The Shrine of Goddess Hiera, built by the first Supreme Leader of Kelnar, stands tall in shape of a lotus. It is adorned with intricate carvings and golden accents.
Inside the sacred hall, there lies an eternal divine flame, bestowed by the Goddess herself at the foundation of Kelnar. Those who offer prayers before it receive a temporary blessing of luck, similar to buffs.
The daylight waned, giving way to the approaching darkness of night. Val and deaconesses accompanied by the escort knights, prayed in front of the divine flame. There were only the priests of the shrine presented beside them, as nobody dare to venture in wilderness at night.
- “There’s nothing in the west other than that notorious forest. What’s your plan?”
Asked Bell Nula while squinting.
After being done with the prayer, they made their way to the west gate of Kelnar to bid farewell, but aside from Ana, Aleesia and Lenna, nobody from the divine family came.
- “There is an outpost in the west. It’s the only nearest and safest place right now. But, what are you doing here professor?”
There are 3 outposts in the west, northwest and southwest of Kelnar. The knights are stationed in these outposts to keep the monsters and beasts in check who frequently come out of Dunnet-Un.
- “To give you a farewell gift. Here!”
Bell threw a pouch at Val. There were 3 small green rune stones in that pouch.
- “These are warding stones, just throw one into the ground, and a barrier will form. Its my own work, if you want to learn I’ll teach you. Just come-”
- “My sincerest gratitude, Professor Nula. I’ll use it well.”
Val cut Bell off and turned to Gehma who was growling continuously. Bell clicked her tongue and turned her head, sulking.
Edric brought Gehma with him at the west gate after having her equip the saddle and luggage. In consideration of others, Edric left first after wishing Val a safe journey.
- ‘I’m aware that you are uncomfortable but have patience. As soon as we’ll leave, I’ll take everything off from you’
Val communicated with Gehma through mind. Listening to him, Gehma calmed down and lied down on the ground, waiting for him to finish his conversation.
- “Would it really be safe traveling with her, Your Grace? As we all know, making a mutant beast companion is dangerous”
Ana was concerned with Gehma’s behavior.
- “She’s just throwing tantrum, deaconess. Do not worry”
Val turned toward Ana.
- “How can I not worry?”
Ana murmured, trembling, her head dropped.
- “I packed an extra set of clothes, and b-blanket. Make sure to cover yourself well when camping out. I-I know you're not picky with food, but I prepared all types of spices for cooking. Please eat well, Your Grace,”
Tears fell under her veil, and her voice wavered. Aleesia and Lenna clenched their fist, holding their tears. Bell sighed, having witnessed this scene before—families saying farewell to their loved oneswho choose to venture outside.
Saying goodbye was hard because the wilderness of Lower Realm was not a flower garden. Every year, around 70% people die who choose to step outside for glory and strength.
He called out to her
- “R-Right, I put the health potions in front of the bag, it’ll be easier to take it out. Bandages are in the right side, a-and poison antidotes are in the left”
He approached her
- “A-And be careful with the vibrant color fruits. They are often poisonous in nature. N-No, don’t even touch them with bare hands. A-And”
- “Deaconess, it’ll be fine.”
Val gently held her hands and Ana wailed silently with her head down. Aleesia and Lenna also broke into tears, watching Ana.
- ‘At this rate, Ana will not be able to survive the upcoming disaster. I made a sacred oath with her, I don’t know if her death will nullify the oath without affecting me but I can’t risk taking an assumption’
Val was indifferent, he wanted to leave as quickly as possible but he decided to calm Ana first.
- “It is said that a mother’s love can perform miracles. I’m going out to seek something, will you not give me your blessing?”
Val smiled and gently asked her. Aside from the escort knights who stood a bit far, it made everyone flinched in their place. Ana leaned her forehead on Val hands after raising them and prayed silently.
- “Please be very careful, your grace. And come back safely.”
Ana said with newfound faith, determined not to let her voice waver or break into tears again.
- “Yes, I promised you this. But until then-”
Val took out a small box from his inventory secretly and placed it in Ana’s hand.
- “Keep this close and use it when needed.”
- “W-What is??”
- “Check it privately, it’s time for me to leave.”
Val turned around, and climbed up on Gehma. Ana couldn’t able to say anything, she just watched Val while holding the small box tightly.
- “W-We will wait for your safe return, your grace.”
Aleesia and Lenna bowed. Val nodded and signaled the knights to open the gates.
But as Val turned to take a last look at lively Kelnar, he saw the images of Kelnar’s destruction like a glitch. Flames raged everywhere, city cried in sorrow and pain, blood flowed on every streets, corpses piling up on each other, and lastly, the great statue of Goddess Hiera breaking and collapsing.
