Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Joshua stopped pondering after pausing where he was for a few minutes.
Were the Soul Puppets breeding humans to drain their souls and create more of their own kind? Or was there another race pulling the strings behind the puppets, farming the Simboans like livestock? There were many possibilities that Joshua could come up, but such thinking was frivolous—it would not solve any issue.
He must act, and search for clues.
The warrior slowly crouched, the large joints of his Soul Puppet body humming faintly as he did so. He did so in front of a slowly breathing boy, whose eyes had no light and was akin to a piece of dead meat, and calmly extended a finger. Silver radiance started to assemble at the tip of the finger, finally forming a translucent ‘luminous blade’.
Joshua’s Steel Strength had mostly remained in his main body beyond the Void, but his soul retained some Steel Strength thanks to Simboa’s Steel Shard. At the moment, Joshua was controlling the lifeforce that could spawn life, using it as a blade to cut into the boy’s skull.
There was a faint sound when flesh was cut that could not even overlap against the wind, but Joshua could hear it. Controlling the blade on his finger, he solemnly cut through skin, muscle and skull. His finer turned as Steel Strength cut open his scalp, his rich lifeforce holding onto arteries and nerves to keep the scalp-less boy alive.
The boy’s uncovered brain could be seen. Joshua looked, finding something he expected at once: a pale-blue runic pattern akin to a stamp.
The runic pattern resembled a product label, attached with flawless precision on the boy’s brain. It was distinctly and incessantly absorbing certain unique powers from the boy, before converting it into another form of energy that permeates his body. Joshua pointed his fingertip blade and touched the runic pattern with it, detecting a clear resistance that appeared to deny entry of Steel Strength.
“To actually resist the alterations from external powers, huh.” Joshua nodded lightly. “Quite the detail.”
But Steel Strength, being a fundamental power that even a Void Mother could not hold up against, a small runic pattern would be unable to hold against Joshua’s erosion and analyzed no matter how exquisite it was. In seconds, the runic patterns covering the boy’s brain vanished, and the boy lethargically blinked a few times before fainting entirely. Scowling, Joshua closed his scalp, and as Steel Strength cascaded, the gap he cut over the boy also sealed itself.
He understood the function of those runic patterns then.
“Sealing ‘imagination’, ‘cognition’, ‘self-thought’ and ‘conception’… A runic formation that completely suppresses ‘intelligence by directly altering mechanisms such as ‘judgment’ and ‘choice’ that directly stimulates the brain.
Rising, Joshua looked up at the other children who were sprawled all over the place. “A ‘Thought Stamp’ that overtly breaks down a developing intelligent lifeform into crops of flesh,” he muttered softly, “while guaranteeing the purity of their souls.”
“It’s certainly only a genius who could design something like this. If nothing unexpected happens, the Thought Stamp would not be removed, and the world would never have and lifeform that could resist them.”
After all, how would they resist? Humans were less than even beasts without conception and cognition—they would not even be beasts since they have no memories.
While his words were admiring, Joshua’s tone was cold. He did not spare the other children any glance anymore, for what was there in looking, and so what if he removed the Thought Stamp enforced on them? For a bunch of fellows whose thoughts were the same as infants, suddenly attaining freedom was the same as not having no freedom at all.
Now, Joshua would go to Healthcare, another zone that the unnamed technician mentioned in his diary. He wanted to know how the Soul Cores were produced, and what was Ultra-powered Units.
He has to understand completely what was going on with this world.
Healthcare was very close, being right beside Repairs and diagonally opposite the incomplete bone building. It was built rectangular and with few stories, a red pentagonal label being placed up front. It surprised Joshua that there were no puppets on guard when he arrived at the doors, nor were there other active lifeforms or puppets.
“They moved?” Joshua thought briefly and swiftly realized what happened: the command center of the Soul Puppets probably became aware of his presence when he left Repairs after dismantling four Soul Puppets, and subsequently three more that were watching over the children. The commanders must have understood that any normal puppets would fall in a single strike before him, and that he could only be subjugated en masse.
However, if the Nursery was involved in a grand-scale battle, the Soul Puppets’ faction should not have enough personnel to subjugate him. That was precisely why the commanders simply evacuated every Soul Puppet and worker near him to avoid further losses.
It was very much the logical judgment of a machine. Joshua nodded, his thought having every offense intended since it would both save him the time of sweeping away trash while they would preserve their own strength. At the thought, Joshua strode into Healthcare, unleashing Steel Strength, incapacitating and crumbling more than a dozen hidden energy traps. It was also an intelligent judgment to use traps and delay the target, since they did not face him directly.
