Chapter 12 - Let’s have a mock duel
Editors: darkdhaos, Fate Trooper, Chris S, alkin
On the training ground of the Laihiala Pilot Academy, two giants faced each other with swords in hand. The iron armour reflected a dull gleam and the sound from the friction of the crystal tissue reverberated in the entire field.
What follows next would be a mock duel, which is part of training and testing. But for the two pilots riding in the strongest weapon of humanity, this was definitely a battle. The atmosphere wasn’t relaxing at all, as the pilots are burning with fighting spirit in the gradually rising tension.
“Okay, are you ready? We will be having a duel next!! Both of you have to adhere to the rules of a mock duel. Bow! Ready!... Begin!!”
With the cue of the referee’s command, the two iron giants charged out with a roar.
Basically, a battle between Silhouette Knights starts with firing off Silhouette arms. When they close the gap, they would switch to melee weapons. Because the Silhouette arms were dependent on the emblem graft engraved on them, they were structurally weak and would be destroyed easily in melee combat, depriving the pilot of the means to attack.
Edgar had seen Tellestarle’s back weapon in action. Using two Silhouette arms at the same time and attacking from a distance was a big threat. That was why Edgar wanted to do away with the long distance battle and moved into a melee battle immediately.
But contrary to his expectation, Tellestarle moved forward immediately after the battle started, gradually closing the distance.
What is she thinking? Doesn’t she want to use the advantage of a ranged attack? But that suits me just fine!
Earlecumber took a strong step forward, wanting to give it a headstart on the slash. But as he was swinging his sword, Edgar realised he misjudged the functionality of the back weapon.
As the two machines were about to collide, Tellestarle suddenly deployed the Silhouette arms onto its shoulders. Helvi, who was looking at the reticle displaying before her in the cockpit smiled as her plan worked.
“I will use this in place of a greeting. The ability to shoot magic rounds even at close distance— the real value of the back weapon!”
The dual Silhouette arms on Tellestarle’s back fired off simultaneously. Even the tough Earlecumber couldn’t evade the attack at such a close distance. Its shield blocked one of the shots; the other hit the right shoulder which wasn’t covered by the shield. The training shot wasn’t strong enough to blow the right arm off, but Earlecumber still lost its balance and its advantage in pressing the attack.
“That’s not all!”
Tellestarle swung its blade as it retracted its Silhouette arms. Using the momentum, it attacked the unbalanced adversary. The movements were rough, but it was more terrifying than a half assed attack.
Edgar didn’t resist the falling motion. He spun to the right and pushed out the shield on its left arm to block Tellestarle’s blow. Earlecumber managed to defend the attack, but was almost sent flying as it staggered backwards. Earlecumber was in such an awkward position because it was unbalanced, and also because of the power behind Tellestarle’s strike.
“....!! What terrifying strength, so this is the power of the strand crystal tissue!?”
Edgar groaned and leaped backwards to pull away. The back weapon could attack from unexpected angles, and the strand crystal tissue displayed overwhelming strength. Edgar repositioned himself as he threw away all the known tactics of dueling.
“Eh, really, I am getting used to abandoning common sense, how unpleasant!”
The holo monitor showed that Tellestarle had started to advance, coming after Earlecumber. It had given up the idea of a surprise attack, deploying its Silhouette arms onto its shoulders as it forged ahead.
“But I won’t back down so easily!!”
Simple back and forth movement will just make Earlecumber the target of magic shots. Earlecumber started moving sidewards, escaping out of Tellestarle’s attack range.
A heated battle started from the very beginning, which pumped up the audience in the training ground. Cheers erupted every time the iron giants crossed swords. Unlike the audience immersed in the heat of the battle, the maintenance students analysed the battle in low voices.
“As expected of Edgar, most pilots would have fallen from the first attack.”
“Helvi-senpai is piloting really smoothly.”
“Being the test pilot wasn’t just for show.”
The ones conversing were Eru and the Boss. For these two, Tellestarle moving in a situation close to actual battle was as valuable as gold. They observed carefully, analysing their every move.
The two machines clashed right in their field of vision. They thought the machines would struggle for quite a while with swords, but Tellestarle had an advantage in power, pushing Earlecumber’s sword back; but Earlecumber wasn’t a pushover either, pulling away from Tellestarle as if he had expected it, not letting Tellestarle gain the upper hand.
