Fuu, fuu, the raging wind howled.
A convoy consisting of several carriages braved the wind coming from the sides, moving along at full speed on the Highway of Fremmevira. If the weather was clear, the sound of the horse hooves would definitely be heard, but it was overshadowed by the storm. The weather that had been deteriorating since the beginning of the month could turn into a storm in no time. The rain kept falling during this time, seemingly strong enough to scrape up the earth. The downpour exceeded the water runoff rate of the paved roads of Fremmevira. Large puddles appeared one after another which blocked the way.In this weather and road condition that was not suitable for outdoor activities, the convoy persevered on. And, looking towards their destination; the vague image of the largest education facility in the nation— Laihiala Pilot Academy, which was situated in Laihiala Academy City.“Really, it’s pouring down hard.”The dean of the Laihiala Pilot Academy— Lauri Echevarria frowned, as he looked at the rain outside the window while he stroked his beard. The rain that rarely fell had been ongoing nonstop recently. It even affected the progress on some of the classes, which troubled the dean. Suddenly, the sound of knocking pulled Lauri’s thoughts back to the present.“Hmmm, who is it?”He walked back to the quaintly designed dean’s office desk, and answered as he sat down. He heard a voice informing him that there were guests visiting. Lauri thought for a moment, but didn’t recall having any prior engagements.He was the dean, but Lauri was just the person responsible for managing the staff of the academy, and held no special authority. Even so, there were a few visitors that required his immediate attention. There had been cases of abrupt visits by guests, but most of them were important persons with busy schedules, and would make appointments early in order to save time.That might be so, but with the terrible weather, it’s no wonder the other party didn’t contact us in advance, Lauri thought. Or rather, to have braved such a storm to journey here, they must have come regarding urgent matters. Lauri answered hurriedly for the receptionist to usher the guest to the dean’s office.The guest appeared to be in the vicinity as the door opened shortly after Lauri’s reply. Seeing the guests enter with noisy footsteps, Lauri squinted his eyes, deepening his frown.“That emblem… is the Knights-sama serving under Duke Dixgard. What matters do you have for the academy to travel in such bad weather?”Before Lauri were three Knights. They were covered tightly in armour with a cape over their shoulders and a helmet under their arms, so it was impossible to mistaken their identity. Lauri identified the emblem on their cape, but couldn’t tell what they were here for.The Knights exerted a unique intimidation and dignity, bowing gracefully before Lauri and said:“Yes, we are from the ‘Red Rabbit Knights’ serving under Duke Dixgard.”The Knight standing in the middle introduced himself. He seemed to be the commander, who represented the others.“We are here by the orders of the Duke. First, this is the letter entrusted to me, please take a look.”Lauri received a package and retrieved a sealed letter from within. Duke Dixgard’s wax seal was clear under the light of the oil lamp. Obviously, the only ones who could use this seal were the clansmen of Duke Dixgard. After confirming again that this was an official letter from the Duke, Lauri became more nervous.After acknowledging, Lauri started checking the content and his eyes widened as he read. When he was done and was about to speak, a flash of lightning dyed the entire room white, and the sound of thunder erupted a short moment later. It stunned the ear drums of all present, followed by the sound of the continuous rain, covering over the silence that was filled with a mixture of emotions. The classroom was filled with whispers that were suppressed by the sound of the rain.That thunder, just now, was especially loud. Although it was still day time, it was dark because of the terrible weather. The students discussed among themselves how shocking it was in the room illuminated by oil lamps. The teacher at the podium also looked out the window, but continued with his lesson after saying: ”How frightening.”Moments later, the classroom was filled with the sound of the rain. The teacher spoke louder to be heard over the rain, but sounded weak before the might of Mother Nature. Despite the distracting atmosphere and the shock from the thunder just now, the students, who were finding it hard to concentrate, still did their best to take down notes. Or rather, as they couldn’t hear the lecture properly, they had to make up for it by looking at the blackboard. The students were giving their best too.The morning lesson ended with this subtle balance and was followed by the lively lunch hour. Laihiala students who were basically living on campus would eat at the cafeteria around the academy for lunch. If the weather was stable, there would be people eating out or at their homes, but it was not an option in this atrocious weather. As Ernesti and the twins were heading to the cafeteria, an unexpected guest walked into the classroom in a panic.That man— Mathias Echevarria, combat instructor whispered something to the teacher tidying up the blackboard. After the two of them came to a consensus, Mathias walked to Eru immediately.“Da… Echevarria instructor, what is the matter?”Eru asked his father, who was approaching silently. Mathias spent most of his time instructing students in the high school pilot faculty. If he was here in the middle school, it probably had something to do with Eru— that’s the logical explanation.“I will explain later. Eru, come with me right now.”Mathias nodded as he rushed Eru along with his words. Eru looked at Mathias’ unusual demeanor, baffled, thought for a moment, and turned and looked behind him. Mathias followed his gaze and told the twins behind Eru, who was at a loss for words:“Ahh, sorry. Chid, Ady, lend me Eru for a bit.”The two of them didn’t understand the situation but still nodded. After Echevarria returned the nod, both father and son left the classroom together.“What’s with Uncle Mathias? How unusual…”“I have a bad feeling.”Chid and Ady spent quite a while staring blankly at the door the two of them left through. But when they remembered how crowded the cafeteria was during lunch time, they started moving in a hurry. We will just ask later— they thought. But they wouldn’t find out for a very long time.When the afternoon lesson began, Eru still couldn’t be found in the classroom. Ernesti and Mathias walked side by side through the corridor quietly.On one side was a burly combat instructor with his short blonde hair neatly combed; on the other side was a short boy with silver hair that reached to his shoulders. Because Eru looked like his mother, even taking the age difference into consideration, the appearance of the two were polar opposites. Even so, the aura emitted by the both of them was similar, and you could tell that they were father and son.They walked against the oncoming lunch time crowd, away from the cafeteria. They moved away from the school building and stepped into the zone where the training equipment was kept. As Eru walked, he guessed the destination was the high school, and had a rough idea why they were in a hurry to find him. Eru walked in silence without asking anything. Unlike Eru, Mathias had other plans. He was probably wary about other people overhearing them, and slowed down when they were far enough from the school buildings and everyone else, and said:“Earlier, an envoy from Duke Dixgard visited father-in-law.”Eru reacted one beat slower.“… Duke? Not someone sent by Marquis Serrati?”A few days earlier, Eru and the others accepted Chid and Ady’s proposal to help with the new model. Eru thought that if there were visitors, it would likely be people related to Marquis Serrati. But Mathias’ words were expected, which puzzled Eru. But he cast his doubts aside for now and prioritised on confirming the situation.“What are the envoys here for?”“They seemed to be here for the new Silhouette Knights models made by all of you. I don’t know the details, but I heard it would be explained after gathering the personnel involved at the workshop.”Eru could guess what the content was, but couldn’t understand why.Marquis Serrati was definitely notified, but why did this ‘Duke’ come into the picture? Was it something that couldn’t be solved at the ‘Marquis’ level?”Was the aid they asked for difficult to accommodate? Or was the new model hard to handle? Eru was almost lost in his own thoughts, but realised it was useless to consider all the possibilities and shook his head lightly. When Eru lifted his head, he looked into Mathias’ eyes. Mathias’ usual sharp gaze was filled with gentleness, his drooping eyebrows strengthening this impression.“You had always loved Silhouette Knights.”Saying something trivial, Mathias patted the head that just reached the bottom of his chest. Sensing that his father’s attitude was different than usual, Eru felt it was strange, but still replied frankly:“Yes, you know that is the reason I am here, Dad. I just didn’t think I would have the chance to be involved with the actual thing so soon.”“Yes, I am sure you learnt many things in order to get this far, and had been working hard. But…”Mathias’ face stiffened and he continued. From his expression, Eru realised what his father was going to say.“Eru’s new Silhouette Knight will cause a big stir.”This might sound like a premonition, but it was almost a given. Just from the fact that a Duke had sent an envoy was enough to prove this.