Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Joshua asked the woman, the only one still conscious amongst the Simboan party while holding back his disgust. “Why did you kill those ordinary civilians?”
‘—Naturally, to deprive the enemy of living forces.’
The warrior could guess the answer without her reply. It was not too difficult to understand, especially for him as one who had gone through countless battles. While small-scale skirmishes in modern warfare take morality and human rights into consideration and factions would refrain from slaughtering civilians, when every weapon, nuclear and biological were unleashed without restrain in global wars, would each faction not exhaust every possibility to scorch the enemy domain into burnt lands?
When the time comes, who would care about innocence or civilians? Beneath the nuclear blaze, even ruins that stood for a thousand years would be reduced to ash, and the population of numbers were as frivolous as dust. It was the same for Earth where human rights were developed, and now this was an otherworld that appeared abnormal on a single glance.
Joshua did not intend to interfere in the beginning.
While the battle between Soul Puppets and Simboans were fierce, it was a simple squabble to him. From the start, Joshua knew that the battle would at most damage some ordinary Soul Puppets since there neither side had lethal moves. Those luminous bolts were inescapable light, but its power level would only kill civilians or pierce armors of inferior puppets, and certainly incapable of destroying their core. As for the white barrier, it could withstand most attacks of Ultra-powered puppets, and with the powerful old man, the Simboan party could escape anytime they wanted.
Since there was no critical outcome, Joshua certainly was not interested in making a move. He wanted to witness how the Soul Puppets install Ultra-powered Units, and how those ordinary people that possessed Steel Authority fought… The outcome of the battle definitely was what he imagined: the Simboans coould not break through the puppets’ perimeter and so tried to retreat, while the Ultra-powered Puppet could not stop them from retreating.
But just as Joshua intended to follow the Simboans and ask them about the circumstances of the world, he saw the endless bolts raining down from beneath the white barrier.
Light is unstoppable. Therefore, in an instant, thousands of Simboans were dead. All of them fell, just like crops that had been cut by an invisible scythe.
Joshua was not as fast as light. When he saw the light, the humans were dead, and he was unable to stop it.
Was he outraged?
Joshua never once made a move against the weak and unarmed. Indeed, he could understand their actions and could comprehend their actions even as they act, but it was precisely because he understood it that he hated it, was disgusted by it.
“To… reduce the power of the Plantation…”
The woman spoke, but her voice was still trembling as if she had not been freed from the domain of fear. “We can’t… come up empty handed, this… assault, we have to do something before we return, or it would be a waste of the army’s resources… killing them would throw the puppets into brief confusion, and reduce the Plantation’s provisions…”
She stuttered at first, although she soon gained in fluency. Still, the woman quickly shut her mouth once she answered Joshua’s question, lowering her head and not daring to look at those eyes flickering in silver radiance.
Joshua was not further enraged after getting an answer he expected, but nor did he react. “So, to deny the enemy provisions, therefore the local civilians must be slaughtered…” he said coolly, “that’s your explanation?”
He had actually heard those reasons plenty of times.
Joshua was not using the local world’s language contained inside the Steel Shard of the Steel Python Simboa, and was still speaking Mycroft Basic. However, the woman could clearly understand him through spiritual resonance, allowing her to understand him clearly.
“No, they are not civilians,” she shook her head forcefully as she knelt. Though she appeared intent on rising to make her case, she ultimately could only muster a soft retort. “They were only production tools of those Puppets! If they aren’t killed, they would still produce inexhaustible resources for those Puppets!”
The woman even wanted to add that it was simplest and most effective to kill those ‘things’ that were nothing but walking dead in order to weaken the Plantation, and much more efficient or convenient to destroy those puppets. But she left it unsaid.
“The Soul Puppets treat them as livestock and breed them as crops. You, too, treat them as living spare parts, considering them resources of the enemy.”
Glancing once at the kneeling woman before her and the other six Simboans who were still unconscious, Joshua turned. “To a certain perspective,” he said indifferently, “there’s not much difference between the lot of you.”
“That’s not the same… And they are completely inhuman.”
The woman’s hair was a blend of green and white. While she appeared in her twenties and her hair was originally green, it began to whiten due to excessive stress and fatigue. Even so, despite her tiredness, the woman whose spirit was considerably stalwart could not help retorting. “They have no intelligence—much less a soul or ability! They are not creatures like us at all!”
Joshua could not help but turn when he heard her answer that was filled with conviction. The eyes on his youthful body widened slightly, as if finally judging the Simboan before him now.
“You can refute me from the aspect of war. You can refute me from the aspect of value, of profit and loss. You can even refute me from the aspect of unequal power against the enemy… I have actually thought of many answers, whether it is ability, faction, mission necessity, or simply discrimination that the opponent is sub-human—every answer works for me, since it’s just my preference that I can’t abide by your killing of civilians who had no power to fight back.”
