Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Just as Syndicate the balrog was engulfed by the silver radiance surging out of the depths of its spirit, Joshua severed the distant spiritual link in the world of Mycroft.
“Just think of it as a reward for being my weapon last time,” he muttered and closed his eyes, reaching out to stroke Ying’s head, silencing her as the silver-haired girl exclaimed something like ‘wait, Master, what did you just say?!’
“Don’t disappoint me, my ‘First Apostle’.”
Green grass was sprouting in the suburban areas nearby the main city of Moldavia. There was now sporadic but lively green all around, and at a broad plain, Joshua tidied his traveling outfit and asked the two behind him loudly.
“Ready, Master!” The black dragon girl replied almost immediately with no hesitation; her joy was distinctly and sonorously audible. “We can leave at once!”
At those words, Black transformed amidst a wave of powerful mana flash, turning into an imposing and colossal black dragon. It stretched its wings within the plain and raised its head, letting out a great roar that trembled the mountain ridges.
“Don’t get too excited.”
Seeing that his mount was in high spirits, Joshua was in a fine mood as well. He petted the black dragon’s front talons, and turned towards another girl. “Ready, Zero-Three?”
“I am prepared, but…”
As magical energies slowly splashed, Zero-Three’s mana projection slowly surfaced beside Joshua. However, unlike Black who had been cheerful for a rare outing that ended her painful training, the A.I. girl appeared troubled.
“…are you really bringing me along?” She asked softly. “It’s a little embarrassing to carry my real body along…”
As she spoke, Zero-Three was looking toward Joshua’s right hand, where the warrior was carrying a metal case covered in dense arrangements of runes and flowing in purple-blue radiance.
“Of course. To guarantee that my spiritual form would not distort like last time, I really need you to help me and monitor my spiritual shift.” Joshua replied as if it could not be more reasonable. “The processing power of a projection would not suffice, which is why I must bring your real body along this time.”
“Well, that’s true… But won’t the city be unguarded that way?”
“It doesn’t have to be strictly monitored in the first place.”
Joshua appeared unconcerned with Zero-Three’s genuine worry, and simply leapt up to the black dragon’s head to stand between its horns, before explaining to the A.I. girl who floated beside him. “All is in order, with no clash or conflict—which is certainly good. But you must also consider the form of our city.”
“The prospering of Moldavia depends on adventurers who head to the Great Ajax Mountains as well as admirers of my power who are training in the Extraordinary ways. The conflict between them should not be solved with solutions used for ordinary people in the very beginning—as long as there is no criminal behavior and the normal folk are not affected, let them fight in private as much as they wish, it’s their lifestyle in the first place.”
Then, as if recalling something, Joshua showed a nostalgic expression. “Be it men or women, let them fight to determine the victor if they wished to fight. Otherwise, there would be greater problems as rage and irritation accumulated in their hearts.”
Zero-Three definitely did not understand Joshua’s logic or explanation, but she knew that Joshua’s suggestion was much more alike to an adventurer’s than a noble, which should be better than her inflexible precaution.
Even Artificial Intelligences should understand the tide and human hearts—certain things need to be allowed to flow, not stifled.
The trio’s preparations were hence completed. Black was prepared to fly after checking hers, while Zero-Three’s projection thus floated in the air, raising her own elevation as she followed the black dragon’s own. She stared with a curious gaze at the briefcase in Joshua’s hand, and mumbled.
“I’m now there, and here. This feeling is weird…”
She rarely used her projection to view her real body. After all, the violet runic crystal body was placed in a hub within the depths of the liege’s residence most of the time, and only those few who were close to Joshua could enter.
Still, the sporadic thoughts were finally gone with the wind. Under her master’s instruction, the black dragon that had risen to the clouds activated a recently learned method under her master’s instruction. With a long draconic cry, she accelerated, prompting every Moldavian citizen to raise their heads. They saw the black draconic figure tearing through the clouds between its bellows, breaking through the horizon and flying to the end of the horizon like a black meteor.