“It’s not only good tidings, troubles will probably follow.”Eru could see Mathias’ worries; Eru’s cute face had a hint of bitterness. Eru resolved himself to face a huge crisis; it would not be a surprise if the students in the pilot faculty were involved, since they were comrades. But Eru felt guilty about the possibility of dragging others into trouble.Not just Eru’s actions; the current situation was all the result of Eru’s willfulness. The recklessness of a normal child wouldn’t be too problematic; it would just be treated as a prank, mostly. But, the things that occurred could no longer be considered as a prank.“But, if it’s you, maybe you can solve any problem you face by yourself.”As Eru was reflecting in his heart, Mathias started walking again. The soft words of his father didn’t lose out to the sound of the rain outside the window, reaching Eru’s ears clearly. Eru jogged slowly behind him, looking up at Mathias. Eru couldn’t see Mathias’ expression, but he could hear Mathias saying calmly:“But, even if you can do that; there is no need for you to do everything yourself.”Mathias, who turned his head, met Eru’s eyes. Once again, Mathias’ big hand patted his head.“Just follow your dreams until the end, Eru. Tina and I believe in you and will support you. Father-in-law is also on your side. We will back you up if you run into any trouble, so don’t hold back.”“Yes Dad. I will rely on everyone if I need any help!”The entrance to the workshop was right before them. Eru had always walked through this door happily, but it looked as if he was walking towards a battlefield today.When they reached the workshop, they saw the row of Silhouette Knights lined up against the wall as usual. The difference was that the craftsmen weren’t working.On normal days, they would be busy running around, doing all sorts of maintenance on the Silhouette Knights placed on the platform; but they were discussing the sudden news uneasily today. Looking closely, all involved, including the pilots, were gathered here along with the craftsmen.As they hadn’t heard the explanation, the atmosphere inside the workshop was a mixture of uneasiness and anticipation. Eru was an exception among exceptions; most students wouldn’t have anything to do with a Duke. Most of the students who had merits in the fight had the chance to attend the award ceremony in the Imperial Capital Känkänen, but that’s about it. This meant Duke Dixgard was someone who is an important figure of society, so the pressure from this summon was exceptionally heavy.Eru used his short stature to his advantage and squeezed through the crowd and approached an acquaintance. “Boss!” Eru shouted, which made David, who was deep in a conversation with Edgar turn his head, swinging his beard.“Oh, silver boy. Have you heard? Someone contacted us so soon. It’s someone more important than I expected.”“That shows how highly they evaluate us, right?”In order to block out the storm, the workshop was closed tightly and was unbelievably stuffy. The Boss fanned himself as he shrugged, while Edgar loosened the harness on his leather protective gear.“I didn’t expect it to be so sudden.”“To make this trip on such a rainy day, it must be hard on them, too.”“Don’t ever say that in their presence, Boss.”The three of them chatted idly when they heard the mumblings around them grow louder. They didn’t know what happened, and only saw an unfamiliar group entering the workshop when they turned their head. Their attire was obviously unsuitable for work— they were covered in thick armour, wearing a cape with an emblem on the outside. The pilot cadet’s armour was made from leather that focused mainly on mobility, and was only reinforced with metal parts. With their full armour, they must be Knights. There were twenty in the group and all of them had the same attire. Their group might be small, but they were still a band of Knights.The group marched in with a clanking sound that was louder than the rain. The students couldn’t help taking a few steps back in awe. One of the Knights walked in front and just happened to coincide with the students backing away. He seemed to be the representative of the Knights.“Are all those involved in the construction of the new Silhouette Knight model gathered here?”When they heard this, the students present looked at each other with a troubled expression. Who will represent the students to answer the representative of the Knights? The gazes bounced between them before settling in a certain corner. The Boss and Edgar endured their stares that were boring holes into their back, sighed in resignation, and walked forward like a sailboat blown by the wind. Eru, who was conversing with them was also dragged in and pushed to the front.“This is not everyone; there are still some alchemists involved, too. The craftsmen and test pilots are all here, though.”The Boss gestured to the rear with his chin. This reply made Edgar hug his head while Eru almost fell. The Boss didn’t change his rough attitude even in the face of Knights, in some way he was like a big shot. Hearing an affirmative reply, the Knight’s expression became awkward for an instant. But when he thought about the Boss being from the crude dwarves, the Knight thought it was useless to correct his mannerism and decided to continue.“Great, that’s good enough. I know all of you are students in the pilot faculty, but what about that child?”Understandably, the Knight was looking at Eru suspiciously. The Boss and Edgar wanted to introduce Eru, but didn’t know where to start and closed their mouths again.For the pilot faculty, Eru’s existence was a common sight. But thinking about it carefully, Eru was still a middle school student. The Boss, who only just realised how strange it was for him to be here, was cramping his cheeks. Eru looked at the two who didn’t how to answer, understood the reason for their silence, and introduced himself naturally:“I am the one who proposed using new technology for the new Silhouette Knight model, and the one responsible for the draft design.”“…… This child must be joking.”“Eh, no, what he said is the truth. You can ask anyone here or even the dean. Everyone will give you the same answer.”Despite hearing how convinced the Boss was, the Knight still couldn’t wipe away the doubt in his heart. It might just be his imagination, but the students around him seemed to be looking at the Knight with sympathetic eyes. Even Eru, himself, understood nothing would be done if this went on.“Maybe you could confirm my identity later. But I am definitely involved in this.”“… Alright. Dear students, I belong to the ‘Red Rabbit Knights’, and I am here on the orders of Duke Dixgard.”
The students turned rowdy once again. Second only to the King, the one with the highest nobility rank in the country had sent an envoy. Even though they already heard about this, the impact when the Knight introduced himself was still significant.“My lord is very interested in the new Silhouette Knight and wants to see it in action. He requests everyone to deliver the new machine models to the Duke’s territory ‘Fort Casadesus’ as soon as possible. He is also requesting enough crew members to come along to ready the machine.”In response to the Knight’s words, the crowd answered with silence. Their tense emotions cooled down instantly. A feeling of doubt spread among the students. In this awkward atmosphere that wouldn’t go away, the Boss meekly raised his hand.“Ah— Can I ask you something?”The Knight who was addressing them gave permission with a look, so the Boss stroked his thick beard and enquired:“I have no objections to presenting the new models to the Duke, but the weather is really bad and not suitable for piloting Silhouette Knights. Do we have to set off immediately?”“Of course, it’s a direct order from the Duke. After so many classes in the pilot faculty, you should have training in traveling in the rain. That is not a reason to delay, please prepare to leave immediately.”The Knight’s face grew stern. Unsure of their intention, the Knights behind gave off a huge pressure. The air in the workshop turned heavy in an instant. But the Boss simply shook his head exaggeratedly, and said with a casual attitude:“No, don’t get me wrong. Yes, I admit that traveling in such weather is a pain, but more importantly, the burden on the machine would be huge. No matter how much training we have, journeying in the rain is still difficult, and there is a storm out there. The new models aren’t that fragile, but we shouldn’t be reckless with them. Since we are presenting it to others, we wish to show it in its best condition. Isn’t that better for everyone?”The Knight Captain lowered his head slightly, accepting that the Boss wasn’t bringing it up because he hated the weather. But he maintained his headstrong attitude.“You have a point, but my lord’s order requires me to make haste in the delivery. Force marching might result in some problems along the way, but the machine can be repaired after reaching its destination. That’s why we are requesting you all to come along.”After saying this much, the students couldn’t turn him down. They could reject something if it was impossible. This request might be difficult, but could be done. A bunch of students couldn’t protest the command of a Duke anyway, so they could only do their best. Even though there wasn’t a choice, the Boss still sighed and shook his beard when he thought about the effort required.“I understand, let’s hurry and get ready.”The Knight finally nodded in agreement. The Boss turned and started issuing orders to the maintenance department, failing to hide his annoyance. Silhouette Knights which walk like humans would also be affected greatly by the road’s condition. If the rain kept pouring and softening the ground, preparations would be needed in addition to piloting skills: installing parts on the legs and covering the joints with waterproof materials. The well trained engineers shouldn’t take long to finish that.As the maintenance department worked, Mathias spoke to the Knight.