Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
All expedition members were unaware that the compressed form of the Restoration Beam they carried along was equipped with a complete information transmitting module specially made by Joshua. Activating right after teleportation, the module would concurrently collect data of images, sound and energy signatures around it.
Still, the module itself was not mobile, while the area for its data collection was a narrow five-meter radius. Joshua, however, could use it confirm the expedition party’s current status at all times, while generally learning about the world they were located. Not only would that make rescuing convenient, the warrior could activate the Restoration Beam from his end and open a defensive barrier during dire moments.
“You’re pampering those children a little,” Karlis said, revealing its opinion about the module. It was rather surprised that Joshua actually possessed the capacity to communicate across worlds, but soon realized it was not unusual after considering the attribute of Steel Strength. However, after Joshua opened eight screens simultaneously and enlarged them all around him, seemingly ready to watch an eight-screened high-definition movie on the skies of Karlis, the Steel Python could not help muttering, “Aren’t you being a little overprotective?”
Joshua shook his head in disagreement. “It’s untoward for you to think that.”
Overprotective? That kind of thinking actually was unusual. It was of utmost importance to guarantee the safety of expedition members—when Earth made the Moon landings and launched observation systems to the Moon, Mars and other places, when did they not exhaust all efforts, endless capital, and manpower just to guarantee the expedition’s safety? It is with supernatural powers in this Multiverse that it was easier to explore otherworlds since the expedition members would have certain self-defense ability, but inversely, the danger they faced would be greater.
Joshua had relied on his own unique beyond-lightspeed medium to keep information transmitted without delay, which was why that could not be used on the expedition members. Otherwise, the entire expedition would be in constant contact with the Empire, receiving official communications and help.
“The eight expedition parties are exploring eight different possible worlds in the ‘Dark Domain’ at the same time.”
Joshua settled into his chair as Karlis hovered like a spirit behind his back, both watching the footage from the eight screens. “Their mission is to survey the basic conditions of those worlds,” Joshua said as watched the stream, “accumulate experience while searching for traces of the Unified Archives, all while ensuring their own safety. While finding the Archives would take some luck, others are simple matters, and could be perfectly accomplished if nothing unexpected happens.”
Furthermore, most researchers had predicted that searching for whereabouts of the Unified Archives would not be difficult: the demiplane where the Archives had darted across the Void in heavy force, crashing into one of the worlds in the Dark Domain, after of which both fused into a single body, like how the ‘Infinite Horizon’ combined with Mycroft.
Naturally, the fusion process was not smooth, perhaps even painful. Calculations projected that with the momentum at which the Archives moved, it would have been an apocalyptic crash if it collided with another world, and the entire continent or planet was likely to shatter into pieces. Some believed that the crash of the Archives was itself part of the reason that the Initial Flame of Dark Domain worlds were extinguished.
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And such a terrible calamity would definitely leave a profound mark, the shockwave of which would never dissipate until now. As long as the eight exploration parties arrived at the world where the Archives was, they would definitely discover it.
Joshua was watching the screen as the eight parties stirred from their brief teleportation daze. They quickly determined the safety of the environment around them, the atmospheric and geographical conditions, along with the mana elementals and other information. They would follow their training, having the spellcasters masterfully open an atmospheric shied that provides oxygen, while the clergies would cast an ‘Allegiance Detection’.
Allegiance Detection was used on Mycroft to determine the stance of each lifeform, a sacred spell developed from the Holy Light principle that ‘Those who awakened Holy Light must be not evil’. It would be a simple and useful spell to detect intelligence: beings with certain wisdom would be found, whether they were pure energy, constructs or normal beings, and in turn the caster would receive feedback about their allegiances.
Given that the mechanism with which Allegiance Detection took effect was the spirit and that there were no conditions for its casting, it was much more reliable than the Nature-class spell ‘Life Detection’ in the absence of nature, save for the fact that it takes a high-level caster.
“All eight worlds have no life. The environments appear secure as well.”
Joshua relaxed after generally confirming the situation, having tensed and prepared to act at a moment’s notice. The most dangerous period for expeditions was the initial moments, the time right after teleportation: what if the expedition was sent directly to a magma world, or into the depths of an aquatic world, perhaps a toxic world of acid?
The handpicked expedition members just might be able to swim in magma, but their equipment would not be able to activate in the depths or when covered in acid. Therefore, if the party could not cast a protective spell in time as their spirit began to dull, even an elite party would be wiped out.
Joshua had taken that into consideration, which was why he had initially planned to help every party maintain a defensive barrier for some time at the start of their teleportation, That would avoid them from dying to hazardous environments or sudden threats, but due to technical issues, that was unachievable, which was why he resorted to the next best solution and witness their initial moments of exploration firsthand.
“The Flame of those worlds are almost dying… they are worse off than myself.”
