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176 Divinity Altar

 A frogman was diving down the dark, deep lake while glugging from time to time.

It was obviously a vast and frighteningly deep lake, and yet there weren't many living creatures within aside from one or two little fishes passing by.

The rest probably were all devoured by the Marsh Drake, the frogman thought. The appetite of such an enormous monster must have been horrific.

Although the frogman did not actually join the battle against the Marsh Drake, it was shouting cheers and waving banners for its master-that one fact alone was enough for it to boast about the next time it met Croakatoa in the village.

And now, this young frogman was beside itself with joy also exploring the bottom of the lake as requested by its master. If the cold lake water wasn't actually calming it down, it felt that it could get a boner.

As a matter of fact, the Players had obtained diving equipment when they were exploring the Gray Fjord. However, they clearly weren't expecting to use those stuff in this journey into the Seira Marshes, which was why none of them brought along those heavy and space-consuming equipment.

It was fortunate that more Players had made contracts with the frogmen following the conclusion of the Fishmen Island event, and they could dispatch their familiars to help investigate the bottom of the lake.

Meanwhile, the young frogman threw away his excess thoughts and continued diving downwards, but the water pressure was becoming even stronger the deeper it went, almost suffocating it.

"Croak!"

Just as it was about to be crushed by the enormous force, blinks of white light that resembled warm snow appeared.

Soon, a gigantic altar that resembled a shrine appeared before it. The center of the altar was a single gem that was shining dazzlingly in white radiance, and yet appeared murky at the same time somehow.

The entire lake seemed to shine after that.

The distorted corpses of various creatures were piling around the altar. In fact, several of those lifeless corpses belonged to Marsh Drakes that were larger than the one the Players fought, along with a massive chain that was thicker than a frogman's body but having already rusted halfway through.

"Croak?"

For some reason, the frogman who should be a coward by nature wasn't frightened by corpses at all. Drawn by the strange gem, it appeared to have completely forgotten its task and only desired a closer look.

That was when its face reverted from drunkenness to lucidity-through the strength of its contract, its master had told him that its task was complete and it could return.

It was only then that the frogman went green in fright at the sight of the piling corpses and swam upwards as hard as it could.

Naturally, the frogman wasn't aware that a ball of light appeared near the altar, extending and coiling its tentacles around the white gem to take it away.

***

As Xi Wei had guessed, the white gem was a fragment of divinity, and it didn't belong to Mossland Spirit.

Instead, it belonged to Amazon, the Rainforest Guardian-a deity that had suddenly gone missing over seven hundred years ago.

It was a pity that the fragment was so heavily damaged that Xi Wei couldn't read what had happened to Amazon from it. Still, from the way it was placed on the altar, the reason wouldn't be quite simple.

Interestingly, after the fragment had descended down to the mortal realm and stabilized, it had regained a portion of the recording function that divinity has, and some scenes could be read.

In the very first scene, the fragment had already been placed on the altar. Several Marsh Drakes were already bound in iron chains around it as well, acting as guardian beasts that protected the altar from being discovered or sabotaged.

But as time passed, those Marsh Drakes were gradually eroded by the power of the divinity and finally perished at the bottom of the lake, although they already had descendants.

The descendants would also be bound by the iron chains by some spell that existed around the altar the moment they hatched, replacing their forebears before them as the next guardians.

Therefore, despite the Marsh Drakes' original long lifespans, the divinity's effect on them meant that every generation of Marsh Dragon aside from the first would not live past fifty.

Still, despite the legacy of divine power erosion that lasted generations, the present Marsh Drake had somehow gained formidable divine attributes. With it, it developed immunity against various spells, rules or even divine arts, hence stiffly shrugging free of the iron chains that had bound its kind over centuries.

Be that as it may, it could not obtain freedom: the exceedingly heightened divine attributes had led to its mind being eaten away by the divinity fragment. Hence, not only did it not leave the lake, it began collecting the divine generation of other living beings under the influence of the divinity fragment, creating divine arts that could warp creatures with the goal of culturing a Chosen One that could embody the fragment's power...

It would be worth mentioning here that divinity fragment had not become self-aware and was controlling the Marsh Drake, but it was a phenomenon that occurred out of instinct.

Meanwhile, the swamp fishmen that had gained divine power protection became no different cultists worshipping an evil god. Their influence hence rapidly bloated, wiping out almost every other living creature in the Seira Marshes as they spread uncontrollably beyond the area.

Of course, that was what drew in the Players, who then blew up the fishmen along with their guardians...

To tell the truth, the Players had already lost interest even though there would definitely be many swamp fishmen still hiding within the Seira Marshes. After all, fighting in the marshes was quite troublesome-other factors aside, a single battle left them no different from mud-people...

Furthermore, the main course that was the Marsh Drake was finished. Or were they supposed to turn back and have some coleslaw?

"A divinity fragment that dropped into the mortal realm, and now another fragment has followed suit... could this really be just a coincidence?" Xi Wei could not help pondering after looking through the scenes recorded in the divinity.

That altar did not look to be a mortal's work no matter how he looked at it, and that was leaving the spell that kept the generations of Marsh Dragons bound over seven hundred years.

"Could something important had happened seven hundred years ago?" Xi Wei tried to check, but couldn't find any related records from the memories of the Aquatic Lord's divinity, and there was no telling if nothing actually happened or if it was forgotten due to the divinity's damage. "I'll ask Aslan next time..."

Xi Wei scratched his head, finding himself a little paranoid-whether it had been another chain of divine murders or a chess play seven hundred years ago, none of those appeared to be anything he could interfere with.

What he wanted at the moment was a measure to become stronger.

Xi Wei's beliefs became firmer at that very thought.

"Players, your new system version is arriving!"