted that the continent was actually unified or at least at peace a few days ago… But even if reality had slapped him in the face, should he be rushing here out of humiliation?

Furthermore, so what if he did? It was all foreign politics, and strictly speaking something that should have happened earlier. Those numerous conflicts had existed for centuries, and simply ignited on the same day for some reason.

“…You’re thinking that I ran here to save face?”

With vindication, Joshua criticized Igor’s subjective personal discrimination, before quickly telling the pontiff about the bizarre civil conflict he observed in the Abyss.

Frost Demons had polluted their own nursery lakes with toxic, Acid Demons destroyed their own lairs, just as balrogs and Flame Lizards extinguished volcanoes or buried magma lakes. Moreover, horned demons had also sealed their mountain hives within stone debris, while ocean dragons and various marine demons blood died once turbid Sea Abysses a darker blue.

Twelve demonic realms, twelve civil wars, twelve signs of devastation. No demon survived wherever Joshua went—it was the first time he made the accomplishment of ‘ruins where one passed’ while doing nothing.

Beside him, the elderly pope nodded as he listened to him seriously.

Although both lifeforms could simply communicate information with ripples of light, with a single glance able to explain most things. Still, because of habit and because ‘saying it is more fulfilling’, Joshua opted for primitive verbal communication.

Meanwhile, having listened to Joshua’s theory, Igor, who had been rather irritated how he should clean up the current chaos became solemn.

“If things are as you said… This matter is a lot more serious than it looks.”

As he spoke, the pope looked up, his gaze seemingly able to pierce the walls to look into the royal residential palace within. “Actually, I have been curious too,” he said quietly while rubbing his forehead, “Why would the conflicts erupt with such concentration. Your theory is convincing—omen of an Evil God, huh…”

Since the Far Southern Holy Mountain itself was in the same region, the former pontiffs would often interact with the Royal Family with clones, which was why there was a temple-shaped court purposed for the church within the palace district. Moreover, thanks to the recently erupting conflict between the Royal Family and the nobles, Igor had kept a clone there to mediate, although none had yet dared to disturb the peace.

As he thought about the matter, Igor looked up at Joshua. “If that’s the case,” he said quietly, “could you guess what Evil God has the ability to provoke such civil strife, Radcliffe?”

“There’s no guessing.” Joshua shook his head in return. “but I have a theory.”

***

The power of Evil Gods was bizarre and innumerable, with their very name indicating their abilities.

[Disparity] could break the balance between all things, leaving energy in dissonance and temperature imbalance. Its signature move was to expand and shrink the sun, causing sudden heat or coldness—lower-tier Extraordinary individuals would lose control of their powers, just as various extreme weather and natural disasters would occur.

There was not much to elaborate with [Calamity] and [Pestilence] since it could easily be understood as the descent of natural disasters and plagues. Black had completely experienced the omens of an Evil God’s descent when it arrived at Illgner all those years ago, and while Joshua and others only participated halfway through, they did experience most of it as well.

On the other hand, types such as [Wither] were rather discreet—their omens were probably turning the peoples lazy, feeble, destroying civilization’s motivation for progress, with the rise of anti-intellectuals possible as well.

But now, the signs of ‘suspected Evil God omen’ appearing in the nearby dimensional region was not easily describable.

“[Infighting]? [Strife]?”

Joshua muttered to himself. “Both are likely, but they do not completely describe the Evil God’s essence… After all, we haven’t seen the true form of such an entity, and naturally wouldn’t be sure about its true power.”

That being said…

The year being Starfall 840… in the game back in his pre-existence, was this not the time when every person on the continent mounted their horses and rode to a world war, punching each other’s brains right after the Draconic Plague?

The infighting then was much horrible than the squabbles they see now. In the timeline where Joshua was absent, the scars of the Draconic Plague remained. The various races, however, still could not see eye to eye, with Eastern Plains humans fighting the Murloc Tribes in several small skirmishes. Worse still, the Far Southern Royals had long since lost actual authority—at present, the nobles’ intent to overthrow meant that the Royals themselves still hold power they wanted, while there was no value in overthrowing them back then.

