Infiltrating Lacepede Castle
Editors: Darkdhaos, Ruzenor
In the Žaloudek eastern governance house within Fontaine city, the territory of the former Archduke Fernando was prosperous as it laid along the East-West Highway(Occident Road) and the trade route on it. In one corner of the city was an area of shops that was usually bustling with life. However, such scenes were gone after the city fell into the hands of the Žaloudek Kingdom, and it became a dead market place.
And now, the place was occupied by the Tyrants of the Žaloudek army. The giant swiveling eyeballs all around the city gaze blankly at the streets, surveilling every actions of the people on the streets.
“... When I first visited this place, it was so crowded that just walking on the street took a lot of effort. What happened here? It was such a lively city back then…”
A man who looked like a merchant grumbled as he walked along the side of the road, wary of the Black Knights’ gaze. There wasn’t any other merchants around him, and the few scant citizens on the streets were walking briskly as if they were trying not to appear conspicuous.
“I see, no wonder the Žaloudek Kingdom wants a firm hold of this territory quickly. From the looks of things, they can’t gain much from the city.
The person besides him was a servant boy wearing a low hood. He was small in stature and answered the man. The man turned into a corner with an unhappy face. They walked along the deserted alley and finally reached an old abandoned warehouse.
“Really now, I didn’t think I will ever need to be so secretive inside this city.”
The merchant sat down with a pomf, took off his coat and scratched his hair. He was the Second Prince of Fremmevira Kingdom, Emrys. By the way, the one pretending to be his servant boy was Ernesti. They used the disguise of the Silver Phoenix Merchant boldly, and infiltrated Fontaine. Although there wasn’t any point in disguising as a merchant with the chaotic economic situation of Fontaine.
“We got the gist of the city’s situation, and the surroundings of our target, Lacepede Castle.”
"I will lead the way if there is any emergency, I remember the rough layout of the city. I had been in their care… How about it? Is it time to move yet?”
After Emrys said that, he shifted his gaze to the depths of the warehouse. This warehouse used to be owned by a well off merchant and had plenty of room. After it was abandoned, the place was emptied, but it was now filled with bulky full body armour that had been painted a dark shade of green. These were the ‘merchandize’ they smuggled in by pretending to be the Silver Phoenix Merchant.
“We are ready for your command. The invisible 12 Silhouette Gears ‘Shadowlad’ divided into four platoons, and the Knight Commander’s old Silhouette Gear model ‘Motor Beat’ are ready to go.”
Nora stepped out of the shadows and knelt on one knee to answer Emrys’ question. She was followed by several men and women. On paper, they were gathered here as the Silhouette Gear unit of the Silver Phoenix Knights, but they were actually spies from the Blue Hawk Knights.
By the way, the dark green Silhouette Gear ’Shadowlad’ was originally designed for the Blue Hawks with their spy activities in mind. The one who came up with the idea was the liaison person attached to the Silver Phoenix Knights, Nora. After witnessing the exploits of the Silhouette Gear, she was certain that it was suited for her ‘primary trade’.
The new weapon known as Silhouette Gear possessed abilities craved by the Blue Hawks that was mainly an intelligence agency, which was ‘fast reaction, strong and exceptionally quiet during operations’.
The biggest difference between the Silhouette Gears and Silhouette Knights wasn’t their size, but the possession of an Ether Reactor. Missing an Ether Reactor might seem to be a flaw on the surface, but it was actually an advantage. After all, Ether Reactor was very noisy when in operation. Silhouette Knights used for stealth work tend to sacrifice its internal mechanism to suppress the noise, resulting in low combat capability, a major flaw. Silhouette Gears wouldn’t have such an issue.
In the first place, the combat power of Silhouette Gears were far beneath that of Silhouette Knights. But compared to humans, they were a big threat, just right for the Blue Hawks who mainly deals with humans. The Shadowlad was crafted under such a background, and became the core of the battleplan this time, a good chance for them to shine.
"Well then, everyone… The Kuscheperca royals rescue plan will commence when the sun sets today."
Everyone nodded slowly after hearing Eru’s orders. This was the first time in history that a Silhouette Gear unit was used in special operations.
Shortly after dusk, the streets of Fontaine turned silent. Energetic merchants already left the streets, and the citizens returned to their homes early out of fear for the Black Knights. Only a deathly silence was left, broken by the occasional footsteps of giants.
The faint sound of Crystal Tissues churning could be heard from the patrolling Tyrants who surveyed its surroundings. The optical reception device of the Silhouette Knight— its Crystal Eyeball couldn’t see in the dark, that’s why bonfires were lit around the streets for illumination. After confirming there wasn’t anyone around from the flickering light of the fire, the Black Knight continued striding forward.
However, he was completely wrong.
On the roof of the interconnected buildings inside Fontaine city, several figures dashed by quietly. Leading the way was a dark blue Silhouette Gear— Motor Beat, piloted by the Knight Commander of the Silver Phoenix Knights, Ernesti. Behind him was Chid and Ady who were also piloting Motor Beats. Further back was the Shadowlad manned by Emrys, and the Shadowlads of the Blue Hawk Knights followed in silence.
Under the dim moonlight, the group became literally shadows. They leapt over one building after another with the power of the Crystal Tissues supported by the Inner Skeleton.The band of shadows ran without glancing sideways. The Silhouette Gears were powered by the mana of the pilot, and they showed no signs of faltering even when moving at full speed. From this, it was clear that everyone was familiar with the operation of the Silhouette Gears.
Moments later, they passed through the commercial district and into the city center. Before them was the former center of governance surrounded by sturdy walls and moats — Lacepede Castle.
“... According to intel, the royals are imprisoned in the high towers at the four corners of Lacepede. The top of the towers are used as their cells, and our targets are there. I don’t know which tower they are in, so we need to split up and attack at the same time.”
Besides Eru were the Silhouette Gears of Chid, Ady and Emrys. The four of them were the team leaders, and would each command a group to different objectives.
“First priority is the safety of the royals. It is fine to exterminate anyone who gets in our way. Please move quietly, swiftly and accurately… Well then, let’s go!”
On the order of the Knight Commander, the shadow spread as one, and dash in four different directions quietly.
The walls of Lacepede Castle was guarded by sentries and Tyrants, but they couldn’t be blamed for not noticing the Silhouette Gears that infiltrated under the cover of night. After all, the enemy would first need to get past Fontaine city that was patrolled by the Black Knights before they could get to Lacepede Castle. There wasn’t many who would dare sneak into the lair of the Žaloudek army.
Passing through the blind spot created by the darkness, the Silhouette Gears charged out of the city, and ran for the moat and leapt.
Arrowheads were launched from their wrists with a swoosh. With the magical phenomenon of exploding air as its propelling force, the arrows flew out, with a Silver nerve attached to it. This was a device called Anchor Wire. When its tip reached the wall, it transformed into a clamp and locked firmly in place. With that spot as a pivot, the Silhouette Gears swung over the moat like a pendulum, and then grabbed onto the towering walls.
Silhouette Gears were machines that strengthened the movements of humans with Crystal Tissue. Its powerful Strand Crystal Tissue could even outperform demon beasts its size in terms of strength. The moat used to guard against men, horses and Silhouette Knights was useless against this new weapon.
The Silhouette Gears scaling the wall extended their limbs as they surveyed the surroundings. The Shadowlad’s blade like fingers hung onto the protruding parts of the wall, and climbed up nimbly. The 30m wall was far taller than a Silhouette Knight, but the shadows scaled it easily without any problems.
A sentry patrolled the top of the walls. There had been no major incidents since the Žaloudek army occupied the territory, and the guard was laxed in his vigilance. It was clear that he was just going through the motions.
As he walked casually, he heard the sound of the wind and stopped. Raising his gas lamp to check the surroundings, he didn’t see anything out of the norm. After observing a while more, the sentry shift the gaslamp before him and prepared to return to his patrol route—
— There was a sudden noise of something spinning and the thud of the wall being kicked. A large shadow was illuminated by the light of the gaslamp. After landing soundlessly, the figure used a blade that was dyed black to stab the sentry.
The shadow threw down the corpse after confirming that the sentry who dropped his gaslamp was dead. Not just him, the other sentries on the wall was disposed of swiftly by shadows appearing one after another.
“No signs of the enemy.”
“Next will be a race against time, sprint there in one go.
