When the silver phoenix spreads its wings
Editor: Darkdhaos, Chris S, alkin
The season moved into deep autumn in the blink of an eye, the chill in the air grew stronger with each passing day. The bone chilling breeze was blowing today, too, only the bright and cheery sunlight from the clear skies delayed the onset of winter.
This was an infirmary situated within Laihiala Pilot Academy. On the only bed within the room, Edgar slowly opened his eyes. This was a clean and bare room. The sunlight shining in at an angle pierced through the lacy curtain and into the room, giving his cheeks some warmth, gently stimulating his slightly opened eyes. He had slept for quite a long time, so, he couldn’t concentrate immediately and his sight lacked focus. His view was covered by a white fog, before everything gradually became clear. At the same time, Edgar recalled the situation before he lost consciousness, and struggled to get up in confusion.
Aches from all over his body were registered by his brain, stemming off Edgar’s thought of getting up. Within his confused mind, Edgar compared his current situation with what he last remembered. These were injuries from an intense collision and bruises from the machine parts that were sent flying. His life wasn’t in danger, but it wasn’t just a light wound. He relaxed after judging so, and rested his body onto the bed.
The pain prevented him from sleeping, so, he just laid there in silence. At this moment, he heard a cautious knock on the door. Edgar attempted to answer, but the dryness of his throat deprived him of his voice. He managed to grunt, but, the door opened before he sounded out.
“...! You are awake!”
The woman who entered — Helvi stared with widened eyes, jogging to the bed Edgar was lying on. In her hands, was a jug of water.
“Great… You have been sleeping for three days, I was so worried.”
Teardrops were glistening at the corner of her eyes. Edgar was surprised by the words ‘three days’. He wanted to express his apology and gratitude, but, only a hoarse sound came out of his mouth. Helvi, who noticed this slowly, slotted a straw into Edgar’s mouth, with the other end inside the jug. After moisturising his throat, Edgar relaxed and asked with his hoarse voice:
“... Sorry, Helvi. After that… After I lost conscious, what happened…?”
Even at this juncture, Edgar was still so serious. Helvi shrugged and pulled a chair over to sit.
“Alright, I will explain everything to you. There is time, so, don’t be hasty.”
After taking a sip herself, Helvi tilted her head and said:
“Well, first of all…”
In the Imperial Capital of Fremmevira, Känkänen; in Castle Shreiber situated at its heart, there were several figures along the corridors to the audience hall of the palace.
One of them was the King of Fremmevira, Ambrosius Tahvo Fremmevira. An elderly reigning Head of State, he was once a Knight in his youth, and has experience as a Field Commander. He had carried on with his training since those days and was strong and healthy. His majestic hair and beard were like a lion’s mane; his presence was as strong as before, permeating into the surroundings. A few steps behind him, was Duke Knut Dixgard. Compared to the King, he was slender and gave the impression of a sharp blade. But, right now, his face was shrouded in fatigue and anxiety, dulling his usual glint.
“So, thieves broke into Fort Casadesus through their schemes, and took the new model of the Silhouette Knights by force, is that right?”
“Yes. We have recovered most of the new model Silhouette Knights, but one of them got away. We have put up notice everywhere and are combing the grounds, but, nothing has turned up so far. It was my grave negligence; I have no words to defend myself. I am prepared to bear any punishment…”
“Knut, don’t be hasty. Instead of punishing you, I have more important things for you to do. If you want to take responsibility, put more effort into your work in the future and think about how to make up for it.”
With how serious Knut was, if the two of them weren’t walking, he would have already prostrated himself on the spot. But, facing Knut’s confession, Ambrosius waved and dismissed it.
“You strongly suspect the real identity of the thieves… to be personnel from foreign nations?”
“Yes, I believe it to be so. We are interrogating the thieves we captured for intelligence. But, they appear to have special training and are keeping their mouth shut. It will take some time to determine their true identity.”
“No matter what, we won’t need to be hasty as long as the thieves stay within our borders. It’s just a matter of time before we get them. Otherwise, their escape route would be limited to the Bocuse Sea of Trees or hiking up the mountain range. It is easy to deduce where they will go.”