And its destination was the vicinity of a fort built over a mountain ridge northeast of the Empire.
The location of a Divine Dungeon Shroud.
Days ago, after speaking with Igor, Joshua had planned to head for a Divine Dungeon Shroud to explore the mysteries of the soul. For that, he had even asked Emperor Israel to learn the locations of Divine Dungeon Shroud that were unsuccessfully challenged.
“To be frank, after so long, most of the Divine Dungeon Shrouds had been cleared consecutively by challengers, bringing in a new batch of successors for those ancient legacies.”
Israel did not appear surprised by Joshua’s sudden inquiry then; he spoke instead with a rather helpless tone to Joshua from the other end of the communications circle. “These people who attained powerful legacies and abilities are now making waves within the borders of the empire, with many of them coming into conflict with original nobles and official factions… That being said, the Divine Dungeon Shroud around the Lake Forest Fortress had not been challenged successfully until now, and its area is still expanding without stopping—I even had to give the order to quarantine the Shroud with crystal walls and lock it between hills.”
“Careful, Joshua. That’s not an ordinary Divine Dungeon Shroud—compared to other Marks, it is a being of another level.”
As his thoughts flowed, Joshua stood on the black dragon’s head, flying rapidly northeast to the Empire.
“The Infinite Horizon is becoming more and more unstable lately. However, the Deity Marks that fell from within were at most second-class gods of the Glorious Area.”
As Black moved at supersonic speeds over the clouds, Joshua folded his arms across his chest, his eyes leveled straight ahead while he pondered. “But even second-class gods are powerful, or just a class weaker than Zinsen. It is hence clear what being it is, given that it had a clear gap against second-class gods.”
“That’s a Prime Deity.”
The Mark of a Prime Deity. Could it have dropped earlier than planned accidentally? Who could it be, the Master of the Seas, or the Mother Goddess? The God who nurtured windstorms, or the Lord of the Waters? Joshua did not delve on that, merely feeling happy that there was a Prime Deity Divine Dungeon Shroud when he needed one. Compared to typical deities, the souls of Prime Deities who worked alongside the Sage to establish the Glorious Era contained secrets that added to the value of his challenge.
Black was moving very quickly—clouds and land fell behind as if flying, the boundless mountains and lakes turning into elongated lines, while sonicboom burst formed distinctly as the air behind the dragon boomed. Joshua’s party quickly arrived at his destination at the incredible speed—the Lake Forest Fortress that stood around the Ural Mountains.
“So that’s the Divine Dungeon Shroud, huh.”
Tapping his foot to stop Black and have her slowly descend, Joshua found his target at once after they went beneath the cloud layers: a thin crystal wall that stretches across several valleys, binding a pale white ocean of fog within.
It truly resembled an ocean. Having no color and could not be described by anything other than white, the white ocean churning without stopping amidst the mountain ridges and yet empty like the sky. Tides that were over dozens of meters high were surging, as if intent on breaking the crystal wall set up by Israel. It had already drowned several mountains, drawing all beings within into their dreamland—all was within its grasp, be it plant, animal, insect or bird.
It was the final remains of an ancient god that had plummeted here—the Legacy Mark their souls left behind, the Shroud known as ‘Divine Dungeon.’
Standing over Black’s head, Joshua overlooked the ocean of fog, having already seen such a scene in Moldavia, at the Divine Dungeon Shroud belonging to the River God. Clearly, the Shroud around the Lake Forest Fortress was larger than the River Gods’s—Sinoer’s soul had engulfed a lake at its peak, while this one had covered several mountains and the surrounding valleys.
“It’s really beautiful.”
The warrior said, rather moved as he watched the fog churn inside the crystal wall. He reached out, grasping thin air, and the fog rippled at once, and several scattered Thought Particles leaving the cluster where they were to enter Joshua’s hand. He down at the white luminous particles that were dancing in his palm, his gaze somber.