“Helvi seems to be relying heavily on the ‘power’ advantage.”
“The difference in power output is significant after all. I think this is the best way to gain the upper hand. To be honest, the controls have not been optimised yet, so she will lose if she relies on delicate controls to fight.”
The Boss accepted Eru’s commentary. Tellestarle had overwhelming energy and excellent explosive power. But as the control system had not been calibrated perfectly, it couldn’t perform delicate movements, and could only attack with crude steps. Edgar could see this and didn’t take the hit head on. Even so, Tellestarle, who could attack with the sword and back weapon simultaneously had the upper hand.
“How dangerous! I have to stop the Silhouette arms, it's too powerful!!”
Edgar, who was trapped, analysed the situation calmly. His opponent, Helvi, had grasped the feature of Tellestarle, and used the most effective ways to attack, to cover its weakness. Even though Edgar had noticed that the movement of Tellestarle wasn’t polished, but he couldn’t take advantage of it. If this was a fight between normal Silhouette Knights, Edgar would be about to lure the opponent to attack and counter. But it's another matter when battling Tellestarle.
The most crucial factor was the back weapon resulting in the difference in means of attack. The opponent could attack and restrain Edgar’s movement with unexpected timed attacks. He had less ways to attack, and will lose in terms of strength in a wrestle. It had nothing to do with skill; that’s how big the difference in machine performance was.
The students watching knew that Earlecumber didn’t mess up or was giving a handicap. Hence, even though its movement was still crude, the new model that was overwhelming the strongest man in the faculty brought the excitement of the crowd to the boiling point.
Earlecumber was gradually forced into a corner. If he doesn’t take a gamble and take out the back weapon, Edgar will definitely lose.
“I don’t like gambling… but it would be pointless if I lose without trying anything.”
Seeing Earlecumber in her holo monitor stopping, Helvi mumbled:
“... He is getting impatient. Edgar wants to bet everything on the next attack.”
Helvi knew her skills were not at his level, so she had to fight by relying on the performance of the machine. It was easy for Helvi to guess Edgar’s objective.
“He can’t make up for the power output of the strand crystal tissue… he is probably aiming for the back weapon.”
If Edgar takes the back weapon out, no matter how vast the gap in the power output was, he had a chance to aim for the weak point with precision and turn the situation around with his skills. Because both pilots knew this, the main objective of the upcoming scrimmage was decided.
The two machines pointed their swords at each other and stopped moving. The silence after the heated exchange was like a tightened string, and the tension grew with it. Before they realised, the audience had turned quiet, waiting for the end of the battle with bated breath.
The sharp sound of intake of air was suddenly heard, it was Earlecumber revving the ether reactor at full power. That sound was akin to the battle cry of the Silhouette Knights, and the tensed situation changed— Earlecumber charged. Out of all his choices, Edgar chose a direct assault. The iron Knight dashed with heavy steps which almost shattered the stone paved ground.
“Going head on in such a situation, that’s just like you! Good, I will do my best too!!”
No matter how wide the power difference was, if its momentum doesn’t match her opponent, Tellestarle won’t be able to take the hit. That’s why Helvi ordered Tellestarle to advance too. The scene of both machines clashing with a charge was reminiscence of the opening of the battle.
No matter how wide the power difference was, if its momentum doesn’t match her opponent, Tellestarle won’t be able to take the hit. That’s why Helvi ordered Tellestarle to advance too. The scene of both machines clashing with a charge was reminiscence of the opening of the battle.
Tellestarle used the attack which was to her advantage, the two Silhouette arms on her shoulders fired at Earlecumber. Earlecumber used its shield to defend while swinging its sword to deflect the shot. The sword mastery capable of deflecting magic shots was commendable, but swinging his sword right before clashing with the enemy meant giving up the chance to attack. Even the audience could tell. Tellestarle closed in on Earlecumber at this moment and was about to give a mighty blow. Everyone, including Helvi, thought that this ending was a letdown when Edgar, who took the initiative to attack, is being cut down like that.
Of course, Edgar didn’t swing his sword because of carelessness. He had decided to use the sword for defense right from the start. Gripping the crucial shield, it moved its fist near its shoulder to secure its hold. Earlecumber lowered its posture and threw the left side of its body forward.
