News that the capital city of Kuscheperca, Delvincourt, had fallen, and the results right after the invasion were reported back to Žaloudek Kingdom. Ruling on behalf of King Baldomero who was bedridden— The First Prince Carlitos sat on the throne in the middle of the palace, unable to suppress his joy as he announced to the nobles present:
“According to the reports, after successfully subjugating Delvincourt, the forces around Kuscheperca are gradually dissolving. It won’t be long before we annex the entire Kuscheperca under our rule. After that, the Western League of Nations is as good as ours. The largest empire since the fall of Father Aburdene will be founded… The remaining minor states would be nothing more than pests.”
The gathered aristocrats expressed their compliments. Žaloudek and Kuscheperca were the two largest nation in the west. It’s as he said, the combined territory of these two countries (along with those of the Locard Allied Union) would mean the birth of a gigantic country spanning most of the western continent. After all the hardships experienced by Father Aburdene during its fall, it had finally seized the entire west once again— they were one step closer to realizing this ambition.
“As you gentlemen already know, we took action only after meticulous preparations. With this in mind, Cristóbal’s performance has been exemplary, his prowess makes him the strongest blade of Žaloudek.”
After hearing Carlitos’ joyous speech, the gathered nobles all expressed their agreement, and the hall was filled with cheerful laughter. At this moment, a young woman came before the throne, with the crowd parting to make way for her. Her sharp features resembled Carlitos a little, and their attire were similar too.
“Cristóbal did well. The subjugation is proceeding smoothly, but it should be about time that things become too much for that child. As agreed, I will head there to assist in the administration.”
The eldest daughter of King Žaloudek, Catalina Camilla Žaloudek said her piece. Her elder brother nodded with a wry smile.
“That’s right, Cristóbal is good at waging war, but has no talent in statesmanship. That’s why we need you, do lend him your kind assistance.”
The Second Prince Cristóbal is a battle maniac— This was a well established fact for everyone except himself. On the other hand, the First Princess Catalina wasn’t suited for war, but excels in administrative matters. In order to govern the vast new territories, her abilities were indispensable. With the encouragement from her brother, Catalina answered with a curtsey and retreated from the throne.
“Consequently, we can now invade Kuscheperca Kingdom without any worries. Are there any movements from the surrounding nations?”
A man that gave off the aura of a warrior stepped forth to answer Carlitos’ question. He was a Knight Commander who stayed behind to defend their domestic borders.
“Yes, Your Highness. Eleven Flags made some moves when we launched our invasion, but they had been exterminated by the Lead Bone Knights. Please don’t worry and attack as you wish.”
“Excellent work. Tell them to keep working hard as our defenders.”
The Knight Commander bowed deeply and stepped back. Carlitos confirmed all matters of importance, and sent his regards to those in charge. As the proceedings went on, it was finally the turn of a man who stood in a corner of the audience hall with a long face.
“...Lord Collazo! Your work is wonderful. The Levitate Ship you invented is the vessel that guided us to victory.”
“I am honoured for the chance to contribute to this nation. My talents are mediocre, but I will put in my utmost effort to serve.”
Even though he said that, the man was only superficially respectful, and lowered his head with a bored expression. Carlitos snorted softly, then reverted to his smiling face.
“Impressive. Please carry on your good work for our Black Knights.”
“... By your will. I will head for the workshop right this moment with haste, and do all I can for the Black Knights.”
The man bowed stiffly, then left the audience hall with haste. The contents aside, his attitude towards the acting monarch was deplorable. In fact, several nobles frowned at this sight.
“... That man. Isn’t he rather impudent in the presence of His Highness?”
“Forget it, let him be. He might be crude in his manners, but he is valuable enough for me to overlook his rudeness. I need him to continue slaving hard for this country.”
Carlitos deepened the smile on his handsome face. The aristocrats around him looked as if they couldn’t accept it, but they couldn’t refute the acting King, so they just avoided the matter with ambiguous attitudes.
After leaving the audience hall, the man hastened his pace through the palace passageway and took off his outerwear roughly. He only exhaled in relief after loosening his tight collar. Formal wear was elegant, but was hard to breath in. Under his outerwear was a medium built body that didn’t look trained. From this, it was clear that the man wasn’t a knight or a craftsman.