The huge puppet body strode a step forward and carried a carbon-based body of the youth, placing it over his shoulders again. “But you didn’t,” Joshua’s voice wafted from above down to the woman’s years, “you chose to refute me from the aspect of race, and as if it was perfectly logical.”
The eyes of the imposing Steel Puppet flashed with silver radiance. With the empowerment of Steel Strength, Joshua could clearly analyze the essence of any living thing: he had hence inspected the unnamed technician’s, the children in Garden, and naturally those peasants in Nursery as well.
And now, he was not surprised after he studied the woman before her.
They were the same beings with not one hint of difference—the exact same race.
“Only you can’t say such things… Only you can’t murder like this.”
Anyone else can, whether it was the Soul Puppets, the hippopotamuses with six-feet, even the plants that had been enchanted with highly-pure mana and even the warrior from another world. Only you, Simboans can never speak or do so because you were once former slaves of the Soul Puppets, the oppressed who stood on the same line of battle… And yet, every one of you did not treat them as your own.
‘—From Nursery to Garden, he waited for twenty years.
‘What he got are people like you.’
Joshua sighed softly as he remembered the unnamed technician. He stopped paying the woman any attention, and simply stood where he was, waiting after having removed every Security Puppet around them.
“My heat hurts…”
“What’s going on…”
Thus, after the silent waiting, those who had been rendered unconscious by Joshua’s domain of terror slowly awakened. At first, some of them were in a blur, but soon quickly remembered what happened. The woman who remained cared for them as they slowly turned their eyes to Joshua—at first, there were discontent in the eyes of some of the party members, but soon, they say the crushed remains of the many Soul Puppets around them. They shuddered at once as they recalled that horrific might, and became quite docile.
“What is going on… why is that little… person standing beside the Soul Puppet?!”
“Its shape resembles the Snova Ultra-powered Puppet model, but it has been remodeled specially… Tall, sturdy and powerful.”
“Formidable! Although I can’t sense its supernatural abilities, that soul is massive, its depth unfathomable… Did its single sentence rendered all of us unconscious? Isn’t that rare even for Command-type puppets?”
“Could those puppets have been controlled by it… there were military records that there are people with supernatural abilities who could manipulate the puppets, the last Central Holy War was ignited by such people after all…”
Joshua sensed the waves of faint but distinct soul signatures, and saw the expressionless party members who appeared to have just woke up, and quickly understood: soul transmission. The hub and regulator of the transmissions were both the woman who stayed conscious, which made it hardly surprising that she stayed lucid despite his Domain of Terror, even retorting against Joshua. Her soul’s substance was dozen times more powerful than that of normal people, which made her a perfect regulator for the party.
“Could he have awakened by himself? There are rarely any who could do that—the Thought Stamp of the Soul Puppets gets tighter by generation, there’s been a dozen years since anyone awakened deliberately.”
“Perhaps. He even attacked us and the Soul Puppets, and was even angry about that… Wouldn’t he know about such things if he awakened independently?”
“Alright, stop talking. Let’s see how he reacts… Such a young independent awakened who could even control a puppet. He would definitely greatly reinforce the army if he could join us.”
After the soul ripple that was clearly the woman’s, a final but composed ripple surface. “Let’s have a look, and learn about the young one’s intentions.”
With that, the soul ripples stopped. In reality, the old white-haired man who single-handedly subjugated most of the melee puppets and repelled the Cyclone Puppet stepped forward, cautiously watching the youth sitting on the puppet’s shoulder, but his gaze was soon unwittingly caught by the huge body of steel.
“May I know…” he coughed softly when he finally reacted, but was cut short before he could finish his question.
“Your identity.” Joshua cut him short, seemingly unwilling to speak about other things and asked his own questions forthrightly instead. “Your intentions, the general state of this world. The link between Nursery, Garden and Plantation. Who created the puppets, what is the current standing, and do you have historical text?”
The series of questions were voiced fluently and clearly. With spiritual resonance, everyone present could understand him even if they did not understand the common tongue of Mycroft. Still, it was only the leading white-haired man who reacted well—he merely paused for an instant before answering every single inquiry form Joshua without a word of nonsense.
“We are the Fifth Party of the Resistance. Our intent is to enter Garden and save every single one of our own kind.”
He spoke neither too quickly nor slowly, and his words were clear and firm as he continued. “I don’t know about the sate of the world, but isn’t everything like it is here? Nursery and Garden are part of Plantation… but there are also zones such as ‘Excavation’ where minerals are gathered, along with other specializations apart from farming.”
“As for now… what is history?”
The old man’s replies were gracious and appropriate, but was stumped toward the end. He seemed to really not understand the concept of ‘history, therefore making things awkward—be that as it may, Joshua could tell that the old man had something in mind he wanted to say. He appeared relieved that the warrior was uninterested in their Extraordinary abilities, since it would be a hassle if he had to make up a story in return.
