Translator: Master of Djinn
68. A New Possibility (2)
At present, things seemed to be at a standstill. Not even the heads of the two families that were in the running for continent’s strongest were able to achieve it [title of Grandmaster].
Now he was being shown a way to get to that level.
‘There is a limit to the present state of things.’
He had indeed thought that maybe one day he could reach the stage of Grandmaster. But doing so also required a lot of time. Right now, the situation was slowly becoming more and more difficult, and the gods were forcing humans to the point of destruction.
“I’ll do it.”
After painstakingly considering things, Iron finally made his decision.
-Starting now, all achievements and titles will be withdrawn, except the innate title ‘Hero of Steel’.
Iron groaned unconsciously as he felt the power that had filled his body disappearing. It didn’t feel like the power was being consumed, but instead like a part of the power Iron had was now lost to him forever, a terrible feeling. The hero’s body that had helped him go through several battles, the hero’s spirit that had allowed him to withstand mental attacks and poison, and his hero’s mana that had allowed him to boast a huge amount of mana. These three things disappeared all at the same time. Following that, all the powers that he had received through his achievements, including his cold qi, disappeared one by one. As they did so, Iron was unable to maintain full consciousness.
As all his strength left him, cold sweat flowed down his body and he went limp. Then he heard a notification sound.
-The withdrawal process has ended. Because your achievements and titles have been returned, your probability of receiving titles and achievements in the Empire has increased. Also, the probability of the other-worlders returning to the Lord God has increased.
Iron grew wide eyed at the notification. What the system had said sounded like the other-worlders had not been able to receive title effects because of him.
But on second thought, it did sound plausible. Whether it was in the northeast, the north, east or at the Centre, Iron had played the biggest role. Because he had handled the most important tasks, it was almost as if he had monopolised everything.
However, he didn’t regret doing so. At the time, there was no way around it. And then, after he had done his best and gotten results, he did not have the wherewithal to care about other people.
While he was thinking about these, and also feeling empty because of the sudden loss of power and mana, something happened.
Suddenly, the mana that was circulating in his surroundings began to appear more defined. And that was not the only change that occurred. The mana that had not yet been converted automatically began changing to aura.
-’Body of Steel’ reacts to ‘Steel Mana’. Because of their compatibility, even without focusing on it, absorbed mana will automatically be converted to steel mana.
-Due to being at Nature’s Body 4th Stage, the amount of mana entering the body is greater. Divine power has also increased drastically.
-Due to the increase in divine power, the divine beasts will get closer to their original strength. When the divine beasts regain their original strength, they will undergo evolution.
-Through an added effect of the Fusion skill, all the powers in your body will not collide, but remain in harmony.
Suddenly, he felt a heightened sensitivity. As more mana was compressed and converted to aura, becoming a near-perfect power. Obviously, his mana volume and physical ability had decreased when he gave up his title effects and achievements. On the other hand, however, his senses, the quality of his aura, and his divine power had increased.
“Hoo…… I still don’t know what is great about it.”
As Iron thought that, and examined his changed power, he heard a sudden notification.
-Only the title effects were withdrawn, and the title of Empire’s Hero itself still remains with the user. Please accumulate the remaining hero achievements, and go beyond the Empire to become the Continent’s hero……
Iron stared dumbfoundedly at the sudden notification.
The voice that he’d just heard was not the flat, robotic voice of the system. The voice in his head was warm and earnest. He didn’t know how those emotions were captured in the voice, but what he was certain was that the voice came from a high level being that he didn’t dare to look in the eye, given his current abilities.
He didn’t know if it was the Lord God’s voice, but the feminine-sounding voice contained care for the world, an earnest request for him to protect the world from the ancient gods and the external gods.
Even if it was a god, as long as it was under the constraints of the system, there was a limit to the things it could give him, which was why the powers that Iron had worked hard to gather had now been withdrawn.
“Hoo… is this skill that great?”
Both the 4th Stage Nature’s Body and the Body of Steel were collateral; the key part of the reward he received this time was the Fusion skill. He didn’t yet know how to use it, but he was sure that all the power inside his body was moving in harmony, with just added effect. This meant that actual skill, fusion, had to be even more awe-inspiring.
He had one more conjecture.
‘That final strike……’
That last blow he had given to the giant had contained power that had shown itself when he had been in danger of losing his life. Maybe that would be the key to using this Fusion skill.
‘Is that one way to become a Grandmaster?’
Iron thought about what a Grandmaster, this level that still seemed so far away to him. The system had directly given him a way to become stronger in a shorter time.
In that case, he would trust the system for now.
“Whatever the case may be, does this mean I have to go into closed-door training?
Since all his title effects and achievement effects had disappeared, he needed time to adapt to his body. Being a master was not just about making and using aura blades. A master was someone who had brought their body, mana and weaponry to perfection, and reached a balance on their own path.
But right now, Iron’s equilibrium was broken. The aura made from steel mana was heavier, and his divine power had grown so fast that he was unable to manage it. To add to that, his weakened body was unable to adapt to the holy power that constantly emerged from it. Fortunately, the fusion skill had harmonised all his powers so that there was no clash between them, which he was thankful for.
Once news spread inside the Command that Iron too would be going into closed door training, to adapt to his new body and powers, the Mobile Field Army stopped almost all outside activities.
“The Commander is becoming stronger. We definitely cannot lag behind.”