“Sigh, the acting king is scary. Never mind, it’s thanks to his support that the Levitate Ship get to take to the sky.”
His name was Horacio Collazo. He had yet to celebrate his 30th birthday, but he had already climbed to the top of Žaloudek’s national technological development, and held the important post of central research workshop director, a fast track career.
That was because he — or rather, his clan— and the theory they propositioned, which was acknowledged by the weapons they developed, propelling him to his current status. His clan discovered the theory of ‘Pure Ether Usage’. The power that moves this world was Mana, and their focus was on the form Mana had before that, Ether, which yielded a wide variety of technologies. With the official funding by Žaloudek, they achieved a crucial result, the ‘Etheric Levitator’. This engine that was the representation of the ‘Pure Ether Usage’, and the first practical flying ship was born in human history.
“I am very grateful to His Highness, but this is getting overwhelming.”
The debut of the Levitate Ship coincided with the completion of the new Silhouette Knights model, as if a powerful force was pulling the strings from behind.
The royalty of Žaloudek inherited the same ambition every generation, which was the revival of the legendary super country that dominated the entire west through force. The power of flight granted by a new theory, combined with combat strength that couldn’t be matched by the old generation— the new model of Silhouette Knights fanned these flames of ambition.
“Things are getting hairy, the sharp gazes of the nobles is sure prickly.”
Bringing the ‘Pure Ether Usage’ theory out from their home town was the wilful decision by Horacio alone. He had a dream, and to fulfill this dream, he needed a large amount of funds, the backing on the level of an entire country. That was the reason he went as far as betraying his clan in order to help the Žaloudek Kingdom. From the way things were, his plan was moving in the direction of being realized.
“Ara~ where might my Levitate Ship be soaring in now? I wish this useless war will end already, I want to fly freely in the sky soon.”
He looked up into the sky from the corridor, and a moment later, his plain face turned serious. He walked towards the Levitate Ship hangar with large strides again, preparing to return to the central research workshop that was as good as his home. As only a limited number of Levitate Ships were built so it wasn’t widespread, he had the authority to use it as a personal means of transport as its inventor.
“Oh? That is…”
When Horacio reached the hangar, he happened to run into the princess who was about to board a Levitate Ship to Kuscheperca, Catalina. He then recalled the conversation he heard at the audience hall and an idea came to his mind. He hurried to Catalina.
“Pardon me, Your Highness Catalina, can I have some of your time?”
“You are… Horacio? What’s the matter? Isn’t your ship over there?”
Catalina was confused by Horacio who appeared suddenly, and pointed to the ship right beside hers.
“I know that Your Highness. I just wish to enquire about something with you.”
“... I need to hurry to Kuscheperca, please make this quick.”
Horacio offered his thanks, then gave a long speech:
“As I have said to Prince Carlitos, my job is to strengthen the power of the Black Knights and the Levitate Ship, but this isn’t something that can be done by being holed up inside my workshop. I need information… And the easiest place to get those is from the battlefield where the Black Knights and Levitate Ships are being used frequently… Kuscheperca.”
Catalina’s eyebrows twitched.
“In order to utilize my full potential and strengthen our nation, could you allow me to go with you to Kuscheperca?”
Horacio suppressed his urge to smile, he was bowing respectfully after all.
The forest region of old Kuscheperca Kingdom.
The sun illuminated the forest through the gaps between the tree leaves, and a group of riders and a carriage was advancing slowly. As the road wasn’t paved, it would be too much for the carriage to pass through the uneven path, so they had to move slowly. On top of that, the mistresses of the carriage had to keep a low profile, which meant that they had to travel inconspicuously.
As for the reason, it was clear by observing the people on the carriage— a girl who had a tired looking face, and was expressionless due to being worn out. She was the princess of Kuscheperca, Eleonora. Sitting opposite her was Martina, the wife of King Kuscheperca’s brother. While the one sitting beside Eleonora looking on anxiously was Isadora, Martina’s daughter.
“Eleonora, be strong. I am vexed by what happened to His Majesty too… But you will need to support this Kingdom now, and expel those people out of the nation.”
