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Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
It was an age of darkness.
The stars were ablaze. Thousand-year-old optimistic theories and calculations made by old sages and the savants of old had been declared moot, prosperity and peace reduced to nothing, and all because the world of serenity saw the arrival of the worst uninvited guests—even as the Evil Gods of Chaos bewitched what few miserable and ignorant races to trigger tragedy after tragedy, they projected their shadows upon the vast worlds, stirring tides that were darker than black.
It was also a time for resistance.
The world was breaking. Grand fires of war were spreading across the stars, for ancient sentient machines awakened from dust and innumerable civilizations rose up to resist against the Evil Gods, which eclipsed despair and death along with their infinite spawns bent on consuming every living soul. They fought shoulder to shoulder alongside other civilizations of Order to protect the stars, with even more succeeding them and joining forces to triumph against that darkness to return the light of civilization to the stars.
It was a moment of being broken.
The war escalated and there seemed to be no end in sight to the slaughter. Like candles blown, the stars of the galaxies were dying and leaving only silent blackness. Planets fell to infernos and were consumed into nothingness, and yet the curses and hate of countless life did not stop the Evil Gods, rallying them instead as they approached like frenzied beasts drawn by the scent of blood.
The anguished cries of the innocent and the raging roars of resistance echoed and intertwined beyond the stars. Millennia of war and fighting back had united all civilizations of Order, but also allowed Chaos to grow and pile to a frightening state—the Evil Gods’ legions had dominated all shadows, gathering and pressing towards them, and every civilization could only face them in direct conflict.
For they had no space to retreat.
The era of glory and prosperity had ended; the era of torment and despair had begun.
On the other side of the dark emptiness of space, a broken space station silently and swiftly advanced. It was missing a huge chunk as if it had been bitten off by some violent beast, and there were no signs of life inside either—its electronic equipment had all ceased functioning. All was deathly silent, much less having any sort of presence.
Beside a bright star, twelve Void cruisers were vigilantly pausing by the edge of the fireball, positioned at the fringes where the solar winds reached—in other words, where the interstellar medium originated. The patrol fleet solemnly scanned the oncoming space station, even releasing drones to probe it.
“No Chaos presence.”
“No living presence.”
“All functions incapacitated. No electrical energy, Psi, or arcane forces detected.”
“Estimated time of destruction: 1,700 years ago. Its last warp had burnt out its last energies, then floated in the vacuum, squirming inch by inch and eventually reaching us. ”
As the drone approached and dived deep inside the broken space station, the reports became detailed as the recon team piloting the drones cried in surprise.
“Wait…there are a lot of plant seeds here!”
“There are some here too! Weird, the space station doesn’t seem to be designed with lifeforms in mind, solely maintained by automated intelligent mechanisms…though even that is broken.”
“Ah! I’ve found a gene vault! Heavens, there are so many! Could this vault have been the DNA of the creatures of an entire planet?!”
As the discoveries increased, the patrol fleet compiled the data and quickly realized that the ferris-wheel space station was a torch that carried the information of an entire civilization.
Or perhaps a gravestone… or a will.
By supplying power and partially energizing the space station, the recon team managed to extract the civilization and history of the space station from its unencrypted, even willfully cooperative, operating system.
They were a race that had just reached the skies, passing through the atmosphere. It had been barely a hundred years since they launched their first satellite, and experienced severe difficulties exploring the natural satellites and moons of their homeworld. They were a species which were amateurs when it came to both mundane universal technology or supernatural forces—the most insignificant and inconspicuous species there could ever be on Stellaris.
Then, this ordinary race was attacked by the spawns of Chaos.
The fleet quietly studied the records as their unmanned machines connected to the data vault of the space station, transmitting various footage. They saw the darkness that blanked the sun engulfing every star while the suns died and planets diminished. They saw the glorious war and resistance of civilization in space, the fleet of Order being consumed entirely by the infinite beasts. The race had been debating if aliens existed over the past decades, and now, the most convincing evidence had appeared directly upon them in the cruelest way possible.
They were fearful, hopeless and undoubtedly keen on fleeing—but how would they escape? They did not have any technological champion, and there was no time left, because the spawns of the Evil Gods were upon their doorstep, and about to come in months or at most, years.
The massive space station that carried the earliest of warp engines was the final voice of that civilization to the world.
“Would this be the torch of our civilization, or our tombstone?” Amongst the vault of data about every species on a planet, every seed and every living gene, an engineer who must have designed the space station had asked that question blankly before the apocalypse arrived. “Is there a purpose in doing all this? Those freaks are too powerful, the Federation-built airships are all simply going to waste…”
“All the same…” another engineer calmly replied, “at least we’ve resisted.”
“At least, we have chosen to hope.”
In the end, 1,700 years later…
The broken space station floated past the vigilant patrol fleet, whose warships encircled and gently activated psionic barriers to slow and eventually stop it.
“At the very least, we’ve met you…” a plant race individual murmured, closing his eyes. “You’re not alone, for we are with you.”
The warships of five different races were in service. There were those that resembled plants, cicadas, spiders, primates, and jellyfish—the Tehran system was a stronghold and a logistics base closest to the frontlines in the war between Order and Chaos, with the fleet of over a hundred different civilizations anchored. To their rear was the bright galaxies protected by the Stellar Guard, while before them was Chaos and Evil, where specters and darkness bred.
And now, that worn space station had wafted to them from the darkness—the last torch and tombstone of a civilization, the will written calmly in the knowledge of destined death.
Another civilization defeated by the darkness, dying like a torch that finally burned out.
Nevertheless, it did not mean that there was no hope.
“The heart never numbs no matter how many times I see this.”
A young individual of the cicada race watched as the psionic tractor beam slowly dismantled the space station, separating the data storage and vaults which would have been in turn moved into their own ship. His expression was mixed, his tendrils twitching.
