In the past, humans only ruled half of the Zetterlund continent, with the eastern land beyond the Aubigne Mountain Range being uncharted territory dominated by Demon beasts .
With the Silhouette Knights as their main fighting force, humanity pushed the Demon beasts back, and ventured into the east beyond the Aubigne Mountains . The humans were doing well in the beginning, but their invasion was grinded to a halt . The east of Aubigne was covered by the Bocuse Sea of Trees, with Demon beasts that could take on hundreds of Silhouette Knights lurking inside . Suffering huge losses, the humans retreated out of the forest .
There were vast plains of land at the foot of Aubigne Mountain, which was suitable for agricultural use after some development . To protect this piece of land, they expanded their territory to the edge of the forest and formed a country . This was the story behind the founding of the Fremmevira Kingdom . There are still Demon beasts wandering in the Bocuse Forest that might appear on a whim . To keep the Demon beasts away, walls were erected along the borders, and fortresses were set up at the place where Demon beasts show up the most frequently . . . The entrance to the Bocuse Forest known as the ‘Rabidly Road’ (Demon Beast Highway) . Castle walls were then erected between such fortresses . As it was physically impossible to cover the whole border with siege walls, they could not completely deter Demon beasts that approach from places not covered by siege walls . The siege walls were mainly effective against titanic Demon beasts, and thanks to the nation’s defensive efforts, the kingdom remained relatively safe .
This happened during a certain quiet night .
Balguerie stronghold was one of the fortresses lying between the Forest and the borders of Fremmevira Kingdom . It was quite far from ‘Rabidly Road’, even visits from mid size Demon beast were rare, an outpost guarded by ten Silhouette Knights .
That night, the guards on duty felt there was something wrong with the unusual silence in the Bocuse Forest . The stars twinkled brightly in the night sky . There were usually a couple of howls from Demon beast on a night like this, but instead, there was an unnatural stillness . They couldn’t even feel the presence of the animals, as if they had all evacuated . Although it was unnatural, there was no indication of anything happening . Baffled, they continued their rounds .
The silence did not last long . They heard the sound of trees being crushed in the distance . It was obvious that something was approaching . . . Demon beasts . The guards raised the alarm without hesitation .
“What the hell, a Demon beast so late at night!?”
“We’re from the Rabidly Road, what is it doing so far in the countryside?”
The knights in the fortress prepared themselves when the alarm horn sounded . The outpost was a hive of activity, as they mustered together their equipment with haste . Listening to the sound of trees being crushed, the men could feel the looming crisis . The Knight runners on duty jumped into their Silhouette Knights . The Silhouette Knights deployed at this fortress were the standard ‘Karrdator’ model of Fremmevira . The ether reactor was forcefully started from a dormant state, its hum reverberating around it .
The Silhouette Knights checked through their start up procedures, and hurriedly gathered at the gate of the fortress . At this time, the thing that had been crushing the trees appeared . The Demon beast was like a small moving mountain, covered in an uneven shell of rocks like a porcupine . A head and four limbs protruded from the sides, so the shape resembled a tortoise, an eighty metre long and fifty metre tall tortoise .
The guard on duty, on the wall had only seen an ‘Emperor Tortoise’ in books . . . a type of Demon beast known as ‘Behemoth’ . Its primary features were its toughness and endurance . With its reputation of being a walking citadel, it was a difficult enemy to handle . To put it simply, the Behemoth’s greatest power was ‘Strengthening’ . It uses overwhelming mana output to maintain its strengthening spell, and support a physically impossible body structure . It also enables it to move with a speed contrary to its appearance, and hardening every part of its body from shell to skeleton, possessing incredible toughness . It is said that a Behemoth mainly uses body slam to attack and can shatter siege walls . It’s ‘heart’, which is proportionate to its large body, can generate mana equivalent to over 100 Silhouette Knights . With its endless endurance, the defense of the Behemoth is almost impossible to break through . This was a Behemoth, a fortress like Demon beast with incredibly high defense .
“Demon beast identified . . . It’s an ‘Emperor Tortoise’ . . . ! A Behemoth!”
