Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The two Legendary mages glanced at each other curiously after hearing Joshua’s words, and soon William coughed once, and began hesitantly, “Well, Joshua. Although there would definitely be astonishing phenomena when Ancient Dragons awaken from their slumber which would gain the attention of countless worlds… but wasn’t it you who had clearly acted deliberately and brought forward its awakening this time?”
“Although it’s not like I can’t understand your pressing mindset of wanting to interact with the Ancient Dragon, it must be said that your actions just now were weird—at least, it isn’t how you usually behave.”
Barnil was still controlling runes on an experiment platform to process the coordinates of the world where the Ancient Dragon was. A huge runic screen that was several meters tall had materialized, streaming endless information like a waterfall. The Rune Master never turned and instead showed his back to Joshua, but as he spoke his tone was no longer as casual as before, but sober and carried a hint of warning. “Though William and I had not known you for long, your deeds have spread amongst all Legendary champions. You used to act decisively but never rashly… But it’s different this time.”
Joshua could not help staring blankly in response to the two Legendary mages. It was only now that he became slightly aware—there was something mysterious in his own psyche that made him act rather drastically just now.”
“Your heart hasn’t reached its limit,” Willaim said, turning away as well, although his stone was not as somber as Barnil’s.
“It’s very normal.” The Mind Lord smiled leisurely. “But all minds have a flaw. Even if the walls over yours are stalwart, but like diamonds and glasses, the toughest is also the most fragile. Your heart is a crystallization formed under severe pressure and searing heat beneath the ground—tough and sharp like a newly ground blade, and yet easily proceeding to the extreme… I do not know if that is your nature or if you have been influenced by something else, but it definitely is enough to cause problems.”
Even so, Joshua’s current circumstances were not unusual for the two Legendary mages. All Legendary champions more or less had certain eccentricities, but they do have the capital to be capricious. While it was not a bad habit to have battle tendencies, the experience the two had gained as seniors made them unable to hold back from pointing things out and imparting some life experience.
“…Thanks for your guidance.”
At that, Joshua unwittingly frowned and turned, refraining from disturbing the two Legendary mages’ work, and hurried through the central corridor of the research vessel towards the exit over the skies.
Halfway through, Hill and Funa, who had spent two months in the vessel with Barnil and Williams to conduct experiments Ancient Dragon Blood appeared on a side of the corridor. They saw Joshua and his solemn expression, but did not think much and raised their hand in greeting as usual—however, as if ignoring them, Joshua kept frowning and headed towards the exit ahead of him and did not care about the two’s greeting.
“…What’s going on with Joshua…”
“He didn’t hear us?”
“How could that be? He’s a Legendary champion. When we made a test in the Great Ajax Mountains last time, he could hear a stone dragon breathing underground three mountains away—it’s impossible for him to not hear us!”
Watching as Joshua disappeared from a corner but neither reacted nor replied, both Hill and Funa were left truly puzzled. “That’s weird,” the elven druid could not come up with a reason no matter how he thought about it. “Although Count Radcliffe looks a little frightening, he isn’t someone who put up airs… could something have happened?”
Leaving aside the matter of the dragon knights who planned to ask Barnil and William about it, Joshua had now left the research vessel hovering over the Great Ajax Mountains and arrived at the cold windy skies of the North that was now in early spring. The winds that could freeze could not touch his body at all, and was diverted to another direction by his powerful barrier. Joshua overlooked the mountain range and the entire North—every peak, ice plain, river, city, and village entered his view. His gaze even arrived at the edge of the horizon, where merchant ships were flying in from the distance. Thanks to him, Moldavia was flourishing, and gradually becoming the economic hub of the North.
The presence of Legendary champions could change many things. Their powerful abilities could shift the course of the world and reverse the flow of fate, and as a champion, Joshua had changed the history he once knew, the past he had once experienced. He could now no longer predict the future of the world of Mycroft, and it was precisely what he wanted.
But if it was just him who had changed…
“Such a pain. How could those fellows not be influenced?”
Joshua’s gaze was rather erratic even as he suppressed his thoughts. He looked towards the sky, where Igor led multiple Legendary champions and combined the power of various factions to anchor the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds at the frontier of Fairyland, ending its orbiting that lasted for a thousand years. Joshua’s heart relaxed a little at the sight, and his gaze focused again. “Fortunately, I’ve made preparations early on.”
The warrior’s figure disappeared in the very next second. A long arc of light streaked across the horizon visibly, heading straight towards the Main City of Moldavia.
The top level of the Liege’s Residence in the Main City.