Eru’s Motor Beat overlooked the central courtyard from the wall. Compared to the tight security at the walls and the city, the internal surveillance was laxed. Bonfires were sparse, and there were many dark spots in the courtyard.
After confirming that quickly, he jumped down from the edge of the wall easily. The shadow leapt from a height much taller than a Silhouette Knight. If he landed just like this, even Motor Beat would be damaged. Fortunately, the pilot wasn’t any normal person.
The Motor Beat extended its arm as it drew near the surface and created a magical phenomenon. This was a concentration of air used as a cushion, 'Air Suspension' magic. By doing this, the Motor Beat negated the impact of the fall, and landed quietly in the courtyard.
Immediately after that, the Shadowlads also jumped. The limbs of Shadowlads were specially designed, with multiple joints that was bonded by Strand Crystal Tissues. Its flexible structure absorbed most of the impact, and could also reduce noise. All the Shadowlads landed safely with stances of beasts.
There were guards in the courtyard too, but they didn’t notice the movement of the shadows. Not only were the infiltrators concealed in the shadow, they were very quiet despite their large stature and had a faint sense of presence. There were limits to how observant the guards could be too.
There were hordes of soldiers in the other part of the castle, but not one man noticed the infiltrators. Their guard was laxed because of the security on the walls and in the city, but the more important reason was the Silhouette Gears sneaking in from a blind spot, which made this impossible mission possible.
The group ran in the dark in silence, and reached the foot of their assigned towers in no time.
"… This should be the place."
Eru shot an Anchor Wire towards the top of the tall tower. After confirming it was secured, he wound up the cable, using the pulling force to jump onto the outer wall of the tower and started running up. The Shadowlads were right behind him.
In order to imprison the valuable prisoners— royalties of the old Kuscheperca Kingdom, water tight security was deployed inside the tower. But their focus was around the room at the top of the towers, and the stairs leading there. After all, who could imagine that someone would scale the walls of the tower that was much taller than the city walls? Climbing the wall that lacked any places to hold on to would be a daunting task even for experts. Even if someone could reach the top, there wasn’t any entrance save a window too small for human passage.
Unfortunately, such common sense wasn’t applicable for Silhouette Gears.
After reaching the top, Motor Beat shot out Anchors to lock itself onto the wall, then use its powerful muscles to destroy the area around the small window. The stone walls crumbled, and a hole big enough for a huge full plate armour was made. It had given up any attempt of being quiet.
"… How vulgar of you to barge into a lady’s chamber in the middle of the night. Identify yourself.”
Before Eru finished surveying the room, a soft accusatory voice reached his ears. He turned and saw only one spot in the dim room had a light, and a lady was sitting there on a chair with a book in her hand.
"There was some inconvenience in getting in, please forgive my transgression. You are Archduchess Martina, I presume?”
“Yes I am. However, I haven’t heard your answer to my question, or did you not hear it?”
She was Martina Alt Kuscheperca — who was married to the late brother of the King, Fernando, and also Emrys’ aunt. Eru nodded and after a quick bow, took out a badge from his person. Engraved on it was the flag of Fremmevira Kingdom, surrounded by a Silver Phoenix
The calm Martina showed an expression of surprise for the first time.
"… That insignia. Did my brother sent his men here?"
"Yes. Time is pressing so I will be brief. We are here with His Highness Emrys to rescue you.”
The sound of the door being unlocked came from the entrance. The guards on watch probably sensed that something was wrong and started to act.
"… That fool, venturing to such a place! Alright, on account of the badge and that name, I will believe you. But the Princess and my daughter are also trapped here, I can’t escape alone.”
"I understand, please don’t worry. We have sent people to rescue the two of them, similar to this place. We made the preparation to spirit all three of you away.”
Martina closed her eyes to think for a short moment, then closed her book with a thud and tossed it aside.
“Fine, after hearing you say that, I have no reason to linger in this damn cramp place. My cute knight, please lead the way.”
“By your orders. Escaping might be a little rough, and I seek your kind understanding for that.”
“Haha, of course! Let’s get out from here and surprise those fellows!”
She spoke in a manner similar to her nephew, which made Eru smile wryly. He got on Motor Beat again, and carried Martina by manipulating its giant arms.
“This way please… Hii!”
Right after saying that, Motor Beat jumped out of the large hole it came in from without any hesitation.
“What was that noise!?”
The next second, the soldiers flood into the room after throwing the door open. The tightly secured door became an obstacle in their attempt to stop the escape instead. When the guards stepped into the room, it was only empty, with just the icy night squall blowing in from the destroyed window.
"How is it possible… to escape from this tower!? Send men to give chase, quick!!”
The whistles of the soldiers echoed throughout Lacepede Castle.
At the moment Motor Beat destroyed the wall, the other Silhouette Gears team also reached the other towers at almost the same time.
"It’s me, Emrys! Who is imprisoned here!? I’m here to save you!!”
"…!? Eh, Rys-nii!? That voice… Is it really Rys-nii?
"Oh, Isadora!? Great, you sound lively.."
Emrys who got in after destroying the window like Eru did got off the Shadowlad and took off his helmet.. Martina’s daughter Isadora recognized his face, recovered from her daze and thrown herself into the arms of Emrys.
"Ara, it’s fine now Isadora… Hey, don’t cry, so even you will be afraid after getting captured huh."
"N-Not at all. I just feel bored after being locked up… No, eh..."
Seeing her stutter and wiping her tears, Emrys rubbed her head happily. Isadora got away from him in a hurry, her hair in a mess.
“Haha, it will be fine now. Since we are here, the retarded Prince won’t be able to do as he please. Let’s hurry on out of here!”
After Emrys got onto his Shadowlad and prepared to leave, a soft laughter reached his ears.
"Fufu, this is funny. Emrys is actually calling someone dumb!"
As Emrys dorn on his Silhouette Gear swiftly, he said gloomily:
"What do you mean by that? Forget it, time to split. Come with me, Isadora!"
He carried Isadora in one arm and used Shadowlad to send a signal. His subordinates waiting outside the tower checked surroundings, and started moving to guide him.
"It will be a bit rough, hold on tight!"
"Huh? Wait, Rys-nii… How did you get up here… Hyiii…!?”
Isadora who only felt puzzled nor didn’t manage to find out before they jumped out from the top of the tower.
Towers were erected on the four corners of Lacepede Castle, and the Princess Eleanora was imprisoned in one of them. In the dim room that didn’t even have a lamp, she didn’t do anything and spent her time in a daze. Her entire body was devoid of strength, as if she had been locked away for ten years. However, she had been here for less than a year.
The lackluster Eleanora was like a withered flower. The Second Kingdom of the Žaloudek Kingdom, Cristóbal announced their marriage — which meant she would wed the murderer of her father and destroyer of her country— This news was a heavy blow to the Princess who was raised delicately. She couldn’t accept this, but she would be killed if she rejects, and her cousin Isadora would be forced to take her place. With no other path to take, her heart weakened by her peaceful life was devastated.
In the end, she gave up resisting, and spent her days in gloom.
My way of life is much like a plant...
The blooming flower that was treated with extreme care was now abandoned like the moss on the ground. She finally realized that she never took the initiative to decide anything before.
She laid back onto her bed, and slowly scanned the room, stopping her gaze at the wall . It was a dark, boring room. Her heart was just like this dull room, locked behind thick and stifling walls without any freedom. It might look like an impressive tower from the outside, but the inside was barren.
Tears rolled down her cheeks, staining the sheets. What should she do? What should she had done? She couldn’t solve the problem or offer any resistance. A sense of weakness got into every pore of her body, and she lost the strength to even sit up.
"…… Please, someone save me…"
Her faint words was proof of her will as a human, the last resistance she could give. These words softer than the brushing of leaves spread into the air around her—
In an instant, her field of vision exploded with a bang. The hard steel bars of the windows fell off, and the sturdy stone wall collapsed.
Was it the power of Eleanora’s words? Of course not. A tall unfamiliar knight emerged from the breach in the wall, and he entered the room after enlarging the hole with his enormous strength.
Eleanora couldn’t get up, and watched the situation unfolding before her motionlessly. More accurately speaking, she wasn’t staying still because of a lack of reaction, but because she was too surprised.
"Okay, anyone here? Well… Oh!?"
The armoured knight had a cheerful voice that didn’t fit the place. The arm he raised made the screeching sound of string coiling, and fire magic appeared at his fingertips. It illuminated the surroundings, and also lit up the figure of Eleanora lying stiffly on her bed.
