Knights & Magic Volume 6 Chapter 48
TL/N: The first compiled volume 5 EPUB/PDF has been now released, so feel free to grab it. Expect a second version to come out later, assuming I feel up to make a large correction of the earlier chapters for translation accuracy, grammar, and flow. Either way, enjoy~
Soon after the return of Emrys and Ernesti on the ‘Aerial Assault Ship’, the rest of the Silver Phoenix Knights that marched overland crossed over the imposing Aubigne Mountains and eventually arrived safely back in the Kingdom of Fremmevira. Back in the capital, the news of their triumphant return spread like wildfire, and the people cheered loudly for their victory.
At the same time, the kingdom had finally lifted the veil of secrecy surrounding the Levitate Ship to the general public. The very thought of the ship flying freely across the azure sky enticed the people’s imagination, and gave everyone a sense of foreboding to the eventual dawn of the Great Age of Flight.
After much celebration, the Silver Phoenix Knights were finally free to return home.
◆ ◆ ◆
“Everyone, gather around! I know we have just made it back home, but we should immediately start our development of a ‘Flying Silhouette Knight’!” At the Silver Phoenix Knights’ Headquarter of Fort Olvecius, Knight Commander Ernesti Echevalier addressed the gathered members.
It heralded the return to their typical routine.
After having just moved everything back into the fort, the pilots and the knightsmiths revealed a complicated expression at the sudden announcement.
“Good, you all know the drill. There won’t be a fight anytime soon, so I expect all the Silhouette Knights to be sparkling clean!”
When it concerned an object the size of a Silhouette Knight, even a simple wash proved to be consuming. Granted, the knightsmiths had performed a complete maintenance on the Silhouette Knights when they had departed from Kuscheperca, but even they could not deny the need for another maintenance after such a long march home.
With everyone’s task assigned, David ‘the Boss’ Hepken signaled for the officers to gather.
“What’s wrong? I thought the announcement was pretty predictable…”
“Flying Silhouette Knights… Is that right?”
As Boss cracked and stretched his tired shoulder, Helvi Oberg, the commander of the third company, let out a sigh in resignation.
“By the way, wasn’t there the matter regarding our report on the Levitate Ships?” Edgar C. Blanche, the commander of the first company, said with his arms crossed, “If I remember correctly, there was that announcement during the celebrations…”
“Yes. Although we were worked to the bones, I’m glad we managed to get all the documents together in time.” Boss replied as he gently flexed his muscles.
In combat with the Kingdom of Žaloudek, the Silver Phoenix Knights managed to dissect the Levitate Ships captured from Žaloudek, through which, they gained a familiarity with the construction of Levitate Ships rivaling their original builders. However, transferring that knowledge into a presentable form was nevertheless a difficult task, especially while a war was raging on.
“From what I have heard, his majesty had already issued an edict for the NTR Laboratory to immediately begin development of a Fremmeviran Levitate Ship. I bet those over at the NTR Laboratory are completely overwhelmed by the size and urgency of the project.”
“Not to mention, they were basically given a complete blueprint of the Levitate Ship with little warning…”
Thinking back, Helvi could not help but feel a bit of sympathy for the members of NTR Laboratory. As the world’s first airship, the Levitate Ship was daunting for anyone but the most peculiar of geniuses like Eru.
“The NTR Laboratory certainly deserves our sympathy, but we mustn’t fall behind the various western nations. In a way, with the push toward the development of a Fremmeviran Levitate Ship, our current plan will be seen as a clearly deviant. Given our official status as his majesty’s personal order of knights, I do not see our course of actions as particularly wise.”
Dietrich Conitz, the commander of the second company, no longer showed any surprise at Eru’s spontaneous antics. To Dietrich’s concerns, Eru nodded his head in understanding. However, everyone knew instinctively that Eru would not compromise his plan even the slightest.
“I understand your concerns. However, let us not forget the purpose of the Silver Phoenix Knights.” Eru declared as he pumped his fist into the air, “We exist for one reason and one reason alone: the development of new and advanced Silhouette Knights, and that will never change. In a sense, our actions are perfectly aligned with our raison d’être!”
“I guess that also makes sense.” Boss said as he reluctantly nodded in agreement.
At that moment, a hand reached out from the side and grabbed Eru by the head.
“Boss, aren’t you convinced a bit too easily? If anything, Eru’s reasoning is contrived at best. Considering the sheer utility of the Levitate Ships, it is clear where his majesty’s priorities lie. Yet, here we are planning the opposite. In all likelihood, an official edict may arrive any day now and order us to focus on the development of Levitate Ships.” Dietrich said while rubbing Eru’s head vigorously, turning his usually straight hair unkempt.
Although the Silver Phoenix Knights were formed in the personal interest of Ernesti and have a reasonable degree of autonomy, the members nevertheless had reservations toward openly defying the interests of the kingdom. At its core, the Silver Phoenix Knights were the direct subordinates of King Leotamus and, as such, must pay heed to the effect of its actions.
“Do not worry. I have everything already figured out. Even I wouldn’t abandon all sensibilities and push stubbornly for the development of new Silhouette Knights.”
“Huh? Really? …I mean, really now?!” Addy inquired as she glared at Eru with suspicion.
“Yes. To be precise, it is the very emphasis on Levitate Ships that require us to hasten development of a flight capable Silhouette Knight.” Eru answered with an unwavering smile.
At Eru’s words, Edgar and Helvi looked at one another quizzically before turning to Dietrich, who merely shrugged his shoulders in response. Next to them, the twins were completely lost by the discussion. Only Boss seemed to have an eager glint in his eyes.
“As for the reason… I’m sure everyone has an inkling of the experience. With the arrival of Levitate Ships, the original two-dimensional battlefields are now extended into the air. If, hypothetically, a group of earthbound Silhouette Knights were to face suppression from the aerial Levitate Ships, what would be the options available to it?”
The answer was not hard to imagine, since the Silver Phoenix Knights experienced such difficulties firsthand in the battles against Žaloudek.
“The presence of the Levitate Ships is not negligible. An overhead bombardment would pose a considerable threat to an earthbound force, and neutralizing such threats should be the utmost priority.”
“That’s true. However, even the Tzendrinble have difficulties in outpacing the Levitate Ships, so a speedy withdrawal is pretty much out of the question.”
