Knights & Magic Volume 6 Chapter 49
TL/N: Happy Lunar New Year everyone, and here’s my red envelope for y’all~
A single ship flew by with full sails.
It was a Transport Ship exclusive to the newly formed branch of the Fremmeviran Royal Life Guards, the Levitate Ship Corps. One that was directly subordinate to the King of Fremmevira himself. The ship was filled to the brim with provisions, evidently on a supply run to the eastern hinterlands. Managing the supply lines was the task given to all the new Transport Ship operated by the Royal Life Guards, collectively known as the ‘Life Lines’.
“…The wind is stronger than usual. Retract the sails!” On the ship’s bridge located at the front of the vessel, the captain bellowed orders to his crew, “We have quite the full load today, so it would be dangerous if we were to pick up too much speed.”
Since the Transport Ship used sails for propulsion, it could take advantage of natural air currents instead of relying solely on its Blow Engines. However, even so, it should only be done in moderation, as too high a speed would prove hazardous. While the travel time could be considerably shortened, the high speed stiffened the controls and made the ship difficult to steer. Furthermore, high speeds would also cause incredible stress on the frame of the Transport Ship itself, severely shortening its operational life.
It had been only a few short months since the Levitate Ship first appeared during the Great Western Storm, where it held the unique distinction as the world’s first effective airship. As such, few had the experience to adequately command and crew these vessels. The crew could only hope to slowly accumulate their knowledge through trial and error. Furthermore, the production was still in its infancy, which made every ship precious. Such were some of the reasons why only the Fremmeviran Royal Life Guards were provided with the Transport Ships.
“I hope our trip will continue to be an uneventful one…”
The captain’s worry was not unfounded. As of late, not a single trip on the Life Lines ended smoothly. Sadly, their trip was not the exception.
On the deck of the ship, the sentries soon noticed activity in the air and quickly turned to the voice pipes.
“Winged demon beasts sighted on a direct course. Believed to be duel class, numbering… at least ten!”
A group of black shadows appeared to grow on the backdrop of the azure skies. As they flapped their wings, they let out a bone-chilling screech. They were demon beasts known as ‘Glaive Wings’, categorized as duel-class.
Atop the Transport Ship, it was easy to assume the demon beasts were far off in the distant. However, this in itself was a visual deception in a place void of comparative objects, and their relative speeds meant such distances could easily shrink before notice.
“Slow the ship and change course! Circle around them!”
On the captain’s command, the blow engines on one side of the ship were put into overdrive, and the ship slowly began to list to starboard. Incidentally, due to the sheer weight of the ship and its cargo, the course change was sluggish at best.
Sadly, despite the captain’s quick judgment, his efforts were for naught as a group of glaive wing broke off and came after the object that intruded upon their territory.
“Looks like a fight is now inevitable… In that case, have the ranged Silhouette Knights ready their units for combat! Tell them to screen the demon beasts away from the vessel! There’s no need to chase down the demon beasts that flee!”
At that moment, the top armor of the Transport Ship began to stir. Curiously, what arose were not part of the Transport Ship’s internal armor, but a form of mana storing armor called the ‘Bulwark Robe’, a critical component for the ranged Silhouette Knights. As the ship was designed for transport, it was only assigned three Silhouette Knights for defense. Having received their orders, the Silhouette Knights took aim at the approaching demon beasts with the staff weapons on their backs.
Perhaps the greatest reason for the Royal Life Guards’ monopoly on the Transport Ships was these ranged Silhouette Knights. Knowledge and experience alone were insufficient for the skies, and those who venture into this new landscape needed to have the courage to survive. As such, the select elites in the Royal Life Guards became the top picks to venture into the unknown.
The Transport Ship not only prepared itself for combat, but also searched for an opening to escape. At that moment, the howling of the Glaive Wings could be heard as they entered into range.
The Transport Ship unleashed a torrent of shots on the approaching demon beasts. This barrage could be said is the specialty of the ranged Silhouette Knights, taking advantage of their teamwork to curtain the skies with shells. Incidentally, unlike their tough-skinned terrestrial cousins, the aerial Glaive Wings were lightly built and would easily go down with a single shot. However, the problem was landing a hit.
The natural agility of the flying demon beasts proved to be a challenge for the ranged Silhouette Knights. Despite the concentrated barrage, only a few demon beasts fell to the shots, as the rest continued their approach.
At that moment, the Glaive Wings spread their wings as they soared above the Transport Ship before entering into a dive. With weight and momentum on their side, the Glaive Wings accelerated straight at the ship. While it appeared suicidal to the uninformed, their bodies were enhanced with reinforcement magic, making themselves into powerful living lances.
One after another, the Glaive Wings pierced through the Transport Ship.
“Ugh… Keep it up! We have to get away!”
The provisions poured out from the openings, but the crew didn’t give the loss much thought. The cumbersome Transport Ship could not easily escape from the agile Glaive Wings. Under the command of the captain, the ranged Silhouette Knights continued their relentless barrage until all mana was exhausted.
After a brave and unwavering defense, the Transport Ship finally found an opening and escaped from the Glaive Wings’ relentless assault. At the same time, the ship was battered beyond all recognition. Their successful escape was all due to the diligence of the crew and, in no small part, sheer luck.
“…This line won’t work. Too many darn demon beasts.” the captain lamented as he spread a map on the navigation table, “…I guess we will need to try a new route.”
On the map, countless X’s could be seen.
When the Life Lines were established, the Fremmevirans were quickly presented with a difficult problem – No matter where they flew, they’d always end up encountering demon beasts.