‘Bocuse Sea of trees’. This forest was situated to the east of Fremmevira, and a realm that played host to countless Demon beasts. The recent attack of the Behemoth was still fresh in everyone’s mind, there might be a Demon beast stronger than that out there. Judging from that, it was easy to imagine how foolish it would be to seek refuge there.
On the other hand, the west of Fremmevira was populated by nations of humans— ‘western countries’. Going that way would require hiking up Mount Aubigne. The mountain range had always been known for its treacherous terrain, but, it wasn’t impassable. There were several easy passages built into the roads, with garrisons set up.
The problem was the alternate routes through the mountains. It might be difficult for regular travel, but it was possible to traverse through it, and the thieves might have prearranged such a route. There were no radars in this world. The surveillance effort of the mountains wasn’t just for show, but, there were gaps in the security which Ambrosius was aware of.
“Really, things are getting serious. It has been a long time since we had diplomatic talks with foreign nations.”
The reason why the Kingdom could survive with its national borders in such a battered state was because of its geographical location. Situated between the Bocuse Sea of Trees and the Aubigne Mountain Range, Fremmevira could be described as a ‘city wall’. For the western countries, the existence of this Kingdom was convenient and beneficial to them, solving problematic issues which would had troubled them otherwise. That was why they wouldn’t do unnecessary things and risk souring their relationship. The nations came to a similar consensus to not intervene in any way, and has a ‘turn a blind eye’ historical background with Fremmevira. That was the main reason why the Kingdom was relaxed in their security against the other nations.
“The next generation model of the Silhouette Knights were stolen. Once this has been revealed to the world, it would be impossible to keep it from spreading to the other nations. It’s too late to worry about that. We have to defend our mean of survival.”
And, in order to carve a path into the future. Both men were thinking about the same thing.
The audience hall of Castle Shreiber was spacious. This was natural as it was built to host Silhouette Knights within it. When a ceremony was held here, tidy rows of Silhouette Knights would line up at the side, displaying the majesty of the Kingdom.
Right now, the group inside the hall wasn’t Silhouette Knights, but a group of young adults. Simply put, they were the students from the pilot faculty of Laihiala Academy, and three children. After resolving the incident in Fort Casadesus, the ones staying in Laihiala had also been summoned, gathering almost all of the students in the pilot faculty.
The students stayed in this spacious hall, awed by the serious atmosphere as they waited for the imminent arrival of the King.
“Good, you may rise.”
Ambrosius looked at group kneeling before him and did away with the pleasantries with a casual tone. He then sat onto the throne gracefully. The Laihiala students lifted their heads, but, they were so nervous that their body grew stiff. This was natural since they were already tense in the presence of a Duke. A petite boy stood at the centre of the front row and seemed indifferent. Ambrosius smiled the moment he glanced at Ernesti. The next instance, his face turned serious, and said with a voice filled with dignity.
“First of all, I must congratulate all the students present for successfully developing a new machine model, well done. For a group still at school to accomplish an unheard of achievement, I feel proud and happy.”
Ambrosius’ words made most of the student blush from excitement. Some of them even looked shocked.
“Regrettably, there are ruffians disrupting this great work. We have done all we could to capture them, but there has not been any news, yet. We have prepared for the worst and assume the ruffians have escaped.”
The expressions of the students turned gloomy. They were overjoyed by the praises of His Majesty, but the cold reality pulled them back to reality.
“There is no need to be upset. They might have stolen one machine, but that doesn’t mean they have taken everything related to the new model from us. But, with the news of this machine made public, there will be conflict between nations over this new model. When that happens, we can’t afford to fall behind! From what I know, the new model had yet to be perfected. The reason I have summoned everyone here is to make it so. Without further ado, Ernesti. What do you need to perfect the new models?”
Eru thought for a moment, after hearing the King’s question and asked.
“There are two problems; one of them would take quite a while no matter what. The other problem… requires the assistance of the NTR Lab.”
Eru’s answer differed wildly from the guesses of most of the people present. They thought that Eru himself, or Eru and the students would complete the new model’s development. Ambrosius just wanted to know what he would need in order to accomplish that. But, Eru’s answer wasn’t facilities or materials, but the name of an organisation.
