Hmm? What is this?
Didn't the servant just change the blanket and bedsheets? Did she carelessly leave something behind after she cleaned the room?
Joshua did not think any further and tossed the blanket aside. After all, Ying was still sleeping with her pajamas on. There was not even a spot of her worth to peek at anyway. Thus, he focused on finding the source of the sound, pinpointing its location.
Joshua's vision was not the sharpest in this world, but it was still considered great as compared to ordinary people. Using only his regular vision, he could see through the movement of energy. As he focused, he could easily identify the location of the noise.
When Ying fell into a deep slumber, a female military uniform was formed during the magic energy condensation process. On the waist of this uniform, there were two small pockets. Within one of these pockest, there was something that was trembling at high frequency.
Joshua extended his hand towards the pocket to grab the item.
"Why do I feel like I'm doing something wrong?"
The warrior felt that whether it was taking off her blanket or searching something from the sleeping girl's body, both were quite nasty.
As he took out the vibrating item from Ying's pocket, it immediately stopped moving when Joshua's finger touched it. At this moment, Joshua felt a strange energy circulating on his palm and go into his body.
"What is this?"
Joshua's hand was then ignited, with the flames of his Combat Aura, to stop the strange energy from infiltrating his body. Then he looked at his palm.
A semi-transparent crystal was formed on his palm. The thumb-sized crystal had dark red radiance circulating it. There were tiny specks of light within the crystal, as if the there was a galaxy inside of it.
"Where did Ying get such a beautiful crystal?"
Joshua observed the crystal carefully while muttering, "It is of high quality; even the polishing and cutting skills shown on this crystal is superb."
The Divine Armament here followed him everywhere each day. She did not move around on her own that much. She definitely did not have much time to go shopping. How could she get such a high-grade gem on her own? In addition to that, there was this weird energy flowing out from within, what could that possibly be?
Joshua closed his eyes and thought for a moment.
What was the relationship between Ying's slumber and the crystal itself?
Although it might be ridiculous at first, it might actually be a reason for her current condition. If there was a clue towards resolving Ying's mystery, he would not let the chance go.
Joshua then commanded softly, "System Appraisal."
At this moment, numerous green words appeared before Joshua. A final report was compiled at the end of the process.
[Analyzing the material… Successfully analyzed mineral attribute…Unable to match to Greater Ancient knowledge… Unable to match to the Mysterious Encyclopedia...]
[Appraisal Result: Infected Steel-Essence Crystal. Mysterious Great Ancient Artifact] [Mineral: The basic physical form of the 'steel' energy. It could combine with other sources of energy to give birth to life in the world. All living beings except pure spirit and energy life form have 'steel' energy stored within their body. During a certain eventful time such as during the creation of the world of the doomsday, 'Steel' energy which is the origin of all would gather and be crystallized. The most common would be the shape of a gem. Steel-Essence Crystal is one of the important material to forge equipment of legendary grade and above. Weapons which are forged using this material will gain special powers.]
[Greater Ancient: This crystal has existed more than 1300 years.]
[Mysterious Item: This material came from another world. It was infected by a different source of energy. Those who come in contact with the crystal will experience some negative side effects.]
[Synthesis: It was a rare material from another world. It is priceless. However, it contains foreign energy within. Use it wisely.]
"It is a Steel-essence Crystal?"
Joshua frowned as he examined the crystal in his hand. "I've never seen this thing before. Isn't the Steel-essence Crystal silvery-gray? How is it this one's reddish-black?
Infected by the unknown energy? That was a high probabililty.
"Although Ying was in her human form most of the time, she was still a Divine Armament, a weapon herself…" Joshua digested the information from the appraisal report and made a guess. "Being this close to the crystal affected her more compared to normal humans."
There might be a possibility that she was in this condition all due to the unknown energy. The current findings also matched with the points which both Clyre and Nostradamus brought forth during their initial conversation. Those points included stagnated 'steel' energy and Chaos energy as well.
After pondering for a moment, Joshua looked that the silver-haired girl who was sleeping peacefully on the bed. He was not able to discover any other negative signs occurring on her body.
Everything might be related to this unknown form of energy if his assumption was correct.
"It is probably the unknown energy that caused this."
The assumption was made after analysis multiple possibilities that could possibly affect Ying.
"I have higher tolerance compared to Ying. When I activate my 'Avatar', I could negate these effects on my body as well."
After releasing what he needed to do, Joshua stopped the Combat Aura from shielding himself from the crystal, allowing the unknown energy to flow into him.