Zero-Three sat on the battlements by the edge of the tower with a bored expression, her two legs were dangling in the air, her calves clapping at a 2/4 rhythm. The clothing which the A.I. girl had conjured today was a white gown and brown leather shoes, a cold way of dressing up if she had been a normal girl—temperature was a meaningless thing to mana projections. While she appeared to be goofing off, Zero-Three was actually watching all elements of disturbance throughout the city, and through augmented processing she could largely ignore data of normal individuals, instead focusing her processing power on those fellows who appeared to have potential for trouble, monitoring their actions in real time.
Suddenly, the shrillest of warnings echoed in Zero-Three’s mind, and she noticed the crimson arc of light breaking through the clouds right up to the Liege’s Residence. A violent wind tore across the main city and sent all residual snow flying. Instinctively identifying the radiance as some sort of Extraordinary attack, the A.I. girl stood subconsciously, intending to summon her most powerful mana shielding in defense, but in the hundredth of a second, she realized that it was the trail left by Joshua van Radcliffe, the master of this city.
“Joshua? Why would you land so suddenly? It’ll frighten a lot of people…”
Because she stood, Zero-Three’s mana projecting had fallen over the edge of the Liege Residence’s similar to a young girl committing suicide by jumping off a building. However, despite being unsettled, she levitated into the air and slowly approached Joshua, who had already landed on the top floor with his back facing her. “If you landed any heavier,” she grumbled in slight dissatisfaction, “you would crash the top floor of the citadel… Woah!”
Suddenly, Zero-Three exclaimed mid-sentence, because Joshua had abruptly turned and pressed his two hands over her shoulders. “Jo… Joshua, what are you doing?” The girl’s voice began to shudder as she felt the warrior’s heavy hands. “Wait, what happened to you?”
Zero-Three’s speech quickly recovered despite losing her composure due to Joshua’s sudden move. She looked up at Joshua’s eyes and discovered in shock that his eyes were flicking with an unusual red light. Even if the Radcliffe Family was born with red pupils, that red light was not purely red, but a holy radiance that streamed from the depths of the soul. “Your eyes are flashing—that light is really unusual, but carries a mysterious sanctity and majesty!”
“It’s an emergency,” Joshua spoke now, his tone somber and putting weight behind each word. “But I have already guessed that this moment would come… Zero-Three, didn’t I entrust you with some information last time? Now’s the time to use it.”
“So fast? Have things reached such a level?”
While still feeling weirded out by Joshua’s atypical behavior, Zero-Three quickly understood when she heard ‘that thing’ but was also very surprised. “Alright, let go,” she said, generally understanding Joshua’s state now. “I’ll re-open the information.”
In response, Joshua quietly removed his hands from Zero-Three’s shoulders, which the A.I. girl rubbed before letting out a sigh. “I had believed that you wouldn’t reach that stage so quickly… but the plan can’t catch up with change.”
“Indeed,” Joshua replied, and watched as Zero-Three closed her eyes. Her body began to release violet light as, under her control, voluminous information flow was drawn out from the runic crystal that was her true form. After a while, Zero-Three opened her eyes, her complexion rather pale as she held a fist-sized silver radiance that pulsated like a heart and emanated a steely radiance.
Quietly, the girl handed the Steel Strength to the warrior who once entrusted it to her. He held it in his palm, and like Zero-Three, his body began to stream with obscure silver radiance. There was substantial information within that piece of Steel Strength that even Joshua himself needed considerable time to completely digest. After some time, he exhaled, and said quietly, “Looking at the ratio… so, the corruption has risen to such a critical level in less than a year, huh.”
“Joshua, what happened to you?” Zero-Three slowly approached Joshua’s side, poking her head out and asking with a soft voice, “You were rather rough today; you were never like that before.”
“It’s my fault. I didn’t pay attention, and divinity’s influence began to manifest.”
Completely fusing the Steel Strength cluster from his hand to his body, the red flash in Joshua’s eyes began to dull, gradually replaced by a silver luster. The warrior kept silent for a while, before speaking in a rather tired voice, “When I realized that Steel Strength could store information of my own body, I had the idea to simplify a few key logical thoughts into a process similar to artificial intelligence and store it in your true form. It is a pole that constantly ascertains my mental changes, and through you, I could determine if my mind had shifted, so that I wouldn’t lose consciousness even if I was bewitched by some Evil God or other Legendary champions.”
“I don’t think it’s necessary…” Zero-Three shook her head and sighed.
“Now it seems that it is necessary, and I must be careful. The most fearsome aspect of demons and evil gods were not their destructiveness but the ability to stealthily corrupt the hearts of mean. I have always been vigilant about the fact and had prepared for the worst-case scenario. It’s funny that my enemies never defeated me for so long, and neither could demons nor Evil Gods corrupted my thought, and yet it is my divinity—I myself was trying to change myself.”
