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1003 World Guardian

The vast otherworld was stretching its body comfortably within another world—in the erratic dimensional storm, the cocoon thread had spread itself to manifest as a profound space with a diameter of sixty astronomical units.

The was no starlight at all in the dark space, only endless flutters of radiating energy caused by the evaporation of small black holes. At its edge, one could see that Stellaris itself was clashing violently against that alternate space, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that formed a wrong picture and was as incompatible as oil and water, pressing down upon the alternate space to dispel it.

However, everyone knew that it was a matter of time: Stellaris was the birthplace of the Creators, and was so unimaginably vast and accommodating that it could take in Joshua completely, and there was no reason it could not withstand the presence of an alternate space which was merely sixty astronomical units wide. Soon, as the edge of the alternate space quaked without stopping, breaking and reassembling the space itself, the once distinct borders between both realms rapidly blurred.

It appeared that the Ultimate Sublimator would soon entrench itself in Stellaris with the cocoon thread and force an entry.

"Don't stop, keep it up!"

Even so, neither Joshua nor the Triple Curtain would allow their adversary to achieve its aim so easily, not to mention that they were aware that now was the best moment to stop the Ultimate Sublimator—after bursting out in power to intercept and evade the myriad of miniature black holes that their foe had deflected back towards them, the duo did not slow down as they streaked forward in attack once more.

While the ability to deflect an enemy's attack made no sense, it was not actually unacceptable for Joshua, who had witnessed diverse kinds of unusual supernatural powers in many different Extraordinary worlds. Moreover, it was better to try his best and test the limits of that deflection ability, than to refrain from acting out of worry, sitting and watching as his adversary achieved its objective!

That being said, he still would have to use his head a little—and as two dazzling lights shone in space, Joshua and the Triple Curtain attacked.

This time, however, they did not launch their offensive with standard cosmic assault moves such as black holes or supernova bursts, but instead prudently chose another solution.

At the center of the black hole engines where the dimensions were maximumly distorted, several—and eventually hundreds of black dots began to waft away. In a split second, millions of those dark lightless dots arose from various parts of Joshua's body, the smallest amongst them being the size of a moon while the largest were comparable to stars. Nonetheless, regardless of size, all of those dots had one unusual aspect: they did not reflect any light or waves, nor did they react or show any interaction with the external world.

Then, as the Triple Curtain lowered its power, it imbued the particles with a psionic barrier that was not too tight, before firing it in sync alongside Joshua.

It was the power of Famine; it was not at all unusual.

Those abnormal black holes were the power that the Evil God of Famine that Joshua had destroyed recently—the warrior was emulating the Evil God's final move of trying to create absolute zero, draining all energy in a dimensional sector by force and freezing all particles along with their wave motion. At the same time, the Triple Curtain would seal it and sever any connection it had with the outside world, before firing them away with an energy that fits best.

The dimensions, which were devoid of energy, resembled black holes in both appearance and reality, since genuine absolute zero was an energy that consumed everything. It was immeasurably powerful in its ability to absorb everything external and would not allow even trace amount of energy to escape. To a certain extent, it was assuredly much more horrifying than black hole if sustained, and much more convenient in decimation efforts compared to one.

Thus, the pseudo-absolute zeros, which distorted dimensions and could easily destroy worlds, was ejected and sank within the Ultimate Space. As they crossed the border of violent clashing between those two worlds, the millions of 'bombs' that were dark dots able freeze everything around it from millions of miles away lost their fragile psionic barrier, and detonated in no time at all.

By the borders of the Ultimate Space, endless nebula substance that had been chilled to perfect zero shaped a profoundly long snow-white river of frost that could have rolled over a planet. Though it was soon melting and vaporizing in the hot radiation left by the explosion of miniature black holes before, it still turned into clumps of white shrouds that occupied a portion of Ultimate Space.

Soon, as the area controlled by the Ultimate Space decreased considerably, with Stellaris suppressing and assimilating it.

But this time, there was no deflection.

Naturally, the Ultimate Space was still on the attack even if it did not redirect the attacks aimed at it. It appeared to be in slight agony as it conjured black holes identical to what Joshua had conjured before, and began carpet bombing the duo, but it proved unthreatening to Joshua and the Triple Curtain since they were intending a hit-and-run after testing their theory, easily avoiding those blows.