“Would the maintenance team and pilots be enough? They could start the machine up if that’s what was needed.”Mathias was worried about Eru and asked. Sensing what Mathias was implying, the Knight gave a precise answer.“No, the proposer has to come along, too. We didn’t think it would be a child this young… Is it really him?… I see, it’s true. If that is the case, the orders are to bring him along. No exceptions, even if he is not in high school, please let him come with us.”The proposer had to be the central figure in the development of the new model. The Knight who thought this looked at the youth before him, still a bit doubtful. The students and teachers has no reason to lie, but how could it be a child this young? That was how he felt. Eru smiled and wasn’t bothered by the suspicious gaze of the Knight.The situation was getting more complicated than he imagined. Eru felt a bit fazed, but shook his head quickly and pulled himself together. No matter what Duke Dixgard was scheming, Eru’s goal wouldn’t change. The new model was getting its debut. Eru made his resolve to complete it together with the high school students.Fortunately, the rain eased up while they were preparing and the storm had let up. The sky was still overcast with thick clouds and the rain was still falling. But, at least it was not a storm.The convoy set off from Laihiala Academy City. They were led by the carriage of the Red Rabbit Knights, with the student’s carriage behind them and the Tellestarle in between their formation. There were limited methods to deliver the ten meter tall Silhouette Knights. They could use specialised carriages for transporting damaged machines, or break them apart to spread the load. Silhouette Knights would usually walk by themselves, and it was no exception this time, even if they were the stars of the show.The front of the Tellestarle and the rear of the convoy were guarded by the Red Rabbit Knights’ Karrdators. There waw the danger of Demon beast attacks along the way, so the important new models were kept as combat reserves, and not committed to immediate battle.The destination — Casadesus Fort, was situated to the north of Fremmevira Kingdom, within the territory of Duke Dixgard. The plan was to take the western Fremmevira Highway, and head north part of the way. The road there was paved with stone, and even with the unpredictable weather; it should be an easy trip. For the Silhouette Knights which had to carry their own weight, it was hard to walk on the muddy path caused by the rain. The pilots were also trained to move in wet conditions, but it wasn’t something they were happy about.The rain fell on the Silhouette Knights who were traveling alongside the carriages and evaporated upon contact with the machine, which was hot from its operation. The steel Knight dragged its body that was emitting steam and forged silently ahead.The smooth journey ended when they got off the road as they turned towards the direction of the fort. While passing through a trail in the forest, they heard a weird sound that was obviously not a Silhouette Knight.“That sound… Tch, it’s a Demon beast. All units watch the surroundings! Defensive formation!”The low grumble of the earth rumbling continued. In the Kingdom of Fremmevira, there were two types of existence that would make such a sound: either Silhouette Knights or Demon beasts. For Silhouette Knights, the sound of the parts churning should be audible. If not, the thing that would suddenly emerge from here would be a Demon beast.The source of the noise was obviously approaching them. And, it is estimated to be at least duel level scale – a Demon beast that requires Silhouette Knights to fight them. There might be several of them, too. The battle hardened Knights aside, the horses pulling the carts were just normal horses, and the approach of unknown creature made them panic. The driver grabbed the reins desperately, preventing the horses from running out of control. But the horses were still in disarray, slowing down the progress of the convoy.The Silhouette Knights surrounded the slowing carriage, taking a defensive formation facing the surrounding forest. With the Demon beast making such a noisy entrance, there would definitely be movements in the forest. They took action assuming this, but the forest remained still despite the noise getting closer.“…No, it’s coming from around us… it’s from below!? Damn, how is that possible!?”One of the Knights noticed the direction the rumbling was coming from — and ‘that’ appeared, too. In the middle of the Silhouette Knights’ formation, the earth suddenly split open and something thin burrowed out.It maintained its momentum and drew an arc in the air, crushing the rocks when it touched the ground, and burrowing out of sight. There seemed to be no resistance against its movement when it broke through the ground that was paved with stone, like a fish leaping in a pond. What appeared was as thin as a rope— a rope that was one metre in diametre and twenty metres in length.Following its lead, the Demon beasts burrowed out of the ground one after another, a herd of Demon beasts started moving parallel to the convoy. There were about a dozen of them, shattering the ground as they moved on the stone paved road.“To attack at such a place! This is bad, if we stop here, they will hit us from below!”“Silhouette Knight team! Change formation…”Before the Knights could react to the attack coming from the unexpected direction, the Demon beasts gained the initiative. The beasts split to either side, jumping through the air in an arc towards the carriages. With its tip strong enough to shatter boulders, it destroyed the wooden carriages and the armour on the Knight as if it was nothing. Some of the Demon beasts pierced through the centre of the carriage, while the others attacked the horses, tearing them to pieces in seconds and disappearing underground. The carriage that lost its propulsion force skidded for a moment before falling over, becoming an obstacle for the ones behind.“We will be wiped out if we stop! Get out of the carriage…”The Knights attempted to fight back in the chaos. But, as if mocking their efforts, the situation changed again. A Karrdator lifted its sword, moving in to help, but was stopped when the ground around its feet changed suddenly. The ground bulged and a humongous Demon beast much larger than the others emerged from the below.“What, what is that…!”The ones witnessing this scene were in mortal danger, but they couldn’t help standing there stunned for a few seconds. The moment the Demon beast showed up, screeching noise of hard materials scraping against each other could be heard.Its shape was like a thin rope similar to the other Demon beasts, but its diametre exceeded six metres— more than half the height of a Silhouette Knight. The front was covered with a lot of shell armour, overlapping with each other and spinning at high speeds; built just like a tunnel boring machine on Earth. The spinning armour grinded everything in the path of the Demon beast into pieces and into its body, be it ground, stone or Silhouette Knights.The Karrdator’s legs were shattered by the Demon beast’s onslaught in an instant. After losing its legs, the Karrdator’s upper body was tossed into the sky, and tumbled when it fell onto the ground. At the same time, the giant Demon beast and its smaller counterparts touched the ground after flying in an arc through the air, burrowing underground with a pile of dirt in its wake.The sudden destruction of a Silhouette Knight was a huge blow for the Knights and students, but they didn’t have time to just stand there.“Abandon the carriage! Run! You will be swallowed from below if you stop!”The rumbling sound mercilessly approached the destroyed carriages and the ones preparing to carry the injured. Even with their high levels of training, the Knights were helpless against the enemies hiding underground. They grinded their teeth anxiously, but that only made them more frustrated without solving anything.“Damn it! Demon beast bastards! Look at what you have done!!”The casualties weren’t just the Knights, the students on the carriages were also attacked and several students were dragged in. The survivors dragged the raging Boss from the carriage in a hurry. The encirclement of the Demon beasts drew closer with each passing second, the chaotic group was forced to the edge. At this point, the Knights and students who had left the carriages finally composed themselves.They paid attention to the ground beneath them, ready to attack, planning to strike the moment the beasts popped out. Among this group that was screaming their heads off was a short student with a strange weapon in each hand, Ernesti.“Shaker worms… another troublesome fellow.”Shaker worms were a type of gigantic worm-like Demon beast. The front end was tightly covered with small pieces of shell, forming an end with overlapping armour that spins to grind through the ground, pushing the dirt into its body, a living tunneling machine. They used the intestines within them to digest the things within the earth, absorbing nutrients. The unused parts were expelled out behind them, which propels the worm forward. More importantly, it could attack from underground which was hard to defend against, a Demon beast known for being hard to handle. Eru recalled the information of these Demon beasts and felt baffled.“But the shaker worms shouldn’t be bigger than two metres in diametre… What is that thing? Some sort of leader?”“Who knows! And, why are you so calm!”