Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
“Looks like the Nursery is really fighting something.”
Joshua was calm in the face of the rapidly flashing lights and blaring sirens. In fact, Joshua had been calm whether it was the present unexpected circumstance or discovering that the Simboans were slaughtered like livestock. He was at most taken by surprise with the buildings and decorations made out of human body parts—he did not even care about anything else.
Because he still could not ascertain the truth about this world until now.
The Soul Puppets had certainly committed many unthinkable and revolting acts. Whether it was the brainwashed laborers who worked daily for dozens of years whose souls would be collected even when they died, breeding and slaughter humans as a resource, or even collecting their special souls and ‘Ultra-powered Units’, everything they did were things that Joshua felt uneasy and disgusted at as an intelligent being… And yet, even now, he could not find decisive evidence that the Soul Puppets were the worst factions.
Sounds unthinkable? But that was the absolute truth. Having gone to many worlds—Grandia, especially, Joshua had learned that many things cannot be decided through mere ‘right and wrong’… What if the Simboan world collected and burned souls just to keep the world alive, how would he critique them then? What if everyone in the Nurseries were clones, while there are natural humans who pulled the strings externally—what could he say then?
Joshua was a Legendary champion of Mycroft, not Simboa.
For survival and for their world, Order and civilization would create a path for themselves. It was their choice no matter how bewildering or blasphemous it would be, and Foreigners from other worlds do not have the right to judge them from their ivory towers. All that he had seen remained excuses the warrior could accept grudgingly, because he was not enraged yet, and merely using a cool gaze to observe everything.
And now, there was conflict. The ones opposing the Nurseries has appeared, and Joshua intended to take a look.
The huge Soul Puppet moved, slowly heading toward the east, towards the explosion. As the huge steel body moved, its surface layer trembled—most of Joshua’s body parts were shifting: some spare parts and constructs vanished while others augmented.
In a nutshell, his body was enlarging becoming denser. With Steel Strength, the warrior could improve and alter his body mechanisms at any given movement, strengthening with every step he took. However, he stopped halfway through and frowned, seemingly remembering something.
“My appearance now is still Soul Puppet… that still registers as a foe for the faction assaulting the Nursery. Simply going there would get me recognized as an enemy.
He could not communicate with any being in the Nursery, be it Soul Puppet or the humans bred—but he might get through to the assailants. Joshua did not want to miss a great chance to attain information about this world, but changing his own appearance remained a little difficult for the warrior. His body now still was not liquid metal that could freely transform, and even if he could, who would know if the assailants would pick up on it?
After thinking for a few seconds, Joshua quickly came up with a flawless plan.
Turning back, he made a detour to Sixth Repairs and entered the dark workshop. He walked to the unnamed technician’s bed and crouched, pressing his hand on his skull.
In an instant, the Steel Shard at the chest of the Steel Puppet began to revolve, and silver radiance from Joshua as well as purple-green light from Simboa’s shard began to emanate, streaming into the unnamed technician’s body over his finger. As a faint light surfaced over the corpse, substantial lifeforce was converted from Steel Strength and unleashed, and that cavity over the technician’s brain rapidly closed itself as if time was reversing.
In seconds, the wound over the head of the unnamed technician had very much sealed itself, leaving a little bloodstain while the rigid corpse became soft as if resurrected. Heartbeats were even ringing from his chest, but Joshua, dissatisfied, moved lifeforce so that it permeated every cell of the body.
The aged face and whited hair of the former cadaver thus began to change swiftly: his muscles protruded, his wrinkles vanished just as his white hair dropped, jet-black hair growing where they once hung.
It was ten seconds later, as Joshua looked on at the body of the unnamed technician, that he realized he overdid it.
“A little too young… But that’s fine. He might just pass off as a child from Garden.”
Reviving the body of the unnamed technician, spiritually controlling him to fake himself as a Simboan and speak to the assailants of the Nursery—that was Joshua’s plan.
The soul of the technician that Joshua absorbed into his Soul Pool was a feeble and almost shattered soul. There was no telling how long he would need to recover to the point that he could communicate, much less resurrected. Incidentally, Joshua intended to borrow his body—if the body remains after he had solved the Steel Python Simboa’s troubles, he would not mind reviving the technician with the younger body… if he be willing.
At Joshua’s present level, life and death, nothingness and existence were not absolute. He could resurrect the dead, create things out of thin air, create life, project mass or even create ecospheres. Therefore, to rebuild a mortal’s body and return a soul was nothing too complicated: he had actually revived a few worlds after all.
On the bed, the black-haired youth slowly rose, opening his eyes that had a dull and dead gaze. But soon, as Joshua projected spirit, a flash of silver light crossed his eyes as they began to turn, promptly filled with vigor.