Chid who barged into the tower inside Motor Beat also stood dazed on the spot. The flickering light revealed a petite figure of a beautiful girl about his age.
… Wah— I hit the jackpot? She must be the Princess right? … She is as small as Eru and… really gorgeous.
The truth was, Eleanora was frail both physically and mentally, and her beauty that got her the name Flower of Kuscheperca was gone.However, Chid couldn’t see that clearly in the dim room, so she appeared dreamlike and enchanting.
Neither of them knew how to react, and they just stared at each other wordlessly for some time. Finally, Chid got back to his senses and asked her quickly:
"Erm, ah— You are the Princess of Kuscheperca correct?"
"……Yes. And you are?"
The sudden visit and unexpected situation baffled Eleanora, and she answered honestly. Her delightful voice as beautiful as birds chirping reached Chid’s ears.
"I am erm… Sent from this place.”
Chid secured his Motor Beat and opened the armour. His helmet and armour popped open, the parts covering his abdomen, waist and legs opened too. He removed his armour, and took out a badge, proffering it to Eleanora. She thought a bulky knight would be under that armour, and widened her eyes in surprise when she saw the youth appeared under it. She hesitated for a moment, then inspected the badge timidly. Her education as a Princess made her realize quickly what the emblem on it mean.
"This is from Fremmevira Kingdom… Could it be, Aunt Martina’s…?"
“Yup, that’s it! We are here to rescue Lady Martina and the Princess… We are here to save you.”
Eleanora needed some time to understand what Chid was saying. Rescue, escape, but who? From where? Thought fragments flash through her mind. She was confused and subconsciously, she just wanted to grab a helping hand. But her limbs didn’t move, it wasn’t that easy to wipe her mental trauma away.
“After I escape… what will happen next?”
Chid who thought the Princess would follow him immediately tilted his head at this unexpected query.
"It’s meaningless to run. The country had been taken… And father is already gone…”
She was sobbing at the end. Her fragile heart couldn’t withstand anymore despair, so she was afraid of the uncertain future. She feared leaving this place, and couldn’t grab the hand of the knight.
She is a cute and frail just like she looks. Different from Eru after all. It’s weird for me to use Eru as the standard anyway.
Chid shook his head, clearing his head of his childhood friend who become stronger with every adversity he faced. He need to focus on the girl in front of him right now. She was unlike his childhood friend who was similar to a puny human shaped demon beast, and felt like a glass art piece that would shatter with just a touch.
“It will be fine, we have powerful allies. If we leave this place, we can send the invaders flying with our fist, and take back this country.”
Even after hearing this, Eleanora showed no signs of pulling herself together, and looked even more sullen instead. Chid started breaking out in cold sweat, wondering if he said something wrong.
"I… am very weak. I am a Princess, but I don’t know anything, and can’t do anything. Fighting wars aside, I can’t even leave this place…”
“What’s the problem with being weak, knights like us will be your strongest weapon, we will dorn on armour and go to war with our swords.”
When she heard his polite reply, Eleanora raised her head and said:
"Who would want to follow someone like me? Who would listen to the words of a tool…”
As she spoke, she remembered Cristóbal and started trembling. His face was twisted in her memories into a feral alien that feast on human flesh. Sooner or later, she would become his sacrifice.
“There is. At least I am willing.”
Chid said to her with firm determination, and reached out to Motor Beat behind him. Powered by the spell constructed by his mana, the mechanical armour was activated. It’s Crystal Tissue creaked, and the steel armour slowly covered his limbs. Finally, the chest plate was closed, and his figure disappeared from Eleonora’s eyes, replaced by a knight in heavy armour.
“I will be your knight and protect you. I will wield my sword for your sake, and commit to my duties as a knight.”
Eleanora looked up at the huge armour in silence. The armoured knight with the youth inside it was illuminated by the faint light. They might be different, but his figure overlapped with the people who fell in battle to protect her in the past.
"… My knight… Are you willing to live for me, and safeguard me?"
Motor Beat took a step back. Chid recalled the knight etiquettes he learned in school, and performed the most respectful rite of fealty.
“Your Highness, please bestow your first command to your loyal knight.”
Chid then waited. After a suffocating silence, he finally heard a faint reply.
“... I dislike this place. I don’t want to marry the enemy who killed my father… please take me away from here.”
“By your will!”
He held Eleanora’s outreached hand, and felt a cold and soft sensation. Chid forcefully chuck these feelings to a corner of his mind, and carried her delicate body with Motor Beat as carefully as possible.
A moment later, the Silhouette Gear jumped from the top of the tower, and the Princess in its arms screamed, disrupting the silence of the night.
The Motor Beat piloted by Eru carried Martina in its arms, and stepped off the top floor of the tower. It couldn’t really be called ‘stepping off’, and was closer to freefalling, a bold manner of escaping. It felt like suicide, but Martina still gritted her teeth, enduring it silently. Ambrosius daughter had guts too.
No matter how tall the tower, you would reach the ground in a blink of an eye. As they approached the ground with great speed, even Martina couldn’t help gasping. At this moment, Motor Beat reached out the hand that wasn’t holding her, and shot out a glittering Arrowhead with a sharp screech. The Anchor Wire flew through the night sky, and was used to slow Eru’s descent. Finally, he deployed an Air Suspension spell, and the compressed air caught Motor Beat by absorbing the force, allowing them to land safely. Eru stood up nonchalantly, and the other Shadowlad also jumped one after another.
“... Sigh… I was mentally prepared, but this is too rough. Are you really a knight? We did escape, but you really lack common sense!”
Even though Eru was used to such mobility, others might not be able to keep up. When he heard the loud protest of Martina who was breaking out in cold sweat from fear, he just answered casually.
“This is normal for Fremmevira Kingdom’s knights.”
Horrifying imaginations filled her mind as she wondered what kind of demonic place the home she left quite some time ago had become. By the way, even though there was plenty of problems with the way Eru put it, it was certainly true for the Silver Phoenix Knights
At the same time, the other teams had also got away successfully and returned to Eru’s side.
“Oh, well done Ernesti! My aunt is safe too!”
A familiar annoying voice made her turn her head, and she saw Emrys piloting a Shadowlad and holding Isadora in his arms. Martina believed in Eru and betted on him, and was relieved when she saw her daughter had been rescued.
The next one to meet them was the team led by Ady, who returned empty handed.
“Our target is empty! Ah, being carried by Eru, so envious…”
Ady’s murmurs was rightfully ignored. Shortly after that, Chid arrived with Eleonora in his arms, and the Silver Phoenix Knights successfully rescued all the captured royalty of Kuscheperca.
“All the royalties that are locked up is here right? Okay, let’s leave with haste.”
“That is true, but the castle is already in an uproar. They will definitely lock down the gates, how are you planning to escape? Can we fight our way out with these forces?”
It was natural for Martina to be uneasy, it was questioning the strength of infantry that was normal in the past. But the Silhouette Gears didn’t have such restrictions. Eru answered with a smile:
“By the way, we don’t need to pass through the gates.”
Everyone ran towards the wall, and several Anchor Wire shot out and embed it into the wall. Speed was of the essence for a plan revolving around fleeing. With no need to remain covert, the group used ‘Aero Thrust’ magic unhesitantly, giving the Silhouette Gear an explosive acceleration. Using the momentum, they dashed up the vertical wall as if they were running on flat ground.
With the dumbstruck Martina and others in tow, the Silhouette Gear team scaled the wall easily, and threw themselves into the darkness. The counteractive force of ‘Aero Thrust’ even enabled them to leap over the moat.
As if the group was traveling through a deserted area, the Silhouette Gears ran along the roofs of the rows of buildings. They mana capacity of each individual might vary, but the speed of Silhouette Gears still exceed that of horses for short distances. Before the chaos in the castle spread into the city, the Silver Phoenix Knights’ Silhouette Gear unit escaped Fontaine.
At this point, Lacepede Castle was in complete chaos, with the collation of intel a mess and unable to make any moves. After all, the sentries posted all over the place were killed, and it wasn’t clear where the intruders came from, or where they escaped to. But from the panicked state the tower guards were in, it was clear that the Kuscheperca Royals had been taken away.
“D-Damn it, what a serious lapse! How am I supposed to explain this to His Highness!?”
The commander of the city— Doroteo’s roar fell like thunder, his wrath even stopped the movements of the soldiers around him, and silence fell. He was usually calm and mild, but he was roaring like an erupting volcano.
