Premonition of Crisis
Editor: Darkdhaos, alkin
In the southwest of the Fremmevira Kingdom, at the foot of the Aubigne Mountain Range, there was an extraordinary forest.
The locals called the forest the ‘Giant Tree Garden’.
It got its name because of the large amount of giant trees ‘colossal’ averaging one hundred metres in height.
The giant trees shot straight into the sky, the abundance of leaves blocking out the sun, which made the forest dim even during the day.
To support its massive trunk, the colossal had the tendency to occupy a large area with its roots. Thick and tough roots grabbed the hardened soil of the forest ground, coupled with the sparse sunlight, most vegetation couldn’t survive here. In this forest, survival was impossible without the permission of the ‘colossal’.
“Nothing strange… Really, the forest is peaceful today, too.”
Inside the Giant Tree Garden was a Fireteam of Karrdator (three knights) surveying the area as they patrolled. The colossal couldn’t grow in a tight area because of the space taken up by its roots, so the space between trees was large enough for Silhouette Knights to pass through easily. The place might be dark, but it didn’t feel enclosed.
“Don’t be so frustrated, peace is a good thing.”
The team stopped and watched their surroundings. But no matter how wide they opened their eyes, they couldn’t spot any movements. Only the massive trunk of the trees stood erect like tombstones. The air was still in the bare forest, giving it an atmosphere of stagnancy and decay.
“How long do we need to patrol like this?”
The team started moving again. The roots of the colossal were not affected by the weight of the Silhouette Knights at all, the force behind each step spread across the ground through the roots like ripples.
“This was what Master whose sleep was disturbed said. It might not be now, but something will happen sooner or later, that’s why we Alvanz have to perform guard duties like other units.”
Sound of bitter laughter could be heard from the Karrdator’s loudspeaker.
Leading the team was Zarks, who shrugged after saying that to his fellow member of Alvans, Tuva.
The patrols had been going on for quite a while now. It was natural for them to complain after seeing the same old dull scenery every day. That was why he didn’t restrain Tuva.
“That might be so, but they don’t really need to activate us, the guardians of the ‘Althusser Ravine Gate’…”
“Halt, something ahead, one o’ clock.”
Having kept quiet the whole time, the third person— Yunf cut off Tuva with a calm voice.
“Oh… let’s stop the chit chat. I will take the front, Tuva take the side, and Yunf will have our back.”
Zarks tensed and dash ahead after giving the orders, with Tuva and Yunf following behind. The team was cautious of their surroundings, reaching the abnormality spotted by Yunf in no time.
“These are… boulders? No… From the roots? A mimic?”
The large bulge from the ground looked like a boulder that could be found anywhere, but it wasn’t normal to find them on top of the roots. However, it was easy to identify it if one was to think of it as a creature the size of a Silhouette Knight’s hug and mimics boulders.
“Oh, it’s a shell? This is definitely a ‘shell beast race’. I don’t see any other shell beast around, did this one get lost from its hive?”
Zarks identified the creature immediately, but frowned when he thought about the features of such beasts.
The food chain of the forest made up of the special tree colossal was unique, too. As described earlier, colossals did not allow other vegetation to grow, and wasn’t suitable for consumption by animals as it was too hard. Only a small number of special insects could survive in this forest. In contrast, shell beasts were carnivorous, and it was unnatural for just one of such type of herd beast to show up in an environment with sparse food supply.
“What should we do? Zarks, if it was just one that got lost, is it fine to leave it alone?”
Zarks only mumbled a vague reply after hearing Tuva’s suggestion.
“... Zarks, the other side.”
When he noticed, Yunf who was guarding the rear had already walked in front of them, pointing with his arm. Following the direction of the arm, Zarks and Tuva were dumbfounded by what they saw— there were more than one shell beast. Figures of similar boulders could be seen everywhere.
“Impossible… Such astonishing numbers. This is bad, they didn’t get lost! Are they a group, or…”
A clicking sound could be heard from somewhere, like the groan of hard shells rubbing against each other. One of it had awakened, and as if a trigger was pulled, a second woke, followed by a third and so on.
Needless to say, the sound came from the shell that looked like boulders around them.
“These fellows are scouts just like us! Retreat, Tuva, Yunf, their main force nearby must be close!”
The boulder like shell rose up slowly, revealing skinny legs which dragged the shell covered body forward.
“Jackpot... Yunf! We have to alert Althusser Ravine Gate no matter what! So they are a shell beast swarm? If this continues…”
The squirming shell beasts turned their eyes to watch the Alvanz. Making clicking sounds, they push the branches aside and close in on the Silhouette Knights.
“Giant Tree Garden will become a playground for them… And they will invade the Forest City!!”
The Alvanz team had already started sprinting without considering a fight, reporting the abnormality was the top priority. A large number of demon beasts began to screech, loud enough to cover the noisy footsteps of the Karrdator.
The serene forest turned chaotic in a blink of an eye.
As the season shifts to autumn, the scorching sunlight became gentle and the weather turned colder. However, the summer left behind a dangerous parting gift.