“... What!? Shield bash!! He wants to clash head on!?”
Helvi sensed Earlecumber’s intention at the last moment and kept her sword. She would be at a disadvantage if she used her sword against Earlecumber’s shield.
Edgar’s plan was simple, even if his means of attack and pure power output loses to his adversary; Earlecumber still had an advantage over his opponent, which is ‘weight’. He used speed to make up for the difference in power and charged at Tellestarle like a bullet.
Piloting skills aside, Tellestarle had the advantage in terms of strength— Helvi had absolute confidence in this and decided to take the attack head on. When she discovered Edgar’s motives, it was too late for Tellestarle to dodge. She had already started to accelerate, and had to take the same actions.
Tellestarle raised its shield and the two Silhouette Knights collided shortly after.
At that moment, the loud bang of the collision reverberated through the entire training ground. The shields taking the full brunt of the impact deformed, splitting the two machines to the side on offense and defence.
Helvi, who hesitated because of the unexpected attack and Edgar, who was aiming to clash from the very beginning— His objective was to enter the melee range, that’s why he threw himself into this attack. Earlecumber didn’t forego the chance it gained after its heavy sacrifice, lifting its right arm which was still mobile, and stabbing into the Silhouette arms on Tellestarle’s shoulders.
“You are good!! But I won’t fall for that again!!”
Earlecumber’s left arm was heavily damaged and couldn’t move freely. But surprisingly, Tellestarle’s left arm was still working after that collision. The strand crystal tissue was damaged, but still showed its strength, pushing Earlecumber easily.
“What!? Not just the power, even the toughness was enhanced!? But I can’t miss this opportunity…”
“Just a bit more!! Tellestarle!!”
Earlecumber’s quick attack went over its opponent’s shoulder, destroying the Silhouette arms. But that’s the limit of his all out counterattack. Tellestarle’s seemingly endless strength pressed back at Earlecumber, pushing Earlecumber, who was in an unstable position due to the previous attack staggering backwards.
“Ugh! Did I push it too much?!”
“I got this! Edgar-!!”
Tellestarle charged at Earlecumber mightily. The off balanced Earlecumber couldn’t evade the attack, its wounded left hand was unable to lift its shield. Tellestarle raised its sword high, and was about to hack at the helpless Earlecumber—
But the sword didn’t fall, and Tellestarle knelt onto the ground.
It was hard to described the atmosphere in the training ground, maybe ‘dumbfounded’ and ‘stunned’ would be appropriate. Why did Tellestarle, which was about to deliver the final blow kneel down? Just by looking at the stunned reaction of Earlecumber, it was easy to tell this wasn’t the result of Earlecumber’s timely counterattack. No one expected this result just as the match was about to be decided at the very climax. No one knew how to react to this finale, and the entire training ground was shrouded in silence.
“...Ah! The mana had been exhausted!”
The shout of Eru, who figured it out echoed through the silent training ground.
“Well then, time for the maintenance department’s first after action review.”
Eru announced the start of the meeting with a serious expression. Inside the workshop, Eru, the Boss and their merry friends were all gathered here, everyone had an awkward expression. Even Eru who always does as he pleased looked distracted— he hesitated a moment and peeked at the reason of the awkwardness. What he saw was Helvi, who was squatting gloomily in a corner of the workshop.
The kanji ‘awkward’ could almost be seen coming out of her body. It wasn’t her fault, but ending it so abruptly after such a stellar performance, she would rather be defeated in battle. It’s no wonder she was sulking.
It was within their expectations for the prototype to have flaws, but it picked an awkward time to act up— That’s how one would frankly describe the feelings of the audience. No, the problem only surfaced because of their fierce fight before the conclusion of the battle. But these facts couldn’t console Helvi.
“Ed, Edgar-senpai, could you please cheer Helvi-senpai up…”
“Hey, why me!? Ugh, ahh, I will do my best…”
Eru, who couldn’t stand it any longer forcefully pushed Edgar to Helvi’s side. After seeing him go with a selfless expression, Eru turned his head back refreshingly.
“Phew, that should do. Let’s think about tackling the new problem that surfaced.”
