Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Blood, rust, machine oil, and the smell of fermenting food poured into his senses.
Joshua activated his optical observation circuits as his soul scan lens recharged. Following a faint hum and a snow screen, the world became clear to his eyes, and he saw a black ceiling, walls with traces of dirt and the corpse of the withering old man sprawled before him.
Briskly shoving away six arms he knew at a glance were machine arms used for repairs, Joshua controlled his current body and got town from the work platform, pondering as he stood on the workspace that was filled with junk and spare parts.
“Body of a puppet.”
He muttered quietly, before studying himself: red-black cautionary paint, a humanoid body, heavily damaged external armor with a gaping hole by the abdomen, wherein scattered steel parts and electric sparks flickered. He could sense powerful magical reaction where the armor was damaged.
It was a humanoid puppet that was just a little taller than the common human being. Its figure was streamlined, its joints round and smooth, rather similar to models of the human body used in biology classes.
“Inspection of Soul Core injection complete… basic integrity of serial number Snova-21 Harvest-type heavily damaged, awaiting technician’s maintenance and replace of spare-parts. Will head to Second Defense Sector of the Eastern Nursery for security duties.”
A weak electromagnetic signal, quivering with unusual soul undulation emanated from a construct inside his body.
“Now this is going to be fun…” Having replaced the so-called ‘soul-core’ of the puppet, Joshua could not help finding things slightly funny as he analyzed the electromagnetic signals and soul ripples wafting from inside his own body.
“I’ve actually descended into the body of a machine construct?”
Could Simboa’s World Will have discreetly believed that his lifeform was most simper to the steel puppet?
That’s ridiculous. I’m so obviously human.
Joshua turned at the thought, and looked towards the corpse of the old, withering man. He was not dead for long, and his soul appeared to be dispersing. However, because of Joshua’s presence, that feeble soul began to approach the warrior’s Soul Pool, before finally entering Joshua. As he masterfully collected the soul that was about to shatter, Joshua could not help but sigh.
“Fine then. I’ll be a robot.”
It was evident that his lifeform had definitely surpassed human when there was a ready-made body of a human body right beside him, and yet instincts kicked in and opted for a machine. Unlike most carbon-based lifeforms, troubles such as these would arise in the path of Legends.
“But the energy level of this level… Isn’t quite the same as a small world.”
Using the powers granted by the Steel Shard, Joshua dragged his broken machine body beside the corpse. There was no question that the intelligent beings of this world—whom he will provisionally label as ‘Simboans’– possessed soul… And from Joshua’s recent research results following exchanges from the elderly Pope, the soul was a supernatural organ that would only appear in worlds with excessively rich energies.
Furthermore, the mana in the around him was not lacking—this should be a world of average mana concentration.
Undoubtedly, every information the Steel Python Simboa had was outdated.
Meanwhile, Joshua observed the dead man after he gently carried his corpse from the congealed pool of blood and put him on the bed. He noticed the gaping hole that pierced his head from left to right, as well as the blowtorch in his hand that he never relaxed his grip of. Hence, the warrior understood that he had killed himself, and the reason was unknown for the moment.
“Sixth Repairs technician. Status: dead. Soul has dispersed, move corpse to Healthcare.”
Just as Joshua solemnly studied the cadaver, a faint electromagnetic signal wafted to him, as if to get the puppet he had possessed to resume its task.
Ignoring the message, the warrior shook his head as he found it a little regretful… If the Steel Shard had descended upon the man’s body, Joshua could have used his powerful soul to study the memories in his mind. However, things were troublesome since he had possessed a construct. To find out about information about his current surroundings, the warrior looked around, finding the books filling a bookrack and the bloodstained diary on the work platform.
He walked up to it and start to browse through the diary.
The language that the diary used was recorded in the information the Steel Python had given him—it was the language of a small nation in the middle region of the world. Though there had been some vocabulary shift, it remained within an acceptable range. In the beginning, Joshua rapidly scanned through it just like a machine, pausing for a moment halfway through and slowing down the more he read, until he finally finished the final page.
“…Nursery, Garden… Soul puppet, humans like puppets and soul core.”