Joshua and Karlis were sharing their senses, and the Steel Python could not help sighing grimly as it watched the eight different worlds. “They are not destroyed by Evil Gods; I can’t feel the power of Chaos… Still, they were not destroyed at once. My guess is that when the Evil God of Fertility passed by, it offset all balance of the ecosystem in the worlds around, and those worlds are approaching death despite surviving.”
That was what Joshua thought as well. He himself had touched the remains of Fertility, and was aware of the essence of its power.
It was a force that compelled a target to bloom so much it declines. From certain perspectives, it might appear to be extreme, singular-direction time acceleration, and yet was much more terrible than that. In the period of sudden bloom, every hidden flaw would burst out instantly… it was impossible to master such formidable power, and therefore it meant faster self-destruction. And from there, the energy that dispersed from the target would be plundered by the Evil God of Fertility.
There would be Helium flash even with planets, which in turn expanded into red giants that swiftly cooled and withered, before becoming black dwarfs after all energy had been stolen.
As for why the powerful Evil God of Fertility was defeated by the Sage… Joshua had a rather immature guess, and it was that the Evil God had catalyzed the Sage to an unprecedented peak form… which never declined.
After all, Joshua himself could amplify himself to a near flawless state in his battle against Fattrovi. If the Sage, who was likely to have no weaknesses or sickness at all to be triggered by the Evil God of Fertility, had been elevated by the Chaos being to his greatest form as well, that would meant it could not force the Sage to ‘wither’, and was quickly purified into nothingness afterward.
A tale that was true yet sad.
Ceasing his thoughts about the Evil God, Joshua turned and continue his watch of the expeditions’ current status.
The eight worlds were labeled worlds Zero One to Eight, with four of them being barren sandy worlds, two where the presence of water was confirmed, with two more remaining under survey.
At present, the six expedition parties which had generally finished exploring their surroundings were giving headquarters a status report. Naturally, the teams were unaware that Joshua could hear them directly just as they described their findings into a transceiver. The transceiver itself had a voice recording function that would dispatch signals into the Void intermittently. Meanwhile, the otherworld exploration headquarters would receive the signal, and while the delay was considerable it remained a communication method, avoiding fruitless expeditions if the parties ever met an accident.
“Report from World Zero Two. Temporary label: ‘Barren World’, luminosity being 52, gravity deviation 1.13, mana concentration 0.31. No water, oxygen or intelligence found—the surface is basically a compound plate of stone and soil, and elevated observation indicated that the environment here is basically identical. It is all desert wasteland, nothing of value has been found as yet.”
“Report from World Zero Seven. Temporary label: ‘Aquatic World’, luminosity is 77, gravity deviation 1.07. mana concentration here is 0.83, and we are now positioned at the depths of a calm, windless ocean. There are no signs of land or intelligence around us, and our Caster had frozen a layer of ice as our settlement. Elevated observation indicated that there are no signs of continents in a diameter of four hundred kilometers, which is approximately sixteen thousand square kilometers. Oxygen is rich here, approximately 1.92 the standard values of Mycroft. Alchemist has found a special species of algae in the water, which may be the source of rich oxygen.”
“Report from World Zero Five. This world has no light, luminosity being 3, gravity deviation is 0.92, the temperature is ninety-four degrees below, mana concentration 1.21. It’s extremely cold and dry here despite neither rain nor frost. We are now above a stone layer and had not discovered signs of intelligence—we could not carry out surveys of other regions at the moment, only able to set up temporary camp and ensure survival.”
“It’s bleeding cold here!”
“Quick, anti-elemental buffs!”
“Where’s Alchemist? Where’s the potions?”
“Don’t ask for resistance potions from me. You can’t open the lid, can’t drink it even if you did, unless you want the bottle sticking to your mouth.”
Voices of others could be heard around the ones making reports.
“World Zero Eight…”
Having completed professional training, each party leader reported their team’s findings in a special format that were recorded into the transceiver. Joshua listened carefully to their reports—his world-transcending senses only covered five meters after all. Karlis, too, listened attentively. Steel Pythons rarely traveled to other worlds, but thanks to Joshua, it always obtained much information of other worlds.
“Sounds like there’s nothing found, Joshua.”
Karlis, circling Joshua’s shoulder, appeared puzzled after it listened to reports of all six parties. “Three barren sandy worlds, one cold world completely shrouded in darkness with no light at all, an oceanic world with rich oxygen, and one team landing on a mountaintop, observing only ice and mountains around them.”
“There’s nothing of value at all, much less clues to the Archives!”
Joshua nodded in agreement. Karlis was right—none of the six otherworlds were worth developing, and had almost no value at all. Those three barren worlds notwithstanding, although researchers had hypothesized the existence of the lightless world and prepared appropriate countermeasures, it remained inhospitable for humans: ninety degrees below was no longer a matter of freezing them to death, even metals would become fragile.
