Chapter 56 – Intellectual Debate
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In the former battlefield where the Vanguard team slaughtered hundreds of beasts, there’s a temporary shelter made from root walls, leaf roofs and bone pillars. The interior is protected with a thin sheet of lead shielding prepared by yours truly, Klauss Ludwig.

As a combat engineer, it is in his nature to prepare numerous contraptions for future possibilities, just like how mages need to prepare spell resources in advance. 

The lead shielding offered a great protection against radiation, but it has a relatively weak defense against physical or magical attack. Therefore, cleaning up the area first from the presence of beasts is important. Although a stray attack wouldn’t immediately tear down the lead shielding, fixing it multiple times a day isn’t efficient and is also a hassle.

Within one of the rooms of the temporary shelter, Shion casually sat as she leaned on her coffin-like mobile furnace.  

“Let’s start the debate that I’ve promised you..” Shion has delayed her promise to Klauss’ multiple times. It was about time that she accepted it.  

“Wunderbar!” Klauss exclaimed energetically.

“What do you want from me?” Shion asked.

‘Intellectual Debate’ is a culture of Kaiserreich that was born thousands of years ago, which sparked the advancement of refinement-path in general within Kaiserreich. 

Instead of a debate, it was more like a transaction.

One will showcase their technique, while the other will try their best to comprehend it. After the first one finishes demonstrating their technique, the role will be reversed. It is a ‘debate’ because both will try their best to fool each other, while at the same time, determine the truth behind the false in their technique. 

If, for example, Shion could not comprehend the technique Klauss used, she can ask him to showcase it one more time. However, doing so would grant Klauss a favor, which can be used to do the same towards her. The ‘debate’ will end when both no longer have favors toward each other. 

In other words, a trade of techniques, but with extra steps.

Shion wasn’t afraid of being incapable of showing off her technique. She was the Great Archmage who developed the floating fortress Alistair, after all. But, that doesn't mean she would willingly teach him some secret arts without gaining something in return. 

Klauss pondered for a few moments. “I want you to teach me how to refine magic machinery weapons….”

Shion frowned as she instantly understood his situation. 

Refinement-paths have more school of thought than strength-path. 

If strength-path have self-strength, beast strength, and atmospheric strength as their school of thoughts, then refinement-path school of thoughts are separated into: Alchemy (magic & non-magic version), clockwork, engineering, runesmith, forging, spell catalyst refinement, formation, and of course, magic engineering (magic machinery) and a few other minor topics (including poison-path and others).   

Chemistry, engineering (which completely made clockwork school of thought irrelevant), and magic engineering are the three refinement-path schools of thought pioneered by the Great Archmage. Their practitioners are relatively scarcer than other refinement-path schools. Even in Kaiserreich where refinement-path has always been blooming, they are still relatively uncommon. 

Therefore, it was understandable that Klauss was interested in learning magic engineering.

Unfortunately, diving into a new school of thought is, although simpler than learning a new path altogether, is still difficult if one does not have related foundational skills and knowledge.  

Magic Engineering is an advanced school of thought based on others. It is based on multiple schools such as engineering, alchemy, runesmith, and forging. 

Yes, Klauss have great foundations in engineering, forging, and alchemy as they are the core foundation of magic engineering, but magic machinery requires one to be not only familiar with magical materials, but also can use it in some capacity.

Keep in mind that Klauss came from Kaiserreich which is located in the Land of Sand and Fire. They have the greatest antimage culture in Morgen World and thus, abhor magic the most. 

After the rise of the Great Archmage and the birth of magic machinery, Kaiserreich started to lessen their abhorrence against magic in general under the instruction of their patron deity, the Clockwork God Oppenheimer. 

‘The mid-god Oppenheimer has always wanted to become a high-god by taking in more divine concepts. While I was the Great Archmage, he was one of the most eager for my True Inheritances because the divine concepts contained within it allows him to become… a Machine God.’ Shion thought as he observed Klauss.

In the previous battle, she already discovered Klauss’ identity as techpriest of Oppenheimer because whenever he refined something, he prayed at the ‘Machine God’ (self-proclaimed) in hope for his favor. After that, she had expected the chance for him to desire her Magic Machinery expertise.