“Precisely! In other words, no matter which form of combat we will encounter in the future, ‘air superiority’ will play a significant role in determining the outcome.”
At that moment, the twin nonchalantly brought a blackboard next to Eru. On it, Eru excitedly drew a Silhouette Knight on the bottom and a Levitate Ship above, then circling the Levitate Ship with the words ‘air superiority’ next to the bubble.
“I think that explains the concept of ‘air superiority’. Now, let me ask you all, what is the most effective way to neutralize the enemy Levitate Ship and claim air superiority?”
“Hmm… I think I understand what you are saying. However, isn’t that the entire purpose of staff weapons and magic javelins? For what reason do we need to devote resources for a specialized flying Silhouette Knight?”
Eru turned to the baffled Edgar and revealed a bright smile. At the same time, Eru’s attitude emitted an indescribable pressure on the surroundings.
“Do you honestly think that will suffice?”
Turning to the blackboard, Eru added staff weapons and lightning curtain, the defensive package seen in combat against Žaloudek, next to his sketch of the Levitate Ship.
“We should not underestimate the resourcefulness of men. In that short time period, the Žaloudekians have already developed a reasonable counter to our anti-air weapons. In other words, it is safe to assume that the effectiveness of staff weapons and magic javelins will only continue to decrease in the future.”
As the developer of magic javelins, Eru was the one most familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of his invention. As such, Eru knew perfectly well that magic javelins were but a temporary solution against Levitate Ships.
“Not to mention, we tend to label them all as Levitate Ships, but there was that battleship in the shape of a dragon.”
At the mention of the battleship, the officers’ faces turned rigid.
The Flying Dragon Battleship ‘Vouivre’. Although they had only ever encountered one such vessel during the battles against Žaloudek, its combat potential exceeded an entire battalion of Silhouette Knights. The Flying Dragon was a foe that had even fought on equal ground against Ikaruga, and only with the creation of the Aerial Assault Ship did the Silver Phoenix Knights manage to defeat it. In short, the strength of the Flying Dragon was indisputable.
“While your logic is sound, it’s hard to imagine any nation but Žaloudek having the technology and resources to construct one. Considering how severely we have crippled Žaloudek in the war, I doubt they will make another in the near future.”
Eru nodded at Dietrich’s words, but his view on the matter was slightly different.
“Perhaps we should be safe in the foreseeable future. However, now that people know such a ship is possible, we cannot deny that there won’t be imitators. As such, we should be fully prepared to face another and plan accordingly.”
Certainly, the task of planning a counter would logically fall on the Silver Phoenix Knights, who had triumphed against one in the past.
Hearing Eru’s response, Dietrich crossed his arms as he sunk deep into thought. While the staff weapons and magic javelins would be able to reach the Levitate Ships, Dietrich knew that such methods would prove insufficient in sinking the Flying Dragon.
“Countering the Flying Dragon with Levitate Ships would also be difficult. Its powerful ground attack aside, the Flying Dragon was even unmatched in aerial combat. Therefore, the next logical step would be to construct a similar Levitate Ship as counter… No, a counter based on attrition would be costly and inefficient.”
After thinking through a few possible scenarios, Dietrich could not help but raise his hands in resignation. Yet, a nagging concern arose in his thoughts.
“Still, would Silhouette Knights really be a viable counter to the Flying Dragon just because they could fly?”
While it is true that if Silhouette Knights could fly, the two would be fighting on the same three-dimensional battlefield, it did not predispose that such a fight would be an equal fight. The sheer difference in power and output was an undeniable truth.
“The Flying Dragon’s lightning curtain is most effective against ranged attacks, and, when you combine it with its innate mobility, leaves close quarter combat as the only reasonable solution.”
“I see… However, if I have to say the one major flaw in your plan, it is that you are assuming others could replicate your performance in the Ikaruga.”
“As for that, Ikaruga is my personally designed unit, so I do not hold the same expectations for others. However, even if it is just a standard aerial Silhouette Knight, as long as we have adequate numbers and well-trained pilots, I doubt we would so easily lose to a Flying Dragon.”
Such tactical reasoning is a commonplace in the Kingdom of Fremmevira, where the officers were faced with daily incursion of demon beasts and needed to formulate plans in the field.
“With our current situation, we certainly lack a viable counter against the Flying Dragon. I, for one, think it would always be better if we have more options available to us.”
As the crowd slowly came to terms with Eru’s reasoning, Eru cleaned the blackboard and turned to the audience.
“Now, what we just discussed predispose our opponent as a Levitate Ship. However, as far as his majesty is concerned, my next topic is the most important.”
No one said it outloud. Whenever the discussion involved Silhouette Knights, Eru would always have much to say, if not sometimes too much. For the officers who have been with Eru for a while, such ramblings did not come to them as a surprise.
“The greatest advantages provided to the Levitate Ships are its mobility and sizable capacity. With the advent of the Levitate Ships, people will definitely let their mind wander. In that case, would they be satisfied with just the western nations and the Kingdom of Fremmevira? Certainly not! Before long, they will find the world to be incredibly small, and with it…”
Eru drew a rough sketch of a map of Fremmevira and the western nations. It didn’t take long for everyone to understand what Eru was hinting. For the Levitate Ship, which was no longer constrained by the earthbound terrain, previously unthinkable destinations were now open to exploration.
“Would it be Bocuse, the Sea of Trees, or the far ends of the ocean? Regardless of the destination, we will definitely encounter countless demon beasts. As such, Levitate Ships alone would prove too fragile for such a journey, and we are certain to need a viable escort. In that case, what better escorts would there be than Silhouette Knights?”
Edgar, Dietrich, and Helvi gently let out a sigh. While Chid and Addy actively thought back to their lessons in the Academy.
“All in all, we could no longer be content with our tether to the ground. As the defenders of humanity against the constant threat of demon beasts, it is our duty to shed our earthly shackles so that we could best defend the people. Do you all agree?”
None present could refute Eru’s logic, and the plan was therefore decided. The western nations aside, as far as the Fremmeviran knights were concerned, a large part of their duty was to protect the populace from the threat of demon beasts, and the Silhouette Knights served as their swords and shields. To the Silver Phoenix Knights, the answer was obvious.