“What happened to the thieves!? Where did they escaped too!? Anyone see the enemy!?”
“W-Well… The gate sentries didn’t see any signs of the thieves escaping. There are no survivors amongst the patrols that encountered the enemy, we don’t have any intel…”
As he listened to the illogical report of his subordinate, Doroteo grit his teeth tight. Realizing he was about to erupt again, the soldier took half a step back, but Doroteo just turned silent. It was pointless to vent on the troops, the important thing is to figure out the next course of action.
He must not allow the Kuscheperca royals escape. Since they were taken, he had to take them back. No matter what.
"Damn it…! I can’t waste anymore time. Send out all the soldiers in the castle and city, and search the place thoroughly! In the worst case scenario, the thieves would have absconded from the city! Ready the Levitate Ship immediately, and search the region outside the city with them… We must not let them escape!!”
After saying that, he immediately took action. Making his way past the hurrying soldiers, he charge for the hangar.
Who exactly are these thieves… the remnants of the Kuscheperca? They actually kept such a powerful group in reserve? That is unbelievable. No matter who they are, I will eliminate anyone who get in the way of His Highness!
Doroteo Mardones— the famed general of Žaloudek Kingdom started his pursuit of the royals.
The Silhouette Gear team left Fontaine swiftly, and headed straight into the forest around the city, intending to throw any pursuers off their tracks. Something that was necessary for them to make a safe escape was also hidden there.
“It’s a little rough, are you still doing alright? We will changing our mode of transport soon. It will take some time to prepare, please wait a moment.”
Martina who was finally liberated from the arms of Motor Beat could barely stand properly. After that intense force march, even the strong willed Martina looked exhausted.
“You call that a little… What an exciting experience. However, Žaloudek will send pursuers, it won’t be easy to shake them off, what exactly are we…”
When Martina noticed the object in front of her, her voice started trailing off. Basked under the moonlight was a giant alien kneeling down in the forest, a being resembling both horse and man. It was the majestic visage of the Centaur Knight Tzendrinble.
"What in the world…"
Without any regards for Martina and the others, the members of the Silver Phoenix Knights got ready swiftly. There were two Tzendrinble and two wagons here. They jumped onto one of the wagon, then dismounted from their Silhouette Gears and started tying them down. Chid and Ady then dissapeared into the cockpit of the Tzendrinbles. The dormant Ether Reactors were revived, and the stirred Centaur Knights neighed as they woke.
Martina and the others could only stare with their eyes wide open, and were only pulled back to reality by Eru’s voice:
"Alright then, please get onto the wagon. We will be setting off immediately, and try to pull away as fast as possible under the cover of night.”
Standing behind Martina who barely managed to squeeze out this answer, Isadora pinched her own cheeks, wondering if she was dreaming. It was already a shock to see the knights rescue them in Silhouette Gears, but the impact of seeing the Centaur Knights was much greater.
They never heard of Silhouette Knights that had gone beyond the form of humans, but since Emrys was here, that meant these creations hailed from Fremmevira Kingdom. Even though their hearts were filled with doubts, they still walked towards the wagon as instructed.
"… I haven’t been back for a while, but how exactly does Fremmevira Kingdom looks like now…?"
"Haha! Please look forward to seeing that. Aunt, this way!”
Martina couldn’t suppress her sigh of resignation and Emrys responded by clenching his fist victoriously for some reason, and started introducing the machines to them. They were brought to the waiting room situated on the wagon, a place originally meant for pilots to rest on long voyages. It was well furnished with all sorts of facilities.
Behind Martina and Isadora who boarded with curiosity, Eleonora herself was at a loss.
"…Is this real life…?"
She only made up her mind and escaped here because she trusted that young knight, but the scene before her lack a sense of reality. She was beginning to doubt her ability to differentiate between reality and fantasy. Was being rescued and escaping Lacepede Castle just a nice dream conjured by her frail mind? Too much happened in one night, beyond what her weak spirit could take.
“Don’t worry, Your Highness.”
Someone in the Centaur Knight told Eleonora who was in a daze-like state. It was the voice of the young knight who whisked her away. For some reason, she could sense the presence of the youth from the Crystal Eyeball of the fearsome looking Centaur Knight.
“Leave it to me, Tzendrinble and I will definitely take you to safety."
The words of her knight pulled her back to reality immediately. She was the one who gave the order, and wished for him to render his aid. If she couldn’t trust him, then who could she trust? Eleonora squeezed out her last bits of resolve, and stood up.
“... Alright, I will be counting on you…”
Her soft voice was drowned out by the loud churning noise of the Silhouette Knight. However, it had definitely reached that youth.
“Ohh — Chid… I had never seen you so fired up before… Are you that enamoured by beautiful princesses?”
"Shut up, I’m just... Erm, doing my part as a member of the Silver Phoenix Knights…"
“Oh— Oh fufufu ohh, that feels right, wonderful! I feel fired up too!”
"Ah—! You are definitely mistaking something, Ady!!"
As the two bickered, all the preparations were done. Eru’s voice came from the Silhouette Knight on the wagon:
“Alright alright, enough you two. Everyone is ready. Well then, Silver Phoenix Knights… move out!"
With a neigh, the two Tzendrinbles moved off, heading towards the eastern borders of the old Kuscheperca Kingdom. After rescuing the captured Princess, the knights set off with powerful strides.
A Levitate Ship rode the winds as it overlooked the breaking dawn at the Aubigne mountains.
With the sound of the wind audible through the glass window Doroteo leaned back on the Captain’s seat. He shielded the glaring morning sun that annoyed him with one hand.
He set off with his unit from Fountaine, and rushed towards the east of the old Kuscheperca Kingdom. As the airborne Levitate Ship wasn’t affected by the terrain, it was much faster than other modes of transportation like carriages or Silhouette Knights. They had penetrated deeply into the eastern territories.
"……There… the escaped royals should be down there somewhere."
Doroteo stared at the map of the old Kuscheperca Kingdom in front of the Captain’s seat. This map wasn’t made hastily, but a highly accurate map they took from Lacepede Castle.
There were many benefits to using Levitate Ships as transports, but it had its own problems too. Route choices was the biggest difference. On land, the cities and streets would determine the route, and could be used as landmarks. It was a completely different matter when looking down from the sky. It required an imagination capable of matching the information from the compass and map with the sights and terrain seen from the air— such capabilities similar to naval navigators were needed. Hence, the strategic value of a highly accurate map was immeasurable.
“As expected, the only possibility is the east.”
Large amount of text was annotated on the map, the mark of the discussion Doroteo had with the navigator to decide their course. They weren’t moving mindlessly, and there were reasons why they chose the eastern route.
Firstly, Doroteo predicted that the royals would escape to the west, since they didn’t have any allies even if they ran from Fontaine to the central zone of old Kuscheperca.
At that moment, he remembered the rumours of an unknown enemy rampaging in the east. Linking the unexpected rescue raid of the royals with the unrest in the east was a natural deduction.
"The possible route are either here or here. If we make use of the Levitate Ship, we can catch up no matter which path they choose."
They then locked onto the route along the highways, under the assumption that the fleeing royals would prioritize speed. They were caught in a remote path, and probably would try to avoid the same mistake. Hence, no matter what transportation mode they use, it would definitely be on the highway that facilitates swift movements.
The remaining problem would be the search area. It was extremely difficult to search at night, so Doroteo’s team had been focusing on moving fast. With the break of dawn, they had to reduce their search radius. No matter how much advantage the Levitate Ship had in speed and terrain, they didn’t have the leisure to search slowly.
Doroteo contemplated for a moment as the sail of the Levitate Ship bloated up. They could move freely by using the Blow Engine, but the weather also affect them greatly.
“... Another gust of wind blowing to the east. Is this a tailwind, or…”
A sharp light filled his eyes as he hurriedly issued orders to his subordinates. In the meantime, the sail caught the wind and increased the speed of the vessel. As he listened to the sound of friction from the ship, he gritted his fangs, waiting for the opportunity that would be coming.
As they hold towards the rising sun, the Silver Phoenix Knights who were escorting Martina and the others went through the Pan-Kucher road of the old Kuscheperca Kingdom, galloping at full speed.
“Look mother, we already reached here before dawn. Their appearance isn’t the only thing that is ridiculous about them.”
“Being weirdly shaped is one thing… But Silhouette Knights that can run faster and longer than horses, what kind of joke is this?”