The Empire was no better—Israel, utterly dispirited, had already set his affairs and would simply die on one fine day. The Imperial siblings that were relatively harmonious now had split into heaven knows how many factions and alliances back then, with more than four different manuscripts written exclusively for the secret pacts between any three individuals, more complex than any sorority dormitory back on Earth.

Joshua also recalled that the demons had spilled into Mycroft back then—it had to be said that Joshua’s timeline was very tame compared to the original.

In the very least, apart from Grand Emperor of the West Mountains, most protests were simply mere protests, and there was no actual fighting. Still, both the pope and Joshua would quietly admit that they could put the blame of the unusual circumstances on an Evil God that might or might not exist.

Regardless, whether it was really one of those entities, both of them would tell everyone else that it was what caused such infighting in multiple worlds, shifting the conflict onto the Evil God.

With the world of Mycroft being in an age of rapid development, any infighting and stagnation is a waste of opportunities that rarely came by. It could even be said that it directly affects the world—whether Mycroft’s civilization would have the power to fight when the Evil Gods arrive decades later.

Even if evidence would in the end prove that it was all coincidence, that the infighting in Mycroft now was a simple eruption of conflict, Joshua and Igor would still fabricate an ‘Evil God’ and provide a believable excuse.

“Recently, my clone has been staying in the Far South, attempting to mediate the conflict between the nobles and the Royal Family.”

Having reached an understanding with Joshua, Igor settled into a chair and a sip of cold tea. “The policy reformations which the nobles and citizens speak of, along with the independence they desired holds convincing reasons.”

The Far Southern Kingdom was a very accommodating feudal nation in the first place, and more of a sparse alliance of nobles than a postmodern monarchy.

Naturally, that was also because the small region was also where the ancient factions of the Seven Gods Church and the Elven Court were founded. While the Kingdom holds an advantage in terms of population and borders, it was essentially far inferior to the other two—with that factor, along with the fact that democracy and nationalism had yet to be founded, it was easy to understand why the Far Southern Kingdom could hardly consolidate power.

Although the Far Southern Kingdom had made early precautions following Joshua’s warning when the Draconic Plague broke out, their sheer lacking of ability saw half of their territories fall, just as many noble families perished. Countless citizens were hence displaced, and while the Royal Family did lead the army and barely established fortifications to keep half of their territories, the conflict between the hierarchy and the common people hence lurked.

Half of the nation’s land which had fallen due to the death of regional nobles were later used by the royals to lure foreign talent while conveniently dumping those burdens, awarding them to thirteen heroes who performed excellently against the Draconic Plague, which in turn was the origins of the thirteen autonomous regions. That move, however, incensed the surviving nobles, who believed that the royals made a deal with the Pentashade dragons, ‘selling off’ half of the territories. Joshua’s warning, which had allowed the Royal Family to suffer the least losses amongst all noble bloodlines also stirred rumors of conspiracy, which turned into calls for abdication.

Furthermore, the citizens of the fallen thirteen self-rule regions hated the Royal Family who had so quickly gave up on them., To go along with the people’s wishes and certainly finding independence beneficial, the new noble lieges joined the factions vocal against the royals as well.

Under detailed dissection, anyone would realize that ‘sudden infighting and conflict’ was not true—the hurt was already brewing over the past years, and now finally drove the nobles and lieges into outburst. Indeed, most of them were not acting out of their own will, but were driven by the peasant’s agony and tears after the scars of the Draconic Plague, from the pain of losing family, home and everything they had.

Until now, there were still Far Southern citizens living in makeshift villages and farmed with crude tools, living apathetically in mudlands. There was no light of hope in sight, and not even the nobles could shoulder the burdens as their territories approached the state of collapse.

Be that as it may, the Royal Family neglected them entirely, even playing ostrich, living in their ‘peaceful fantasy’, enjoying the luxuries of life.

It was no infighting that came out of a moment of nobility inspiration, nor a conflict provoked by conspirators for their own profit. Living had simply become too painful, the people no longer able to endure and, at the very last moment, burst out in resistance and raging cries.

As for the demonstrations in the Eastern Plains, Joshua and Igor’s examination also revealed the true conflict within.