Even though the kingdom had a sizeable force of Silhouette Knights, they were largely restricted to only certain regions. Stationed in cities, villages, and important highways, the Silhouette Knights were kept to defend key population centers for the sake of efficiency. Beyond these select locations, the kingdom tended to simply ignore the presence of demon beasts. However, with the advent of Levitate Ships, the freedom of movement made it easy to wander into demon beast infested territory.
To ensure safety, the kingdom committed sizeable resources to demarcate the demon beasts’ territory. With new means of travel, came new obstacles to overcome. For the Kingdom of Fremmevira, there still remained large swathes of area that proved hazardous to life.
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A missive arrived at Fort Olvecius, the headquarters of the SPK. The royal crest of Fremmevira on the missive clearly betrayed the sender’s regal identity.
“His Majesty’s orders?”
“No, but it’s certainly nothing good.”
Eru opened the letter and checked its contents. Standing beside him, Addy was hesitant to take a peek over Eru’s shoulders. After all, since the letter was directly addressed to Eru, there was likely privy information not meant for her eyes.
“They had assigned the new Transport Ships to the Life Lines. However, due to harassment from the local flying wildlife, they had suffered severe setbacks. Only with the ranged Silhouette Knights were they able to avert disaster.”
Eru revealed a complicated expression as he waived the letter around. Addy, on the other hand, had a serious look.
“Flying demon beasts are difficult, and few have experience fighting them.”
“Quite true. It’s nearly impossible to escape, and the staff weapons are inaccurate against them. As it stands, I doubt they could keep the Life Lines up for long.”
By and large, flying demon beasts were treated as a greater threat than their terrestrial cousins. While they were more fragile, they were significantly more nimble and thus difficult to target. As such, it is generally preferred to avoid conflict whenever possible.
“I guess His Majesty wants us to provide a plan?”
“Probably, but it doesn’t specify in the letter. Maybe His Majesty has already caught wind of our development? Either way, we should hurry with our work on the Syrphrine.” Eru declared with a stern face.
After Eru had finished the design, the knightsmiths of the Silver Phoenix Knights worked day and night on assembling the Syrphrine prototype.
As a matter of fact, the entire process could not be so easily accomplished without the assistance of the veteran knightsmiths. Even in all of Zetterlund, few knightsmiths had endured the same unimaginable trials as those in the Silver Phoenix Knights. Conversely speaking, these trials had forged the knightsmiths of the Silver Phoenix Knights into a skilled and adaptable workforce, capable of incredible feats with the advent of the Silhouette Gears.
“Now, let us hurry with the operational trials.”
Eru gazed upon the huge Silhouette Knight hanging from the workshop ceilings.
Syrphrine Mk. II was over halfway done. Compared to the fully assembled upper torso, the lower torso remained a rudimentary frame, where the knightsmiths were busy finishing the internal components.
The gap in progress was largely due to the difference in familiarity with the associated technology. While the upper half used existing Silhouette Knight frames, the lower half required extensive skills in shipwright.
It was unquestionably a revolutionary design, combining not only the Ether Reactors and the Etheric Levitator, but also the Ether Supplier, all together in a compact core. Around this core, the unit had mobile capacity armors and the modified propulsion system. On mobility and stability alone, Syrphrine was a marvel of construction.
When Eru drew up the blueprint, he was exceptionally careful with the placement of the various components. Moreover, the knightsmiths were able to provide suggestions during its assembly, allowing Eru to further refine the design. Bold in design and delicate in execution, these were the bare minimum of attributes necessary for challenging the unknown.
“Oh? It is slowly turning cute.” Addy commented with a cheerful smile, a complete reversal from during the tests of Syrphrine Mk. I.
Through repeated revisions, Mk. II has gained a streamlined appearance, which not only lowered air resistance in flight, but also gave it a surrealistic beauty. Eru did not know which part of the design Addy liked, but it seemed Mk. II did fit her tastes.
While the upper torso was based on existing technology, changes were still made to fit the new design. Most of the internal components were rearranged, with the most prominent being the move of the cockpit to the back, all for the sake of providing room for a ‘critical component’.
“Heh… The cockpit seemed to be quite large, but with the Silhouette Gear, it may be quite the tight squeeze.”
As the test pilot, Addy stood on the back of the incomplete Silhouette Knight. Curiously, she was dressed in a Silhouette Gear, neither the Motorbeat nor the Motorlad, but a wholly new different Silhouette Gear.
This Silhouette Gear was highly compact and did not enclose the whole body. It also had a pair of long arms, making it difficult to imagine in combat.
Syrphrine’s cockpit was designed to incorporate the use of the modified Silhouette Gear. The cockpit was never particularly roomy inside. As such, no matter how they redesigned the Silhouette Gear, it was still quite the tight squeeze.
“It may feel awkward at first, but connect the arms of the Silhouette Gear with the unit… Yes, with this, you should be able to control the Silhouette Knight with your arms and the thrusters with your legs. Now, Addy, I will leave the rest to you… Everyone, we will start the operational trial.”
Eru walked Addy through the process, as she was still unfamiliar with the new control scheme, and performed a final systems check before closing the rear-facing cockpit door. With everything ready, Eru had all the knightsmiths clear away from Syrphrine and take cover behind prepared ramparts, in fear of any uncertainty during the trial.
“Good. Addy, start the ‘armored propulsion system’ test!”
“All right! Let’s do this!”
At Eru’s command, Addy pressed the initiation button. Within seconds, the Etheric Levitator activated as the entire Silhouette Knight took off into the sky.
“Uwaaa! I-it’s unruly! Ugh!”
