Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The Dark Domain was an extremely vast space at the edge of the Void Vortex, spanning dozens of oblong regions the size of Mycroft’s region. Worlds one to eight were spread across within, with many more dead worlds scattered around them.
All worlds were dull and lightless within that region. Since it was unobservable from other regions and their coordinates indeterminable, they virtually did not exist and were hence known as darkness.
But now, the Northern Empire’s External Exploration Department was dispatching signals of the strongest frequencies, calling out to the party in World Zero Three amidst that domain that did not exist, ordering them to cease exploration at once, stay where they were and wait for the return teleportation.
“Calling Third Party. According to the Empire’s official researchers, you are now in proximity to a mortal threat and thus in grave danger. Please cease all exploration activities, activate the Restoration Beam, stay on alert for the teleportation beam. All intelligence you had gathered has been recorded—please do not worry about the issue of contribution. Repeat, please cease all exploration activities, activate the Restoration Beam and stay on alert.”
A Grancypher communications officer was linked to the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds, channeling the power of that ancient wonder to execute the long-range communication. His expression was grim, for not only did the information mattered to the fate of five elite party members, but because four Legendary champions were conferring quietly behind him.
To be truthful, he was so nervous that his feet were numb.
“What happened? Why is the expedition called off?” Nostradamus was saying right behind the communications personnel. He had just received word from Joshua and rushed there from the East Barnett highlands, unsure of the current circumstances.
Then, beside him, Barnil and William who were conducting research in the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds offered a kind explanation. “Joshua had discovered the presence of an old enemy in World Zero Three. That was definitely a troublesome bastard, we should be careful.”
“That’s right. It almost escaped even when we encircled it at the time.”
In response, Nostradamus glanced at Joshua sideways. “An old enemy of yours? Are they not annihilated yet? That’s unusual—doesn’t seem like you.”
“Annihilated. The problem is that the enemy is a flock, not singular.”
Joshua shook his head at the tease. Nostradamus knew about the Black Fog’s existence as well, and the old mage gestured that he was aware as he generally explained the current circumstances. “You suspect that World Zero Three is a former hive of the Black Fog, or a battlefield against Evil Gods? That’s definitely dangerous.”
There was no doubt that the Black Fog was a Legendary-tier combat force. As a collective runic creation of the microscopic scale, it possessed supreme erosive and devouring capacity, and would logically possess intelligence that surpasses humans.
Furthermore, beings below Legend basically had no chance against Legends, unless they had Legendary-tier techniques… And the dense remains on World Zero Three that actually piled into a desert proved that the Black Fog once poured like rain, being destroyed by the millions. In the opinion of the Legends present, those that can achieve something like could only be an Evil God, or multiple Evil Gods.
“I’m going myself to take a look.” Joshua decided the four Legends had generally understood the current situation. “There is definitely value in dangerous places, and I might find special information about the Black Fog and Evil Gods in World Zero Three. They are all enemies, and the more we know, the better.”
“Then I shall monitor the other worlds. I’ll get there myself as well if there’s danger.” Nostradamus nodded lightly, walking towards the surveillance room on another side, while Barnil and William left as well.
The Grancypher , having been docked at the edge of the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds, meant that the Commanding Will was nearby. As Joshua contacted it, the teleportation force of the ancient building quickly shone upon the warrior’s body—a dark space unfurled at once, consuming Joshua’s form.
Meanwhile, the expedition party on World Zero Three was staying where they were as instructed, refraining from any exploration.
“Was there any particular danger about the information we sent back?”
In front of the temporary camp, the team leader was looking around for anything unusual and murmuring to himself doubtfully. “From how the communications officer spoke, it’s like we may die at any moment.”
“It’s for our own good.” Mage, who was standing by the rear and maintaining the camp’s defensive barrier shrugged. “This is a different world after all, it’s normal for there to be dangers we can’t observe.”
“I just find it a pity. There should have been more to be discovered…”
All five expedition members sighed at once. They had stopped all plans to explore further following the communications that came out of nowhere, and while there was nothing of note in the region several kilometers around them, would there not be information of value further away that would win them substantial contribution points? Although the team leader was clearly aware that the gains at present were rewarding, it remained disheartening for the entire Third Party.
“Forget the horse carriages. We’re only walking when we return…”
However, before that thought finished, a tremendous rumble suddenly echoed from the metal desert that extended further beyond vision. The five expedition members who were already on their toes were jolted at once, quickly looking up toward the horizon, at the direction of the tremendous reverberation that echoed as if the world was breaking. All of them watched, frozen by what was transpiring, bewildered.
It was a wall of iron-red dust cloud that rose high above. Infinite minuscule metal dust was pulled into the skies by a profound power, blanketing heaven and earth… Still, that was not what astonished everyone. Instead, it was the ground that appeared to be collapsing beneath the dust cloud—as if devoured by a colossal maw, the desert of endless metal dust vanished by great portions over the horizon. Everyone could see that there was no longer any land in the distance, only darkness.
