Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Joshua appeared surprised as the huge mage strolled toward him.
“Why are you here?”
The man before Joshua was Barbarossa the Element Maven and chief of the Skypiercing White Tower—however, after that brief moment of surprise, he realized that he was not speaking to the person in flesh, but an elemental clone that was almost human.
It was a common thing, since Legendary champions whose main bodies embody great combat power rarely wandered around their true forms. One way or the other, their exceedingly formidable powers would cause various phenomenon even in simple outings, which was why they tend to dispatch clones as proxies. Still, there were exceptions, however, including the Holy Swordsman who had mastered the Holy Sword as well as both Barnil and William, the latter two whom true forms were unthreatening, allowing them to go on adventures around the world as they liked.
“I am, after all, the leader of the greatest magus organization in this world… It’s a long story, Count Radcliffe. Now should have been a time for conventional greetings, but that would have to wait for later since the matter at hand is simply too important.”
Barbarossa shook his head at Joshua’s question, his visage showing a bitter smile as if having encountered something absurd. Joshua, too, understood from Barnil and William’s current demeanor that the issue would not be a typical one, and so followed him to the crystal hold at the center of the laboratory where noises were echoing.
“Impossible… That completely breaks the essence of magic!”
“You’re wrong—it actually isn’t breaking it, but… something much more unthinkable than that. I’d rather it simply broke it…”
“Check again? I still can’t believe it!”
“Joshua’s here. He’s an expert in this field, let him try.”
The two Legendary mages were debating fiercely—leaving aside the complicated spell terms, enchantment jargons and various West Mountains accent vocabulary, that was the gist of their meaning. When Joshua arrived behind them, they quickly turned and welcomed him warmly.
“You two are here? Joshua, Barbarossa, hurry. There’s something we need your help with!”
What could it be that could make three Legendary champions lose composure and gravitas? And these were the three Legendary spellcasters who should have no equal in calmness and collectedness.
Joshua was very puzzled, but was certainly not one for nonsense. Under their sincere invitation, the warrior arrived before the crystal hold and peered inside to see the ‘thing’ that left even Legends bewildered.
Then, he saw it—its chest puffed and its head raised, displaying immense vigor as it paced around the hold… a pigeon.
A white pigeon.
Joshua blanked out for an instant. He did not use his piercing Steel Strength vision before, which is why he only saw the creature behind the white crystal barrier now: it was a pure-white pigeon that could be described as being on the plump side. It was simply pacing around the crystal hold, cooing rhythmically from time to time, its red little bead-like eyes rather sharp and showing some spirit.
“That is why you interrupted my training and dragged me out of my manor?” Joshua clicked his tongue; his expression became curious.
“A fat pigeon that wouldn’t even fit a snack table? Even running across a portal here from the Eastern Sea—”
“Don’t complain so quickly, Joshua. Can you use Steel Strength to determine the pigeon’s living data?”
Barbarossa spoke before Joshua could grumble on; the hairless mage appeared to know more than the warrior. Indeed, the Elemental Maven was staring at the pigeon with a rare nervous gaze even as he kept muttering to himself.
“Damn it, so it is actually true. How could this be… This isn’t magic at all!”
Barnil and William appeared in agreement with Barbarossa, which was why no matter how Joshua found it unbelievable, he could only be positive that the pigeon was definitely the mage trio’s objective. Tentatively reaching out with Steel Strength, the warrior investigated the living data of the pigeon—silver radiance extended from his palm and shrouded the pigeon like an overhead beam, holding it where it was and scanning it with detail.
“Ordinary Bavarian pigeon. Seventeen centimeters in length, healthy and relatively meaty. Should taste good if grilled.” The warrior simply said as he kept scanning the bird. “No hereditary diseases, no bacteria… Huh. That’s interesting—the pigeon is so hygienic that there’s neither germs nor impurities. Did you guys clean it?”
Even as they listened solemnly to Joshua’s information, Barbarossa, Barnil, and William all appeared very nervous, leveling their gazes at each other when they heard that the pigeon was mostly normal.
“What I mean here is whether is that a real lifeform?” Barbarossa quickly asked, “Is it any different from normal pigeons?”
“What real lifeform…”
Now, Joshua was confused. “Isn’t that exactly what a normal pigeon is supposed to be? Ah, the wings are a little short and it probably would have trouble flying. But since you lot have fattened it, you probably weren’t planning to use it to send letters.”