Addy quickly adjusted the form of Syrphrine as she activated the second function of the armored flame propulsion system.
The muscular strand crystals within the subarms covered the intricate scripts below, scripts that commanded the newly incorporated ‘Air Burst’. When Addy injected mana into the subarms, the scripts would activate spells and called forth a powerful burst of wind that slowed Syrphrine’s descent.
Moments before reaching the ground, Addy activated a second burst to cushion the landing. With that, the first trial successfully concluded with both the Silhouette Knight and its pilot’s safe return to the cheers of the knightsmiths.
“Hmm… It still feels somewhat unpolished, but the overall performance was quite satisfactory. Even on the off chance that something like the previous test were to happen, the pilot now should be able to safely bail out through the Gear Ejector from the rear.”
“While you and the young missy could probably survive the fall, other knight runners may not be as fortunate. Since the danger is much greater for an aerial unit, an escape plan certainly wouldn’t hurt.”
The Gear Ejector described the connection between the Syrphrine and the Silhouette Gear. Its greatest function was the eponymous ‘ejection’ mechanism. When activated, the system would command the Magius Engine to cut off the strengthening magic surrounding the cockpit and thus allow the armor to unfold. At the same time, the system would cause an air burst to eject the Silhouette Gear from Syrphrine, pilot and all.
In a sense, it was more accurate to say the knight runners were wearing ‘scripts’ rather than a real Silhouette Gear, in order to allow runners without the knowledge of ‘air burst’ to sufficiently escape the Syrphrine. Granted, the Silhouette Gear does have some strengthening magic to it, if nothing else to resist the force of the ejection. All these improvements were made in light of the Mk.I’s trials in order to increase the survivability of the knight runners.
“Well done, Addy! Both the Silhouette Knight and the Silhouette Gear functioned as expected, and the landing was splendid. I had always known you could do it with a bit of training!” Eru congratulated Addy for the successful first trial, “Next up, I would like you to test the ejection system to ensure it is working as designed.”
“Ehehe… Huh? W-wait… You couldn’t possibly mean…”
Addy was at a loss when Eru suddenly praised her, but his next words made her turn her head in
shock. When it came to testing the Gear Ejector, there was only one method.
“Therefore, I will need Addy repeatedly catapulted out from the Syrphrine.”
“H-huh? E-Eru, just wait a moment… I really don’t want to be shot out that many times!”
Addy was not the only one to voice her displeasure, even the nearby knightsmiths revealed a complicated expression at the prospect of reassembling the armor after each and every ejection.
“Addy, the Syrphrine is different from any previous Silhouette Knight, as it is a unit meant to fly unassisted through the sky. If by chance an accident were to happen, even you wouldn’t be able to get away unscathed from a fall of that height. The trials to follow are certainly not without risks. Therefore, I hope for you to receive enough training to ensure your safe return.” Eru declared.
“E-Eru… To think you thought so much for my safety! Alright, I understand! No matter what, I will definitely return to your side!” Addy responded as she hugged Eru tightly, to which Eru returned the hug and gave a slight nod.
“Say, since the young missy is already fine with the trials, why are the rest of you hesitating? This is to ensure the safety of the knight runners, so I expect all of you to work hard!”
Hearing Boss’s sharp words, the knightsmiths overcame their reluctance and proceeded to work.
For the next segment, Addy was catapulted time and time again from the cockpit, and stress tested the Silhouette Gear by leaping off tall buildings.
As one previously familiar with Silhouette Gears such as the Motorbeat, and as one of Eru’s star pupils, Addy was able to survive a moderate fall with magic alone. As such, the repeated ejections not only served as her training, but also served as the field trial for the Gear Ejector, and to thoroughly evaluate the capabilities of the Silhouette Gear. Certainly, the Silhouette Gear had seen through multiple iterations during the development of Syrphrine thanks to Addy’s trials. Just to mention, other than Addy, Eru had also kidnapped a few regular knight runners for the field trials, and, in time, the Gear Ejector was honed to perfection.
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In time, the eagerly awaited lower half was finally done, albeit slightly behind schedule when compared to the upper torso. Regardless, the finished Syrphrine Mk.II has finally appeared before the Silver Phoenix Knights. The upper torso has a slight bulge on the back, while the lower tail has a streamlined appearance. On its flanks, two large fin-like wings stretch out, making it the perfect embodiment of the word ‘mermaid’.
In its unmanned state, the Etheric Levitator maintained a minimal output, which allowed the Syrphrine to hover slightly above the surface. Rather than a flaw, the lack of foot was by design, or in the words of the designer, “The Etheric Levitator was unique in that as long as the unit is functioning, it cost little to nothing in maintaining the altitude. As such, it was unnecessary to land on the ground each and every time. Rather, it takes more effort to manage the altitude in a landing.”
In daily operation, the Syrphrine simply relied on tethers to keep it from floating away, while its large fins help serve as a landing gear for when it needed to land. Curiously, the fins also allowed for some limited mobility on the ground, even if it was slightly cumbersome.
“Internal ether concentration reaching the critical threshold. Eru, I am ready.” Addy announced using the loudspeaker within Syrphrine.
Eru nodded as he confirmed Ikaruga was nearby and ready for deployment before giving the order.
“We shall commence the propulsion test. Syrphrine, detach tethers!”
The knightsmiths in their Motorlad released the tether controls as a sharp metallic sound echoed in the chamber. Syrphrine, now untethered, slowly floated up by the strength of its levitation field. As a safety precaution, the Syrphrine prototype had its ether output severely limited, so its climb was quite sluggish. With a slight breeze, the fins wobbled as designed to stabilize the craft.
