Knights & Magic Volume 5 Chapter 45
As the battle on the Cauderlier plains devolved into a stalemate, Kuschepercan Silhouette Gears circled around to the banks of the Mulberry River downstream of the Tetraspides Fortresses.
While it was difficult to evade detection during the crossing if they had large Silhouette Knights, the group was armed with Silhouette Gears that were much more discrete and portable. The group only had to move the Silhouette Gears onto makeshift rafts to covertly ferry them across the river. After everyone reached the steep embankments on the other side, they hid the rafts in the lush forests that now surrounded them, and rearmed themselves in their Silhouette Gears.
“We are only able to move this freely in only Silhouette Gears because of the lack of magic beasts.” Dietrich muttered.
“Agreed. If we do something like this back in Fremmevira, the risk would be quite severe.” Nora responded.
Within the Kingdom of Fremmevira, a squad of Silhouette Gear would face considerable, although not necessarily life-threatening, danger if it were to operate alone.
With everyone fully prepared, the Silhouette Gears ventured into the thickets. The terrain was incredibly rough, and would be difficult to traverse if it weren’t for the enhanced mobility of the Silhouette Gears. Moreover, the group was able to cover much distance without rest given the endurance of the Silhouette Gears. After journeying for a while, Nora called for the group to come to a stop.
“…We are near the fortress. Stay alert for any Žaloudek sentries and watch your steps.”
From that point on, they slowed their pace and silently crept along the undergrowth. Soon, they departed from the forest, and found themselves on a large clearing.
“What should we do now? Advance quickly and eliminate any patrols we encounter?”
Hearing Dietrich’s question, Nora simply shook her head.
“No. We have detailed Intel on the layout of the region. There is a route that will allow us minimal risk.” Nora led the group to a tunnel tucked away in the shrubbery.
At a glance, the tunnel seemed natural, without any locks or camouflage, and blended seamlessly with the surroundings. Unless one was informed of the entrance beforehand, one was certain to miss it.
As the Silhouette Gears entered into the tunnel with magic lamps in hand, the natural rock and mud formation soon gave way to artificially carved walls.
“Is this a secret passage? Certainly fitting for our covert infiltration. However, while it is wide enough to allow Silhouette Gears through, isn’t this a bit too snug a fit?” Dietrich grumbled as he walked.
Perhaps it was done to make the secret tunnel as discrete as possible, but the space within was very small and barely allowed the passage of Silhouette Gears.
“It would be problematic if we encounter any enemies here.”
“Shush! Quiet down!”
A quiet but sharp whisper that came from the front of the column made Dietrich reflexively close his mouth. The sound tended to echo in the tight space, and while it was unlikely for the sound to reach outside the tunnel, minimal precautions should be taken.
At Nora’s order, the group continued in silence. As a knight runner of the Kingdom of Fremmevira, Dietrich has been trained to remain steadfast on any mission. However, the constant anxiety and danger of the infiltration mission were really testing his limits. Comparatively, the Blue Hawk Knights continued to carry themselves in a calm and collected manner, for which Dietrich could not help but be impressed. Soon, the group arrived at a ladder.
“Finally, we can say goodbye to the tight spaces.”
“I will be opening the final switch. Everyone, stay alert!”
The group extinguished their lamps as Nora worked on the switch in the darkness. After a few clicks and clacks, the exit slowly grinded open.
The Silhouette Gears ‘Shadowlad’ lived up to their reputations, and stealthily made their way into what seemed to be a storage room. With this step, they had successfully infiltrated the Tetraspides Fortress.
After the entire group left the tunnels, Nora took out a new map – a detailed layout of the Tetraspides Fortresses. Understandably, as the important gateway to Delvincourt, no maps of the facilities were created. As such, the map in Nora’s hand was painstakingly made through the memory of the royalty, and despite being woefully incomplete, was still better than nothing.
“Our next target is the drawbridge controls, but we must first confirm the powertrain is engaged.”
Unsurprisingly, the large drawbridge, strong enough to allow Silhouette Knights to march across, was extremely heavy. Even Silhouette Knights were unable to easily lift the behemoth of a structure. Therefore, much of the drawbridge operations required the waterwheel attached to a powertrain to function.
“This is where the passage left us, and here is where the powertrain is located. While the enemy is focused on our troops out on the plains, we must remain vigilant. We will act according to the predetermined plan… does everyone know their task when we reach the room?”
Every member of the Blue Hawk Knights has long memorized their tasks, and would be able to devote themselves to their objectives the moment they reached their target.
“…Alright, to victory!”
After final confirmations, the Silhouette Gears began their operation.
With Tetraspides Fortresses’ impregnable outer fortifications and walls, the architects did not hold a great interest on internal defenses. Combined with the ongoing battle outside, gaps within the internal defenses were aplenty. As such, the highly mobile but stealthy Silhouette Gears swiftly moved through the Žaloudekian patrols with minimal resistance.
Within the Tetraspides Fortress, the reserve black knights were anxious for the possible sortie onto the Cauderlier plains. Both the knight runners and the knightsmiths were busy making final preparations for combat, leaving little notice for the group of enemy that had infiltrated their base.
“The powertrain room should be ahead…”
While Nora’s group did not encounter any enemies on their way, they continued to remain vigilant and moved carefully through the corridors. Soon, they arrived in a large hall bordering the powertrain room.
“Hahaha… I knew you would come.”
The Silhouette Gears were met with an enemy force that stood in their way to the powertrain room. At the center of the guards stood Kerhild Hietakangas, commander of the Copper Fang Knights, and understandably, the ones behind her were members of the Knights.
“Hahaha… I was deprived of my subordinates and of my Silhouette Knights, and then forcibly delegated to a mere support role. Your arrival is truly a blessing!” She revealed a terrifying smile.
The Copper Fang Knights once launched a night raid against the Kuschepercans in Missillier, but the raid gravely backfired and the knights were almost wiped out. Because of the failure, the Copper Fang Knights were forced to take responsibility, and were relegated to a mere footnote in the Žaloudek Army.
“The drawbridge would be difficult to assault frontally. Therefore, I was certain a more covert approach was planned. As expected, those miniature Silhouette Knights really did came!” Kerhild could not help but smile at her perfect prediction, “It didn’t matter how the enemy infiltrated the fortress. As long as we know their objective, a defense could easily be set up. We had been waiting a long time for your arrival!”
At her beckon, the Copper Fang Knights raised their crossbows and staff weapons at Nora’s group. No matter how agile the Silhouette Gear may be, it would have a hard time evading the hail of bolts. As such, Nora and the other Blue Hawk Knights prepared themselves mentally for a forlorn charge.
“…Let us serve as your shield, and go finish the mission in our stead.” Nora calmly said to the flustered Dietrich.
“Ugh… Even with Silhouette Gears, going up against that many enemies is suicide.”
“That is part of our job.”
With that said, Nora leapt into action. Against the rain of arrows, Nora and the others had nowhere to run, and the meager armor of the Shadowlads were slowly chipped away.
“Your courage is praiseworthy, but you should just leave the fighting to me!”
Dietrich pulled out a large sword from his Shadowlad, and charged into the fray. Using his speed, he quickly eclipsed Nora and the others, charging straight into the hail of arrows. However, Dietrich did not move to dodge, but with a swing of his sword, cut the arrows down. When all the arrows were fired, Dietrich stood unharmed between the two belligerents.
Knight runners were not simply pilots of Silhouette Knights. Given the similarity between Silhouette Knights and the human body, strong knight runners were undoubtedly powerful martial artists.
As the commander of the Silver Phoenix Knights’ second company – the self-proclaimed ‘Assault Company’, Dietrich Cunitz was unmatched in his offensive power. Even if he was against arrows and bolts, Dietrich was still able to effortlessly cut them all down.
“Let us switch our tasks. I am better at using the sword, and you are more dexterous than me. So I will leave the drawbridge to you, just be sure to provide a few men to assist me.” Dietrich flashed a confident smile.