“What do we do? Our position wouldn’t hold against a calamity!” The team’s Alchemist burst in agitation. Although the Restoration Beam and the Mage’s barrier would withstand Supreme-tier attacks together, they would not fare well if all of them fell into an abyss.
“What else is there?” Despite their initial shock, the expedition party quickly recovered, being elites amongst elites. After some thought, their leader came up with a solution at once. “Rider, start the car and activate flying mode. We’re all getting on!”
“What about the surface equipment?”
“Are those stuff more important than humans? Leave them!”
The well-trained party was all onboard the car in ten seconds as instructed. As spiral rotors and magical vents hummed, the flight-capable off-road vehicle had risen high above as magical energy rippled, while in the distance, the collapse from the horizon had reached where they had camped. Everyone looked down silently as their base was consumed by a great, dark crevice, vanishing amidst churning sand and dust.
‘If we weren’t alert …’ the party leader quietly thought, and shuddered.
“On flight mode, the car would last two and a half hours even if both Mage and Alchemist keep charging it.”
Rider, on the wheel, watched the various meters at the front row of the off-road vehicle. “All our energy stone reserves were at camp, and all gone now.”
“Let it go,” the Leader said and sighed. “We’re less than ten seconds in the air, but the collapse had already reached us. We could only hope that the teleporting would hurry up.”
As there were minute differences between worlds in all aspects, all expedition members were below Gold-tier on their first mission to avoid the clash of supernatural powers unique to advanced Extraordinary individuals. They would follow the plans of the Imperial External Exploration Department and complete their Ascension in the Void, molding perfect adaptability for the future. Still, that was precisely why amongst the party members, only Mage and Clergy could fly, needing the aid of magical equipment such as the off-road vehicle.
Just as everyone rejoiced over their decisiveness albeit with complicated emotions, Clergy pointed to part of the collapse. “Doesn’t it look like there’s a building there?”
Everyone turned at once to where Clergy was pointed, and then saw a colossal cluster of black buildings.
The sudden massive collapse on the surface of World Zero Three had seen the boundless metal desert and earth fall into the bottomless depth. Everything on the ground was darkness and obscureness as if staring from the edge of the cliff into the abyss, but it was in such surroundings that everyone from the Third Party noticed, amidst the depths of the collapse and endless stirring dust, black buildings were appearing out of the rolling metal grains.
Those black buildings were huge, awe-inspiring and held a unique aesthetic. Signs of curious erosion were laden over its surface, as if they had kept standing despite infinite attacks. Still, although the damage appeared serious, there was actually powerful magical energy unleashed from the surface of the black buildings. It was easy to tell that the building was pitch black because it had seen prolonged and direct exposure to mana radiation.
Those black buildings had stood buried beneath the thick metal sand for a thousand years. They simply stood where they were, instead of streaming with the sand to the depths. As they flew silently in the skies, the Third Party looked down below, their gazes piercing dust and metallic clouds rising from below ground to see magma layers stirring at the earth’s mantle—there was a massive geological shift, the cause of World Zero Three’s great collapse.
What actually happened in this world?
That question revolved around their minds even as the team thought about it frightfully. They never witnessed the majestic force of Legends or experienced world-destroying calamities, and could never even imagine the what calamity or war led to such profoundness—the former world was buried beneath the metal desert, its very essence damaged, devouring everything on the surface time after time.
Be that as it may, they no longer needed their imagination at the moment. As dimensional ripples unfurled, a hand reached out from nowhere, catching the flying car and simply throwing everyone aboard to the other side of the portal. When that was accomplished and the expedition members’ safety was ensured, Joshua stepped out from the portal made by the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds and looked down upon everything that unfolded beneath him.
“There’s something unusual, as I’ve expected.” He said quietly. “The style of these buildings was remarkably similar to the Shelter civilization I’ve seen… It’s not a civilization destroyed by the Black Fog—it was part of the Shelter civilization itself!”
Even so, knowing that was unhelpful. With his Steel Strength vision, Joshua could see directly inside the buildings, where all information and documents that could have been present were reduced to scattered ash under high-energy radiation. Only the main frame of the building survived.
In the silence, the warrior rose into the air after thinking for a few moments, quickly breaking through the Atmosphere and arrived several hundred thousand meters above the surface. It would have been the edge of the world back in Mycroft, but Joshua could not feel any sign that he was about to enter the Void even then, meaning that the edge of world was further away.
But soon, the warrior dashed at dozens of kilometers per second out of the atmosphere—if that thin sea of gas can be called one—and arrived into the dark starry sky.
There, his inference was proven.