“Activating magius thrusters…! First, let us start gently…”
After reaching a reliable height in order to not damage the workshop, Addy pressed down on the throttle. By her command, a jet of flame burst out from behind as the magius thrusters hummed with activity, and Syrphrine began to cruise forward.
While they had intentionally limited the thruster output, Syrphrine seemed to be relatively stable in its flight. Certainly, both the fins and the streamlined design both helped mitigate any turbulence.
“…So the trial is a success? Good! Syr-chan, time to take it up a notch!”
Haunted by the painful memories from back in the Mk.I, Addy had purposely held back during the initial stages of the trial. However, with the smooth handling so far, Addy seemed to have forgotten her earlier anguish. As she familiarized herself with the control, her movements began to show less and less restraint, or rather, she was simply reverting back to her usual impulsiveness. With every press of the throttle, Addy called for a stronger and stronger burst of flame through the magius thrusters.
Syrphrine sliced through the air as it flew. Its long and slender build allowed for a moderate, but stabilizing, amount of air resistance, minimizing any risk of suddenly spinning out of control. Furthermore, the unidirectional thrusters simplified its overall control, with directional movement relegated to the fins that took advantage of the surrounding air flow and the flexible tail that move the thrusters to the desired position. In this regard, the new design was a resounding success, demonstrating a flexibility not previously seen in the Mk.I.
“Hmm…It feels like Tzen-chan. I guess this could work!”
While Syrphrine’s undulating motion through the air was clearly reminiscent of a swimming fish, Addy had felt its overall control was rather similar to Tzendrinble on top of its already similar shape and design. It was a familiar feeling for Addy, and it didn’t take long before Addy was freely swimming through the sky.
On the ground, the knightsmiths were jubilant at their success. With the tragedy of Mk.I engraved in their memory, the knightsmiths had worked ceaselessly on the Mk.II in a bid to regain their honor. Even Boss, stroking his beard, seemed incredibly pleased with the results.
“Although it still requires a bit of fine-tuning, the overall design could be deemed a success. I’m glad the previous tragedy didn’t repeat itself.”
“Yes. From the looks of it, we should be able to report to His Majesty soon… That aside, I would like to take it out for a spin later on.”
As the knightsmiths were celebrating, Eru seemed to be deep in thought.
Just to mention, later on, there were sightings of a mysterious object flying over Academy City Laihiala at incredible speed, where it caused another uproar in the streets.
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Archid ‘Chid’ Olter briskly walked through the hectic streets.
He was in the capital of the Kingdom of Fremmevira, Känkänen. The capital had always been a massive metropolis, but it had become exceptionally brimming with activity ever since the advent of the Levitate Ship. After all, the capital was the headquarters of the Royal Life Guards, and, with it, the main dockyard for the new Transport Ships.
Chid nimbly navigated through the crowds and headed to a small tavern in the outer rims of the city. The tavern was located in a quiet and discreet alleyway, far away from the boisterous streets. If Chid wasn’t informed of the location beforehand, he certainly would have a difficult time finding the tavern.
Chid slowly pushed open the door to find the place filled to the brim by patrons, chatting away as they had their meal.
Among the patrons, one stood out above the rest and had attracted much attention. It was a man close to two mels in height, with a muscular build that seemed mismatched for the tiny bar stool as he gorged away on plates after plates of food.
The man was named Emrys Geijer Fremmevira and was the one who had called to meet with Chid. He lifted his face from the now empty plate and waved Chid over. Despite being the second prince of the kingdom, he did not seem to sport a particularly regal air.
“Oh, Chid! Over here! Sorry about calling you over so suddenly! Have you eaten yet? The food here is not only good, but the portions are also quite large! It has my full recommendation!”
“Your High-… Young Master, why do you even know about this place…?”
Faced with Emrys’ rather empty apology, Chid could only let out a sigh. As Emrys’ was innately brusque, Chid felt it would be a waste of time pointing out every little mistake in etiquette.
“Since it was the Young Master’s summons, how could I have refused? I am only surprised that you have picked such a remote meeting place.”
“Hahaha~ Quite the perfect hideaway, is it not?”
Emrys’ bold question made replying difficult. As such, Chid simply chose to sit silently across from Emrys and ordered a light meal.
“…May I ask why you’ve asked me to come alone? To even specify not to bring Ernesti along, is everything alright?”
“…Ah, I see. Leave that aside for now and let us focus on the main topic at hand.”
Emrys revealed a stern expression. If it weren’t for the sauce stuck in the corner of his mouth, his words would have an incredible weight to them.
“As you are aware, dad had pushed for the development of the Levitate Ship the moment we had returned from Kuscheperca, and, from what I’ve heard, the Silver Phoenix Knights have been working on something interesting as well. At this rate, I am certain the Kingdom of Fremmevira will be at the forefront of the technological race. For that reason, I wish to make another trip to the Kingdom of Kuscheperca. Not as an observer or a clandestine operative, I wish to proceed as the representative of Fremmevira. After all, I am pretty sure that I have gained quite the fame for my participation during the war.”
As one of the main contributors during the war, Emrys was held in high regard among the Kuschepercan nobility. Additionally, he held close relations with the royal family as one of their blood relatives. Although there were some reservations having Emrys take up an important diplomatic position with his carefree personality, Chid thought as far as Kuscheperca was concerned, Emrys should be fine.
Just as Chid was contemplating Emrys’ suggestions, Emrys sprang upon him an even more shocking news.
“When that time comes, I will need a few followers… So, Chid, come with me to Kuscheperca.”