— One day, a rider came to the Royal Capital Känkänen.
When the report arrived, the King Riothamus and the nobles were having their periodic conference.
The agenda of the conference was about the activities of the demon beast in the various territories, the budget, as well as combat forces of each noble’s land. The distribution of the limited numbers of the new machine models made the discussion even more heated.
A messenger soldier barged into the relatively peaceful conference. For emergency messages above a certain level of urgency, soldiers were allowed to not stand on ceremony.
Seeing how panicked the messenger was, Riothamus had an ominous feeling and frowned— After seeing the message handed to him by the messenger, his expression stiffened. The first line ‘Top Secret level 1’ was reflected in his eyes. Top secret referred to highly classified matters when a problem occurred within the nation. Only the most urgent and dangerous situation were classified as level 1, so this was definitely not good news.
This wasn’t an exception either, the message mentioned about danger approaching the Forest City. Reading on, Riothamus forgot to maintain his composure, standing up after kicking his chair aside.
“This is really… the worst news.”
Riothamus who excused himself from the conference invited his father— Ambrosius over. The message contained highly classified information; he couldn’t just discuss it with anyone.
After hearing a brief account from his son, Ambrosius said this immediately. After dismissing everyone else except for his father, Riothamus hugged his head.
“The report stated that the threat came from shell beast type. It had made contact with part of the garrisoned knights; the problem is their scale…”
“Their numbers were stupendously large, right? The reason why shell beast swarm appears… ‘Hive splitting’ right.”
Ambrosius appeared calm, but he couldn’t conceal his disgust. Shell beasts were a special type of demon beast. There were many demon beasts which live together in groups, but the scale of the hive beast swarm was abnormally large. Aside from that, their society was similar to ants and bees, which was common knowledge.
At the centre of the group, well guarded by hordes of soldier class beasts, there was a ‘queen shell beast’ that was responsible for reproduction.
The queen would get replaced periodically every several centuries, only one queen will usually emerge during this replacement. However, there were times when two or more queens emerged, which led to the phenomenon of ‘hive splitting’. The queen that couldn’t wrest control of the majority will migrate, and search for a new nest.
“The problem is that we don’t understand the true scale of it, so we can’t gauge the necessary forces required.”
For the threat level of shell beasts, one soldier class is equivalent to just a duel level demon beast, but the difficulty was in handling a large group of them. The difficulty changes according to the numbers, and could even reach battalion level, equivalent to a behemoth.
Normally, forces won’t be dispatched recklessly without knowledge of the scale, but the Forest City made them hesitant to stand idly by.
That place was strategically important because of a certain reason, a place that was not made public because of secrecy. The guardian knights Alvanz was even stationed there to defend the place. But they might not be able to handle the crisis this time.
“That might be so, but we have to act. Even if it goes against their ‘law’, we have to send an army to purge the beasts. Most importantly, we have to avoid the inhabitants from being wiped out.”
Since they didn’t know the scale of the enemy forces, they had to deploy a powerful army and disregard information control. Should they choose secrecy or safety? Facing the first major challenge after taking the throne, Riothamus tried to make this difficult decision.
Seeing his son deep in thought, Ambrosius also pondered their options.
What they need was ‘forces that could limit the spread of information, powerful, and ready to be deployed immediately’. Was there such a convenient existence? Searching through the experience he had while reigning as King, Ambrosius couldn’t find a clear answer.
They were stuck in this situation, but needed to act fast. As the heavy atmosphere hung over the room, someone barged in suddenly.
“Sorry for intruding! I heard that grandpa came to the Royal Castle…”
It was the second Prince Emrys. Seeing how carefree and ignorant he was, the King and former Regent lost their drive and sighed at the same time:
“Now is not the time for greetings, something terrible is happening…”
“Sorry, eh, I was thinking about a training match with grandpa using the Gordesleo…”
That instant, Ambrosius turned sharply to Emrys. The word Gordesleo reminded him of something, and inspiration struck—
“... Yes, isn’t there a Knight Order just right for the job? A small group of elite, experienced in large group battle against a battalion level demon beast. If we delegate it to them, we won’t need to worry about secrecy.”
When he heard the former regent’s words, Riothamus came to the same conclusion. Fremmevira Kingdom was full of talents, but there was only one Knight Order that fits this exemplary bill. Seeing a ray of hope, he slowly uttered that name.
… Silver Phoenix Knights!!”
“Ah? We are asking the Silver Commander to make something again?”
Only Emrys didn’t know what was going on as he looked at his father and grandfather in confusion.
On that day when the terrible news reached the Royal Capital, an unexpected visitor came to the base of the Silver Phoenix Knight, Fort Olvacius.
As the sun sets in the west and moments before the darkness shrouds the land, a Silhouette Knight charged into the fort with incredible speed. Everyone in the hangar was surprised to see the Silhouette Knight ‘Silver Tiger’ that was emitting a dim glow. It was obvious who this Silver Tiger was given to.
