[Skills: Metal Assimilation, Transfiguration, High-level Physical Damage Dampening, Energy Ejection]
[Description: A completely new and mysterious life. Its existence resembles that of Earth Elementals but is far more durable than those brainless stone people.
The energy core on its head could unleash pure energy flow, while also being its greatest weakness. Since it's artificial there is no sentience within, it would only be capable of obeying its creator's commands instinctively.
Naturally, don't overestimate their intelligence—rock brain and steel brain aren't all that different after all.]
[Buzz. Buzz-Buzz-Buzz. Buzz-Buzz.]
"Users can freely touch spiritual bodies and give life to objects—at a certain price." Joshua nodded and recited the system description of the Shard of Steel Residue. He also recalled the moment he could touch 03's projection, while staring at the subservient steel puppet in front of him.
"Because I've injected Authority into steel and thus a Steel Elemental is formed? If I've touched water, fire or even air, perhaps the same thing would happen too." The warrior muttered, before smiling lightly. "Though I don't know what price I've paid, it's interesting. Very interesting."
Even for summoner mages, they could not just summon wind or water elementals out of thin air—they must rely on a medium available on hand to summon any existence. As for those magic users who specialized on enchanted constructs, they could indeed produce steel puppets, but those were still a far cry from this steel elemental.
Though this thing looks slow, it was still a 'life'.
While it appeared unintelligent, the steel elemental seemed to understand. Its red-black stripe of light flashed once as if in reply, and complied with Joshua's orders, standing up steadily.
It was over two meters tall—a head taller than Joshua after standing straight; its huge body looks like a door twinkling with stripes of light. Any who saw could tell that it was an impenetrable and sturdy material.
Beside them, Ying had already activated the Shapeshifting Pendant. A weak but compact magical oscillation surged out and covered the huge half-dragon, finally shrinking it to the size of a horse with one last burst of radiance.
Nevertheless, it was still airsick and terribly ill—and never once woke even after the transfiguration. Still, seemingly feeling that its surroundings had become 'wider', it instinctively stretched out, spreading its long tail that it had curled inside its own body, the tip touching the warrior's foot and then wrapping around it.
"… Ying, tell Ling to come here." Joshua turned to tell the silver-hair girl, having no choice other than to pull himself out of Black's tail.
At the moment, however, Ying was reaching out with her lithe chalk-white hand and poking at the golden core on the dragon's chest.
"Master!" she exclaimed in surprise. "That thing isn't hot at all! I always thought it burns!"
"… Be careful. That's because I suppressed Black's energies. It'll burn next time."
How could the energy core of fire dragons not burn? It would vaporize anything, even metals.
Joshua wrinkled his forehead at the sight, shaking his head before repeating himself. "Go get Ling to take care of Black. He should be handling some documents at my room; he would not be anywhere else."
Ying replied obediently and quickly rose, and ran towards the cabin section of the Gale. Before she left, she eyed metal puppet that had been quietly standing in curiosity.
"Master, what on earth is that?" She asked softly. "I could feel a shred of your breath from its body."
My breath? Is that because of the 'Kin' attribute?
Although it was a good guess, the warrior could not confirm it and simply shrugged. "I'm not sure," he replied crisply. "But since I created it, it would be normal for it to have my breath."
"As to what it really is… I guess I'll test it out."
Ying had quickly scampered off to the cabin area, the dull thuds that were her footsteps gradually dissipating.
Then, Joshua started his experiments by testing the Steel Elemental in the aspects of strength, wisdom, and speed.
The results were slightly unusual. As the system had put it, the Steel Elemental had Silver-tier power, its body was incomparably sturdy and one whole notch above the armors of the airship itself.
However, it had no other potential beyond that. For one, the Metal Assimilation skill mentioned was time-consuming to activate. When Joshua ordered it to meld with the other steel bulkheads it took almost five minutes to do so. There was even a palm-sized hole gaping on the wall—which was simply meaningless for him in combat.
Transfiguration was the same. As with before, it took the metal blob almost ten minutes to change from a metal plate back to its steel puppet form—even with a little help from Joshua. It was simply too slow.
Still, it seemed to possess simple intelligence, or was at least smart enough to understand orders such as attack, defend, or hold. Commands just a little more complicated naturally failed. And when it does not have any directive it would simply stay motionless, like a real piece of metal.
Speed was where the surprise came. Though it looked slow and clunky, it was unexpectedly quick, and covered a lap of eight-hundred meters in over a minute—most other Silver-tier combatants wearing armor would not be able to reach such speeds. And, like Earth Elementals, the Steel Elemental just need enough energy for unlimited endurance.
Next up was Energy Ejection. Since they should not damage the hull. Joshua ordered it to attack him—which the metal puppet did without hesitation.
With a noise reminiscent of electrical discharge, a streak of dim-red energy shot out of the stripe of light on its head. The warrior took it easily, and could feel that the damage was acceptable, just like having fighters of the same tier unleash a forceful strike with ordinary weapons. Even if the heat could not melt metals it was several hundred Celsius—any normal human would get intense burns.
All in all, the Steel Elemental had considerable power. With its toughness and endurance, it might prove to be more useful on the battlefield—it would be an incredible helper if mass-produced.
"It is pretty much the same as Elementals, then, with only basic intelligence… who knows if you would age like the Elder Elementals who with time, become wise…" Clenching and then relaxing his left hand, Joshua's face showed signs of pity.