“H-huh? M-me? To K-Kuscheperca? Isn’t it a bit too sudden… and, why me?” Chid exclaimed as he leapt up from his seat, for a moment forgetting that they were in a public space.
“Actually, I had always planned to bring you with me! Don’t you have fond memories of Kuscheperca? Moreover, I am certain you are quite the able assistant, having to deal with Ernesti for so long. Just to mention, I have already gotten permission from Marquis Serrati.” Emrys simply replied after revealing a wide smile.
“Y-Young Master is certainly quick…”
Whenever Emrys had decided on something, he was certain to push it through. From how he made all the necessary preparations prior to the meeting, Chid could only sigh in amazement.
“Looks like I don’t have much room to refuse. However, would you mind if I talk it over with everyone in the Silver Phoenix Knights first?”
“Of course! If there is anything you need, feel free to let me know. After all, I am borrowing you from the Silver Phoenix Knights, so we will definitely need to obtain Ernesti’s permission. Oh, but do not worry, just leave convincing Ernesti to me.”
After that exchange, Chid half-heartedly ate the delicious meal and chatted with Emrys before taking his leave for Laihiala.
Sitting in the cockpit of Tzendrinble, Chid seemed to be deep in thought. Certainly, when Emrys mentioned his ‘fond memories’, they certainly only point to the one obvious lingering attachment he had for Kuscheperca.
“I had originally wanted to gently refuse the invitation and take some time to think everything through…”
What to do now?
Chid felt the answer slowly taking form in his heart. In order to discuss his thoughts, Chid raced down the road in the Tzendrinble.
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Castle Schreiber stood at the center of Känkänen. In the main audience room, King Leotamus let out a deep sigh with drooped shoulders. Across from him stood Olver Blomdahl of the National Technological Robotics Laboratory, with one hand over his mouth and trembling uncontrollably at the recent report sent over by the Silver Phoenix Knights.
“Seriously, just when I thought they were silently recuperating from their recent adventures… I honestly don’t know what to say anymore…”
“We did receive reports of their new developments. Since the project did have its merits, we didn’t plan to interfere. Still, to think they would be able to make the Silhouette Knight fly so soon after the advent of the Levitate Ship. Ernesti is quite the fellow…” Leotamus muttered with a complicated expression.
The report detailed the completion of the ‘Wind Knight’, a Silhouette Knight that could fly unassisted through the air. It was news enough to make anyone quiver in shock.
“Since ships could now fly, nothing barred Silhouette Knights from doing the same… Although such is the logic, we still couldn’t believe one could turn such a mere figment of imagination into a working prototype in so short a time.”
“It’s like watching an innocent child making a new toy for himself. However, thanks to his absurd actions, we were provided an aerial Centaur Knight and a valuable new addition to bolster the kingdom’s forces. Either way, he is the same as always…”
Olver gave praise not in the sense of the gatekeeper, but as the director of the NTR Laboratory. The hint of sarcasm in his complement was unavoidable given the subject matter.
At that moment, Leotamus turned to a serious expression.
“Given our chain of fortifications along the hinterlands near Bocuse, we had always assumed the interior of the kingdom as relatively safe. Yet, as experience had shown us, the demon beasts are still as pervasive as ever. In a way, the advent of the Levitate Ships has shown us the vastness of the sky.”
There were many demon beasts living within the Kingdom of Fremmevira. Recently, thanks to the introduction of the new ‘Eastern Model’ Silhouette Knights, people had come to believe the demon beasts were defeated as a major threat. However, there was both truth and falseness to this belief.
Long ago, when the kingdom was founded, the people tend to settle on relatively safe regions for their towns and villages. Consequently, the settlements were like islands in the wilderness, connected by thin strips of roads. As such, there still existed many uninhabited regions within the kingdom. Considering they still haven’t fully pacified the land, it was to no one’s surprise that they would suffer such a setback in the air.
“We are certainly troubled by the frequent attacks on our Transport Ships and are in need of a solution. In a way, this project is a perfect fit for our problem. Do you think the Silver Phoenix Knights had anticipated our troubles?”
“Perhaps… but it is hard to say for sure. In my humble opinion, there is no greater mystery in this world than the mind of Ernesti.”
Leotamus nodded to Olver’s assessment.
“Either way, the timing couldn’t have been better. With this new Silhouette Knight, our command of the sky will be significantly improved. It will undoubtedly usher a whole new era for our kingdom… In that regard, I hope the NTR Laboratory will keep up its good work.”
“Understood. It is my honor to serve.”
As Olver departed from the audience chamber, Leotamus returned to deep contemplation once more.
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A few days later, Eru received a summon from Leotamus and soon made his way to Känkänen. There, Leotamus presented Eru with a proposition.
“Your Majesty wishes for me to organize a new company… with the new Wind Knights?”
“Yes. The fact that you designed the Wind Knights aside, we recognized the importance of flying Silhouette Knights in future exploration with the Levitate Ships. However, this new design also presented us with many new problems. Besides the unorthodox production, one of the most pressing issues was the difficulty in finding able knight runners.”
The limiting factor that precluded the widespread use of the new Wind Knights wasn’t its production or materials, but rather the complete lack of trained knight runners. New models like the Karrdatolles were more of an upgrade to existing Silhouette Knights, and the knight runners tended to have a basic understanding leading up to its operation. Comparatively, models like the Tzendrinble were seen with a significantly smaller pool of capable knight runners to that of Karrdatolles, given its more peculiar operation. Yet, the Tzendrinble were still a terrestrial Silhouette Knight, and could be mastered with sufficient training.