Controlling the black-haired youth so that he got up from the bed and walked a few steps, the warrior felt that he was controlling a puppet… While it was most carbon-based creatures who pulled the strings of machines, things were reversed when it came to him.
Joshua accepted the fact that he was a robot rather simply.
“The clothes are a little large, but that’s fine.”
Since Joshua used the unnamed technician’s body mass as a resource to recover vigor, the now youthful body was naturally smaller than its adult form, in turn making the gray repair uniform a little loose. Still, Joshua simply turned his clothes into one identical to the white robes of the children in the Garden. Having determined that his manipulation had no issue, Joshua nodded and extended his hand, put the body over his shoulders before leaving Repairs, heading towards the edge of Garden and the Eastern Nursery.
It was then that Joshua realized that Garden was actually quite small: the place itself was covered beneath a semi-circular dome, with a diameter of just over five kilometers. Apart from Repairs, Garden and Healthcare that were located at the centermost sectors, every other building was unusually rectangular and without doors or windows. Each of them had the exact same design, and stood aloft as if gravestones on the outer reaches of Garden, occupying three-fifths of the area. However, because Joshua could see electromagnetic signals and soul signatures, he quickly discovered that the gravestone-like buildings were information transit hubs for the Soul Puppets.
In the meantime, he reached the edge of the dome only to find that there were no doors. He hence made one with his fists, but when he stepped into the Nursery, he could sense the burning winds bombarding his face and indescribably bad air.
“Average temperatures are above thirty-five degrees, and given the density of dust in the air… Easy exposure to lung diseases.”
While being a machine, Joshua was fine with dust, but the youth’s body that would act as his puppet was not immune. Sensing his incredible discomfort, it was after the warrior had made a barrier that he became better.
The Nursery and Garden beyond the dome were basically two different worlds: the temperature in Garden was between twenty-two to twenty-four, the air fresh and virtually devoid of dust or bacteria, while the luminosity was cozy. On the other hand, the average temperate beyond the glass dome averaged above thirty-five and was filled with dust—reaching the point of air pollution. While bacteria concentration was at normal levels, the light is that of dusky, which severely affects vision.
Now, having stepped out, Joshua gravely looked around and observed the world beyond the Garden.
There was an invisible border between Garden and Nursery that was about five hundred meters long. Although there were no obstacles or objects marking the border, completely empty and inconspicuous, beyond it were verdant croplands that swayed under the warm breeze, seemingly used to such environments.
Adjusting the focus of his mechanical eye, Joshua saw that those square lands were planned and adjusted for, with turbid drains separating each square tile of cropland like a spiderweb and passing through every inch of earth.
Each land was also identical—or, at least to Joshua’s eyes, their length and width were almost the same, even the workers laboring over them… Joshua could see that there were figures patrolling the cropland or appearing to be fertilizing them. While those Simboan men had different visage, every single one of their movements were identical, their expressions blank, just as the clothes they wear were an indistinguishable gray-brown.
Joshua did not stop there. He moved further beyond the drains, realizing that the laboring Simboans did not react even when the Eastern Nursery exploded so brutally, or to Joshua’s presence for that matter. Each of them worked synchronously like robots mimicking each other, just as the Simboan women behind him that were staying in the rectangular buildings managed various miscellaneous matters, such as moving harvested crops. The only difference was that there were the occasional women who had children, who would care for them instead.
That was Joshua’s only thought.
The same land, the same drains, the same clothes, and the same house… even the men to women ratio was equal, with one man matched to one woman. Everyone was equally apathetic, their eyes identically blank and empty as if walking dead.
The Nursery was unusually vast, and there were farms of livestock apart from plants. Even so, Joshua felt a little relieved that he did not see human farms he imagined that he would see—instead, there were some fat animals that had six feet and resembled hippopotamuses. While the farmers there were Simboans who did not show any human presence as well, it was at least not the worst-case scenario: for better or worse, the Soul Puppets and their masters did not consider Simboans a source of meat, which allowed Joshua to breathe a sigh in relief after having prepared for the worst.
Of course, the reason for that might also simply be due to the fact that meat from Simboans were not enough or insufficiently nutritious.
Joshua could now hear the magical flashes resounding from the distance. Ignoring the Nursery, Joshua tightened his hold over the carbon-based puppet on his shoulder and cast a defensive barrier over him, and strode forward, causing the earth to cave in and the stream to split. As the air cracked from being torn apart, Joshua flew past the square tiles of cropland and arrived at the edge of the battle in minutes.
That was the frontier of the Nursery, where a black, twenty-meter tall imposing wall stretched as far as the eye could see. It wrapped around the entire Nursery and appeared indestructible, and yet that was a thirty-meter gap now blasted into it, with hot magma still flowing on its edges.