"And after that unusual shift, Authority has now vanished entirely. Is this because I can't manipulate the power, or is it simply due to wrong timing?"
If he could keep using Authority, he could keep producing Steel Elementals. Even if they were dumb they remained a great choice as meat shields and vanguards in battle—something which the warrior believed that one could never have too many.
"Come to think of it, you don't have a name." Clapping lightly on the puppet's shoulder, Joshua showed the hint of a smile. "I'll just call you 'Unit-01', how about that?"
Again, the stripe of light on its metallic head flashed as if replying Joshua, emitting a buzzing noise. Then came the sound of scampering footsteps from outside as Ying led a haggard Ling into the cargo hold.
As a chamberlain for the warrior, the black-haired youth was indeed in Joshua's room sorting out documents sent in from Moldavia. With his administrative ability almost starkly superior over the warrior's, Joshua would tend to delegate his work to the youth whenever he wants to take it easy.
Though it would be fine for the warrior, it was troublesome for Ling. He already had the daily task of caring for Black and handling cultist incidents with Miss 03, as well as preparing lunch and dinner for his master occasionally.
Since the count's residence was a rather secretive place, Ling also had to do the cleaning in addition to handling administrative duties. That was why when the youth occasionally had the free time, he would fall into self-doubt like his sister.
–Am I not a weapon?
–Why am I doing these things?
–What's the meaning of my existence…
Naturally, his doubt was different from his sister's. The silver-haired girl simply had too much free time and thus suspected the meaning of her being, while the black-haired youth only wanted to escape from reality no thanks to the things that always kept him busy.
"Eh? This fellow…" Ling exclaimed unconsciously, his eyes widening as soon as he saw the Steel Elemental the moment the cargo hold door swung open. "Why does it carry a shred of the Master's breath?"
"Ying said the same too." Joshua turned to him, his hand on his chin.
"Thanks for your hard work, Ling. But is the breath on this fellow that apparent, and could be quickly be identified as mine?" The warrior asked in curiosity. He really was unable to tell, and could only sense that the Steel Elemental's breath was too pure—without the dim-red energies whirling around it, it would have been a simple piece of metal.
"It is," the black-haired youth nodded solemnly, before picking his words carefully and spoke slowly. "Although it might not really be breath, however I look at it I can tell at once it is affiliated with you. It's almost instinct."
"Is that so…" Joshua turned back and squinted at the Steel Elemental that was still motionless. "Looks like it has something to do with 'Family'."
Still, those did not matter and the warrior did not ponder—Unit-01's attribute card was changing slightly.
[Unit-01 the Steel Elemental]
[Race: Steel Elemental, Family]
Suddenly, the entire Gale shook lightly. A strong mystical force was gushing out from the Core up front of the craft, as if a huge spell was activating.
Soon, the dimensions twisted, and space oscillated across all directions.
"We're going into warp." Ying said softly, her eyes glinting with excitement. "Have we reached the South yet? I can't wait!"
Since she had learned that Joshua was journeying down to help the Church of Seven fight the dragons, the silver-haired girl had been positively jubilant. She had been laid back for so long and could finally fight a little.
Although Ling did not say much, his expression was virtually identical. He finally felt that he could be free from the hell of bureaucratic work for some time to relax his spirits.
Joshua looked on at the animated divine armaments with the hint of an expectant smile too. Both of them wanted to prove the meaning of their existence, so why should he not do so too? Once he imagined tearing up endless numbers of dragons, the warrior could hold himself back from bunching his fist as he felt the itch.
Nonetheless, he quickly shook himself out of the anticipation and glanced sideways at Black. It seemed to look a lot better and was shaking its tail from whatever dream it was having. "Such spirit after being shrunk," he said, shaking his head. "Must be lack of oxygen from a bigger size and high altitudes."
One way or the other, it meant that Black's issue was solved. And with the shift brought on by the Authority power, he had quite a day.
The next few days were a little plain, however.
Joshua had kept attempting to stimulate the Authority power in his body, while having Unit-01 work with the mages through all sort of experiments.
Those mages from the Royal Guild displayed great interest at the mysterious existence. They did not ask how he slipped it onboard, and merely performed every art of magical inspection on it—although the results were no different from what was stated in the system.
That being said, the mages made an interesting discovery—the patterns that resembled a spider-web on Unit-01's body could absorb mana from the atmosphere to sustain itself. Additionally, under environments with dense mana, the usually statuesque Unit-01 would seek out metals to fuse with and increase its size.
"This probably is their growth process to absorb mana and augment itself. It does resemble the special attributes of elementals." One of the mages made such a conclusion, believing that the Steel Elemental have bright days ahead.
"However, Earth Elementals—its closest cousin—would need several centuries to grow from Silver to Gold-tier Earth Elemental Giants. This one here would need approximately ten times less than that timeframe, but it could still be accelerated in thick mana locations."
Joshua was satisfied too. This meant that the Steel Elemental can be nurtured—and far faster than others of its species.
Through it all, the Gale kept leaping between large-scale dimensional warp points.
Nothing unexpected happened since the Empire had already communicated with the other factions about their journey. Still, this meant that Joshua and the rest did not get to enjoy the scenery since the airship kept rushing to the next warp point, since the journey process was essentially 'opening the dimensional door', 'going through the dimensional door' and repeat.
That was how they journeyed past the Empire's southern fortified zones, the edge of the western mountains, the land of the hill dwarves, several kingdoms in the vicinity as well as the Naga valley, before finally reaching their destination.