“Alright, don’t be so loud, Boss. It’s hard to handle them when they are underground. But they are noisy when they move, so we can determine its general location from the sound.”The Boss shut his mouth and gritted his teeth so hard it was almost audible. He was full of wrath, ready to wield the hammer in his hands. If possible, he wanted to smash the Demon beast’s head in, personally.“That’s how it is. So, Boss, please back off a little. Get away from me.”After hearing Eru say that, the Boss didn’t bother answering and sprinted at his top speed. The tremours underground also approached speedily, splashing the water puddle around Eru’s feet. Before the Boss, who was turning his head back as he ran, the shaker worm burst out right next to Eru’s feet. The scene made the Boss tense. He didn’t think the shaker worm would swallow Eru so easily; but, it was still bad for his heart.Eru ignored the worried Boss, casting Aero Thrust to leap the moment the shaker worm flew out. The shaker worm stretched its body, chasing after Eru with amazing speed. But Eru accelerated in mid air once more, shaking off the Demon beast’s pursuit. He maintained his posture and extended the gun staff, Winchester, in his hands.“Welcome, taste this!”Shaker worms could burrow freely in any direction underground, but they couldn’t change their momentum once they were in the air. The two Winchesters fired repeatedly at the front end of the Demon beast that was covered tightly with shells. The piercing lances pelted the shaker worm and exploded upon impact.Even though the shell armour of the shaker worm was powerful enough to shatter boulders, it couldn’t withstand the consecutive magic attacks. The pinpoint attack blew up the armour, and the subsequent spells entered the hole and imploded inside. The intense pressure burst the body from the inside. About twenty percent of the front end of the shaker worm exploded, breaking into pieces in midair. A second later, the Demon beast stopped all signs of life, its body parts stabbing onto the ground.“Sorry for the wait.”After confirming that the shaker worm exploded, Eru did a flip and landed. The air suspension spell splashed the water puddle and mud, absorbing the impact. Eru then ran to support the other students and Knights against the shaker worms’ attack.In order to deal with the Demon beasts attacking from underground, the Knights and students didn’t use a close formation, and spread out instead. The thing they had to watch out for was the attack coming from beneath their feet, so they observed the ground attentively.“Be careful of tremors! Run if you feel them coming, don’t stop!!”“Coming, watch your right!”The shaker worms burst out from the ground, attacking the people trying to dodge them. They were powerful underground, but if they wanted to attack creatures on the surface, they had to burrow out from the ground. If they burrowed out of the ground too fast, they would be exposed defenselessly in the air. That was the chance to attack.“Damn worms! Don’t look down on humans!!The students and Knights were in disarray after the surprise attack, but were countering fiercely now. Every swing of their staff shot out a fireball, just like crimson flowers blooming in the rain. The shaker worms hit hard by the explosion fell heavily onto the ground; there were some that simply exploded in mid air. The Knights and students delivered the final blow before the shaker worms could escape underground.The skin of the shaker worm was tough from the abrasion against the ground, but it was weaker when compared to the armour at the front end. The Boss charged at a shaker worm that was downed by a fireball and smashed his hammer down with all his might.“You dare lay a hand on my men!?”
This blow used the powerful muscles of the dwarves to its limit, breaking into the area not covered by shell armour. The hammer smashes with incredible momentum, splitting the hide of the Demon beast and digging into its insides. The impact permeated through the worm, turning it into mush as it was broken into two. Without organs to emit sound, the worm spasmed soundlessly and collapsed.The Boss confirmed the worm’s demise and pulled out the gruesome hammer that was embedded inside the Demon beast’s body. He swung it around and readied himself.“Come at me, bro! Next! Hell, all of you come at me! I will send all of you flying!!”With his mighty aura, both the Demon beasts and the students were afraid of him.The small shaker worms were defeated with the consecutive attacks from the Knights and students. They could handle the small sized Demon beast thanks to the efforts of the Silhouette Knights team.About some distance away from them, the giant shaker worm dubbed ‘leader’ by Eru was rampaging around.When the Silhouette Knights team realised the leader was more interested in Silhouette Knights than humans, they immediately pulled away from the students. The intelligence of shaker worms was low, so the leader took the bait and was lured into the forest.With its diametre more than half the size of a Silhouette Knight, the forest and ground were ravaged. The woods which obstructed movement was a disadvantage for the Silhouette Knights. Even though its intelligence was no match for humans, no one could fight against the leader. Despite knowing they were in a bad situation, they still pulled the battle away from their traveling companions.“Damn it—!!”Tellestarle one piloted by Helvi charged forward as she roared. The two back weapons deployed on her shoulders moaned and fired a series of magic shots. It hit the body of the leader directly, but, as expected of a colossal beast more than a hundred metres long, it was tough and didn’t seemed affected.“What’s with this?! Not taking any damage despite getting hit, isn’t this cheating!?”Against the leader that was twisting its thick and long body as it moved, the Silhouette Knights could only attack sparsely. The enemy was too large; the damage the magic shot could deal was limited. With the Silhouette arms ineffective, they could only rely on the swords of the Karrdator. But the slashes were not very effective against the leader either.Compared to the weak attack of the Silhouette Knights, the strike of the leader was deadly. A Karrdator that was almost caught by the leader raised its shield to parry. The surface of the shield shrieked against the body of the leader, spraying out a lot of sparks. The shell spinning at high speed grounded the shield into shreds.
The Karrdator was sent flying from the collision, lucky to lose just its left arm and shield. An ally ran to the fallen machine.“Are you okay!?”“Ugh!… The shield and left arm are gone, but I can still move. I can still swing my sword!”“Tellestarle, rally to me!”Edgar used the sound amplifier built into his machine to shout over the din of the leader rampaging through everything. The Tellestarle team sneaked through the lashing body of the leader, gathering at the side of Tellestarle two piloted by Edgar.“What’s the plan? Any good ideas?”“Yes. Spreading our attacks is ineffective, let’s concentrate our firepower. Everyone prepare to attack head on with ‘quadruple arms mode’. We will stop this thing.”Although the plan was to concentrate firepower, they didn’t expect Edgar to suggest a frontal assault. The Karrdator pilots would suspect that he wasn’t right in the head or reject his proposal. But the students believed the new models could accomplish this objective. They smiled brilliantly in their pilot seats, nodding firmly to express their acknowledgement.“Alright, let’s do this! Show them the power of Tellestarle!”The Tellestarle sheathed their melee weapons and threw away their shields. They drew the Silhouette arms hanging from their waist with each hand and deployed their back weapons. With four Silhouette arms in place, this was literally the ‘quadruple arms mode’. This showcased the capability of Tellestarle to use multiple Silhouette arms at the same time.With multiple Silhouette Knights concentrated at a single point, it roused the interest of the leader who locked on to them and attacked… Seeing the Tellestarle congregate in the way the tumbling beast was heading, a Karrdator pilot warned:“What are all of you doing!? It’s dangerous, disperse now!”“We are concentrating our Silhouette arms to attack! If that fellow retreats, don’t let it get away!!”The Tellestarle stood in a row as if to welcome the leader, aiming the reticle on the holo monitor at the centre of the leader’s maw. It was at a distance where they couldn’t miss.“Fire—!!”Under Edgar’s command, the five Tellestarle acted immediately. The total of twenty Silhouette arms, equivalent to the firepower of ten or more Silhouette Knights fired off at the same time. Backed by the large mana pool from the capacity frame made from sheet crystal tissue, the flames shot through the ever falling rain.The magic shots with fiery tails plummet onto the leader simultaneously; the carefully aimed magic bullets went directly into the leader’s maw. No matter how indiscriminate it was about food, it couldn’t eat Overed level spells. The front end of the leader was covered in a blooming brilliant fire. The Tellestarle kept on pouring out its concentrated fire, destroying the shell covering the worm’s front end. This forced the rampaging leader to slow down.The leader squirmed painfully. The explosion made the giant beast burrow underground in an attempt to escape. But the magic attack damaged the front end greatly, preventing it from digging into the ground. The colossal body just wriggled on the ground in pain.