Certainly, the Blue Hawk Knights were not shy in combat, but most of their training was geared toward covert operations. As such, when compared to regular knight runners, they were a bit lacking in combat expertise.
“How willful could you be…? In a way, you are surprisingly similar to the Knights Commander. However, I agree with your assessment. It seemed the combat here is better suited to your expertise. I wish you luck!”
About half of the knights followed Nora. With the receding footsteps, Dietrich cut down the second volley of arrows, seemingly in a particular good mood.
“Come, I was getting annoyed with all the sneaking around! Time for some rampage, prepare yourselves!”
Before Dietrich finished his sentence, he had already leapt toward the Copper Fang Knights. The knights barely had the time to reload their crossbows, and could only try to delay Dietrich with sporadic blasts from their staff weapons. However, Dietrich was not fazed by the attack, and calmly blocked the shots with his sword.
With a sudden swing near his foot, Dietrich tossed up a large piece of rock, before having the Silhouette Gear’s powerful kick propel the shattered pebbles at the Copper Fang Knights. The power behind the attack was immense, and crashed into the ranks, inflicting heavy casualties.
“Huh?! This bast-…? Oh no!”
Dietrich swiftly pressed his advantage against the wavering enemy and began to cut indiscriminately in his Silhouette Gear. Before long, all of the enemies were vanquished.
“All done. Now that our gig is up, let us go on a rampage in the fortress. If anything, it would help to take some attention off Nora’s group!”
As such, with the intention of providing cover for the drawbridge group, Dietrich and his group began to unleash fury within the fortress.
On the other hand, Copper Fang Knights’ greedy decision to claim the credit for the defense for themselves backfired. The entire interception was planned without the knowledge of the garrison commanders, and understandably, the rest of the garrison was uninformed of the infiltration. The startled garrison was unable to respond to the sudden attack, and was easily beaten down by Dietrich’s group. Moreover, the interior of the fortress were primarily designed for the knight runners and the foot soldiers. As such, Silhouette Knights could not hope to join in the defense.
Against the sudden assault by the superhuman Silhouette Gears, the entire fortress soon descended into chaos.
“…Their distraction seemed to be working.”
After confirming the powertrain, Nora and her group safely arrived at the drawbridge controls. Even with the chaos, the drawbridge room remained well guarded, which spoke to its importance. Therefore, Nora’s group first had to subdue the guards before they could reach their objective.
“The army is still waiting for us, let us hurry.”
With that said, Nora released the drawbridge mechanism.
“B-bastard! Must you get in my way every time?!” Kerhild could not stop cursing as she wandered the corridors.
With Dietrich’s overwhelming attack, Kerhild was quick to abandon her subordinates. The repeated loss has made Kerhild hardened toward her subordinates, and now only saw them as disposable pawns.
For Kerhild, the chance to regain her formal glory was infinitesimal, especially now the Copper Fang Knights was left only with her. However, despite the setbacks, Kerhild continued to hold a determined gaze.
“Even if there is only the slightest chance… I will seize it with my own two hands!” With that said, Kerhild dashed to the smithy.
◆ ◆ ◆
The eastern stronghold of the Tetraspides Fortresses – the final defense of Delvincourt resting on the banks of the Mulberry – made a low grinding sound as the drawbridge mechanism began to churn.
The Kuschepercan Army’s morale rapidly rose at the sight, and regained a new vigor in their advance. For the Kuschepercans, the final obstacle to their liberation has been removed, and victory was within reach.
Having recently shed off the flames, Doroteo was flabbergasted aboard the Flying Dragon Battleship.
“Fools! Why would they lower the drawbridge?! If they do that, the rebels will march right in! What is the garrison doing?!” As Doroteo cursed, he recalled a certain night raid from before, “I see… It is those miniature Silhouette Knights! They are up to their old tricks again!”
Žaloudekians had learned much from their previous defeats at the hands of the Kuschepercans, and had made ample preparations to the changing technological landscape. However, due to their preoccupation with the security and strength of their Levitate Ships, they overlooked the possible infiltration by Silhouette Gears. Doroteo had no way to know that the Copper Fang Knights did anticipate the attack, but such an achievement was moot with Kerhild’s poor attempt to monopolize the victory.
With the damage to the Flying Dragon, and the sudden coup within the fortress, Doroteo needed to make an immediate decision before the situation became irreversible. As such, Doroteo overcame his own reservations and decided to activate the ‘sealed reactor’. With the voicepipes, Doroteo declared his intention to the surviving crew.
“…, activate the Dragonblood Reactor.”
With the order given, the Flying Dragon cut off its own retreat and was committed to the battle.
Doroteo have always steeled himself for death in combat, but he had been reluctant to make his subordinates follow him to his end. However, with the recent development, Doroteo had to commit or shoulder the certain defeat of the Žaloudekian army on his conscious.
“With this, we shall win or we shall perish! I hope all hands will fulfill their duty to the utmost! For victory!”
A low hum came from the interior of the Flying Dragon as the channels were open up one by one. The Ether Supplier hungrily consumed the Ethelite as it spew out massive concentrations of Ether, fueling the activated Dragonblood Reactor and the surviving Anculosas.
“Ethelite reaching critical mass and fission has started! Concentrated ether diverted to reactor! Dragonblood Reactor is now at maximum capacity!”
With the constant injection of concentrated ether, an unfamiliar noise echoed within the vessel as the Dragonblood Reactor powered up. At the same time, all the remaining Ether Reactors also began to run in overdrive.
‘Maximize’. It was a term used to describe the activation of the Dragonblood Reactor, which was coupled with the rapid consumption of the ship’s Ethelite stock. With the increased mana output, the already powerful Flying Dragon Battleship would be able to exceed all its prior operational limits.
“Perhaps, even if we do win this battle, the Flying Dragon will likely not last.”
On the other hand, the Dragonblood Reactor was a double edged sword. Ether Reactors were originally designed by the people living on the ground for the sparse atmospheric Ether available on the ground, and could not be chronically exposed to concentrated ether. In prior experiments at the Žaloudek Atelier, excessive exposure to concentrated ether from the Ether Supplier quickly led to the deterioration of the Ether Reactor, ultimately resulting in the reactor’s ‘death’. The Žaloudekian knightsmiths tried everything to fix the dead reactor, but all efforts were moot.
As such, even with the Dragonblood Reactor, the same problem remained for the Flying Dragon Battleship. At the cost of time, the Flying Dragon was able to gain immense strength. Yet, the only fate that awaited it was certain death.
With a low and terrifying rumbling, Doroteo was able to palpitate the surge of strength from his controls.
“Ugh, the ‘Maximized’ Flying Dragon is incredibly willful… As expected, even I could not completely control it…”
With the sudden burst of mana, the Flying Dragon acted almost with a mind of its own, beyond the command of any human. Even the slightest twitch came with incredible power. As if a wild beast, the Flying Dragon would not even submit to the battle-hardened Doroteo.
“Do not force the controls! Just charge directly at the enemy and cut them down!”
Doroteo gave up on mastering the Flying Dragon, and simply channeled the unwieldy power toward his closest enemy and nemesis – the Demon God. He knew that unless he relied on the Dragonblood Reactor, they would not be able to overcome the Demon God.
“C-commander! The Demon God has left the Levitate Ship, and is heading directly for us!”
“So it has come… Perfect! We won’t last long, so let us greet the Demon God with our entire arsenal and take it out with one fell swoop!”
The Etheric Levitator had a very peculiar mechanism of action. As long as no outside force acts upon the object, it could remain indefinitely at the predetermined height without power. As such, despite the Flying Dragon’s severe injuries, it remained serenely afloat.
“Now, start the Lightning Curtain!”
At that moment, they had no path of retreat, so the Flying Dragon and the whole crew aboard were fully resolved in their fight against the Demon God.
◆ ◆ ◆
Winding back to the moment when the massive fireball appeared in the sky, when the miniature sun shone brightly as it consumed the Flying Dragon.