Both the interior and exterior of the city walls were visibly fortified, but every single one of the defensive mechanisms set in place had fallen. Joshua could already hear the violent sounds of battle—looking up in that direction, he saw dense formations of Soul Puppets and a party of Simboans who appeared special.
There were over five hundred Soul Puppets, each standing almost two meters and armed to the teeth: their bodies were protected by sturdy metallic armors and they wielded different weapons. Those on the vanguard were carrying sturdy anti-assault shields and metal blades, while those at the rear carried various projectile weapons such as Ray Dischargers and sorcery items, but they all moved in synchrony, showing a good command in both offense and defense.
If they had been Mycroft, those puppets would unquestionably stand toe-to-toe against the Seven Gods Church’s army of alchemical puppets as a combat force. However, such a force was completely trounced by a seven-person party of Simboans, and could barely hold on!
The long-ranged offensive puppets at the back row shot myriad-colored rays from their Dischargers, including golden-red molten light and ice-blue freezing rays, as well as green demolition rays. Those projectiles with astonishing power were shot incessantly amidst wondrous teamwork of the three hundred Soul Puppets, but as a girl amongst the Simboan party stood out raised both her hands, the endless rays were blocked by a barrier flashing in crystalline white light.
The entire part was also protected by the white semi-circular barrier that was unaffected even as the various rays struck. When deflected, the rays would melt or freeze, or vaporized entirely, although the party remained safe and sound.
Even so, the puppets were not disappointed by their futile assault. Having seen that it was ineffective, they stopped shooting as the vanguard drew their weapons and prepared to charge—but it was then that the barrier oscillated for a fraction. A well-built white-haired Simboan thus left the barrier, but while he appeared elderly, his entire body was muscled and his body was covered in faint golden halation. He moved slightly, and was suddenly already flanking a Soul Puppet. Before it could move, he reached out and pointed at the puppet’s chest, directly piercing its sturdy armor protection and extinguishing its Soul Core.
Whoosh! Countless blades, spears, and axes swung down just as volleys of rays rained down upon him: having reflexes far beyond humans, they had already begun the counterattack the moment the old man himself started to move. Endless puppets hence swarmed him in the shape of a small hill of steel, encircling him.
But in the next second, with a resounding blast, the old man whose entire body was now burning intensely with the golden halation shrugged off every puppet around him and left their encirclement. His fists were afterimages even as he sent five puppets around him flying, their chest armors dismantled and their Soul Cores extinguished.
“Extraordinary ability—should be near Gold-tier.”
Joshua lifted his brow as he observed the fight at the edge of the battlefield. He could tell that the Simboans possessed Steel Authority and were Extraordinary individuals with supernatural powers. They had ordinary intelligence and had formidable ability, and most ordinary puppets were nothing but junk metals to them.
…But did the Soul Puppets only have that much ability?
In a corner, several special puppets that were distinct from others and standing on the edge of the battlegrounds all along began to move. They had seen that the old white-haired man had blocked the assault of the melee puppets almost entirely while the long-range puppets failed to break the defenses of the white barrier—thereby determining that the main force was no match for the assailants.
“Serial-number Snova-11, Harvest-type. Requesting installation of Ultra-powered Unit—”
“Serial-number Snova-27, Suppression-type. Requesting installation of Ultra-powered Unit—”
“Serial-number Snova-11, Purge-type. Requesting installation of Ultra-powered Unit—”
“Permission granted. Begin installation of Ultra-powered Unit: Installation successful.”
“Executing task: eliminate ‘Dissidents’.”
Amidst emission of faint electromagnetic signals and soul ripples that only puppets could detect, three Soul Puppets with special serial numbers began to change bizarrely. The one in the lead, Serial Number 11 ignored gravity itself and rose into the air—then, as powerful pale-blue radiance flickered around its body and the with sound of stone crumbling, the Simboans’ party protected by the white barrier realized in astonishment that the ground beneath their feet was torn apart by an immense force, turning into a floating island that flipped abruptly and dropped everyone towards the ground!
Meanwhile, Serial Number 27 took one step forward, calmly tearing the protective armor in front of its chest like how normal people tore their clothes apart. As the armor dropped, everyone saw a golden-red fireball appearing in front of its Soul Core, cascading with searing heat and turning all dust around into sparks, dispersing into the air. After taking roughly a hundredth of a second to aim, the fireball streaked towards the Simboans!
As for the puppet designated Serial Number 31, it did not show any astonishing shift at the start. But as its Ultra-powered unit kicked in, its steel body began to quiver wildly and began to blur. As time passed, a violent wind began to swirl around it, until it was finally engulfed in a rapid cyclone. In that very moment, it promptly dashed towards the old Simboan man who had almost single-handedly suppressed almost every combat puppet, and the two immediately engaged each other in a vicious brawl, emanating terrible blasts and echoes from their high-speed battle.