“Don’t die, Edgar… Well, the problem is obvious. The greater the output, the bigger the consumption rate, it’s very logical.”
Everyone looked at Tellestarle which was placed on the maintenance platform and thought hard. Using strand crystal tissue to increase the power output led to a higher mana usage rate, depleting the mana reserves at a faster pace.
With the Silhouette arms being easier to use, the mana consumption rate was higher than expected. On the other hand, the amount of crystal tissue didn’t rise by much after implementing the strand crystal tissue method, so the mana reserves only increased slightly. This resulted in the flaw of shorter operational time for Tellestarle. The timing of this problem was bad, but it made sense when you think about it.
“Considering all these factors, the operational time is about half of a normal machine… This is very bad, right?”
“The worst. It could be considered a fatal flaw…”
The point of emphasis for this modification was the increase in power output, installing Silhouette arms and aiming functions and such. Anyway, they were all things that consume mana, so the imbalance of the modification rose to the surface. After years of tweaking, the Silhouette Knights were designed to store as much mana as possible, but it also meant the design couldn’t be changed easily.
That might be so, but sitting here sighing wouldn’t help either. In order to not let Helvi’s honourable sacrifice go to waste, they had to think of something to overcome that flaw.
“The main point is that the mana supply couldn’t keep up with the consumption rate… But it’s difficult to modify the source— the ether reactor. Or rather, it’s impossible.”
Even Eru couldn’t do anything about the mysterious reactor. His words made the students around him relax secretly. If Eru could customise that too, they would have all fallen over in shock.
“What about lowering the output? But, even so, it wouldn’t change the fact that the structure burns a lot of mana… and lowering the output would be putting the horse before the cart.”
“Another way would be increasing the mana storage capacity… How is the capacity increased?”
“Simply put, by increasing the amount of crystal tissue.”
“Can’t we do that, then?”
“If we increase the crystal tissue, the consumption rate would increase too.”
There would be no end to this.
“The strand crystal tissue has an intangible flaw. The amount of tissue didn’t increase much, that’s why the power output and capacity is unbalanced.”
This serious issue gave everyone a headache; this wasn’t something that could be resolved easily. But hope came from an unexpected source.
“How about using your idea?”
As everyone was silent in thought— Ady who didn’t say anything spoke up. Hearing Ady, who was usually quiet during conference voice her opinion, Eru asked:
“That’s right, ‘it’s fine even if the appearance is not human’! We can increase the tissues, but we don’t need to stick with the human form, right?”
“It’s fine… even if it’s not human… I get it. Correct, you are correct.”
For her, this was just repeating something Eru said. But the one who said it was surprised with his eyes widening, and he slowly squinted his eyes.
“Ugh, you are correct, but for Ady to enlighten me… I can’t believe it.”
“How mean!! Why—!?”
The Boss ignored the raging Ady and Eru, who was being chased. Ady’s comment reminded the Boss too, and they came to the same conclusion. Being fine even if it’s not in the shape of a human, doesn’t mean you had to use a shape that was inhuman.
“That’s it! Increasing the crystal tissue doesn’t mean it has to move. By connecting the silver nerves to it, and pushing it into excess space, it would be fine if we could increase the ‘mass’ of the crystal tissue!”
“Ke! I said, I am sorry! Kah!... Sorry, I apologise… Alright?... Boss, we should maximise the space usage, so we shouldn’t use fibre form but sheets… I think it would be best to employ the form of a sheet.”
Hearing Eru’s proposal, the Boss lifted his head.
“Alright, it’s decided. Next would be negotiating with the alchemist faculty and asking for their help. I will go ahead and greet them, leave it to me!”
After finding a solution to the critical issue, the air around the maintenance department relaxed. Eru was cracking his head, thinking of ways to soothe the piqued Ady.
The iron giant made a squeaking sound as it stood up. It was ten metres tall, more than five times the height of the humans in the vicinity. The rough armour maintained its original metallic shine, reflecting a dull glow from the sunlight. The sound of its armour clanking grew louder as it moved.
The giant moved its body to check its condition, and nodded at the person at its feet. When it had confirmed all the people in the vicinity had left, it started to move according to the instruction of the people around it.
