Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Another silence lasted briefly, pierced by Joshua himself.
He sighed beneath the white illumination of the Archives hall, shaking his head. “It’s fine. Who cares what they do? There would always be warmongers and pacifists.”
It would be inhuman to have neither contradiction nor conflict in thought.
With that soliloquy, he promptly rose and looked around the Data Storage hall. “Everyone’s opinions are different in the first place.” He laughed as he looked at the dense rows of the data storage devices. “It’s a waste of effort to be bothered by such matters.
Zero-Three, who had been lingering behind Joshua and thinking hard about how she should console Joshua blinked and paused for a moment. “Wait… Wait,” she stammered after some time, “weren’t you looking very… very angry just a while ago?”
‘Lost and bewildered as well?’ Zero-Three left the latter part unsaid since those two words appeared to be unrelated to Joshua, who was now calm, composed and did not appear dispirited at all. The Artificial Intelligence girl even suspected that something was wrong with her observation system that she was seeing illusions.
“Angry? Of course I am. That bunch haven’t even seen the true face of an Evil God, and yet just encountering the main body of the Black Fog already pushed them to the idea for an early retreat—I understand that they are being prudent, to prepare for the worst even in case of triumphs, but I am still the only one amongst them who had seen an Evil God, and I still have no intention to run. What are they even being nervous about?”
Joshua waved his hand, and a silver halo appeared behind him. It released mana translucent crystal shards that flowed with substantial luminous data points, just like how Zero-Three connected herself to the data storage devices across the hall. “But that’s just it,” Joshua said, helping Zero-Three transfer the Archives data while leisurely strolling around the hall. “If I have to put it in words, I’m not angry over their prudence, just simply annoyed.”
“Annoyed?” Zero-Three repeated reflexively, her voice heavy with bewilderment.
“Annoyed. Annoyed at why they won’t believe I can’t reach the Sage’s level.”
Joshua pursed his lips. “I have risen from Silver to Legend in a few years, and probably would be an equal of the gods in a dozen. And there’s still at least more than twenty years before the Evil Gods’ invasion, perhaps decades more.”
“When that time comes, I would definitely be more powerful than the main body of the Black Fog, even most Evil Gods—there might even be a chance of finding the Sage as well if we’re lucky. Look, weren’t you just telling me about the ‘Evil God Wither’? That’s a very precious clue… if I could really find some hint as to what the Sage’s level had been, everything in the future would not be set in stone.
Joshua turned and patted Zero-Three’s head, who had been following behind him all along and drawing a blank at Joshua’s words. “I’m a knowledgeable warrior,” he grinned and continued, “who had witnessed the true face of the Evil God and the aftershadow of the Sage, a warrior who speaks and laughs with the gods—there’s no need for you to console me.”
“I’ve saved worlds, destroyed worlds and aided a galactic civilization to defeat a Void aberration that devoured planets. I’ve even righted a world which time was distorted—I could change fate during my morning push-ups. It’s just an Evil God invasion, it’s not me to scream panickily ‘we’re finished’.”
As he spoke, the translucent crystals that Joshua spread wherein countless data flow promptly stopped. “Alright,” Joshua said effortlessly when he noticed that, “the data for this hall is fully transferred, we can move on to the next one.”
Zero-Three was left even more bewildered. She scanned the data storage in shock, only to realize that Joshua had indeed finished transferring all data in that hall in a matter of minutes. “My transfer speed is a hundred and forty times of most Supreme mages,” she muttered, staring at the transfer progress bar that was displaying ‘100%’, “how could this be…”
“Everyone is an AI, it’s just that one is nurtured by parents while the other was made by engineers and researchers. In my opinion, you’re an ordinary human who cannot be replaced like me.”
Joshua had already started for the exit of the hall while waving at Zero-Three behind him. “I still have things to do at the Winter Fort, I won’t be keeping you company for the moment… but you can call me anytime if there’s more information about the Sage.”
Zero-Three nodded subconsciously and hence watched as Joshua’s figure left the hall. It was after she had pause for a long time that she finally realized something amidst her dejection.
