“Master Nostradamus, please advise the Count…”
Starfall Year 839, evening, the fifth of May. The underground Practical Lab beneath the Salt Sea Plains, the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds.
At the hall of the laboratories, a researcher was almost praying to the person beside him. “This is, after all, a joint research center—we ought to be as careful as possible. While him, a Legendary champion would not fear failure, we’re not, and a single mishap would drag the entire cavity into it…”
The researcher’s tone was earnest and had the hint of a sob, just as quite a number of other researchers were nodding fearfully as well.
“Yes, yes, that’s exactly it!”
“Although each battle-class are masters of lifeforce, I never expected that…”
“It’s really too dangerous. Truly, and clearly unnecessary…”
The rather scattered voices echoed amidst the crowd, and in response, the elderly mage who had just teleported there and was not too sure what was going on made a helpless expression.
“Alright, I get it—the rest of you, please, silence,” he said softly, sighing, and turned to the white-robed researcher. “What’s Joshua up to now? Still, you could speak to him if you have any issues… he’s rather cordial.”
But in response, the white-robed researcher shared a glance with the others, before turning back to Nostradamus and exclaiming rather vindictively, “We wouldn’t dare!”
After that brief outburst, however, his tone softened. “Your Excellency, the Count’s experiments are too dangerous and unethical… Get if him to stop, or if push comes to shove, please request for His Imperial Majesty to dissuade him as well… It’s really exceeding the limits of our thought…”
—That’s why you people dare to raise the issue with me?
Having been summoned there on an emergency communication, Nostradamus’s brow tightened as he found himself seemingly being stereotyped as an approachable person—it was a pity that it was true. Therefore, after listening to all the researchers’ complaint, he simply shook his head.
“Israel?” He muttered feebly. “It would be bizarre if he actually dissuaded Joshua. Both of them take dragons as pets and are inhumane even at home—whatever appeared threatening to them differs greatly from what appeared threatening to you lot.”
“As for now… Fine. I’ll ask after him, but you lot had better submit the ‘Otherworld Ecosystem Alteration’ procedures soon. We’re working with the elves Skypiercing White Tower—the Nature’s Magister had created this perfect Nature’s domain with her own hands, not for your squandering.”
With that, the old mage strode off to the Practical Lab at the heart of research center while the researchers responded affirmatively. “These mages…” he muttered to himself as he went, “too young and too inexperienced, getting jumpy at everything. Really, life experience is needed around here…”
Soon, he reached where no researcher of the entire cavern research center dare approach, opened the door to the Fourth Practical Lab which prompted a rush of thick air.
“Joshua. What got you in the mood to experiment—”
Nostradamus was about to ask what his friend had been playing at that the researchers who spoke to the dead and dissected magical creatures alive were scared off their living daylights. However, when he entered the practical lab and saw clearly what had been piling around, he could not help inhaling sharply.
“By the Truth. What the hell is all this?”
In front of him was a rich pile of ‘bodies’, laying silently.
The silver four-walled practical lab was actually located in a miniature artificial demiplane. By connecting a magical door and reality and severing the enchantment link when needed, it could avoid involving the external reaches in case of mishaps during experiments. That was precisely why the Practical Labs were extremely vast, having the size of a middle-sized city square.
But now, upon all of that surface area were dense stacks of spindle-shaped life-support crystal tubes, each of which held a ‘body’ within.
The reason all of them were not called corpses was because each one was still alive. Nostradamus sensed that the bodies were breathing and undergoing metabolism, even as clusters of silver lights danced in the air—those were fairies, happily supplying required nutrients to each life-support tube and keeping the bodies alive.
Nevertheless, Nostradamus would never have been shocked by mere bodies. Being a Legendary champion who once stood in the battlefield against the orcs, he had seen actual hills of corpses… What then was living bodies to him? Indeed, what made him yelp was the humanoid creatures with many aberrative forms mixed amidst those largely identical bodies.
Amongst them were those with artificial bodies with puppet parts, their biological portions coexisting with the machine portion.
Amongst them were synths, whose body that been completely switched for metal puppets parts, leaving only their brains, brainstems and backbone—some even had those assimilated.
Apart from them, there were those who had assimilated with magical beasts and was almost essentially beast, bodies with organs exchanged for artificial Extraordinary organs and was essentially a cyborg—there were even those whose brains had been switched for pure enchanted mechanical components.