“The lands that humans inhabit are ever expanding, and such change could only be accelerated with the arrival of Levitate Ships. If our next battlefield is in the vast skies above, then Silhouette Knights and pilots must adapt… Or rather, we shall make them adapt. Even if we reach the corners of the world, we will be accompanied by our Silhouette Knights.”
With the explanation, everyone simply looked at each other. They all understood that their Knight Commander was a peculiar one, but this time felt completely different. Rather than merely content with advancing the current world, Eru sought to actively reshape the world in his image. No one could imagine what sort of world Eru desires, beyond the fact that it would certainly be a world filled with Silhouette Knights.
“…With that said, it’s hard not to admire our Knight Commander. As a professional knight runner, his words are quite invigorating.”
“Either way, we are not shipwrights. It feels more at home when it’s Silhouette Knights.”
“Right. I think that cleared up our most pressing concerns. As usual, will we be devoting all our resources to the development of a new Silhouette Knight?”
“I guess I better brace myself for the eventual operational tests…”
As each of them confirmed the plan in their own way, Knight Commander Eru seemed rather perplexed.
“I think there’s a slight misunderstanding. It won’t just be the Silhouette Knight. We will also be working on a new Levitate Ship.”
Hearing those words, everyone suddenly froze. Only Eru alone began to write happily on the blackboard.
“If we were to have flying Silhouette Knights, then the supporting Levitate Ships must also evolve to properly accommodate them. Likely, both will have to be designed from scratch. As such, our task at hand will be to develop a viable aerial Silhouette Knight and its supporting Levitate Ship!”
What awaited the Silver Phoenix Knights on their return from the battlefield was another battlefield. Those present could only sigh at the long battle to come.
◆ ◆ ◆
A while later, the knightsmiths had finally completed the maintenance on the returning Silhouette Knights. Just as they were taking a break, Boss showed up with a pained expression on his face, and the knightsmiths all had a terrible premonition for what was to come.
“As you are well aware, his majesty has deemed the Levitate Ships a national priority. However, we shall keep our focus on the development of a flying Silhouette Knight. Since I can see quite a few of you bracing for my announcement, I’m sure you are all familiar with the drill by now.”
None of the knightsmiths seemed particularly shocked by the news. After all, many of them were veterans of dealing with the Knight Commander of the Silver Phoenix Knights and could easily foresee the development.
“Well, we already expected Eru to pick Silhouette Knights over Levitate Ships.”
“If anything, it was a mere question of ‘when’.”
“After all, it is the Commander we are talking about here~”
With a few simple laughs, everyone easily accepted Eru’s decision.
“In our previous battle against the Flying Dragon, I frequently dread how it would’ve turned out if it weren’t for Ikaruga. Rather, we were almost certainly doomed without the presence of Ikaruga. Our anti-air Silhouette Knights proved almost ineffective in combat, and it was only through our unique armament on the Aerial Assault Ship that we barely managed to avert disaster. Such an outcome was a disgrace for us knightsmiths.” Boss reluctantly said after much thought.
The knightsmiths of the Silver Phoenix Knights all participated in the construction of Ikaruga. As such, they were the most familiar with the uniqueness of Ikaruga, as well as its most significant flaw. Ikaruga’s full potential could only be brought out by an equally peculiar pilot like Ernesti. Conversely speaking, none other than Eru would be able to serve as its pilot, and it was this exclusivity that made Ikaruga a fundamentally flawed unit. To a knightsmith, the sheer strength of Ikaruga was a source of pride, but, at the same time, its exclusivity left a sour aftertaste.
“The Knight Commander desired for everyone to be able to fly, so it was hard for me to refuse.”
In the future, other Silhouette Knights would be able to soar in the azure skies, and the knightsmiths that would serve as their support will need to keep up. Seeing Boss wholeheartedly embracing the challenge, the other knightsmiths were also inspired. However, it was at that moment that Boss let slip the second piece of bad news.
“By the way, it seems silver boy also plans to develop a new Levitate Ship in tandem.”
With those few words, all the knightsmiths spontaneously froze where they stood.
Some had doubted whether they had heard it correctly from Boss – that on top of developing a new Silhouette Knight, they were to also develop a new Levitate Ship, and no less in tandem. It was the very definition of apocalypse. With summer fast approaching, the knightsmiths could do little but brace themselves for the long days ahead. Even the bright smiles they had earlier were now but a shell of their former selves.
“Now, Batson! I guess I will leave the new Levitate Ship’s development to you!”
“…Huh? W-wait a minute! It’s the first time I’ve heard about this! W-why me, Boss?!”
The sudden announcement made Batson Termonen leap in surprise.
“Silly, I only just mentioned it now. Since silver boy is your childhood friend, I thought it would be best if I entrust one of Eru’s projects to you.”
Certainly, Batson had known Eru since they were young and had the achievement of developing the Silhouette Gears under him. Yet, there were some responsibilities Batson would not accept.
“If I were assigned to the Levitate Ship, what would Boss be doing in the meantime?”
“Isn’t that obvious? Make Silhouette Knights fly.”
Seeing Boss’s almost childlike attitude, Batson could not help but envy.
“That sounded much more interesting than the Levitate Ship! It’s not fair for you to pick the good parts for yourself.”
“Still, orders are orders, and I order you to oversee the development of the Levitate Ship!”
“Boss, that’s certainly an abuse of power!”
As the pair bickered, the rest of the knightsmiths simply stared blankly into the distant. Regardless of who ended up in charge, they would still have to step up to the hellish development – their battlefield.
With their plan settled, the Silver Phoenix Knights once again sought to make their mark on the world under the command of Ernesti. For the Kingdom of Fremmevira, which had only recently been exposed to the existence of Levitate Ships, would Eru’s creations prove to be a newfound strength, or a mere source of chaos? Only time will tell.
◆ ◆ ◆
To their luck, the Silver Phoenix Knights did not receive any specific edicts from Leotamus.
Perhaps due to Leotamus’s own reservations about imposing on the autonomous order of knights, or perhaps due to his trust in the abilities of the NTR Laboratory, the Silver Phoenix Knights were untethered in the pursuit of their goals.
“Now, let us test out the basic parameters.”