“There are many issues that need to be resolved for the new models, one of which is ease of control. The NTR Lab is experienced in this aspect; I think it would be most efficient to borrow their expertise. Also, if we are planning to adopt the new model as the base unit for Silhouette Knights, the production method would be very important from here on. Hence, the best way is to use the Karrdator which is the most populous model as a springboard and upgrade them. To achieve this, it would be best to rope in the NTR Lab, who are the most familiar with Karrdators.”
Eru had prepared these answers beforehand and presented everything fluently. In contrast, Ambrosius was a little disappointed and crossed his arms.
“So, you are saying that future development should be transferred to the NTR Lab?”
“I know this alone won’t solve the problem. We have to explain the details carefully to the NTR Lab. But, there is already progress for that. Thanks to the recommendation of Duke Dixgard, all my senpais present would definitely have a place in the NTR Lab. Every one of them is a member who took part in the research and development of Tellestarle from the beginning to the end; they will definitely see the new model into completion.”
Ambrosius squinted his eyes and stroked his beard. This boy had given much thought. As Ambrosius thought about this, something seemed to be out of place. His instinct told him he had missed something. In order to recall what that was, his eyes fell on the boy once again, and he got his answer.
“Yes, you have a point. As you have suggested, I will summon the NTR Lab to discuss this. For the completion of the new model, I am looking forward to your performance from now on… But, why wasn’t your name mentioned in your proposal earlier?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. I will soon be in the second year of middle school; I won’t be graduating so soon.”
At this moment the two thoughts of ‘Why are you bringing this up this late in the game’ and ‘Oh, that’s right’ flashed through the minds of everyone present. Even Ambrosius couldn’t conceal the surprise on his face.
“... As the King, it might be inappropriate for me to say this. But, at this point, do you even need to study at school?”
When they heard this, Chid and Ady, who were behind Eru trembled. If the King ordered Eru to stop going to school, they wouldn’t have any way of preventing that from happening. The words that made them rush to Casadesus swelled towards their throat, but, wouldn’t come out. The two of them could only hang their heads with their fists clenched and listen quietly.
The two of them didn’t notice that Eru glanced back at them.
“There is… a reason. Your Majesty, the reason I could work on the ‘new model’ project and finish it, was because of extremely good luck.”
Whenever the petite Eru spoke to Ambrosius, he had to look upwards. Ambrosius could see the shining determination in the boy’s eyes staring straight at him. He smiled and replied:
“Oh, so, you mean this incredible achievement wasn’t because of your own talent, but, simply great luck?”
“As you know, I am just twelve years old. No matter what ideas or methods I could think of, if there is no one to acknowledge it, I wouldn’t have accomplished anything. This achievement was thanks to the senpais in the pilot faculty for not treating my words as a joke, and taking it seriously. I don’t think there are many who would do the same for me.”
“Your work is outstanding; I can’t just dismiss it so simply. And, if I were to give the order, I don’t think the NTR Lab would ignore my words. If that was the case, wouldn’t the condition be similar?”
Eru lowered his gaze and shook his head slowly.
“That would cause unnecessary friction. The new model will become the centre of attention and would require long hours to research and develop. If unnecessary elements are mixed in, things that could have been done might become impossible.”
These words were right on the mark on what Ambrosius was worried about. The National Technological Robotics Laboratory was set up right after the founding of Fremmevira Kingdom. The organisation’s long years of research supported the development of all technology related to Silhouette Knights. The researchers were exceptionally talented and had a high level of pride. The pride of men was a troublesome thing, no matter how talented one was, or what their accomplishment was, it doesn’t mean the Lab could accommodate him. Especially with such a huge age gap, the problem of sending Eru there was obvious.
With Eru’s talent and his matured way of handling things, such minor issues wouldn’t set him back; that was how Ambrosius felt. He also thought the friction could be reduced by giving some ‘insurance’ to the students. After considering the potential problems, forcibly assigning Eru into the NTR Lab had more cons than pros. And, as Eru said, at the end of the day, It would be hard to say if the task could be finished at the NTR lab.
For the ‘final adjustments’, it would be impossible to accomplish it without the NTR Lab’s expertise. And, the finished product would be presented to the world by the NTR Lab, which would preserve their pride, a great way of resolving the problem; except for one thing. Ambrosius thought about that one thing and frowned deeply. Seeing Ambrosius’ troubled face, Eru smiled immediately.