At the moment, Joshua was rapidly the change in a small part within the depths of his soul through his former logical thinking stored in Zero-Three’s real body. As he compared aspect after aspect, he discovered that his general path did not change much, just that his personality was definitely much more radical than before.
The warrior had the tendency to fight in the past, but never started fights as soon as he encountered a worthy opponent. Lunatics and people who loved to fight sounded similar but were ultimately two different things—if others were unwilling, Joshua would not swing his fist.
But this time… meeting that Ancient Dragon.
Joshua drew in a deep breath at the very thought, devouring virtually all energies in the skies over the Main City of Moldavia, forming a temporary vacuum of mana. That action calmed him a little.
The moment he saw that Ancient dragon, Joshua felt the desire in his heart… or perhaps it was not desire, but a stronger instinct as if it was reasonable, an irrepressible impulse that made him want to kill and plunder all that his opponent had. He wanted to skin the Ancient Dragon, gut it and devour it, flesh and bone all.
Slaughter, destruction, war, evolution… An impulse from somewhere unknown was altering his soul.
Due to his fanatical slaughter of millions of Void aberrations in Stellaris, certain attributes in Joshua’s body had unwittingly combined. Divinity was propagating in his body, as if cheering on their owner as he proved the Truth they represented, step by step. Divinity was truly acknowledging him, seeing him as the agent of all slaughter and destruction, war and evolution.
It acknowledged him, and wished that he would become it.
There was none who had reached this step so rapidly, even Zero-Three was left in disbelief when she learned about his worries—according to what Ogner and Zinsen had said so long ago, reaching that step meant entering the prelude to divine ascension, and yet all previous ascenders needed centuries of accumulation to barely touch that threshold. However, the A.I. girl did not know that there was a civilization consecrating Joshua, the man before her eyes, as a true God at the other end of the distant Multiverse. His religion had spread through planets, an honor that even the gods of Mycroft in the Glorious Era never attained.
Thus, a fated coincidence led to the circumstances now.
The massacre in Stellaris and faith attained in Stellaris were attained from things that Joshua believed he should be doing and was a reasonable return. However, it was that attitude of seeing everything as normal that perfectly fulfilled the requirements of divinity. Joshua’s behavior after encountering the Ancient Dragon was the omen of a certain silent influence: Joshua had completely ignored the truth that it was also an intelligent being, believing that after he had learned his opponent depth in the first act, he would be able to decide who was stronger against that powerful beast the next time they met.
As an agent of pure combat, such a thought was reasonable. But the problem was that he was human, a human named Joshua van Radcliffe.
“My recent form isn’t well. I’ll need you by my side these days; I have to constantly check that my mind isn’t going haywire.”
Joshua slowly entered the Liege’s Residence with Zero-Three in tow. Arriving in a second floor, he entered his own room that he rarely visited and sat on his armchair. “Come to think of it, the challenge against Igor as well—would I not know the true ability of the old pontiff?” He said tiredly, his brow tightly furrowed and his eyes closed. “Even without Radiant Domain, his powerful depth alone would defeat me, all it takes was just a little more time.”
He then stayed silent for a while again. Joshua remembered what William had said—the man who was known as the Mind Lord, the Master of Spirit, the most powerful spellcaster in the aspects of psionic and spirit in this world. He saw that the warrior’s spirit was tough but not sturdy, and yet to reach its limit.
“Supreme Soul, huh… I certainly lack that. Though I have arrived at Legend, I have yet to attain perfect form.” Joshua mumbled to himself as he leaned his back onto the chair. He was now aware that he should receive instruction from certain people before searching for that Ancient Dragon’s whereabouts, or he might lose control in the next battle, turning into an unstable bomb. When that happens, nobody could be certain if he would attack his own comrades out of a moment of excitement.
Just as Joshua thought about how he could resist the corruption of divinity and reach out for the limits of his mind, he suddenly felt a pair of hands wrapping around his neck, embracing his head.
“Alright, Joshua. Don’t worry too much.” A soft and gentle voice wafted from the warrior’s back—Zero-Three was standing behind him, speaking into his ears with a serene tone. “This is the first time I’ve seen you worry like that… Even against the apostles or calamities of Evil Gods, you have never shown such an expression.”
“If such frightening enemies could not make you lose composure, should facing your own instincts scare you?”
“No, it’s just…” Joshua wanted to explain, only to close his mouth soon. He then reached out and parted the hands of the girl that was wrapped around her neck, and rose with a smile. “Never thought that you would comfort me. And I really never believed that I would have a such a weakness either.”
“It’s nothing… To me, you have never changed.”
Letting him go, Zero-Three shook her head, and stared at Joshua back where she floated in the air, unable to speak further.
Regardless of how others see you, Joshua…
…you, who saved me from the world of Karlis that approached destruction…
…you are a hero, eternally unchanging.