Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Starfall Year 839, noontime on the 9th of May, the Liege’s Residence in Northern Moldavia.
Joshua, who had been instructing the housekeepers serving his Residence in cultivation, had his recreational hobby interrupted by a chagrined Nostradamus.
“Dismissed for now.”
Joshua waved, gesturing for the housekeepers to return to their work. When bored, the warrior would usually happily explain aspects of cultivating aura and lifeforce to everyone inside his Residence, as well as organize creative knowledge of the human body constitution. While those were not systematic aura cultivation, it was enough to have those housekeepers form a solid foundation. That way, even if they continue working as housekeepers, there would be a good path for them in the future… Still, there was an unusually large number of people trying to be recruited as housekeepers that Joshua had to make bulletins to inform them all.
Having done all that, Joshua released his power, shrouding the entire backyard of the Liege’s Residence with a dark isolation shroud formed by electromagnetism and light, completely severing contact from the outside world. It was only then that he asked Nostradamus in curiosity, “What’s going on? How did they go missing again?”
“It’s a strange matter in itself—you should be aware that strange things are afoot at the edge of the galaxy, right?”
Although Nostradamus and Joshua had an argument a while ago, that had been in the aspect of personal ideals—their personal relationship remained fine, although the elderly mage appeared rather guilty and uneasy.
“The External Exploration Department has dispatched Priest’s party to carry out an expedition,” he said, “but the distance of that world from Mycroft is simply too far. To ensure their safety, I’ve specially made five Return Beacons to keep them alive, each connected to the Commanding Will of the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds.”
“I know that. Still, it’s just a little far, and definitely not too dangerous.”
Joshua conjured two chairs out of thin air for both Nostradamus and himself, and the pair continued their conversation seated. “We have already sealed the main body of the Black Fog, and I’ve also caught and dissected those wandering Void Behemoths…” Joshua said, slightly uncomprehending. “Reasonably speaking, there should be nothing in this galaxy that could threaten five Gold-tier Extraordinary individuals.”
‘Even if they should encounter some Supreme-tier beings existing in certain worlds or Tyrant-class creatures that are near Legends, they should not be able to interdict the Return Beacon.’
“Besides that, why is it those five rascals again… really, can’t have a moment not worrying about them.”
At the very thought, Joshua found things rather incomprehensible. He had quite a few apprentices, with Ivan, Amelia and the rest of the First Party having graduated and being dispatched as vanguard to ‘valuable’ otherworlds, conducting a purge of local monsters and pave the way for Imperial expansion. With that experience, and their comradeship with Prince Arlwa, they would certainly obtain a high-rank within the Empire in the future.
The Lisa and Syndicate duo were even less worrying. Despite her young age, Lisa was already on the pinnacle of Gold-tier, a progress that was probably only next to Joshua after his crossover. In time, it would be highly likely for her to develop into a Legend.
Syndicate alone proved to be embarrassing. It had yet to restore itself to the level of Supreme-tier Archdemon, and was barely at the threshold of Supreme at the moment… Still, it had just changed its body which definitely requires some retraining, which was why Joshua lowered his demands towards it.
Meanwhile, Priest and his team trod a different path… If anything, it was plagued with misfortunes. It appeared that they had come across nothing good ever since their maiden voyage—in each world that they had visited, they were either almost single-handedly vanquished by a single tentacle whip from the Black Fog or would run into some powerful native monster. Wherever they treaded would be struck by natural disasters or tides of beasts, the ups and downs of their life fluctuating like a human’s cardiogram.
‘Actually, I’m not too surprised.’
Beside Joshua, Nostradamus blinked, stroking his beard as he critiqued inwardly. ‘It would be more appropriate to say that the little fellow Priest had learned your very essence in attracting trouble—it is as if he is made from one of your molds.’
The mage naturally left the joke unsaid. Meanwhile, Joshua thought things through for a moment before asking, “How did they go missing? They have a signal transmitter, your Return Beacon while the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds also marked them—even if they are captured by otherworld civilizations, they would definitely be able to escape as long as they don’t come across dimensional-class Legends that are better than you.”
“That’s the question.”
Nostradamus shook his head somberly at Joshua’s words. “I knew at once that the expedition must have met some great trouble when I sensed that the Return Beacon I made was being used, that they faced something they couldn’t handle. I therefore headed at once to the return point of the Beacon, to look for them in the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds.
“But there was nothing.”
The old mage let out a drawn-out sigh at that. “The Elite Party never made it back. Their teleportation must have deviated, all of them vanishing and lost in the endless Void of the galaxy.”
“Is that so.” Joshua frowned in return, understanding why Nostradamus appeared chagrined when he came to meet him.
Priest was his pupil, and for his pupil to use Nostradamus’s Return Beacon and then vanish without a trace was a severe mistake regardless of how one thought about it… Even so, Joshua knew that things were definitely not so simple.
Legendary champions never made mistakes—even if they did, it would be one in the point of view of another Legend more powerful than they were. Moreover, Joshua had absolute faith in Nostradamus’s skill, and it would indeed be unusual if they did not after fighting side-by-side. Therefore, instead of complaining, it would be better if they consider carefully how they could recover Priest and his missing team.
After more thought, Joshua asked, “did the Commanding Will of the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds say anything?”
If there was anything in the entire Mycroft civilization that could outshine Nostradamus in the discipline of dimensions, it was probably the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds—the product of the finest Glorious Era technology—as well as its Commanding Will. What was more, in the first place, Nostradamus had borrowed the power of the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds so that the Return Beacon could activate at once and return to the demiplane, and it was probably the only thing that could determine why the Elite Party suddenly went missing.