After hearing the blunt way Martina and her daughter described them, Emrys responded with a shrug. Halt the design of Tzendrinble mimicked that of a horse, its main focus was on mobility. With two Ether Reactors, its endurance was superb, and would show its true value in long distance travel. The fatigue of the pilots aside, it could theoretically run through the entire continent without needing to resupply. Ady and Chid pulled an all nighter, and the grounds they covered was astonishing. It was only natural for Martina to be stumped.
"Tzendrinble… Just why was such a strange Silhouette Knight made? Rys-Nii, your subordinate is a little strange.”
“Is that so? Since horses are the knights best friend, I think this is a good idea. And when I saw it for the first time, I really want to try riding it!”
“Rys-Nii is the only one who will think so…”
Emrys tilted his head and grunted.
“It’s thanks to them that we can save you like this and take you away, isn’t that great points?”
Martina and Isadora looked at each other. They knew this very well and were extremely grateful, but their weary common sense just found it hard to accept.
“Don’t fret the small matters. At this speed, we can probably shake off any pursuers.”
“That’s right. After we link up with the main forces, it will be our time to attack! I still have a score to settle with that rumoured retard Prince!”
When she heard Emrys said that arrogantly, Martina turned to him with a serious face and said:
“Rys, listen well. You might have an unbelievably powerful band of knights with you, but the Žaloudek Kingdom is not an enemy to be trifled with. Our knights couldn’t match them despite giving everything they had. Their existence is unpleasant, but you can’t send your troops out so rashly…”
The time for idle chat was over. Alarm bells in the waiting room rang sharply. This was a simple device connected to the cockpit of Tzendrinble for communication. The sound of the bell indicates the message being sent. That bell earlier was—
"Abnormality alert… Speak of the devil. They are actually on the tail of the Tzendrinbles. You are right aunt, I am looking down on them too much."
Right after saying that, Emrys turned and charged out of the room like the wind, and head for the cockpit of Gordesleo. Martina and the others could only stare with eyes wide open at the sudden turn of events, and quickly understood what Emrys meant.
“How could it be, we already made it this far… No, how is this possible… With the speed of the Centaur Knights, they actually caught up at this place… What is going on!?”
Martina pounced on the window of the waiting room, and stared at the scene at the back with wide eyes. In the clear blue skies, she could see a black dot. She understood what they were in no time—
"Žaloudek Kingdom’s …Levitate Ship!"
The sails on both sides of the Levitate Ship was inflated to their limits, pulling the ship forward. Doroteo stood at the front of the bridge and looked with a telescope, his lips under his moustache opened in a chilling smile:
“What great timing to catch that wind, I betted on it, thinking it was some kind of divination… And won the gamble. I finally found you, Kuscheperca’s royals! I won’t let you escape…!!”
He pushed his aging body and crossed the bridge in one breath. Handing the telescope to a subordinate, he issued orders with a voice as loud as a bell.
"Move the Levitate Ship right on top of their head!! Then drop the Black Knights directly on them. We have to secure the royals here. Use the catapult to stop them!”
"Yes Sir, accelerating and lowering altitude!! Ready the catapults!”
His subordinates repeated the order and took actions simultaneously. The figurehead raised its manapool output to maximum and activated the Blow Engine, creating intense air flow around the ship. The Levitate Ship accelerated further as it descended. Their speed outpaced Tzendrinble greatly right now.
As the Levitate Ship drew near with amazing speed, Chid and Ady who was piloting the Tzendrinble was mesmerized.
“Hey… What is that!? A ship, a ship is coming!”
"Normal ships can’t fly… Right? So someone other than Eru thought of such a weird idea…”
The two of them were excited at seeing the Levitate Ship for the first time, and even forgot that was their pursuers and started bickering. However, that all stopped when the Levitate Ship suddenly shot out something.
“Eh, oh no! They are attacking!”
As they changed their direction hurriedly, stone shells fell around Tzendrinble. The powerful shelling shook their very being as it bored through the ground with a deafening boom. Although the enemy didn’t aim accurately and only a few shots hit the road, the craters it made and the way it crashed through the woods made Chid and Ady break out in cold sweat.
“Damn it, they will catch up like this. That will be terrible right?”
The Tzendrinbles slowed down as they dodged nimbly, and the Levitate Ship closed the gap mercilessly.
At this time, Doroteo and his men inside the Levitate Ship was ready to launch. He sat in the cockpit of the Tyrant, and the pilots of the other six Black Knights was also in position. He worked on the next set of controls, and had already issued all the relevant commands. The knights deftly manipulated the Blow Engine, bringing the Levitate Ship right on top of the Centaur Knights. They had lowered their altitude so much that the ship was brushing the tips of the trees. The Levitate Ship was ready to open the hatch at its belly to drop the Black Knights.
“Target locked, we need to focus. Let’s go and finish them off in one fell sweep!”
The Centaur Knights seemed to be panicking as the Levitate Ship approached gradually
The next second, the canvas flew off the cargo on the wagon, and the alien-shaped demon god Ikaruga was activated. It let loose a roar, and the four arms on its back deployed speedily. Inside the cockpit, Eru ignored the tensed situation and leaned forth with his face plastered on the Holo Monitor. He showed a cute and strong willed smile, then muttured:
"Ahhh… Such, such a thing actually exist! Air Ship… Amazing, so amazing! The ship is floating in the air. Not a balloon or flying ship, it has sails… No, I don’t understand, it can’t be explained with the principles of the other world, earth. This must be, must be something wonderful I didn’t know about right!?”
The ear-shattering roar rose like a crescendo. Normal controls couldn’t keep up with Ikaruga’s complicated system, so Eru had to use his excellent calculation ability to command it directly. Hence, his will was the demon god’s will, and it was already prepared for mayhem.
"You two keep the Tzendrinbles running. That ship flying in the air… I will take it!!”
Eru instructed, and then piloted Ikaruga to jump from the wagon. After landing, Ikaruga unleashed the massive amount of mana within it, and the Magius Jet Thrusters howled, accelerating furiously at the rate that would leave the Tzendrinbles in the dust. With the hearts of the two demon beast — Behemoth and Queen Shell Case installed, it was a unique demon god in this world. The reactionary force from Ikaruga blew the paved stones on the road away as it blasted into the sky.
"What is that!? It, it is… charging this way!?”
Ikaruga used the powerful propelling force of its Magius Jet Thrusters to soar in the air, making a beeline for the Levitate Ship. He wasn’t thinking about anything, and was only taking the shortest route for the Levitate Ship, powered just by his desire for it.
Despite its excellent hovering function, it was just a ship that was propelled by the wind. It was impossible for the vessel to escape the pursuit of a demon god flying at high speed with flames burning behind it. On top of that, the Levitate Ship was lowered to a height to intercept the Tzendrinbles. The crew in the bridge screamed when they witnessed this scene from the bridge, they didn’t know what that burning Silhouette Knight was, or rather, they couldn’t figure out what exactly was happening. While they were falling into a state of panic, Ikaruga collided strongly with the ship.
"What happened? Something wrong!? What happened to the air drop procedure!?”
Doroteo who was waiting to launch inside the cargo bay felt something was amiss from the shaking of the ship.
"Hii! I-I don’t know! Something is wrong… Is that a Silhouette Knight!? It flew in the air and landed on the ship!!"
As he listened to confused report of his subordinate, Doroteo stared at the walls of the vessel. There was a creaking sound on the outside, and he quickly realized— that was the sound of something crawling on the outer wall. He felt a chill, and after a short hesitation, he activated his Tyrant.
Ikaruga was blown off along with the wall he was clinging onto, and it started falling. Even Eru was caught off guard by this as he used his Magius Jet Thruster to adjust his posture, then pulled away.
A large hole was ripped open on the body of the Levitate Ship, revealing a Tyrant with its back weapon deployed. The Tyrant must had felt threatened, and used the crude means of blowing the enemy away along with the wall. It then continued its merciless assault on the airborne Ikaruga.
“Ahaha, that’s a nice reaction, I’m impressed! Please accept my response in kind!”
Ikaruga dodged the projectiles with its jets, then drew the Sword Cannon on its waist. The sword splitted, and mechanism inside converted a large amount of mana into flames. His counter attack was ferocious, as his shot kept piercing into the Levitate Ship like infernal fire. The spiraling flames penetrated the walls and turned the inside of the ship into a sea of fire, blasting off the walls of the vessel with ease. The Levitate Ship’s armour could withstand a normal powered shot, but was never intended to endure the demon-like power output of Ikaruga.