“Wait, who’s human?!”
Outside the hall.
Joshua’s expression which had the hint of a smile before quickly turned calm but cold.
He extended his right hand and stared at his palm, saying that name quietly, as if mulling upon the endlessly profound meaning it embodied.
He looked up, clenching his fists and said that word pronoun coldly, the emotion that stirs within his heart unfathomable.
Finally, all emotion was compressed into a single word that was spoken without feeling.
With that, his figure disappeared. A spatial rift appeared almost instantly outside the Archives, closing itself as soon as it appeared, just like an illusion.
“The progress of human evolution is stagnating.”
It was the year-end speech for the graduating year of Winter Fort Academy in Moldavia. On a stair-shaped chamber, almost a hundred students were sitting at the front rows just as hundreds of juniors sat behind, staring solemnly at the stage that was converted to a speech platform.
A middle-aged mage calmly stood before all students, withstanding their gazes as he used magic to louden his voice and deliver it to everyone’s ears, showing neither nervousness nor hesitation.
“As all would know, the bloodlines of every human, elf, dwarf, halfling, pygmy, even the extinct centaur and orc all shared the same origins. In the primal ages dozens of million years ago, the oldest of human tribes had yet to split—there were many alien species then, with many realms yet to be developed. Our ancestors thus dwelled within those warm plains, never leaving the place over a million years.”
Nostradamus and Israel were seated on the highest edge of the chamber, both of them having withdrawn their presence and were watching the middle-aged mage speech calmly. Neither the students or any of the instructors had noticed that the two highest leaders of the Empire were right behind them, and it was in that moment that a figure appeared and sat down without pause beside Israel, drawing looks from both men.
Joshua made a ‘quiet, watch the speech’ gesture at the pair and then said nothing, which promptly stopped Nostradamus and Israel’s inquisitiveness in regards to where he went, and instead returned their attention to the long-prepared speech.
“However, an unusual climate shift—which was what now appeared to have been the First Ice Age had forced our ancestors to migrate away from their home. In that process which lasted over thousands of years, some humans went for the damp thickets of the South, some to the dry mountains to the West, while others stayed where there were… Essentially, there are as many choices as there are races—but for the first time, our ancestors spread themselves across the entire world.”
“The ones who had gone to the south were present-day elves, those who had entered the mountains were the ancestors of the dwarves, while those who stayed were the ancient barbarians of the cold realms. Both halflings and pygmies had evolved after their warm habitats of underground tunnels, and there are those lucky ones who had migrated to plains of optimal temperature, eventually becoming ordinary humans like you and I.”
“The state of life would change along with environments, a truth observed from our countless experiments. The Northern Shark Lizard are of the ice-attribute, but the Southern variants mastered the dual-attribute of water and earth. Fire dragons inhabit volcanos while lightning dragons often live at rainy summits—those are not coincidences.”
The middle-aged mage giving a speech was from the West Mountains. His voice was rich, charismatic, and showed some West Mountain accent. Everyone present, however, did not mind since he had impressed them with his strong scholarly command, which was in turn why he had the opportunity to give the speech.
“Just as we change the world, the world changes us. Life would never cease adapting to different environments and improve generation after generation—the numbers indicated that eight-hundred years ago, the average human was Iron-class. But now, here in Moldavia alone, the ability of our sixteen-year-old youths is Iron-intermediate, which is still rising at an unprecedented speed.”
“But it’s all an illusion,” the mage speaker suddenly said earnestly, “it’s not our forms evolving, but simply because everyone is receiving good nutrition such as meat and are granted access to refinement.”
“The progress at which life adapts to the environment now no longer catches up to speed where life alters our environment.”
“Our evolution had long stagnated.”
Those few words quickly stirred an uproar in the chamber. Although the sporadic chatter and surprised gaps were calmed by the instructors who were present, there were distinct shock and incomprehension in the eyes of all students.
Meanwhile, the middle-aged mage continued his speech.