At that moment, Joshua realized that he had possessed a Soul Puppet used to oppress the ‘Nursery’, and the corpse before him was the technician who repaired the puppet. Scowling, Joshua studied the corpse of the unnamed technician: after the muddleheaded man awakened, he had waited alone as a slave and livestock for over twenty years, and yet his heart remained hopeful. Despite knowing that himself was fated to die, he chose the day of his death, denying others a hand in his fate.
Reaching out and closing his eyes that were not closed, Joshua placed the diary on his chest and began to summarize the information he acquired.
Thanks to the diary, he had learned that he was now in a zone known as the ‘Garden’, surrounded by a vaster zone known as the ‘Nursery’. The Garden hosted the most elite of technicians and doctors, as well as the best Soul Puppets.
And all that they were assigned was to complete their work and took good care of those ‘children’.
The ages of the ‘children’ varied, the youngest being newborns, the eldest being almost sixteen—and the very moment they reached that age, they would be sent to Healthcare. The children were sent from every corner of the Nursery, although their numbers were neither scarce nor substantial, which meant that not all children were groomed in nurseries.
Just like the unnamed technician himself. His work diary had begun in the Nursery, but with his rise in skill, he was sent to work in the Garden.
The Garden was no production zone, but a presence served by the vast Nurseries, which in turn were huge farms. Countless labored within, producing massive amounts of grains and meat. Some of those plants were used for Garden, while others were sent far away.
At the very thought, Joshua could not help remembering the sight he had seen in the skies above the Simboa continent: the barren continent was filled with sand and yellow-green plains, and only little specks of green. Now that he considered it, those greens were probably Nurseries—they would certainly compensate for millions of humans since the green farmlands could be seen even when he was so high above.
“Turning intelligent beings into puppets, nurturing souls and separating ‘Ultra-powered Unit’… Resistance that commands magic, a huge tower in the center of the world… How did this world survive for a thousand years?”
Both the unnamed technician and the Steel Python Simboa knew little about the world. The unnamed technician had inferred the existence of a Resistance beyond the Nursery through the damaged puppets sent to him intermittently: the task sent to Joshua through electromagnetic signals ascertained that fact. However, he knew nothing of the world apart from that.
‘But that’s fine’, the warrior thought while flexing the joints of his current body. He had all the opportunity to observe this world.
Joshua was not the unnamed technician who did not have the power to even leave the corridor of Repairs. While he waited for twenty years and could only slip out and observe when Soul Puppets changed shifts, the warrior himself go anywhere freely as he wished.
The warrior’s objective was to find the reason the World Will had been yanked out. According to his instincts, the matter was definitely related to the spiral tower at the center of the world… Even if it was not, it would be an important iconic building, and most food were certainly transported in the direction of the tower.
Joshua moved his body to the bookshelf. He did not feel uneasy doing so, instead finding it much easier since this body was much lighter than his own, giving the warrior who was used to tens of thousands of tons the sensations of wafting. With that unusual sensation, Joshua drew a book out of the shelf, stroking the covers as he read through it.
Most of its contents were related to Soul Puppets. Any alchemy engineer who read it would very likely exclaim in excitement since it was a completely different path of building puppets compared to Mycroft. It had pioneered a new trail in the aspect of soul, producing strongly independent and highly intelligent construct, the most vital aspect being the Soul Core.”
“Since production of artificial souls require too many resources, which is why living human souls are directly altered…”
With a skim through, Joshua understood the true face of the so-called Soul Cores: Those were living souls, programmed by some method into a machine! Souls are born with powerful processing that could replace the minds of living things. With a littler alteration, it would easily trump the control hub of any puppet!
Still, Joshua mind was not affected by such things. He had seen the rituals of cultist priests, maniacal collective suicides and banquet of cannibals. He had been to hell and Abyss, slaughtering demons by his own hand and plundering living souls. Such things were done by warlocks, much less demons, which did not weird him out.
Those, however, were acts by cultists zealots, evil warlocks and the Abyssal demons of Chaos… Those beings acted on a whim, but this world did it systematically, forming a production chain, selecting, serving, grooming and extracting from the very beginning. It was all too natural and too complete, forming a society which chief objective was to harvest souls.
In other words, it was a form of Order.
Joshua closed the book. It was not that he did not want to keep reading, but because the wound by his abdomen was bursting with electrical waves, even as error alerts echoed.
