Chapter 313: They Never Left

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Every one of them had dull eyes and faces devoid of emotion as they traversed through this convoluted hive-esque construct, busy with their own tasks. There wasn’t any communication whatsoever, only silence.

It was almost as if they were not humans but rather robots directed by their input commands.

The knights behind Joseph exchanged glances, clearly befuddled.

These knights wouldn’t have such a huge reaction had it been the scene of an intense battlefield filled with carnage greeting them. However, the contrasting eerie and quiet depiction in front filled them with a sense of dread.

“What’s all this?” Joseph whispered the only question on his mind.

He had previously made some wild guesses about what he might find in the depths of the Truth Union’s Machine Loop.

Dead zones shrouded by poisonous reagents as a result of failed experiments, perhaps mechanical equipment that had gone haywire, or the entire place coated by dust as a result of many years of abandonment.

Never once did it come across his mind that there would be a complete architectural marvel of such complexity lying just beneath the Truth Union. And here, it was as if there was a whole other world.

This was simply mind-boggling!

There actually existed a well-managed laboratory of such a scale in the area the Truth Union had always kept sealed, so much so that the key had been lost from a lack of use. In fact, this place didn’t look that much different from any other of the large laboratories in the Truth Union.

So, did it mean that these people here were parasites? Existing in secret within Machine Loop for decades, centuries, or even several millennia?

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And all this time, the scholars of the Truth Union were oblivious to it and had been sharing the space with these things, just separated by a wall.

Just the thought of it was enough to leave one shivering with goosebumps.

Were they enemies, or remnants of a lost era?

While awaiting Andrew’s reaction, Joseph swiftly surveyed the surroundings. Without any prompting, the knights behind also started to fan out, forming a circle to protect the two scholars that lacked battle prowess.


Joseph’s eyebrows rose. His heart raced the more he observed.

Firstly, these ‘things’ only seemed to have appearances that resembled that of a human but bore no other similarities otherwise.

Since the party entered, Joseph could also ascertain that these things could have easily seen them, yet it appeared like they took no notice nor had any reaction, continuing to mind their own business as if Joseph and his party were nonexistent.

It seemed apparent that these things had no mind of their own.

Aside from that, all the equipment and constructs, including the floor, were surprisingly spotless despite the timeworn status.

This pretty much meant that these things weren’t created a long time ago and they were frequently in use.

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These were two factors that were supposedly contradictory, yet if put together logically, cleared up many questions.

However a new problem had now arisen—there was an unknown organization leeching off the Truth Union in their basement and had been exploiting the restricted area for an extended period of time.

They couldn’t have possibly been self-sufficient in isolation down here; meaning that besides the path opened up by Hood, there definitely existed any way which led to the surface!

Therefore, a very probable conclusion could be established: there was definitely a mole within the Truth Union receiving these ‘things’ and also providing them with necessary aid and resources!

Joseph’s mind went to work, connecting the dots regarding the previous mole incident in the Truth Union, and understood what was going on at once.

Andrew must’ve known about everything here, or rather, he at least knew there that there were people in this area. Moreover, his objective for bringing Joseph down here was to get the Great Radiant Knight’s help to capture the mole. This had nothing to do with clearing up a dangerous area.

Dammit, this *sshole in a suit definitely didn’t have good intentions. He’s basically treating Secret Rite Tower as his calvary! Joseph cursed in silence.

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The party temporarily scattered and retreated to a corner.

While those humanoid beings had temporarily disregarded their existence, the party couldn’t place their hopes on the enemy being blind and deaf.

They still had to prepare for the worst.

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“Homunculi,” Andrew took a deep breath in before giving a firm answer. “These are all homunculi made with philosopher's stones as their cores.”

Joseph whipped his head round and stared at him. “Homunculi? The ‘Clay Idol’ Project you guys were in charge of?”

Andrew nodded with a somewhat complex expression. “To date, all our products of the ‘Clay Idol’ Project can all be considered failures.”

“So these ones here are successful products?” Joseph pointed at the emotionless humanoids, having instantly picked up the hidden meaning in Andrew’s words.

“Yes, but also no,” was Andrew’s reply.

Joseph really wanted to punch this fella on the spot, but ultimately restrained himself from doing so. “You better explain yourself,” he warned.

“What determines these homunculi as a success is the perfect integration with the philosopher’s stone in their bodies; they practically have no flaws.

“Aether flows unrestricted within their bodies, and I believe you can sense that. Their degree of resonance has reached terrifyingly new heights. Given the opportunity to learn and imitate, they could immediately become powerful magicians, or exceptional scholars.”

Indeed, given this point, these were created specimens that couldn’t be any more perfect.

Seemingly failing to notice Joseph’s murderous gaze, Andrew continued without much care, “As for why I deemed them as failures, it’s because they are deprived of consciousness.

“Homunculi without a mind of their own are merely useful tools that can’t be labeled as a being.”

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The look on his face got more unreadable. “However, I feel that this failure was a deliberate one.

“Which means that the creators of these homunculi didn’t actually lack skill but, on the contrary, just needed them as tools?” Andrew muttered a rhetorical question, repeating it for Joseph’s sake on purpose.

Joseph was in disbelief.

If this were truly the case, it would mean the ones behind this harnessed a power and boldness much more fearsome than they originally believed.

He had heard about the Truth Union’s homunculi project before, as well as the unimaginable amount of resources required by the Truth Union to support it. And now, seeing this many perfect homunculi before him meant that the resources required for such an undertaking were way more.

Expending so much yet only utilizing the products as service tools is just insane extravagance. Imagine how much better they would be if they were nurtured to become tools of battle.

Such a thought came into Joseph’s mind.

Unless… the creator was a Supreme-rank and didn’t require these insignificant creations to aid him.

“What’s more, their original form…” said Andrew as he glanced at a passing homunculus in a white coat, “…are the same as the three perfect T1383 specimens that went missing after the laboratory in Machine Loop was attacked and destroyed.

“Ever since that attack, we had the assumption that those specimens had been delivered somewhere else by the moles, hence we launched a Norzin-wide search that proved fruitless till now.

“It turns out that we were all wrong. They never actually left Machine Loop.”

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