‘Unfortunately, magic machinery is not divine machinery. My attainment in faith-path is too low to construct a propper, functional divine machinery battle puppets useful in battle between Sovereigns. In fact, they could not be used to fight against rank 4 Paragons even if I am given unlimited resources to refine the strongest divine machinery battle puppets. Still, the fact that a rank 0 techpriest of Oppenheimer is eager to find magic machinery inheritance means the whole Kaiserreich is mobilized for this endeavor...’ 

Shion felt a phantom headache. Despite her brain being a crystal processor and has no nervous system to speak of, she could determine the implication of this simple clue. 

‘If Oppenheimer obtained magic machinery inheritances and deduced divine machinery and became a true ’Machine God’, he will be a great hindrance in Holy Terra’s invasion in the future…Well, I’d have to leave Intelligent Metal to deal with him. I’m sure she’s very eager to kill and devour a Machine God.’

Shion discarded the phantom migrain easily as she dumped the problem to someone else.

“Please elaborate which one you would like to learn. Magic machinery is a complex subject, it couldn’t be learnt easily.” She replied.

“Weapons. Specifically, a handheld artillery like your gunlance.” Klauss answered.

“Oh.” Shion paused. “No biggies. In exchange, I want a rank 1 dimensional storage.” replied her as she emphasized her gaze on one of Klauss’ ring-covered fingers. “The non-blessed one, of course.” she added.

It was Klauss’s turn to frown. He did not expect this at all. 

‘Intellectual Debate’ is about exchanging technique, but refinement is not all about technique or method but also precious resources. Thus, it was common for intellectual debate to transform into a transaction.

He thought Shion would ask for some secret Kaiserreich refinement technique as knew quite a bit. By showing off his technique after the battle, he was baiting Shion, but she isn’t easily baited in some secret techniques.

She didn’t lack refinement-path methods, why would she ask for them? In some aspects, she might be better than his patron deity, the Machine God (self-proclaimed) Oppenheimer.

It’s better for her to gain concrete benefits that she can use immediately. After all, she has a rank 1 material that couldn’t be stored indefinitely in her mobile furnace’s dimensional storage. 

“I see you are hesitant.” Shion said. Intellectual Debate is about showing techniques, not asking someone to teach something. In a sense, it was Klauss who broke his own culture, but nobody blames anyone because magic machinery is too alluring towards the techpriest. “So let’s change our transaction a bit. I will patiently teach you how to refine a relatively simple magic machinery weapon of your choosing for three days until the main army arrives in exchange for that rank 1 dimensional storage. How about that?”

Klauss' hesitation crumbled as it was replaced by desire. If he contributes his findings towards Oppenheimer, he will be rewarded greatly, his cultivation base which was based on divine favor will grow quickly, perhaps into the rank of late-stage or peak-stage of rank 0!

“One moment, Herr-Captain. I will need to ask permission from my… God.”

“Oh, you are a techpriest. I see. Go ahead.” Shion feigned ignorance.

….

In the Land of Sand and Fire, there was a type of beast whose scales are tougher than most weapons, they are referred to as Gepanzerte Bestie, or panzer beasts in short. 

They took on many shapes and forms. Some looked like tigers, sand wurms, cats, sand scorpions, reptiles, or some type of birds. Panzer beast species are mostly active within Kaiserreich territory, they are led by Armored Dragon subspecies. It gives the higher ups of the country a great headache, until at some point, the weapon to hunt Panzer beasts is invented.

Panzerschreck.

It shreds panzer defenses easily as if they are tissue papers. Furthermore, it can be mounted on most clockwork battle puppets, the primary armaments of Kaiserreich, and thus, opening up the country to a great amount of resources to exploit. After all, Panzer scales, hides, bones or other body parts are precious sources of biometals and other raw materials.

Now, panzerschreck are used widely by Kaisrreich combat engineers to fight against all sorts of large monsters because their efficiency rose depending on the rocket used.