“Please be at ease, I have not forgotten about the promise I made with Your Majesty. I would not give up on my goal to make the best Silhouette Knight ever. Hence… I will complete the next machine design before I graduate, please look forward to it.”
“... Wait, you are still doing that?”
Everyone in the hall heard the illusionary sound of people falling over like dominoes. Some of those present were literally holding their heads with a bitter smile.
“As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race. This time, I will plan carefully and think of a unique and perfect design!”
“No, that’s not the problem here!”
Knut who was standing by the side scratched his forehead and mumbled: “...He is talking about that…” Ambrosius glanced at him and suppressed his urge to laugh.
“The completion of the new model is important… But, doesn’t everyone want to design newer machines?”
Eru looked as if he was being willful, but everyone understood— This guy was just leaving the problematic finishing touches to others. Ambrosius couldn’t bear it any longer. Being with this boy made Ambrosius feel like he was reverting to his old self. His blood of a prankster was squirming.
“I see, as expected of a hobbyist. The NTR Lab would be motivated by a project on such a grand scale. Their expertise is guaranteed, they will definitely produce great results.”
Ambrosius laughed for a while, and, then reverted to his serious expression.
“Is this fine? I might tap into their expertise when making the next model, too, alright?”
“The development of Tellestarle was just an experiment. Thanks to that, I learned all sorts of knowledge and gain much experience. The end product has the potential to be the basis for future development. But, the mass production model that Fremmevira seeks is one that is flawless and has multi-utility. But, the machines I am planning to design doesn’t match these two criterias.”
Ambrosius ignored Knut, who stood stunned in place. The boy, who rewrote the development history of Silhouette Knights because of his ‘hobby’, was taking it to the ‘next phase’. Ambrosius was concerned because of his curiosity and the impact of Eru’s actions. Eru made history with just a ‘test’, what should be Ambrosius’ focus for the ‘next phase’, the completion of the mass produced models or…?
And, moving on to the ‘next phase’ would be dependent on this boy. The NTR Lab might be a capable organisation, but, they could not provide such a dramatic technological leap. Just from this point, it was clear what the answer should be. The problem was how to do that. Suddenly, inspiration struck Ambrosius like a comet. Ambrosius sat up, with a scheme in mind.
“I can agree with your reasoning, but I cannot approve of this.”
Knut saw from Ambrosius’ profile the nightmare that haunted him in the past.
“I cannot allow you to do as you please as a student. There is no need to wait for the construction of the next machine model, get it done as soon as you can and show it to me.”
Only Eru could hear the faint sigh that came from behind him. Even though Eru couldn’t do anything about it, he couldn’t trample the willful wishes of his childhood friends like this. As Eru was thinking of a scheme under the guise of his innocent face, Ambrosius continued:
“By the way Knut, since Ernesti expressed his interest in creating Silhouette Knights, his safety will be a concern.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“My safety? What is the problem?”
“Let’s see. The villains targeted the ‘actual product’ this time, but, if something like this happens again, there is no telling whether the source of this whole incident— you, would be in danger. You might develop another new machine. If they keep targeting generations after generations of machines, the enemies would feel that there is no end to this and take drastic actions. That’s why we have to ensure your personal safety.”
“We should assign him some guards.”
“That means what you need would be blacksmiths to bring life to your ideas, and Knights who can protect your life.”
Ambrosius relaxed his serious face which seemed to be a farce, and smiled without worries.
“And, these people must accommodate you without a hint of prejudice. Do you have any idea who could fulfill these conditions, Ernesti? Well? The answer is obvious, there’s nothing to consider.”
For a short moment, Ernesti Echevarria stood wide eyed on the spot in surprise. He moved moments later, turning to look behind him. As expected, all the students in the Laihiala pilot faculty focused their gazes on him. Even Dietrich and David were looking at him with warm eyes. The silence that contained a multitude of emotions fell between them.
“That’s right; the students of Laihiala. Everyone has experience in making the new model. I am looking forward to your performance once again. I hereby order the raising of a new Order of Knights. The members include Ernesti, and the ones who craft and pilot the Silhouette Knights alongside you!”