How should he put it? This soul did not decline or decompose after a thousand years. Even if its spiritual core and mind hub at had been destroyed and crumpled in battle, its divinity and body long lost, its remnant soul was still brimming with vigor, so much as that it became a Divine Shroud once it dropped from the Infinite Horizon into the Mycroft Continent.
There was no description for it other than extreme, perfect and unimaginable. It might be the perfect form of ‘Soul Mastery’.
To Joshua, the Divine Dungeon Shroud itself was the best point of reference. He raised his hand and continued gathering the Thought Particles that were spreading in the air, using Steel Vision to observe carefully the secrets contained in the smallest divine units of thought.
After some time, under Zero-Three’s curious watch, Joshua returned the cluster of fog back to the Shroud below him. Without question, his soul had certainly yet to arrive at a certain threshold—those Thought Particles, apart from using nuclear fusion or even greater offensive blows, were basically unscathed, perhaps even indestructible. If it were muscles, it would at least be at the level of his body that was composed of degenerate matter.
But he was here today not to wonder about the powers of the forerunners, nor to imitate the power of those gods. While Joshua’s Legendary control and Steel Strength could easily turn the Divine Dungeon Shroud around him into raw materials so that his soul could be converted to an almost equal threshold, he completely had no intentions to do that.
Joshua wanted to seek.
To seek those gods, and the way their soul had sublimated to such level.
Was there meaning in being in awe of the robust muscles and bodies of others? No.
Cultivating powerful muscles through genetic alterations—was it any different from those who trained for a stalwart body, step-by-step? Though many found that those things differ, there was actually no contrast. Power gained from external factors remained power, and hence no different from diligent training.
The question lies in the standard of the former, the very moment where alterations paused forever. Unless he found a better target to imitate, there would no space for improvement otherwise. He had evaded all labor, diligence, and precious experience. He would never know how to attain that power. And if the person’s power vanished, he would be a weakling once more, falling from the heavens down to the mire.
As for the latter, it takes great hard work and time. The process he attained power alone was the greatest treasure—he had cultivated his will, learned how to be strong. Even if he lost that power, he could still rise again and climb that stairway to heaven which had already been forged, returning to the clouds and becoming a champion once again.
Furthermore, he could see find paths that led to greater and further places.
Joshua certainly did not plan to become the former. He was a champion.
That was why he had ignored all the Divine Thought Particles that were within grasp, carrying the briefcase instead and tapping the dragon’s head with his foot.
He narrowed his eyes that were flickering with light. “Don’t just stare.”
“We’re going in for a look.
An ancient city hung in the air.
Above it was the green-blue sky, and beneath it the endless sea. A tempest roared, and dozens of black hurricanes slowly moved, as if pillars that held skies and sea apart, while a majestic ancient city that resembled a piece of art were encircled by the hurricanes.
A huge tower with a sharp protrusion over it was the main construct of the entire city. Countless gears and runes whirled at the bottom of the ancient city, with profound magical energies listening to the orders of alchemical machinery and runes to form a layer of translucent barrier. It withheld gravity and all external winds, levitating the city steadily even as it floated in the air.
It was a self-regulating city. As runic radiance flashed, it became clear that the streets of the city advanced automatically—pedestrians just had to step on it to move. Though it appeared ancient, it was imbued with incomparably modern technology.
And in the city that combined history, technology, and art, more than half of it was now debris. Most of the tower and the other buildings had now crumbled, torn apart. Stone fragments and gears were spread across every corner of the streets, and traces of things being incinerated into ash were visible.
It was as if time had paused here, with the damage caused by war a thousand years ago now maintained motionlessly. Even if the hurricanes raged across the ocean sky, the giant floating city hung at the center of the air, silent and lonely, maintaining the wordless calm.
And just as everything was about to continue as such, a black dragon, carrying a human and an Artificial Intelligence abruptly appeared above the city.
Therefore, time began to move.