Human models of countless variety and anomaly were placed int the crystal tubes, their eyes closed and breathing out bubbles from time to time. There was no question that those bodies were alive, with not a single one dead.
And at the center of the Fourth Practical Lab, the man who was seated upon a chair, appearing to be thinking of some problem while being surrounded by all those bodies sensed the arrival of his friend.
“Nostradamus?” He asked with the hint of surprise, rising slowly as he turned towards the mage. “Why are you here?”
“I was summoned—you’ve broken those researchers down into tears.”
Walking past the crystal tubes, Nostradamus arrived before Joshua, his expression solemn as he looked glanced at the laboratory around him. “And here I was wondering what it could be, and this does explain things… What are you scheming? Human experiment? Don’t you have no use for that since long ago?”
“Of course not, what are you imagining… I’m trying to come up with a new body template for the Guardians.”
Joshua waved him off, appearing rather chagrined. “I’ve just accidentally made too many. I’ll preserve them for now, and wait for William and the others to come and see for themselves which would work best.
“For the Guardians? Well, that explain things.” Nostradamus quickly replied.
The man before him was in charge of building new bodies for the Guardians of the Archives. Having the power of creation, it would be a matter of time for him to create a small planet, much less here human form. Still, there is something unnerving about how those bodies were placed—it was as if they were all stuffed corpses soaked in preservatives.
Furthermore, that was not the most important issue at hand.
“Joshua, if you’re only building new physical bodies for the Guardians, surely there’s no need for such… excessive experiment?”
Slowly approaching one of the crystal tubes, Nostradamus stared into one of the bodies. It was one who clearly had received a transplanted organ from a magical creature, as well as having been mechanically altered. “Humans… are not like this,” he said, holding the disgruntled sensation inside with a grim tone. “Those Guardians had changed themselves into non-humans, and we are supposed to change them back into humans, not another inhuman form.”
That was perhaps precisely why those fearless researchers were too frightened to enter the practical lab. They were not scared of those bodies that were simply alive but were not self-aware, and instead feared the purpose behind those bodies.
In return, Joshua’s expression sobered as well. “That so?” He said, puzzled and frowning.
It was a matter of simple prosthetic altering, mind uploading, a little genetic modification and cloning work. At most, there would be transplanting of monster parts, or artificial biological organs—was that not absolutely normal?
“It’s not normal at all.”
Nostradamus shook his head somberly, appearing to have noticed the questioning behind Joshua’s expression. He walked up to the warrior and scanned the crystal tubes around them once more, before pointing at one of the bodies: its vertebra had been replaced by a metallic bone frame, while both eyes were exchanged for fake machine ones. “You don’t decide those alterations for them,” he said seriously, “it should be their choice. Even if it’s not useful or fragile, we should be doing all they could to provide them with the human forms they had in the first places.”
“Actually, it’s not just for the Guardians.”
Joshua shook his head in response, unable to repress a sense of helplessness—the mage had been a little too stern and held strong justice that he was not sure if he should talk about his other plans.
After providing the bodies he would provide the Guardians, Joshua felt a prompt inspiration to project the process even which the life of Mycroft humans would be refined… A process that could be widely used and where everyone would attain certain extraordinary powers. He had the sudden idea to attempt creating a ‘base form’ that possessed perfect supernatural gifts, and the result of that experiment were eleven hundred and seventy-nine bodies of different physical composition but largely retaining human form.
Things such as synthetic alteration, mind uploading, cloning, genetic modification or organ transplants were mundane for Joshua, and more or less the same as the kid next door having a pair of glasses made. After all, whose child in the warrior’s previous world did not undergo several genetic corrections since they were young? Synthetic implants and metal bodies were all part of the warrior’s life, and everyone had the freedom to equip body parts and organ functions.
However, would such supremely advanced rationale not be too excessive for them? Should he be adjusting the public impression bit by bit after a few more years?
That ought not to be—or at least, Joshua did not think so.
Both Nostradamus and the other researchers of Mycroft had simply not come around. They found the alterations uncomfortable, when it had already been discreetly changing all races millennia before.
