Waves splashed into the side of a majestic warship, yet it didn't falter at all. It stood tall like a mountain or reef braving the wind and waves, advancing into the depths of the outer seas.
The ship was flying the flag of a scarlet skull and dagger. Numerous others followed behind it, with fierce cannons and countless pirates on board. Even the largest of merchant groups would be scared out of their wits at this sight.
This fleet was that of the Scarlet Tigers, the organisation that controlled the outer seas of Dambrath. The Scarlet Tigers had the best of the best, with over a hundred large warships and more than five thousand men.
With their several expansions, the Scarlet Tigers seemed to have bitten off more than they could chew. However, with Tiff and the other elites joining from the north, a powerful pirate fleet was formed that rivalled the imperial navy.
"I never expected the native empire to actually exist..." Isabel was on the bow of the Scarlet Tiger, her legendary Red Dragon Sword hung at her waist. She emitted a faint draconic aura, her bloodthirsty eyes staring pointedly into the horizon.
The memory of her time on Nightmare Island was still fresh in her mind. She'd been made a fool of by the natives there, and now she'd obtained information regarding their empire through repeated attacks on native tribes. Having determined their location, she was planning to deal them a huge blow.
'But I never thought cousin Leylin would agree to this. He even came here himself...' Isabel looked towards the ship's hold, seeming serious, 'Is this for faith, to become a god? Is a god going to be born out of our family?'
In the past, Isabel didn't have the guts to think of such blatant blasphemy. However, things were different now. Leylin had performed miracle after miracle, cementing his cousin's confidence in him. In addition, Isabel had been able to sense the power of divinity on Leylin's body.
'My cousin will successfully become a god. All who stand in his way will be killed, regardless of their identity!' Isabel reached for the hilt of her sword, her mind made up. The sombre atmosphere caused all the surrounding pirates to shiver in fear as they glanced at their leader.
Once she'd become a Dragon Warlock, Isabel had completely suppressed the demonification of her body. Dragon King's Mystic Might had even allowed her to cross the threshold of the legendary realm! Her title in the outer seas had changed. She was no longer the Scarlet Witch, instead the Daughter of the Red Dragon.
Along with Leylin, she was one of the two main forces in charge of the outer seas, on one the surface and the other in the shadows. All the other organisations knew of their backgrounds, and were obviously fearful.
Leylin could sense Isabel's conviction. Sitting quietly in the captain's room, he couldn't help but chuckle.
'A conviction formed out of love?' Leylin nodded as he sensed an extremely thick string of fate.
Learning of his ambitions for godhood and that he'd already obtained a thread of divinity, Isabel had become one of Leylin's worshippers. She even began to spread the faith of the Winged Serpent God Kukulkan amongst the pirates, and even if Leylin wasn't a match for the gods of the storms or the like, her methods caused a portion of the pirates to change their faith.
What surprised Leylin more was that Isabel's faith for him was extremely firm and zealous. Albeit slightly, it was even more sturdy than Tiff's! Leylin knew for sure that if he'd become a god already she would be a devout follower of his.
Leylin sensed the faith of the other pirates, and could only smile wryly. "I'd be lucky to have even one with such a firm conviction as her..."
Although Isabel was doing all she could to assist him, Leylin was still only a divine being. He could only answer the prayers of his followers, not grant them divine spells. He wasn't competitive at all with the true gods, or even false gods, demigods, or devils. Worshippers were bright, after all. Why would they invest effort into someone who couldn't give them anything?
If not for Isabel using her position and doing everything in her power to promote this faith, the religion of the Winged Serpent God would have failed terribly.
'I need to give my worshippers some real benefits as soon as possible. I should become a demigod and bestow divine spells to them, but I'll also need to give them material compensation.
'This is the principle of equal exchange.' Leylin suddenly had a revelation. The path of faith in the World of Gods still followed the Magi's principles of equal exchange. Worshippers provided their faith, and in return the god promised to receive their souls after death, taking them into their divine kingdom. They would also provide shelter, divine spells, and other things. In essence, the thread of faith was a contract between god and man.