“Have to repair my shell before exploring the world. Everything else is prattle without fighting power.”
Joshua poured his spirit into the Steal Shard, calibrating its power and scanned his body utterly.
The body itself was forged from a unique inert metal alloy that is highly resistant against erosion and malleability, although its melting point is only acceptable, and its sturdiness above average. However, the design of the soul puppet was quite comprehensive, its performance excellent, and it could be used as a reference for design in Mycroft if it was retrieved. Even so, its abdomen had been pierced by some magical attack that damaged most of its functions—Joshua could only move it forcibly by his sheer power.
“Troublesome. Needs to be repaired carefully.”
Directing his power even in the absence of his body, Joshua’s soul could manipulate Steel Strength partially as well. Working alongside Simboa’s Steel Shard, the metals on the work platform twisted and transformed at once as if alive, turning into clumps of basketball-sized metallic spheres that rolled in front of the warrior’s body.
“If I did not descend and the puppet isn’t repaired, the energy spilling from the soul would explode, in the very least destroying everything in the workshop… Can’t tell if the unnamed technician prepared it, or it’s just an accident.”
Ultimately, Joshua is a champion who mastered Steel Strength creation—it was very easy for him to repair a construct.
By controlling the soul, he could gather all meters that fit his requirements around him, extracting the substance from the basketball-sized metallic spheres and building spare-parts. As Steel Strength flowed, Joshua even began to absorbed those metals and fused them into a brand-new, stronger alloy to repair and augment his body.
As the metallic spheres began to meld into his body visibly, the Soul Puppet that was one point eight or nine meters—a littler taller than normal humans began to enlarge at a speed visible to the naked eye, turning tall and majestic.
A layer of thick and solid armor began to cover the aerodynamic body of the construct, with fearsome and cruel horns growing over the rounded joints. The circular human-shaped head too began to mutate and transform, finally turning into a steel construct akin to a helmet. A red vein of rhombus-shaped crystal streaked over that helmet; it was the new observation orifice wherein crimson radiance flickered.
Soon, Joshua’s completely augmented body became taller than two point two meters while gaining exponential weight. The gaping wound was now healed—Joshua even utterly retrofitted the engine and constructs within so that he could better unleash his powers.
Now, the former Soul Puppet had become an intimidating and robust red-black colossal construct that emanated a powerful presence. Ramming horns protruded from his elbows, while his arms flickered with a sharp edge: thanks to a certain warrior’s habit, his body had completely become a killing machine used for combat, a stark contrast from the original Soul Puppet.
Having completed that series of retrofitting in less than a few minutes, Joshua felt the substantial energies from the Steel Shard permeating his entire body. The puppet could now unleash considerable combat power.
“Time to take a look outside.”
Completely prepared, Joshua gripped his fists, mustering waves of strength that could crush steel. He believed that the body should have Gold-tier combat abilities that could face most troubles in this world.
Walking out towards the door of the workshop, Joshua turned to glance once at the unnamed technician he put on the bed, before turning back and leaving.
Pure white light streamed into the workshop, the purified air dispersing all smell of blood and rust. Arriving at the corridor, the door behind Joshua closed slowly while the warrior looked out, observing the little world that imprisoned the technician for twenty years.
It was an immeasurably white-tiled corridor: to the left was a dead end, while to the right was the exit. A bright white light hung on top of the corridor, while a total of eight doors stood on both sides of the corridor, and himself was standing outside the sixth door closest to the outside.
There were four puppets at the right-side exit, holding gun-shaped weapons that were probably the ‘Furnace Ray Discharger’ the technician mentioned. Seemingly noticing something, all of them turned at once towards where Joshua was—the warrior could sense waves of soul ripples released by the puppets as they scanned his entire body, and two of them soon strode towards him.
“Serial number Snova-21,” they said with a machine-like voice without emotion, holing the laser discharger as they walked in front of Joshua. “Your repairs are incomplete, please return to the Sixth Re—”
Silently and instantly, two huge hands were raised and pressed onto the heads of the two Soul Puppets. The large palm then clenched nonchalantly, and the sharp noise of steel scraping against steel abruptly reverberated… and then came the clear and sharp twisting sound of metal bending.