“Now is the time, attack! Finish it off, don’t let it escape!!”No one held back on the vulnerable enemy. The Karrdator raised their swords and spears to attack; the Tellestarle exhausted a lot of its mana, but they squeezed out a last spurt and charged in with melee weapons, slashing at the wounds made by the magic barrage. The leader that was struggling to escape was in tatters in no time.At this moment, a Tellestarle plowed down the halberd in its hands mightily. The strand crystal tissue made a melody similar to string instruments as it flexed to exert more power. The high speed and centrifugal force plunged the halberd into the body of the Demon beast, splashing its body fluids all over, mixing into the mud.The leader could not withstand the blow and split into half. No matter how strong the leader was, this was a fatal blow. The lifeless body crumpled onto the ground with a bang and stopped moving.The machines that took down the powerful Demon beast raised their arms in celebration. But, they were only immersed in the joy of victory before heading back to the place they were ambushed, to support the Knights and students. But when they walked out of the forest, most of the shaker worms had been vanquished under the wrath of the Knights and student’s counter attack. In the end, the leader was the hardest to handle.And, so, the roads became peaceful once again.“Sigh, the stinky worms caused us so much trouble.”After defeating all the worms, everyone finally relaxed and the Boss complained with a stinky face. Before him was the carriages that had turned into wreckages, and the carcass of the horses that were nothing but bones.“Can we salvage enough carriages to ferry everyone?”“No way, the damage can’t be repaired easily. No matter how much we rush, it would be great if we get half of them working. We are Silhouette craftsmen, not great with wood work.”The Knight who asked expected as much and crossed his arms troubled. For them, losing most of the carriages was the biggest loss in this battle.“We have no choice, prioritise sending the wounded. Let the carriages that can still move ferry them to Fort Casadesus. The carriage is fine, but there are no horses? Let the Silhouette Knights pull it. There is a village a short distance from here, we will go there first. It would be great if we can borrow some means of transport there…”Everyone followed the command of that Knight and started moving. The Boss kicked the carcass of the worm grudgingly, but that didn’t help at all. The only thing they were thankful of as they walked was the rain letting up.When the group reached the village, they still couldn’t find a means of transport, so they had to wait for Fort Casadesus to send carriages to pick them up. They encountered Demon beasts on several occasions, but they were small compared to the leader and were kicked aside by the Silhouette Knights. And, so, although it was several days later than they planned, the students and Tellestarle finally made it to Fort Casadesus.“Alright, everyone start the inspection of the Tellestarle! Pay extra attention to the back weapon!”The Boss and the others started inspecting the machines immediately after moving into the workshop. After fighting an unexpectedly large beast, the Tellestarle required a full check up. The Boss led the maintenance department and repaired the machine with care.The craftsmen in the fort watched the scene curiously. They had a rough idea of what happened. They were torn between doubt and anticipation at first, but were awed when they saw the new models in the flesh. The Knights who escorted them were especially impressed, with many hoping the Tellestarle would be mass produced, or at least modify their machines with similar functions. They quietly looked forward for that day to come, but for now, they quietly watched over the fruits of their labor.Fort Casadesus lived up to its name as a fortress; the workshop was much larger than the one on campus. The Karrdator of the red rabbit Knights lined up in a row. With the Tellestarle standing beside them, it was a majestic view.A person leaving a silver trail behind made his way through the machines. It was Ernesti, who looked like he was dancing. He wasn’t a craftsman and didn’t have anything to do while the inspection was going on, so he was just strolling around. He looked at the rows of Silhouette Knights and had a smile ten times more brilliant than usual.“The hangar bays are awesome; it’s so wonderful to have so many Silhouette Knights…”A Knight looked towards Eru, who was praising the wonders of this world. In the eyes of outsiders, Eru looked just like a child excited to see a Silhouette Knight. The Knight smiled gently and told him:“The Duke is looking for you, could you come with me?”But, Eru, who turned his back didn’t look like a child. Using an example to describe him, he looked like a developer supervisor about to report to the department head, his expression was a mix of confidence, uneasiness, passion and weariness.
Going back to before the students set off from Laihiala Academy City.Laihiala Academy City was formed with Laihiala Academy at its core. There’s residence and shops. In the streets with buildings constructed tidily on either side, a man was rushing through the pavement. The storm had moved away, but the rain was still falling hard. The man finally reached a certain building. It was a place situated at a corner of a simple looking street. It didn’t seem to be a shop, and was probably a residence. The man opened the locked door with practiced hands and relaxed after entering the place.“What made you rush here in this rainy weather?”The woman at the other end of the room asked. The man went straight to the point and answered.“‘Emergency report from ‘hidden rat’.”The stern eyes of the woman squinted, giving off the impression of a sharp blade. The man looking at her had the illusion of suffocating.“What is it? Did the student start a revolution or something?”“Duke Dixgard seemed to be eyeing that thing. We received report he had summoned them over with haste.”A hint of bitterness flashed across her face, but no further emotion was shown. She leaned onto the chair, folding her arms in deep thought.“… He beat us to the punch. I heard it wasn’t finished, that’s why I decided to wait and see; this is bad.”“I heard ‘that thing’ has already set off with some of the students towards the Duke’s territory. We have been had.”Hearing this, the wrinkles that were starting to become obvious, multiplied. She took a pile of documents from her desk and tossed it at the subordinate standing beside her.“Hmmp, nagging like this won’t help; sent this report back to headquartres at once. Don’t forget to add that this is to be given to ‘His Majesty’ immediately.”This was probably a routinal matter; the subordinate caught the documents skillfully, and expressed his acknowledgement before running out of the room.“… Alright, no time to mess around. Depending on the judgement by His Majesty, We might need to move out.”“Act directly… His Majesty is…”“Steel yourself. We need to prepare too, recall everyone immediately.”She answered with resolved in her eyes. The man nodded without a word and left the room. Shortly after, the only one left in the room was just her. There was no telling what she was thinking about, but from her serious expression, it wasn’t anything pleasant.“…Alright, seems like things are going to get busy.”Unexpectedly, there was a hint of joy in her voice, contrary to the contents of what she said. A week had gone by since Ernesti had left for Fort Casadesus together with the students from the pilot faculty.The boys and girls of Laihiala Pilot Academy walked in the rainy streets with their equipment for wet weather. There was some time before lessons started and the students living in the city were starting to leave for school.The figures of Batson, Archid and Adeltrud could be seen among the students commuting. In the midst of the students chatting happily, the moody twins appeared out of place.“Really! How long is Eru going to stay there? From what we heard, he should be back by now.”“That’s right! Ugh, if this goes on, there would be a deficiency in vitamin Eru…”“What vitamin is that…”They heard it would take about a week to make a round trip to Casadesus, but despite waiting so long, Eru didn’t show up. The primary reason was their encounter with the shaker worms, which threw their schedule into a wrench, but they didn’t know the details. In this world, with no method for long distance communication, they had no choice but to wait.“But, Eru left without us, is he taking our friendship too lightly?”“We helped in making Telle-chan too!… Though we were just watching from the side.”“How long are you going to complain about this?”The twins only found out about Eru heading for Fort Casadesus after he left. After the Behemoth Incident, being left behind, yet again, filled them with frustration that they had nowhere to vent. The circumstance was different from last time and couldn’t be blamed on Eru, since it was so sudden. But, the twins wouldn’t listen, and you couldn’t really fault them for that. But, they were not high schoolers, so they couldn’t barge in as they pleased. Since they could only wait helplessly, Batson was getting tired of consoling the gloomy duo.“Like-I-said, Eru is gone and there’s nothing we can do about it.”Listening to the same phrase said by Batson repeatedly for the past week, Chid crossed his arms dejectedly, while Ady, who was at the peak of her anger made up her mind about something, and waved her clenched fists.“No, we can’t give up! We have to pick him up ourselves! Unlike before, we have Silhouette gears, right!?”“… Then, where is our destination?”Unexpectedly, the one who pointed this out calmly wasn’t Batson, but Chid.“Eh? Erm… I heard he is in Duke Dixgard’s territory.”“Where, exactly? The territory is huge, and we don’t know the way there, either.”Ady groaned and turned stiff with her fist raised. Even if the Silhouette gear’s speed exceeded horses, it’s pointless without knowing the destination.