The two armies on the ground were mesmerized by the sight, and let their weapons fall idle. To the Kuschepercans, the greatest threat to their victory was the Flying Dragon – a powerful symbol of Žaloudekian might. However, with the explosion that had torn the sky asunder, the Flying Dragon let out a pained cry. While there did not seem to be any lasting damage as it continued to hobble forth, the Flying Dragon no longer held the same prideful and terrifying visage for the Kuschepercans.
“Oooh!! The Silver Phoenix Knights had taken the first blow on the Flying Dragon!”
“L-look, the drawbridge!”
Immediately after, the New Kuschepercan army let out an even greater cheer. The impenetrable fortress that rested upon the Mulberry River has finally opened its gates as the drawbridge fell upon the river.
The path was now open. The final obstacles to their victory were neutralized. With renewed vigor and undeterred momentum, the Kuschepercan army bravely pushed on, carving a bloody path through the proud defense of the black knights as they rapidly approached the Tetraspides Fortresses.
“Tetraspides Fortresses belong to the Kuschepercans! We shall have you return what is rightfully ours!”
However, before the unstoppable torrent of Kuschepercans, a single Žaloudekian Silhouette Knight emerged from the gates.
“Really? Could they be lacking reinforcements? Perfect! Men, cut away at their meager defense and reclaim our fortress!”
As the Kuschepercans approached the lone Silhouette Knight, they soon realized its peculiar design. Juxtaposed upon the elegant white body and gold-plated rims, countless swords jutted out from its back, as if purposely ruining a work of art. A unit that could only described as the product of a madman.
The Kuschepercan vanguard was immediately awash with a terrible premonition as they searched their memories. From their previous encounters, they knew the white and gold Silhouette Knights were characteristic of the Žaloudekian command unit. Despite their reservations, the opportunity was too sweet to pass up – with the fortress just within reach and only one unit remained standing in their way. Casting aside his worry, one of the Kuschepercan vanguard thrusted its weapon at the lone unit.
Before anyone realized, the lone unit held a sword in its hand, but had seemingly already made its slash. Without being able to follow the entire attack, the Kuschepercan vanguard was bisected by the lone unit and collapsed into the river. At its sheer might, the Kuschepercan army’s advance stalled only inches away from total victory.
At that moment, the lone unit was the one to take a step. On the other side, despite their absolute numerical superiority, the Kuschepercans could only shirk back.
“Do not waver! No matter how strong the enemy is, it is just a single Silhouette Knight!”
As expected of the Kuschepercan vanguard, many brave Silhouette Knights stepped forth to engage the lone unit. No matter how strong the lone unit might be, it was restricted to swords. As such, Kuschepercans could easily seal its moves with a wall of shields.
However, contrary to their beliefs, the lone Silhouette Knight did not hesitate against the group of Revantiers, and with a carefully-placed jab with a short sword, decapitated a Revantier with ease. Swiftly, the lone unit stepped in the gap created by the downed Revantier, and with two swords, unleashed a torrent of strikes upon the Revantiers.
“Darn it! Why are we getting pushed back by a single Silhouette Knight?!”
The Kuschepercans launched attack after attack on the Silhouette Knight that stood alone. However, all of them were easily parried, by sword or scabbard, and received lethal counterattacks in return. By the time the dusts were cleared, only broken Revantiers lay around the lone Silhouette Knight.
“D-darn it… What is with that Silhouette Knight? How could a single unit wipe out our entire vanguard?!”
The massacre on the drawbridge was indescribable. To the Kuschepercans, the precision of its strikes was an awe-inspiring sight, if only trumped by the shock of the countless Revantiers that littered the drawbridge. While the Kuschepercan stood in shock, the lone unit uncaringly kicked away the broken Revantiers into the river below, as if clearing the drawbridge for a second charge.
“S-so that is the strength of a command unit? The incredible pressure that overpowers its foes… is it not unlike the Demon God?!”
A single unit that was able to completely suppress the entire Kuschepercan advance… ‘abnormal’ was the only term to describe such a coup.
“Fall back! We cannot simply win against it by numbers, so leave it to me!”
Edgar’s Ardiladcumber leapt between the stalled Kuschepercan army. With its mobile defense, Ardiladcumber now stood at the front of the formation.
“Cover my rear while I take care of it!”
“Understood! Be careful, that bastard is pretty strong.”
“Of course. I have seen what it did to the Revantiers.”
With Edgar’s orders, the first company spread out to the flanks. The first company was designed for defense, and as such, was armed with numerous shields in a similar fashion to Ardiladcumber.
They spread out to the flanks to assist the stalled Kuschepercan breakthrough with their strong defensive formation. Like an impenetrable wall, the first company now stood against the split Žaloudekian army attacking the spearhead from both directions.
“As expected, the enemy is taking full advantage of the chokepoint at the drawbridge. Although I doubt just anyone could pull such a feat off…” Edgar let out a sigh while gazing at the sight on the drawbridge.
Even if the drawbridge was wide enough for two Silhouette Knights to march abreast, it was still a severe chokepoint. Despite the Kuschepercan’s superior numbers, they were unable to overcome the lone defender simply because of the difference in individual power. Therefore, it was no surprise why the Žaloudekian unit would make its stand on the drawbridge.
“If we wish to break through that defense, we would instead need a small elite force.”
The lone Silhouette Knight was one who had singlehandedly defeated numerous Revantiers. As such, any run-of-the-mill Silhouette Knight would only feed the death count, and only the officers of the Silver Phoenix Knights would stand any chance for victory. Without Dietrich and Guyalarinde around, the only one who could be called upon was Edgar and Ardiladcumber.
“A Silhouette Knight armed with an obscene amount of swords… Was it the one that Di mentioned? The one that had bested Guyalarinde in melee combat… I guess it is worthy of an opponent Di acknowledged.” On a close inspection, Edgar furrowed his eyebrows.
Ardiladcumber charged forth, to which the lone Silhouette Knight responded in kind. The moment they entered melee range, Ardiladcumber shifted its mobile armor – not for defense, but for the Silhouette Arms hidden underneath.
Facing the sudden reveal, the Žaloudekian Silhouette Knight rapidly cut away the shots with his swords, before unleashing a slash at Ardiladcumber. Edgar immediately responded with the mobile armor, but was pushed back by the powerful blow.
“How could it overpower Ardiladcumber in strength?! Even the armor…”
Edgar leapt back to make some distance between him and the enemy. At a glance, Edgar could see Ardiladcumber’s mobile armor was warped from the heavy blow, with pieces of Strand Crystal flaking off. Edgar knew instinctively that if the fight were to continue, his Ardiladcumber would not last long. Taking advantage of Edgar’s momentary worry, the Žaloudekian Silhouette Knight pressed its advantage. With one sword parrying Ardiladcumber’s sword, it dealt heavy blow to Ardiladcumber’s armor with the other and forced Ardiladcumber back.
“Hahaha! You are no different from those trashes earlier! Seeing your movement, I was hoping that you would be at least as capable as that duel-wielding bastard!” A loud laughter came through the lone unit.
The relaxed and jovial announcement brought a surge of anger in Edgar.
“Duel-wielding? You mean Guyalarinde… the crimson knight?! So you the nutcase he fought!” Edgar spat out in response.
“Oh? So you really are companion to that duel-wielding bastard. Here I had hoped that he would be here so we can have our rematch, but you shall do for now. I shall grant you the privilege to be defeated by me and my ‘Death Sword’!” Gustav proudly declared.
For a battle junkie, Gustav could not help but grow excited before a capable foe. Opposite to Gustav, Edgar kept his focus on the opponent despite the disturbing laughter.
“Surely you jest. I could not let your rampage continue. For our victory, I will need to have you step aside.”
“Hahaha! I love an obstinate fellow. Go ahead! As long as I defeat someone as strong as you, I will make quite the dent on the rebel’s morale!”