The crystal tissue covering the arms of the giant started to contract from the effects of mana. Its body tensed and lifted both arms with emphasis and shot its elbows to the side. It stretches its arms, shoulders and chest muscles, with both feet planted firmly on the ground —’front double bicep pose’. Next, it took a light step forward, and put down its arms. Its fists meeting before its abdomen. Leaning slightly forward, it used all its might to pump its arm and chest muscle— the position that brings out the best of power and beauty, ‘the most muscular pose’. The iron giant kept on changing its pose.
“... What the hell is this… No, what experiment is this?”
“Hmmm? According to the explanation, it seems to be testing for crystal tissue parts that aren’t used much.”
“Who? Who set such an agenda?”
Looking at the experiment devised by a certain silvered hair youth and the prototype that was concentrating on doing all sort of poses, Edgar complained with a dumb look. Helvi was the one who answered him.
“Well, its fine if it is a proper experiment… Eh, is it fine? It’s fine, right?...”
“Is that so? Forget about that. Is the testing for unit two going well?”
“Yes. The pilot just changed shifts, but it is progressing smoothly.”
Before Edgar was another Tellestarle named as unit two, which was doing another set of tests. Other than these two machines with exposed tissues, other Tellestarle could be seen doing all sorts of movement tests.
The experiment ended with the great flaw of reduced operational time a few days ago, but new developments had started because of that mock battle. The flaw aside, because its discovery was too dramatic, it made everyone wonder if there were other critical flaws. That’s why experiments with repeated and large movements were set to filter out any more problems. Everyone agreed to the additional testing, but it couldn’t be done with just one Tellestarle, so they created more machines of similar models to deal with that. To do this, the maintenance team worked nonstop after the mock battle, and some were worried about the students being overworked to death.
In the end, they created five Tellestarle. They weren’t piloted by a handful of Knight Runners, but by a team working in shifts to complete the list of experiments. Thanks to this, no major defects were discovered. They also made improvements during this time period, steadily improving the level to its perfection.
Edgar and Helvi just happened to be both on break, and were chatting about how to adjust to the controls. Recently, they had been talking about the new models every now and then.
“... We need to discuss this part with Ernesti, too. Hmm? That’s right; I haven’t seen him around lately.”
Stopping his sentence halfway, Edgar remembered because of the name he brought up. They didn’t see Eru recently, which made Helvi troubled.
“That boy should be watching the experiments here; you can’t even drag him away. What happened?”
“... Did he run into some troubles…?”
Edgar’s expression stiffened slightly and he looked up at the clear sky—
“I’m not usually this free.”
“Really? So, what’s so special about today?”
Ady was hugging Eru and poked her head out from behind. Eru dodged her gaze with wandering eyes. Before them were the blue Silhouette armour and many other spare parts.
When Edgar brought up Eru in campus, Eru and his friends were gathered at the Tymomen Workshop. The development of Tellestarle was proceeding well with the efforts of the high schoolers. With nothing major requiring his assisstance, Eru, who was ‘bored’ immersed himself in the development of ‘equipment for Silhouette gear’.
“That’s right, we are busy; there are tons of things we need to test.”
“You are that free, but you only play with Batson! You only train with Chid as an opponent and you don’t go out much, how boring.”
This equipment was designed by Eru and made by Batson. The miniature armour was different from the Silhouette Knights. The challenge of making equipment for Silhouette gear spurred their desire for research. The passion of these two even made Ady, who was given the cold shoulder kick up a fuss. With Eru and Ady, who were playing casually at one side, Batson deftly opened the armour of the Silhouette gear to install the internal parts while Chid watched.
“I’m fine with it though. But you had made so many. What is that?”
“This is called ‘Wire Anchor’, ask Eru for a detailed explanation… As for its uses, see for yourself.”
Although they made about ten ‘first generation’ Silhouette gears, it wasn’t utilised because of the difficulty in the controls. It had become Eru and the other’s toy— correction, training tool. Only Edgar or Dietrich would use them for training. With Eru’s permission, they would visit every now and then.
“Oh yeah, Edgar-senpai was complaining a few days ago, saying it was harder to pilot after changing the crystal tissue into the strand type.”
Of course, the strand crystal tissue had moved on to practical applications thanks to Tellestarle. It had greater strength, but the controls were also more difficult, even Edgar had to give up on that.