But did Joshua actually have to ask? The warrior had mostly determined the supernatural powers everyone present embodied the moment he pulled the seven-person party down from the skies—even how they addressed each other in Soul Transmission.
The old man in the lead had a certain self-augmenting ability. He could store energies most of the time and unleash it when needed to make himself indestructible. He was called ‘Tank’.
As for that timid girl who hid behind the old man, she was the one who cast the white barrier. She had the rare supernatural ability of energy shield, and could block any blows below a certain threshold. She was called ‘Iron Wall’.
The scrawny boy and the long-haired girl had the ability to ‘float’ and ‘luminous bolts’ respectively. One of them was responsible for the team’s movements and logistics, while the other was in charge of widespread and long-range offensives. Their callsigns were ‘Pegasus’ and ‘Magic Arrow’, and it was the latter who killed the Simboan civilians. She appeared to be unresponsive at present, seemingly having a headache due to the blast from Joshua.
As for the two males, one appeared weak after having overexerted himself, while the other helped him stand and had an extremely insignificant presence. Their Steel Authority was unusual simple albeit succinct: One was ‘Blast’, who could trigger an explosion by touch alone, while the other, ‘Formless’ could manipulate light and make himself invisible. Joshua guessed that it was their partnership that blasted apart the outer black wall of the Nursery without being stopped by Soul Puppets.
The last one was the tired woman who appeared powerless, though her ability was ‘Soul Buff’. It was clear what her role in the team was: as the core of their party, she would transmit spiritual exchanges and removed Thought Stamps placed on their own kind… her callsign is the ‘Unchainer’.
The Simboan party had been addressing each other with their abilities and seemed to have no name. Nevertheless, it was logical since names were just a designation—and as Extraordinary individuals of differing powers, their abilities alone were a distinct, unique designation.
“Explain, what is the Resistance?”
Joshua continued his inquiry, and the old man seemed as bewildered as the other Resistance members. But due to the great contrast in power and Joshua’s unapproachable attitude, they answered obediently.
“The Resistance… is the army that stands against the Soul Puppets…”
Joshua quickly understood the organization that was the Resistance thanks to the old man’s explanation, along with the elaboration of others.
It was an organization that existed a hundred years ago, formed by several Extraordinary individuals who gained self-awareness and escaped Garden, to resist the Soul Puppet teams sent to capture them. However, the Extraordinary individuals multiplied, and soon a single Garden Zone – a Soul Puppet settlement – did not have the ability to purge them, which allowed them to turn the tables to attack Garden instead, saving the children inside and removing their Thought Stamp, allowing them to join their ranks.
Now, the Resistance was sizeable: there were hundreds of parties such as theirs according to the old man, along with thousands of Extraordinary individuals sporadically populated. They had even waged a Holy War dozens of years ago at the tower in the middle of the war. Still, not all of them were effective in combat, while Garden Areas with larger populations of puppets could gather almost ten thousand combat puppets. Those puppets often gather, dispatching legions to wipe out the Resistance, which was why they kept moving and never settled in one place—that way, they could ambush smaller Plantations along their way, attaining resources and population replenishment.
And there was not much to say about their process. One could tell that the Resistance only acknowledged the children with supernatural powers as their own kind, and not the apathetic Simboans who appeared like grass devoid of life. They do not have the power to remove Thought Stamps from the civilians, nor enough food to provide for them who did not hold much value. Therefore, the first thing they did in any Garden Zone they occupied was to wipe out the Soul Puppets and then rescue the Extraordinary individuals, before finally plundering all resources and killing the livestock and Simboans they could not take away, burning everything in the Garden Zone into ash.
It was very much the same as primitive nomads.
“You…” No knowing how to address Joshua, the old man could only judge him from his appearance. “‘Puppeteer’, may I know what would you do now?”
“Your powers are formidable, even of single-handedly defeating every Soul Puppet in an entire Plantation. Why then, did you not leave before?”
The entire Simboan party appeared to rarely speak with others—their words were straightforward and they were hardly discreet. If not for the regulating required for Soul Transmission between them, they might really have discussed about the warrior right in front of him. In spite of that, Joshua did not answer the old man’s direct and curious question, turning instead towards the destroyed farmlands, as well as the countless remains of puppets and Simboan corpses.
“I planned to investigate what was wrong with this world,” the warrior said softly, “But now it seems the world is not having a serious issue… Instead, it’s the spirit of its entire civilization, perhaps the civilization itself that had complete rotted and no longer exist.
Joshua’s youth body sat upon the shoulders of the Puppet, staring down at the remains of the Soul Puppets from high above and said, “You’re not human.”
He turned again, and looked toward the Simboans killed by the luminous and were sprawled over the earth.
“You’re aren’t human.”
Finally, Joshua turned toward the seven-person party, looking either indifferently or sympathetically at the Simboans who appeared curious but also slightly fearful now.
“All of you aren’t human.”