“I can’t accept this either, but he probably will be back soon. We just have to wait.”Chid still sounded unhappy, Ady pouted and turned silent.“… Eru… After you come back, I will punish you like a pillow.”Hearing Ady’s mumblings made Chid forget about his anger for a moment. He remembered that Eru needed a lot of effort to calm down his sister, and looked up into the sky. As for Eru in Fort Casadesus, he felt a sudden chill.And, so, they spent their days waiting gloomily. The story progressed a few days later, when the students from the pilot faculty finally returned to Laihiala Academy City.The convoy passed through the city gates of Laihiala Academy City. The Karrdator Silhouette Knights that were acting as escorts moved away from the carriages and entered a workshop near the city gates. The carriage continued advancing along the road, going all the way into Laihiala Pilot Academy.“Oh, our nostalgic home sweet home.”“It’s only been a week or so, Boss.”“I meant it metaphorically, asshole.”Shaking their limbs stiff from the long journey, the group from the Pilot Academy, including the Boss, dismounted. The desolated workshop regained a bit of life.But, the group was missing something they had when they first set off. First, none of the new models they brought to Fort Casadesus were with them. The one escorting them back was the Karrdators from the Red Rabbit Knights, and they had parted ways at the city gates. They came back empty handed. Not only that, everyone here was a student of the pilot faculty. The short youth who accompanied them wasn’t with the team.With the end of the lessons, school was out. Evening had come and the sun had set behind Mount Aubigne. Inside the dormitory of the middle schoolers, Stefania Serrati was doing her homework in her room. She flicked her blond hair that got in her way behind her, writing silently.When she had solved most of the problems and was about to take a break, there was a sudden visit from a guest. She thought it was a friend, but the knocking was hurried, which made Stefania dismiss that possibility. She walked to the door a bit confused. Stefania was the Student Council President, but the relavent work should have been completed. Thinking there was some urgent matter to handle, she opened the door with doubt in her mind.“Onee-sama…! Please help us!!”Seeing her younger siblings looking so worked up, Stefania eyes’ widened and stood there frozen stiff.Tiffa did not estrange her siblings of a different mother, ushering them into her room.She thought with a smile:”How rare this is.” The gap between them had faded and they were on good terms, but this was the first time they had visited Tiffa’s room.But they didn’t seem like they were here to play. Unlike the brother who always showed an irate attitude, just by looking at her sister, who couldn’t keep her thoughts to herself, Tiffa could tell they wanted to ask something. Tiffa wanted to serve them some beverages, but Ady acted first.“Onee-sama, you are the only one we can rely on!!”“Alright, I will listen to you, calm down. I will prepare something to drink, please wait a moment.”Using the chance while Chid was soothing Ady, Tiffa made some red tea. After the twins drank the tea, they calmed down a little, but they still went straight to the point.“… The Boss and the others are back from the fort visit, but Eru… Eru isn’t with them!!”The expression of Tiffa who was smiling warmly in the beginning turned serious gradually. After she heard about the completion of Tellestarle, contacting their father Marquis Joachim Serrati, the summon by Duke Dixgard and the students’ return, Tiffa lowered her gaze in deep thought.“Is that so… that incident back then had turned to this…”Tiffa didn’t know what plans their father had, but Eru was definitely dragged in. Tiffa and the rest were saved by Eru’s quick actions, so it was her turn to repay him this time. She made up her mind and stood up with a resolve expression.“I understand, let’s go.”“Onee-sama?”Ady looked at her in surprise.“Let’s visit our father. He should be in Känkänen’s mansion… we have to at least ask why.”Hearing that, Chid and Ady nodded firmly and stood up, too.After deciding their objective, Tiffa acted fast. The next day, she abused— correction, used her authority as the Student Council President to the limit. Using the excuse of an important family matter, she stepped over the sighs and tears of the teachers, and Student Council members and brought Chid and Ady along to Känkänen. When her sister was asked about this incident some time later, she commented: “…I thought it would not be wise to go against Onee-sama.”That day, the storm that should have passed fell on the Serrati residence in Känkänen once again, causing chaos. The servants couldn’t stop the daughter of the Marquis adamant on walking in, and rushed to inform the master of the house. It wasn’t clear if they were lucky or unlucky, but Joachim happened to be in the mansion, and the trio was brought to his study room.“Why the sudden visit? Tiffa, you should have school today, what are you doing here?”Seeing his daughter acting so agitatedly, Joachim questioned her the moment he saw her. When he saw Chid and Ady behind Tiffa, his frown deepened.“You all…”“Father, after seeing the both of them, you should know why we are here, right?”Tiffa didn’t back down, despite seeing how displeased her father was and greeted him gracefully. She didn’t change her calm and bold attitude; she wasn’t the Student Council President for nothing. After experiencing the fight with a battalion level Demon beast, her mental strength was exceptional among all past Student Council Presidents.“… It’s related to the new machine model?”“Not just that, it concerns the person behind the new model— their friend Ernesti Echevarria.”Tiffa said before Joachim could continue, and became more and more agitated:“In the Behemoth Incident back then, many of the students including I, survived because of his efforts, but he was the only one who didn’t return from the Duke’s territory! I don’t know what your plans are, father, but I won’t allow harm to come to my benefactor!”Chid and Ady stood besides Tiffa, opposing their father.“Father, please give us a reasonable explanation.”With no room for lies or escape, they forged ahead with the determination of entering a battlefield. “… That’s the summary of what I gathered from my men.”The Commander of the Red Rabbit Knights based in Fort Casadesus, Molten Fredholm, stood at attention as he read out the contents of the report. He was inside the top level war room in Fort Casadesus. It was usually not in use, and would double as a conference room when high nobles visit the fort. There was a table in the centre of the room surrounded by four chairs. Seated in one of them was the master of Fort Casadesus, ‘Knut Dixgard’.After hearing Molten’s report, Knut closed his eyes for a moment before expelling the heavy air in his lungs.“Alright, I understand the capability of the new models. What did our Knights think of them?”Molten’s report was the investigation report of the new models during the shaker worms attack.“To be honest, I have to admit the combat performance is great. Even with double the number of Karrdators, we might not achieve similar results. Almost all the Knights who fought alongside them wished to implement the new models.”Knut frowned slightly and groaned as he leaned back on his chair. Below the carefully combed hair was a prominent hooked nose making his facial features look more compelling.“… The new model is good for the nation. We can’t leave it alone.”Knut said softly and Molten nodded.“Molten, the students who constructed the new model would like to apply for the development of the new technology— They request for us to mediate any problems that might occur.”Knut had a set of documents that was different from the earlier report. It was forwarded to him from Marquis Serrati, after he received it from Laihiala Pilot Academy, a report and request letter.“And, they would like to join the NTR Lab.”“Oh? Not just providing the technology?”“I quote, ʻWe are the ones who are the most knowledgeable about the new models. If we can take part in the research related to this, we will definitely contribute to the technological advancement of Silhouette Knights.’”Knut read out a part of the request letter. Morton stroked his carefully groomed beard and laughs aloud.“Hahaha! The students have been getting greedy recently; this means they have the confidence to develop the new model? Isn’t that great? Graduates from Laihiala are great talents, and they are the ones who made the new models. We welcome such capable young ones.”Molten wasn’t just being polite. He predicted that the development and implementation of the new models would require a lot of talents, the more the merrier. It is a joy when both parties are after the same goal.“But it is not certain how much of the credit belongs to them.”But, Knut was thinking about another matter. His gaze fell on a series of words on the report— ‘Propose by: Ernesti Echevarria’. The image of the silver haired boy flashed across his mind.“Molten, interview the students about the new models.”“Yes! What are your plans, my lord?”“I, well… there is someone I have to meet personally.”For Knut, who was shouldering heavy responsibility within the nation, his words had a hint of bashfulness. Molten bowed and went about issuing orders.Knut stared at the door Molten went out from and sighed softly. He received the report from Marquis Serrati, and knew the new model wasn’t developed by the students alone.