Before the pilots could process the guard’s screaming report, the Behemoth slammed into the walls of the stronghold . Its intentions were unknown, as the Behemoth attacked the fortress from the front . Using the body weight and the toughness that the Behemoth took pride in, the Demon beast turned itself into a battering ram . The siege wall and gate made of iron and stone were destroyed in one hit, the debris splattering all over . The minds of the pilots witnessing this scene turned blank .
After hearing the reports of the guard and the destruction to the stronghold, the pilot’s faces displayed shock and awe . Who would have thought that a battalion-level Demon beast would show up at a place so far away from Rabidly Road? A battalion-level Demon beast requires a battalion of Silhouette Knights (about 300) to defeat it . But there was only a squad (9) of Silhouette Knights stationed at this outpost, ten Silhouette Knights if you include the Captain . This was enough to keep duel-level Demon beasts (equal to 1 Silhouette Knight in power) in check, but was overwhelmingly weak compared to a battalion-level Demon beast .
It would be suicidal to take a stand against the Demon beast, but the Knight runners did not waver . They did not know why the Behemoth was heading into the Kingdom of Fremmevira, but if they allowed it to push through without warning headquarters, the results would be disastrous . It was impossible to stop a Behemoth with the forces stationed at the stronghold Balguerie, but if they stalled for time, they may find the weakness of the beast . They hardened their resolve and charged forward bravely .
With the walls breached, the Behemoth broke down the remnants of the gate and walked into the stronghold . Its howl shook the fortress like an explosion .
The squad of Karrdators moved with this cue, pointing their Silhouette arms, ‘Culverin’, at the Behemoth . The knights channeled their mana into their spear shaped weapons, the emblem graph converted it into a physical phenomenon . Magic scripts and mana beyond the capabilities of humans to process were activated, forming overed spells . Flames erupted from the tips of the spear and scored direct hits on the beast with an explosive sound, burning it in a pillar of fire . Normal beasts would have fallen under this attack, but the Behemoth lived up to its name of a moving fortress, and was completely unfazed by the attack . But this was within the expectations of the Karrdators, and they continued the onslaught of flames with their culverins, covering the beast in smoke and fire .
The power of the Silhouette arms was strong, but the expenditure of mana was very intensive . All the Karrdators kept up the attack until their mana reserves were depleted . To replenish their mana pool, they revved their ether reactors to absorb ether from the air . The reactor moaned louder as it worked even harder .
The entrance of the stronghold was blazing in a sea of fire, after the continuous assault by the Silhouette Knights . The crackling flames and smoke shrouded the Behemoth completely, and the knights lost track of the beast . There were merely ten Silhouette Knights, but even a battalion level beast should sustain some injury under their all out attack . Just when the pilots were thinking that, a howl made the earth shudder, the shock wave dispersed the flames, and the Behemoth appeared from behind the smoke . Reality betrayed their wishful thinking; the Behemoth’s gigantic body was unscathed .
The Behemoth rushed towards the squad of Karrdators with a momentum that didn’t match its size, the speed was so fast that the Karrdators could not evade it in time . The Silhouette Knights were down after receiving a solid blow . The steel plates caved in, instantly and the limbs were smashed . The sparkling crystal shards flew out from the gaps between the armour . There was no way the Knight runners survived .
The other Karrdators fell back, keeping their distance from the beast . The Behemoth attacked with a deceptively quick pace, knocking away the Karrdator who could only fire off a flame bullet in futile resistance .
The remaining Silhouette Knights judged that their magic attacks were ineffective and surrounded the Behemoth, attacking with swords . But just as the rumours say, the shell covering the Behemoth was unbelievably hard, negating all of the slashing attacks . Even though its whole body was covered by a shell, the Behemoth was still able to move with incredible speed . Just ten Silhouette Knights won’t be able to buy enough time and would be in danger of being wiped out by the Behemoth . The remaining pilots felt an unspeakable terror run down their spine; this was indeed a battalion-level Demon beast . The Captain of the Silhouette Knights made a snap decision .
“Arlo, Benjamin, Claes! Are you still alive?”
” . . . Yes sir!”
The Behemoth went on a rampage again, slamming its body into the fortress with the force that it used to charge at the Karrdators . The stone-made stronghold was falling apart, it wouldn’t last much longer .