The Soul Puppets struggled violently, flinging their own limbs and striking their assailant’s arm. Nevertheless, their hands soon fell limp beside them, no longer moving, dropping their laser gun on the floor.
Crushing their observation orifice with a single grip while his energy destroyed their soul core, Joshua threw the now useless Soul puppets on the floor, their broken head parts scattering everywhere over the floor. As he picked up the Furnace Ray Discharger, the two Soul Puppets further away noticed the anomaly and finally turned.
“Serial number Snova-21, you are attacking corridor security of Garden Repairs. Serial number Tbeta-34 and serial number Tbeta-35 has been destroyed. Error determined in programming of serial number Snova-21’s Soul Core unit, requesting clearance for purging.”
“Clearance given. Tasks to purge unit accepted, commencing attack.”
The Soul Puppets’ clearance transfer only needed a brief instant—they could convey and accept information several times faster than humans no matter how complex the information was. In the instant they started to attack, they raised the ray discharger in their hands, the tips of which quickly reddened and heated.
And yet, a streak of black shadow transcended space, speeding towards them in a speed that machine could not react to and struck brutally on the Soul Puppet standing to the left.
The powerful blow destroyed the chest armor of the puppet, distorting the metal as fragments sprayed. Terrible strength even sent it flying into the air, just as voluminous energies surged out from the Soul Core of the puppet. As electromagnetism flickered, the air exploded violently—immense silver-blue energy flow, compounding with a searing impact force cascading over the small corridor louder than thunder.
The true form of the black shadow could be seen then: It was a crumpled Ray Discharger. The one who held it did not use it, instead flinging it out as a ‘weapon’.
Even Soul Puppets could not take aim in such circumstances. While the only surviving Soul Puppet adjusted its observation orifice and balancing instruments, a huge silhouette had arrived before it before it could roll to the side according to its battle programming for a second round of attack.
The construct painted in red and black raised its hand, shrugging off the impact force from the explosion. Joshua turned slightly, evading a shot of golden-red Furnace Ray that melted a hole out of the ceiling over the corridor. Golden-red liquid flowed at the edge of the hole, dripping magma and molt.
Still, Joshua was unmoved. He reached out with his left hand and caught the Soul Puppet’s right, crushing its Ray Discharger with one clench. Then, in the very next second, the warrior raised his left right hand and pulled the Soul Puppet’s head away from its body, electrical sparks and silver-blue soul energies flickering by the cavity on its neck. Then, gripping the headless puppet by its shoulder, Joshua swiftly pulled its every limb from its body just as it resisted, a smooth flow in his moves as if he had dismantled it countless times before—through his self-retrofitting, the warrior had become immeasurably familiar towards the constitution of Soul Puppets.
Lubricants were now streaming out visibly out of the gaping wounds where the puppet’s limbs were, splashing the black machine oil on the floor just like a pool of blood.
Putting the puppet that had no power to keep moving on the ground, Joshua half-crouched and extended his index finger. The fingertip forged from black steel transformed fluidly into a sharp silver edge, which the warrior used to draw a line over the puppet’s chest armor, where he saw a Soul Core flashing in silver-blue radiance.
A silver-blue flame burned, placed inside a translucent hexagonal prism. It pulsated like a heart, the Soul Core circulating energies throughout the puppet’s body through its attached energy absorption systems, just as it acted as the control hub of the entire puppet. Joshua reached out and drew out the Soul Core, studying it carefully for a moment.
“Beautiful, perfect. Such a method of transformation and control is simply art… Not to mention those programming inscribed into the soul.
He praised softly, shaking his head before crushing the hexagonal prism in his hand. Silver-blue flames of the soul wafted away from it and slowly dispersing into the air, while Joshua stood up and walked towards the edge of the corridor that caged the unnamed technician for twenty years.
Light and the Garden was right in front of him.
He strode outside.
His back facing the corridor exit that was filled with scars of explosion, his stepped on the path of white tiles, Joshua looked up, the red observation orifice flickering as he scanned everything around him.
The warrior who had seen many a spectacle believed himself immune from everything.
But he was wrong: the observation orifice of the tall and sturdy construct was flickering unsteadily, which meant that his emotional state was fluctuating.
What entered his gaze was unbelievable.