… Did I underestimate him back then? But….Knut banished the regret welling in his heart. This feeling was because of his carelessness back then, when the King promised to disclose the manufacturing method of ether reactors in exchange for ‘designing a Silhouette Knight’.For Knut, the problem was the playful attitude of the King. The person he made the promise with— Eru was someone Knut had to look out for, but it wasn’t very much. That child has talent beyond his years, but no matter how brilliant he was, there was a limit. The King only stated the terms, but didn’t guarantee the provision of support.Furthermore, Silhouette Knight designing wasn’t something a mere student could handle. Fremmevira’s current Silhouette Knight, the Karrdator was designed a hundred years ago. After accumulating long years of technological enhancement and mobilising the best craftsmen of that era, they finally finished this masterpiece.The Karrdator predecessor ‘Salodrea’ was in service for almost two hundred years. Just from this numbers, it was clear how difficult it was to develop new machines. Knut experienced this himself, so he didn’t even consider the possibility of that promise bearing fruit.That’s how it should be…Less than a year after that incident, an unbelievable report reached his ears— ‘A student made a new Silhouette Knight model.’ Such a report was unheard of, and Knut almost fainted when he saw the name of the proposer. Ernesti Echevarria— the promise Eru made with the King was starting to become feasible, and Knut felt his common sense crumbling away.When Knut was young, he had experience in an attempt to ‘improve Karrdator’. The combat prowess of the Silhouette Knights was linked to the stability and strength of the kingdom. As the master of the highest nobility, Dixgard Dukedom, he wished for the advancement of the nation, and put this hope in the Silhouette Knights.With the permission of the King, he worked together with the NTR Lab, but the grand project didn’t yield any satisfactory results. The technology accumulated for the past century was tough to match, and the improvement was limited without any major breakthrough and didn’t meet his expectations at all. With these unpleasant memories and experiences, he realised how hard it was to create a new Silhouette Knight. Without years of accumulated technology, top notch experts or even funding, it’s preposterous to imagine a bunch of students constructing a new model.In that case— Knut changed his reasoning. The boy named Ernesti should have a certain ‘something’. The ‘something’ from an unknown source that made an impossible task of developing new models possible. It would definitely bring much benefit to Knut and the Fremmevira Kingdom.After rationalising to this point, Knut finally realised how unreliable his judgement in the past was and felt a chill run down his back. If Marquis Serrati hadn’t obtained information about Eru and took action, Knut would only hear the report afterwards. He felt grateful towards Marquis Serrati for the warning, and used this chance to make his move. There was some unforeseen incident, but the new models displayed exceptional combat ability, and was highly evaluated by the Knights. Knut was sure the nationwide implementation of the model was inevitable.To achieve this, Knut needed to know what this boy Ernesti was scheming, and what were his plans. For Knut, Eru was a squirming shadow he didn’t understand. Knut would definitely not hand over the future of his beloved country to such a person.Knut, who unconsciously closed his eyes in deep thought heard a gentle sound of knocking on the door. It was time to achieve his goal. He took a deep breath to calm himself, and invited the guest to enter the room.Several figures walked along the corridors of Fort Casadesus. Leading the way was a soldier in armour, who was followed by a rather short child. The light of the lantern flickered in the soldier’s hands, casting shadows on the silent corridor. The clanking of the armour and the sound of footsteps created a soft melody.At the end of the corridor, a sturdy door appeared in the faint light of the lantern. The carefully designed door had a different atmosphere from its surroundings. The door Labeled ‘Top Level War Room’ showed how special this room was. The soldier leading the way knocked on the door and opened it carefully, leading the boy, Ernesti, into the room.Eru went through the door and noticed that the grand decoration of the room was vastly different from the rugged air of the fortress. As if to confirm the texture of the soft carpet, unsuitable for iron boots, the soldier walked slowly to the middle of the room. There was a table there. A middle aged man—the master of the fortress, Knut Dixgard was waiting there. He politely offered Eru a seat, and Eru deftly sat down after a simple greeting.The servant who appeared at the same time moved away after pouring them a drink. The high class tea imported from the west tickled the noses of these two. Their conversation thus began harmoniously with a cup of red tea in hand.To Knut, the conversation was a battle. He needed to judge Eru’s character, motives, and then grab the initiative. The two of them should be gauging the distance carefully with each other on the surface while fighting intensely underneath.But, Knut was confused.“… And so, the craftsmen from the pilot faculty developed the strand crystal tissue with tremendous effort, improving the power output of the new model by one and a half times…”Eru, who was sitting opposite him was explaining endlessly. That was the case, since Knut probed with a few question about the new model, turning into Eru’s personal stage. And, he prepared a lot of presentation materials as if he was planning for this.“Please refer to the material here. As mentioned previously, the new model’s main advantage is in its greater power output and variety of equipment, but there is a minor issue in endurance…”But, Knut also wanted to learn more about the contents, so it was harder for him to handle. Even when Knut wanted to regain the initiative in the discussion, his ears were still listening to Eru’s voice, his eyes stared at the documents and his mind was busy organising the information about the new model. Even though a corner of his mind was sounding out in alarm, Knut continued to greedily absorb the information he seeked.“As for the costs involved, I can’t give you a precise number at this stage. It might change with the optimisation of production in the future. But, the expensive core parts of the Silhouette Knight would remain the same, and the changes would mainly affect the inexpensive parts, so, we predict that the price would not escalate too much…”Eru’s presentation carried on. Ever since he was summoned to Fort Casadesus, Eru has been preparing the content of his presentation, and his explanation was near perfect. In the end, Eru kept talking for three hours. No matter how good someone was, the motivation to talk continuously like this has to be his passion for robots.In contrast to Eru, who was sipping the cold red tea in satisfaction, Knut was busy tidying the contents in his mind, analysing the mass production plan. When he wanted to ask some follow up questions, Knut finally remembered his original plan.Knut was stunned; he didn’t think he would be unable to use his negotiation skill, which was honed in his duties as a Duke. Eru hit Knut’s weakness, which was his strong interest in the new model. If that was Eru’s plan all along, then Knut had completely lost. But, that powerful card was temporarily ineffective because the explanation was over, now was the time to counterattack— Knut also didn’t understand why he was frustrated as he showed his ace in the hole.“I understand now, I have several questions about the new models… But Ernesti, before that, regarding what you want to do with these machines…”Knut didn’t take this seat for no reason. The air about him changed, it was like a sharp blade being unsheathed.“I have permission from His Majesty to take total control over the new model project.”The highest ranked Duke was tasked by the King himself, meaning he has the highest authority, only second to the King. At least in regards to this case, his words were as good as the King’s.“I will take charge of everything related to the new model; the information will be relayed to His Majesty through me.”This was Knut’s ace, and his last hand. ‘Taking total control of the opponent’ had a huge effect on the other party, and had the advantage of easily earning their ire.For Knut, who couldn’t make an enemy out of Eru, this wasn’t the best choice. But, Knut felt it was dangerous to be led on like this. And, he had only listened to Eru’s explanation and nothing more. Eru would definitely react strongly to this move, and that would be the best chance for Knut. The bigger the reaction, the easier it was for Knut to direct the flow of the conversation, and he could make full use of his skills, then.Knut suppressed his cluttered thoughts and squinted slightly. But, his opponent’s answer was not what he had expected.“That’s great; I won’t need to repeat this to His Majesty again. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.”Eru nodded his head and bowed smoothly.Knut succeeded in pressing down the groan which was some sort of miracle. The ace that was all powerful, no matter who the opponent was, didn’t have any effect and was dismissed. Knut didn’t expect Eru to act like he was saved the hassle. While he was dumbfounded, Eru gained control of the discussion again.“If you have full authority over this, sir, I would like to confirm something.”“… Eh, what is it?”“I remember requesting something for the students in the pilot faculty when I submitted the report…”Hearing this, Knut coughed softly and regained his composure.