“…Even Joshua can’t tell. Looks like that is confirmation.” William could not help shaking his head and sighing as he determined that the warrior could not attain more information. “That’s the worst outcome there is… From now on, the Skypiercing White Tower and the Imperial Royal Mage Guild—no, more precisely, every mage guild on the Mycroft Continent must prepare countermeasures.”
Meanwhile, Barbarossa was silent, although the arteries on his head were pulsating. One could tell from his rather enraged stare at the pigeon that the Legendary champion was not calm inwardly. What was more, when they previously faced otherworld invaders and subjugated the Steel Python, the Element Maven never showed such an expression.
“What is it that you three are actually talking about?”
While he was totally left out, Joshua did not lose his patience, withdrawing the beam in his hand and stroking his chin puzzledly. Even if there were not many things that could make Legends doubt their senses, the warrior could not come up with anything for the time being, and so simply asked away. “Even if I don’t find anything unusual, what is it with that pigeon? Why are you people being so serious? It’s like the advent of an Evil God.”
“Evil God? That’s just a calamity. While it is immeasurably powerful, we would simply be unable to triumph and be forced to flee or to die in battle. That thing, however…”
Barbarossa had tried to explain in response to Joshua’s question, only to conclude his words with a bitter smile while Barnil took over.
“That pigeon, however… No. Instead of calling it magic, it truly shatters the Truth we held conviction over.”
“Time to let you see that truth, Joshua.” Barnil shook his head somberly, and turned to William beside him.
In the very next instant, William clapped his hand and a certain enchantment was removed with a wave of spiritual ripple. Now, the Bavarian White Pigeon that was very ordinary apart from being a little fat and shorter wings hence silently turned, right in front of Joshua’s eyes, into a rock.
Eight centimeters in length, three centimeters in width and two centimeters in height—a normal limestone rock. So common across the continent. A rock so ordinary that, if someone pointed at it and asked loudly ‘what is that?’, some would scratch their head, puzzled, and reply ‘there’s nothing there’.
This time, it was the warrior’s turn to be astonished. Not even his composure could help him face facts calmly as he inhaled sharply.
“That’s magic? When have you people developed something of such threshold?”
“No… We don’t know, and aren’t even sure if he… if it is actually magic,” stroking his temples, Barnil forcefully withheld a curse and spoke instead with a rather stifled voice, “That is why we are shocked.”
As the two Legendary mages explained things somberly, Joshua finally learned how events unfolded.
Around four days ago, the various mage academies of the Eastern Plains welcomed their new summer batch of students, with special scouting instructors having journey across various places to find worthy and talented seeds of mages to be inducted into their respective academies. It was tradition for the Eastern Plains, and it was not only the chosen who were amongst the intakes—in fact, every academy would establish examination centers, allowing any who believed themselves gifted or simply desired the challenge to join, displaying their gifts and skills so that they would be selected by the instructors.
And it happened in the exam hall of the Skypiercing White Tower in a certain small city… It was a gloomy day with scattered drizzles, the damp air filled with the pungent smell of dirt unique to villages. Amidst such an environment, a seemingly ordinary eleven-year-old boy came to an examination platform under the company of his parents. He opted to cast a certain innate magic to enter the White Tower’s warlock-class, and having seen his considerable magical signature, the instructors permitted a trial.
In the very next moment, the child from the Northern Bavarian Hills of the Eastern Plains simply turned a stone in his hand into a flying, cooing white pigeon that appeared to be really alive.
Everything appeared so simple as if it was breathing, but the tremendous truth left the instructors so stunned they forgot to breathe.
“In fairy tales, the witches living isolated in forests and lakes possess various extraordinary abilities, such as exquisite alchemical arts, deft and precise timeframe in which curses would activate, potion for eternal youth and witchcraft that could turn humans into animals.”
William stared at the stone in the crystal hold; the handsome Wandering Poet spoke rather dreamily, “Witches are an aberrative impression civilians held toward mages in ancient times—witch towers were, in fact, mage towers, just as how magical monsters and statues protecting witches were simple magical creatures and alchemy. Most of their abilities are normal and known to all mages… Except this.”
“Turning pumpkin into horse carriages, or to turn humans and inhuman objects into animals… This isn’t something magic could do.”
“Joshua, this is something that only happens in dreams.”
“You don’t have to say it—I know it better than any of you.”
Raising his hand, Joshua stopped William and Barbarossa, who appeared intent on elaborating. His brow tightly furrowed, he stared at the stone before him as if to study the ordinary limestone utterly.
He failed. Even if he intended to see through the joke of poor tastes, he was finally forced to confirm the truth: a seemingly plain ‘truth’, but actually trembles Truth and completely destroy the mages’ system of spells.