On the other hand, the new Syrphrine was completely different. Named the ‘Wind Knights’, their operation was vastly different from any existing Silhouette Knights. As such, one could expect a long period of training before the knight runners could achieve proficiency.
“Even the crew of the Transport Ships are still fumbling their way through the new technology, we could only picture their resignation if we were to present them with a flying Silhouette Knight. After all, we don’t even have an instructor for something as unique as your recent creation. Therefore, we might as well start with a new batch of cadets to specialize in Wind Knights, as they may be able to learn better if they are without the entrenched habits of veteran knight runners.”
“I see. Your Majesty intends to have a new generation responsible for the new technology.”
Leotamus gave a strong nod in reply. Wind Knights were simply too unique, and any knight runner would essentially be relearning from the basics. As such, Leotamus thought it may be better to leave the Wind Knights to new cadets. Certainly, there were instances where veterans with ample experience would be appropriate, but in case of the Wind Knights, the quicker uptake of young students was preferred.
Haa… It is only half of the reasons…
For Leotamus, there was a more pressing concern.
Ever since its formation, the Silver Phoenix Knights had always served as the center for the development of new Silhouette Knights, and the kingdom saw it as their trump card against adversity. While the Silver Phoenix Knights were nominally under the direct command of the king, the group had grown to be largely autonomous under the command of its Knight Commander, Eru, and would act unexpectedly from time to time. Furthermore, due to the unique circumstances that led to its formation, the Silver Phoenix Knights had little in the ways of personnel changes.
As such, there had been incessant requests from courtiers to send their relatives to obtain achievements in the famed Silver Phoenix Knights. Since Leotamus did not wish to meddle in the internal affairs of a largely autonomous order, he had largely suppressed the requests.
“We shall issue a call to the whole kingdom for able knight runners to form the new company. We will leave the specifics of the selection to you.”
The formation of the new company presented Leotamus the perfect opportunity to quell the discontent. Furthermore, regardless of their achievements, the Silver Phoenix Knights were too exclusive an organization and would definitely benefit from new blood from time to time. As such, Leotamus decided to take advantage of the situation to solve two problems with a single stroke.
The glint in Leotamus’s gaze did not escape Eru’s notice. Despite being relatively willful in the pursuit of his desires, Eru still possessed an uncanny discernment.
“I understand. As per your orders, I will organize a new company based on the Wind Knights.” Eru affirmed his new task with a brisk bow.
As always, Leotamus could not discern the meaning of Eru’s soft smile. Without revealing his unease, Leotamus gave a silent nod in reply.
With the meeting, the plan to form a new company with the Wind Knights was decided.
◆ ◆ ◆
Not long since the discussion between Leotamus and Eru, a certain rumor began to circulate around the pilot academies in Fremmevira.
“Hey, have you heard?!”
“Yes, ‘that’, right? Everyone is talking about it, the new ‘Knight Order’.”
“Yeah! Just to tell you something more interesting, I’ve heard that the knight runners will be piloting…”
“…To think it would be flying Silhouette Knights!!”
“Hey, don’t spoil the big reveal! Either way, it is hard to believe that Silhouette Knights could fly. After all, we only learned about flying ships just the other day. Looks like things are becoming weirder and weirder.”
“Don’t say it like that! I think it sounds rather exciting, not to mention it is the newest model. Newest model! I’ve heard the ones behind it are…”
“Those Silver Phoenix Knights.”
“Stop spoiling the reveals!”
In the enthusiastic discussions of the cadets and knight runners, the name of the Silver Phoenix Knights would arise from time to time.
It was a group dedicated to the development of advanced Silhouette Knights, with the Tzendrinble and the Levitate Ships among its impressive repertoire. At the same time, the Silver Phoenix Knights were a famed Order under the direct command of the king, under which they had defeated the incursion of powerful demon beasts and triumphed in an expedition to a distant kingdom, holding the title of being the strongest Knight Order.
Furthermore, the Silver Phoenix Knights were known within the kingdom to be comprised of relatively young members. As such, they served as a role model for young and ambitious knight runners desperate for fame and recognition.
Beyond their martial achievements, they were intricately linked with the new ‘Wind Knight’. It was rumored to be the Silver Phoenix Knights newest Silhouette Knight, for which the king himself held in high regard and desired the creation of a new ‘Knight Order’ to accommodate the creation. For many, it was an opportunity of a lifetime.
As with all rumors, there were certain embellishments as they passed from person to person. What was originally supposed to be an experimental company soon became a whole new ‘Knight Order’, with interesting consequences. As the scale of a new Knight Order was different from a mere company, the expected demand in personnel was worlds apart. Incidentally, not only were the cadets of the various academies riled up by the rumors, but also the cadets of the lesser nobles, and they all gathered at the gates of Känkänen to seek their fortunes. Before long, the streets of the already crowded capital became unruly and booming with activity. (1)
Faced with the unexpected development, Leotamus was at a complete loss for what to do, and he quickly summoned Eru back to the capital to devise a solution. The two faced one another with complicated expressions.
“…Ernesti, as you can see, perhaps it would be better to establish a new Knight Order?”
“Umm… but I already have my hands full with the Silver Phoenix Knights…”
“We understand, but… with the current scale of mobilization, we doubt they will accept the addition of a mere company.”
Leotamus was clearly stressed by the situation. While the kings within Zetterlund ruled as absolute monarchs and could easily disperse the crowd with a single command, Leotamus was reluctant as he was behind the call in the first place and retracting his decree would undermine his authority. Additionally, the countless nobles that had gathered in Känkänen would see such a move as an affront to their pride. Since the Levitate Ships and the Wind Knights represented the forefront of technological development, the nobles all wanted a chance to demonstrate their valor in the new Knight Order, and Leotamus did not want to be the one to pour cold water on their enthusiasm. As such, Leotamus was left with limited options.
