Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Zero-Three’s gaze was rather playful when she spoke. In fact, she did not want to help or some gift, but was merely interested in seeing what sort of reaction Joshua would have under such a situation. Naturally, she never expected that the warrior would nod seriously after some thought.
“I definitely have something to give you, but it would be I who help you instead of the other way around.” Joshua crouched to stick his face close to Zero-Three so that he could speak secretly and smoothly. His expression was solemn, and yet his tone was earnest. “Come to think of it, you might be the only one who could help me on this.”
“Then… Then do tell.” Facing the warrior who suddenly approached her with such a serious expression, Zero-Three who had intended to tease took one step back uncomfortably instead. Her voice became a little panicked and also rather quiet. “What do you… need my help with?”
“I can’t tell.”
Joshua chortled once at Zero-Three’s promise and reached out to press his hand on the artificial intelligence’s illusory mana projection. Silver light flashed, flowing along with magical circuits, while the warrior’s palm appeared as if it touched a physical body. “Either way, I’m counting on you.”
Her head being pressed down upon, Zero Three’s eyes glinted with substantial pale-blue mana runes as countless data poured like a waterfall. After a brief moment, Joshua withdrew his hand, his face rather pale whereas Zero Three’s showed a clearly agonized expression. She clasped her own head and quietly moaned a few times in anguish, before looking at the warrior in disbelief.
“Joshua, you—what do you think you’re doing?!”
Though she appeared to want to continue, she was stopped by the warrior’s gaze.
“Experimenting with a possibility, which also counts as preparation for the future.”
Joshua merely smiled at Zero-Three’s question. Without saying much, he rose and lifted his gaze towards the pyroxene lights that were glimmering in the center of the second-floor corridor in the liege’s residence, his gaze calm as if nothing happened. “This is a secret between you and me, it’s best to not tell anyone… I believe you could help me.”
“Since you said so, I certainly would act as if nothing happened.” The artificial intelligence girl could only reluctantly lower his head and mumble softly. “But… if that’s so… is there a need for it? I believe things won’t deteriorate to such a state!”
“There are no absolutes, Zero-Three.” Joshua started to move towards another end of the liege’s residence while replying Zero-Three who was keeping up solemnly. “Everything is possible.”
“For victory, the worst must be defeated.”
The dwarven settlement by the edge of the Great Ajax Mountains.
Deep underground, the dwarven city was abuzz with activity
In the natural subterranean karst, thousands of sinewy dwarves trod upon the even surface—sturdy paths made by transmuting mud with spells that stretches out of the heart of the city, reaching every corner of the settlement. One of the paths extended, stopping by the foot of a large-scale stair-shaped building. There was an opening over the top of the pyramid that resembled a chimney, incessantly ejecting materialized mana and steam, while the foundations of the building were deeply entrenched beneath ground, absorbing energies from lava and supplying the operation of the colossal machines within.
The steel giant Unit Zero-One was digging the foundations opposite the building. It was aware of the function of the building before it—a second-generation runic enchantment factory built due to the advent of the Great Mana Tide. Compared to first generations factories, not only could it produce widely used magical equipment such as enchanted armor, it could also manufacture core parts of Aerial Battleships. Zero-One also knew that the Northern Runic Dwarves had recently received a large order from the Imperial Army, but the production capacity was insufficient which was it was entrusted to excavate the foundations of the second runic factory.
“How is it going, Zero-One? If you feel tired, rest for a bit!”
In front of the huge crater dug up for the new factory, the new leader of the Northern Dwarves Tanya stroked his long dark-yellow beard and the copper rings over it was bellowing. “We aren’t in a rush!”
There’s no need—I won’t feel tired over simply physical logistics, Zero-One replied honestly and kept working. However, the dwarves beside it could not understand the Steel Elemental at all, and was only able to shrug helplessly.
The Steel Elemental was like an elemental being that survived by absorbing the mana elements in the atmosphere around it. To Zero-One, rare metals were in fact just delicious snacks, materials that assist it when it transformed. At present, it was in the vicinity of an enchantment factory—the excess mana that the building exuded was enough to make it comfortable. Zero-One believed that the dwarves treated itself very well and did not need to pay him any extra attention, while itself was very willing to contribute its own strength for these down-to-earth people.
In that very moment, however, Zero-One’s thoughts suddenly stopped for an instant, and the giant steel being abruptly dropped its work and stood aloft to look towards the distance. It was as if the Steel Elemental was struck by lightning—substantial electric currents were streaming over its body, with massive amounts of information coming out of nowhere through a unique link it could not sense.
Tanya had been prepared to leave with his guards in tow. After all, he was extremely busy after having recently assumed his father’s leadership—apart from visiting Zero-One, he still had to inspect factories located throughout the settlement. Still, having seen the bizarre circumstances suddenly happening to the Steel Elemental, Tanya quickly arrived by the edge of the crater, ignoring her obstructing bodyguards, worriedly asking after Zero-One as the currents over its body dissipated.
“Are you alright? What just happened?”
Tanya was filled with anxiety over present factors beyond earnest worry. It should be noted that Zero-One was not merely a source of living metals that the runic dwarven craftsmen treasured or a labor for large-scale construction projects, it was most importantly a subordinate of the Legendary liege—the runic dwarves were merely entrusted with its care, while the orders for the aerial battleships was also awarded to them thanks to him. If something happened to Zero-One, he might have to resign despite recently assuming leadership!
