Soul Of Searing Steel Chapter 640


Chapter 640 Mana Net Terminal Alpha Test Ver. 0.9

Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation  Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

Starfall Year 837, twenty-first of January.

When talking about the southern urban zones of New Moldavia, one must mention the huge factory that stood aloft the edge of the city, its bustling trade zone and ‘Victor Academy’, a branch of Winter Fort Academy for combat-class students.

Since Moldavia officially owned a series of complete industrial body including [mineral production], [material processing] and [light-heavy production chain], the cost of manufacturing was very low for them. The substantial number of products created by the mana-powered factories would then directly be transported to the trade zone to the south of the city, the low-cost products of which would be sold by passionate merchants at a sky-high price that was almost ten times more than production costs.

Even so, such prices were considered cheap and high-quality for cities without mana-powered factories.

Still, any pedestrian asked for places most worth visiting would definitely recommend the trade zone and the factory. Those locals or foreign merchants would also add in synchrony that their trip would not be complete if they did not take a look at Victor Academy of Moldavia.

The city that flourished thanks to a Legendary champion would naturally develop in line with his affinities. Apart from the every-present factories and mana-powered machinery, rumors that were given most attention by outsiders were Winter Fort Academy where Count Radcliffe himself taught at. It was also precisely the reason that Victor Academy, the combat-class institution became a local iconic building next to the colossal liege statue.

Victor Academy was the largest cluster of buildings in the southern urban zone, occupying one hundred and ten thousand square kilometers, with an even larger underground section. Behind the towering academy building was the orderly distributed training grounds and student academies, amongst of which were combined with gardens, fountains and simple self-service medical centers, providing assurance that all students injured in sparring would be quickly given medical attention. And in that college that could be considered luxurious, over eighteen hundred students were receiving strict regiments of combat-class training.

Today, countless youths with expectant and tense faces had arrived in the famous institution shrouded in the halo of a Legendary champion. They were either in the company of their parents, a female companion or simply came alone—nonetheless, they carried varying intensities of aura, and a tinge of supernatural powers.

It was the first large-scale student enrollment for Victor Academy in Starfall Year 837, the conditions of which were rather relaxed: as long as the candidate was less than twenty-five years old, and either cleared political inspection or received recommendations from certain locals in Moldavia, it was possible them to pass enrollment tests. That in turn naturally attracted countless youth who longed to learn under the guidance of a Legendary champion.

And Priest was one of them.

Priest would be joining Winter Fort Academy’s trial today. The young man whose facial features appeared rough and vaguely malicious appeared anxious. He was standing alone in the crowd, his hands and knees shuddering slightly and uncontrollably. It was not until he had taken a good few deep breathes, and glancing at the young girls’ photograph that hung on a pendant by his chest that his condition improved.

Still, Priest had no one else to fault since he was the one who overburdened himself… In order to give his sister Britney a better life, not disappoint his factory boss’s expectations, change his fate as a peasant—and most importantly develop a path of his own, the man would not allow himself space for error.

“I will definitely succeed.” Ignoring the curious gazes of everyone around, Priest clenched both his fists and closed his eyes. “There’s nothing too difficult. It’s a trifle compared to before.”

Stop being nervous, Priest. You fought swarms of dragons, lived through plagues and deaths—it’s just a normal college trial, there is no reason you would lose to those fellows who never even seen death.

When he opened his eyes and saw the bustling crowd before him again, he was utterly calm and filled with confidence—not only because of his difficult life before, but also thanks to his own recent diligence. Rondeaux the dwarf, owner of the factory he worked at had specially given him a seven-day holiday, allowing him to rest, train daily and revise assignments.

Indeed, revising assignments. Unlike other adept academies in other regions, all students—whether affiliated to spellcaster-class, combat class or the specially founded clergy-class—were required to learn a lot of extra knowledge. Literacy was only basics, and it was alleged that every graduate could easily write a thesis over six-thousand words. With that skill on the pen, combat ability notwithstanding, they were overqualified as scribes for nobles.

And it was all because Joshua van Radcliffe, Legendary champion, Liege of Moldavia, had said a certain thing in his new year’s speech for Starfall year 837.

“—Do not underestimate wisdom or combat. For the summation of the two is the essence of human evolution.”

