Mycroft’s galaxy, an unknown part of the Void.
“This world is filled with Chaotic energies… but it is still far from an Evil God. Even if there are civilizations inside, it would at most have developed to primitive tribes.”
A surging Holy Light flashed past erratic dimensional turbulences before slowly condensing into a composite of countless myriad colored bubbles. Beneath the illumination of the sacred radiance, an old white-haired man hence led a blond knight with a firm expression, and stood amidst the Void.
“Hmm… destroying themselves as they struggled for settlements? The insect swarms hence unleashing toxins at each other, causing chemicals to combine and form an acidic steam with low combustion and high concentration. The acid mist would be ignited by sunlight, causing detonations… while corpses that could not be handled in time would lead to the spread of infectious diseases.”
The elderly man narrowed his eyes, seemingly able to directly see inside the world past the World Barrier. “The civil war of insect civilization is causing widespread self-slaughter,” he muttered quietly, “They have advanced to the point that they could construct a large underground nest.”
At those words, the old man raised his hand and rained down Holy Light.
Boundless radiance promptly permeated the World Barrier. Beams of three colors: gold, white and grey swept through every part of the world as if three suns—from the mountains to the seas, from continental frames to basins, where life was, every zone infected by Chaos was completely purified.
The blond knight said nothing. He simply stood behind the elderly man and watched as his godfather cleansed the world, before contacting the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds to request that they head to the next possible living world.
As dimensional turbulences stirred, they appeared in another world.
“This one isn’t completely corrupted by the Chaos yet, but the ecosphere is seriously damaged… biochemical warfare had left the atmosphere poisoned, and civilizations could only move around while carrying around antiseptic equipment. Chaos energies had yet to solidify but it is already too much… I have to clear it by going in with a clone.”
The old man sighed as some portion of the light flew out from his body and entered the world, while he shook his head regretfully. “This world had already developed a civilization… is that the satellite technology Joshua speak of? They are about to colonize the moon, or perhaps create floating cities—but the core of civilization is utterly damaged. In the post-apocalyptic realm, they would need a long time to develop and rebuild civilization.
Creatures that resembled lizards, but appeared slender and graceful while having wing membranes between their limbs wore unusual hygienic clothing as they carefully walked through the city ruins that were filled with toxic and acid. They did all they could to collect usable materials and equipment and lived at the top of some building ruins or surviving floating cities. Air was cleaner in the skies and living was possible, but it was without resources, water without origins.
Each teleportation did not mean salvation, just like how they did not encounter civilization on each occasion. The journey of the old man and the knight was long and dull: all they did was douse flames and destroy forming Chaos. In a brief few days, they had already witnessed dozens of civilizations they never discovered before that were dying or already perished, all because they never displayed the value in being noticed or for establishing relations with. They were simply Flame Seeds that had yet to gain form, silently waiting in the future when their light would shin over the Void.
But now, all was meaningless.
“Roland, what do you think?”
In the end, on an azure planet, the elderly pope watched as his clone, a luminous human figure defeated a bunch of lights that appeared to be demonically possessed, saving the world from unprecedented social unrest. He did not turn but simply ask quietly, “Do you understand the power of the unknown Evil God?”
“Father, I understand.”
Roland, Holy Knight and godson of Igor, pontiff of the Seven Gods Church lowered his head in reverence and answered seriously, “But there are things that I don’t understand even now… after witnessing the poison of Chaos engulf so many worlds, apart from anger and shock, I unexpectedly have other thoughts…”
Igor nodded in return. “That’s the purpose that I brought you here for… tell me.”
Having received permission, Roland turned towards the azure world that was slowly returning to peace. “I once wandered the Mycroft continent to help the citizens across the land,” he said softly, “solving issues and wiping the cult. Thanks to your guidance, I don’t intend to cultivate myself on the Holy Mountain and become an ascetical champion that does not help the world at all.”
“I’ve traveled through the Far South, wandered the West Mountains and helped countless people, just as I have punished innumerable vile men… I have seen partings of love and hate, astonishing things, just as I have seen the ugly side of the world.”
“On frontier towns around the mountains, young girls would oft vanish curiously—it could be forger’s second daughter, or the maiden of a typical farmer’s family… their disappearance is a terrible thing for their family, but unimportant tidbit for the city… I certainly did not sit idly by, and trace the clues, staving off the local official and nobles’ dissuading and warnings to recover the missing girls… or parts of them.”
“If lucky, they would be sold off as slaves—if not, they would be sold as lab materials for dark magicians, or illegal vampires and sadists, fetishist or necrophiliac nobles… if that was the case, it would be fine if there was a complete human form since most were broken corpses.”
The elderly pope listened silently, saying nothing although he had wandered the world himself as well.
Meanwhile, Roland continued calmly, “Of course, it was not only the women being kidnap and sold, some boys and infants were taken too… some are sold to families as children for barren parents, which was fortunate for them since they would have a complete life. Most of them were used as corpses, lab materials or having their tongue cut and limbs severed as tools for begging alms.
“There are so many possibilities. I would not list them all because they are not actually important… at least, to civilization.”
The Holy Knight looked up as he spoke—there was icy calm instead of rate in his voice. “Those are trivial things… Father, there are many other things that mattered, such as the conspiracy between officials, exploiting those beneath them, such jerrybuilding dams that caused all of downstream to sink, causing thousands dead and millions displaced… Greedy kings, ministers that turn a blind eye and nobles that did as they wanted on their own domains. Such things never change even with technological advancement, and just a few days ago, a West Mountain king was showing off his female pet slave that he ordered around like she was livestock. I did not hammer that thing to death at once because I know that it was reasonable for the society they live in, and I could not demand that they follow my code, or judge them with my own nobility.”