- ‘This’ll shake the whole Lower Realm’
Val turned back and Gehma dashed out of the gates like wind.
- “Placing a seedless equal to gods so casually, what a dangerous thing to say but there is no greater honor than this. He’ll really fit in Osiris”
Bell came to stand beside Ana, but she didn’t get any reaction.
- “Sigh.. But really, just what this city has done to even stole the luster from his eyes?”
- “Unlike everyone else, that child never had the privilege to prove his strength and devotion. He wasn't blessed with a divine seed, but his heart was kind. A warm smile was all he needed, and he'd put others before himself”
Ana kept her gaze on Val’s back.
- “This world mocked him for being weak, but now that he has gained such strength, I fear he sacrificed his heart for it”
- “He never smiled sincerely ever since that day, he’s putting up an act all this time. My heart deeply aches for him”
Suddenly, Ana's aura turned cold, surprising Bell
- “If anything happens to him, I may commit blasphemy and commend the goddess”
Ana declared coldly and Bell smiled in response
- “I think Osiris will suit you too.”
- “We’re out of the vicinity of Kelnar. We should stop here, Gehma”
It’s been half an hour since Val left the city, and since then, Gehma was running at full speed without a break. They were now in the open wilderness with the Divine Realm visible in the night sky.
Val climbed down from Gehma to take the saddle and luggage off from her. He stored everything in his inventory by activating his carvings to engulf the items in mercury like liquid, and absorbed it back.
As soon he finished, a sharp pain rose up in his heart.
Val fell to his knees, grabbing his chest. His heartbeat grew louder and pain intensified.
- ‘Gaia child!? What is-’
Val managed to speak despite the pain and tried to stop Gehma from approaching him, but it was too late. His body suddenly lifted up in the air and a mana burst occurred from his heart.
Violent mana shock waves released and plundered everything in 50m radius. Gehma, who was stopped in her tracks on Val’s warning also flew away by the mana burst.
Val fell down on the ground and vomited blood.
- ‘It’s hard to suppress my temple rank now, I must reach Dunnet-Un quickly’
After leaving Kelnar, Val resumed his mana breathing and the sudden mana burst just now indicated the rise in his temple rank.
- ‘Gaia child, you are suppressing your powers?’
Val was still on his knees when Gehma approached him
- “I need to hide it till we reach the forest. But you seem fine”
Said Val after seeing the change in Gehma.
Standing in front of him, Gehma appeared more intimidating than before. Her fur grew a little in length, the golden markings on her head and her green eyes are now emanated a golden radiance.
- ‘Her mutation is activated, must be because of the divinity showered by the divine realm’
Val sat back, looking up at the night sky, admiring the Divine Realm.
Suddenly, his eyes glowed like azure rings, and he turned his head sideways.
- “It seems like few corrupted beasts have picked up the scent of my blood. Take care of them, I need time to stabilize my mana”
12 elk-like creatures with vicious red horns, black teeth and black eyes stepped out from darkness, surrounding Val and Gehma. They breathed black smoke and drooled, baring teeth.
Val went back to his indifferent and emotionless self after leaving Kelnar. He didn’t needed to put on an act anymore. His demeanor intimidated Gehma, she couldn’t help but obey him.
Gehma fearlessly dashed toward the group of beasts and started ripping them apart.
- “Let’s see”
Amidst the chaos, Val sat down with crossed legs and created a water wall in front of him. He place left hand on it and checked his status.
[Temple Rank: Arch Bishop ]
[ Awakening: Mana Heart (Partially Awakened)..]
[Primal Mana Calibration: 80.548% ]
[Mana Affinity: 85% ]
[ Innate Abilities:
Accurate Intuition (St.1)
Neo Perception (St.1)
Emotion Control(Self) (St.1)
Deep Simulation (St.1)
Super Instincts (St.1)
Artificial Experience (St.1)
Memory Manipulation(Self) (St.1)
Perfect Imitation (St.1) ]
[Acquired Abilities/Skills: Primal Mana Breathing, Kelnar Weapon Arts (Revised), Mana Healing, Familiar Summon(0), Monster Tongue,Other Mana Related Abilities(+20)]
He also checked his temporary blessing granted by the divine flame of Goddess Heira.
[ Beginner’s luck – Shall be made aware of approaching evil ]
- “It’s useful at least. Anyways, I’ve climbed up to the Arch-Bishop rank”
- “From my observation, if I don’t intentionally stop primal mana breathing, my mana calibration increases by 3.7% per day, and my temple rank also increases at the same rate. Soon, my mana foundation will be complete and then I can finally proceed to awaken my mana heart”
- “I know, they’ll break their silence soon. I wonder, how they’ll react?”