That imposing man had stood on a platform in the inner city-square, a terrifying black dragon lying down beside him. His voice was calm and low, but could be heard everywhere as he spoke to his citizens. “Nations that pull apart scholars and soldiers would only see coward souls and foolish struggles.”

Ding-dong, ding-dong.

Just as Priest reminisced about the sight that silenced the entire city, the bell at the top of the college castle rang. As huge knights donning gray enchanted armor opened the gates and began to inspect the documents and recommendation letter of every hopeful candidate, Priest knew that the trials he had long anticipated had begun.

“Name, age, occupation, birthplace.”

“Priest Omni. Twenty-one years old, factory worker, southern border province of the empire.”

After a considerably long queue, Priest finally arrived at the inspection zone presided over by a gray-armored knight with a scarred face. Following a brief questioning, the knight took his recommendation letter and scanned it seriously.

“A recommendation letter from Rondeaux… enter.”

Having ascertained that Priest was indeed a factory worker, the gray-armored knight made a faintly indiscernible smile. “Do your best,” he said, clapping on Priest’s shoulder with his heavy gauntlet. “Hope you could be a contributing force to Moldavia’s prosperity!”

“Definitely!”

Priest clenched the pendant before his chest, an action that gave him endless drive before he strode toward the examination hall inside the castle.

***

Half a day later, Priest walked out tiredly from the castle, his expression a little lost.

Did he succeed or fail? And was what he went through reality or illusion?

Priest knew nothing about all that other than the fact that he did his best.

It was a trial that was new to most participants. Things began with a two-hour written assessment, with the candidate having to answer basic history and geography questions about the Mycroft Continent, along with some simple problems about magical beasts. Priest, having studied extensively wrote like the wind and completed it swiftly.

The remaining questions, however, were a little out of topic. The candidates were now asked to write about their ideals, why they wished to join Winter Fort Academy and what their objective was. In fact, the very last problem asked how candidates would use their power when they finally become Extraordinary individuals, and the essence of what they understood about that power.

There was no doubt that most were not prepared for that—just like Priest. Even so, unlike the others who were at a complete loss of what to write, he only considered for an instant before he smoothly wrote everything down.

The youth was not foolish, and certainly knew the purpose of those questions—the first was to examine the participant’s basic and general knowledge, and only imbeciles would fail that part. As for the second part, it was to observe the candidate’s personality and intentions wherein any deviants would be disqualified. The last part would determine the candidate’s psychology once again, which was why Priest did not scrawl anything elaborative and flowery, instead detailing all his ideals and the understanding he gained from his past with calm phrasing.

To become a strong person who could protect family and lead them to a good life. Extraordinary power is my tool—it is no different from the knowledge about production machinery in my mind, needing no special treatment.

However, Victor Academy was ultimately an institution for the combat-class. That was why as soon as the written tests had ended, Priest was drawn into an illusion and underwent a combat trial that lasted almost six hours. He fought various aberrations in swamps, jungles, deserts, coastal zones or lake isles—for Priest, those were almost trivial for him after having fought against real green dragons by the southern frontier of the empire. Still, after that was finished, he felt a little anxious apart from being exhausted spiritually.

But the trials were over, and Priest returned home to feast with his friends who waited for him, celebrating his recent hard work. Then, Priest maintained his normal daily life, working in the factories in the morning, and fetching his sister Britney home from public school in the evenings as he waited for word of his trial results from the academy.

“Priest, hurry over!”

Time flew. When Priest was working another week later, he suddenly heard the owner, Rondeaux, calling his name excitedly. Placing his work on hold and still wearing his working clothes, he went to the entrance where he soon found the huge gray-armored knight, and the parcel in his hand.

“Congratulations, Mister Omni. Your excellent results have cleared the trials of the Winter Fort’s ‘Victor Academy.’ This is your parcel—open it now, I’ll teach you how to use it.”

—I passed the trials?

Reveling in the delight of passing the trials, Priest subconsciously did as he was instructed by the gray-armored knight and opened the parcel. Within the package was a rhombus-shaped crystal that was entirely green-blue as if it was pure, the surface of which was shaved into immeasurably complex cuttings. There was a fluorescence flickering in its center, a runic spell rapidly whirling like a Mobius Ring, emanating light.

“Relax. Focus your will to touch it and inscribe your mark upon it.”