"As I've thought."

Joshua nodded somberly halfway through their dodging while communicating with the Triple Curtain. "The Ultimate Space has yet to connect itself to the main body in the Void beyond, and cannot actually unleash much despite possessing limitless energy, relying instead on our own offensive moves to defend or attack us. If that's the case, as long as we do not use attacks containing great power that would allow it a chance to dominate, but absorb and drain its power instead, we just might cause effective damage."

Even against an enemy that was theoretically invincible, one must not give up so easily.

In turn, the Triple Curtain responded.

[Caution: You must be careful from now on.]

[Planning: I will attack this time. Support me, Radcliffe, by helping me stop its attack.]

The Ultimate Space—or the Ultimate Sublimator Collective—was an enemy so powerful that it left even the Triple Curtain in shock. It was completely different from the civilizations and lifeforms it had observed across millions of years, but was a life born in the Void beyond the world and grown in another world. In return, the Life Preservation Sequence was at once excited and careful: it could not wait to banish the foe which intended to invade its world, just as it could not wait to obtain more information about it.

"Leave it to me."

The warrior promised.

***

In that very moment, the Ultimate Space retaliated.

Within the dark alternate space, Creation was being casted at the speed of thought. Runic arrays the size of solar systems were built and solidified in that space, with powerful radiance flashing between each runes and pouncing, as if a hundred suns were rising simultaneously from that sector.

And where the light passed, insignificant shadows began to appear in the Void.

However, perhaps only mortals would be bewitched by the dazzling radiance and runes due to lack of combat experience. Joshua could tell at once that, compared to the runic arrays which had merely gathered the energy from several stars, the spreading shadows were the lynchpin of the attack—the silver world hence expanded and contracted, stirring massive spatial tremors that distorted dimensional coordinates, leaving light and shadow around him in shambles.

Unsurprisingly, from within the shadows of a circular nebula that was probably formed in the aftermath of the previous battle and left lingering inside the distorted space, a darkly-colored cocoon thread that appeared to be composed entirely from shadows abruptly reached out as if intending to catch hold of the silver Steel Strength shroud in which Joshua wafted.

At the moment, Joshua was not in human form—his four-armed Giant God state was used to counter foes from stellar to planetary-system sizes, while his human form tended to be used against enemies below planetary sizes. But at the moment, the Silver World form, which was coupled with black hole engine that he now displayed, was a complete state, a war mode he used in cosmic scale battles to destroy, suppress, and purge entirely galaxies. Indeed, his entire person was both the Silver World and the Steel Strength shroud that covered the world itself, driven by four black hole engines through gravity, and with more plugins or modules to be installed if necessary.

Although one of the black holes had indeed been destroyed a moment before, it had already been repaired by using the stars as raw materials which the Triple Curtain had teleported to him.

"You're not allowed to get what you want, no matter what it is."

Joshua did not know why the black tentacle would want to catch the Steel Strength weapon, which was so clearly not a part of his vitals. No matter how he would think about it, it appeared to be nothing other than an offensive move to teleport him into the alternate space by force through touching him, just as it could through eroding or devouring him—either way, he would never let it succeed.

Furthermore, there was no doubt that the offensive was based on Shadow, the newly established Extraordinary power, an ability neither Joshua nor Mycroft had fully studied. And yet, the Ultimate Sublimator had fully mastered it… in turn, it certainly meant that the warrior should not be fighting Shadow with Shadow, since it would simply be making a fool of himself, but he still quickly came up with a solution once he recalled the pattern of Extraordinary abilities he had theorized.

The Holy Light.

With a thunderous echo that resounded throughout the universe in front of the Silver World, blue radiance burst out as if a star had exploded. Hence, a supermassive Azurite, which was half a planet, hence appeared on Joshua—or more precisely, the Silver World's 'forehead', if it could be considered one…then, from the warrior's most familiar item, he began to charge Holy Light, compellingly triggering a Holy Light with power margins that exceeded imagination.