“If possible, I wish for some time to evaluate the feasibility of a new Knight Order and discuss it with the other officers of the Silver Phoenix Knights. If possible, Your Majesty, I wish to request assistance in the production of the Wind Knights and preemptively increase its output.”
“It can’t be helped. We will divert a portion of the staff at NTR Laboratory to assist you in the production.”
With his request satisfied, Eru was clearly uplifted.
“Understood. By Your Majesty’s will, The Silver Phoenix Knights will do its utmost to see it done.”
“Yes, we shall leave it in your able hands.”
Leotamus finally revealed a more peaceful expression upon hearing Eru’s confident response.
◆ ◆ ◆
Eru immediately returned to Fort Olvecius and ordered a meeting. Upon hearing Eru’s explanation, everyone was slightly anxious about what was to come.
“…And there you have it. We originally planned to organize a company, but the large influx of applicants made it difficult to limit the size. In all likelihood, we may have a full brigade on our hands.”
“Well, it can’t be helped, let us just pretend we didn’t hear what you said and be on our way.”
Just as Dietrich was making his way out of the room, Eru grabbed his arm with a clearly forced smile.
“This determines the widespread use of the Wind Knights and is a personal request of His Majesty. I have deemed the assistance of Silver Phoenix Knights necessary for its completion. As a loyal knight of the kingdom, I am certain Dietrich would not refuse the request of His Majesty, right?”
Faced with the domineering pressure of Eru’s smile, Dietrich could only resign himself to fate before turning to look at others.
“Don’t worry, none of us could escape fate.” Edgar lamented nearby with drooped shoulders.
“Of course, it is a revolutionary Silhouette Knight. Although, it can’t be helped now that things have come to this…”
They were unsure whether to laugh or cry at their fortune.
“Whenever Eru is involved, the situation would undoubtedly escalate in the end.”
Even Helvi could only casually accept the development as she shook her head. At that moment, Eru took a serious expression.
“Honestly, I was half-joking about the brigade. Certainly, we can’t accommodate such a huge force… I image it would be at most a few companies or a battalion.”
It was impossible to accept everyone who applied. Even Leotamus understood that there was to be a selection exam where they could hand out a few rejections. However, given the heavy involvement of the nobility, it would undoubtedly be quite the sizable number remaining.
“To tell you the truth, establishing a new Knight Order won’t be difficult. The problem is what comes next.”
As the new Knight Order was tasked with organizing a force of capable knight runners for the Wind Knights, it would need to take care of the training. They know full well the headache of dealing with such a large number of trainees.
“As such, Edgar-senpai, Di-senpai, and Helvi-senpai, why not try piloting the Syrphrine?”
“Huh? Now? Although I am quite interested in the Wind Knight, I do not have any plans of abandoning Erledyradcumber. Why not leave it to someone new?”
“I also don’t wish to give up the Guyalarinde. At most, I will drop by during their training.”
Not only the two, other knight runners of the Silver Phoenix Knights had been accompanied by their respective Silhouette Knights for some time. As such, there was an overwhelming sense of attachment to the units that had fought and protected them.
“I am fine. After all, the third company is known for our interest in new creations.”
Only Helvi alone agreed to the new arrangement. As the test pilot for Tellestarle, Helvi held an insatiable curiosity for the new Silhouette Knight.
While others may not be as enthusiastic as Helvi, they still held some interest in the new Silhouette Knight. Hearing the divergent and reluctant responses, Eru revealed a bright smile, striking the three with a terrible premonition.
“I am not asking you to abandon your personal Silhouette Knights. I am only asking you to acquire some experience in the new Silhouette Knight and be familiar with the feelings of operating them.”
The premonition continued to grow with Eru’s smile.
“Afterwards, I only ask everyone to ‘assist’ with teaching the newcomers… Even if they are part of a different branch of service, they are still members of the Fremmeviran Army. I am certain as veterans, you will assist the newcomers to the best of your abilities.”
Despite knowing that the mentorship to come would be difficult, Eru had no desire to let the officers off the hook. They blankly looked at each other before the three raised their hands in resignation. The Silver Phoenix Knights were not only faced with combat against the demon beasts, but also tasked with overcoming the countless challenges set up by its Knight Commander. By now, the officers had long resigned to their fates.
◆ ◆ ◆
Soon, the officers and members of the Silver Phoenix Knights began their training, with members of the third company making up the majority of the volunteers. As Helvi described, the third company was especially interested in new inventions.
Although it was meant as training, the Wind Knights were still in production. As such, the best they could do at the moment was practice with the Gear Ejector.
“I didn’t think too much about it during Adeltrud’s trial, but now that I have personally experienced the system… I couldn’t help but be impressed by his creativity.”
Having been shot out into the air and landing many times, Dietrich looked upon the seemingly relaxed Eru and Addy with annoyance.
If they were to face disaster in the air, they would be unable to reach safety. As such, everyone knew the importance of ejection training. Despite such being the case, the training was still difficult, and the volunteers quickly began to feel enervated.
Just as they thought there was no end to the ejection training, the NTR Laboratory had sent word that the first batch of Wind Knights was to be delivered. With the news, everyone finally breathed easy at the eventual start of operational training.
However, the operational training was not as simple as they had thought. Despite having weathered all types of difficulties, the domain of the sky was one not easily breached.