Gustav easily called Edgar’s bluff. Surprisingly, the seemingly foolish opponent had an astute intuition, and had easily seen through Edgar’s worry. Edgar’s personal unit, Ardiladcumber, was indisputably among the strongest Silhouette Knights on the field. As such, if it were to be defeated, the Kuschepercan’s morale was sure to crumble. Moreover, the symbolic importance of losing the drawbridge to the Žaloudekians after such a defeat would be catastrophic.
Ardiladcumber leapt at Death Sword while maneuvering its mobile armor and sword. Both sides intensely observed the other while probing for weaknesses. With Edgar’s heightened concentration, he did not leave the slightest motion to chance.
Only though his intense concentration did Edgar notice the slight change behind Death Sword. As a shadow came down upon it, Ardiladcumber immediately parried the attack and reorganized its defense.
“Ugh! Enemy reinforcements?!”
With the mobile armor shielding its front, Ardiladcumber kicked hard on the drawbridge to propel itself back. Immediately, the shadow pursued, and after a few hits against Ardiladcumber’s mobile armor, forced Edgar off the drawbridge. With Ardiladcumber’s retreat, the shadow slowly rose up next to Death Sword.
Edgar’s face turned extremely grim. He knew Death Sword was already a daunting foe by itself, but with the powerful new arrival, the battle would surely swing in the Žaloudekian way.
However, contrary to Edgar’s worry, the two Žaloudekian Silhouette Knights seemed to be at odds with one another.
“Hey! What the heck are you doing, ‘Bronze Fang’! That bastard is mine, so bugger off! Otherwise, expect some pain coming your way!” The Death Sword loudly roared at its new shadowy companion.
“Ha! Dream on! Isn’t there still plenty of enemy over there? How much time are you planning to waste on a single rebel Silhouette Knight? If you have the energy, why not do what you were supposed to do and take out that King’s Mount?! Didn’t Her Excellency precisely hand you the Alkelorix for that purpose?” Shaking off Gustav’s rage, the shadowy Silhouette Knight jabbed back.
“…Hmph! What a twisted mouth you have… Fine. I will leave that white one to you!” Gustav was severely conflicted by the shadow’s words.
He loved to fight against strong opponents. It could even be argued that such fights were his greatest desire. However, aboard the Death Sword granted to him by Princess Catalina, Gustav shouldered an important task that trumped his personal desires. Therefore, despite his own strong inclinations, Gustav was able to calm down from his battle fervor and reluctantly turn away from combat.
“Wait, don’t you dare…”
“Out of the way!”
As Edgar attempted to intercept Death Sword, the black Silhouette Knight stood in his way, and with a flourish of the sword, forced Ardiladcumber to defend with its shield.
“Hey, don’t be so eager to leave. I’m your opponent, and I can’t have you keep on making trouble for us!”
With that said, the black Silhouette Knight launched a flurry of attacks, to which Ardiladcumber was not given a single opportunity to retaliate. While Ardiladcumber was preoccupied, Death Sword effortlessly strolled past him. Before Ardiladcumber could do anything, more black knights poured out from the fortress, with clear intent of mounting a counterattack.
“…How bothersome. Stay out of my way!”
“Bothersome?! That’s what I should be saying! No matter where I go, I always find you getting in my way! Even here…!!” Accompanied by a woman’s shouting, the black Silhouette Knight continued its flurry of attacks against Ardiladcumber.
While Ardiladcumber fended off the strikes with its sword and mobile armor, Edgar was somewhat baffled by the verbal abuse, but deep inside, he had an inkling of her meaning. With a gentle shake of his head, Edgar turned his focus onto the black Silhouette Knight in front of him.
“Looks like if we do not defeat you, we will be unable to advance. Then, let me give you my full attention, to bury you under my blade!”
As Ardiladcumber’s Ether Reactor loudly hummed, Edgar called upon all of its strength and leapt toward the enemy, to which the shadow replied in kind. With a sudden clash of white and black, the battle for the drawbridge over the Mulberry River intensified.
◆ ◆ ◆
The Žaloudek garrison left the fortress and crossed over the Mulberry River. With their glistening black knights, the garrison followed Gustav’s charge into the wavering Kuschepercan ranks.
“Let’s do this, Death Sword. Let us wash our past dishonor away with rebel blood!”
Death Sword sheathed its two longswords in hand, and drew a massive greatsword in their place. The sheer weight of the greatsword was enough to visibly strain the powerful strand crystal. Gustav’s Death Sword was remodeled from the royal-exclusive Alkelorix, and as such, had strength unmatched by the standard Tyrantor. Therefore, despite the greatsword’s weight, Death Sword was able to swing it with ease.
“Men! Follow me! Our target is under that gaudy banner – the Kuschepercan King’s Mount! If we claim the head of their Queen, victory will be ours!” Gustav let out a terrible howl, while brandishing the massive sword like a baton.
With the signal, Žaloudekian black knights charged into the dumbfounded Kuschepercan Army.
“The enemy has begun a counterattack with the command unit in the lead!”
“We were so close to reclaiming the fortress. To think they launch a counterattack at this junction, and a strong one at that… but we cannot let our troops buckle at their aggression. Third company, prepare for launch!” Emrys, who commanded the battle in Gordesleo, quickly gave his orders to his surroundings.
At the orders, the third company’s Tzendrinbles aimed their Vertical Launch Javelin Systems as the loader Silhouette Knights finished reloading the javelins. Understandably, the javelins not only were effective against Levitate Ships, but also could be used against ground targets.
“Target, enemy command unit! Fire!” At Gordesleo’s command, the Tzendrinbles launched their javelins in unison.
With their launch, plumes of flame drew wide arcs on the sky as the javelins accelerated. With the distance, the javelins accelerated to the point where it could easily pierce the hardest steel.
“Ha! You think those dumb sticks could hit me?! Too naïve!”
While raising its massive sword, Death Sword accelerated toward the hail of javelins. Inside Death Sword, Gustav revealed a bone-chilling smile despite seemingly faced with certain death. With precise swings of the greatsword, Gustav cut away the javelins one after another. The same javelins that were able to destroy even the black knights with ease have been rendered impotent before the mesmerizing swordsmanship.
Silhouette Knights gained the title of being humanity’s the strongest weapon not because of its size and destructive power alone. Rather, its design allowed the amplification of the ‘Human Element’ within. Before the sheer skill of the sword maniac Gustav, javelins were meaningless to the Death Sword.
“Follow the commander! Do not worry about a few flying toothpicks! Let them feel the full fury of the black knights!”
The black knights raised their large shields, and followed Death Sword in its charge. Each of the Žaloudekian black knight following behind Death Sword were personally given their improved Silhouette Knight from Princess Catalina – the heavily armed CQB models. Even the powerful javelins could not pierce through both the thick shield and armor. It was a lesson of blood gained through the countless encounters against the Kuschepercans, and the Žaloudekians were finally able to devise a counter to the hail of javelins.
Soon, the javelins slowly cleared up, and nothing now blocked their view of the Kuschepercan core.
“The shower is over?! Then, I guess it’s our turn!”
Death Sword began to creak as the strand crystals flexed in power. As if sweeping the path ahead with brute force, the Death Sword dashed with incredible vigor. A unit that combined the strength of a Tyrantor and the agility beyond any known Silhouette Knight, the Death Sword soon found itself back at the head of the charge.
On the other hand, the Kuschepercans could not help but gasp at the realization. The great ‘weakness’ of the javelin throwers, the sheer time it took to reload the javelins, meant that a pause to the attack was unavoidable. Not to mention, the loader and launcher units were vulnerable while the javelins were being rearmed. As such, the third company was clearly disturbed by the sudden coup and was sluggish in their response.
“Žaloudekian scum! You shall not pass-… Gah?!”
“Begone! I have no time for you trash!”