Being the most powerful mage guild on Mycroft, the Skypiercing White Tower was naturally the tyrants of the Eastern Plains. Having occupied nearly half or perhaps more fertile regions, their presence alone oppressed the many living spaces of smaller mage guilds. The common folk certainly would not understand those mage geezers wanted either, and hence simply went with the flow, having to suffer heavy taxes and voluntary labors due to competition between mages.

That was how the conflict started—in appearance.

In fact, the Skypiercing White Tower had effectively occupied most of the Eastern Plains two hundred years ago. Most smaller guilds were not unwilling to join them—in fact, they were down on their knees, begging to join. The heavy taxes were actually relative to local terms, since their rates were mild compared to the West Mountain nations, and far from the level of forcing the people into a corner.

But it remained that the problems originated from the seemingly unconcerned common folk.

In recent years, the Skypiercing White Tower oversaw widespread magical technology revolution. Many factories and ateliers appeared in various territories, and with the mages’ highly efficient operation capacity, various main cities in the Eastern Plains had underwent initial magical power renovations in only half a year. Every family now had low-cost magical heaters, and cities no longer had to purchase coal, instead using magically powered hearths.

Still, while the peasants gained significantly in quality of life, the mages clearly never considered the issue of ‘mana pollution’.

In fact, that was not entirely true either—during the initial period when the magical factories were being built, most elite mages noticed that the energy cores powering the factories would discharge substantial myriad-colored mana dust. Those particles contained special mana crystallizations that was too difficult to be absorbed by humans, harming most common people which led to the closure of several factories as they attempted to find a solution.

The solution was not actually too difficult—by drawing upon the Northern Empire’s experience and adding anti-pollution circles for the factories, Skypiercing White Tower began to establish magical factories on a wider scale. They did all they could to modernize the magical equipment within their territories, but as most plans went, they would sound good on paper, but the execution could turn out otherwise.

Since the anti-pollution circles have to be set up by Silver-tier or even Gold-tier mages, both its casting and maintenance require great capital. That was why most factory owners who had obtained permits would simply skip that procedure—after all, they themselves were not living near the factory and the affected environment did not matter to them. However, the settlements nearby the factories could not escape the harm, with substantial cases of deaths from radiation exposure.

Mages were highly immune to the mana crystallization contamination, even able to digest the particles partially and hence was not really threatened. Indeed, they benefited marginally, and along with the necessity to guarantee the success rate of modern magical revolution, the Skypiercing White Tower simply reacted half-heartedly to the jerry-building… just as the factory owners wanted.

In the end, they did not live in the contamination zones. Who would care what the common folk thought?

Therefore, the Eastern Plains people living within those contamination zones and the lesser mage guilds living at the edge of the Skypiercing White Tower’s influence were forced to take the brunt of the contamination’s damage.

What could they say, or even do?

Nothing.

In the Eastern Plains, mages and non-mages were two different separate classes. Even for Extraordinary individuals, they have to be Gold or they were considered a class beneath mages, and it was worse for the peasants—their very existences were as mere seeds for producing new mages, with any individual dragged into the mages’ circle when they were determined to have spellcasting talent, assimilated by it.

They were lower than vermin in the mages’ eyes, tools for producing fundamental resources, granted no respect or permission to doubt or hold opinion. Their lives did not matter to the mages, just because they were not spellcasters.

‘Do we mages not know where the issue lies? Do you peasants even have the intellect or courage to doubt our commands? Just do it.’

‘Funny. Do you think your complaining would change orders from above? You should be the ones learning to adjust.’

‘Pollution or whatever will be handled soon, just bear with it now. Your sacrifice is given in the name of progress, a necessary cost for the Truth… although we’d never remember your name. Haha!’

Misery thus spread. Countless families were in tears, men lost their wives and daughters, just as wives lost their husbands and sons. Half of the population in some heavily contaminated villages simply died off while the survivors mutated grotesquely—none could endure such a life unless they did not saw themselves as human, losing the genes to resist and their death cries.

The protest in the Eastern Plains was identical to the revolution in the Far Southern Kingdom, and strictly speaking was neither infighting nor conflict.

It was the raging cries as misery descended into despair.