The gray-armored knight guided Priest slowly, a hint of envy in his gaze that soon disappeared. “It’s an enchanted tool recently researched by Winter Fort Academy. You could call it the Mana Net Terminal Alpha Test Ver. 0.9—the live version is yet to completely tested, although the academy has already set up a framework.”

“Praise the liege and rejoice! You and the others are now academy students, and the first batch of users for this terminal!”

***

“Joshua! What are you doing?! The server is about to crumble. Augment it now!”

“Tsk, Nostradamus. Why are you telling me that? Weren’t you and William supposed to maintain the stability of the A.I. Network? And where did Barnil go? Why isn’t his runic program finished?”

“He said he found an error in the coding yesterday, and worked overtime to fixed it—but it seems that he isn’t done yet!”

“And there I was, telling you that rushing to get the cluster of information terminals isn’t realistic. Couldn’t you have waited until after the experiments bear more results?”

Those nervous voices of multiple Legendary champions were echoing from a huge steel laboratory, located at the top of Winter Fort Academy in the Nissia Snow Mountain within Moldavia. At the moment, Joshua was striding toward a twenty-five meters long green-blue runic crystal core, and Zero-Three’s magical projection was hovering beside him.

“Zero-Three. Take a look at where the server is overloaded,” the warrior said, frowning. “I’ll alter it.”

“There.” The A.I. girl replied after a glance at the runic crystal that was remarkably similar to her true form, and pointed at a spot where light was gathering. “The runic entanglement here is more serious, the load is quite massive.”

In turn, without a word, Joshua aimed at where Zero-Three pointed and poured some Steel Strength into it, calibrating the inner constructs within. Soon, Nostradamus’s significantly calmed voice rang.

“Alright. The link between the A.I. Network and the Mana Net is stable again—we just have to wait for Barnil to finish the program.”

“You bunch…” Joshua muttered in annoyance as he felt that he had become a handyman, before sighing. “It’s my fault for blabbing, I guess… there is little wonder why the Legendary mages are so thrilled when the knowledge of two worlds mingled.”

The unfolding of this turn of events could be traced over a month ago, to December fifteenth, Starfall Year 836. The independent Legendary champions, the Rune Master Barnil and Mind Lord William, along with three other Legendary champions of the Northern Empire: Israel, Nostradamus, and Joshua had all contributed to an immeasurably vital news: the existence of the ‘Mana Net’, located above the skies of Mycroft.

It was an unparallelly ancient network that existed for millennia, rooted in the energy cycles of the entire world. If not for Barnil and the others reverse tracing it through a link from the Giant God Warrior, even Legendary champions would never have noticed it. The network itself was a colossal vault of information, a relic preserved perfectly from the Glorious Era. Many secrets lay within, although they are yet to be uncovered despite the probing from the various Legends.

Nevertheless, Joshua indicated that even if the secrets within could not be unraveled, the network itself held infinite possibilities. In addition to using the psionic network of the Midgardians and the Mother Tree on Stellaris as an example, Joshua even made simulations through the Internet that existed in his pre-existence, showing the future he had known to the four Legends present: the development of network meant sharing of information, which would unquestionably usher an era of information explosion—the fundamental benefit of which was that knowledge would become widespread. There may be fake news, lies or boasts on that network or spam of no value, but with heart, anyone one could attain supremely rich knowledge from within.

That certainly caught the interest of Israel and Nostradamus—both of whom wanted to propagate Extraordinary powers, while Barnil and William who always enjoyed searching for ancient text and information also had a glint in their eyes. Highly experienced, the latter two rapidly discovered another function of the network: real-time communication between various locations. Under the lightspeed information delivery function of mana, the sharing and any place within the Mycroft Continent could contact each other without delay. That in turn would greatly aid army command, contacting and sharing between adventuring parties, support, and rescue.

There were any other advantages of the network that Joshua did not elaborate each, and merely stated the gist. Nonetheless, his old habit as a master of a martial arts dojo in the pre-existence showed—carelessly saying too much, he even raised a new concept: since they did not have enough materials to use the Mana Net widely, they could use Moldavia’s Squirming Forest as a base to build a huge server as the signal hub, using the power of the Mana Net on a smaller boundary.