In that time, the Death Sword carved ahead with the same air as the Demon God, cutting down any hapless Revantier that dared to stand in its way. The black knights followed closely behind and filled up any gap before the Kuschepercans could respond. No one could stand against the might of the Death Sword, and it advanced with impunity, as if parting the Kuschepercan forces with sheer will.
“E-enemy command unit is too strong! The troops can’t seem to stop it!” looking at the situation unfolding from the safety of the headquarters, Emrys cursed as he revved up Gordesleo’s Ether Reactor, “To think it was able to endure through the javelins without the slightest scratch. The Flying Dragon, and now this Silhouette Knight, Žaloudek sure have some problematic elites in their midst. The third company won’t be able to fire javelins any time soon, so second company, you are up! Do not let the enemy get close to Ellie! Let us blunt their advance here!”
“Got it! Leave the melee to us!”
With a loud horn, the Kuschepercan formation began to shift once more as the troops parted from the center.
At first, the Death Sword was baffled by the peculiar development, and slowed its charge. Not a single Silhouette Knight seemed to now stand in its way toward the Kuschepercan headquarters.
Soon, a force of Silhouette Knights burst forth from the Kuschepercan headquarters, with a golden Silhouette Knight leading the charge. The Silhouette Knights that followed were all brilliantly decorated with a red cross.
“It is that dual-wielding bastard’s subordinates! Seemed like they had finally wised up to our attack. However, it matters little. Whoever that dares to stand in our way will be vanquished! Black knights, charge!!”
“Second company, draw! Anyone that dares to stand before us is an enemy! Cut them all down!”
With their swords drawn, the second company charged ahead without an ounce of hesitation. The company was known as the ‘Assault Company’, and as such, prefer to overpower any opponent with their sheer physical prowess.
Facing the new force that sallied out from the Kuschepercan headquarters, the black knights cast away their thick shields and drew their massive hammers. With a huge burst of speed, the CQB Tyrantors charged ahead and greeted the Kuschepercan attack head-on.
With a loud clash of steel and sparks, the two camps devolved into a chaotic melee. At the center of the storm, Gordesleo engaged Death Sword in combat.
“So you are the commander? You are too strong to leave alone, so I will have you defeated here!”
“Oh? What a gaudy fellow! Were there another command unit besides the King’s Mount?”
Although the Death Sword was burdened with countless swords large and small, its movement was surprisingly nimble. With greatsword in hand, Death Sword unleashed ferocious attacks upon the Gordesleo. However, Gordesleo was able to keep up with the Death Sword in performance, and countered the blows with its own large sword.
As the two massive sheets of steel clashed with sparks flying, the very air surrounding them quivered. Under the cacophony of strand crystals, the two steel titans fought for supremacy.
Soon, the balance tilted in Death Sword’s favor. Between the two offensive models, Death Sword’s ferocious attacks offered little room for Gordesleo to launch attacks of its own, and reluctantly forced Gordesleo into defense. Emrys gritted his teeth in face of the Death Sword, but none of his hits could reach the Death Sword.
Both Death Sword and Gordesleo were royal-exclusive models designed with the most advanced technology, and as such, their performance was largely comparable. Therefore, the difference in performance could only be explained by the abilities of its knight runner.
“As expected of the unit to cut down the flying javelins with a mere sword! S-strong… it is undoubtedly stronger than me.” Emrys’ acute intuition quickly came to the conclusion, “However!”
Rather than despair, Emrys’ blood boiled as he faced a truly worthy adversary. The muscles on his face warped into a terrifying smile as he let out a beast-like howl.
Death Sword continued to quicken the pace of its attacks. The feat of swinging its heavy sword with smooth movements despite the sheer weight was difficult to imagine, even with Death Sword’s reinforced strand crystals. It was a feat accomplished by relying on the centrifugal force of the sword, allowing for minimal efforts after the first swing by flowing from one attack to the next. A stance that allowed the Death Sword to have the perfect offense and defense in one, all thanks to the genius of the sword maniac.
Surprisingly, even with his overwhelming power, Gustav was somewhat apprehensive of the development.
“This bastard is just refusing to go down! How obstinate could he be… despite only being a second-rate swordsman!”
Even under relentless attacks, Gordesleo stood strong and prevented Death Sword’s advance. For Gustav, whose mastery of the sword allowed him to easily gauge the skill of an opponent with a few simple exchanges, he could not help but be surprised when facing against an obviously inferior swordsman, yet still refused to go down.
Certainly, Emrys was only an amateur knight runner at best. However, his powerful fighting spirit and lack of hesitation, combined with the strength of Gordesleo, allowed him to hold on against Death Sword. If there was even the slightest hesitation or reservation, Emrys would likely be immediately cut down.
“No matter how strong you are, I will not give up that easily! As long as I still stand, this battle is not over!!”
Gordesleo obstinacy only further fueled Gustav’s apprehension and annoyance. He had to forgo the fight with Ardiladcumber in order to claim the head of the King’s Mount. Although Gordesleo was a reasonable opponent, it was a far cry from the skilled Ardiladcumber. As such, Gustav was awash with dissatisfaction.
“How annoying, just die already!” Gustav let out an annoyed grunt.
In his haste to end the pointless struggle, Gustav called upon all the strength within Death Sword. As the strand crystals creaked from the incredible tension, Death Sword slashed its greatsword at Gordesleo, unleashing all its power behind the strike.
“Oooh!! Taste this!!”
Toward the slash, Gordesleo did not show even the slightest avoidance, and moved to intercept the blow head-on. As its air intake valve roared, Gordesleo arched its body slightly and swung its sword at the incoming blow.
The impact was just for a fraction of a second, but the shockwave was felt all around. As their swords shattered from the sheer force, both Gordesleo and Death Sword were flung back, creating a gap between the two units for the first time since combat started.
“Heh! To take my blow head-on! Not bad, golden one. You have some guts!” Gustav let out a loud laugh, “…But now your sword is broken. Surely you do not think you can win against me with that toothpick you are holding now?”
While Death Sword lost his greatsword through the exchange, it still had countless swords on his back of various shapes and sizes. Comparatively, although Gordesleo also got away with minor injury, it has lost its main sword, and Emrys knew the backup sword would be of little use against the powerful arsenal of Death Sword.
“Certainly, the situation is quite problematic, but…”
Emrys took a glance behind him. It was the Kuschepercan field headquarters, where the King’s Mount ‘Kartoga Ol Cauchard Secundus’ stood. Although Secundus could swing a sword, it would be hard to describe the action as anything more than a ‘swing’, and could not be counted upon for self-defense. Therefore, even in his current disadvantageous state, Emrys could not let the Death God near Secundus. As Gordesleo lowered itself in preparation for any upcoming attack, Emrys let out a long sigh.
“Oh? Although your swordsmanship is second-rate, you make quite the convincing form, golden one. Very well, let me see how well you respond to my sword!” Gustav remarked as he altered his stance in response.
“You talk too much! However, your arrogance is quite understandable, and if I leave it like this, I will surely lose…”
As Death Sword charged over with a new sword in hand, Emrys racked his brains for the chance of victory.
◆ ◆ ◆
With a red streak, Ikaruga flew straight at the Flying Dragon.
Behind it, the Aerial Assault Ship remained motionless in the sky. Boss, the head of the Silver Phoenix Knights knightsmiths, sat at the helm.
“Seriously, I am a certified knightsmith, not some Levitate Ship seaman…”
“Boss, to be honest, in the whole of Fremmevira and Kuscheperca, not a single person is certified to sail a Levitate Ship.” Batson sarcastically responded with his hands on the wheel.
Certainly, all of the crew on the Levitate Ship were knightsmiths. It was the result of the elite nature of the Silver Phoenix Knights, where there were a limited amount of hands to spare in combat. As such, when the knightsmiths finished their analysis of the Levitate Ships, they naturally took on the position of crew.
“Everything is going according to plan, right? What is up next?” An unclear voice came through the voicepipes.