Joshua was hence surprised when Nostradamus shook his head.
“I’ve asked,” the old mage said regretfully, his expression considerably perplexed. “The Commanding Will told me that the Elite Party’s teleportation had a little accident from the beginning—a gravity suddenly appeared, stirring the dimensions, although they were still teleported normally to a living world.”
“But after that, when I asked where the Elite Party moved to after using their Return Beacons, it kept silent and did not answer.”
“Is that so.”
At those words, Joshua suddenly understood. The External Exploration Department had sent them to the edge of the galaxy to explore a distortion and was prepared for unsuccessful teleoperations caused by various reasons. That was why Nostradamus and the others would not suspect a thing. On the other hand, the Commanding Will’s silence after the Return Beacon was activated was remarkably similar to another facility built during the Glorious Era.
When there are ‘unauthorized personnel’ detected, the Unified Archives would maintain absolute confidentiality. If those individuals touch certain secrets beyond their clearance, the Unified Archives would utterly quarantine all information, leaving nothing behind—even when violence is used, it would require them an astronomical period of time to just peek into just the tiniest bit of the content. Still, if Nostradamus, a Legendary champion of Level Six clearance did not have the authorization, who could get the truth from the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds that was keeping quiet?
Joshua could not help shaking his head when he thought about that. “So that’s it. You want me, the ‘Sage’s Heir’ with special clearance and Zero-Three, who has Level Seven divine clearance to ask after the Commanding Will—you could have just asked directly. I would have asked anyway since Priest is my pupil, there is no need to be long-winded.”
Nostradamus quickly and solemnly refuted Joshua’s guess, catching the warrior by surprise. “I’m here not to have you ask the Commanding Will about the truth—I had the same idea as well, and in fact, Miss Zero-Three already had a mana projection placed in the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds, and she volunteered to help us ask the Commanding Will about the matter.
“…And?” Joshua asked quietly, frowning as he picked up a discouraging scent—if Zero-Three had already asked, it meant that idea must have gone awry as well. “What happened?”
The old mage stroked his beard; his tone was grim. “The Commanding Will developed an error, its soul freezing as it examined itself, and the processing array of the entire Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds almost fell into an infinite loop.”
“It has developed an error, and it’s so severe that the energy cycle of the entire Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds showed signs of complete collapse.”
Joshua rose at once and paced around the courtyard after he heard all that, his expression somber.
“What kind of trouble did those little fellows find this time…”
While most people on Mycroft are unaware of the true nature of the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds, but was Joshua really no better? It was a grand-scale wonder a civilization had created by exhausting all their power, an ultimate, unreasonable doorway to the stars—its control system, the ‘Commanding Will’ which main form was the Silver Sky Radiance, and essentially one of the greatest artificial intelligences in the galaxy. If it went out of control, it would be a matter of time that it became another main body of the Black Fog.
Moreover, the destruction it could cause if it went out of control would lead to much more frightening destruction, given that it could manipulate the dimensions. Just think about it—if it would use all its power to throw anyone it reaches directly into black holes, it was an ‘Ultimate Evil Banishing (Magic)’ that not even the gods could rescue them from.”
And yet, such a powerful artificial intelligence had almost descended into an infinite loop, causing it to collapse.
Be that as it may, Joshua was aware that the Commanding Will was actually incomplete, for its most perfect form is certainly much more powerful than it was now.
The Final Battle had destroyed eighty percent of the buildings that had once been the main body of the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds, with only the sturdiest of primary buildings saved thanks to the protection of the gods and the Sage. It was normal for data to be lost in the terrible fight where gods fell and Evil Gods were pulverized, something that the Commanding Will itself admitted. It once possessed the galactic map to most of the Multiverse, but was now left with scarce few, fragmented data that does not completely map the region around Mycroft.
Still, the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds is known to correct itself. Normal data loss would not have thrown it into an infinite loop—Priest and the others must have been drawn into some mysterious problem at its very core that triggered an ‘internal injury’ within the Commanding Will in that respect.”
“…Understood. I won’t ask that directly.”
Joshua turned and told Nostradamus at that thought. “Still, I’m going to visit the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds once… The kid, Priest, is the warrior apprentice I’m currently most satisfied with. It would be best if we did not delay finding him.”
“Just remember not to overstimulate the Commanding Will.”
Nostradamus rose as well, lowering his head. “I’m very sorry,” he said softly, “but the Multiverse Sacrificial Grounds is the root of our civilization’s rapid development. It mustn’t collapse, or not now, at least—otherwise that minuscule chance against the Evil God would completely vanish.”
“No need to be concerned.”
Joshua withdrew the Steel Strength barrier covering the Liege’s Residence, his body slowly turning into nothing while his will returned to his true form. “There should be some challenge to life in the first place,” the warrior said quietly, “as long as they did not die, the pain now would be riches in the future.”
With that, Joshua disappeared entirely, turning into a cluster of pure Steel Strength that seeped beneath the grounds of the Liege’s Residence. Meanwhile, Nostradamus stared blankly where Joshua vanished, a thousand words in his mind.
‘I say… That’s no longer a challenge but an ordeal—if the thing called pain can be traded for gold, those apprentices of yours would probably be billionaires by now…
The elderly mage watched as Steel Strength shards wafted away in the courtyard like snowflakes, and nodded admiringly.
“Quite the exit. I might learn that next time.”