“Impossible, what intense might…! No, if this goes on, the Levitate Ship will crash!!"
Several options flashed through Doroteo’s mind in an instant. In order to capture the Kuscheperca royals, he needed to airdrop the Black Knights. But if he ignored the flying demon god alone, the Levitate Ship would crash in no time. He wasn’t sure if the Black Knights could stop him, but the only thing he was certain of was that losing the Levitate Ship meant his plans had failed.
After thinking it through, Doroteo made his call. His Tyrant lifted its shield and braved the incoming shots. The shield twisted from the direct hit of the intense projectile, and Crystal Shards fell from all over its body. Just a few shots made the machine fell on its knees, but the tough Tyrant could still move a little.
"… Turn around right now! Get out of here!!”
Doroteo’s subordinate also charged forth after witnessing his action. As they sacrificed more Black Knights to block the shots, the Levitate Ship changed its course unsteadily.
“Huh? You came all this way, and is already going off? You can’t do that, I won’t let you escape… Hmm?”
The fired up Eru was about to pursue when he noticed the commotion behind him. Several black shadows ran across the road, chasing after Tzendrinble.
“Is that a guerilla unit? They are good…”
Eru hesitated. With Ikaruga’s power, he could catch up with the Levitate Ship and bring it down easily. But that meant abandoning Tzendrinble. His own motives aside, the top priority of the Silver Phoenix Knights should be the rescue of the Kuscheperca royals, and their safe return. What little rationality he had left stopped his desire.
"Fufu… Alright, I will keep that ship on my tab for now. The next time we meet, I will feast on it and dine on every single bit of its spare parts.!”
Eru left these words of frustration, turned Ikaruga and shot out streams of flames and heat waves, charging towards Tzendrinble at incredible speed.
Going back to the time before the Levitate Ship encountered the Tzendrinbles.
Several shadows sprinted along the forest that stretched on either side of the road. By comparing its relative size to the trees around it, the figures were 10m tall giants, Silhouette Knights. But their speed was blindingly fast, probably twice that of a normal Silhouette Knight. The strangest thing about them was that the shadows didn’t make much noise while they run. Not just the movement of their Crystal Tissue, even the intake valve of their Ether Reactor was quiet, the entire body itself had a faint sense of presence.
Because it prioritizes speed, their body appeared exceptionally slender, to the extent that it could be described as frail. The most prominent thing about them was their protruding shoulders and sharp claws. Another feature was their head, which was devoid of any design, entirely smooth save the two holes for its eyes. Faceless— That was the impression the silent and phantom-like machine gave others.
There wasn’t just one phantoms. Two, three— several of them were sprinting in the forest, and in the direction of their advance was the charging Centaur Knight. The objective of the phantoms was obvious, they sped up and drew near to the road, and after a powerful stride, bashed out of the forest and onto the road. It didn’t make any sound during this time, and only the shadows on the ground proved they really was there. Bracing the razor sharp claws on its arms, one machine sneaked close to the galloping Tzendrinbles, and was about to rip through their armour—
“Who are you lot!? Reinforcements!?”
— But was blocked by a powerful cleaved along with an angry roar, and deflected back into the forest. The one who swung the sword was Gordesleo on the wagon, piloted by Emrys. As Gordesleo didn’t have any effective weapons against the Levitate Ship, it stayed behind to guard the wagon.
“That was a close one! Did you people used that Levitate Ship as a decoy? What a sinister scheme!!”
Gordesleo got up from its knees and lift its large sword. It couldn’t initiate any attack as he was on a wagon towed by Tzendrinble, and Emrys must really detest this situation where he could only defend.
He didn’t have to wait very long for the phantoms to launch another wave of attack. They flew in from the forest from every direction, targeting the wagon towed by Tzendrinble. Gordesleo barely managed to ward them off with his sword, his unstable foothold hindered his counterattack and he couldn’t move freely. He could fend them off for now, but his sword strike didn’t feel solid, and the number of enemy remained the same. Emrys could feel the frustration in his chest building.
“I would have turned them into scrap by now if we were fighting on solid ground! But I can’t let Tzendrinble stop either.”
He wasn’t the only one who was anxious.
“They just have to pick the moment Eru isn’t around and attack! Can’t we shake them off!?”
The Tzendrinbles wield their lance to fend off the assaulting phantoms. But they were running with a wagon in tow, their defences were full of holes, much less offence. The phantoms understood this too, and attacked the backs of the Tzendrinbles ferociously. Despite their valiant efforts, the situation was dire for the Silver Phoenix Knights. On top of that, they were outnumbered, and the number of close calls they had was increasing.
The phantoms pounced again and again, Gordesleo and Tzendrinble swung their weapons to keep them at bay over and over again, but started losing focus. They were in the midst of a long distance travel, so it was only natural for them to accumulate a lot of fatigue.
Finally, they committed a fatal mistake. A phantom used that chance to pounce in.
“Crap! I can’t dodge…”
The phantom closed in on the blindspot on Tzendrinble’s flank, its hand reaching for the defenceless belly of the horse. That was the secret weapon of the phantoms, and was powerful enough to pierce through a Silhouette Knight. Right as the claw was about to puncture the belly—
A long fire lance flew in from distance without warning and pierced the stomach of the phantom. The phantom had light armour in order to prioritize speed, and blew up instantly into wreckage. Something that was on fire was destroying the road as it charged in with a cloud of dust in its wake.
“How… dare you interrupt my wonderful time with the Air Ship…!"
It was the six armed demon faced armoured samurai shouting angrily with thundering flames in its trail—Ikaruga.Once Ikaruga caught up with Tzendrinble, it adjusted its speed by spurting up scorching flames, and landed directly on the wagon.
“Even though you can’t take the place of that ship… you will still pay with your lives.”
It deployed the arms on its back, and grabbed the back up Sword Cannons on the wagon. The way it stood looked just like a porcupine, with six Sword Cannons aimed at different directions. With a terrifying howl, the mana within the machine boiled over, and was unleashed in the form of projectiles.
The phantoms who sought refuge in the forest was blown apart along with the trees that concealed them. Even the phantoms escaping at full speed couldn’t escape and disappeared in a sea of flames as the demon god fell one phantom after another. It didn’t take much time for all the phantoms to be reduced to wreckage. Ikaruga finally let up after the surrounding terrain became unrecognizable.
An unsteady Levitate Ship was moving towards the setting sun.
It was the ship of Doroteo’s group who barely managed to escape the palms of the demon god. Most of its walls had fallen, and even its steel structure was twisted into a terrible state. Forced to flee at top speed in such a sorry condition, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this wreck reach its limits at any moment.
Safeguarding the ‘Etheric Levitator’ was the silver lining of this tragedy. If it was destroyed, the Levitate Ship wouldn’t be able to fly anymore.
"… Lower the altitude, it will be meaningless if we crash.”
Doroteo who was sitting in the Captain’s seat said gloomingly. Since the battle with the demon god, there hadn’t been any sign of their enemy catching up. On the other hand, it was getting dangerous for the vessel to remain airborne. His subordinates obeyed the orders strictly, and landed the ship.
Since the ship was out of commission, they would need to return by piloting the Tyrants. And even the Tyrants suffered heavy damage when they protected the ship, and wasn’t reliable as a mean of transport.
After disembarking the ship, there was something Doroteo’s team had to do, which was to destroy the Levitate Ship. Levitate Ships were the secret weapon of the Žaloudek Kingdom. It was on the verge of breaking down, but they couldn’t abandon it while it could still move. The Tyrant piloted by Doroteo raised its Battle Ram stiffly.
His hands on the control stick was on the verge of shaking. Losing the ship, losing the Black Knights and even failing in his mission to capture the enemy royalty. It was difficult to make up for this mistake, he had literally lost everything. Even if he made it back alive, he probably won’t have a place in the Žaloudek army anymore. I should just perish here along with the ship — Such suicidal thoughts flashed across his mind
At this moment, one his subordinates who was watching yelled and pointed to the sky. In the crimson sky in front of them was a black dot, and they quickly recognized that was an approaching Levitate Ship.
Under the night sky littered by the stars, two Levitate Ships headed to the west. One unscathed vessel towing a ship so heavily damaged that it was a miracle for it to be even floating. And of course, that was Doroteo’s ship. They maintained just enough altitude to fly, and were ready to abandon ship if anything goes wrong.