Entering Healthcare, Joshua looked around at the vast, tidy and tastelessly decorated hallway. There were glass cabinets placed beside the walls, each filed with silver-white metallic boxes. In the center of the hall were sporadically arranged laboratory tables, equipped with mechanical arms used to modulate chemicals over it. At the edge of the hallway were cool doors forged from steel, which should be the ‘Operation Room’ the unnamed technician mentioned.
Joshua’s sensory mechanisms could detect trace odors of blood and disinfectant. Nonchalantly, he strode towards the doors of the Operation Room which turned out to be tightly locked. Then, having detected that someone was approached, it projected a screen that required some special soul signature to be unlocked. But why would Joshua have such things? And would he need keys or passwords?
Therefore, clenching his right fists and pulling it back, Joshua briskly punched out as air burst.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Prompt and violent blasts echoed thrice, after of which metal crunched and creak just as the sturdy steel doors began to fall slowly backward, shattering the tiles below. Trotting over it, Joshua moved inside the Operation Room where he picked up more smell of sanguine as well as… souls.
There was lightless darkness in there, seemingly because it had not been activated. However, Joshua’s remodeled puppet eyes had independent illumination function, which he used to scan the inside the Operation Room, finding a lot of what he imagined he would see.
Corpses. Many corpses. Incomplete corpses, their brain removed and their souls stripped away.
There were twelve surgical tables placed at the center of the Operation Room that flashed in bright blue magical light, which Joshua could tell at once that it is able to pull human souls away from their body. On both sides of the Operation Room were conveyor belts where corpses piled up, and one could tell that when it moves, it would carry the many child corpses as smooth as a stream towards the other side of the conveyor belt.
Joshua was a little disappointed that he did not find any ‘doctors’ or ‘Soul Puppets’ he thought he would find here, but soon noticed that there was something unusual about those cadavers: No wounds were required for stripping a soul from his body. However, the corpses were filled with varying sizes of cuts and wounds on different parts of their body. Some had their brain or heart taken out, while others had arms, hands or eyes removed, or a few with their ear cartilage vanishing without a trace.
There was no regular pattern, apart from very corpse having wounds and missing body parts—after considering things for a moment, Joshua soon knew what was happening.
“Ultra-powered unit…” He mumbled and turned, walking back towards the Healthcare hallway and breaking one of the glass cabinets that required soul signatures and passwords, and taking out a metallic silver-white box. Breaking it open with brute force even as it demanded another password, he looked inside to find a pair of eyes flickering with a mysterious purple magical radiance as it floated over pale yellow fluids inside a glass bottle.
“As I thought.”
Joshua shook his head, his tone somber. “Those so-called Ultra-powered Units are these… organs with supernatural attributes.”
Scanning those magical eyes with Steel Strength, Joshua learned about its special powers: those were eyes that could alter human memory through gaze alone, as well as capable of controlling beast and insects, getting simple-minded existences to obey him for life.
Looking up, Joshua looked towards the thousands of silver boxes filling the walls, just as he sensed a mysterious chill creep and spread in the room.
There was no question that souls were not the only thing the Soul Puppets and their masters were farming. Those inexhaustible sources of children from Nursery had another important resource worth the effort collecting: Extraordinary organs.
Joshua scanned across all the cabinets, detecting with his unique senses the organs in the boxes. There were leg bones that could turn human as light as swallows, robust hearts that grant inexhaustible strength, brains with psychokinesis abilities or special organs that could unleash flame and frost.
Those organs were comparable to magical scrolls or permanent spell abilities if transplanted or simply used as tools. Joshua had even seen arm bones that could let a host cast powerful ray magics that were threatening even in Mycroft, and difficult to employ below Gold-tier. Here, however, the bone just had to be transplanted, and the recipient would be able to unleash the spell six times per day.
But that was not the reason Joshua was concerned over those things.
Lowering his eyes and staring into the magical pupils, Johsua appeared to be leveling his gaze with the eyes preserved in nutrient fluids. He reached out in the very next instant, silver radiance flashing in his metallic palm—the light of the magical eyes in the bottle started to rapidly darken, and soon, a faint purple ‘Particle’ appeared in the warrior’s hand.
It was not only the magical eyes. As the silver radiance at his palm brightened, every metallic box on the cabinets in Healthcare began to shake violently as well, just like in an earthquake. In less than a few breaths, as the silver radiance in Joshua’s palm was it brightest, a ‘Particle’ wafted out of every single metal box and swiftly gathered in the warrior’s palm!