Eru couldn’t conceal his surprise when he rushed over after hearing the news to meet Ambrosius who was alighting from the Silver Tiger. Even though the former Regent was a free man after abdicating the throne, it was still a huge thing for him to visit personally.
“Your Excellency!? I didn’t know you were visiting, what is the matter?”
Ambrosius did not answer Eru, but surveyed the fort as he listened to the Order members gathering at the hangar. When most of the people were present, he spoke:
“Ernesti, no, Silver Phoenix Knights! I hereby announce the decree by His Majesty, listen well!”
Ambrosius shouted loudly with a stern expression. He did not show such regal aura even for the Casadesus Incident, making the tense Order members straighten their posture as they listened.
“I will make it clear, the things I am about to tell you are not permitted to be disclosed, understand? Getting to the point, shell beasts… A large number of demon beasts have shown up. I can’t give you the details, but they are heading towards an important base right now, we have to defend the place no matter what. However, we are already one step too late. To make up for it, we need speed as fast as the wind and power as mighty as a tsunami! Silver Phoenix Knights. Now is your chance to deploy the Centaur Knight, the pride of your Order!!”
After his speech, Ambrosius walked to Eru’s side as if he was trying to be discreet, and said in a volume only Eru can hear:
“... The place being attacked is known as the Forest City, where the Ether Reactor in our nation is produced.”
Eru’s eye opened wide.
The former Regent nodded in response to Eru’s trembling gaze. Compared to the fact that he had just learned ‘the top secret of this nation’, Eru was more concerned and angry about the demon beast army advancing on the vital base that produces robots. For him who devoted everything he had to his hobby, it struck a landmine in his heart. He immediately used a tensed voice even his childhood friend had never heard before to issue orders:
“Silver Phoenix Knights, prepare for the entire order to move out! Rider mode two, red one load out, roll out when you are ready! Main objective is to secure the target area and exterminate the demon beasts!!”
After a moment of silence, everyone started moving as instructed. From the visit of the former regent, the urgency displayed by their Commander and the content of their orders, they had the premonition that this will be a terrible battle.
Rider mode two, red one load out— this refers to using Tzendrinble and the wagon for the fastest movement speed, and heavy fire equipment to fight demon beast at the battalion level or above. Concisely speaking, it was a formation for fighting a behemoth in mind.
The Silver Phoenix Knights usually had a casual atmosphere, but they were also veterans who had been through danger multiple times.
Their movements were fast and firm, and in no time, the roar of all sorts of engines came from the hangar.
“Connecting the wagon—! Back, back, back, good! Move forward—!”
Tzendrinble from the third squad was the main force that was readied. Under the guidance of the craftsmen, the Tzendrinble in the hangar was connected to the wagons. Craftsmen in Motor Rad ran all over the place to do the fine installation works.
While the wagon was being readied, the first and second squads were equipped with their ‘option works’ of choice. They put on the equipment developed by themselves with pride, and the Kardetolle with red one load out showed themselves.
The Motor Rads performed task such as moving parts and installation, taking over the task that would usually require Silhouette Knights or human power to complete. Using it in such a manner was what the developer— the Knight Commander of the Silver Phoenix Knights was great at.
Within the noisy hangar, Eru walked towards the Boss who was giving out orders loudly. The Silver Phoenix Knights would be deploying their maximum force, and the Boss intended to do his best.
“Boss! I will deploy in Toybox, please ask Chid and Ady to prepare ‘rider mode three’!!”
This was out of the Boss’ expectations. He stopped his movement and was stunned.
“You want to use rider mode three with Toybox? That is a prototype which can barely walk, are you insane? I don’t need to tell you this, but I have no idea how long they could last in a real fight.”
“I know it has its issues, but to draw out the potential of Toybox, I will need the load out for mode three. If it can move, it can easily slaughter hundreds of demon beasts.”
Eru answered the Boss steadily. He was doubtful, but the Boss couldn’t stop Eru. They had known each other for years, and he realised that Eru was raging with anger under that smile of his.
“I get it! Hey, set up the brat’s horse with mode three! Huh!? Don’t ask so much, just do it! They will figure it out themselves!!”
As they conversed with resignation, they continued the preparations with amazing speed.
Silhouette Knights from the second squad boarded the wagons of the third squad that was ready. Every Tzendrinble could ferry two Kardetolle with maximum load out, craftsmen in Motor Rad chained the Kardetolle in standby position onto the wagon to secure it.
Maybe they were affected by the hot bloodedness of their Commander, but everyone moved faster than their usual training. After a quarter of a watch (thirty minutes), a grand cavalry army appeared before Ambrosius. This was a powerful force made up of the three squads of the Silver Phoenix Knights.
“Woah, I did hold high expectations… But this was beyond what I imagined.”
The formation of the Silver Phoenix Knights that exceeded what the former Regent imagined and surprised him. Even though they were the only unit that used Tzendrinble, how did they come up with such a method? Forcefully pushing the query aside, Ambrosius got on to the Silver Tiger.