“I’ll follow in his footsteps!”
After one soldier spoke, the youngest soldier among them clenched his fist and replied. A non-commissioned officer who was watching the soldiers laughed as he said
“Got it. But even if you train for a hundred days, you’ll still not be able to touch his shadow.”
“But shouldn’t we still try to follow after him?”
“That is true. We can’t just rely on the Commander forever.”
The soldiers nodded at the non-commissioned officer’s words, their eyes solemn.Because they hated having to rely on the Commander everytime, they put their lives on the line to complete their missions, becoming stronger in the process. This was proved by how much their battle skill had grown, so much that other armies could not catch up, and how they had received one more innate ability than soldiers from other armies because of their final battle in the southeast.
But despite all that, they were still lacking. Whenever they tried to follow one footstep, their Commander had already gone even farther before they knew it. Even after he became a master, he continued to advance, and now they were hearing rumours that he was training to become a Grandmaster. There was also a rumour that Ariel, commander of the 21st Corps, was also trying to become a master.
Even the commanding officers were training the abilities they received and becoming stronger. Then there was no way that they, the low-ranking soldiers, could take rest, even if it had been a long time since they’d had a break.
Already, there were scenes of people training day in, day out in the Command.
Since the best commanding officers were training day after day, naturally others began training too.
As a result, a competitive spirit began to emerge gradually.
‘That kid has gotten that strong?’
A soldier clenched his teeth when he saw that the maknae of their unit, who had previously been weaker than him, was already overtaking him, growing to the point where he could even become a non-commissioned officer. After he found out that the maknae was now on the come up, that very day, he doubled the amount of training he had to do. On no account could he become weaker than the maknae, especially as a senior.
The same was happening in other units as well. As the skills of those who had always been at the bottom improved, those who had slacked a bit became nervous, and then that anxiety naturally led to them increasing their training hours.
‘This is an opportunity.’
They did not have to go to battle, and their assignments had been reduced to the minimum, so now was a golden opportunity for them to increase their skills. It also meant that their position within the unit would be elevated soon – they already had battle experience, and all that was left was their power. Because it hadn’t been long since the Mobile Field Army had been established in the Empire, there were still many vacant positions. What was unusual was that they did not bother to fill those empty positions. When some commissioned officers had proposed that they fill those vacancies, Iron had said just one thing.
“Get it with your skills.”
His words had lit a fire in everyone, as they all aimed for the vacant posts. The Corps commander and general-level defence positions had all been filled, but there were countless other empty positions. And because many people had died in battle, the number of positions remaining unfilled also increased. But still, they did not try to fill the positions for the sake of it.
They needed the minimum qualifications; without those, they would not be promoted. Even if one gave bribes and used their personal connections, there were limitations. Even if they passed the first screening using bribes or connections, they would certainly get caught at the final screening for corps commander. In light of this, everyone trained without cease in order to get those positions.
In the meantime, an event occurred that would spur them on even more.
[The second quest of the Apocalypse’s first story will soon come. Liberation from the ancient gods will commence. An enormous reward is available upon completion. You must win.]
-Because of you all, the Southern Kingdom’s Confederation has been shaken. Through you, new possibilities will arise: liberate the other-worlders and the people of the continent from the ancient gods and make them return to the Lord God.
-Everything depends on you all. Please expel the ancient gods and bedeck the Apocalypse’s first story with the victory of the Lord God.
At this moment, the system’s mechanical voice sounded sweet to everyone who heard it. How big a reward had they received after fighting the giant and winning? But now, the system was talking about another ‘enormous reward’.
“I wish that day would come soon……”
“What is the southern commander doing?”
“Come on, man! He needs to quickly send them packing.” 
Unable to hide their excitement, they found fault with the southern commander for dawdling. But then, yet another event added fuel to the fire, causing their excitement to overflow.
-Our Mobile Field Army will march to conquer the defeated Southern Confederation. Most of the currently vacant positions will be filled according to the merit gained during that campaign. There will not be a cap on promotion so soldiers can be promoted to commissioned officers. Do your best.
Iron Carter, Mobile Field Army Commander.
The memo was plastered all around the Command, containing Iron’s official declaration that they will go to war with the Southern Confederation. There would be no going back through political negotiations or diplomacy.
The central government was also affected by his resolution. As he was the driving force in the victory against the confederation’s army, and was also one of the most influential people in the Empire, once he announced that he would be going to war, the central government was bound to follow suit. The quest had been formally issued, and because they had been asked to bring the enemy back to the Lord God, they had justification. So the majority had no choice but to approve the campaign.
Of course, there were some who opposed the war, citing the stability of the Empire. But what stability was there to talk of in the Apocalypse?
The minority’s opposition was soon dismissed, and a collective decision was made approving the war against the Southern Confederation.
[Following the wishes of the Lord God, we will return the Southern Confederation to the hollow of the Lord God’s arms.]
The central government’s announcement was short but filled with firm resolve, and caused the citizens of the Empire to cheer.
 Maknae: 막내; the youngest in a group of people.The maknae is usually under the protection of their seniors (선배, 언니/누나, 오빠/형), and in the same vein, they have to be respectful of the existing hierarchy.
 The confederation’s army is still on Empire territory, but the second battle will be on the confederation’s land. So they are hoping that the southern commander gets them to leave as soon as possible, so they can start the second battle and gain the reward.