“So this is our first model. I understand that function is important, but for it to turn out like this…”
The Silver Phoenix Knights began on the design of the flight capable Silhouette Knight. Understandably, they couldn’t immediately dive into the blueprint. The seamless incorporation of flight onto the Silhouette Knights was foreign to them, and it was haphazard to treat flight as a mere attached module. To create a flying Silhouette Knight, they would have to integrate the Etheric Levitator directly into the Silhouette Knight’s frames, and for such a significant addition, the basic parameters of ‘form’ and ‘function’ would need to be properly assessed.
Eru and Boss gazed up into the air with a somewhat apprehensive expression. Within their sight was a Silhouette Knight, floating gently in the air with listless limbs. On its back was a sizable hump, or rather, referring the object as a mere ‘hump’ would be a misnomer, as it was about the same size as the rest of the Silhouette Knight.
For the pair, the Silhouette Knight represented an attempt to see if it was possible to incorporate the Etheric Levitators used in Levitate Ships, and the results were disappointing at best.
“It certainly seemed to fly, or at least, float. However, I doubt a Silhouette Knight like this would be of much use in action.” Boss frankly stated his assessment.
The Silhouette Knight was indeed floating, but that was the extent of its operation. It simply hovered helplessly in mid-air, completely devoid of any meaningful action. Boss could only sigh at its pitiful appearance.
“If our goal was only to make a Silhouette Knight float, this would be more than sufficient. Although, I think we already expected this outcome. After all, the Etheric Levitator was a device that enabled an object to float in the air, but by itself lacked any form of propulsion. In other words, we will need a separate propulsion system.”
“If that is the case, was there any purpose to this experiment?”
“Hahaha! It shows that we will have to miniaturize the Etheric Levitator.”
“I think that was pretty obvious from the start…”
Eru simply ignored Boss’s comment as he happily scribbled away in his notebook. Despite his own reservations about performing such a seemingly pointless experiment, Boss nevertheless entertained Eru’s fancy.
After its conclusion, Boss thought Eru would come up with a groundbreaking declaration, but what followed were more experiments that merely confirmed widely held facts. While others were unable to keep up with Eru’s thoughts, Eru knew that such experiments were necessary building blocks toward a flying Silhouette Knight.
As the experiments progressed, Boss began to brainstorm for possible solutions to the various issues.
“For the propulsion, will we be relying on the flame propulsion system?”
Currently, the Silver Phoenix Knights had two forms of propulsion system available to them – flame propulsion and wind propulsion. For wind propulsion, they would need to install a blow engine and corresponding sails. While wind propulsion was an effective solution for large Levitate Ships, it would prove too cumbersome and limiting for Silhouette Knights. As such, the only viable choice was flame propulsion.
“Hmm… Unless we come up with a new form of propulsion, flame propulsion will probably be our only choice…”
Although unintended, this seemingly pointless series of experiments helped the Silver Phoenix Knights organize their thoughts and gave them an overview of the task before them.
“All in all, we just need to create a miniaturized Etheric Levitator, incorporate the flame propulsion system onto the Silhouette Knight, and then find a way to provide enough mana to fuel both systems… Are you serious?!” Boss roughly summed everything up before throwing his hands up into the air.
The current Silhouette Knights were not designed for aerial maneuvers, and would require significant additions to weight and size to accommodate for flight. However, no matter how much Boss and Eru tried, there was simply not enough spare capacity for all the new additions.
“For that problem, I do have a few ideas…”
“Not bad, let us hear them.”
Eru took a moment to organize his thoughts before holding two fingers up in the air.
“Firstly, we could simply construct another Ikaruga that utilizes the Etheric Levitator. This way, we will only have to worry about the miniaturization of the Etheric Levitator.”
“Rejected! Constructing another Ikaruga is close to impossible!”
Ikaruga relied heavily on the ‘Emperor’s Heart’ and the ‘Queen’s Coronet’, two massive Ether Reactors, to provide sufficient mana for its complex propulsion system. However, given the scarcity of such reactors, Ikaruga could not accommodate their need for a mass produced Silhouette Knight – one of their fundamental design criteria.
“I agree. Therefore, we should look to the existing case.”
“Existing case? Is there already a flight capable Silhouette Knight?”
“Not exactly. I am talking about the ‘Flying Dragon Battleship’.”
The Flying Dragon Battleship have an Etheric Levitator for flight, flame propulsion system for maneuver, and adequate mana output to maintain the systems. In other words, it have all the parts necessary for an effective flying Silhouette Knight. However, given that the Flying Dragon was a variant of the Levitate Ship, it wasn’t particularly applicable for the design of Silhouette Knights.
“…Sometimes I really want to give your head a good smack.”
“Please don’t. My head will probably end up flying off if you smack it with that herculean strength of yours. As for the Silhouette Knight, let us just say that neither plan is particularly applicable, and we will need to change our paradigm of thought.”
Standing beside the enthusiastic Eru, Boss revealed a face full of fatigue.
◆ ◆ ◆
The morning sun basked the Academy City Laihiala in a warm glow.
At first light, the students at the Laihiala Pilot Academy greeted one another as they made their way to class, passing by Adeltrud ‘Addy’ Olter as she happily skipped down the street in nostalgia.
The gossips of the surrounding students inevitably reached Addy’s ears, of which the majority dealt with the Levitate Ship. It wasn’t limited to Laihiala, as the whole kingdom was in an uproar to learn that it was humanly possible to construct such a wondrous vessel. For the students at least, one inevitable topic was whether the Academy would eventually start a ‘Department of Aeronautics’. As one with intimate knowledge of the Levitate Ships, Addy could not help but feel a sense of superiority to the student’s mere gossip. Traveling down the familiar roads, her lithe footsteps soon brought her to her destination.
“Morning! Eru, are you ready to go?!”
At the Echevalier Residence, Addy promptly invited herself in and, after exchanging simple greetings with Tina, called out to Eru. Soon, Eru came down the hall with a suitcase full of documents.
“Yes, let us be off~”
Saying their goodbyes to Tina, the pair then headed out from the mansion. Fort Olvecius, the Silver Phoenix Knights’ Headquarter, was located not far from Academy City Laihiala. As their families lived in Laihiala, the Silver Phoenix Knights felt it was proper to visit home from time to time. For Eru and Addy, their favorite means of transportation was in Addy’s Tzendrinble.