A large wagon pulled by two Tzendrinble came over, with a Karrdator that was put together messily on top. That was Eru’s Toybox.
“The entire Order of the Silver Phoenix Knights is ready to deploy. Please give the word, Your Excellency.”
In front of such an astonishing display of force, Ambrosius took some time to suppress his smile, and jumped onto the wagon with his Silver Tiger. He drew his sword and raised it high.
“Well done! Listen well everyone! This battle will decide the fate of our nation, I have high expectation of all of you! We are going southwest, move out!!”
The sound of the hooves banged against the earth, and all the Tzendrinble moved together as one. Under the guidance of the former regent, the Silver Phoenix Knights advanced bravely towards the southwest of the Fremmevira Kingdom.
Behind them was the Boss, Batson and the other craftsmen left behind at the fort. They stood together to cheer and send off this army that left in a grandiose fashion.
Click, click— the wave of cold hard noise echoing through the forest was too numerous. In the end, they merged as one, producing an endless ripple of echoes.
Click, click— the wave of cold hard noise echoing through the forest was too numerous. In the end, they merged as one, producing an endless ripple of echoes.
The usually lifeless cemetery like giant tree garden was full of shell beasts.
The Alvanz knights killed one after another, the stream of soldier shell beasts seemed endless. Frankly speaking, they looked like giant hermit crabs. With six walking appendages and two fore leg, its body was covered in exoskeleton and a large shell on its back. The exoskeleton on it was tough, and edged weapon used on them will turn dull immediately, that’s why the Alvanz used warhammers to smash them along with their shell. Despite that, defeating one wasted a lot of effort, coupled with the enemies’ amazing numbers, it was a dangerous situation.
“Hah! There is no end to this!”
“Tuva, move your hands if you have the effort to spare, complaining won’t help.”
“I know that, but this is dragging on too long!”
Zarks fought bravely, as they try to keep the last line of defense, Althusser Ravine Gate from being surrounded by demon beasts. They took the initiative to attack as defending the fortress was their primary mission, so they can’t retreat so easily. The situation was dire, and the worst part was the scale being larger than what they imagined, as they attempt to hold back the flood futilely.
“Everyone, this is hard and troublesome! If I knew this would happen, I would have asked for the new models from NTR Lab. The power of the Dash would make this easier!!”
“Stop thinking about such useless things!”
Zarks’ team remembered the prototype machines they piloted. If they had those powerful machines it would be easier for them to handle.
The Althusser Ravine Gate wasn’t issued with the new mass produced models— as the number of Karrdetolle was limited, even strategic strongholds had limited access to these new models.
“Anyway, just focus on taking down the enemy in front of you!”
Alvanz struggled in this intense battle of attrition. However, contrary to their firm determination, they were gradually pushed to the edge of defeat. Furthermore, a greater threat struck them without mercy.
A shriek was mixed in with the countless footsteps and clashes of hammers. Before the knights realised something was wrong, another shriek rose again. Zark’s Karrdator was knocked down out of the blue. Not only did he lose his balance, he also lost part of his armour.
“What… Ranged attack!? From where? Zark, you alright!?”
“My shoulder was hit! No… Problem, I’m good. Luckily it hit my armour, the armour is gone now, but my arm still works!”
That attack obviously didn’t come from the soldier shell beasts, if they could do that, there was no reason for them to hold back. Tuva and Yunf lifted their shields to protect Zarks, wary of something that was attacking from afar. The next second, Yunf yelled as he pointed with his hammer.
“Look, far back in the centre! There’s one that is skinny!”
They followed Yunf’s direction and strained their eyes. On the other side of the disgusting number of shell beast swarm, there was a strange shell beast. Its claws were very long, and to balance itself against its long forelegs, the shell on its back also extended backwards, giving it a long and skinny appearance. It was easy to tell its true identity.
“Oh no… That’s a sniping shell beast.”
Giving no regards to Zarks and the others, the sniping shell beast assumed its attack position. This foreleg act like a barrel, with a thorn bullet made by its body loaded in. Channeling some of the air in its lungs to its foreleg, the beast proceeded to activate the air compression spell. The ability to use magic was the reason why it was known as demon beasts. The compressed air expanded explosively in the inside of the foreleg, shooting out the thorn bullet with the high pressure.
The thorn bullets shot out with a crisp sound of explosion. In the dim environment of the giant tree garden, it was impossible to see and dodge the high speed of the thorn bullet. A Karrdator that didn’t belong to Zark’s team was hit and fell. That wasn’t the only sniping shell beasts as more emerged from the forest, attacking sporadically from a range, crumbling the defense line of the Alvanz.
“Shit! This is bad.”
The defense line that was barely holding against the soldier shell beasts was falling apart from the powerful range shots of the sniping shell beasts. Alvanz did not have time to plug the gaps that was filled by the soldier shell beasts, and had to retreat.
If they can’t block the attack of the sniping beasts, they might be pushed all the way back to the ravine gate. They had to hang on.
Despite his worries, Zark continued searching for a way out.
