While in the Outlands, Apeiron would always head to the most dangerous regions alone and have her fill of murder before she returned. She never had any expectations of keeping her life, but battle after battle on the brink of death had honed her technique until she could fight epic beings.
However, the environment of the Outlands had also wore away at her body bit by bit. It was only after returning to Norland that she had the chance to heal from numerous old injuries, slowly suppressing the laws of chaos that ate away at her life. If not for Philip’s summons, she definitely wouldn’t have returned; she had already decided to turn into a pile of bones in the Outlands.
Had she known the fatty had pulled her back to make her empress, she definitely wouldn’t return. It definitely felt like he and Ferlyn were sitting and staring at each other somewhere. Even if they couldn’t do anything, only converse, being able to see and sense each other was enough cause for happiness.
And their happiness was her hell.
She suddenly got up and walked out of her sleeping quarters, “Bring me to the colosseum!”
The royal colosseum was built on a different demiplane. There were hundreds of ferocious beasts around ranging from mammoths to behemoths, and the battles between them and humans were an event that many nobles enjoyed.
This afternoon, however, the Empress had torn apart the ten most dangerous beasts bare-handed in less than three minutes. The purple in her eyes still hadn’t receded, but the remaining beasts had all collapsed to the ground and couldn’t be pulled up. The few that could still move were unwilling to step inside, the one exception having fallen prone immediately to moan and beg for its life.
Bored, Apeiron ended up brushing her sleeves and leaving.
At the same time, on another mysterious plane, Julian was stood on the back of a flying beast as he headed to a view something with an old acquaintance. The earth below him was withered away, the dried riverbed and dead trees visible even from this distance, and there was not a single sign of animal activity. The sky was a turbid grey, the hint of light on the horizon not moving at all. The world seemed to be frozen in a strange twilight.
Julian had his hands behind him as he observed the area, stood ramrod straight and letting off an imposing aura despite his simple travel clothes. Compared to his humility to the Empress and his lunacy during his first return to Norland, he now showed that he was a true powerhouse. Behind him were a black-robed mage and a dozen other mages who were working hard to steer the flying beast below them.
The beast looked almost like a giant, wriggling worm that was thirty metres long, possessing no wings but instead two rows of strange organs at its abdomen and tail that were emitting green light and pushing it forward. These organs had lines coming out from them that led to the operators up top, giving them control of the creature’s movements. While the mechanisms were complicated, these operators were clearly trained to do their job well.
It wasn’t long before the beast arrived at a black mountain range and descended, with Julian jumping off and looking up at it with interest. The black-robed mage landed next to him, “It can carry fifty tonnes of goods at a hundred kilometres an hour. With a complete meal, it can fly for ten hours continuously. Not bad, right? If we can get more of these, we can change warfare completely! You’ve seen how proficient these controllers are; as long as we train some low-levelled mages, numbers won’t be an issue.”
Julian continued smiling, but one couldn’t tell whether this was praise or a different evaluation, “A war between the peasants won’t determine the true outcome.”
The black-robed mage nodded, “Those who win the mortal war are unlikely to suffer in the battle of the strong.”
Julian thought over it, “Hmm, makes sense. Well then, Master Hasting, shall we look at something else?”
“Of course!” Hasting answered, “Please, come with me. I believe this will leave an impression on you!”
“Hopefully,” Julian remained calm.
Hasting then gestured downward, leading Julian towards the mountain valley. The latter stopped the moment he stepped foot within, retracting the foot and looking below. A faint imprint had appeared on the earth, but the mark suddenly wriggled and turned smooth again in the blink of an eye. The ground here was soft!
Seeing this, Hasting smiled, “We’re now walking on its body.”
Julian nodded with a glint in his eyes, following Hasting further in. The two left faint rows of footprints behind, no matter how he adjusted his steps and even when he tried to walk on air. Hasting just smiled, clearly knowing about this beforehand.
Not long after they entered the valley, they could see a row of black towers amidst the fog. These towers were around 300 metres tall and 50 metres wide, their pitch-black colour only interrupted by long lines of red or yellow. Julian breathed out slowly, doing his best to suppress his awe, “These are… worm nests?”
“Yes, we can have a look around the vicinity.”
This time, Julian couldn’t hold back anymore and soared up the side of one nest, carefully observing the enormous construct that he couldn’t see the top of. Hasting flew to his side and let him do as he pleased.