On their way back to Fort Olvecius, the sound of a sudden gust caught the attention of everyone. As they turned their gaze to its source, they saw a ship with filled sails cruising across the azure sky. They instantly recognized the ship as the newest creation of the NTR Laboratory, the Fremmeviran ‘Transport Ship’.
It hasn’t been long since its introduction, so only a limited number was produced. For now, the Transport Ships were primarily tasked with transporting provisions along the eastern hinterlands. However, everyone dreamed that the ships will one day carry passengers between cities. In a world plagued by demon beasts, the freedom and safety offered by air travel could not be understated, and the Transport Ships were the physical embodiment of that dream.
“Well, we can’t fall behind. Addy, let’s hurry back to the fort.”
It had been two months since the return of the Silver Phoenix Knights from Kuscheperca. In that period of time, no one could deny that monumental changes were occurring within the Kingdom of Fremmevira.
◆ ◆ ◆
As for the Silver Phoenix Knights, they had been working fervently to develop the necessary technology since the conclusion of their initial experiments. During the two months, the sheer complexity of the flight technology proved to be an incredible challenge for everyone.
“To think we actually managed to miniaturize the Etheric Levitator. With this size, we could finally use it for Silhouette Knights.”
“It wasn’t as hard as we had initially imagined. After all, a Silhouette Knight is a much smaller load than a Levitate Ship.”
The Etheric Levitators used in Levitate Ships originally were about the same size as a Silhouette Knight. Comparatively, the Silver Phoenix Knights’ new Etheric Levitators were significantly smaller.
A large part of their success at miniaturization was due to the simplicity of the underlying concept. At its essence, an Etheric Levitator generated buoyancy by maintaining a supply of concentrated ether within itself. For an object the size of a Levitate Ship, the Etheric Levitator would have to be of a minimum capacity to generate enough buoyancy. However, for the lighter Silhouette Knights, the Etheric Levitator could be constructed with a significantly lower capacity while still achieving the same effect.
“Next up. The redesigned flame propulsion system and the control plate.”
“Ugh… Such complicated magic scripts, the engraving is so small that the scripts are barely legible…”
After discussion, Eru redesigned the flame propulsion system by substituting mana storage frames in its design, and, to regulate functions, incorporated a mithril plate with detailed scripts. At a slight cost to overall thrust, the redesigned propulsion system was significantly more compact, and the decreased thrust would also translate to decreased mana expenditure. Given the Silhouette Knight required numerous components to support flight, every bit of saved capacity was important to their goal.
“Now, the last part, and the hardest part, is the Ether Reactors. We would need enough mana for aerial maneuvers, while providing a sufficient reserve for combat. Despite our best efforts, we likely couldn’t avoid the need for multiple reactors. For now, I think we could use Ikaruga as a reference for the design of the Silhouette Knight frame, as I am leaning toward two Ether Reactors.”
“Hmm… I guess it can’t be helped. Although we won’t be able to produce additional Ikarugas, I am at least thankful that there is a viable reference for its overall layout.”
With that resolved, they had decided upon the Etheric Levitator, the flame propulsion system, and the Ether Reactors.
“With that in mind, I had created a rough blueprint of the final design.”
“Oh? Let me take a look.”
Eru took out his sketches from the suitcase and taped them onto the blackboard. From the onset, Eru decided to use the Fremmeviran mass-produced model Karrdatolle for reference. Karrdatolle was known for its strong performance and ease of control. As such, it would prove to be an effective base for designing the flying Silhouette Knight.
The blueprint showed a clear inspiration from Ikaruga, with two Ether Reactors placed on its torso and back respectively, and a miniaturized Etheric Levitator behind the pair of reactors. Although they had tried their best at miniaturizing the components, it still proved impossible to have all the components internalized due to space constraints. Furthermore, it had to incorporate a stockpile for Ethelite that would provide sufficient fuel for the concentrated Ether.
Eru’s most pressing concern came down to the protection of the main components, especially the Etheric Levitator, which would risk a catastrophic leak of concentrated Ether if it suffered a breech. As such, Eru did his best to design all the core components as closely together as feasibly possible, with increased armor to provide protection, essentially resulting in the creation of an armored citadel around its core.
Lastly, the newly redesigned ‘armored flame propulsion system’, combining mana storage frames and the original flame propulsion system, were installed circumferential to the core, thus allowing for the mobility and freedom of movement necessary for aerial combat. To achieve the incredible range of motion, Eru took inspiration from the Silhouette Arms.
“Is it just me, or does this Silhouette Knight look slightly obese?”
“Definitely not cute…”
With much of the core components in the torso, the thick armor surrounding them, and the circumferential propulsion lining the outer rim, an unnatural bulge was seen on the trunk. Its spherical appearance was, to say the least, unappealing to the eyes.
“…Hey, silver boy. If this is the best you can come up with, consider it my resignation.”
“It can’t be that bad, right?”
Even the designer himself was slightly conflicted inside, and his usual confident seemed slightly blunted. On the other hand, Boss hesitantly turned to Eru with a complicated expression.
“I agree that this design contained all the essential parts, but it is difficult to appreciate the design when the Silhouette Knight turned out looking like this.”
Boss’s words seemed to have resonated with all the knightsmiths present, as they all raised their hands in agreement. Outward appearances aside, the design was even problematic from purely a functional point of view. With its cumbersome design that emphasized the trunk, the Silhouette Knight would clearly lack the natural dexterity of its predecessor, such that it would likely have an unsatisfactory combat performance even if it did successfully achieve flight.
Although Eru had expected some resistance for the design, the severe backlash had pushed him to reconsider.
“Ugh… How problematic. I agree that the design is a bit unappealing…”
“I wouldn’t describe it as merely ‘a bit’.”
“However, before we could achieve flight, there are still many difficulties to overcome. In that sense, we should not be too held up by what we could and could not achieve, nor how to perfect the design. We simply know too little at the current moment.”
At Eru’s words, the clamorous knightsmiths slowly calmed down. Even the ones who were most opposed to the design silently retracted their hands.
“Invention requires thought, and thought requires experimentation. At this stage, it is no more than a prototype, so there are definitely improvements to be had. However, before you all judge it a failure, I sincerely ask you to at least see it build.”