What was the difference between so-called synths and alchemists who used enchanted constructs to replace their own body? Did Barnil himself not have a magical fake eye? As for feralization, genetic modification up to cloning, what difference was there when compared to mages and alchemists transplanting organs of magical creatures, changing one’s lifeform and replicating their own bodies as backup? Others notwithstanding, there already had been one Alchemist in the expedition team under Joshua’s command who had assumed that path.
As for the synths and mind-uploading that Nostradamus detested conspicuously, those were essentially phylactery of liches and the shifting of the soul to a lich. In fact, his Soul Mastery had done something that was very much the same, and the difference was in mere terms of embodiment. One employed magical energy and the other, machines—there were simply advantages and disadvantages to each, and nothing else.
The superhumans of Mycroft had long since performed such unfamiliar yet similar things… Because in the end, everyone wanted the same thing: human evolution at its essence.
It takes thousands or perhaps a dozen thousand years for natural evolution to occur even with the acceleration of magical powers. In fact, for humans alone, it had already been a dozen thousand years since their physique and supernatural talents changed—great upheavals would at least take centuries or millennia when the entire population of Mycroft enters the Void. When that time comes, humans would evolve the ability to adapt to the Void, as well as greater Extraordinary talents.
But by then, tropical rainforests could have grown over the ashes of human bones, much less change. Natural shifts were simply too slow, and as long as civilization existed, humans would never stop changing themselves. They would try to evolve and strengthen themselves in any way they could, be it through vaccination, antibodies, implants akin to Shelter’s Black Fog, or even changing themselves into half-magical, half-machine lifeform. Even the three classes of supernatural power training: magic, aura and Holy Light were a process where the human path of gradual change and refinement was distinct.
The reason Joshua wanted to design a ‘base form’ was to attempt directly creating a trajectory that commonly applied for humans and was without danger by using his own rich experiences. He hoped to fasten that process by human races and elevate the starting point for all humans, allowing them a portion of supernatural powers at birth, a ‘Silver race’ where they would attain Silver-tier powers upon maturity.
He wanted to compress gradual change occurring across centuries into one single step, but it was now clear that striding too far would only spread fear.
‘Looks like the term modification could only be put in the inventory for exchanges… the meditation on perfect base human form has to wait for a few years.’
Such was Joshua’s thought, although the warrior was in no hurry. He knew that as time passed, the assault of Mana Tide and Chaos would see that those meaningless fears vanished like a puff of smoke. When that time comes, humans should be refining and augmenting themselves, and would no longer have the time or effort to think too much.
“Although it’s ridiculous, there’s something not right.”
Meanwhile, after briefly studying the Fourth Practical Lab, Nostradamus asked puzzledly, “What else have you been doing, Joshua? Those researchers are, after all, Gold-tier mages and should not be that timid if it’s just studying human body modification… They looked as if you are about to blow up the entire underground cavern.”
“Probably because I caught a lesser Void Behemoth for dissecting,” Joshua replied nonchalantly, gesturing for the elderly mage, who appeared shocked to look up at a slab behind him.
There, shrouded in a haze of Steel Strength was a piece of flesh that was squirming and convulsing incessantly. It was a translucent cystic dark-gray organic matter that was growing all manner of appendages, and remained alive though it had been cut apart, with endless Steel Strength transfigured into probing needles and fluid inserted deep into the indescribable piece of flesh to study the composition within. Densely packed golden eyeballs were wriggling wildly on its innumerable tumors and exposed nerve nodes, but those seemingly intimidating optical organs was showing an expression of extraordinary fear.
Nostradamus could almost hear it cry, ‘Save me!’
“I was looking around at Simboa a while ago, where I discovered the presences of many lesser Void Behemoths. That’s why I caught one of them and brought it back here—naturally, this is just a part of its body. Most of it is being subjugated at my true form, proving to be quite the docile creature.
Joshua stepped up and ‘gently’ patted the flesh of the Void Behemoth. It was squirming violently, as if intent on splitting and spreading its own body to assimilate the slab. Joshua watched as it soon ceased all movement, seemingly entering a comatose state, before continuing, “to be frank, I only wanted to examine if Void Behemoth bodies could be altered into useful living weapons, but I unexpectedly discovered many interesting information.
Nostradamus swallowed and stared rather blankly at the gray-white body that appeared to have completely given up on thinking, before asking subconsciously, “Does it have to do with Evil Gods?”
“That’s right.” Joshua nodded cheerfully. “it does have to do with Evil Gods.”