While that was certainly not a wrong idea, Joshua made a mistake in assuming how leisurely and how driven they were at the moment—the Emperor, the Archmage and the two-man Legendary mage team had been a little too free these days, and were quite mobile indeed. Naturally, once Joshua raised a possibility, they would act directly.

Thus, right after Joshua completed the Imperial production line for Void warships, he was dragged off to build a super server linked to the Mana Net.

“It’s a real hassle on you this time, Zero-Three.” Joshua could not help saying softly at the very thought, as he turned to glance at the high-end artificial-intelligence girl. “Pulling you here to work with me.”

“No hassle, no hassle!”

Zero-Three quickly shook her head, a faint smile appearing by her lips. Are there still more work like this? Give me more!

The construction of the Mana Net server was actually thanks to Zero-Three. As an A.I., her own runic crystal body was actually a hub to manage massive volumes of information. A little improvement and installation of some plugins that detect Mana Net signals would smoothly establish a huge circle of data management. Therefore, if Joshua wanted to alter the runic crystal server, he has to bring Zero-Three along for inspections.

Still, the ‘slight’ volume of work needed for the alteration actually exceeded the imagination of the many Legends involved. In the progress of setting up a student intranet for Winter Fort Academy alone, Barnil was left exhausted in body spirit over writing the runic programming, and he was not this tired when he struggled against the Black Mist for control over the shroud on Kronos. As for Joshua, though he appeared in his normal state as he calibrated the server over hundreds of times each day, he had become so irritated by now that he wanted to find someone he could spar with.

“It’s still alright wat the moment.”

Beside them, Winter Fort Academy students who were observing in real-time, alongside William, who was linked to the spiritual network of the Mana Net was sympathetic. “Think about it: in days to come,” William said, “the Sacred Mountain of the Distant Sea, officials of the Northern Empire and up to every human, elf, and dwarf—all participating in the network, the server load then… right? We are still quite free at the moment.”

“Shut up.”

“Please be quiet.”

Though he reprimanded William, Joshua was in fact expectant of the growth of the network in the future—being at the launch phase presently, the Legendary champions are naturally needed to sense and connect the Mana Net at the frontier while setting up servers. Still, there would soon be more mages and technicians who would take over their duties, perhaps pushing things further beyond their estimation.

Like now, only the mission terminals and forums for inside use of Winter Fort Academy existed in the 0.9 version of the Information Terminal, the mission terminals having been designed by himself through some details from the System to replace the mission distribution system for students in the Academy. Now, whenever students wished to accept missions, they no longer had to head toward the central hall of their respective academies and merely had to click on their mission terminals. The instructors no longer had to sum up students’ points either, as the runic programming written by Barnil would automatically process it.

On the other hand, the forums were a center of information flow suggested by the warrior, the actual use of which was to create posts to provide more information for students. Just a dozen days after it was launched, the number of various posts had reached a shocking number.

Though most were typical commemorative posts of accomplished missions, many of them had also elaborated how their missions were complete, describing in detail the special attributes of monsters and what others need to be aware of. That was indeed the warrior’s original intent in building the forum—knowledge is only valuable when spread, and only through interaction could civilization develop rapidly.

—In the foreseeable future, the psionic of the west would be able to communicate directly with the guilds of eastern mages. Hence, the ancient psionics would welcome new blood, while new magic would be complemented with ancient knowledge, while some auras and battle techniques that were gradually falling out of favor would in turn gain second wind when boosted with other knowledge. It would be a banquet for every person of this world: as long as everyone were willing to share, everyone would get what they desired.

Perhaps Israel, Barnil and the others would not know the change they had brought to this world. Joshua was different, however, for he knew very well how great the value of the network he promoted with one hand and created with another.

“Really excited about this brand-new future in the world of Mycroft, one that is now completely different from the preexistence.”

***

Meanwhile.

In the Infinite Horizon, the starlight from the Multiverse began to flicker in the darkness of the Void there. The radiance of the Great Mana Tide grew thicker by the day, and had now finally permeated the semi-independent plane that hung high above the world of Mycroft.

“It is time. The light of the Mana Tide had begun to sway the foundations of the plane.”

A voice wafted, echoing and sighing at the center of that world.

“The gears are moving again, the legacies revived… Though centuries late, the light of the Glorious Era finally shone upon the Starfall Era.”

“Inform Igor that the time for the descent of the gods has come.

“We shall return.”