The voice came from the two Tzendrinbles locked in place behind the armored bow, with Ady and Chid inside. To ensure contact, the knightsmiths forcibly connected voicepipes between each unit and the bridge, and bolted everything down to prevent the contraption from falling apart in flight.
The two Tzendrinbles largely existed to maintain the mana output after Ikaruga took off. Unlike the standard Levitate Ships, the Aerial Assault Ship was designed with a rocket propulsion system, which even the slightest movement would drain an exorbitant amount of mana. As such, the two Tzendrinbles were the bare minimum to allow some semblance of movement without Ikaruga.
“We should be helping Eru! How are the launchers coming along?!”
“About midway through the ship. They are trying their best, but I doubt the javelins could be launched again anytime soon.”
The ship lacked the storage space for the sheer number of javelins required by the ‘Multiple Launch Javelin System’, and they had at most one more full volley at their disposal. However, if the situation were to turn against them, a second volley would not change the outcome.
“From the look of it, we will have to place our hopes on the youngster. Hopefully, he will create the opportunity for the javelins to exploit.” Boss contemplated as his eyes fixed itself on the battle ahead.
◆ ◆ ◆
With a deafening roar, the Flying Dragon flew toward the fortress once more. The sight of the approaching Dragon shocked the Kuschepercans battling near the drawbridge, who had no way to defend themselves against its powerful attacks.
“Ugh, is it planning to involve itself with the battle on the ground?!”
The descending Flying Dragon raised its head high, as if proudly posing in the sky. At the cost of raw speed, the Dragon magnified its intimidating air, to which the Kuschepercan army momentarily paused their footsteps in awe.
“Do not fear! The Knight Commander shall be here-…!”
Before the officer could finish, a lone Silhouette Knight flew above the Kuschepercan army, propelled by bellowing flames. Like an arrow, Ikaruga chased the Flying Dragon, surrounded by the cheers of the Kuschepercans.
“Come! Time for round two! I won’t let you have your way this time!”
Seeing the approaching Demon God, Flying Dragon did not show any initial response. Since they have activated the Dragonblood Reactor, the Flying Dragon gave off an ominous air in its awakened state, as if silently roaring in the sky.
In an instant, the Lightning Curtain shrouded the entire Dragon, followed by a barrage of shots. The Flying Dragon itself charged toward Ikaruga, with ‘Fortification’ maintaining its structural integrity during the intense acceleration.
It could only be described as a force of destruction in the shape of a dragon, blitzing straight for Ikaruga. Even the powerful Ikaruga would not be able to survive an attack of such terrible magnitude. However, Eru remained on course without the slightest hesitation.
“Is that so~ Even the lightning defense got amplified with that power. Certainly, ramming me with that massive body and defensive spell is a wise tactic! But you should know, I do not need to meet the ‘whole’ of the Dragon~”
With ‘Emperor’s Heart’ and ‘Empress’s Coronet’ churning inside, Ikaruga prepared to fight the Flying Dragon with mana not shy of the division-class magic beast.
“I only need to break through at a single point with my significantly smaller Ikaruga!”
With both his hands on the command panel, Eru temporarily cut the power to the rocket propulsion and relied on inertial force to continue in the sky. At the same time, Eru revealed the Silhouette Arms behind him – each holding a sword with an empty center. At the base of the sword was a stout tube with spell runes etched on its silver plate surface.
“Let us see if your ‘Vouivre’ or my ‘Ikaruga’ is the greatest!!”
Ikaruga pointed the Sword Cannons toward the incoming Dragon and then unleashing countless red shots through the tip of the swords. Like a gigantic blooming carnation, the shots created a massive explosion on the Lightning Curtain of the Dragon. However, despite Ikaruga slowly falling from gravity, Eru did not lift the continued barrage.
The contest of wills did not last long. Compared to the Sword Cannons, the Lightning Curtain was stronger overall, but had to cover the entire Dragon. As such, under the pinpoint barrage, a small hole was soon torn through the immaculate defense, and through which, Eru charged in with his Ikaruga.
Seeing Demon God’s infiltration through its lightning defense, Doroteo revealed an almost indescribable rage. He could no longer know if his shaking was from the Dragon itself, or from his own fear. As he temporarily cast aside the terrible feelings, Doroteo gripped the controls tightly, and gazed at the Demon God with bloodshot eyes.
“The destruction of those five units of Anculosas would affect the Lightning Curtain to such a degree? To think it could brute force its way through our defenses! However, that ends now! As a moth to flame, I shall have you burned to ashes!!”
The Flying Dragon Battleship responded to the intruder by opening its massive jaws. From within, concentrated magic unleashed a firestorm before it. The greatest siege weapon known to the world, ‘dragonbreath’, poised to wash over Ikaruga with flames.
Despite breaking through the Lightning Curtain, Ikaruga was now trapped between the lightning and the fire. Its only path of escape was through the hole created by the barrage, but even that was impossible to evade the scorching flames. No matter how strong Ikaruga was, it could not exceed the innate defense of a standard Silhouette Knight, and was certain to perish in the flames.
“Dragonbreath~ That is just a siege weapon! It is useless against my Ikaruga!”
Ikaruga turned on the rocket boosters once more as it drew the mana channeled to the Sword Cannons back to its core. With a turn of the booster’s directional controls, Eru released a burst of flame toward the front. However, Eru had no desire for Ikaruga to propel itself backwards. Rather, through a carefully placed burst, it cut into the incoming Dragonbreath. The two flames twisted onto one another before dissipating.
Not losing a beat, Ikaruga swiftly flipped the boosters around and returned to flight. Dragonbreath was the greatest weapon aboard the Flying Dragon Battleship, but Doroteo had mistaken its destructive nature. For it to maximize its damage, Dragonbreath need to immerse the target in flame for a lengthy time. However, when compared to the agile Ikaruga, it would be no more than an oversized magic shot.
“! That was fun. I should remember that for the future~”
Ikaruga continued to dance around the flames with precise booster control, and closed in on the Flying Dragon as if riding atop the flames.
Faced with the absurd sight, Doroteo could no longer rationalize his opponent. The Demon God danced freely in the ‘Sky’, as if rejecting the very notion of physics. Before long, Ikaruga found its way before the bridge. No one could explain the scene, or rather, only Eru alone could understand what had transpired.
“Y-you monster!!” Doroteo lashed out uncontrollably at the abnormal existence, and reflexively thrusted the dragon’s horn toward Ikaruga.
The years of experience did not betray Doroteo, and his reflexive lunge managed to parry Ikaruga’s incoming sword blow. As sparks flew from the exchange, Ikaruga jetted to the rear of the Dragon.
“Has he moved back? D-darn it! The Anculosas back there are still broken!”
The Anculosas placed at the head of Flying Dragon had been disabled by the Multiple Launch Javelin Systems, and were still in a state of repair. Without any Silhouette Knights standing guard, Ikaruga would be free to land on the Flying Dragon. Knowing this fact, Doroteo stomped hard on the control plate.
Thanked to the earlier clash against the horn, Ikaruga was able to kill its forward moment and easily land on the Dragon, before making a dash to the center of the ship.
“Then… The Etheric Levitator, should be around the center-… ah?”
As Ikaruga tried to make a step, it suddenly started to lean on its side. Or rather, it was the whole Flying Dragon Battleship that tilted. Without a concern for the terrible creaking, the Flying Dragon was making a barrel roll, as if attempting to toss away the pest that had landed upon its back.
Despite the sudden change, Ikaruga calmly ignited its boosters to regain its balance, but just as it was about to land upon the back of the Dragon once more, a massive claw swept its way. The barrel roll was done not only to dislodge Ikaruga, but also to allow the dragon to deploy its greatest CQB attack.
“It’s the claws again! I had already seen it before!”
Eru’s response was incredibly swift. Unlike the previous encounter, where dodging took everything he had, Eru was well-prepared for the claw this time around. With a smooth motion, Eru unleashed the Sword Cannons upon the base of the claw. The fearsome barrage cut deep into the claw as fragments broke off one after another.