“Anyway, it’s too pitiful to keep calling them ‘Silhouette gear’, it’s about time for an official name… right, how about Lucy Kimiko Akie Airi Shiori Rinne Yoshiho Ayano Tomika Chitose Sanae Mikiko Ichika!?”
“Too long! Pick something shorter.”
“Then, use the short version ‘Motor Beat’.”
“Hey, the short version has nothing to do with the name you came up with earlier!!”
“Motor beat… nice to meet you.”
After greeting his own Motor beat, Chid’s face stiffened. Oh no, he might have been infected by Eru. He facepalmed himself and shook his head.
“Well, since the name has been decided, time to show off the new equipment. Stop sulking Ady and help, alright?”
Eru finally soothed Ady and got on the blue Motor beat made to his size. He walked towards the yard of the workshop and pointed the arm of Motor beat at the wall that was higher than the building, instead of the target boards.
“Watch carefully… Wire anchor, fire!”
The sound of a shot followed the cheerful shout, an arrow shaped projectile flew out from the wrist— wires were attached to the end of the arrow, which kept coming out from the wrist. The arrow defied gravity and went at full speed towards the top of the workshop, and went over the roof at a sharp corner. The internal mechanism activated, turning the arrow into the shape of an anchor. Eru pulled on the wire to check if the anchor was secure.
“It’s stable, next would be… take off!”
The gears inside Motor beat’s arm made churning noises. Motor beat was pulled by the wire that was secured and he started running towards the wall and leaped. After ‘landing’ on the wall, it took several steps and ran up to the roof. After twisting in the air, the motor beat used air suspension magic to cushion its landing, stopping on the roof top gently.
Eru commanded the Motor beat to stand up slowly, focusing his script and mana on the arrow that was still embedded in the roof. The wire attached to the anchor contained silver nerves, and the script was sent to the crystal tissue installed in the anchor. The deployed anchor changed its shape, returning into its arrow form and was stored in its arm.
The arrow head was propelled by the crystal tissue built into it, using aero thrust intermittently to move. By controlling the direction of the propulsion, it could even change its flight path to a certain degree.
“Amazing, gear…. no, Motor beat got up onto the roof in no time.”
Ady and the others, who saw the entire process lifted their heads and watched. Even with their physical boost spell, climbing to the top of buildings while wearing armour was a tedious task. And, Eru managed to do that while wearing Motor beat which was even bigger. It was something that amazed them.
“Oh— it went well this time, Eru.”
“I had fallen so many times before! Let’s try the next one!”
“Ah, so it will fail sometimes… Eh, so you want to bring ‘that’ here?”
Eru jumped off the roof. Even Motor beat would be in trouble if it fell from such a height. It decelerated using air compression on the way down, and used air suspension to absorb the impact, kicking up a cloud of dust. Once it landed, Chid and Ady started dragging something out of the workshop.
They were holding different items. Chid was holding a giant bow, built mainly from wood and reinforced with steel. Behind the bow was a mechanism with gears. Chid looked at the thing he brought out and said:
“Eh, this crossbow is too big… is this a siege weapon?”
“You are right. To be precise, it is the mini version of a ballista.”
As Eru had described, that bow was large even in the hands of the Motor beat. It would be too heavy to operate without the Motor beat.
“Why would you want something this big… Ah— I see. You want to use the Motor beat to operate the ballista.”
“Not only that… Ady? Did you bring the ‘magazine’? Please put it in.”
Inside the cart pushed over by Ady were several box-like items known as magazines. It was as thick enough for a man’s torso, and would protrude out even when held by a Motor beat.
“Simply put, this uses strand crystal tissue on the bow string and loading mechanism, a weapon known as ‘Mobile Ballista’. By controlling the crystal tissue, you can shoot out the bolts freely.”
“I see. What about this magazine?”
“There are bolts in there and they would move whenever the bowstring was retracted, reloading after shooting out one bolt. As for the next part, it would be quicker to just show you.”
Chid followed Eru’s instructions; inserting the magazine into the front and centre part of the ballista. The catch clicked, securing the magazine in place.