“New panzerschreck weaponry is being developed each year. Because you’re a sound-path antimage, I want your help in refining this...” Klauss handed over a high-quality paper parchment containing a blueprint of a weapon. 

Shion could smell the thick stench of divine power coming out of it. To her, it was obvious that Oppenheimer just materializes it through his divine miracle.

“A new type of melee panzerschreck? Why did I get the feeling that this weapon is heavily inspired by my gunlance?” Shion raised her eyebrows.   

Klauss scratched his cheeks, feigning ignorance. Oppenheimer must’ve put a lot of attention on this young techpriest.

The typical gods are busy minding their own business or hatching a scheme for a great cause. When they are not, they wouldn’t put too much attention towards their low-ranked believers.  Even if Oppenheimer could split his attention to handle millions of matters at once, Klauss is merely a rank 0 techpriest. His rank is simply too low to get his attention. 

‘It seems like… Oppenheimer is truly desperate to become the Machine God.’ Shion shrugged her shoulders. She couldn’t do anything even if she knew this blueprint came from Oppenheimer himself. “Well, it doesn't matter. A trade is a trade.”

“Wunderbar! So when can we start?” 

“Right now.” Shion shook her head. “Since this is a rocket propelled-warhammer, what do you think is the most important property?”

“Durability.” Klauss answered immediately.

“That’s correct. Combining a melee weapon and a gun is actually unwise. A proper warhammer will function better than a rocket propelled-warhammer because rockets utilize small parts that work together in tandem. If they receive a sufficient amount of shock, they will break and thus the ‘rocket-warhammer’ will not function properly. 

That being said, magic machinery weapons require a supporting system such as memory metal alloy or repair-type nanomachines to work if you don’t want to handle maintenance every battle, but…”

“The Machine God’s blessings could function in exchange of those.” Klauss replied with pride.

“Yes.” Shion sighed as if Klauss was cheating. Faith-path methods are superb at healing and support but depending on the god’s divine concepts, their effectiveness varied. Oppenheimer’s blessings are especially effective in repairing weapons, clockwork battle puppets (golem), or contraptions in general and thus, could ‘heal’ most inanimate objects included in his divine concepts.  

“Since you understand that much, let’s move on to the next part: the runes.” Shion read the blueprint that Klauss gave her deeply. There were no runes whatsoever in the said blueprint. This wasn’t because magic machinery weapons have no runes but because Oppenheimer expects Shion to put hers on it.

“Magic machinery artifacts wouldn’t work if there’s no magical runes on them. Otherwise, it would be referred to as techno-artifacts, stuff that rely purely on science like the early iteration of Murasaki clan’s mechas. I heard it was a total disaster. Anyhow, as an antimage, I cannot refine magical runes through the normal ways. And therefore, I will have to use other methods such as… ninjutsu.” 

Magical runes do not refer to runes made by magic casters (mages). Instead, they refer to the runes that utilize magical principles to work. After the Great Archmage showed the world that non-mages can do alchemy with magical materials as long as there's a proper set of equipment and mages could use non-magical materials for their magic spells, it was only a matter of time before martial artists deduce methods to reproduce it. 

People aren’t braindead to the point of no advancement being made even after 200 years. 

Shion extracted a vial of dark blue liquid and a bunch of other supporting materials from her mobile furnace’s dimensional storage. No matter from which perspective, the materials she took out were dregs. Wastes, leftovers from refining an artifact. The quality is next to worthless, but it will suffice to demonstrate.

She made a set of hand seals swiftly, as if afraid Klauss would decode her methods. After her method was activated, she processed the dregs with her hand. They turned into powder, and she drew a rune in the air with it by using a soundfield. 

Then, she combined the dark blue liquid and other supporting materials worth no less than a typical rank 0 artifact with the dregs. It reacted quickly as it melted and mixed well under the influence of the soundfield. 

The end result is a small greyish-silver rune with unknown function floating on the air. 

Klauss stayed quiet the whole time as he waited for Shion to explain.