The darkness of space was immediately illuminated by the azure light, and a profound blue vortex appeared beside Joshua. Then, a golden blue halo of holy light orbited him, extending away from the heart of the vortex.

Cra—ck—

Like acid meeting alkali or black meeting white, under the illumination of the Holy Light, the Shadow that lurked in the darkness was coerced into showing itself: it was a space of different dimensions overlapping inside ordinary space and lodging inside the Shadows, connected distantly to the Ultimate Space itself. Joshua's guess was therefore right—it had intended to touch, henceforth directly attempting control and domination over Joshua. Moreover, with its unique living attributes, the Extraordinary ability of Shadow Space was a perfect fit for it. 

More than that, one could see dark purple veins of lightning weaving everywhere within that Shadow Space. Endless massive grey crystal bodies were also piling over one another to form a complex formation, seemingly containing a certain profound decimation ability to completely destroy and disintegrate all matter, reducing them to nothing.

Meanwhile, seizing the moment as Joshua and the Ultimate Space clashed, the prelude to the Triple Curtain's own attack was complete.

In the distance, the ranks of Chaos spawns, which had mostly collapsed but which mother Evil Gods had yet to die, suddenly all screamed in anguish, before vanishing, ceasing to exist—that indescribable connection between them and the Evil Gods had abruptly been severed. At the same time, violent psionic reaction and powerful light that could incinerate the surface of distant planets arose, and at the very next moment, as psionic energies deliberately warped and spread waves of planetary particles, the Ultimate Space that was sixty astronomical units wide had actually shaken, and commenced the steps of fusing with Stellaris.

It was not only the Ultimate Space either, as the larger space around it was sealed and isolated as well. The world within the separated region thus lost all color—colorful stars became a simple white while others became pitch-black, with only Joshua's silver Steel Strength and crimson divine circuits visible in the abnormal black and white space, alongside the silver-blue psionic radiance of the Triple Curtain.

[Report: Reality Rewriting Terminal operating on full capacity. I have completely sealed all space within a diameter of eleven hundred and seventy-six light-seconds and quarantined it away from the realms beyond. That way, the Ultimate Space would need to exert dozens of times the effort if it desires to corrupt, and I will directly nullify the locked space after its corruption so that it would have to repeat its corruption process Stellaris from the very beginning.]

Probably because it had no concept of exhaustion, there was no sign of tiredness in voice of the Triple Curtain. Even so, Joshua could sensed that its processing capacity had decreased considerably, and it was clear that the locked space had taken up much of its resources.

[Combination: The Second Curtain will keep the terminal running. I have lost the threefold clearance and power, but with that, it would not be able to use our own strength against us.]

"Very good, but hurry," Joshua said. "Use any moves you still have; I'll hold it back."

A brief exchange that lasted for a split second, because the Ultimate Space that had been sealed appeared to be bursting with even greater power out of rage and being obstructed.

The twisted alternate space had shifted form due to the pressure that was dozens of times greater than before, compressed from every direction and roaring in rage as it was being forced back. It was clearly no longer that pitch-black alternate space and was more akin to a cluster of pale-white halation without a fixed shape—endless obscure, small faint threads, air bubbles, and dust appeared intermittently within, and around it, many runic arrays resembling dense ranks of gears were forced to reveal their true forms as space was compressed. 

Initially, the immeasurably sturdy first form of the cocoon thread feared nothing, save for the singularities of black holes and not even spatial tears. After spreading itself, it became a space that had dominated everything, including all energy and substance within its body at will regardless of anything, and the transition between the two neared invincibility as both states could protect the rune arrays which existed at their cores perfectly.

Nonetheless, it had exposed its single vulnerability in the transition. At present, Joshua could clearly see that the core, which should have been hidden by the Ultimate Space as spatial compression had forced it to push out a part of its own form, forcefully kept it fixed between its initial form and its spreading form.

In other words, its true form was beaten out of it.

And in the very center of those objects—at the core shielded by the runic arrays—was a tiny but bright white dot, in which endless apathy and malice exuded.

Joshua did not have to think to know what it was.

It was the port, the origin point that the Ultimate Sublimator used to control and corrupt Stellaris.

The enemy's vital point could be seen.