Granted, the Silver Phoenix Knights was an organization formed at the sole purpose of assisting Eru with the development of new Silhouette Knights. In other words, Eru did not need their expressed approval for the projects and only had to hand down orders as the Knight Commander. Yet, despite his rank, Eru had never simply forced others to adhere to his will. To Eru, the Silver Phoenix Knights who had built countless Silhouette Knights – ‘Robots’ – with him, who had experienced the exhilaration and anguish of creation, were already a brotherhood. Regardless of what others thought, Eru would continue to openly express his opinions and convince the members with words.
“As always, it sounded like the whispers of the devil. With that said, I guess we have no reason to refuse…” Boss said as he let out a sigh, “You are certainly correct. There is still much to be learned in the field of aeronautics, and, despite its unsightly appearance, this prototype will likely prove necessary in furthering our knowledge.”
In the end, Boss’s curiosity as a knightsmith overpowered his sensibilities, and he raised his hands in resignation.
“Fine. Let us leave the appearance for now, and focus on making the Silhouette Knight fly.”
“It’s all for the sake of science!”
Led by Boss’s response, the other knightsmiths begrudgingly came around. Granted, everyone held a complicated expression, but for now, they were willing to put aside their personal reservations and devote themselves to the project.
“I’m just going to say this now. This one is only for the sake of testing, the next prototype better be decent looking!” Boss loudly declared just as the meeting ended.
◆ ◆ ◆
At that point, the Silver Phoenix Knight spent the better half of a month to complete the prototype. Although there were numerous new additions, the assembly itself wasn’t particularly special. Thanks to their years of experience and the flexibility afforded to them by Silhouette Gears, the time they spent in its construction couldn’t be considered long.
Understandably, the knightsmiths grumbled extensively throughout the process, yet despite their own reservations, no corners were cut on its creation. Before long, the first prototype Silhouette Knight took form before them, with the designation of ‘Syrphirne’. Disappointedly, the final product remained faithful to the blueprint, and seemingly retained its chubby appearance.
On the scaffolding, a somewhat apprehensive figure stood next to the cockpit of Syrphirne.
“Ugh… It has a cute name, but that doesn’t cover for its appearance… Eru, do I really have to pilot it?”
Addy looked over Syrphirne with drooped shoulders, a complete opposite of her usual enthusiasm. After the knightsmiths themselves, even Addy, the selected test pilot for Syrphirne, could not bring herself to appreciate the design.
Worse still, the sheer size of Syrphirne precluded itself from the standard stationary stance, and instead was sitting on the ground with outstretched legs, a stance that exuded laziness.
“Sadly, you were the only one right for the task. As the unit relies on flame propulsion for its maneuvers, I think it would be best with someone familiar with thruster control. In other words, there was no better candidate than you, who have experience in operating pneumatic thrusters.”
“As for that, why can’t you ask Chid?”
“He is currently busy with another assignment… Therefore, Addy, I want to borrow your strength for the sake of opening a path to the skies. Will you help me?”
Eru eagerly hoped to convince Addy to take the role. Yet, despite Eru’s best efforts, Addy did not budge, with a clear reluctance displayed on her face. Seeing his usual persuasion ineffective, Eru took drastic measures.
“…Once it is done, there will be a sizable reward for your troubles.” Eru gently whispered after bringing his lips next to Addy’s ear.
“J-just leave it to m-me! I w-will make that bucket fly e-even if I have to k-kick it up myself!!”
Addy suddenly sprang into action and lithely leapt into Syrphirne’s cockpit. Nearby, Eru could not help but wryly smile at Addy’s enthusiasm.
As the armor closed up around the cockpit, the strand crystals began to creak with activity, and the giant slowly came to life. Accompanied by the humming of the twin Ether Reactors, the initially dark interior soon became illuminated with light.
“Hmm… It doesn’t look particularly bad from the inside.”
Addy methodically went through the initialization sequence and fine-tuned the reactor output to a manageable level. For Addy, it was a simple and familiar routine, as the controls were no different from any other Silhouette Knight. Just as she was about to make Syrphirne stand, Addy recalled the need to activate the Etheric Levitator.
“…Right. Everyone, I will now activate the Etheric Levitator! Starting the ether feed… now!”
Addy informed everyone through the speakers before opening the ether valves. As the concentrated ether poured into the Etheric Levitator, the indicator slowly rose toward critical threshold, and Syrphirne began to stir. Due to its unbalanced construction, Syrphirne was unable to stand on its own power, and had to rely on the field generated by the Etheric Levitator.
“Ether concentration rising, levitate field reaching critical threshold.”
As the levitate field’s capacity exceeded the weight of the unit, Syrphrine floated up to a standing position. Although everyone was left speechless by its clumsy operation, they nevertheless gave a round of applause once Syrphrine rose.
“I-it’s floating… All this feels somewhat surreal~”
All the knightsmiths held complicated emotions as they looked on to the spherical balloon floating up into the air, with limbs dangling motionless on its side. Near the front, Eru paid little attention to the other knightsmiths and busily scribbled away in his notebook.
“Hmm… The Etheric Levitator seemed to be operating as designed, but the limbs seemed somewhat redundant. I will have to reconsider the purpose of the limbs later on. With the decent weather today, I doubt Syrphrine will be so easily blown away, then… Addy, begin the propulsion test!”
“Got it. Activating circumferential thrusters!”
With a serious expression, Addy carefully operated the temporary flight controls installed next to the mechanical controls. Under the command of the magic scripts, mana surged into circumferential thrusters as they slowly propelled Syrphrine forward.
“Gently now… Maintaining minimal thrust.”
To avoid a repeat of Eru’s sudden acceleration during the Ikaruga test, Addy kept the thrusters to a bare minimum as it glided around the test ground. Curiously, the sound of the thrusters and the dangling limbs created an eerie sight.
“Oh? It’s working. I guess it is somewhat impressive in operation, but it is still unsightly.” Boss mumbled as he looked over to the floating Syrphrine.
At the very least, they were able to conclude the functional tests and could now focus on the improvements… Or at least, that was what they thought.
After a while, Syrphrine floated to the edge of the testing ground.