On the other hand, the oceanic world may have some value, but it would be difficult to establish base there. Unless the Seventh Expedition finds a continent or dispatched a Supreme-tier mage to freeze an entire ice shelf, follow-up development would be impossible. The same holds true for the mountainous world, unless the expedition team could find a suitable location, there was no way they could climb the snow mountain to build their base, making developing either world costly but with minimal rewards.
“However, that dark world be formed by the crash of the Archives.”
Joshua nodded thoughtfully at the screen of World Zero Five, and pointed out the possibility. “Perhaps the dust rising from this collision blanketed the sun, or perhaps the Archives pulverized the small sun of that world which had been fused mana body of light elements, which was why it could be so cold.”
However, the environment was too poor. The exploration party simply could not begin their survey even if the Caster had buffed the party with ‘Heat Barrier’ or ‘Ice Resistance’. Furthermore, the light and heat from the Clergy’s divine spell ‘Radiant Ember’ would last no longer than 0.8 seconds in that environment before it was cut short. Last but not least, if not for the Caster’s quick thinking to buff the party with a ‘Frost Barrier’ and engulfing everyone in an elemental ice layer that was around twenty degrees below zero—to everyone’s relief, they might have been to force to camp right there and explore from that fixed point.
In the end, the fridge was occasionally warmer than home.
Therefore, the search for the Archives was left with the two remaining worlds which had not been studied. Joshua hence turned his eyes to the screens of World Zero One and Zero Three.
Incidentally, the party leader of the expedition exploring World Zero Three had just concluded their survey and was excitedly reporting into the transceiver.
“This is World Zero Three of the Dark Domain. My report is of ‘extreme importance’!”
The leader’s words had instantly caught Joshua’s and Karlis’s attention. Man and Python looked at each other, finding it a good start just as the leader of the Third Expedition Team quickly continued, “temporary label: Supremely Rich World’, luminosity 39, gravity deviation 1.54, meaning that there are faint light and stronger gravity. The land is flat and barren, and we did not find any water or intelligence. The world’s atmosphere is compounded with substantial toxic substance, making breathing impossible and really unsuitable for living.”
“But,” the team leader added after reporting a whole bunch of bad news, and Joshua could see his excited gaze from behind his enchanted armor. “But, the mana concentration of this world is 11.21 times above standard values! It’s a super-mana world! Here, even an illumination spell could produce a ‘daytime’ effect! Still, due to the excessively active elements we are afraid of experimenting with other spells.”
Eleven times the magical energy of Mycroft continent?!
Those words were enough to freeze the knowledgeable pair of Joshua and Karlis. But unlike Joshua who fell into deep thought, the Steel Python gaped its maw and exclaimed in astonishment, “eleven times the magical concentration of a post-Mana Tide world? What does that mean? Won’t that world’s mana be liquified? Heavens… such a world…”
“That world is still inhospitable.”
Joshua interrupted Karli’s awed, frowning as he stared at the screen of World Zero Three, sensing the environment on the other side through the Restoration Beam—and found that the party leader was right. The mana concentration there was around nine to twelve times the standard values, rich by any standards.
“However, mana is so thick there that it rendered magical instruments unusable. Radiation there is so high that survival is impossible, and most spells would naturally diminish or develop errors in casting… Additionally, the environment is terrible. At most it could be used for those ascending to train, but it’s otherwise useless.”
‘Still, I am quite intrigued why it would contain such elevated levels of magical energy.’
Such was the warrior’s genuine thoughts. After all, dead, barren worlds around the Void Vortex with elevated magical energies might be easily found. The world of Simboa had been in the eye of that particular storm, or its mana concentration would have been a thousand times beyond standard value—but worlds in the Dark Domain should have near-dying Flames, why would it have such high levels of man?
Be that as it may, the report from the expedition team on World Zero Three had yet ended. The team leader was still reporting excitedly, “apart from the rich mana, we are sure that the desert we are at is, in fact, composed of rare metal particles, particles that appeared to be the remains of some grand-scale, advanced magical object!”
“The remains of that object were simply too damaged to the point that it had completely disintegrated into pure grains of alloy. However, Alchemist has confirmed that those materials definitely can be reused, and our findings are equal to discovering a colossal alloy mine for the Empire!”
The party leader appeared out of breath as he said that, probably due to excitement or poor atmospheric conditions. Spells for oxygen supply could not provide too much at once, but there was nothing unusual about that: findings in the expedition would be converted to accumulated points rewarded to party members. Whether that world was a high-mana world or an alloy-mine, if the finding was verified, that party would get a total of 7500 to 12000 exchange points as well as three B-class exchange clearance—in other words, an A-class exchange clearance! They might even be distributed part of the diggings from the mine, providing an unending source of cumulative points.