“As technology advances, cultivation becomes common and Extraordinary abilities gradually entrenches into all intelligent beings on Mycroft, including elves, dwarves and halflings alike, our physical bodies no longer have to adapt to our environments. We have houses and clothing to warm ourselves, cultivation that could withstand temperatures a hundred degrees below, magic and aura to freely enter and exit the Void. Millennia ago, in the previous era, life no longer had to adapt to surroundings actively since the progress of our ancestors’ wisdom could already replace our bodies’ adaptivity and evolution.”
The mage’s voice was so loud that the three Legends at the rear of the chamber could hear him clearly. Israel’s expression was calm, Nostradamus’s impassive while Joshua grinned and nodded.
“Our wisdom has made us without equal, human’s civilizations hence becoming the dominant force, having no challenge apart from civil strife. That’s precisely why our progress stopped entirely, or in other words had become so slow that it could not catch up with us.”
The mage appeared to grow gradually more absorbed in the speech. It appeared to be the thoughts in the depths of his heart, and now, he looked around at the hundreds of students and instructors, shouting, “Now, our civilization is about the entre the Void—has there been any race who could not depend on cultivation or magical equipment to enter the Void with their physical bodies?!’
“No! Not even dragons! Apart from Ancient Dragons and Void Behemoths of legends, no life could survive with their bodies alone in the Void! We humans have the ability to travel in the Void but not bodies that are compatible with it—such is the glory of our wisdom, but that does not mean we should accept that weakness! It’s time to change. Our intelligence should not simply accept its feeble vessel, and through natural evolution requires millions of years for a single grand progress, that is outdated. Now, we must change on our own!”
“Our ancestors had used millions of years to progress from eating raw meat to using fire for cooking, to develop from scattered settlements into tribes, to learn how to use stone tools and build houses. It’s only eight thousand years ago that they’ve learned to forge metals, and it’s only thirteen hundred years ago that they’ve reached the pinnacle of civilization! Natural evolution would never catch up to civilization’s progress: the bodies of citizens living in certain primitive settlements of isolated seas doesn’t compare to our average twelve-year-old boys… Natural evolution has now lost its purpose, and we cannot rely on mutation to enter the Void, to adapt amidst the endless worlds of the Multiverse!”
“Only through wisdom, magic, aura, and altering our bodies through our wisdom could ‘humans’ and ‘intelligent beings’ adapt to the borderless Multiverse.”
With those words, the mage speaker pointed at himself and then at every student.
“And all of you.”
“That’s the path all of us and all civilization should strive for in the future.”
As the mage added some remarks in closing, the students beneath the stage clapped wildly, an applause that echoed across the entire chamber. Even so, all that was not important—to the rear of the chamber, several Legendary champions were arguing in hushed voices.
Nostradamus scolded in a hushed voice. “Is that what you want? Promoting how ‘Human Body Alteration’ is viable inside the entire Winter Fort Academy, and use the students in turn to advertise your theories?!”
The old mage remembered those dense rows of ‘perfect human body prototypes’ in the Fourth Practical Lab of the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds, as well as those Void disbelieving Void aberrations that should only exist in nightmares.
“So you do intend to change all humans…” he sighed. “You were not joking.”
“I never joke, apart from some corny ones. Nostradamus, you should’ve noticed that at least eight years ago.”
Joshua appeared not to mind the old mage’s interrogation. He watched the students, their face flushed in excitement as they saluted the mage speaker and said quietly, “humans now are still the same primitive species they were millions of years ago. Our wisdom had stopped evolution, which is why it must be through our wisdom that it progresses again. This is the first step our civilization would take to become a real Void civilization.”
“Who do you think you are? God, or the Sage? Are you sure that the alterations you have in mind are really suitable for humans?”
Nostradamus stroked his temples. He had already calm but he continued with a serious tone, “humans are certainly feeble now, but at least there is stability. Our civilization, our society basically exists because of that feeble body—if the day comes that everyone suddenly flies, our architectural style and society would see great upheaval. But now, what you’re doing would not just allow humans to fly: all of humankind would become Extraordinary individuals.”
“That upheaval would send shockwaves across civilization and society, and humans would no longer humans—most importantly, you can’t guarantee its safety! And yet you’re still going through with it!”