“What I showed you just now is called Soundfield Rapid Refinement, my clan’s original refinement technique. It seems simple because the materials mixed well with ‘concentrated electro-solvent’. Yes, I used a lightning-path spell catalyst that I made a while ago as a refinement catalyst. It's easy if you understand the properties of each material. You can exchange the materials I used with something that you’re familiar with. Of course, one of them must be magical ones… Well, it’s faster if I just guide you through it.” 

Shion took the rune floating in the air by grasping it with her palm. The rune disappeared, its existence seems like an illusion.

‘I’ve heard that she inherited one of the Great Archmage’s refinement-path minor inheritance, but it’s still amazing how she can use high-complexity refinement techniques as if it were a breeze.’ Klauss thought to himself. In his career, he never heard of using spell catalysts as refinement catalysts because they are precious combat resources. It was such an eye-opening experience for him. 

As for why she has a lightning-path spell catalyst? He knew she has a liquid metal Soul Armament that seems to be able to use lightning-path spells, it isn’t strange if Shion was the one who supplied the spell catalysts.

‘Furthermore, she destroyed the runes she refined for demonstration purposes without feeling anything… She must have at least master-level attainment in refinement-path because newbies will grieve if they throw away rank 0 materials wastefully like this...’ 

Refining runes is expensive, it was the primary reason why magic machinery artifacts are beyond reach for some. That small, single-character rune worth a typical rank 0 artifact and a proper magic machinery weapon usually possessed groups of runes or even an array or two in it. 

As someone with master-level attainment in refinement-path, Klauss was confident that his comprehension is better than most refiners. When Shion showcased her methods, he instantly understood the phrase ‘there’s always someone better than yourself’.

Unknown to Klauss, those materials used are all trash. Wastes that Shion didn’t use because their quality is lower than what she’s satisfied with.

“Bitte. I dabbled in fire-path as well, so maybe we can start with that.” Klauss admitted.

“Fire-path… I am not too familiar with it, so I can only offer minor aid.” Shion lied naturally as she blinked. But still, she tried her ‘best’ to fulfil her part of bargain.

Three days later, Klauss re-emerged from Shion’s room with a smile. He carried a rocket-hammer with him, evident of his success. The magic machinery weapon wasn’t the best, but it was the start of Klauss’ path towards refining a complex multi-rune array magic machinery weapon. 

‘It only has one rune whose function is to convert heat or fire element particles into a shaped explosion like a blast charge, but it was sufficient as a start. Lord Oppenheimer will send the rune blueprint and refinement method to Kaiserreich and deduce better, more efficient melee-type panzerschreck based on this.’ Klauss thought inwardly. 

He wouldn’t be that narcissistic to think that his contribution would propel the advancement of magic machinery weapon in his vatterland into a new height, but one magical rune is an excellent intellectual resource for the development of magic machinery, especially since Galatreon have been extorting a great amount of raw materials from Kaiserreich for small refinement-path inheritances.

As for giving a rank 1 storage ring for this… it wasn’t expensive in the slightest. His God has promised him something far more beneficial, not only in divine favor but also a percentage of benefit that came from the rune that he designed. Thankfully, he did not try to negotiate with Shion. 

Otherwise, she would extort far more resources than what she got. Klauss instinctively knew Shion’s stance. After all, a refiner’s path to success can only be built by mountains of resources. He thanked his great insight for not probing Shion’s bottom line.

“Boss!” Klauss saw Kenji throw the rank 1 dimensional storage ring that he gave to Shion a few days ago towards Shion.

Shion catches it in the air as she touches the transparent gem on the ring with her thumb. It was one of the methods to interact with the space inside the ring. 

She revealed a smile. “Excellent, you’ve gathered the materials without a single one missing. I will give you something in return later.” She gave Kenji a thumbs up. Then, she urged the other vanguard team members.

“The main army is arriving. Let’s greet them.” She led them face towards the incoming army consisting of kobolds and ents.

 

 

 

Ayy gutten tag! 'Tis I, Sola-sama, with an unscheduled chapter release! I've squeezed brain juice to pump up hundreds of words a day in my exhausted state because I love Soul Venerable and you, my readers. This is probably the only chapter this week.

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