He was referring to gods. Tomorrow, his temple rank will rise to Cardinal Bishop and eventually he’ll break into the rank of Supreme Leader. Val knew that this growth rate is absurd, more so for a seedless like him.
The holy rank of Bishop is rarer than Supreme Leader. While only a selected individual from divine family has exclusive privilege over the rank of Supreme Leader, Bishop rank is a peak which is available for everyone.
In Lower Realm, there are 500 Bishop-ranked individuals, with only 150 of them have able to climb higher than High-Bishop rank. Talk about seedless people, only 12 have achieved Bishop rank, and among them, 3 people are hailed as the strongest of all Bishop. Rector of Osiris is one of the 3.
However, the Temple Order (System of Temple Ranks) was not established to measure the strength of an individual, but to remind everyone how close they are to godhood or their true form.
Supreme Leaders are closest to gods, they can even temporarily enter the rank of gods by using their unique skill, God Mode.
- “I need to exhaust my mana”
Val closed his eyes as if meditating, and started releasing the large amount of mana into the ground. The mana nourished the plundered area and soon, lush green grass and beautiful flowers grew, covering the whole area.
There are three ways to climb the temple ranks. First is to increase the mana or divinity capacity, but it’s impossible to do so unless someone receives a blessing from God. Second is skills gained with your own efforts and third is to stack blessings from God.
Use of mana breathing consider as a skill cuz it only increases the regeneration rate of mana. But Val is using a different method which is giving him access to use natural mana and mana related skills.
The rise in his temple rank only signified the increase access over natural mana, making it unorthodox. His mana is basically compensating the huge power gap that others usually filled with skills and blessing.
Val opened his eyes and found Gehma in front of him, covering in remnant black ashes of corrupted beasts. He looked around and saw the corpses of corrupted beasts scattered on the flower bed.
- ‘Gaia child, your smell is gone’
Even though he’s standing in front of her, Gehma is still unable to feel his presence. 80% of his body has adjusted to natural mana, making his presence blend with nature itself.
- “I forgot to tell you, I’m not a child of Gaia”
He told her while cleaning her with wind magic. He knew why Gehma kept calling him Gaia’s child.
- ‘But you are like Gaia’
- ‘Gaia, the one who embraces everyone, the mother of all life and creation. There are no gods who favored monsters and beasts, so the sentient ones started worshiping the natural force, mana, and named it Gaia’
He recalled the description he put in his novel.
- ‘For them, Gaia is a sentient deity, the one who gave birth to them, who dwells everywhere and in everything. Since my body is assimilating with natural mana, Gehma must think I’m connected to her’
- “Anyways, we need to pass by an outpost before heading to the forest. The outpost is one day away, but I’m sure we can reach there by late morning if you run all night at your full speed. Can you do that?”
With her mutation activated, Gehma was in her peak form. Val knew that she can pull this off in her current state.
- ‘Get on’
Gehma laid down to let Val climb on her back. There was no saddle to keep Val stable, so Gehma curled her fur around his legs, to keep him from falling.
At his word, Gehma dashed at full speed.
The West Outpost of Kelnar resembled a small town protected by fort walls. While originally built to keep monsters at bay, some merchants opened their businesses here, and it became a great spot for adventurers to gather and rest.
- “Alert, a beast is approaching”
Two knights of Kelnar who were stationed at the east gate, raised their swords. It’s morning, and they saw a 7ft tall wolf type beast covered in black ashes coming toward them.
- “But we usually encounter beasts and monsters in west. What if it’s a mount who lost its master?”
Questioned the other knight, noticing the beast was alone.
- “Look again, the black texture is a sign of corruption. Prepare to engage: if it shows hostility, we’ll eliminate it”
The first knight declared. But the beast didn’t attack, it stopped fair distance away from them. Puzzled, the two knights exchanged glances, and the first knight decided to approach the beast hesitatingly.
As soon he took a step forward, a boy with his hood on and clothes colored in black, rose from the back of the beast as if he had been sleeping there.
- “We’ve arrived on time”
Val and Gehma arrived at the west outpost, one day far from Dunnet-Un.
[This is the end of Kelnar Arc. From Ch.21, Dunnet-Un arc will begin]
There were 4 holy ranks in temple, which were [ Deacon > Priest > Bishop > Supreme Leader ]. Those holy ranks were further split into 5 sub-ranks which were [ Apprentice > High > Grand > Arch > Cardinal ]. Collectively they made a total of 20 temple ranks.