“It’s a pity that too much time had passed. That advanced magical object could not be recovered, only recycled as raw materials.”
The party leader then added regretfully as he caught his breath. “We are curious what colossal enchanted object could form a metallic desert, but there is no question that even if we don’t know why it’s here and damaged so extensively, the civilization that created it must have been extremely advanced.”
It was definitely a pity. If they had really found such a colossal magical object akin to the huge, moving city where Zero Three resided in Karlis so long ago, it would not be a stretch for them to be rewarded with S-class clearance. That was the pinnacle of a civilization’s technology, carrying inestimable value!
If Zero Three had not been aiding Moldavia’s magical technological development all along, the magical industry would not become widespread so quickly. And that was only data from a single Artificial Intelligence—if the entire mobile city could be recovered, the progress of Mycroft magical technology would have been greater!
The report of the Third Expedition Party soon concluded. They would continue exploring the metal desert in search of the reason for concentrated mana, along with the remains of that object which may still exist. Joshua ignored Karlis as it muttered things like ‘if only I had such rich mana’ or ‘how nice it’d be if I have such fine conditions to itself, and turned towards the screen for World Zero One.
In other words, the world where Priest’s Elite Party was.
Until now, the world where Priest’s party was remained in static. If Joshua could not sense their heartbeats and normal vital signs, he would have thought that they were in danger.
After what felt like hours had passed, after Joshua had seen a curious Silver Fairy touched the restoration beam and exclaimed in delight, calling for its friends to go for a dip in the ‘hot springs’ with it, Priest’s tired voice finally wafted from the screen showing World Zero One.
“Reporting from World Zero One, temporary label: ‘Abnormal World’. This place is special… luminosity here is 25, gravity deviation 0.33, mana concentration 1.78. It’s a hot world with average temperatures of 85 degrees, and we have found no water, oxygen or signs of intelligent life.”
“Another unusual world.”
Karlis ceased its envying of World Zero Three, and turned to watch the screen of World Zero One with Joshua, before murmuring in surprise. “Eh? Isn’t it snowing over there? Why would they say that there’s no water, and why is that world hot?”
Soon, Priest’s further explanation answered those questions. “When we first teleported here, we arrived at the center of a basin and encountered a snowfall phenomenon unique to this world. We were doubtful due to the heat here, but Alchemist soon realized that it is not frost falling, but the condensation of metals.”
“Indeed, the snow here is ‘metal snow’. We climbed out of the basin and found a safer ridge not covered in the snow, and found that the world was filled with volcanos and rift valleys. There is substantial dust mixed with burning metallic vapors cascading into the skies, which cools and sediments as the metal snow. Part of those metals would vaporize from the hot ground and perpetuate the cycle, while others would precipitate as chunks of crude metal ores, and the mountain chains we are at now is covered in a surface of alloys.”
There was no doubt the world was another huge ore mine. Both Joshua and Karlis nodded in response: it was assuredly a fine discovery. Naturally exposed mineral layers and hot surroundings were a favorite for dwarves. They did not fear toxic gases and could move freely in such realms, and it may well be heaven for them if the snow were metals.
[They lay upon their gem-crusted beds as an eternal furnace burned in a corner. All could pick up metals they desired from the ground, forged all that they desire with none to trouble them. They would consume spirits in wanton pleasure, without pain in their heads nor drunkenness. Hot air, mithril, and adamantite are everywhere, and all would have secured house beside magma lakes.]
[—Dwarven Sermon, Chapter: Paradise]
“But that alone doesn’t count as ‘unusual’,” Joshua critiqued. “It’s just a world with lower gravity, active geology and rich with metals… unless there is more special information.”
And that was when Priest continued his report. “This world appears to have no sun. The source of light is from the fissures split upon the ground or magma light from volcanic explosion… but bizarrely, there is a circle of rainbow in the sky.”
As he spoke, Priest sent a series of special information to the transceiver: those were codes to encrypt images and footages which Joshua directly unlocked. Thus, he received a magical recording that was not especially clear.
In the completely dark sky were layers of metallic clouds. After an especially violent snowfall, the clouds vanished for a brief moment, and the circular rainbow in the darkness could be seen in the dull skies.
The seven colors of the rainbow distinct as it circled, seemingly around a dark but solid object, streaking across the skies at a speed that was not too slow.
As the footage ended, Priest’s tired and rather hesitating voice said, “This is the dark rainbow we’ve found… How did it exist with the sun extinguished and water no longer around? Furthermore, each time it appeared, mana concentration would promptly rise five teams above standard value. The skew in gravity would also unusually alleviate considerably, even causing brief entire loss of attraction force while countless volcanos erupt simultaneously, shooting endless dust like tidal waves that engulf the skies. It’s like…”
At those words, the ever-calm Priest gulped and said a little fearfully, “It’s as if we, along with this world, is being pulled toward that dark presence!”