After confirming that the magazine has been secured, Ady started transmitting script and mana to the ballista. The strand crystal tissue stretched to the limit, making the unique sound of crystal tissue being pulled. The gear connected to the pulling motion loaded a bolt onto the grove of the ballista. The next control was special: Since the crystal tissue is the bowstring, there wasn’t any mechanism like a trigger. Chid could control the crystal tissue directly in order to fire the bolts.
Chid commanded the crystal tissue that had been stretched to the limit to retract. The bolt flew out with a mighty sound. As Chid was aiming from a close distance, the arrow pierced the wooden target dead on. This bolt was shorter and thicker when compared to its bow. It might be relatively short, but since it was fired from a (mini) ballista, it was closer to a spear with fletching rather than an arrow. Utilising the power of the strand crystal tissue to its limit, while the bolts fired from the ballista couldn’t match mainstream weapons, they were powerful enough. The result was the bolt piercing the wooden target and pulverising part of it.
“...Eh, I don’t think we should fire this inside the city.”
“It’s fine; there is a really thick earth wall behind the range. Unless you use Overt magic and focus at one point, you won’t be able to break through it.”
Eru and Batson ignored Chid, who froze in place after firing it and chatted idly. Ady, who was hugging a magazine was looking at the bolt that demolished part of the target excitedly.
“Oh right, by using the crystal tissue, you can fire repeatedly. Depending on proficiency, you can fire a shot every five seconds. A magazine has ten bolts, so it could be depleted in a minute.”
“Phew! Is that so… let me try.”
Chid raised the ballista timidly. Breathing out to calm his mind, he started firing continuously. The rhythm of the churning and the arrows flying through the air continued for a moment, the bolts hit the target one after another. The target fell apart after the fifth shot, so he shot the remaining bolts onto the wall.
“A portable siege weapon that can be fired repeatedly, how frightening—”
“But, it is portable after all, though it is heavy and hard to control. It’s put together with spare parts and has low accuracy, so it needs numbers to cover for its lack of precision.”
“What do you want to do with this, Eru?”
“... Don’t you think challenging the limits and creating new things is something amazing?”
“You didn’t think about how to utilise this at all…”
Chid’s questions made Eru avert his gaze and smile nonchalantly. And so, the Silhouette gear slowly turned into a terrifying weapon without anyone realising it.
The movement tests of the prototype were about to finish when the alchemist faculty sent word that the ordered goods had been completed. Because the crystal tissue was in the form of a sheet, it was dubbed ‘sheet crystal tissue’. The new material was sent to the workshop one by one.
Past research on crystal tissue focused on how to effectively increase output from the contraction of the tissue, mana storage was only seen as a secondary function. But with the development of the sheet crystal tissue as a catalyst, the alchemist had also started researching crystal tissue that are used primarily to store mana. Doing the research from a different angle renewed their motivation; they would definitely come up with a crystal tissue that has large mana capacity sooner or later.
As for the prototypes that went through a long series of test, the results showed that there were no major defects except for the shortened operation period. The sheet crystal tissue became the last piece in the puzzle to make up for its flaw. In order to finish the project, the craftsmen started the modification project to increase the mana capacity of the Silhouette Knight.
“Eh, we are full of drive, but this isn’t working.”
Their original plan was to install the sheet crystal tissue into the space inside the armour. But, when they started researching it, they found the space to be smaller than expected. To avoid interfering with the crystal tissue used for movement, they couldn’t stuff the tissue into any space haphazardly.
And, so, they removed all the armour, covered the machine with a layer of sheet crystal tissue, and replaced the armour, using multiple layers. This was done in order to not affect the tissues responsible for movement. Increasing the mass of the tissue meant increasing the mana storage. By extending the operation time, it would be a success. But the results weren’t as optimistic. The guys moaned at the sight of Tellestarle.
“How fat, how lame…!!”
Even if they put their sense of aesthetics aside, the multiple layer method posed many problems. It drastically increased the machine weight and lowered mobility, even the power of the strand crystal tissue couldn’t compensate for that. The thick armour interfered with movement, and the melee combat ability. The crystal tissue layer could increase defence as a secondary armour, but with the disadvantages outweighing its benefits, they rejected this method.
“Too heavy! Let’s try to ‘slim’ him down.”