“Yes, I heard about that. I can’t guarantee they would be hired as the developers of the new models, but once we move officially into production phase, the more people we have, the better it would be. Or rather, I would push for them to take the job even if they don’t want to.”Eru smiled and sighed softly. That was expected, he had accomplished most of his objectives anyway. But, Knut still felt puzzled about the intentions behind Eru’s words.“I am here to explain the new models and to confirm that the senpai would be employed.”Eru answered frankly. Knut wondered why he thought something wasn’t right. He pondered for a while and found the reason.“… What are your plans? Promoting the new model, marketing the students, there is no problem with this. But, I haven’t heard the most important part, which is your plans, and you already seemed satisfied. You are the proposer of the new model right? Based on this merit, there should be something you would want to say.”In the end, Knut still knew nothing about Eru, or heard any request made by Eru. Maybe it was due to fatigue; Knut didn’t beat around the bush and asked directly.“Me? Nothing yet. I am still a middle school student, so I will stay in the academy until I graduate.”Oh right, he was still a twelve year old child. Knut almost agreed with him, but realised quickly that wasn’t the issue here.“Wha… You stirred this matter to this point and you still want to go back to school!?”Knut forgot he was talking to a kid and was in chaos.“That might be so… but let’s say I go to the NTR Lab, I would be dropping out of school and making my parents sad.”Eru didn’t abandon the logic of his previous life in some strange areas, but bringing this up this late into the game made Knut ‘crumble’.“… You, do you know what you did?”“I only made some suggestions for a new Silhouette Knight right?”“Don’t make it sound so simple! You are acting like this is natural, so it’s useless to explain, but I want to say it anyway! Listen, since the founding of this Kingdom, no, in all the history of mankind, there has never been anyone who proposed a redesign of Silhouette Knights alone!!”Why did he have to explain this common sense? Knut felt an emptiness he had never experienced before in his life. If he didn’t have the experience of living as a noble for so long, he would have found someone to complain about this to.“And, obviously, developing Silhouette Knights is a grand project that involves many people! Even if there is a group who comes up with a new design for Silhouette Knights, it was impossible to do so alone!!”Knut was getting really agitated; he even frightened Eru a little.“His Majesty setting this term in exchange for the ether reactor… is as good as telling you it was impossible. But, you did something so ridiculous like it was nothing, why are you acting like a kid after all that!!”In reality, Eru was really just a child, so Knut was mistaken, but it’s a pity no one was present to retort him. When Knut thought a mere twelve year old ‘stirred up trouble’ and shook the entire nation, Knut’s mind snapped. He probably didn’t think about that because of his self defense mechanism. But, Eru fanned the flame mercilessly.“No, I don’t plan to present Tellestarle. I have something else for His Majesty.”“… There is more? What else do you want to make?”The composure he had in the beginning was gone without a trace, veins appeared on Knut’s temples. Eru displayed his most brilliant smile of the day and said:“Yes, of course. Because making Silhouette Knights is my ‘hobby’.”The agitation just now seemed to be an illusion as Knut turned ominously silent. A similar scene flashed across his mind— ‘ because it’s my hobby’. It’s true, Knut finally understood that what Eru said to the King were the sincere words from his heart.He then realised this person will definitely be a genius that will leave his mark in history and be unmatched in his field of expertise. But, at the same time, Eru was like a bad omen, who would charge head ahead without regarding how much trouble it would cause others.No wonder he hit it off with the King. The calm portion of his mind confirmed something ominous. The young Ambrosius was a capable and reckless genius, taking joy in setting up others. Back then, the Duke had to go along with him and suffered much. Right now, Ambrosius was a ‘wise King’— wrong, His Majesty still couldn’t suppress his playful mentality— but he was like a catastrophe back in the days. Knut didn’t know, but the people in the palace called him the ‘tamer’.The boy before him was the same type of person as the King, he finally acknowledged this point. He didn’t expect to uncover Eru’s ‘way of thinking’ like this. He collapsed in his chair with a ‘thump’.“… I see.”The conversation ended with these heavy words. Molten mentioned after this incident that the two of them conversed for a long time, but Knut was obviously tired for some other reason. About a week after Eru and Knut’s verbal battle, the scene returned to Marquis Serrati’s residence inside the Imperial Capital Känkänen.“According to the information I recieved, they had this conversation.”Joachim Serrati reviewed the document he had already read several times. The summary of Eru and Knut’s discussion was sent to him immediately afterwards. After he stoically finished his explanation, the children were speechless. They didn’t know where to place their raised fist and their mouths were tightly shut under an awkward expression. If one were to describe how they were feeling right now, it would be ‘Ah, that’s right, Eru is such a person.’ Tiffa squeezed out the last ounce of her strong will to recover her composure.“… Yes, that’s right. Anyway… it’s fine if he is happy.”She sounded a bit unhappy, but that was understandable. At this moment, the shaky Chid suddenly lifted his head. He understood Eru stirred up some trouble after hearing Joachim’s explanation, but there was still an unsolved mystery.“Then, why is Eru not back?”“I don’t understand either. There are people who returned from Fort Casadesus, did you ask them?”“… Ah… We came here without asking…”They were too agitated, and forgot the Boss and the others, who were an important source of information. The three of them became dejected.“Ara, to get so worked up, this boy, Ernesti, must be very precious to all of you..”The three of them lost the imposing air they had when they entered the room. Joachim didn’t lecture them and said calmly to the twins:“Archid, Adeltrud, stay by his side in the future, too.” “Yes, yes! Ah, huh?”The two of them thought they would be lectured, and were surprised after hearing that.“Duke Dixgard thinks he would be safe for now, I feel the same way, too. His actions in the future will affect the Kingdom… No, it would have even vaster consequences. He will have many comrades, but also a lot of enemies. No matter how capable he is, it would be hard to make it through the turmoils by himself. You are close to him and had been learning from him, right? Continue to support him from now on, too.”Chid and Ady listened with a surprised expression, and then clenched their fists tightly, saying firmly to their father:“Of course!”“That’s right! It’s obvious that I will be together with Eru!”The twins who steeled their resolve once again nodded and Tiffa hugged them from behind. Watching this scene, Joachim glanced at the part of the report he didn’t tell the children.The Duke said he has the naivety of a child and the logical mindset of an adult. It would be a good move to have playmates from childhood around him. I hope he doesn’t immerse himself in the pursuit of power, and continues to work hard for the country.Joachim looked at his children with unexpectedly gentle eyes, but the children who were hugging each other did not notice.“… Setting this aside for now.”Joachim changed his tone, reverting back to his strong attitude. The three of them stiffened.“The three of you skipped school and came here? It seems like we need to have a proper talk.”The smiles on the children became bitter, it couldn’t be helped— A huge lightning struck at the very end of the storm. Duke Dixgard was troubled— and the reason was standing before him, smiling with a huge pile of notes in his arms.“You really… plan to make that?”“Yes. I have confidence that this is worthy of teaching me the manufacturing method of ether reactors.”Eru’s cheerfully replied to the words Knut squeezed out. Lucky I had a look before it was presented to the King— Knut wanted to praise himself.The document Eru showed to him had the Silhouette Knight and the draft design that was planned to be shown to the King. This ‘thing’ that threw out all sorts of common sense could still be submitted to His Majesty, but not directly like this. Knut sighed deeply and realised he needed to keep this ridiculous existence, named Ernesti, in check.“Pardon my intrusion!!”Knut’s thoughts were interrupted by a third party. Without waiting for a reply, the commander of the Red Rabbit, Molten, barged straight in.Even a Commander of the Knights would be faulted if he interrupted the conversation of a Duke with his guest. But, Knut could tell it was an emergency from Molten’s demanour.“What happened?”“Smoke signals from the direction of ‘Dallier Village’ has been spotted… the smoke is ‘red’, probably a group of Demon beasts above duel level.”Demon beast above duel level, and an entire group; this meant ‘death’ for villages with limited defenses. Knut decided immediately—“Molten, you had already ordered the pilots to sortie, right? Sent at least a squad, and head at full speed for ‘Dallier Village’, we must protect the village!!”“Yes, my lord! We are making preparations. Once the team is ready, I will send the Red Rabbit Knights to attack!!”Molten bowed and charged out with the same speed he entered.“There is no time to chat, I will command from the fort. You… I can’t just leave you here, come along with me.”Eru nodded and exited the room, following behind Knut.