“Just hold on, I’ll quickly call for the craftsman and let them have a look!” At the very thought, Tanya made a resolve inwardly—turning and prepared to leave and search for the craftsman who was very familiar with Zero-One’s body, who was in fact an important character that once delved deep into the elements realm and held intricate knowledge of all foreign species. However, before the young dwarf could leave, a voice that was at once familiar and unfamiliar wafted behind him.
“Bzzt … There’s no need—I’m fine, Tanya.”
The dwarf slowly turned in astonishment at the mention of his own name to find the gargantuan Steel Elemental lowering its head slightly and leveling its gaze at him.
“The pronunciation of human language… bzzt … I’ve learned it,” Zero-One added with a little mirth. “This is Father’s… power!”
The little uproar in the dwarven settlement over how Zero-One suddenly learned the common tongue quickly calmed. Most were unfettered by the bizarreness since most adult elite elemental beings had the intelligence of language, with elder elementals bearing incredible ability of thought that did not lose out to humans. As a Steel Elemental, Zero-One had considerable intelligence even if its species was unique, so it was not too unusual that it would suddenly gain the gift of language.
It was only some of the higher-ups who would remember the unusual phenomenon that appeared over Zero-One’s body before it learned to speak, and the ‘father’ it mentioned.
Did Count Radcliffe attain some new power? Such a seemingly trivial guttural information spread discreetly, collected and compiled by some concerned beings who were dutifully gathering information regarding Zero-One and the Legendary Count, before conveying them to higher authorities and into the hands of their masters.
“The ability to grant intelligence? Zero-One has intelligence in the first place—it’s just that it learned to speak now.”
In the Imperial Study within Morlaix Palace that stood upon the Imperial Capital, Israel shook his head and pushed the report before him aside. “Nash, there’s no need for your lot to keep gathering intelligence related to Noble Radcliffe day after day. To learn his abilities, you just have to knock on his door and ask directly with my name, claiming that I must learn what threshold his power had reached for the stability of the Empire. I know him—he would tell as long as you asked straightforwardly, just as I would if he did the same thing. There is no need for some sneaky confidentiality between champions, nor is there any grounds for intrigue beneath the power of Legendary.”
“The Shadow faction should not gather in the North either. It’s meaningless, what you should be doing is paying attention to those corrupt southeastern nobles. And I believe that Noble Radcliffe has already learned about your little moments—the reason he did not squash you peeking insects was entirely because he is willing to obey order, and not simply murder my lackeys.”
“Yes… Yes, Your Majesty!”
The cavalier in black clothes and black armor promptly sweated buckets at Israel’s words. Having been enlightened, he swiftly realized how dangerous it was to spy on a Legendary warrior—if the target was just a tinge upset with the Imperial Family, he would die ten thousand times before he was spared, which made it even more fortunate that Count Radcliffe was broad-minded and did not fuss over his presence.
Nevertheless, it was not right to blame him entirely over such matters—the purpose of Shadow’s existence was to collect any information that could threaten the Empire after all, and what larger threat was there compared to a Legendary champion? Vigilance against an overpowered individual was a reasonable instinct, which was why Israel merely muttered to himself for a while instead of scolding his loyal subordinate too much.
“Nash Worthard. You were once a brave soldier who killed in the battlefield too—it’s my fault for having you to stay too long in the Shadow business that grinds away your heart.”
Rising behind his desk, Israel spoke softly as he walked over to the cavalier. “There’s no good death working such a job… When you have finished handing over your post in a few years, come and captain my personal guard.”
With those words, Nash, who was completely downhearted looked up at Israel in surprise, only to sense his impudence and quickly lowering his head again. “Thanks for your kindness, Your Majesty!” he said immeasurably earnestly.
If it were any ordinary person, they would certainly be puzzled. A Shadow who held leadership over the most important central intelligence agency within a nation would certainly not dull in importance to a typical vice-commander, while his opportunity to meet the Emperor himself at any given moment outshining many other important positions. Therefore, why would Nash be so happy since he was stepping down from that post to become a mere captain of the Emperor’s guard? It was a huge drop in position no matter how one thought about it.
Still, that was not quite the truth.
Just as Israel had put it, the leader of Shadows would never meet a kind end. Those nobles whose secrets had been glimpsed upon would exhaust all efforts of get rid of that damned bastard who was aware about most of their scandals. They had such diverse moves that not even Nash could completely evade them all. However, since Israel was willing to have him as his personal guard, it meant that death by vengeful assassination was ruled out—no noble was foolish enough to ambush someone clearly under the protection of a Legendary champion, especially one who could very well arrive at Supreme in days to come.
It was indeed something that eclipsed all treasures, trickery and authority in this world of extraordinary individuals.
“It’s alright, you’re not off duty yet.”
Giving the cavalier who followed him since the days of the war against the orcs a little kick out of slight annoyance, Israel paused for a while before speaking again. “But you’re right, he must have learned something new again… Nash, go and get someone to find Dimore and Arlwa.”
“Tell them… it’s time to leave.”