The two supernatural force that were primarily melee combatants thumped each other back and forth over the ground. Where they passed, cultivated land spun, earth shattered, while endless soil and dust as well as polluted water in the drainages rose into the skies, forming a mud rain. Even so, the Simboans who were working at the cropland and farms unbelievably ignored the brutal fight and continued their work—even as their ears bled after their eardrums were perforated by the bursting waves of the fight.
“This won’t do!”
Caught by the invisible power exerted upon the floating island, an anxious male voice exclaimed amongst the party protected within the white barrier. “The Plantation’s reserves of puppets are too many. We clearly destroyed several Snova-type Ultra-power Puppets, but there’s three more now!”
“Not just three. Look at that flank, there’s another Ultra-powered Puppet overseeing the battle… Eh?”
“Captain’s ability can’t last over an hour, and we’ve fought for around half… we should retreat now if we are taking the pursuit of Plantation’s puppets into account.”
“And run back empty-handed? We’ve gone through such lengths to break the outer iron walls—if we can’t get into Garden and save a few of our own, the losses would be too great!”
“We just have to deal with it!”
Boom! A magma fireball struck the white barrier, forcing the young girl an abrupt step back, her brow tightened and her entire body shivering. Blood was welling out of the corner of her mouth, but she did not say a thing—however, the request to retreat became even more vocal at the sight.
“‘Ironwall’ is overwhelmed! She is our own defense, we must retreat even if the losses are too great!”
Though reluctant, the protesting voice was silent given how things had turned out. Having decided, the old white-haired man who was probably the captain suddenly burst out, punching the Cyclone Puppet some hundreds of meters away, breaking their encirclement and returning to the white barrier.
At the same time, a cold and callous voice spoke from within. “We must burn the living forces of the Plantation… We can’t come all this far for nothing.”
“Do it, ‘Magic Arrow.’”
Everyone seemed to agree with that suggestion. As a scrawny boy amongst the party unleashed light-green radiance, the entire white barrier rose into the air as well, darting towards surviving farms and croplands. Then, another long-haired lady extended her white hand and let lose gray beams from her fingertips, splitting into hundreds of luminous bolts from above and landed precisely on the Simboans who were still laboring numbly!
Hundreds of those Simboans died on the spot, their skulls or hearts pierced by the gray, erosive bolts. Through it all, the white luminous barrier was still flying off swiftly, massacring every Simboan in sight. Until the three Ultra-powered Puppets adjusted their formation and resumed pursuit of their opponent, the party of Simboans had killed thousands, and was quickly darting to the gap on the wall.
“The losses are huge this time. We can only hope that army command wouldn’t get…”
Sighs wafted from inside the white barrier as the party approached the gap. They were troubled over their incomplete mission and the enemies’ tight defenses, although they were also already considering how they should defeat the three Ultra-powered Puppets, get past their ranks and enter their destination: The Core Garden in the heart of the Nursery.
It was in that moment that an oppressive and deep voice clearly and coldly commanded into their ears.
The voice could have both come from the netherworld or the skies above. Unparalleled might, compounded with a spirit that made men despair began to extend. Abruptly, every party member felt their brains twisting and jumbling, and they were unable to think—after flickering a few times, the white barrier promptly vanished, just as the mobility that supported the barrier swayed before finally letting them land gently.
“Damn it! Command-class… Soul Puppet!”
In the party, a young woman who appeared valiant and whose soul was strong enough to keep herself lucid, showed bewilderment and hopelessness in her eyes… How could that be? The most powerful Dominator and Command-class Soul Puppets should have been stationed at the Plantations around the Spiral Tower in the middle of the world! Why would they be here? In a remote and unnamed plantation?!
And those Ultra-powered Puppets are catching up as well… she thought even as she lay prone on the ground, her mind blurring.
We’re going to be torn apart into Soul Cores and Ultra-powered Units…
Nevertheless, what echoed in her ears were not the tidy footsteps of Soul Puppets, but abrupt clash of steel and explosions. She could faintly hear air being pierced and fireball being blasted, and the crisp sounds of psychokinesis walls being shattered… Soon, heavy footsteps sounded in the silence and finally arrived before her.
The woman looked up with much difficult, finding a black-haired youth with an indifferent gaze… and that huge, ferocious puppet behind him.
The woman could feel her hair being grabbed and half her body pulled by a formidable strength, even as a voice that was suppressing its own disgust and disgruntlement resounded over her ears. “Answer my question.”
“Why did you people kill those civilians?”