“Hmm… I guess it can’t be helped. Time to turn Syrphrine around… W-was it like this? Huh? Odd…”
The circumferential thrusters had no problem propelling Syrphrine forward, but disaster struck when Addy tried to perform the turn. With all the thrusters pointed along the axis, what should have been a simple turn turned into an uncontrolled spin.
It all boiled down to an unfamiliarity with aerial maneuvers. Unlike an earthbound Silhouette Knight, Syrphrine could not rely on friction to slow down or stop its turn once initiated. Without knowing the need for a reverse thrust, Addy unwittingly put herself into a horrendous spin.
“B-boy, what happened?!”
“I see. So the thrusters will need to be adjusted for turns…”
The situation only further devolved into chaos as Addy attempted to correct the spin with the thrusters. The sudden acceleration broke the fragile balance as Syrphrine began to fling itself aimlessly through the air.
“Eeeru…! Heeelp! Saaave me!!”
“Boy, hurry up and do something!”
Boss’s bellowing voice broke Eru out of his contemplation as he leapt into Ikaruga.
At last, with Ikaruga’s timely intervention, Syrphrine finally ended its rampage.
◆ ◆ ◆
“Seriously, no matter how much you beg me in the future, I will never test another one of your Silhouette Knights before it is complete!”
After being liberated from Syrphrine, Addy was fuming with rage. She was absolutely adamant about her decision, no matter how Eru tried to placate her.
“Uuu… If even Addy couldn’t pilot the Syrphrine, I will need to rethink the design.”
Although Addy was mad at Eru, she nevertheless hugged Eru tightly in her arms. On the other hand, Eru did not resist Addy’s advances, as he also hoped to make up to Addy for her troubles, and only quietly contemplated his designs. Addy was one of Eru’s direct pupils, and could be said as the most adaptable pilot among the Silver Phoenix Knights. If even she has problem with Syrphrine’s controls, then it would be nearly impossible for other pilots.
Given the particular form of flight offered by the Etheric Levitator, Eru and the others would need to devise a control scheme different from that of Ikaruga to offer the new Silhouette Knights a stable flight.
Incidentally, Syrphrine’s field trials were tentatively placed on hold since the mishap. Without significant upgrades, the current Syrphrine would prove too hazardous to pilot, not to mention a complete lack of willing test pilots. As such, Eru and the others needed to reevaluate the entire design, even if only to give meaning to Addy’s brave sacrifice.
“The enhanced maneuverability ended up only increasing the difficulty of control. Perhaps it would be better to place a limit on the possible movements and design some sort of stabilizer…”
Syrphrine’s circumferential thrusters were designed to be omnidirectional, thus allowing for an extensive range of complex aerial maneuvers. Conversely speaking, it meant that the slightest mishandling would have the Silhouette Knight spin out of control. Beyond the obvious difficulty for pilots, the flexibility of the omnidirectional thrusters also made corrective maneuvers nearly impossible.
“We need to somehow achieve an ease of control without compromising its maneuverability.”
At first glance, the goals seemed to be at odds with one another. However, for Eru, who had the knowledge of his past world, there were inspirations to be had.
How were planes able to maintain stability in flight? Other than relying on the propulsion from the thrusters alone, planes also stabilized itself with the surrounding airflow…
“That’s right, we need ‘wings’.”
Where could we possibly place the wings on a Silhouette Knight? At the very least, it should be somewhere that doesn’t interfere with its combat potential…
“Perhaps… on the hands?”
An image of the design slowly materialized in Eru’s mind, with the arms of Syrphrine switched for wings. At the thought of the balloon-shaped Syrphrine with two wings and two listless legs, Eru could not help but let out a slight chuckle.
“…An obese harpy.”
It was a design completely devoid of beauty. Furthermore, Eru could not imagine how such a design would function in combat beyond kicking with its pair of dangling legs.
“…Hey, Eru? What are you doing?”
Without him noticing, Eru had stretched his arms out like wings, and only broke out of his trance when asked by Addy.
“I am currently thinking about ways to redesign the Syrphrine, but it is not coming along well.”
“Huh? Let me take a look…”
Addy continued to cling to Eru as he sketched his earlier thought on paper. With just a single glance at the obese harpy, Addy let out a sigh.
“What is this? So. Not. Cute.”
Eru also wanted to improve the form, but that had to wait until the basic functions were satisfactory. Granted, as a knight runner himself, Eru tend to place a greater emphasis on the functionality, to no small part due to the attitude of the Kingdom of Fremmevira as a whole, but even that emphasis have its own limits. Regardless of what Eru or others thought about its form, Syrphrine would be considered pointless if it did not meet even the slightest operational needs.
“Looks like we will need to start over from the very beginning and rework the design from there.”
With that said, Eru pushed aside all the existing paperwork on the table and laid out a new sheet of paper.
Etheric Levitator, Ethelite stockpile, Ether Reactor, flame propulsion system, and lastly, wings…
Eru mentally juggled the different components like a jigsaw puzzle as he brainstormed for possible arrangements.
“To maintain a Silhouette Knight’s combat ability, while ensuring sufficient maneuverability and stability in air… This is turning out harder than I thought.”
Eru could not seem to come up with a viable arrangement even after numerous attempts. Worse still, his focus on the components made him slowly lose sight of the overall design. Even if he did come up with a design in this state, it would be no more than the half a dozen components forcibly jumbled together. Sensing his tunnel vision and growing impatience, Eru took a deep breath and turned to the nearby Addy for a change of pace.
“Hey, Addy. If it were up to you, what would you do?”
“Hmm… I certainly don’t want to experience that spin again. If anything, I would hope for an obedient child like our Tzen-chan~”
As Eru seemed to be busy in thought, Addy laid out another sheet of paper.
“Say, Eru. Compared to our earlier failure, how does a Levitate Ship sail so smoothly over the sky?”
“That? The Levitate Ship and the Silhouette Knight functions on different principles. Not only does the sheer size of the Levitate Ship offer itself stability, but the sails also create resistance-…!”
At Eru’s sudden silence, Addy tilted her head in perplexity.
Eru slowly turned to Addy with wide open eyes and stared blankly. At Eru’s strange behavior, Addy was slightly taken aback and took a few steps away.
“…I see. I was too focused on the humanoid frame of the Silhouette Knight. That’s right! The answer is the exact opposite. Since there was already a successful case, we should do our best to emulate it. For the tactical considerations… Definitely cavalry. The wings… The layout… If we do it like this… It may just work out!!”