“You could do him in,” the pope said, not denying the fact. “Of course, you’re aware of what your actions would cause. Still… Roland, what are you trying to say?”
“I’m saying that conflict, war, the ugly things, the hate between people and the sadness that piles beneath the depths of society were absolutely normal. As long as we never reach the level of the Glorious Era, those lowly things would never vanish—but could there really have been no such conflict in that age? What does unrest have to do with Evil Gods?”
The Holy Knight looked up again, his voice as hard as steel. “I don’t believe that the conflict is stirred by Evil Gods—for that is the evil that lurks in the hearts of all humans, the bitter fruit that it bears. Even if it did not erupt now, it would in the future.”
“But in fact, the fall of those civilizations are caused by the Chaos disturbance emanating by the unknown Evil God.”
Igor did not show much emotion in response to his godson’s words, merely pointing out his mistake. “Without Evil Gods, the conflict in those civilizations would be brushed away and diminish at the sight of technological advancements. It’s like how many conflicts vanished thanks to the rapid advancement after Mycroft had recovered the Unified Archives—there won’t be the day where it erupts.”
That is why the Mycroft civilization did not have much danger or conflict until now. Farmers would not be able to survive after paying taxes if they could not produce crops over a hundred kilograms. On the other hand, after technology advanced so that they could produce three to four hundred kilograms at once, the farmers could pay taxes without going hungry, hence suppressing all conflict.
Roland, however, simply smiled calmly at the irony Igor pointed out. “Father, I meant to say that conflict is not borne from Evil Gods. It existed in the first place, and the fall of these civilizations is logical. Apart from the fact that they would be turned into Chaos after death, it is all going as planned.”
“The power of that Evil God is not creating conflict. Its name would never be ‘conflict’ or ‘war’ if it had one, although the Evil Gods it would create would bear those names.”
It was a clear argument that fits Igor’s own theories before, which was why he nodded and gestured for Roland to continue.
“Father, I’ve once gone with Count Radcliffe to explore another world together and often contacted him. He always said that civilization itself was not something that existed out of necessity, but any civilization bears the risk of collapse. It is a social experiment that intelligent beings instinctively gather to conduct—everyone is simply holding on to rocks as they crossed the river, not knowing what ditches may exist up front.”
“Even the Glorious Era saw themselves fall, and the Age of Great Unity is not without its flaws. If civilization is not eternal, its end would certainly come—regardless of reason. All that would fall would definitely fall for that reason.”
The essence of that Evil God is to lead civilization and all life to self-destruction. It could be called the Evil God of Finality, Demise, and of course…”
At that, Roland exhaled and spoke softly. “It could also be called ‘Death’.”
The Holy Knight paused and sighed. “I want to protect the world of Mycroft, my home—I only wish to protect that world. To be frank, I am truly fearful after witnessing that Evil God’s power… I’m more fearful than the moment I set my eyes on the clone of the Evil God of Calamity.”
“As anguish increased in the Abyss, the despair would eventually fester and become death. There are so many civilizations that collapsed and provided power for that unknown Evil God, and though Mycroft could hold on now, we might not in the future. If we protected just one world would mean that we can’t protect this galaxy, and would only be able to keep the peace on a place.”
At that, Igor finally showed a little expression: a smile.
As for Roland, he pointed toward the azure world beneath him, where Chaos dissipated beneath the World Barrier, while the luminous human form returned in triumph. “While there are islands between humans, it isn’t so for civilization. Losing one is like losing our lips and teeth for us—even a selfish person such as I who simply wanted to protect my own world would have to act now, to aid other civilizations.”
At those words, the Holy Light smiled too. “My strength is sufficient to control some of the weaker worlds… Father, I don’t wish to remain behind you any longer, I wish to carry out missions alone.”
“Go forth. Just remember what set you on this path.”
Igor did not say much. He simply turned and clapped Roland on his shoulder. “I thought you would still need years to realized that… Roland, you have improved greatly, far more than I imagined.”
“That’s because I was behind you, Father and Count Radcliffe… if those at the fore were already so swift, those who followed behind naturally should not tarry.”
Roland began to request teleportation clearance from the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds. There were some natural delays because he was not a Legendary champion, but it was during this time that he could speak a little more with Igor.
“So-called heroes are not those who charged forward alone,” he said in wonder, “but those who could get others to summon their courage and strength, and move forward together.”
Igor stared at his apprentice and godson, stroking his beard with a rather serene expression. “Do you mean that Joshua is a hero to you?”
“Of course not, Father.”
Roland laughed. “Count Radcliffe isn’t a hero—he’s a flag.”
“A flag of our era.”
A flag that had been hoisted ten years ago, wafting amidst the blazing wind.
“It’s just that he doesn’t know and doesn’t care… The flags are always in front, the heroes right behind, our civilization hence heading towards the path he guided it to. Joshua might not realize it, but are you not unwittingly guided by him as well, Father? Just like how we are pacifying the Chaos unrest through the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds, he stands at the forefront.”
“Haha. He had always been swift and decisive.”
The old man laughed quietly and stroke his beard again, saying calmly, “Well, Roland, what do you think you would be in the future?”
At present, Roland’s body was covered by the teleportation spell projected by the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds across thin air. His body now hollow in its pre-warp state, he answered his godfather’s question as if it was only natural.
“I want to be a hero.”
“So. Since I could not become a flag, I shall become the one closest to it.”