“Arlo, evacuate all the people who are still alive and run to Carriere Fortress! Benjamin, alert all the neighbouring cities that the Behemoth is nearby, and rush to Jantunen! Claes, make for the Capital! Run at top speed, run till you grind the crystal tissue to dust, you must report this to the Capital!”
The Captain turned the head of his machine and looked at his remaining subordinates .
“The rest of you . . . Sorry, you drew the short straw . ”
The three pilots belonged to the younger generation, the reason behind their nominations was unknown, but they had no authority to refuse or hesitate . The top priority was to stay alive and deliver the warnings, there was no time for them to bid farewell . A tinge of sadness flashed across their face, but they regained their spirit through determination and their sense of duty .
The young pilots left the front lines on their Karrdators without hesitation . After the Captain confirmed the situation through his holo monitor, the corner of his lips rose in a smile .
“My brothers, we will be knocked away if we stay in this cramped space! We are abandoning the stronghold . Go outside and use stalling tactics!”
“Hey, hey, we won’t let you come into our Kingdom!”
“Let’s show this damn tortoise what we’re made of!”
The five Karrdators escaped from the stronghold, preparing to fight the Behemoth . This was a hopeless battle, but their movements were clean and crisp . The Behemoth razed the stronghold to the ground and started its attack again . The Karrdators used a series of coordinated attacks to impede its advance, but the range magic attacks cast at random couldn’t stop the movement of the giant beast . They would need to use melee attacks eventually, striking the head and legs before running away . The hit and run tactics were repeated again and again . The Karrdators could only focus on dodging the enraged Behemoth as they fought on .
But even Silhouette Knights had a limit to their energy .
Silhouette Knights are equipped with ether reactors, a semi-automatic part that supplies mana by absorbing the ether in the atmosphere . But the supply rate is limited . Especially in battle, if the usage rate is higher than the supply rate, the mana reserves in the machine will gradually get smaller . The pilots were only human . . . both man and machine have their limits . With the depletion of the mana reserves, the sluggish Karrdators were sent flying . The lack of concentration due to fatigue caused the Karrdators to miss the chance to evade, and was smashed by a tail attack . One by one, the knights fell to the Demon beast .
But the five Silhouette Knights managed to buy a few hours of time, that were more precious than gold, while facing off a battalion-level Demon beast . It was only right to see this as the victory of their iron will .
The one who held on to the very end was the veteran Captain . The machine was full of countless scratches; the right hand was blown away by the swipe of the Behemoth’s tail . The crystal tissue was in tatters, due to damage as well as wear and tear, the mana reserve was on its last legs, he couldn’t even run away .
” . . . The rookies have escaped . . . This fucking turtle, your next opponents won’t be a half ass group like ours, but a standard Order of Knights . Prepare to be history . ”
Since he couldn’t escape, the Captain commanded the damaged machine to run . He never thought he would survive, injecting his remaining mana into his command Silhouette Knight and charging at the Behemoth recklessly . But the best it could do was stagger forward in awkward steps . He tightened the grip of his sword in the left arm, and threw the whole weight of the machine to stab at the face of the Behemoth .
Maybe the Demon beast knew the concept of respect .
The Behemoth locked on to the last enemy blocking its path, opened its mouth and took a deep breath . This was a never before seen attack . After a moment, just before the sword of the command Silhouette Knight reached the Behemoth, a tornado breath powered by magic, spewed from the Behemoth’s mouth . The fierce wind uprooted the trees . The command Silhouette Knight took a direct hit and was blown far away, the crystal shards and pieces of armour raining over the forest .
The Behemoth growled . The squad launched many attacks with their stalling tactics, and with the command Silhouette Knight’s last blow, a faint crack was left upon the Behemoth’s face, lightly scratching the eye ball . If the damage of the command Silhouette Knight wasn’t so severe, it might have hit the eye ball . The Behemoth surveyed the area for a while, and started advancing after making sure those in its way were gone . Its footfalls were heavy and its eyes bore no sign of emotion .
The largest Demon beast calamity since the founding of Fremmevira started quietly . What was its goal? The answer lies in the road the Demon beast was heading down towards, the largest city of central Fremmevira . . . Jantunen .