Center of the city, Cathedral of St. Laurent
The sacred symbol of the church, a black halo, hung atop the highest point of the building. It did not waver even by a bit even though the wind was blowing strongly in the snowstorm. It was as firm as a solid rock.
Joshua was carrying Anruya along with him, walking at a steady and yet fast pace. Anruya's condition was different compared to his commander and his comrades, as his internal organs were heavily damaged. However, he barely had any wounds on his body. Without an immediate treatment to stabilize his injuries, Anruya would probably die. At the best case scenario, he would still have organ failures.
In the meantime, Joshua had some unattended business at the church. So he decided to bring Anruya along with him.
Upon passing by the stairs, Joshua walked up to the wooden door. He noticed that the white radiance that was covering the door was no longer there. The divine magic circle to reinforce and seal the door was no longer there as well. So Joshua pushed the door opened with his hand.
The sound of frost rubbing against the wooden door was heard. Upon opening the door, the warrior did not hesitate at all. He quickly walked right into the living hall. Meanwhile, two knights fully equipped with heavy armor could sense a presence that was unpredictably powerful had opened the church's door. So they quickly hustled over to the living hall from the resting room. However, when the two of them saw that it was Joshua who opened the door, they came to a halt and saluted Joshua.
"My Lord, might we know what brings you here?" One of the knights walked up and asked Joshua with a puzzled look. He thought Joshua's visit was strange as the weather was so cold now. Regular folk would not even think of walking out of their homes. So they would not even have the will to pray in the church, not to mention a respected liege. Why would he have any reason to come to the church then?
"To seek medical attention for this man. I'll leave this man to you. He's too badly wounded. He needs immediate treatment."
Joshua put the young guard down and let the two knights handle him with care. Meanwhile, Artanis's two apprentices could also feel that a Gold-tier warrior had just arrived. The two of them quickly rushed to the living hall as well. The two Silver-tier priests were still the apprentices of Artanis and would still follow the church's traditions. It would take some time until they realize the faith in their heart, swear an oath, and obtain the true power of the Holy Light to begin running a church of their own.
However, at a time like this, they could only follow their teacher and heal the sick and injured.
"Thank you for your hard work. He needs some medical attention to his internal organs. And also, where's Priest Artanis? I have something urgent that I need to see him about."
Joshua took off his shirt that was ruined by the claws of the monsters. After that, he straight away headed towards the back of the church's living hall. As he was walking, he asked, "Is he in his room or the library?"
"Library, my Lord."
The young one was Vick. He was attending to Anruya's injuries. He was using Holy Light to detect any damages within Anruya's body. At the same time, he was free to talk, "Lately, Teacher has been looking for books and scrolls about the Ancient Stars falling into the sea. He has been there for days."
"Very well, thank you."
Upon knowing where the priest was, Joshua made haste to find him. He walked down the aisle and went straight to the very end of the church.
Artanis was standing right before a tall bookshelf. He was reading through many ancient books in silence. Behind his pair of glasses, he looked solemn. Meanwhile, right beside the white-haired priest were more than ten books stacked on each other. The books were stacked so high that they almost blocked the priest.
While he was absorbed reading the book in his hands and making notes, he heard heavy footsteps coming from the outside of the library.
At that moment, the footsteps stopped right outside the door of the library, followed by a creaking sound of the door. The door of the library was pushed open. Artanis then bookmarked the page he was on, closed the book and put it aside. The white-haired priest gave the warrior a perplexed look. "Oh, our new count, why are you here, my liege? You don't even have your shirt on. Is something wrong?"
"That's right. I came because it's really urgent."
Joshua went straight to the point and said, "I need to use the church's Magic Communication Circle immediately."
Artanis frowned. He had been the priest for many years. From the emperor to the people of the empire, everyone had seen him at least once. Looking at the serious face of the warrior, he knew that something big had happened. Furthermore, it was very urgent as well. So the priest did not say anything unnecessary. He immediately led Joshua, "Come with me. The Magic Communication Circle is on the second floor."
The two of them walked past the corridor and stairs in a spiral pattern before arriving on the second floor. Artanis walked towards an ordinary looking room, while Joshua followed closely behind.
Upon walking up to the door, the white-haired priest reached out his palm. A white stream of holy light began to emerge across his body from the bottom to the top. Countless light dots began to appear all around the surroundings of the priest. After that, the light dots began to gather onto the palm of the priest. In the meantime, a silver magic circle that kept rotating emerged right in the middle of the door with no handle nor any keyholes on it. It was as if the door had felt the resonating power that was gathering onto the palm of the priest. The complex patterns of the runes were spinning faster and faster by the second. They were so packed together that it made people dizzy for looking too long at them.
Pressing the lights gathered on his hand onto the magic circle, Artanis spoke in a very low voice, "Cathedral of St. Laurent, God's Sanctioner Artanis requesting for permission to access the Twilight Superior Communication Circle."
Upon receiving the holy light that was compatible with the requirement of the door and confirming the identity of the person in front of the door, the silver magic circle instantly stopped spinning.The door then began to open slowly.
"Please, get in. The Superior Communication Circle that connects the entire empire is just in the room. You should know how to use it."
Keeping his hand back to himself, the white-haired priest took a step back and gave way to Joshua. Then he narrowed his eyes and said, "It sounded really urgent, can you fill me in a little about what was going on?"
