Soul Of Searing Steel Chapter 916
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
At dawn, I awakened.
Since the beginning of ascension with murky consciousness and soaking within the Root, there was only the sense of endless light and heat pummeling at the soul, as if all prayer and curses upon the earth had been poured into the mind.
There was no telling how many of such days there had been, and within the muddling Chaos and the endless divine roars tearing at the consciousness, I eventually recovered my name little by little.
I was the Emperor, Lord of the Helgamoth Empire, Head of the Diamond Family, He who culled the orcs, the king who subjugated all darkness. I claimed the heads of my enemies on the battlefield and fought legions alone—I was the one of the world’s most powerful Legend.
I was Israel Diamond, Heir of the God of Might and Justice, the first human divine evoker of Starfall.
[I am a champion]
Memories of all the information gradually clarified. Immersed in the blast of boundless information, I regained my cognition, and the individual that was Israel slowly regained self. That had been precisely why questions more important and unfathomable than ‘who am I’ came crashing one after another.
I was the successor of the God of Might and Justice, a guardian deity of civilization, creator of Order, protector and reformist. Those were all that I was, the most important things in my knowledge.
What was Justice?
What was Might?
And what was a civilization of Order?
Endless confusion was promptly sparked as these questions appeared in my mind.
Was Justice a mutual understanding between the majority?
Was Might the oppression of the strong over the weak?
Was civilization of Order the culling of weakness through strength, the majority’s domination of the minority, the triumph of Truth over Ignorance?
I was left dumbfounded, unable to come up with answers. Incorporeal things gave no answer, and the more I thought about the question, the more my consciousness drifted away and my spirit blanking. The soul named Israel wandered the infinite Flames, slowly sinking within eternal light.
Any normal person would have slowly assimilated with the warm Flame, quietly drowning in the sea of fire and becoming one with the eternal and infinite Root.
And yet the war known as memories, ideals, and will detered such assimilation. Light from the core of ideals that defined ‘me’ flickered, jolting my soul awake from its trance.
Wake up, Israel. You have long since obtained the answers to those questions and gained firm conviction.
I recalled the past. Bygone scenes appeared in my mind, and I appeared to have returned to a time over four decades ago—to naïve and innocent days when I was unaware of the suffering of the world.
It was the end of Starfall year 799, a year of collapse.
I was young then, and both my father and my brother were still alive. My queen mother was gentle and kind, the ministers polite, while nobles behaved elegantly and appropriately towards each other. Every citizen of the Imperial Capital lived safe and fulfilling lives, and were completely protected from all maladies and suffering.
I believed in justice and fairness then, as well as honor and principles. I believed the army to be the iron fist that defended citizens, and the nobles firm shields sheltering the peasants. I held conviction that sacrifices would be repaid and effort would reap gains, that powerful knights would keep our weak subjects from harm, leading civilization to expand our territories within the Dark Forest. I was assured of all this as much as I trusted the Truth. I believed it to be life, or even something transcending beyond living.
I had been so arrogant then, even feeling honored that I was born to the Imperial Family, convinced that I was a guardian of the people and that it was my duty from birth.
But I was wrong.
I was so naïve and innocent, just as my ideals were so weak and laughable. As a prince, I was born deep within the palace and groomed by noblewomen. My Father was the Emperor, the lord of a grand dynasty. My mother was meanwhile a noble from the fringes who grasped the bloodline of the frontiers, while my brother was the eldest prince who had gained strong trust of the ministers and would have one day become a wise king.
Placed in such a garden, such a greenhouse, my future was naturally filled with light, glory, and praise. They educated me to become a knight of highest valor, whilst keeping me ignorant of the ills plaguing our citizens, unaware of the troubles faced by our peasants. Those were things I did not need to know, for as the second son and born to a concubine, I simply had to become a champion who would watch over my brother in the future, safeguarding the honor of my blood and inheriting the family name so that ‘Diamond’ would shine flawless like the gem of its namesake.
I thought of that as my future.
But I was wrong. Just like everything was.
It all began on that afternoon in year 799—the year of collapse where dirges echoed in the Imperial Capital. Every flag had been lowered and the Morlaix Palace was engulfed in a shroud of blood, for it was the greatest calamity in the Helgamoth Empire’s seven-hundred-year history. Having gathered every elite and champion, the orcs ambushed the frontier fortress at the Thomas Grand Canyon. The Emperor who was inspecting the location was killed on site, while the Eldest Prince who was with the auxiliaries at the rear had been assassinate by an orc champion.
A shadow appeared in the palace. The Eldest Princess isolated herself for three days and was found a corpse, while the Empress was left in madness after having lost husband, son, and daughter in a week and was forced into confinement deep within the palace. The second son of a concubine who had lost the very same people was hence forced to take over the flags of vengeance, sent to the frontlines by ‘grieving’ ministers and nobles to face the elites of the orc kingdom, who had gained the winds of victory in their sails.
Champions and weaklings, the strong and the inferior, justice and evil… everything was turned upside down in an instant. As I blankly rode my warhorse and led a banner of knights away from the Imperial City, what found me was the iron hooves of the orcs that would trample over the northwestern plains, the green-blooded plague that would spill from the Tartaros Highlands.
I had no understanding of conspiracies and deception then, but filled with righteous anger and sparks of vengeance, I was convinced that the battle would be won, that the Empire was of one heart throughout—the invaders would be repelled, our nation’s might emanating while I avenged for my relations and put their souls to rest…
…until reality crushed imagination with great agony, and blazing fiery anger was doused in freezing icy water.
As I hastened to the frontlines in the company my knights, I saw a village. It was scorched to the ground with nothing left. Crudely dressed, the villagers fled like birds sent flying by a hunter’s arrow, their panicked appearance pathetic and laughable. Even so, as the knights at my side chuckled, my mind crashed into a frosty cavern after a moment of bewilderment.
The village was within imperial borders and far from the frontlines, the heartlands of the Empire without any orcs—the rear within the Empire’s territories that was without enemies. If that was so, why had it been burnt, and subjects of the Empire displaced?
I growled in fury, but when I attempted to question the villagers on what happened, they had instead knelt in despair at the sight of me, closing their eyes as if there had been no knights to protect them—like we were demons who had come bearing death and terror. Some even stretched their necks out deliberately, as if to make it convenient for me.
“No, I just want to ask why—why are you…”
The other knights pulled me aside, stopping me from the questioning and dragging me away from that parched village. But even if they bore hints of sneers on their faces, they did not really laugh—their expressions were indeed harder to watch than it would have been if they cried.
“Probably deserters. Don’t mind them too much, Your Majesty—we have to hurry.”
“Yes, it has been years since, and these villagers in bordering towns should be used to it… they deserve it for not moving away.’
“Well, we may not fare better than they do. They can still gnaw at tree barks, while we are going to be orc dessert when we reach the frontlines.”
“Move along. These things had been happening for so long, o princeling who knows nothing of peasant turmoil—nothing to be puzzled about!”
One after the other, the knights offered bits and pieces of complaints, explainations, and hopeless self-deprecation, before an older knight stopped the little unrest. “Your Majesty,” he spoke to me calmly, “there are hundreds of such bordering villages, we can’t sympathize with each and every one of them. We still have to reach Fort Clay before winter, or else…”
At the time, I did not seriously listen to the knights’ explanation.
I could only see the villager who had willingly offered his neck, his eyes closed in hopelessness, and how he actually broke into tears upon seeing that we, the demons of death, had left. It was a cry of anguish and lament, as if questioning why they had not been given a quick, easy death, of why they remained alive after everything had been taken from them and they were forced to survive in such sadness, despair, and absence of hope.
I had been educated well, and my father often told me that the citizens were the cornerstone of our Empire.
They paid taxes and served, offering everything to the nation, with each ration and resource allocated to the war effort as the Imperial Army repelled the orcs were only gained from the difficult sowing and laboring. It was thanks to the farmers, hunters, and craftsmen from those thousands of villages and towns who selflessly served the Empire that the legions could stop centuries after centuries of orc assault and invasions.
And yet, those citizens were being stolen from and bullied, their hard work and labor taken away by deserters because they were weak and without power, reduced to targets of venting terror and failure for those disgraced elements. It did not appear to be the first occasion either—they had endured that torment time and time again at the hands of their own brethren.
I could tell from the eyes of those villagers that beyond fear, there was also hate ingrained into their very bones—they despised the Empire, the army, and the invading orcs.
In fact, they even despised the world and everything in it.
That should not have been the case.
That ought not to be the relationship between the strong and the weak, the protection and sacrifice of honor.
“Israel. That’s the truth of the Empire.”
Master Nostradamus had been with the knights too. The middle-aged mage rode his horse alongside mine and said calmly, “Years of war have exploited the weak endlessly, as much as those in the frontline suffered terrible casualties. The standards of service fell time and time again until it became the state it is today—where the army was once composed of soldiers from families with honorable backgrounds, now even ruffians and rogues can don armor. And once the weak could not satisfy their demands, it was not unusual for the poor citizens to meet their end.”
“And yet, the nobles behind us flaunt their blessings and prosperity, holding banquets for one inexplicable reason after another, eating away at wealth that could support a frontline soldier for a month with each single meals. It is a great irony that such a callous Imperial Family could groom a prince as naïve as you.”
Those sharp words pierced my heart. I had been infinitely enraged, but not from the insult. Nostradamus had been my guide since I was a child, but that had been the first time he told me all of that. The truth of the Empire had left me feeling deeply betrayed.
My mentor sneered at my childishness. He had not revealed all that to me before because he could not and was reluctant—he was merely the teacher of a prince, an ordinary Supreme-tier mage. With other royal mages and Supreme champions above him, he had neither the authority nor power, as he was just the most ordinary of peasants. He did not even have a family name, instead climbing every step of the way to this day through nothing but his own efforts.
That is why he naturally realized that there was no meaning in telling all that to a prince who had been living impractically, and he may have even gotten himself into trouble… unless that little muddleheaded rascal grew to gain resolve and ideals, perhaps even desiring to embrace his own fate and become…
“Israel, you have to become the Emperor.”