However, the shots alone were not enough as the claw continued its relentless approach. Just as the claw was about to shred Ikaruga, Eru activated the other function of the Sword Cannons, and cut deep into the heavily-damaged claw. As Ikaruga passed through the swing unharmed, the claw fell toward the ground below.
Ikaruga had survived through everything the Flying Dragon was able to throw at it. For Doroteo and his men, the shock alone was paralyzing.
Certainly, for the Flying Dragon, it had never gone on such lengths to defeat a single Silhouette Knight. With ‘Maximize’ activated, the Dragon should have more than enough strength to shred any Silhouette Knight or Levitate Ship that dared to stand in its way. However, reality was cruel, and their strongest attacks were all repelled with ease, with only a broken claw to show for their attempts.
“D-Demon God… What manner of demon are you?!” Doroteo and the rest of the crew felt reality draining away.
They were all emotionally prepared for the one that legends were sung, but they had never thought the Demon God to be this omnipotent.
Demon God had simply exceeded the realm of Silhouette Knights. An incredible agility coupled with an unmatched knight runner, the Demon God was able to singlehandedly defeat the seasoned Doroteo and his subordinates.
“Even the Flying Dragon is no match for the Demon God? No… It was overconfidence in the Lightning Curtain that led to the flame attack… and then to this tragic outcome!”
The initial damage was too severe. Even with the Dragonblood Reactor, the Flying Dragon would not be able to demonstrate its full potential without the Anculosas.
Just as they were wavering from the realization, they felt a sudden jolt of attack. At the rear of the Flying Dragon Battleship, there was a long tail used to stabilize the vessel, and that stabilizer was currently under siege by Ikaruga.
“…T-that bastard! Did he not leave?!”
At the Dragon’s rear, Ikaruga disconnected the Silhouette Arms on its back, revealing a wide silver nerve connecting the Arms to the Body. With a sudden burst, his ‘Rahu’s Fist’ shot into the tail, and tethered itself onto the Dragon.
Doroteo wrongfully assumed that the Demon God had prepared his attack on the rear. Rather, the Demon God was slowly creeping up the Dragon’s body, fully intent on exploiting a critical structural weakness. By the time Doroteo noticed the Demon God’s intent, no amount of barrel rolls were able to dislodge the tethered Demon Lord, and the battle between the two titans continued.
◆ ◆ ◆
As the Death Sword led the black knights in their charge at the Kuschepercan field headquarters, Ardiladcumber remained in a deadlock with the Black Silhouette Knight.
“Hahaha…! No can do~ I have no interest in letting you go~”
Edgar shrugged off her taunting laughter, and carefully observed the movement of the enemy. Although he appeared come, Edgar was deeply anxious inside.
The sheer strength of the Demon Sword was an indescribable threat to the Kuschepercan Army. Although Emrys and the second company remained at the headquarters, Edgar could not help but worry about their prospects of survival against such a foe. To Edgar, the most prudent solution was to quickly resolve the current fight and rush to their aid.
The black Silhouette Knight was painted in the same color of Tyrantors, but the structure bore little resemblance. The entire built was rather slender, with only a slight protrusion on its back – presumably carrying all manners of weapon.
On close inspection, Edgar soon was awash with a sense of familiarity.
“Y-you were the one at Missillier-…?” Edgar let out a gasp.
During the night raid on Missillier, the Silver Phoenix Knights fought against a group of stealthy Silhouette Knights intent on seizing Princess Eleonora. The black Silhouette Knight that stood before Edgar not only resembled the attackers in shape, but also reflected the attackers in agile techniques.
“Huh? Hahaha! Correct.” The Knight Commander of the Copper Fang Knights, Kerhild, gave a forced laugh, “We were for your hospitality~”
Kerhild was currently piloting a Silhouette Knight based on the earlier Wittendora, with custom modifications made for the command unit – a unit named ‘Veylocinos’. After the failure of the night raid, the Copper Fang Knights lost almost all their units in the ensuing counterattack. Only the lone command unit, Veylocinos, survived the onslaught. In reality, the Copper Fang Knights were for all intents and purposes, a defunct unit.
“How frustrating! You always make a mess no matter where you go! Even here, you had to go about annihilating my painstakingly reformed Copper Fang Knights! How could I possibly forgive you lot?!” Within Veylocinos, Kerhild revealed a warped expression.
As Veylocinos pressed ahead with unpredictable movements, Ardiladcumber suddenly came to a pause. Edgar had finally realized the source of his peculiar sense of familiarity.
“Y-your voice. It sounds like that person…” Edgar tightly gripped his control as the silver nerves channeled his rage into the strand crystals, “Y-you! Are you that ‘thief’?!”
Hearing Edgars anger, Kerhild maintained an uncaring visage, almost as if she enjoyed the anguish Edgar emitted.
“Haa? Why, aren’t you the forgetful one~ And after the night we shared together in each other’s embrace~ It took you this long to realize? You dopey knight! If I had known how often you would get in my way, I would have ended you right then and there! Oh, the regrets!!”
With a loud roar, Veylocinos lowered its stance and leapt at Ardiladcumber.
“It’s not too late! My dream has yet to end! Or rather, I refuse to let it end! As long as I return with your head, I still have hope. Consider this your just deserts!”
“Just deserts? The words of a thief are pointless, but I still have a promise to keep with a friend. The one to receive just deserts will be you! I shall have my vengeance for Earlecumber and the stolen Tellestarle, and reclaim my debt for Casadesus!”
With the encounter with a fated enemy, Edgar cast off his anxiety and was burning with vengeance. As if responding to the pilot’s will, Ardiladcumber lifted the mobile armors and unleashed a hail of shots from the weapons beneath. Veylocinos leapt aside to dodge the initial burst of shots, before breaking into a dash.
“Heh~ Why aren’t you the passionate one! Even my heart seemed to have skipped a beat~”
The remodelled Wittendora had an agility unlike any other Silhouette Knight, and was like a shifting shadow, cutting in and out of view.
All of a sudden, Veylocinos made a large stride toward Ardiladcumber, taking advantage of its leg armaments to attack, to which Ardiladcumber blocked with its mobile armor. Compared to before, Kerhild’s attack was crisp and accurate.
In the previous encounter at Casadesus, Kerhild was in the unfamiliar Tellestarle. Yet, despite her unfamiliarity, she was still able to defeat the Earlecumber. Now, she was piloting a personalized Silhouette Knight, and was certainly significantly more of an opponent.
Even with the slightest opening, Veylocinos would make a timely attack. Edgar’s intention was to repel her dominant sword with the mobile armor to create an opportunity for counterattack, but Kerhild easily foiled all his attempts. By the time Edgar had responded to Kerhild, Veylocinos had already moved away from the spot. With the absolute difference in agility, Veylocinos continued the skirmish without pause or worry.
After a few bouts, both sides were unable to inflict any critical wounds on the other. As such, Edgar changed his tactics, and relying on his superior defense, pressed the Veylocinos for a melee. By sealing Veylocinos’ agility with its mobile armor, Edgar hoped to be able to land a crippling counterattack.
“Hahaha! I certainly don’t mind an aggressive man~”
Edgar’s expression was surprisingly calm despite the constant taunting, and kept his eyes locked on Veylocinos. At that moment, Veylocinos opened up its back, from which countless ‘arms’ emerged.
The arms were filled with joints, and at a glance, seemed to resemble a Silhouette Arm. However, to Edgar, it looked like countless spider legs growing out from Veylocinos’ back.
With almost a spring-like character, the long arms lunged themselves at Edgar as the sharp tendrils gave an ominous glare. Ardiladcumber’s left mobile armor was already occupied by the previous attack, and was unable to respond in time. Immediately, Ardiladcumber twisted its body to receive the unavoidable attack, bringing up the right mobile armor to shield the vulnerable core. At that moment, countless tendrils made contact with Ardiladcumber, and by virtue of sheer number, shaved away at Ardiladcumber’s armor.