The colossal trees were spread too far apart, it would be hard to use them as a shield, and there were nowhere to hide in the forest. At this instant, Zark’s Karrdator stepped on something hard, which was the carcass of a shell beast. Inspiration struck and he shouted on reflex:
“Make a barrier… Pile up the dead shell beasts! We can block the range attack of the sniping shell beast that way! If it is just the soldiers, we can hold them!!”
When they heard this, the Alvanz around him acted immediately. Grabbing the carcass by their feet, they bashed the shell beasts pouncing onto them and pile the carcass directly on top. The knights dodged the sporadic thorn bullets as they slowly built a wall. There was no shortage of materials as the ground was filled with carcass everywhere, covering the entire ground.
Shortly after, a wall of carcass was piled high before the Alvanz. The sniper shell beasts made crisp sound as they fired, but was deflected by the pile of bodies. The barrier performed as intended, the hardiness of the shell beast saved the Alvanz this time.
Alvanz avoided the threat of the ranged attack and could finally focus on the soldier shell beasts that were climbing over the wall. Zarks felt satisfaction from his effort as he listened to the sound of the thorn bullets hitting onto the exoskeletons. Without the support of range covering fire, the soldiers had nothing to be afraid of. Their situation turned from being dire to having room to spare.
At this moment—
“Is that… an earthquake? No, it can’t be, what is happening?”
A certain heavy and shaking footsteps could be heard from the colossal tree. It didn’t belong to the soldier shell beasts or the sniping shell beast, but something larger and more solid. The sound coming from the other side of the barrier made Zark forget about what he felt just now and click his tongue. They blocked the ranged attack, but also obscured their view of the surroundings, too.
In the meanwhile, the tremour grew closer— Alvanz took a stance and the wall before them exploded. The carcass of the shell beasts were torn into pieces, falling on top of the Alvanz like buckshot. There shouldn’t be any shell beasts that could use explosion spell, so what could that be? When the dust cleared away, the answer stood before them.
“This is… ‘drill shell beast’!?”
What appeared before them was a shell beast that was incredibly huge, several times that of a soldier shell beast, even taller than a Silhouette Knight. Compared to other demon beasts, its legs and torso were exceptionally stout, and it’s shell thicker and harder. However, the exoskeleton on its abdomen was smaller. It was practically a moving boulder.
The drill shell beast wiggled the mandibles by its mouth, making shrill noises to intimidate the Alvanz. Zark felt a chill on his back as that pair of protruding eyes stared right at him.
An ominous shaking hit the forest once more, washing over them like a tsunami. Without even looking, they could tell that there were dozens of drill shell beast coming towards them, as if they were pushing aside the soldier shell beasts. The moment they reach Alvanz would probably be the moment Alvanz dies.
“Is retreating to the Ravine Gate our only choice? How long can the walls hold off the drill shell beast? The City Forest is right behind the Fort.”
Zark moaned. The ‘Althusser Ravine Gate’ was the last line of defense for the Forest City, they had to avoid endangering it. But they were running out of options and had to take that route.
“... The scale of the swarm is too big. Since sniping shell beast and even drill shell beast are here, this is not a ‘hive split’. Is a matured ‘queen shell beast’ migrating!?”
For shell beast, the weaker queen shell beast would be the one splitting off from the original site, since the stronger one would natural dominate the hive. The swarm of a new queen shell beast were limited, and usually consists of just the soldier shell beasts.
However, the swarm invading the giant tree garden wasn’t just abnormally large in scale, and even comprise of multiple types. Could this be a migration instead of ‘hive splitting’? The only thing they were sure of was that the Alvanz and the Forest City was on the brink of defeat.
Alvanz fell back towards the Ravine Gate in despair as the drill shell beasts methodically destroyed the barrier they erected. The attack from sniping shell beasts rained down on them and the screams of the Alvanz echoed in the battlefield.
“Run! We have to reach the Ravine Gate no matter what!”
‘Althusser Ravine Gate was built outside the giant tree garden with its back to the mountain, as if it was an extension of the ravine of mount Aubigne. Most of the space was taken up by the city walls, a fort that focused solely on defense. In order to protect the strategic location in the Fremmevira Kingdom— the forest city, the walls was tougher than that of the Royal Capital.
The Alvanz who fell back from the giant tree garden ran into the city one after another. Outside the walls, Zark’s team who volunteered to be the rearguard fought off the drill shell demon beasts that pursued them relentlessly. The shell beast was powerful in its charges, and was unexpectedly quick on its feet. If they ignored it, the team would definitely be hit by it.
Using the Silhouette Arms culverin, they aimed at the feet of the drill shell beast in order to slow it down. Their shots at its exoskeleton would be deflected, so they focused on disrupting its vision.
“How’s the status of withdrawal!? Is it done!?”
Even though it flinched because of the columns of fire, the drill shell beast did not slow down, closing in gradually. Zark’s team was at their limit. Before they knew it, their allies had fallen back into the Ravine Gate and they were the only ones left. If they hide behind the walls, they will have a brief respite from the threat. The Ravine Gate was wide open, waiting for them to go in.