Thousands of differently colors particles became clusters of star cloud without a fixed form, swirling in Joshua’s hand—exactly like the star cloud the warrior collected as he traveled amidst the Void.
Star clouds formed from Steel Particles.
“Concentrated ‘Ultra-powered Unit’ detected, installation sequence initiated.”
Suddenly, a weak electromagnetic signal wafted from a part of Joshua’s body that once belonged to the Soul Puppet. It appeared to be a preset program, and it was presently enunciating each word it was voicing. “Searching for linking port to Ultra-powered Unit… Search failed. Searching for internal storage for Ultra-powered Unit… Search failed. Current body cannot install Ultra-powered unit.”
With the warrior having completely remolded his own body, those so-called port and storage had naturally been removed. Even so, Joshua did not need the Authority of Steel Particles.
He just needed information, which the preset notifications sequence provided substantially.
“I get it now.”
Nodding lightly, Joshua stared at the star cloud of Steel Particles in his hand, finally understanding the human farming procedures.
Firstly, the Soul Puppets’ main purpose was to collect as many souls as possible. But given that Simboa was a small world that would not become a world with high-mana concentration even through upheavals, any common folk that had a soul were essentially ‘Soulless’ since most of their souls were worthless.
Joshua believed that those Soulless being bred at Nurseries were beings that relied solely on the brain to think. Only those who had years of experience with technical tasks—such as the unnamed technician—would be refined by jobs requiring high-level brainwork, thereby developing a soul.
On the other hand, children were chosen because of the Steel Particles they embodied, and they were hence sent to be groomed in the Garden from Nurseries everywhere… Because of Authority and their inborn supernatural organs, they innately possess various supernatural powers, along with soul.
It was hence even easier to explain the source of the so-called Ultra-power—the entire Simboa world, being located at the center of the Void vortex would see the entry of multitudinous Steel Particles, carrying their different Authority from who knows how many worlds. Even if ninety-ninety percent of them would waft away after their single entry, one percent of them would definitely be attained by the various mortals.
In return, for those mortals, attaining ‘supernatural’ powers would be equivalent to gradually breeding ‘souls’ that could employ those powers. They would never imagine that it was not a good thing, however, for having souls was very much sending themselves into the Farm of Death.
On Mycroft, the lucky ones who were fortuitously latched on with Steel Particles and attained Authority would virtually rise to the zenith overnight, embodying the capital to tread on the path of Extraordinary, just like the young ‘psionics’ taken in by the Skypiercing White Tower. However, such ‘luck’ on Simboan was truly a way towards death: the lucky ones here would have their soul plundered, their abilities collected while every part of their body becoming part of the huge farm. They were the precious resource called human meat, crops of flesh.
Joshua quietly withdrew the stardust formed by Steel Particles in his hand… Every particle represented a Simboan child that embodied a supernatural power, but being drained of the soul and their abilities isolated. And in his hand were almost ten thousand particles, meaning that almost ten thousand Simboans nearing maturity were slaughtered like livestock.
And that is only the Ultra-energy Units of a single Healthcare chamber. He would never believe that there was only one such facility, or that the storage cabinet were only that many.
However, the warrior’s heart was unexpectedly calm, with little rage inside Joshua, for he was aware that there was no meaning to being enraged under such circumstances. It might even be damaging, since the moment when one’s heart becomes erratic was the moment he would fail.
There was a vague inference Joshua had in mind as well: the reason Simboa turned from being a low-mana world to one with average mana concentration was perhaps related to its location at the heart of the Void vortex and brushed by infinite Steel Particles… Perhaps Simboa the Steel Python was driven out of its body and the current state of the world had an intricate correlation with the Void vortex as well.
He never forgot his goal for coming into this world.
However, just as Joshua turned to leave Healthcare and head towards other zones in the Garden for a look, the earth suddenly shook violently, with many fissures breaking out over the floor of Healthcare. Then, a violent explosion louder than thunder reverberated in the distance, swiftly approaching and tearing waves of fearsome echoes in the air.
“What’s going on?”
The warrior was rather surprised. He strode out of the front gates and looked toward the direction where the explosions came from—the east. Joshua then saw that the faraway Eastern Nursery that seemed to be at the very edge of vision was flickering in myriad colors, while a huge mushroom cloud slowly rose from that spot right into the clouds.
And at the moment, the white ceiling lights turned red.
“Warning, warning: the enemy has broken into the Fourth Defensive Perimeter of the Eastern Nursery. The outer fornication has fallen.”
An inorganic voice with no emotion resounded across Garden amidst sudden sirens and red warning lights. “Security puppets assemble and join the battle in the Eastern Nursery!”