“An Order of Knights… Us?”
Eru, who was always smiling could feel the corners of his mouth cramping. In contrast, the smile on Ambrosius’ face was getting deeper.
“Since the Order of Knights has been raised, we have to name it. The scale isn’t big, so we shouldn’t assign it the colour blue? No, because of your duties, it should be a different category. Oh, the familiar ‘silver’ is a good fit. Am I right, Ernesti? Next, I will bestow everyone with the name of ‘Phoenix’. The ‘Silver Phoenix Knights’; that would be the title all of you will go by.”
This name spread out like a ripple with the mumbling of everyone present. Moments later, it had permeated into the minds of everyone— the ‘former’ students of Laihiala pilot faculty and Ernesti’s group.
“Ah, this is a Knight Order, but, it would take time to prepare a suitable place to set up base. There is a need for a temporary base in the meantime. Knut, is there anywhere that is suitable?”
“Yes. Everyone here is related to the Laihiala Pilot Academy. Since most of them are students, how about housing them on campus for now?”
“Hmm, a great plan. A place would be prepared by the time Ernesti graduates, so please don’t worry about that.”
Eru had no objections to this arrangement, and wanted to cheer loudly. But, that aside, Eru still felt a bit unhappy. That’s right; this was just an emotional issue. No matter how wonderful this proposal was, Eru still wanted to fight back a little to show his dissatisfaction.
“But, Your Majesty, wouldn’t this get in the way of handing the development issues to the NTR Lab?”
Eru brought this up casually, but this was still a potential problem. This was what Ambrosius was concerned about in the first place.
“Oh, yes, we need to solve this problem. Well, then, I will issue the first command to the Silver Phoenix Knights. ‘Give a solid blow to the arrogant noses of the researchers in the NTR Lab’. Show me how you will use the new Silhouette Knights to scare them out of their wits; teach them that age is just a trivial matter and tame them… Can you do that?”
Eru turned to the back again. He could see determination in their eyes. Seeing them nodding silently, Eru made up his mind.
“By your command… I will do all that I can to accomplish this mission.”
“... And that’s what happened.”
Before they realised, the sunlight was coming in at a steep angle, the glaring sunset was shining into the infirmary. After Helvi finished the story, she took a sip of water and rested. Edgar was listening with a serious face all this while, but, when the story became weird, his expression turned into a stiff smile. The words ‘I just heard a ridiculous story’ was written on his face.
“I want to confirm something. That Silver Phoenix Knights thing… does it include me?”
Was he afraid of being enlisted, or looking forward to it? Anyway, it was hard to tell from his stiff expression.
“Yes, but, it’s not mandatory; you can choose to turn down this appointment. There are no negative consequences for rejecting this appointment; you can still join any Knight Order after you graduate.”
“... By the way, did anyone quit, yet?”
Edgar already knew the answer, but, he couldn’t help asking. Helvi squinted her almond eyes that were similar to a cat, smiling happily as she gave the answer that had Edgar expected.
“None, not one person has turned it down.”
After hearing this answer, Edgar smiled wryly and rested his entire body onto the bed.
For a moment, the two of them were silent. Edgar suddenly recalled something important he saw before losing conscious. His expression turned serious, after finding the right words, he brought up this matter:
“... Helvi, I have something to tell you.”
Seeing Helvi continue smiling with her head tilted, Edgar chewed on his words, but, didn’t stop and finished his sentence.
“It’s about Tellestarle. The machine I fought, the one that got away… It was ‘prototype one’. That is your…”
Edgar couldn’t say any more; because Helvi’s finger was pressing on his lips.
“I know. I checked the other new models.”
Helvi lowered her gaze, considering her ties with ‘prototype one’, her reaction was unexpectedly calm. But, Edgar could see some hint on how she really felt.
This was enough for Edgar to make up his mind.
“I see. Helvi, I promise you.”
Helvi raised her head. Edgar held her hands tightly.
“One day, Earlecumber and I will get it back, or destroy it completely. I won’t let the thieves trample on our hard work, and your partner.”
Edgar’s determined words surprised Helvi. She blinked her eyes blankly and then smiled.
“Yes, I will look forward to that… Thank you.”She held Edgar’s hands as she replied softly.