The core target was determined.

His own ability was determined.

The enemy's possible defensive moves and retaliations were simulated.

A total of 377 attacking processes were prepared.

Charging, preparing.

"Huh—"

Joshua took a deep breath, because it was an instinct as a human and a part of himself which Joshua deliberately kept with himself. Then, following the ritual that was 'respiration', the ultimate Extraordinary individual began to assume his full combat form.

The colossal world began to absorb universal energies from around himself, as if a siphoning vortex, a storming hurricane, as well as both the Void Vortex and the Vortex of Creation. Thus, everything around himself was drawn into his own body and dominated.

The one who consumed heaven and earth began to breathe.

Therefore, the stars around died.

Those were thousands of stellar bodies which the Triple Curtain had teleported to him, extinguished like candles or torches by the winds within a room. Space itself was warped because the abnormal gravity was pressing down and latching onto the Silver World. As light rays passed through the trail where gravity and space were at once distorted, they were forced to curl and squirm incessantlylike a serpent, as energies became more and more focused and grew.

Until finally…

The Silver World ignited.

Raging blazes of energy were burning most intensely, with radiant accretion disks of splendor and streams appeared around the black hole engines, boasting beauty and profundity.

Soon, he began to dart forward through the dimensions.

Anyone could say that they would 'dominate everything', for every Extraordinary individual were dominates themselves and were masters of all life. After all, how would there be development if one could not control themselves? 

Never treat basics as if it was a measure.

"Come and try it. We'll see if you'll dominate myself or if I'll destroy you."

The silver light turned into a powerful light resembling lightning, even if everything around was in utter silence. Even energy of mechanical wavelengths was withdrawn with nary a motion in the nebula—Joshua distorted space and charged ahead in space, the Silver World and everything in the blackness contrasting each other distinctly.

The Shining Spark advanced like a galaxy aflame, leaving people trembling, but was at once majestic and profound. And yet, that single profound strike had no shockwaves at all as all energy was being withdrawn and focused like pseudo-absolute zero: only absorbing energy but not freeing any outwards, with only some supernatural energy sprinkled with manifested luminous flames.

And it was then that the Triple Curtain received Joshua's delayed message.

"The Ultimate Space will definitely resist me, using itself as bait to lure my attack. Halfway through its resistance and when I cannot completely control my own power, it would use my strength to open a larger portal, summoning a larger Ultimate Space to invade at the price of the present Space being destroyed."

"For Extraordinary individuals of our level, there is nothing that we can never solve as long as we understand it, regardless of resistance or avoidance. That is why the unknown is needed to truly hurt our enemy."

The Triple Curtain understood Joshua; it was doing precisely that.

Indeed, everything had been as the warrior foretold: the glistening galaxy crashed into the alternate space which was being compressed continuously.

It was for an exceedingly brief moment, but the exceedingly massive power and domination left the Ultimate Sublimator unable to withstand the destruction and magnitude as one world and eight black holes collided into it. There were no words that could describe the excessive pressure and heat that erupted in multiple bright explosions that could leave worlds in pieces, and yet their explosion also formed energy gathering upon the outer reaches of the silver world and dimensional anomalies, creating twisted dimensions where there was no proper direction that light could travel to.

However, even such an attack could not completely destroy the core of the Ultimate Space at once. It was as if the array of runes that could have belonged to civilizations from more than one galaxy required no quest at all—before they wildly obstructed the oncoming world and the black holes, they would intercept, grind away, redirect, explode, distorted, using endless measures and power to stop it.

Even so, there was no effect at it. Crushed beneath absolute power, the Ultimate Space of only sixty astronomical units wide did not have any remaining strength to attack or dominate. Though it possessed endless stores of power, the exertion in a single digit unit of time would always be limited.

In the split second when the oncoming black hole was completely destroyed, the Ultimate Space used the last iota of its power—it fully controlled all energy welling out apart from Joshua's own, turning into a serpentine thing composed entirely of light. Then, within the single moment that it was about to be stuffed inside a black hole and utterly crushed by a singularity, it moved the energy serpent and lunged towards the core zone of the paradox spiral.

No one could stop it—even Joshua was left in a blurred moment due to recoil.