Joshua looked down at the dark and devastated planetary body beneath him, nodding and confirming that the so-called World Zero Three was not a world with a single continent, but a spherical planet.
And World Zero Three itself was a shattered planet.
One-fourth of its mass had been broken apart, leaving a gaping crevice by its northwestern sector. Endless dust wafted away from it, shaping into a zone of dust that extended to the lengths of several planets. Its surface was layered with iron-red metal sand, and while it buried all buildings, it kept the planet from disintegrating in its entirety.
Indeed, the Black Fog was not destroying but protecting that world, keeping it from breaking apart due to the extensive damage. However, it was meaningless—Joshua could not sense any presence of life from the planet, with any soul having dissipated in the thousand years that passed.
In fact, he sensed nothing.
Having checked the surface, Joshua turned and glanced at the Void around. He was now on the planetary orbit of World Zero Three, and could see its distant dull red sun. It appeared supremely colossal and yet extraordinarily dim, while the endless Dark Domain cascaded… It was a red giant nearing death, the region it once occupied not here but the heart of a faraway planetary system.
Clearly, the Evil God of Fertility had once descended upon this world directly, triggering the sun to burst into a red giant. For its part, the Black Fog tried but failed to protect the realm, not even achieving its objective even after piling endless remains upon the desert planet. It was precisely the case for the buildings on that shattered planet, which was why all their surface was blackened, while everyone died in that majestic detonation.
Flying in weightless space, Joshua accelerated to two-thousandths of one lightspeed, patrolling the Multiverse. He found many definitive traces of battle: on the outer zones of the dark space, there were many similar steel-red metals clouds wafting, the remains of destroyed Black Fog. Joshua even sensed the lingering presence of Chaos—it was the scent of Evil Gods, although there were no parts of Evil Gods left, just its presence.
Moreover, Joshua found a small planet that was one fifth the size of World Zero Three. The warrior then realized that it was not some small planet but World Zero Three’s moon, sent flying away from its orbit by the battle of two profound beings and floating in the darkness, even able to see the trail of impact behind the moon.
Apart from that, Joshua found many huge runic formations and crystal constructing floating around on the trail of the dislodge moon. He flew forward to study the markings on those civilization creations, confirming that those were labels of the Shelter world.
[Property of Shelter Omega]
[Nok Research Center, Central Federation]
The remains of space centers and magical creations floating on the planet’s orbit had been exposed to worse radiation than the buildings of the faraway World Zero Three. However, they were also far sturdier than those buildings—the markings on them were distinct after so long. Then, as Joshua studied the text on it, he could not help feeling a familiarity… Although it was a fairly ordinary name, he seemed to have heard the Nok somewhere before.
After a while, the warrior’s eyes widened abruptly after checking his own data vault, remembering where he heard that name.
“It’s a name the leader of the Shelter civilization mentioned when the Evil Gods invaded!”
Joshua turned, staring at the broken planet behind him and muttered with a low voice, “Master Nok, maker of the Black Fog—his team had inscribed the core formation of the Black Fog…”
“If the building on that moon is the research center of Nok’s team, there is no question that the planet is the manufacturing plant of the Black Fog’s original form, where it had been born!”
Just as Joshua was left astonished by his own discovery, Priest and the others carefully approached the edge of one of the colossal fissures on World Zero One, ready to observe the heavy metal circulation system unique to that world.
Each assigned to different work, all of them made a scrutinous observation while controlling various apparatus. They studied the composition of the heated gases ejecting out of the fissure and analyzed the fundamental elemental composition of that world. Just a moment ago, when a sensor indicated that there were massive stores of adamantite, everyone had entered a fervent embrace, almost forgetting themselves.
“Hahaha! According to the information, there are three hundred times the admantite reserves here compared to Mycroft, or perhaps more! We’re rich!”
“Although excavation would be difficult, such substantial stores of adamantite would be reason enough for Legendary champions to act! We’ve finally found valuable points!”
Priest was thrilled as well, but he kept the others on their toes. “Don’t be too excited,” he said, “our mission is exploring the world—points are secondary. There’s still no trace of our main objective, Unified Archives, but if we do find it, that’s the true harvest!”
Everyone calmed slightly in response. Priest was right—it was certainly not the time to lose themselves celebrating. Neither their expedition nor their mission was over, they could keep celebrations for when they returned.
But just as everyone resumed work, everyone including Priest did not notice something.
In the limitless darkness beyond the world’s atmosphere, a streak of black colored shroud had slipped into the atmosphere and fused into the metal clouds. It poured down like rain afterward, and hence descended into the world, slipping within crevices… Their descent was without sound, presence or even vibration.
Incidentally, there was such a Black Fog falling down towards the rift where Priest’s party was, turning into rainwater that descended into the abyss.
However, everyone was busy studying the composition of the gases ejecting out from the depths of the earth, working solemnly and not noticing anything out of the ordinary.