The surface of the worm nest was covered in black armour, just like a bug’s shell. Pushing with his hand, Julian found that he could only go a few centimetres in. Although he hadn’t used all of his strength, even a metal cylinder would take more damage from his hand. Raising his hand and covering it in the energy, he finally managed to send the entire arm into the worm nest as well. However, there was only awe on his face as he retracted it; this was comparable to a saint’s full-strength attack, but he had only formed tiny cracks around the hole. Seeing the way his power was dispelled, even at full strength he would likely only be able to penetrate two arm’s lengths into this thing.
Hasting calmly explained, “This is three metres thick and capable of taking on a legend’s attacks. The defensive might of these things is undeniable, especially with combat drones protecting them.”
Julian nodded and looked the worm nest up and down before suddenly landing on the ground. Several enormous tubes pulled away from the worm nest’s roots, sneaking towards a mountain far away. All the tubes were swollen and wriggling around, causing a chill down any observer’s spine. He cut a hole into one of them with his hand, causing thick yellow fluid to gush out, but black bubbles quickly frothed and hardened to close it up.
“Regeneration is a little slow,” he said as he tasted some of the fluid, “Not very fresh, not enough nutrition.”
Hasing’s expression changed slightly, but then he returned to normal, “It is strengthening its vitality; this is a long process.”
“A decade longer.”
“And if we give you what you need?”
“Sigh. Not unacceptable, but is this the surprise you wanted to give me? A broodmother that will only be revived at some point in the future and some combat drones that might or might not be controllable? I’ll have to admit bringing a dead broodmother back to life is surprising, but that’s not enough.”
“This isn’t just a broodmother!” Hasting stated in agitation, “It’s a matriarch!”
Julian shook his head, “Be it a broodmother or a matriarch, it’s far from enough.”
Hasting froze up for a moment before gritting his teeth, “Please come with me, my Lord. Your surprise is up there.”
Julian followed Hasting to the thick upper regions of the worm nest, watching as the man pulled out a section of the shell. Within was a cabin about three metres in circumference, sealed by a transparent membrane and filled with clear liquid that housed a strange being. The creature’s head wasn’t all that large and there were dozens of little holes all over, while the four arms ended in numerous tendrils. The lower body was even that of an insect, with a carapace and six legs.
Seeing this strange being, Julian immediately turned grim. Even here, he could sense that the being was alive and filled with vitality. If awake, its power would be comparable to a saint’s. He narrowed his eyes, “How many?”
Hasting didn’t answer, instead revealing a dozen more cabins at one go. Each had its own strange creature sleeping within, their forms varied, but the one common point was that their average strength was that of saints. There was no need to show more; Julian quickly extrapolated that there had to be a hundred units or more.
The mage then flew a little further and pointed further into the body, showing dozens of enormous worm nests with the silhouettes of more in the fog. Julian’s gaze froze for a long time as he sensed the flaring life force; this was an enormous number of saints. He shook his head and pointed at the matriarch, “Can you control it if it regains awareness?”
“It’s just an empty shell whose soul vanished long ago. It can only be resurrected because of its powerful vitality… As for a possibility of regaining awareness, I’m not trying to go in that direction at all. I don’t believe I have the ability to control this if it were alive.”
“Agreed,” Julian expressed his approval. Anyone who wanted to control a matriarch was definitely a lunatic. He then pointed back at the combat drone, “So what are you planning to do with those?”
Hasting took one of the soldiers and pulled it towards a mage tower by the valley. A dozen black-robed mages walked out and activated a formation on the ground, with the drone being thrown into the middle and enveloped in magic light. He flew up above and started a long chant, guiding a speck of light out from his body and into it.
The drone immediately thrashed about for a minute, but afterwards it slowly stood up while swaying. Seeing Hasting in the air, its limbs suddenly went soft as it somewhat kneeled to the ground, speaking in Norlandic, “Master.”
Julian raised a brow, “That was a soul you implanted in its body… Feasible for control, but that soul is very powerful, and there are so many drones. How are you going to come up with all you need?”
“I already have enough,” Hasting smiled mysteriously.
Julian smiled with incredulity, “That… isn’t a good joke to make, Master Hasting. Where would you get so many saints?”
“Can you not think of a place I’ve been in that has no lack of powerhouses?”
This time, Julian’s eyes widened as he realised the implication, “The Land of Dusj?”
“Mm. Every moment on a battlefield of despair is a chance to gather the souls of the strong.”
Julian regained his calm, but then had to hide all of his emotions as he asked, “So the Battle of the Unsetting Sun was your work?”
“Marshal Rundstedt believed guarding the area could nurture powerful martial souls, which is something he has always been focused on. I merely persuaded him to… take it further.”
“So he knew about your plan?”
“Yes.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: Ying
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA