The world of my past, the world where I came from, still often comes to mind. It was a life of isolation for me but it wasn’t as if I loathed every moment of my near-forty years there. I especially enjoyed visiting the orphanages and playing with the children. Of course, most of the boys considered sword-fighting and ki training forms of play, so whenever I went, I ended up spending hours teaching them.
I remembered one day rather explicitly, when a boy in the orphanage – ah right, Jacob was his name – asked me a question.
“Brother Grey, do you believe in God?” he had asked, looking up while tugging on my sleeve.
I’d never believed in God, or whatever higher being some of the people believed in. How could there be a god in a world where your level of martial strength determined how you could live your life. Parents who birthed physically weak or crippled babies were considered humiliations, often ridiculed by others behind their backs. Those babies, even if they did grow up to live past adolescence, would never be able to amount to anything. They would have about as much recognition as a fly buzzing in someone’s face: annoying, better off dead, useless.
Even a woman, no matter how beautiful and charismatic she was, would only amount to a high-class prostitute if she didn’t have at least the minimum strength needed to be considered ‘mediocre’ amongst practitioners. Even those old bastards in the council, that sat on their asses all day and used everyone like pawns, were once grand fighters and famous figures.
How could a god exist in a world like that? Even if a god or deity existed in my previous world, he certainly wasn’t very merciful or loving, let alone fair.
When that child, Jacob, asked me if I believed in God, I couldn’t answer. These children believed, like I once did, that there was a higher power watching over them… protecting them.
Again, in this world, I was asked a similar question, but by someone much older than me.
Did I believe in deities…some sort of higher powers that were above us and unreachable?
“I’m not sure. Do deities exist?” The words ‘…in this world?’ almost slipped from my mouth.
“Haha! I’ve been asking that question all my life, but I’ve started to think that deities might still exist,” Grandpa Virion let out a hearty laugh.
“What made you change your mind?” I tilted my head in curiosity.
“Her.” I thought Virion pointed his finger at Tess, but I realized it was the sleeping Sylvie he was directing his gaze at.
“Wait, Sylvie? You think Sylvie is a deity?” Almost choking on my spit, I directed my gaze back at Gramps.
“Brat, deities are different from what religious books say about gods. Deities are beings that are able to ascend from what we consider their mortal bodies and fully harmonize with mana. Dragons, at least, what I’ve read about them, are beings that can naturally become deities. They can’t be classified as just S class, or SS class mana beasts; if you compare it to mana cores, deities would be at the level one would reach after breaking out of white core stage.” Grandpa Virion looked down at his own two hands as he said this, letting out a scoff.
“Here we are, elves, humans, and dwarves alike, at most, barely able to tap into the power of a white stage mana core. Yet, there may be beings still existing that can easily level mountains and flood valleys… Haaa~” Again, Grandpa Virion had that faraway look.
He closed his eyes for a while before slowly opening them again, his gaze shifting towards me.
“You’ve read about the war between the three races, as well as the most recent war between the humans and elves, but compared to those two wars, this continent was much more chaotic and dangerous in ancient times. The three races were nomadic back then, always on the run from mana beasts. The humans, elves and dwarves all travelled separately due to clashes in appearance and culture, but whenever any of the races met, we were on fairly good terms…we had to be; we exchanged information and traded raw resources that we picked up along the way. This is now known as the Beast Era, where the mana beasts were rampant and ruled the continent.”
“I don’t understand. Why didn’t we use magic to drive the mana beasts away? I could understand maybe avoiding A-class mana beasts and up, but I don’t see why we were so helpless.” My brows furrowed in confusion.
“It’s not that we didn’t, it’s that we couldn’t. Brat, have you ever noticed the painting in the main hall of the Royal Palace in Elenoir?” He suddenly switched topics.
“You mean that enormous painting in the living room? I mean, I noticed it at first but I couldn’t really make sense of it so I just disregarded it.” I let out an awkward laugh, scratching my head.
“Every one of the three Royal Palaces has a painting similar to that one; it is a depiction of a powerful deity gifting us with the tool to overcome the mana beasts and put an end to the Beast Era.” I couldn’t tell how Virion was feeling as he said all this, his expression still a mixture of various emotions.
No matter how ridiculous this sounded to me, Gramps’ tone showed me he wasn’t joking as he said this, so I stayed quiet and let him continue.
“This deity appeared in front of three people, and they were the forefathers of what are now the three royal families. He bestowed our ancestors with six artifacts, which were distributed equally amongst the three ancestors that were chosen by the deity to become kings. For the humans, the head of the Glayder family at that time received two; the dwarves, the head of the Greysunders family received two; and lastly, for the elves, the ancestor of my Eralith family also received two.” Virion couldn’t help but smirk after looking at my expression.
“Huh? Why would this so-called ‘deity’ just give the three races these treasures?” I sputtered incredulously, not able to hold it in.
“Let me get to that, brat,” he reprimanded.
“Remember, this was ages before I was born. This knowledge is passed down from king to king and my guess is that information may have been exaggerated or skewed in certain directions along the way, but this is what I’ve been taught. The three kings weren’t meant to use the three pairs of artifacts bestowed by the deity themselves, but were instead meant to bestow them onto their two most powerful subjects under a soul oath through a sort of knighting ceremony. With these powerful artifacts given to their strongest warriors, the three races were meant to use the power of the artifacts to protect themselves as well as gain the upper hand in dominating the mana beasts and other ancient monsters of the time,” he explained.
“I would assume that giving three races super powerful artifacts just begs for chaos and war, rather than protection. I’m not so sure about the elves, but if you at least look at some of the humans, greed isn’t exactly a rare thing,” I chortled, shaking my head.
“Well, funny you say that because that’s what happened. The artifacts did indeed allow the elves, humans and dwarves to work together during that period to further expand their area of dominance. A lot of the mana beasts were either killed or driven off to what is now known as the Beast Glades, putting an end to the Beast Era. However, shortly after, greed did get ahold of the three kings and their subjects. Besides the incredible power the artifacts gave to its wielders, it gave them insights on how to utilize the source of energy that makes up the world, which we now call mana. With this, the users of the artifacts taught it to those who they deemed capable, thus, giving rise to the very first batch of mages. Drunk on power, the concept of harmony dwindled and soon led to internal strife due to greed,” Virion looked at me with a painful smile before continuing.
“The three pairs of artifacts bestowed had different attributes and were divided between the humans, elves and dwarves respectively, segregating us all even further. The distinct features in specialization between the three races we have today are supposedly due to the artifacts. The dwarves, who reasoned that because they were the beings closest to the earth, believed that they should naturally be the rulers of the continent. We elves reasoned that because we were the closest to all living things, we should be the rulers of the continent, while the humans, who were able to train and utilize all of the four major elements, believed that the deity naturally wanted to make them the rulers of the continent.” Virion looked back at Tess to make sure she was still asleep.
“The first war, which lasted longer than the time they drove the mana beasts into the Beast Glades, was what led to the segregation of the three races as well as the formation of the three kingdoms. The second war, which you’re more familiar with, happened between the humans and the elves. So… going back to the question of where the Six Lances came from, can you take a guess?” he tested.
“Wait… so those six artifacts that were bestowed upon your ancestors by the so-called deity were given to the Six Lances?” y mind raced as pieces of the puzzle began to fit. “And the artifacts are the reason why they were able to rise past the silver core stage and become white core mages, as well as the reason why they aren’t able to go against the Council since they are soul-bound, just like the previous users who were tied to the first kings,” I exclaimed after coming to a revelation. Everything clicked.
“The Lances were most likely chosen amongst candidates that were brought up closely by the royal family of their respective race, and after they were deemed worthy, they were bestowed the artifact along with the soul oath that bound their lives to the kings,” I continued.
“Exactly. They were secretly raised as candidates to each wield an artifact. However, it wasn’t until the discovery of another continent that the three races decided that they needed to unify.” Grandpa Virion had a distant look on his face as he explained.
“One last question. So were the artifacts given to figures in the past as well? How come we’ve never heard of them?” I was sitting up by this point, thoroughly focused on the conversation and leaning forward as if it were possible to receive information faster this way.
“Yes, but this is the first time they were publicized. In the past, wielders of the artifacts were always protecting the king and his family from the shadows. It is only now, after the unification of the continent that we decided to publicize the wielders. Of course, no one else knows that they got their strength through the power of the artifacts. If that secret were to be let out, it would most likely cause a coup d’etat; the greed of numerous silver core mages desperate to surpass their limits is not to be looked down upon. Who knows to what extent some might go? Maybe even destroying the entire royal bloodline in hopes to be the new masters of the artifacts,” Virion paused again before turning to stare at Sylvie again.
“I imagine your bond has the capability to become a deity. I’m not sure how long that would take and if we’d be even alive when that happens, but Arthur, you need to get stronger. Call it my own senile intuition but I feel like changes are going to happen soon… enormous changes. I just hope that I’m wrong.” This was the first time I’d seen Grandpa Virion have such a worried look on his face.
My mind flashed to the message that Sylvia had left within me after teleporting me to Elshire Forest— how I would hear from her again when I reached the stage past white core. I was beginning to think that maybe these so-called deities weren’t as fictional as I believed them to be.
“Mmmm… what’s going on? Why am I sleeping on the ground?”