“Yunf, Tuva, we will retreat just like this! Hurry… But we can’t let these fellows in.”
Zark and his team were planning to put some distance between them and the shell beast and escape, but the surge of enemies didn’t allow them to do so. Zark saw the other two machines retreating slowly from the corner of his eyes while he continued slowing the shell beast, blocking its way.
“Zark! Enough, fall back!”
“It would be disastrous to retreat any further; the gate won’t be able to close in time.”
If Zark went into the gate, the shell beasts will flood in like an avalanche before the gate could close, so he couldn’t run anymore. A single machine couldn’t buy much time either, so he steeled himself.
With the drill shell beast right before him, Zark threw away his Silhouette Arms and took up his war hammer. The sound of shell beasts crawling gradually filled the surroundings.
“If I can take one of its legs, it will buy some time for us…”
He mustered his diminishing fighting spirit and advanced. He could feel the tremour from the ground and groans like thunder some distance away. Focusing on one of the legs, he tried to give his most powerful blow.
As the Silhouette Knight and shell beast was about to clash, Zark saw something strange from behind the swarm. Unlike the shell beast he had been battling, something bright in colour was fluttering in the wind. He didn’t understand the situation, and squinted his eyes to see.
That was a flag, there was no mistake. The sword and leaf that represents the vegetation, along with a shield. The flag of the Fremmevira Kingdom, with the emblem of a silver phoenix holding a sword with its wings spread. It was impossible for demon beasts to hoist a flag, so it belongs to…
There was only one answer—
Zark regained his composure in no time and acted quickly. Dodging the strike from the drill shell beast that would had taken him out, he turned around and ran. The footsteps of the drill shell beast followed him towards the gate. The variety of noise increased at this moment, something that was like horse hooves. And it was giant horses that were extremely heavy.
Alvanz saw this scene from the Althusser Ravine Gate, too. Something charged through the shell beast swarm, dispersing them, it looked like a wagon being pulled by two horses. But the horses pulling the wagon were too queer. The place where the horse’s head should be had the upper torso of a man, a half man half horse monster. Wielding giant lances, they trampled over the soldier shell beasts like wooden shreds.
The mysterious creature charged relentlessly at an amazing speed, kicking the minions aside, and reached the frontlines of the shell beasts in no time. It gave a heavy blow to the flank of the drill shell beast closing in on Zark. The drill shell beast slowed down because of this unexpected blow, giving the wagon the chance to move to the front.
After pulling away by inches, Zark charged into the Ravine Gate and closed it immediately. Zark turned his head and saw from the gap of the closing gate what the situation outside was— the Centaur Knight between the Fort and the shell beast, as well as the giant wagon it was towing.
He knew the identity of the reinforcements; he had faced them in battle before. Remembering the scene back then, he sighed in relief and muttered:
“... I see, you guys are here. That’s a relief.”
The intense sound of air intake shrieked in response to his mumbles. One of the Order of Knights serving the Fremmevira Kingdom, the Silver Phoenix Knights finally reached the battlefield.
“Haha! Seems like we came just at the right time!”
On the stationary wagon, the Silhouette Knight on top prepared to launch. The steel wires were taken off one by one, the Knight that was free from its bounds stood up. The bright golden armour and the chest plate designed in the shape of a lion— the second Prince’s personal machine ‘Gordesleo’. When he heard there will be a major battle, he couldn’t stop his urge and came along.
Emrys turned to the drill shell beast before it and picked up the great sword in the wagon. He was fearless before the gigantic demon beast, or rather; he seemed to be enjoying himself.
“Great, that big fellow there, I will use you to test Gordesleo’s sword, a great honour for you!”
The drill shell beast didn’t understand what he meant, but still pounced on Gordesleo. The enormous boulder like body charged at the puny knight before it with the intent to crush everything in its path. Gordesleo did not dodge and met the attack head on. Flexing the crystal tissue within its entire body, Gordesleo swung its great heavy sword. Both parties clashed and it turned into a battle of strength. The vague sound of something shattering sounded out, and the foreleg of the drill shell beast flew into the air. As requested by its pilot, Gordesleo became the personification of the pursuit of strength. This included the pilot himself.
“Haha! Excellent, let me show you… Roar, Gordesleo! Eat my ‘Blast Howling’!!”
Emrys pulled the trigger on the joystick, which opened the shoulder armour on the Gordesleo, revealing the internal engraving. The Silhouette Arms on the back also deployed, and both of these started churning. This was a giant magic that combines multiple Silhouette arms, the special Silhouette arms of the Gordesleo— Blast Howling. This overed spell belonged to the air control type.
The air around Gordesleo started gathering and spinning around it, the high density refracted the light and twisted its appearance. Gathered and compressed air was released in the pointed direction, becoming a shockwave. The powerful wind was just like the roar of the king of beasts, shooting accurately at the drill shell beast before it.