Indeed, Joshua fell into the state of chaos.
Hazy and dark.
That was the scene Joshua saw when he had successfully freed himself from the guidance of the energy.
Barren hills with only black rocks left on top. There was a huge mountain hiding in the maze with their land completely withered. This mountain was filled with a crystalized forest with bizarre rocks. It was an extremely dim world, with dark clouds covering the whole sky, only allowing a small number of sun rays to pass through.
Joshua felt extremely uncomfortable yet familiar to this world as he breathed the air with a rotten stench. The surrounding was familiar to him, yet filled with abnormal stagnant 'steel' energy.
Joshua observed the strange environment he was placed in. The dark particles in the air may not be able to completely block Joshua's vision, but it could seal of the information from afar. The darkness here seemed to be alive and slowly creeping towards Joshua.
Where am I?
As Joshua was still trying to figure out what was going on, an extremely loud sound was heard.
This world was like the world for the death. All the living perished. The light had been covered up by darkness, and the flame of life had already been extinguished. Doomsday was the perfect definition of this world
A strange sound echoed in Joshua's direction, as if it was trying to give him the answer he needed. However, the warrior did not notice it.
The skies were covered in gray clouds blocking off the sunlight. Thunder roared continuously, releasing the only source of light available in this world. A semi-transparent marble fell from the sky, clearing the haze.
When Joshua took a closer look at this marble, he noticed that this item was actually a form of ice. It was an extremely cold ice which would not melt. He then left the ice aside and looked in the distance.
With the rain clearing the mist, the warrior's vision became much better. He could finally see the infrastructure which was at least a dozen kilometers away from him. The building was like an old abandoned shrine.
The shrine was completely opened with nearly half of its wall collapsed. Who would had known how much time had passed for such thick dust and marble covering the whole vicinity.
Suddenly, Joshua saw a shadow passing by.
"Is there someone living here?"
Due to the range being too far, Joshua was not able to determine whether the things he saw was real in the first place. He frowned and surveyed the environment. "Although I have no idea why I was sent here. I guess I had to explore this place first."
After confirming his path, the warrior began his journey.
The roar of the thunder stopped and the rain was diminishing. The great dark mist once again filled the land, covering up everything into darkness.
As time passed, a loud whistling sound could be heard from afar, reaching the ears of Joshua who was traveling in the dark. This startled the warrior for a moment. After some time, the sound was replacement by the noise of something big moving. It was similar to the rattling sound of gears grinding on each other.
As a lightning bolt struck from the sky, Joshua saw the interior of the shrine clearly.
The warrior could confirm that there was a shadow moving around within the ruins of the shrine.
Joshua noticed some movement outside of the shrine and decided to explore it. As the old door of the shrine was opened, a glimpse of a silver-haired person was seen.
Joshua was stunned for a moment there. "Ying?"
Joshua then regained consciousness.
Joshua who was still in a daze recalled the dream-like view he saw previously. Who was the person he saw back then? As he had completely woken up he immediately used his Combat Aura to cover the infected steel-essence crystal.
"Was it just a hallucination?"
After confirming that Ying was still sleeping on the bed in front of him without any trace of movement, Joshua dismissed the fact that Ying's body had crossed over to the other dimension. He then tried to think of a better explanation of the events he saw.
It was definitely not just an illusion!
Joshua looked at the crystal on his hand and recalled the foul stench of the air together with the cold ice, which he had touched. These feeling were not achievable through hallucination alone. He then muttered," Was the shadow… Ying?"
Was she stuck in the dream world as well?
Joshua stood still and looked into Ying's cute face while she slept.
Was that the reason Ying could not wake up?
"It seems like the problem I had now is even more complicated than it seems. Let's try the plan Nostradamus recommended. Maybe that could help solving Ying's predicament."
A few days later.
Cemetery, west of the city, within the church.
Joshua who was wearing formal attire stood in the study room of the church. He was standing on the granite floor, looking at the glowing shard on the ceiling for a moment, and proceed to the special place where it leads him towards the special place.
Without any further delay, he pressed the switch.
With the magic circuit activation, a soft mechanical sound could be heard.
"Checking energy sample… Criteria matched. Target: Joshua van Radcliffe, Head of family with the highest authority. Access permission granted."
"Origin by fire, birth by steel, wisdom unquenchable, order eternal."
The dark gate opened when the ancient words were spoken, leading towards a long passageway
Joshua entered without any hesitation.