“I have never seen so many different buttons and instruments before… Are all these necessary for flight?” Edgar sighed while sitting in the cockpit, looking around at the various instruments around him.
Etheric Levitator, Ether Supplier, and magius thrusters, not to mention the controls for the Silhouette Knight itself. Everyone knew at a glance that it would be no easy task to master the Syrphrine’s operation. Ostensibly, of all the test pilots, Dietrich’s familiarity with the magius thrusters on the Guyalarinde made him the quickest learner.
Just as they finally had completed the basic operational training, the volunteers were faced with basic aerial maneuvers. The training first started with low altitude maneuvers, and then slowly increased the speed and height. The controls were repeatedly drilled into the volunteers until they had gained enough familiarity to fly in formation.
“Now that I think about it, the operation is not as hard as I had initially thought. Although it feels awkward not touching the ground.” Edgar mumbled during a break.
“Yep! Other than the weightlessness, the Wind Knight is not that much different from the Tzendrinble. It should be fine to move with a bit of confidence.” Helvi cheerfully added.
“They did mention the entire design was based on the Centaur Knight, so it is not a surprising conclusion.”
Incidentally, Helvi demonstrated the highest competence with the Syrphrine of the three officers. Only Edgar came from a background that did not benefit his mastery.
“I am also slowly getting the hang of it. In my opinion, this fellow is really like an untamed stallion.” Dietrich interjected into the conversation with a shrug.
“Hmm… Rather than calling it an untamed stallion, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call it an untamed fish?”
“We shouldn’t get hung up on the appearance. While Syrphrine may appear as a mermaid, its maneuvers more closely resemble cavalry, so it isn’t wrong to call it a flying stallion.”
As long as there was no outside force acting upon it, the Etheric Levitator would always maintain its set altitude by design. Therefore, even if they change the altitude using the magius thrusters, Syrphrine would eventually normalize to its original altitude. As such, from purely a theoretical view, Syrphrine’s ‘flight’ was merely on a two dimensional plane of a different height.
Once they had acquainted themselves with the sensation of flight, Syrphrine would feel no different from any other Silhouette Knight. When it is combined with the inspiration they took from Tzendrinble, the trio came to see Syrphrine as no different than the typical cavalry.
“On the other hand, I am having difficulty maneuvering with the fins. I wouldn’t want to face demon beasts with such stiff controls.”
“Do not worry! Syr-chan is very gentle, and, as long as you figure out the trick, you will find her surprisingly obedient!”
“Seriously, don’t compare us with a frequent test pilot like you.”
After a period of intense struggle, Addy had obtained a complete mastery of Syrphrine. Least of all thanks to her experience in aerial combat during the subjugation of shelled demon beasts.
“I agree, Syrphrine is an exceptionally obedient Silhouette Knight, how could you possibly mess up? Don’t make yourself sound like a novice.”
Addy and Helvi, a pair of veteran knight runners for Tzendrinble, began a duet of praise for the new Syrphrine.
“Honestly… I won’t deny that it is fun to pilot the Syrphrine. Definitely worth the risk of serving as lab rats for Eru.”
As they chatted away, Eru was within earshot of Dietrich’s comment and approached with a glowing smile.
“I am glad to hear everyone is having fun. Therefore, let us kick it up a notch and have a mock match! I certain you will have double the amount of fun!”
“Haa… Me and my big mouth.”
With that, Dietrich took an incredible amount of effort to convince Eru not to hold a mock battle against Ikaruga.
◆ ◆ ◆
While the knight runners were busy with their training, the knightsmiths were not simply lazing around. Other than Boss, who was sent to the NTR Laboratory to instruct and supervise the production of Syrphrines, other knightsmiths were thrown into another project.
“…Eru, are you sure about this?” Batson nervously asked after going over Eru’s blueprint, “Haven’t we told you that we are not shipwrights?”
“Don’t be discouraged. Surely you must agree that the combination of Syrphrine and this vessel is a match made in heaven?”
The blueprint before Eru and Batson was one for a massive ship. It was the design for the aforementioned Levitate Ship, but its structure was nothing like the preexisting Transport Ship.
“I need someone deeply familiar with the Levitate Ships, the Silhouette Knights, and the new Wind Knights to participate in its design. Since Boss is away, you are the only one who could take up the task.”
“That sounds nice, but I know that getting involved in any of your projects would mean a world of trouble! Haa… I should’ve been more adamant about switching over to the development of the Wind Knights.” Batson lamented with tears welling up in the corner of his eyes.
The other knightsmiths that stood behind Batson turned deadly pale the moment they glanced upon the blueprint.
“Why do we even need to redesign the Levitate Ship? What is wrong with just sticking to our current Levitate Ships?
While they were experts of Silhouette Gear and Silhouette Knights, the knightsmiths were mere amateurs when it came to the design of ships, and, by extension, Levitate Ships,
“As long as Wind Knights become widespread, I am certain we will need a ship like this in the future. After all, Silhouette Knights alone are still too fragile to dominate the skies by themselves.”
The Levitate Ship on the blueprint included many special functions, of which a significant number was based on Silhouette Knight’s technology. As such, only those involved in the development of the Wind Knights could imagine such a design.
“As such, we need to create this ‘Wind Carrier’ to serve as a mobile base for the Wind Knights.”
Eru was not satisfied with simply organizing a Knight Order of Wind Knights. To allow them to achieve their full potential, Eru sought after a new creation.
Therefore, while the knight runners continued their training, the knightsmiths turned to a new development as they began to dabble in the art of shipwright.
Far in the capital, the selection of members proceeded smoothly, and soon, a new Knight Order was born in the Kingdom of Fremmevira.