The damage was heavy, but Ardiladcumber was able to avoid any critical damage. Its steps remained steady, and its center of balance remained intact. As Edgar planned to make a counterattack, Veylocinos took a leap back once again.
“Tsk! Your reaction was quite impressive, and I am surprised my attack was unable to finish you off. So? What do you think? I call it ‘mobile assault arms’, a flexible weapon that suits my desires perfectly~”
Having already revealed her card, Kerhild find no reason to hide it any longer. With that said, Veylocinos returned to the attack with its arms.
With a sound like snakes and a shape like spider legs, Veylocinos’ mobile assault arms launched a barrage of attack in perfect unison with its physical arms. Edgar responded with the careful placement of his mobile armors to resist the torrent of attacks. A contest began between the spear and the shield – between the mobile assault arms and mobile armor. It was a clash between two opposite principles.
Soon, the fight devolved into an uneasy stalemate.
“Ahaha~ Don’t this bring back memories?! Weren’t you turtling like this during our first encounter?!”
No matter how Kerhild taunted, Edgar remained calm and steadily repelled one hit after another, constantly searching for an opening. Yet, Veylocinos’ dynamic attacks provided little in the ways of a counterattack.
A curious thought made its way into Edgar’s mind.
To Edgar’s knowledge, such a feat was extremely difficult, and he knew of only a single madman who could pull off such intricate controls – Ernesti.
While it was certainly possible that Kerhild could match Eru in skill, there was a much simpler answer. Likely, the Veylocinos’ arms function under the same principle as Edgar’s mobile armor, relying on a few predetermined patterns and the knight runner to select the pattern that best fit the situation.
Edgar carefully observed Veylocinos for any patterns while maintaining his defense. With his prior experience in the development of mobile armor, Edgar did not take long to catch a few patterns. With an understanding of the patterns, Edgar was able to effortlessly defend against the repeated lunges.
“This bastard… Has he seen though the mobile assault arms in such a short period of time?!”
Seeing Ardiladcumber’s smooth movements, Kerhild broke in cold sweat.
“He is dangerous… Despite getting bombarded by my ferocious attacks, he was still able to remain calm. Certainly, I had always felt him to be a problematic bastard from back then…”
From experience, Kerhild knew the white Silhouette Knight tend to lean heavily on defense, only to counterattack when an opening was discovered. Even in the previous encounter, he was able to cut away the stolen Tellestarle’s arm – a failure Kerhild had little interest in repeating. As such, Kerhild decided that rather than playing into Ardiladcumber’s defenses, it was more prudent to create some distance.
“My moves have been completely analyzed, so repeating the same attacks would serve little purpose. Not to mention, I am also worried about my mana reserves…”
Compared to the melee-oriented Ardiladcumber, Veylocinos has greater mana expenditure, and would certainly be the first of the two to run out in a prolonged battle.
Before Kerhild could put her plans into actions, Ardiladcumber went onto the offensive. Shifting away the mobile armor, Ardiladcumber unleashed a hail of shots Veylocinos. However, Kerhild immediately responded to the attack. With a lowered posture, Veylocinos broke into a full dash. The mobile assault arms did not stay idle, and with carefully timed stabs into the ground below, propelled Veylocinos to an even greater speed.
“Hehehe! You should let a girl rest after such a steamy exchange. How brutish of you~”
“What an annoying trick!”
At the approaching Veylocinos, Edgar expanded the mobile armor into a full defense shell. Yet, instead of a direct attack, Veylocinos launched itself into the air with its many ‘legs’ and landed immediately behind the bracing Ardiladcumber.
“Ahaha! What a fool! You think my Veylocinos is the same as those run-of-the-mill Silhouette Knight?!”
Having circled around the front, Veylocinos charged at the back of Ardiladcumber with its dagger in hand. Kerhild knew her trick would likely not work for a second time, and was fully intent on ending the combat with this blow.
On the other hand, Ardiladcumber was put in a disadvantageous position with Veylocinos’ daring maneuver, and knowing Veylocinos’ greater agility, decided to take an incredible gamble.
The mobile armor opened up like a pair of steel wings and collided with the mobile assault arms. Despite the collision, Veylocinos showed no signs of slowing down. With a dagger in hand, Kerhild accurately aimed for a gap between the plates to deal the fatal blow to Ardiladcumber.
“It’s not over! Ardiladcumber! Show her… your power!!”
Edgar immediately opened the control panel, and began pressing the buttons inside. By activating the emergency bypass, Edgar was able to ‘release’ certain spells, and soon, the ‘Fortification’ was shut down.
Without ‘Fortification’, the mobile armor no longer had any means to hold it together, and soon fragmented. With the mobile armor dissipated, the mobile assault arms were once again free to resume its lunge.
On the other hand, the sudden release from heavy armor allowed Ardiladcumber to quickly turn around, forcing Veylocinos to barely miss its mark.
“Bastard! Why won’t you just die!!”
Knowing her strike had failed, Kerhild tried to make some distance between her and Ardiladcumber. However, Ardiladcumber, now without the burden of its heavy armors, was able to barely keep pace.
With its buckler as a bludgeon, Ardiladcumber swung down hard on the head of Veylocinos, smashing it into pieces. Deprived of its vision, and littered with broken fragments of armor, Veylocinos wobbled from the lack of balance.
“Y-you bastard! What have you done!!”
With the light taken out of her monitor, Kerhild angrily lashed out at her attacker with mobile assault arms. Given Ardiladcumber’s lack of armor and close proximity, Kerhild was not hindered by the lack of vision, and only needed to attack in the general direction of the previous attack.
Despite the incoming lunges, Ardiladcumber pressed ahead with a sword in hand. The attacks shaved and cut away at the arms and legs, but Ardiladcumber remained steadfast in its charge. The disabled Veylocinos had no way to anticipate or dodge the fateful blow, which plunged deep into its chest, bringing with it the screech of metal. Ironically, it was an exact opposite to the duel between Earlecumber and the stolen Tellestarle.
“Veylocinos…! W-why? How could I…! Darn it…”
The attack had destroyed the air intake, and the sound of broken parts rubbing against one another echoed in the cockpit. Kerhild knew that she had lost.
With the mana supply cut off, Veylocinos had no chance of moving. With a large click of her tongue, Kerhild quickly turned to opening the frontal hatch and leapt out, without a single concern for the height of the drop. Kerhild needed to get away while the enemy remain focused on Veylocinos. Without taking a glance back, Kerhild prepared her escape.
However, to her surprise, the destroyed Veylocinos was tossed before her, blocking her path. As Kerhild waved away the dust, she came face to face with a beaten and battered Ardiladcumber. No matter how nimble Kerhild was, escaping from the focus of a Silhouette Knight was simply too much.
“Ahaha… Hey, are you serious? A noble knight like you won’t attack an unarmed human with a Silhouette Knight, right?”
Even when pushed into a corner, Kerhild still sought for a chance of survival. She tried to appeal to the sense of chivalry, and hoped to be spared. However, her hopes fell on deaf ears as Ardiladcumber raised its sword high.
“I have said it before, there is still the matter of the ‘debt’. This war began with that stolen Tellestarle… Since I wasn’t able to prevent it then, let me at least end it now!”
Before Kerhild could react, the massive steel sword came down upon her with all the power the strand crystal could give.
As the earth split from the impact, dusts and rocks flew up into the sky. By the time everything had settled, not even blood remained. Such was the fate of a human to receive the attack of a Silhouette Knight.
Ardiladcumber paused for a moment, before straightening up and turning to the front.
“…The nemesis of the Silver Phoenix Knight has been taken care of. Stay safe, everyone.”
With its battered body, Ardiladcumber pushed itself onward. During the time Edgar was in combat with Veylocinos, Death Sword was rampaging at the Kuschepercan Headquarters. With his past grudges resolved, Edgar dashed to the aid of his friends.