“And?” Joshua retorted coolly. “Would we know if it’s suitable after those modifications? Do you think aura and magic are not alterations? What are we, Legendary champions, then? Liches, as well as elemental, soul and runic mages. Becoming stronger than dragons, more agile than birds, becoming a warrior who could move through the Void physically. Is that not a special alteration that is not commonly used?”
“I just want everyone to have those alterations, which is unusual that you can’t understand me. I don’t intend to force it on everyone, but keep it discreet so that our civilization could adapt to it, so that they would seek it on their own accord.”
“Moreover, I am human,” Joshua added, pointing at himself before gesturing at both Nostradamus and Israel as well. “Just as you are. And if we are, why are they not after modifications?”
Nostradamus appeared intent on further retort, but Israel, seated between them gestured for the both of them to stop.
“That’s enough—there’s nothing to argue over something so frivolous. Master, you believe the change would cause society to unravel and that ‘human self-identity’ collapse, but Joshua considers the future. He’s right: our civilization is stepping into the infinite Void… and the feeble human physique would be a burden that impedes us.”
“You’ve just argued over the issue of Evil Gods, so why argue again? This problem isn’t…”
At that, the Emperor groaned and sighed. “Alright, we can make a call on this matter.”
“I know that you, Nostradamus, don’t completely disagree with my idea.”
Joshua spoke again, his voice calmed as he turned towards the elderly mage, who held a pained expression. “You simply believe that such an important matter must be thought through carefully, planned across decades and implemented steadily—only that ensures the entire civilization would progress into a new era in stability and without chaos.”
“But we no longer have the time—if we are actually considering storing human as souls into a Regulator Circle and send it away, would modifying the human race even compare?”
“If we did not try,” the warrior said quietly, “there would never be another chance—such is resistance or counterattack, and with me.”
With those words, Joshua rose and left the hall, leaving Nostradamus and Israel in their seats.
Having ascertained that Joshua’s life signature had vanished from the surrounding dimensional ripples, Nostradamus, whose expression had been contorted and showing melancholy abrupted shifted. The old mage started to laugh softly and breathed a gasp.
“Finally,” he said in a tone that could have been either gratitude or delight. “He finally has the intention ‘to strengthen’.”
Israel’s clone nodded and sighed beside him. “Never thought that we have to play such characters.”
Nostradamus closed his eyes.
“Joshua…” he said rather wearily, “is the one person in all Mycroft who had Ascended the quickest and closest the Sage, even when statistics of the Glorious Era was included… I’ve said that a few years ago before, but I still have to say it again.”
“There’s no third person, other than him and Igor who are most likely to reach ‘the Sage’s level’. Furthermore, Igor is already an old man—his talent may be exceptional, but he has been bound to much by Mycroft’s civilization. Only Joshua could transcend that, a young man who had already traveled across the Multiverse, setting foot upon many worlds.”
“And yet, all that fellow ever though about is the idea to ‘challenge powerful foes’, without the resolve to ‘become stronger’. Ability is simply a ticket to a challenge for him, or perhaps even a mere tool. His talent is so great that even if he strengthens rapidly even when wasn’t paying attention, which in turn left him dispassionate about that respect.”
Israel nodded in agreement. “And now, he would want to improve. For the first time, he isn’t thinking about ‘I would challenge the Sage one day’, but that ‘I must reach the Sage’s level as soon as possible. It may appear the same on the surface, since how would he challenge the Sage without being on equal terms? That being said, the former depends heavily on ‘finding the Sage’, while the latter is simply ‘becoming as strong as the Sage’… at least he’s snapped out of such thoughts.”
Nostradamus suddenly frowned. “Do you think Joshua might have picked up on our intentions?”
Israel shook his head nonchalantly. “So what if he picked up on it? That’s his own will, and we’re just offering a juncture. It’s not a lie since if he could not reach the Sage’s level, we could never lead a bunch of confused, unenlightened feudal peasants to the war against the Evil Gods.”
“Everything is just as he said: there wouldn’t be a chance if we don’t try.”