As a sudden jolt of inspiration hit Eru, thoughts began to flow as all the pieces quickly fell into place. Before long, a single image appeared in his mind, and the elusive path to completion opened up before him.
In his excitement, Eru leapt up and hugged Addy tightly.
“Thank you, Addy! It’s all thanks to you that I was able to think of the perfect solution. Look forward to the result!”
Eru lightly kissed Addy on her cheeks before sprinting back to the table as he concentrated on replicating his thoughts onto paper.
Nearby, a beet red Addy stood there motionless and stunned. After slowly returning from her trance, Addy gently hugged Eru from behind.
“…Eru, could you do that again?”
“Maybe later, I’m busy right now.”
◆ ◆ ◆
The next day, a single Tzendrinble charged into Fort Olvecius, to the horror and confusion of everyone inside the fort. Before everyone had recovered from the shock, Eru leapt out from the cockpit.
“Is Boss around?! Also, have everyone gather immediately in the conference room!”
With that said, Eru swiftly dashed toward the conference room. It didn’t take long for everyone to reasonably conclude that, as before, Eru likely has a new and revolutionary design up his sleeves.
The pilots and knightsmiths slowly made their way to the conference room, where Eru awaited them with a thick stack of paper and a brilliant smile. Everyone was taken aback by the Knight Commander’s sheer enthusiasm.
“Without further ado, let us begin the meeting. I had finished the new design for the flying Silhouette Knight. In it, I took a new approach and designed a Silhouette Knight that would fly, but without using the Silhouette Knight as the base.”
Just as everyone was baffled by Eru’s words, Boss took a peek at the blueprints.
“It has turned into something completely different!” Boss gasped at the sight.
“Yes. We have two known successes to look for inspirations, Ikaruga and Levitate Ships. Syrphrine was modeled after Ikaruga, but has ended in failure. As such, we should now look to the Levitate Ships.”
On the blueprints laid out along the table, there was an unusual Silhouette Knight. One could even call it a ‘mini-Levitate Ship’. It seemed to have combined the upper torso of a knight with a bottom in the shape of a ‘ship’, with the two halves merging seamlessly at the waist. Understandably, the Levitate Ship was a few magnitudes larger in size than the typical Silhouette Knight, but the ‘ship’ on Eru’s design had shrunk to match the rest of the Silhouette Knight. Furthermore, the lower half contained movable joints that were evidently taken from the design of the Flying Dragon Battleship ‘Vouivre’, creating a seemingly surrealistic design.
“It is a Silhouette Knight that was based on a compact revision of the Levitate Ship design. If I had to describe the appearance, it would probably be half-man, half-fish. A fish that freely swims through the sky, don’t you all find that fascinating?”
In other words, Eru’s new design was akin to the mythical creature called a ‘Mermaid’.
Not long ago, Horacio Collazo designed the Flying Dragon Battleship by superimposing designs from Silhouette Knights onto a Levitate Ship. In a twist of irony, Eru had now done the opposite, and resulted in a Silhouette Knight that took inspiration from the Levitate Ship. For the pair of inventors, their respective results could be said as a reflection of their own values and priorities.
On the other hand, the Mermaid was not a particularly unique design, since the Silver Phoenix Knights had long designed Silhouette Knights with unusual appearances, chiefly among them was the Centaur Knight ‘Tzendrinble’. In a way, Eru had only swapped the horse half with the fish half.
“While I did look to the Levitate Ships, I had taken much of the technical aspect from Tzendrinble. As for the tail, the joints would allow for increased maneuverability, and, if we prepare strand crystals within, we would be able to provide for a decent mana storage.” Eru continued, leaving everyone behind just as they had almost caught up to his pace.
The Mermaid’s overall construction was similar to Tzendrinble, with all the core components placed in the bottom half. Although the size was slightly bloated, the tail didn’t look particularly out of place without the dangling feet of the previous design. As expected, a Silhouette Knight designed for aerial combat has no use for legs and would rely on its Etheric Levitator for all its operational needs.
“This design looks oddly familiar… How is it controlled? Hopefully it won’t start spinning uncontrollably like before.”
“As for the controls, I kept it similar to the scheme seen within Tzendrinble. From our experiments, I had concluded that the circumferential thrusters only complicated the controls and decided to keep the thrusters in a single direction. As for aerial maneuvers, the Mermaid will instead be relying on the attached fins.”
Rather than offering the high degree of maneuverability as previously envisioned, Syrphrine’s omnidirectional thrusters had made control of the Silhouette Knight nearly impossible. As such, Eru changed the thrusters to point in only a single direction, where any turns and fine tuning would instead rely on the newly added fins.
Combining all the changes, the redesigned Silhouette Knight would share characteristics and motion with freely swimming fishes, and a role similar to heavy cavalry, with even the controls largely replicated from the existing Tzendrinble.
“Hmm… In other words, this child is Tzen-chan’s little sister?”
Hearing Addy’s remark, Boss could not help but break out in laughter.
“…Or maybe a little brother. Then again, since it took about half of its existing technology from Tzendrinble, I would rather call it a cousin.”
“In that case, we should make it even cuter!”
“Hmm… Maybe if we add another fin or two…?”
“I don’t think that would make it cuter…”
As a synthesis of Silhouette Knights and Levitate Ships, the newly designed Silhouette Knight was the crystallization of the most advanced technology of their era. Yet, despite its revolutionary design, the minds behind its creation instead seemed to be preoccupied with its appearance. To any outsider, such conversations must felt absolutely shocking.
After a while, Boss finally steered the conversation back on topic.
“Either way, this design looks much better than the previous one, and I am starting to feel a bit motivated. So, what’s next? With how different this Silhouette Knight is from pre-existing models, we will probably need to set its classification.”
Eru took a moment to think, before revealing a bright smile.
“For this class of Silhouette Knights… Let us call it ‘Aerial Knight’.”
On other note, for this new Silhouette Knight, Eru decided upon the name ‘Syrphrine Mk. II’. However, to the rest of the Silver Phoenix Knights, there was an unspoken rule to pretend its predecessor had never existed. Therefore, as far as everyone else was concerned, Syrphrine Mk. II was the one and only Syrphrine.