“Instead, it ignites my rage and the desire to resist.”
Every other race nodded quietly.
Unlike invasion by other civilizations, the wars between civilizations of Order, or even being eaten by the celestial beasts, insect swarms, or nomadic creatures that wandered the stars, being destroyed by Chaos was the ultimate nihilism.
For the former, it would all have been fine whether one successfully repelled their invaders or should their planet have fallen and their race taken as slaves or vassals, and even if they were eaten alive alongside the planet, since it was logical and a part of the cycle of Order.
Certainly, there would be civilizations that would indeed be killed, their nation, culture, and species no longer in existence, but the defeated never truly vanished—everything about them would have been broken down by the victors and converted to nutrients.
Whether nutrients in a literal sense or the faintest traces of inspirations, historical fragments, or even fashions, the defeated would only ever be consumed by the victors in their entirety. The victors would have then kept advancing, the food in their stomachs granting them energy. There would always be those who journeyed ahead, carrying along everything the defeated had lost.
Our civilization had failed and had become food for another civilization. While one would have been unable to stop from clenching fists over such matters, it ultimately remained a part of the cycle of Order, like in food chains in which big cats hunted down the lambs in the grasslands of ancient planets.
Culture would have been absorbed, technology would have inspired others, and the seemingly useless flesh ultimately would have held purpose, even if as fertilizer and fecal matter.
Sadness was unnecessary. It was similar to carnivores feeding, dead flesh being broken down by other critters. Even wheat needed fertilizer—everyone was the same and it was destined, so there was nothing unacceptable.
But the Chaos was different.
The civilization destroyed by Chaos bore no fruit: no one would gain anything out of it, and neither victory nor defeat meant anything. If the wars between civilizations was an all-out conflict for survival, there would have always been someone who would be absorbing nutrients and improving in the end, eventually stepping forward to new heights—but destroying Chaos yielded nothing, be it was culture, technology, or fecal matter. Chaos simply corrupted the final remains of civilization, turning it into copies of themselves.
The ultimate emptiness, the absolute hollowness.
“Take them down to storage and deliver them to the Life Preservation Sequence next time around… our great, compassionate iron-skinned leader had been collecting these all along.” The captain, a lifeform that resembled a jellyfish relayed his orders with psionic ripples. “And heighten defenses—after the Great Turnaround destroyed the permanent anchor points of the Chaos spawns, they’ve started retaliating wildly and searching for another suitable spot to make new anchor points.”
“The Tanyans’ plight has taught us a lesson: if there’s no helping it, destroy your own planet so that it would not be corrupted and turned by the Chaos—”
The jellyfish commander appeared to have more to say, but with a rumble that appeared right by his ears and a profound light that emanated from behind his body, all his thoughts were interrupted.
“What—what’s going on?!”
The jellyfish commander quickly activated the rear lens monitor only to find the warp anchor point at the heart of the Tehran system brightening—a rainbow spectrum appeared by the layers before turning into narrow beams, stretching towards the dark starry skies like torrential rain.
Incidentally, one of the rays were headed straight for them, with several cruisers instinctively executing evasive maneuvers. To be precise, the light was making a beeline for the Ferris wheel space station. It was a red streak of light—symbolizing rage, courage, a will to resign to its fate and resistance.
[Emotion locked on. Kumar civilization of the Tehran system, you hold rage in your heart.]
[The moment to fight back has come.]
Like an illusion, the red light seeped into the space station…
It began to shine and tremble, even as a silhouette manifested and took form on the surface of the space station: there were solid limbs and a body, a bear-like species that appeared burly and firm. There were no signs of glazing in the eyes of the silhouette, only determined rage and unyielding courage—the members of the patrol fleet could not help but cry out in shock, for it was the extinct species that had built the space station.
Boundless emotions stirred the vortex while the monstrous spectrum flashed in the Void, shining upon all resonating ruins of civilization and nurturing each spirit that had not bowed to their fate.
The heroic spirits of the civilization leveled their gaze at the dark Void and their nemesis of the past—they had been defeated so completely that not a shard of their bones remain, and they had not much power even if they had been awakened. They could not change a thing, having merely been summoned to the world by a profound will so their history about how Stellaris had resisted the Chaos over the years, and how many Evil Gods lurked behind the darkness could be better understood.
Even so, it was not to say that it was futile, for the will to fight was the final purpose.
In the Midgardian system, the silver world slowly arose amidst endless cheers and prayers to become a star that glimmered amongst the skies. A brand-new sun was left behind his form, and the summoned warrior’s body stirred, creating a spectrum that made the planetary system quake. They shot inside every warp portal and teleportation doorway, and starting from the nodes forged by innumerable civilizations, began to spread towards every corner of the Stellaris universe.
Light spread everywhere, momentarily invoking heroic spirits that were not resigned to their fate—be it within uninhabited celestial corpses or planets whereupon Order had already been restored, be it Dark Domains conquered by Chaos or massive fortresses crowded around by the planetary systems of a civilization.
He has come.
The shepherd of strife had arrived, standing to witness the wrecks of civilizations’ sacrifice and the graves of those who were not resigned to their fate. He had read the history of the world, the calls of civilization, as well as experienced the remarkable anguish of all life, as well as their detached sense of loss—he had come, at once peeling off the bloody scabs and wreaking torment while ushering a new age. He would lead the living in resistance, journeying forth to rebirth or perhaps ruin.
War never changed.
The curtains had barely risen for the age of darkness, but the sparks had already begun to spread beneath it.
In the age where the faraway stars still flickered, in the moment that the fires of wrath had yet to die, the final flames of war were about to ignite upon the vast and empty world.
Thus, the world changed color.
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