It sounded easy to give life to inanimate objects—it was something Barnil, who often summoned elemental puppets to help in daily work or any mage proficient in the elemental arts could do. They were able to summon elementals, dispatch puppets, summon millions by the power of a single person. Even Joshua could do something similar: with Authority as his power, he created the first ever Steel Elemental ‘Zero-One’.
But such a profound spell that turned a rock into a bird was fundamentally different.
Giving elements life was actually producing a self-replenishing energy cycle, and giving it the most basic of consciousness—or, in other words, the most fundamental of artificial souls. With an energy cycle and consciousness, even formless energies would thus react as if alive: such was the truth of creating elemental lifeforms, a form of a powered robot.
It was not at all complex with the Steel Elemental either. The Authority from a world could construct a brand-new energy cycle out of nothing, and meld it together with Steel. Joshua in turn gifted it with will and knowledge—the amalgamation of the soul, which in other words was placing natural intelligence upon the body of a machine.
Those may seem divinely mysterious, but it was a spell with a logical cycle. Even if it appeared rather complex, none would find it unusual… But it was different when it came to turning a stone into a bird.
“Particle movements, turning inorganic into organic and converting mass… animating it, giving it animal behavior, muscle function, and even genetical instincts… How is that even possible?”
Joshua mumbled various jargons, his eyes filled with shock and disbelief—only true champions know of the difficulty in ‘transfiguration’. Turning goose eggs into gold or wood into bread were profound techniques that delved deeply into fundamental particles and require extreme focus, sharp observation ability as well as extreme precision in control. It was, in fact, something not all Legends could learn, but now, some kid from a mountain ridge could actually employ magic that could turn inorganic objects into sentient life?
“That isn’t actually an atypical case—as you can see, both William and I had also learned the magic to turn an inorganic object into a pigeon too. However, instead of calling it learned, it was more specific to say that we learned how to cast it. I simply can’t understand it principle!”
Barnil coughed once, able to tell that Joshua was as shocked as they were. “The magic us mages use,” he said slowly, “is to understand every rune in that spell and what energy the runes tether, before arranging them in the right order and finally crafting a spell with form. It is the same as how we programmed the Informational Terminal: we must understand what each command does and code it accurately and flawlessly, only then could the spell gain actual form.”
“But now…” William interjected amidst Barnil’s rather complaining tone, “with this transfiguration spell, we just have to use mana, and then… And then I don’t know what is going on. Anyway, it works.”
“How should I put this—it’s like a magic scroll. When we cast spells, we need to spiritually assemble runes and animate energies, but with a magic scroll we just have to animate energies. We don’t have to understand how to produce the scroll itself or transcribe the runes on it, and just have to bump it with our minds, use an insignificant portion of mana and it is done.”
“Just like it is with the dwarves’ alchemical artillery,” Barbarossa continued darkly. “Press the trigger or a button. Users don’t have to know how to forge the cannon; they only need how to use it. It is as if a profound being had prepared the channel for us to use such magic, waiting for us to fill it with ‘gunpowder’.
“It’s a technological black box,” Joshua added with a deep voice. “Or perhaps, a ‘magical black box’!”
As the four Legendary champions fell into the same shock and bewilderment, they exclaimed at once: “What is going on?!”
“Fairytale spell becoming reality… To be frank, it is really scary.”
Barnil, one who have faced many Legendary aberrations coming from the Abyss and faced off against two Legendary Dragon Kings above the world of Kronos, inhaled deeply. He looked at the bulkhead above, his eyes seemingly seeing through the world’s barrier toward the Void.
“This is no anomaly, Joshua, William, Barbarossa.” the Legendary mage who was the first to have come across the incident spoke with a hint of shudder in his voice. “I once traveled across the Void, and there is no other lifeform or otherworld that have casted such a spell—and it still worked when I cast it at the edge of Kronos.”
Knowing the meaning behind that matter better than anyone else, Joshua, William and Barbarossa’s gazes changed. Having an understanding of Mana Net, they originally believed that it may be a ‘gun’ designed by the powerful deities and champions of the last era, and was now simply a ‘weapon’ sealed for a long time discovered by an ordinary psionic child…
Now, however, it did not appear to be the case.
“That’s right. It’s just as all of you are thinking.”
Observing the expressions of everyone around him, the elderly mage—Rune Master Barnil nodded slowly and somberly.
“This isn’t Mana Net spells our Glorious Era forebears had inscribed into the world of Mycroft, but something known to work across the Multiverse… in other words, if this is an anomaly—
“It is one that extends across the entire Multiverse!”