Having dismounted from the Tyrant, Doroteo glanced at the machines they recovered and the faces of his subordinate and seemed a little relieved. But his face turned sullen quickly, and left in crude strides as if he was trying to shake all this away. He went from the cargo bay to the bridge, and surveyed it from the ladder he was scaling. He was staring at one spot— the person seated in the middle of the bridge.
"……Lady Hietakangas, so it was you."
He said the name of the female knight who occupied the captain’s seat so naturally. She belonged to an order of knights from Žaloudek Kingdom, the knight commander leading the Copper Fang Knights, Kerhild Hietakangas. She was wearing an annoying smile that never seemed to change, as she sat relaxed on the chair with her hand supporting her chin.
“That’s right, you got a problem with that?”
“... Of course not. You saved my subordinates, I can’t thank you enough…”
The two of them didn’t have much of a relationship. Truthfully speaking, most people didn’t feel much affection for Kerhild who worked in the shady side of business. Seeing Doroteo’s unusually frail expression, she asked curiously:
“What happened? You climbed to your position by your own merits, not by kissing the ass of the prince. But look at you now, this isn’t normal.”
Doroteo had a bitter face as he recount his failures in recent days.
"… That’s what happened. Age is getting to me. The enemy has nightmarish powers that exceed those of normal Silhouette Knights. To think I am rendered so helpless, how incompetent.”
Even the seasoned veteran found the demon god that forced them to this dead end to be an incredible opponent. The combined effort of him, his subordinates and the Levitate Ship was ravaged so badly by that one machine.
“... This is the end for me. I can’t make up for this loss even if I pay for it with my life.”
The man before Kerhild was no longer the top general of the Žaloudek army known for his boldness and calm mind. Seeing how weak he seemed to be, Kerhild frowned and lashed out at him:
“Tch! You think presenting your wrinkled head mean you are taking responsibility? How incredibly foolish.”
"… Then… How do you think I should compensate such a grave mistake?"
“War maniacs are really…! Listen up, it is true that losing the Levitate Ship, the Black Knights and the royals are terrible. But, it is even worst to not bring back any intel on the enemy.”
Kerhild’s Copper Fang Knights was a spy organization, mainly charged with the collation of intelligence. Depending on the circumstances, the intel might have higher priority than their lives. Her view that ran contrary with that of knights sent Doroteo into deep thought. His sullen eyes regained some of its light.
“You are right. The enemy was obviously abnormal, and will definitely be an obstacle in the ambition of His Highness. I need to convey the details so His Highness can make adequate preparations. Whatever happens to this head after that don’t matter.”
Even though he had a bit more life in him, Doroteo was still saying the same thing. Kerhild looked up in exasperation.
"Yes. Since you are going to die, then do that after duking it out with the enemy.”
He even responded with a nod seriously to this joke-like response. Kerhild was starting to get tired of his foolishness.
In old Kuscheperca’s capital, Delvincourt. Ever since King Aukusti’s death after his duel, this city became Žaloudek Kingdom’s largest base. With the invasion of Kuscheperca almost complete, it will be designated as the capital of the Kuscheperca territories — ruled by Žaloudek Kingdom, the governance house would be in the old royal castle.
Under the grey and gloomy sky, a Levitate Ship reached Delvincourt. After its masters were changed, a ‘harbour’ for Levitate Ships to dock in was built in Delvincourt. Even though it was just clearing out a piece of land and constructing ramps to access the vessels easily, it was still used frequently as a military stronghold, and the ship that just reached also found a spot to land.
Shortly later, in the audience hall of the central governance house— which used to be a royal castle— the unhappy voice of Žaloudek Kingdom’s Second Prince Cristóbal•哈斯洛•Žaloudek could be heard.
“What did you say— The Princess was taken away…!?"
The Prince rose from the throne that used to belong to the King of Kuscheperca agitatedly. The man who was prostrating with his head to the ground before him, his most trusted right hand man—Doroteo Mardones’ Levitate Ship just landed, and reported to his master right away.
"Doroteo… how can a man like you not know the value of that wench!? You let her slip away into the hands of mere bandits, and even let the Black Knights and Levitate Ship suffer serious damage as you shamelessly flee here, what is the meaning of this!?”
Cristóbal’s angry roar resounded in the hall once more. In the face of the nonstop accusations thrown at him, Doroteo remained prostrated on the floor without a word.
"That’s enough, Cristóbal. As the commander-in-chief, how can you lose your composure?”
A nonchalant voice sounded out from the entrance of the hall, restraining Cristóbal’s rampage. It was Cristóbal’s elder sister — The First Princess Catalina.
"Calm down. You should understand Doroteo’s capabilities and loyalty very well correct? Admonishing him any further would just be a waste of time, the important thing is to understand what exactly happened.”
Her calm analysis made Cristóbal flinch. He exhaled deeply to steady himself, then tried to act calm as he turned towards Doroteo and said:
"… Raise your head. Report the entire incident in detail. I will decide on your punishment after hearing it.”
“Yes my liege!”
Doroteo finally raised his head, but kept his body low as he reported on the thieves who infiltrated Lacepede Castle.
"… And so, when I realized it, all the Kuscheperca royalties had been taken. My incompetence is to blame, I am willing to accept any punishment Your Highness metes out."
As he listened, Cristóbal’s expression turned sour. To them, the royals of Kuscheperca— Especially Princess Eleanora, was a ‘tool’ to stabilize their rule over the Kuscheperca territories. Although Žaloudek possessed overwhelming military power and could do as they pleased with the lands of Kuscheperca, it was always better to have less problems.
“Not just the Princess, but all of them were taken. Unbelievable, you were actually had by the weaklings of the Kuscheperca army…"
After thinking about it calmly, Cristóbal started feeling doubtful. He knew Doroteo for a long time, and he might be getting a bit old, but Doroteo still ranked amongst the top five of the Žaloudek army. He couldn’t imagine him being toyed by the Kuscheperca soldiers that were no more than prey to them. As he pondered with a palm on his head, Catalina who was also contemplating lift her head and said:
"I think that even if Kuscheperca attacked with a thousand men, it would be impossible for them to seized the royals under Doroteo’s watch. Then the ones behind this incident… are agents from another nation.”
“Damn it, so that’s what happened! Tchh, I thought they will only act much later, but they actually barged in at this crucial moment!”
After hearing what his sister said, Cristóbal groaned with a bitter face. He thought of a problematic possibility. Assuming the ones who took the royals were nobles of old Kuscheperca, it wouldn’t be that much of a problem. It is still a problem, but they just need to take advantage of their military forces to suppress them again. However, if a third nation was behind this, then things would become tremendously complicated. If the ‘legitimacy’ known as the royals were taken, it would be very troublesome.
He already knew that other nations would interfere sooner or later, but for the Žaloudek Kingdom who spent a huge amount of time to prepare and launched their campaign with lightning speed, they completely didn’t expect a nation to respond this quickly.
“... What comes to mind are the Eleven Flags interfering in a roundabout way, or the remnants of Locard Allied Union.”
Cristóbal’s guesses were rejected by Catalina who shook her head.
"No matter what, the problem is that in order to control the nobles of Kuscheperca, we had already send out news that you and Eleanora would be getting married. It would be a huge disgrace if we lost her.”
Catalina’s fine face was frowning from anxiety, this incident wasn’t pleasant for her, the administrator who proposed the plan. At this moment, Doroteo who kept his head lowered quietly interjected:
“Pardon my interruption, but I don’t think they belong to those groups.”
“Oh? What are your reasons for such a claim?”
Cristóbal urged him to go on suspiciously. But before he spoke, Doroteo slowly removed his sheathed sword, and respectfully presented it to Cristóbal.
“... What is the meaning of this?”
"From this point on, my words are absolutely true, if Your Highness so much as suspect it… Please cut my head off immediately.”
When he heard that, Cristóbal gritted his teeth, and Catalina also raised her eyebrows. Since Doroteo bet his life on his words, that would mean—
“The incident is that hard to believe?”
Doroteo affirmed with a silent nod, with his sword held high with his palms. Cristóbal considered briefly, took the sword and unsheathed it. The workmanship was crude, but it was clear that it had been carefully maintained from its shiny blade.
“Hmmp, I won’t doubt you, but I accept your resolve. Don’t hold back on ceremony, speak.”
“Thank you for Your Highness for your mercy… After the royals escaped, I gave chase on the Levitate Ship… And found them escaping along the highway on Silhouette Knights with its top half human, and bottom half horse."