As for the Northern Empire… if he was being truthful, Joshua would be wiping away cold sweat off his forehead now if not for the fact that he could not sweat—he was aware that if Israel’s Skynet project implemented some time ago, the ‘sorrow’ that had accumulated at the bottom of the Imperial hierarchy would have been a hundred times that of the Far South and the Eastern Plains.

In the first place, the Empire uses a traditional nobility system which granted nobility the right to exploit peasants. Therefore, from the primitive perspective of Imperial Law, peasants were non-citizens and basically the property of lieges. Furthermore, there had been long years of war against the orcs and the pressure from heavy taxes that went with it, along with the cloak and dagger disputes between new and old nobles.

Meanwhile, there was also crime syndicates, slavers, larger families who claimed the lands of smaller families, the arrogant exploitation and torment from the nobles… beneath the blossoming appearance of their triumph against the orcs, the Empire was already fatigued and sickly.

A single spark was all that was needed for the Empire to collapse from within, which was why the powerful nation had split apart at once when Israel died in the preexistence, and why there was all-out-war without any delay.

Compared to the tormenting days, the peasants would rather die in the flames of war.

“To think that Israel’s complete dictatorship turned out to be a good thing…”

Joshua could not help but sigh at the very thought. “Justice never propagates itself, only power would… Haha. ‘Lightless justice needs might to propagate it’—how would I have known that the Empire is still rather stable now because of Justice from Might?”

The Empire had now improved considerably than before. In the very least, after Israel had publicly executed most of the unscrupulous nobles and comprehensively purged who-knows-how-many syndicates that the atmosphere at the lower reaches of the nation was cleansed at once. Furthermore, recent policies improved the lives of peasants, which in turn kept the misery lurking in the dark from bursting apart into a wave of insurgencies such as the Far South and the Eastern Plains.

Without a target to hate, the citizens who had lived in comfort would become forgetful. Their demand was simply to live with respect, full stomachs, and the right to speak—as such, they would remain a power of the civilization no matter how dire circumstances were, and not the opposite.

***

Having analyzed the truth behind the conflicts in those three regions, Joshua and Igor turned their eyes to the West Mountains… and found nothing.

No matter how they looked at it, Romain, the Grand Emperor of the West Mountains was imply expanding his power, annexing and conquering.

Relatively speaking, his motives was the most normal amongst all four regions.

In the end, war was normal for the Mycroft Continent, especially in the West Mountains. Every kingdom had been at it for centuries, and it was especially good considering that one powerful faction was attempting to unify its surroundings. The peasants were happy with it too, since feats in battle meant nobility, and the spoils of war would keep themselves fed for a long time!

As for citizens of other nations… Well, it was an honor to become a resident in powerful nations when it was the West Mountains. According to Israel’s information, many foreign citizens were actually defecting to the Grand Emperor, and if the new champion was to be acknowledged by other psionic royals in the West Mountains and the Sacred Swordsman’s tribe, he might unite the region in its entirety.

“If that’s the case… isn’t it likely that it’s not an Evil God?”

Igor muttered quietly at their findings, becoming even more puzzled when he remembered the fate of the many demons which Joshua mentioned. “But that wouldn’t explain the peculiarity in the Abyss.”

“I believe that it is an Evil God.”

Joshua, however insisted on his own opinion. “At least our world is stable,” he said, frowning. “Most people would survive here, but for the Abyss, the cumulated ‘sorrow and despair’ from their ruined civilizations and species that face extinction must be a thousand times more than our own.”

“The phenomenon would present itself as infighting and conflict in our world, which in turn could be resolved and anticipated. For demons, however, such things would destroy them at once, completely shattering even their hope as they struggled to survive.”

“Sorrow leads to despair; despair leads to destruction. Without hope, it was better to die—if it was indeed the omen of an Evil God’s arrival that affected the hearts of men, then the name of that Evil God…”

At that, Joshua paused for a moment before breathing out, and spoke in a low voice, “Should be [Misery] or [Despair].”

“Your Holiness, we now should not be minding some simple thing such as ‘foreign politics’. This is a problem that affects civilization’s survival, and I suggest promptly calling for all Legends to direct, and directly interfere with the source of those miseries and despairs.”