The single minded concept of pursuing strength could be seen in Gordesleo. Sacrificing flexibility, the roar of the beast king that raised the power to the maximum shattered the drill shell beast’s exoskeleton easily. The appendages of the demon beast that was supported by tough muscles were twisted and torn in impossible angles, spraying its body fluids everywhere. The power of the shockwave blew the demon beast that was much larger than a Silhouette Knight into the air, killing it instantly.
“Fufu, haha— this is awesome, awesome! This power is radical!!”
“I am glad that you are satisfied, Your Highness. Putting that aside, there are a few drill shell beasts left, can you take care of them majestically?”
Emrys who took out the giant beast in one shot laughed heartily. Behind him, Eru’s Toybox stood up slowly.
“Fuhaha, leave it to me! My Gordesleo and I will… What the hell, why did my mana reserves drop so much!?”
“Eh, that’s the price of power. Or rather, it was obvious that such a powerful attack drains plenty of mana.”
“... Forget it. Let’s see how many I can take out first! Another drill shell beast!? Haha, wait for me!”
Emrys kicked the soldier shell beasts out of his way with his Gordesleo and charged into the forest.
“Ho, I didn’t expect to reach here so fast, that was an eye opener. I was hesitant because of the price of the Centaur Knights before, but maybe we should have built more.”
Mode three pulled by two horses was similar to the prototype wagons, and could ferry up to three Silhouette Knights; Toybox, Gordesleo, and Ambrosius’ Silver Tiger. Ambrosius mumbled something totally unrelated to the battle and turned to the gate behind him.
“Ernesti, I will make it clear first. I will leave the demon beasts to you, make as much ruckus as you like. That should be what you want, too, right?”
“By your command, thank you for your concern… We will head out and take out those damned demon beasts.”
After letting the Silver Tiger alight, Tzendrinble mode three moved forth once more. Seeing it trampling over the soldier shell beasts and disappearing into the centre of the swarm, Ambrosius smiled wryly.
“It seemed that he will really wipe the demon beasts out. That is not a problem, but…”
Ambrosius stared at the fortress that was at a loss because of the intervention of the Silver Phoenix Knights, and ordered it to open its gates.
The fierce wagon ferrying the Knight Commander, former Regent and a prince headed for the gate, while the rest of the Knights— The Tzendrinble squad charged deep into the giant tree garden.
“Wow, they are everywhere!”
Seeing the shell beasts that flooded the forest, captain of the 3rd Squad Helvi frowned. They heard that they will be facing a huge amount of demon beasts, but seeing it for real still made her feel disgusted.
“Forget it, let’s get to work! All units prepare to stop and separate in front of the swarm!”
The Tzendrinble squad followed their squad leader’s instructions and split towards either side, leaving space for it to brake to avoid colliding with each other. The connection parts on the horses started churning, separating from the wagon. The shrill sound of metal on metal friction erupted along with sparks, braking as it verged on the edge of flipping over. The Centaur Knights left the wagon that braked in a cloud of dust and moved off.
Once the ten wagons were parked properly, loud noises could be heard from the still cargo. With the sound of ether reactor churning and air intake pumping, the noise became louder. The mana was sent to all parts of the machine. The steel knights began to awaken.
In the dark giant tree garden, a bright armour of pure white emerged. Its crystal tissue started flexing, giving rise to a chorus of high and low pitched sounds. Personal machine of the 1st Squad Captain Edgar— the white knight unbuckle the wire securing it and stood up.
“First Squad move towards the fort and widen the frontlines. Di, I will leave the work of opening the road there to you.”
The 1st Squad gathered to Edgar.
Maintaining its original metallic green with a giant white cross painted on it, these Karrdetolle belonged to the 1st Squad.
“Yeah, alright. Second squad split into fireteams and take a charging formation, clear the road to the fort. We will deal a crushing blow to them later!”
On the other side, a bright red armour appeared.
That was the personal machine of the 2nd Squad Captain Dietrich— a crimson knight. The 2nd Squad Karrdetolle that followed him was painted with a large scarlet cross. They held swords, spears, great swords, war hammers, halberds, staffs and Silhouette Arms, all of them offensive weapons. This was why they were known as the ‘gangbangers squad’ in the Silver Phoenix Knight.
The one leading the way was the Captain himself. Their machines were strengthened; even their swords were wider and heavier. The strengthened offensive machine swung its sword and easily sliced the soldiers through shell and sinew. The 2nd Squad behind him widened the path created by their Captain, paving a way made of demon beast carcasses through the forest.
The 1st Squad went through the passage where the enemy numbers dropped drastically, successfully taking the only road to the Ravine Gate in no time.
“Next will be the real fight! Don’t let your guard down and wipe out the demon beasts. Maintain the defensive formation and advance, push them back to the forest!”
The 1st Squad responded to Edgar’s command loudly. For them, defence wasn’t just protecting their own safety. Similar to how Edgar bashed the demon beasts with his shield, the tactic of pushing the frontlines ahead straight on was a form of offense that came from powerful defence.