"I suspect that the Dark Forest's communication circle has been sabotaged. It's been scrambled. The place might have been surrounded by the Dark Tide."
His words were straightforward and his meaning was clear. After Joshua explained it, he walked right into the room.
The room was dome-shaped with many translucent runic crystals all over the walls and the ceiling of the room. They formed into smooth lines. Each of the lines was streaming with silver-blue and golden lights. Meanwhile, right at the spot where all lines intersected was a virtual sun shimmering with soft white light.
A three-dimensional magic circle hung right in the middle of the room.
In this virtual sun, there were countless runes and energies forming a systematic shape. They were combined and scattered consecutively and repeatedly under the white radiance. Their patterns would change from time to time. Normal people would just feel exhausted if they were to look at them for some time.
Meanwhile, Joshua did not feel any discomfort by looking at the patterns at all. Although he was a warrior, his will and spirit were as tough as his body. Truthfully speaking, a man would not be able to become a truly powerful warrior without having an iron will and the ability to analyze serious situations. Meanwhile, just like what Artanis said, Joshua had used the communication circle many times. So he should be very familiar with it.
The black-haired warrior walked up to the three-dimensional magic circle right in the middle of the room. He put his attention towards the radiance and closed his eyes. He concentrated his thoughts to align with the machine and quickly began to adjust the parameters of the communication.
After a brief moment, Joshua felt that countless data and coordinates were appearing in his head.
"Contact, North, Moldavia, Fort Dark Forest."
A few keywords appeared right in his head. Joshua's mental state was clear and strong. "Begin connection."
Under his request, countless data and coordinates flowed like a fast-moving stream of water. After a while later, everything stopped moving. The coordination was then fixed on a huge fortress that was surrounded by a thick forest.
There was no echo. Joshua was not discouraged. He continued to repeat what he did, "Contact, North, Moldavia, Fort Dark Forest. Begin connection. Increase the frequency wave of the communication. Source of request- Count of Empire's North, Joshua van Radcliffe."
"Source of authority identified... Increasing the frequency wave of the communication… buzz… boom! Buzz… buzz…"
This time, a strange noise was heard. It sounded like a faint sound of a goblin's cannon firing a shot or the explosion of a fireball. There seemed to be other voices like horns and battle roars as well.
Upon hearing those sounds, Joshua unlinked his mind from the magic communication circle. He opened his eyes and sighed. Then he spoke to himself in a very low voice, "I'm sure that there was an accident. However, I can't know for sure how long the battle has been going on. I have no idea if the fortress has lost its defences."
Upon sensing the wave of the holy radiance expanding further, Priest Artanis walked into the room slowly. Although his face did not show anything, Joshua could still feel the solemnity in the depths of the white-haired man's heart.
"Joshua, what happened? I know that normal communication would not involve your royal authority in enhancing the communication wave. You'll only need that when you're contacting other domains."
"… The fortress has not been sending any messages for three days. I thought everything was peaceful and calm. Well, who would have thought that the Dark Tide had begun so much earlier than I anticipated. Fellow warriors have been battling for their lives while I knew nothing about it."
Joshua stayed silent for a moment before putting on a grim smile. He turned around and walk towards the door. "Haha… That's ironically funny."
"What? But there was no alarm or warning at all. Could it be that the daemons have the ability to disable our communication system now?"
Hearing that sort of news, the white-haired priest's was face filled with bewilderment. He immediately frowned right after that. Then he looked at the warrior who was about to leave the room and retorted, "How can you still laugh? The fortress is now in a very bad situation, right? We have no idea how many people are in deep sh*t! Joshua, those are your people!"
"No… How would I laugh for real at that sort of things?"
Upon leaving the communication room, Joshua walked slowly to the balcony on the second floor of the church. Then he shook his head and sighed. "Just now, I was laughing at myself ironically for being pathetically useless… I should have noticed the signs much earlier. Haha. The peaceful days were a little longer and I actually lowered down my guard because of that…"
"How hilarious is that?"
Pushing the windows open slowly, a strong cold breeze blew right towards his face. Facing the cold breeze of the northern wind, the black-haired warrior was willing to admit his mistakes. He looked into the sky, his eyes seemingly looking past the thick mist, far beyond the horizon. His red pupils were blazing like flames.
"It's about time. It's beginning"
The Dark Tide would be the first of many things that yet to come.
This event would serve as the beginning of endless disputes over the mainland of the Mycroft Continent. It would also be the real starting point of Joshua's 'new life'.
"Artanis… do you know that the peace we're looking at is merely an illusion? The flames of war will be reignited once again. Meanwhile, the blood of many races will be spilled across the land. Dead bodies would fill the land; this war cannot be avoided by anyone. Justice will do no good to the good while evil will do no good to the evil."
Right outside the window, the dark clouds were shrouding the sky. The snow, the cold, and the frost mixed with a little dust were swept across the sky and the ground. The weather was obviously very cold, however, Artanis could feel that there was something ablaze right before him.
"The weak shall find no place to hide. Only the brave can survive this."
Turning his head back, the black-haired warrior with red eyes, Joshua van Radcliffe told the white-haired priest who did not say a word, "My friend, the era that is ignited with the flames of war and battle has finally come."
-First Arc: Squall of the North. End-