Of course, even the Magi's concept of equal exchange did not necessitate that the things traded were of equal value objectively. The two parties just had to find the traded items that valuable.
That concept allowed the gods to pay less than their worshippers offered up. This was the only way for them to accumulate divine force and increase their power. Sadly, these days the churches were growing more competitive. The gods had to give in greater amounts to obtain more and better followers. This internal competition caused wasteful consumption of divine force.
On top of that, there were devils and demons stealing their 'food'.
'This is the sorrow of the gods. As their foundations are with the mortals, they can never abandon the faith in the prime material plane. Gods whose faith has been lost will gradually die out, and their eternity is but an unrealistic rosy view...' Leylin sighed. Although this path was powerful, it was so limiting it wasn't worth him immersing himself in it.
This body was only a clone, while the original walked the path of the ancient Warlocks. This had never changed. That was strength that truly belonged to him, and Leylin knew this very well.
Of course, the path of faith was the most compatible with the rules of the World of Gods, and there were many areas of it he could learn from. Clone as he was, this Leylin did not hesitate in his attempt at godhood.
After pondering the contract between gods and humans, Leylin focused on other matters.
'But... Even I didn't expect that just as I was trying to find a place to expand my faith and comprehend the domain of massacre, the native empire suddenly emerged... Could the world origin force be helping me in hopes that I succeed? What kind of joke is this?'
He'd originally planned to conquer another territory to boost his relationship with his worshippers, comprehending the massacre domain and disseminating his faith. The information about the native empire had been a huge surprise.
Although there were legends and rumours about the native empire in the outer seas, Isabel had now found a number of safe shipping routes. It seemed too much of a coincidence, so Leylin smelled something fishy.
To the conscients of the gods, a Magus like him was an intruder and their arch nemesis. Why would they try to help him? It would be more normal if he was being hunted down!
'What's with this situation? Could it be that the World Will treats me as a complete native after reincarnation, and is trying to get me on its side? Or is it in such deep sleep that it doesn't react to the matters of the world anymore. Maybe this is to balance power... Have the gods' goals deviated from that of the World Will, and they're betraying it?'
Numerous possibilities flashed in Leylin's mind, and were simulated by the A.I. Chip to find any possible changes in the future.
'There are many changes in the future... But I can't go wrong with grasping the present!' After planning for a long time, Leylin sighed, 'Whatever it is, occupying the native empire and comprehending the massacre domain amidst constant slaughter is key. I need to spread my faith afterwards as well...'
At this thought, Leylin sent out a divine call.
"Master!" A moment later, Tiff's figure emerged from the shadows without a sound or any trace of energy undulations.
"Have you met Isabel? You will work with her in the future, and spread faith of me in the native empire..." A golden ray flashed in his eyes.
"I've seen her... If Master already has such power in the outer seas, the native empire will not be a problem for you." Tiff spoke reverently.
He was actually rather surprised that Leylin had a legendary sorcerer under him, and rather relieved. He obviously did not dare to be negligent when it came to Leylin's divine orders.
Watching Tiff's figure disappear, Leylin nodded inside. Tiff's retreat from the north had gone quite well. While he had lost a few helpers in the process, they were outer powers that did not know their true secrets. The group of acolytes that Leylin prized the most successfully reached the outer seas, giving Leylin the confidence to declare war on the native empire.
After all, faith could provide unimaginable effects when one was invading and occupying another territory. This war could be said to be a selection and training for the priests. With Leylin's foresight, he would definitely be able to discover a large number of people who would form the sturdy foundations for his church in the future.
He had two legendaries in Isabel and Tiff, as well as an experienced army. They were being led by a divine being in himself, and on top of that they had the continuous support of the Faulen Family. This was what Leylin was counting on!
He'd basically sent out all his elites for this battle, his ambition evidently not something a mere fief with a small population could satisfy.