Therefore, it smoothly entered the Permanent Void Anchor Point… with its strength that could pierce dimensions and by synchronizing inside out, a larger portal was hence opened.

Instantly, another cocoon thread broke through the distinctly monochromatic dimensional saucer at the center of the paradox spiral, and eventually another…until hundreds of them came through.

One cocoon thread had already forced Joshua and the Triple Curtain into a serious battle. But now, they were rapidly multiplying like fungi, as if it would take no cost at all.

Was it a moment of despair?

Certainly not.

"Triple Curtain!"

Within the shattered dimensions that had yet to completely close itself, Joshua almost yelled the name of his ally. "Hurry up!"

[Activation on Full Capacity confirmed: Removing dimensional disturbance and artificially energizing World Will. Highest clearance grants duty, psionic network installed, warp system inducted… commencing information transmission beyond lightspeed with zero delays.]

The Triple Curtain's voice that was without any emotion due to excessive processing appeared beside the warrior's.

[Commencing: Guardian! Watcher! Visionary! We are all one body—activate, fully automated defensive system of Stellaris: Star, Steel Python!]

Tick-tock.

***

At the highest throne in the World Inner, three silver-blue Droplets fell, dripping into the dazzling mirage of stars in resounding echoes and infinitely dull watery sounds, right before everything returned to silence.

But soon, the slightly shrinking sea of stars began to tremble with ripples appearing. It was shaking, as if an overture to earthquakes or tsunamis…

And then came a roar.

Boom—the compact sea of stars was broken, while a python of infinite size that could easily wrap the cosmos within its coils slithered out from within and hovered high above the skies. The three silver-blue Droplets could be seen embedded upon its head, before they naturally splashed and transfigured into a crown, while a dense silver-blue network began to spread around the body of the python, spreading and extending at the speed of thought, permeating every corner of the horizon that it had pierced.

My thoughts are smooth like never before all, and everything is reflected in my mind. Ah, is this the sensation of thinking? Is this the sensation of clarity? Is this the sensation in which I did not have to spend a hundred thousand years to feel the presence emanating from a planet, before turning my gaze from a planetary system to another planetary system?

The gaze of Star the Steel Python glistened. It could feel some profound existence being present over its head—it was an existence far more ancient than itself, born even before the concept of 'World Wills' came to be. It was the one which had brought along the Psyweb as it came to itself, unsealing all restraints and bondage before returning Star's power to itself, restoring its consciousness that should never have been lucid.

In that single moment, all psionics in Stellaris felt as if their hearts had suddenly emptied, as if something supremely profound had left them. Though it was with them no longer, they were imbued with a sense of security that guarded their very souls, preventing the psionics from being reduced to madness due to the external information disturbance affecting their overly perceptive senses just because their guardian had left them.

After all, that was to grant them greater protection.

[Suggestion: Work together and banish a foe from beyond.]

"Most gladly."

In the physical realm, the cocoon threads were dancing wildly. A part of the Ultimate Sublimator's very own body, they began to unfurl themselves swiftly after breaking inside the world, but this time, they would rely on absolute power to completely destroy every existence that would stop their advance.

Otherwise, it was futile however much time they would spend.

And they were about to succeed…until a reverberation resounded from the World Inner.

It was a world that would leave all things in the universe in shudders.

The dimensions were left deformed, as a grand power that surpassed all imagination came to be.

Between moments of blankness, the sights of all things changed.

Behind twisted radiances and hues, the cocoon threads that were still positioned by the Permanent Void Anchor Point realized that they were not really being attacked, although their location was different from where they had been before.

Ka-booooom… a rumble that fluctuated up to three hundred decibels resounded. A river of substance that was superheated up to a billion degrees was blown along, and everything within the observable regions were light and streams of fusion. Even the outline of stars were coming to be, the tremendous pressures actually reducing a considerable mass of substances into degenerate matter, creating the most radical of temperatures and the most extreme of environments.

It realized where it was.

The silver world arrived right after it, along with an unfathomable will of unknown origin or end.

It knew.

It was the edge of the silver core of the black hole within the Dark Galaxy.

It was right within the accretion disk of the black hole.
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