Cristóbal exhaled deeply, swallowing his urge to say ‘How is that possible’. His blade never left Doroteo’s neck all this while, and Cristóbal wasn’t foolish enough to doubt Doroteo’s words.
"I finally understand why you are betting your head on this… What kind of monster is that? An ancient demon beast that had gone extinct?”
“Forgive me for being blunt, they seemed to be Silhouette Knights crafted by the hands of men. They were extraordinary fast, as if they were warhorses, and I wouldn’t have caught up if I didn’t have the Levitate Ship."
Cristóbal frowned. Their mass produced machine Tyrants were perfect in defence and offence, their only flaw being its slow speed. Opponents that had the characteristics of warhorses were their nemesis. This much was ridiculous enough, but he didn’t expect Doroteo to only get into the main point now,
"That wasn’t our only foe. We attempted to close in with the Levitate Ship to seize the royals, but we encountered a demon god like adversary with multiple arms with flames sprouting from it, flying in the air. It damaged the Levitate Ship with powerful weapons I had never seen before…”
"… Wait, hold on Doroteo! What are you talking about!?”
Cristóbal who was listening to Doroteo’s report carefully interrupted when he realized the contents were becoming ridiculous.
"I am talking about the enemy’s Silhouette Knight of course. Before we even landed, that thing flew into the air and almost sunk our Levitate Ship. Aside from that, it’s magic projectile attacks were strong enough to stagger the Black Knights with just one shot, so we had to abandon our pursuit… If Your Highness think these are all just my excuse to escape the blame, please use that sword to…”
“Tch! Stop blabbering about that! This thing is… really hard to imagine.”
Even Cristóbal couldn’t help moaning. The report Doroteo made with his life on the line couldn’t be false, but a part of his mind was certain that he had mistaken something. At the side of Cristóbal who had fallen into confusion, Catalina noticed a fact:
"… It might be a Silhouette Knight more powerful than the Black Knights. Leaving its weird appearance aside, it meant its country of origin possess an advanced level of technology. Doroteo, are you insinuating that the nation didn’t ‘develop new technology’, but ‘already possess such technology’?”
She probably wasn’t certain, so she was asking quietly. Doroteo nodded in agreement:
“I have one point to add, amongst the escaping royals is the spouse of the late Archduke Fernando — Martina Alt Kuscheperca… She was a princess from Fremmevira Kingdom. And the direction they fled in, the east, was where that country lies."
"You mean the demon beast watch dogs? Those country bumpkins are here to join in the fun huh?”
They thought of many possible enemy states, but not Fremmevira. After all, that country was outside the Western League of Nations (Occident). They had some run-ins with them in the past, but lost interest quickly.
“Perhaps they are doing this out of kinship, or they just want to seize Kuscheperca’s lands. The more serious problem was, the royals who escaped has linked up with a force powerful enough to stand up against the Black Knights. I think their numbers are limited, but the situation doesn’t look good.”
Catalina felt that there was a need to amend the original battle plan. After identifying the enemy, it wasn’t clear how it would affect future developments. The only certain thing was that they had fallen one step behind the complete domination of the Kuscheperca territory.
When Cristóbal heard this news, he turned dramatically, walked to the throne and sat down again. He was obviously emotional, but his expression had a hint of something other than rage.
"… Fuhahaha! Things are becoming interesting. Adversaries that surpasses the Black Knights! There isn’t any thrill no matter how many Kuscheperca soldiers we defeat, I was just starting to get bored."
Catalina behind him was obviously frowning. Even though her brother was a royal, his personality was violent and craved battle instead of statesmanship. Always seeking ‘worthy foes’ was a bad habit of his.
“Cris, this is not the time for you to amuse yourself.”
“I know sis. Just find the enemy, and send troops to take them out. War is my forte, I will leave the aftermath in your hands.”
Cristóbal got up like an uncaged beast. He was the Commander-in-chief of the invasion force, this fact didn’t change when the main directive changed from invasion to occupation. On the other hand, Catalina oversees all administrative matters, and would have a hard time stopping Cristóbal in his military decisions.
“In that case, we need to hurry with the attack on the eastern territories… and crush them early, there is no time to waste. The royal family still lives, and is scheming a counterattack. If this news spreads, the regional resistance movements will intensify.”
His expression was lively, and didn’t look like he was describing the disadvantage of his army. Since the royals were rescued, their opponent would definitely spread the news quickly. After all, the main reason Kuscheperca collapsed so quickly was because the royal family which was the heart of the Kingdom went missing. And so, the opposite would apply too.
“A tool just needs to be used docilely. How dare you defy me, I will make you and the bumpkins from the other side of the mountain pay for this with your lives!”
Crushing the enemy’s plan to resurrect their resistance efforts was the utmost joy for him. Seeing Cristóbal on the verge of launching an attack, Doroteo tried restraining him:
“Please wait. The number of Black Knights deployed in the east has decreased, and we know the enemy is more powerful. It wouldn’t be wise for Your Highness to go there directly…”
That’s the result of the Silver Phoenix Knights active efforts. Although the Žaloudek Kingdom still ruled the territory, they didn’t have the forces to launch a punitive campaign. Cristóbal’s mood worsened immediately, and Catalina said resignedly before his emotions plummeted completely:
"Cris, Draw some of the Black Skull Knights stationed in the south over. And commit the former Kuscheperca forces too. They can’t match the Black Knights, but they are still Silhouette Knights."
“This is such a hassle. But if we want to crush them before that country intervenes, we will need to muster sufficient forces too.”
Cristóbal groaned, then sat back onto the throne.
The direction Žaloudek Kingdom will be taken had been set, and his written orders were sent to the territories around Kuscheperca very soon. The Black Skull Knights— the best elites of the Žaloudek army set off towards the east, closing their encirclement net around the Kuscheperca royals.
After concluding his report, Doroteo left the audience hall with heavy steps. He had relayed all the information he needed to, but the fact that he committed a serious blunder, and even troubled his lord to take action personally. That was the biggest thing he couldn’t forgive himself for.
"Gustavo, I heard. You lost too."
The adopted son Gustavo walked towards his sullen father. He suffered great losses in his fight with the Silver Phoenix Knights, so both parent and child failed in their task.
"I am sorry, this is too unsightly. Did His Highness said anything? Did he lectured you sternly?”
“We won’t be seeing any action for the time being. His Highness wants us to stand by until we are needed again.”
The chair Doroteo sat on squeaked, and he sighed. Frankly speaking, his punishment had been put on hold. It was an unforgivable mistake, but considering the developments in the future, it would be a pity to execute such an excellent general like him. So before the issue in the east is resolves, he would need to reflect on his actions behind closed doors.
“The enemy I fought was a real challenge, in a completely different league from the strawmans from Kuscheperca. Now is the time they need our swords.”
“We have to bear with it for now… Sooner or later, we will get to bet our lives on the line and restore our honour. That death god won’t be sitting pretty in the meantime.”
The image of the destructive god flashed across his mind. Its existence will definitely spell disaster for the Žaloudek Kingdom, Doroteo was certain of that. He had decided how he would spend his life that had been spared.
While parent and child were wallowing in their sorrows, a subordinate appeared, reporting the visit of an unexpected guest.
“Apologies for disturbing your rest. Lord Doroteo, can I have a word?”
"You are… Lord Collazo… correct? I remember that you should be stationed back in our home nation, what brings you to the front lines?”
The visitor was the Central Workshop Director of Žaloudek Kingdom, Horacio Collazo. Doroteo got up to meet the guest with his head tilted in confusion. He couldn’t understand why a non-combat personnel came all the way to the foremost frontline in Kuscheperca territory.
“Nothing much, I just need to keep challenging myself in order to do more for the sake of His Majesty. Hence, I hope everyone can provide me with your opinions from the battlefield.”
As a general and pilot,Doroteo couldn’t understand the thoughts of a technical personnel, but he could feel the sincerity of the other party. He happened to be confined to quarters and had plenty of time, so Doroteo agreed to the request with a nod.
"Since this is the request of Lord Collazo, I will do what I can. So, what information do you need?”
After hearing that, Horacio twisted the corners of his lips in a smile, and spoke persistently stubborn words”
"… I heard a Levitate Ship had been taken down, so I hope you can tell me how the enemy looked like in detail…”
At this moment, Doroteo felt something completely different from the usual Horacio he knew, an eerie passion and spirit.