Silver Phoenix Knights which had the powerful new models might not match Alvanz in numbers, but they displayed overwhelming combat prowess. The demon beast swarm finally realised their adversaries were too much for them to handle. The shell beasts used their unique communication method to summon the drill shell beasts, roping them in to expel the enemy. When he saw the giant demon beast coming at them, Edgar slightly raised his eyebrows on his stern face.
Before he could do anything, someone already acted.
“Hmm, it is impressive… Well, not as tough as the behemoth. Leave these types to me.”
After Dietrich said what he wanted, Guyalinda started running.
The shoulder and waist part of the machine started to deploy, opening up the back. The sound of air intake started revving, and a ring of explosive fire appeared behind Guyalinda. It turned into a heat wave in an instant, accelerating the machine drastically.
Guyalinda was installed with Magi Jet Thrusters. It might be a simplified version of the original; it would be just as useful if used adequately.
The movement of the shell beasts couldn't keep up, and Guyalinda reached the drill shell beast before it could speed up. When Guyalinda rush by the shell beast, it shot the lightning frail embedded in its gauntlet at the beast's head. The accelerated metal piece was more powerful than its size suggests, smashing right into the protruding eyes, crashing the eyeballs and shell as it pierced into the beast's body.
"Here's the tip."
Right after this, the in-built Silhouette Arms in Guyalinda's gauntlet groaned. Tactical level electricity coursed right into the shell beast through the wire. Even the tough giant beast couldn't withstand the direct hit to its head. After spasming for a while, it collapsed.
As Guyalinda was trying to end it coolly, Aldelecumber pushed him aside and stood before him with flexible coat deployed. Thorn bullet was deflected by the coat the next second away from the knights. Aldelecumber's cold stare pierced the stunned Guyalinda,
"Don't be careless, Di. We might have the upper hand, but the enemy isn't weak."
"Alright, alright, yes. you have a point. Phew, I'm saved!"
While the two were conversing, the shadows squirming in the shadows, sniping shell beasts renewed their attack; the thorn bullets came flying with a crisp explosive sound. Di knocked the bullets away with his swords, but was stopped by Edgar when he was about to charge the demon beast.
"Leave that to me, that's my area of expertise."
It was Aldelecumber's turn to assault. The flexible coat on its shoulder moved as it ran. The barrage of thorn bullets changed its trajectory after making sparks on the angled armour.
The sniping shell beast had powerful ranged attacks, but was weaker in other aspects. Their strange body shape made their movement slow, ill fitted for melee combat. These types of demon beasts requires soldier to guard it in order to maximise its power.
However, Aldelecumber who thought nothing of its prided range attack was its natural nemesis. Despite its limited intellect, the sniping shell beast realised the approaching danger and fired multiple times, but none of it hit.
Maybe it was to protect the sniping shell beast, or maybe they just want to repel the enemy, the soldier shell beast formed a wall before Aldelecumber. Edgar operated the flexible coat silently. The improved version of the moveable armour flexible coat had Silhouette Arms on the inside of the armour surrounding the machine.
As he opened the armour, Edgar targeted the demon beast and fired consecutive magic shots with the guidance of the aiming system. The fiery bullet flew with an orange burning tail behind it, landing accurately onto the soldier’s body before exploding under as dictated by its script. The blaze from the fiery bullet blew the abdomen along with its exoskeleton into shreds.
In the face of the unstoppable Aldelecumber, the sniping shell beast stopped its resistance and prepared to escape. But unfortunately, Edgar won’t let it flee.
Adelecumber closed its distance to the slow sniping shell beast and raised the small kite shaped shield on its left arm. This shield might be small, but its edge was much sharper, similar to arrow heads. Using the momentum of his sprint and the flexibility of his crystal tissue, the focused heavy strike pierced the sniping shell beast. The shield which was tougher than a sword structurally stabbed into its head, the impact shaking the entire body of the demon beast. With the sound of a shattering bang, the sniping shell beast collapsed in a heap and died.
“Squad, advance! We will meet some resistance, but nothing we can’t handle.”
“Roger. Second Squad! Surround the drill shell beasts; take them out one at a time!”
“Roger. Second Squad! Surround the drill shell beasts; take them out one at a time!”
Even the powerful drill shell beast couldn’t faze them; the only advantage the shell beast swarm had left was numbers. The soldier shell beasts flooded their enemy in an attempt to overwhelm them, but someone intercepted them with a heavy blow, as if they were waiting for this. It was the 3rd Squad made up of Tzendrinbles.
While the 1st and 2nd Squads were displaying their prowess, the third squad had been charging around the forest in formation. The orderly ranks of the Centaur Knights charged at the same time, leaving a trail of destruction behind, massacring the enemy one sidedly.
The charge of the Tzendrinble was unparalleled, but their strongest point was in their mobility. The Centaur Knights moved around the battlefield freely, the more they ran, the more carcasses they left behind. The enemy was disrupted by the charge and unable to use their numerical advantage, which sealed off all their means of attack they had.
The appearance of the Silver Phoenix Knights made the situation for the shell beast swarm dire.
The tide of the battle turned drastically hence forth.