The next thing they thought of was to limit the parts with multiple layers. Considering its detrimental effect on melee combat, only the armour that didn’t affect the movements of the joints were installed with multiple layers. This method won’t increase the weight by much, but the crucial mana reserves won’t improve much either.
But the method of adding multiple layers was preserved, and was named ‘Capacity frame’.
“This is the limit of adding crystal tissue into the inside…”
“If we increase it anymore, it would affect the armour.”
The only solution left was to install the sheet crystal tissue on the outside. In order to avoid the problem with weight, they didn’t even install armour, covering it with cloth and wires, which was just barely better than exposing it. After researching where humans could store extra weight, they decided on the back or the waist, with the back being the best fit. They thought so, too, but it created another problem.
“Really, what a ‘stubborn machine’! Be more considerate!”
They removed the back weapon to install the crystal tissue, but the result of a heavy mass on the back was shifting the centre of gravity backwards, affecting melee fighting ability and control. Silhouette Knights were built to fight; it would be bad if the pilots couldn’t control it properly. And, removing the back weapon would invalidate the existence of the new model. They had no choice but to explore other methods.
“What the hell do we have to do?!”
“Let’s do all we can and test everything out.”
In the end, they decided to use the capacity frame and distributed the sheet crystal tissue on the outside. They added tissue that won’t affect the balance onto the back, and installed pockets of crystal tissue on the waist, too. They had to make adjustments to the equipment on the waist and were able to increase the mana capacity. They improved on its weak points, but there were still some problems with the operation period that remained.
In the end, the Silhouette craftsmen gave up on solving all the problems at this current stage. With their technology, they needed heavy crystal tissues in order to ensure a sufficient supply of mana. Everyone agreed that they should wait for the alchemist to develop a new type of crystal tissue with large mana capacity, solving the problem at its roots.
The modified Tellestarles were lined up in the workshop in standby mode. There were five of them with capacity frames, and had a more solid appearance compared to its earlier days. On its back and waist were pockets of sheet crystal tissue. It didn’t look like a mechanical customisation, giving it a feeling of being more human.
“That’s it. It’s not perfect, but that’s the best we can manage! It’s complete!”
The feeling of it being a rushed job couldn’t be waved off, but the craftsmen decided to change their thinking. The modification of the Tellestarle series was enough to cover its critical flaw, the highest level of completion they could hope for at the current stage. It wasn’t perfect, but these five machines still had the potential of being more powerful than the old Silhouette Knights, leading the way to a new generation of Silhouette Knights.
Seeing them lined up like this, the maintenance department and the pilots finally saw the completion of an entire phase. Everyone had different reaction when they saw the Tellestarle series; some were immersed in a sense of accomplishment, some were glad to be free from work, and some were already thinking about ways to improve the models. But all of them had the same expression of making it through a tough challenge, basking in the pride and glory.
The Boss had the same expression and turned to look at everyone, showing his teeth in a brilliant smile.
“Good work, everyone! You have worked too hard!! We still have many problems to tackle, but let's celebrate the completion of these fellows! After finishing such a big project, I don’t need to tell you what we need to do next, right!?”
Everyone lifted their hands and acknowledged the Boss loudly. They all came to a consensus, the entire pilot faculty held an overnight celebration party.
That scene could only be described this way: When the sky was dim and the surroundings enveloped in darkness, the celebration party morphed into the Demon realm. By the way, Fremmevira law dictates that only adults (fifteen years old) could drink alcohol. Eru and his friends didn’t take part, and the party was exclusive to the entire pilot faculty.
In the raving atmosphere with several people literally ‘flying’ into the air, one figure left silently. He blended into the noisy atmosphere and kept a low profile, leaving the celebration party which was a Demon realm in hasty steps and returned to his room in the dormitory.
The sky was dark; a light was lit in a room in the silent dormitory. After returning to the room, he shook his giddy head, drinking water to wash away the alcohol. His roommate was probably still drinking in the workshop. He relaxed and took out a stack of paper from the drawer of his table. There was an organised report on it, stating technology related to Silhouette Knights— including the prototype machine and strand crystal tissue.
He added details of the sheet crystal tissue and capacitive frame onto it. It wasn’t exhaustive, but it was enough for others to understand the gist of the prototype. As he felt his dizziness fade away, he felt satisfied with the content he wrote, and placed it back into the drawer.