Even though Isadora was talking to her, Eleonora had no reaction, bobbing her head like a broken marionette. Martina frowned as she watched, and her expression grew stern. Eleonora had been like this during their entire escape. Her beauty that had been famed and likened to a blooming flower was now hollow and lackluster, similar to a lifeless doll to be toyed with. Isadora couldn’t stand it and kept talking to her, but it wasn’t effective.
That night, when Delvincourt was sacked by the Steel Wing Knights, they only escaped from the capital because of the King’s sacrifice. Their original plan was to head east, since that was the territory of Martina’s husband— Prince Fernando. There was no better place to hide the princess who survived.
But the Steel Wing Knights stopped their plans. As the late King Aukusti predicted, the Žaloudek army was laxed after defeating the King, but they discovered that the other royalties were missing shortly after. In the West, they had the practice of inheritance by bloodline, so leaving the scion of the King alive would be a troublesome matter. This was why when they extended their claws all over Kuscheperca, they also pursued for any trails of the escaped royalty.
Ever since they saw the ships flying in the sky, Martina’s group decided to prioritize secrecy on this journey. After all, along them was a person who inherited a noble bloodline, and was the last hope of the Kingdom of Kuscheperca, so they couldn’t take any risk. The escorting knights were also doubly cautious, careful to not let any news leak, limiting their contact with towns to the absolute minimum, choosing to travel through the forest far from any settlements. Such covert actions that drained resources and energy can only be maintained by force of will and hope. For a flower raised in a glasshouse, it wouldn’t be surprising if she had already forsaken hope.
… If this goes on, even if we escape successfully, her heart won’t be able to take it.
This escape had too many uncertainties, but the thing Martina was most concerned about was Eleonora’s condition. After reaching the territory, Eleonora who inherited the direct bloodline would need to become the symbol of Kuscheperca Kingdom and rebuild the nation. But she lacked the conviction to lead the masses.
Martina peeked at her daughter. Despite the dire situation, Isadora’s heart did not falter. Although she was concerned about Eleonora, Isadora did not show any signs of being depressed. Isadora had always been a tomboy who liked to mimic the knights, so this was a good quality to have under these circumstances. Martina couldn’t help but think that it would be great if Eleonora had a tenth of Isadora’s strength.
The carriage ferrying the individuals with their own woes stopped suddenly. There was a tense air about the knights so obvious that even those within the carriage could feel it.
“!... What’s going on!?”
Martina opened the window and asked the knights sharply. A knight mounted on the horse turned back and replied:
“Forgive me for not dismounting. Scouts reported sighting anomalies in front of us.”
“Is it the enemy?”
“It is uncertain. But to be safe, we should make a detour…”
As the knight answered and was about to turn back, they heard a sharp whistling sound. An arrow pierced the head of the knight. Before the gasping Martina, the figure of the knight fell off the horse and out of her sight.
“Enemy attack! Enemy attack!”
“How is that possible? Aren’t they further to the front!?”
“Anyway, let’s hurry. We will become targets...Hya!?”
The sudden attack threw the escorting knights into confusion. In the meantime, soldiers with crossbows appeared from the trees one after another, decimating them mercilessly. The ambushing troops all wore armour with the same design, with the emblem of the Žaloudek army on them.
While the number of their knights was decreasing, the driver of the royal carriage set off immediately. He was also a trained knight, and was right in making this judgement. Unfortunately, he was still too late.
A sudden glaring orange light appeared on the carriages’ route of advance, and was followed by an explosion. The intense flame and impact killed the horses instantly, and the carriage tumbled on the ground, bouncing a couple of times.
Immediately after, heavy footsteps could be heard from the front, the clinking of steel armour, sharp screech of the churning Crystal Tissue and the vague sound of air being sucked into the Ether Reactor were getting closer. Its true identity goes without saying, belonging to a black armoured giant knight— Silhouette Knights slowly appeared from the forest.
It wasn’t just one, but six Silhouette Knights surrounded the carriage. The giant knights in black heavy armour were the new mass produced model from Žaloudek, the Tyrant, that ravaged the capital a few days ago. The Back Weapons protruding from their rear were ready to fire, one of it still had signs of firing a shot recently, emitting a faint glow.
Many soldiers appeared at the feet of the Tyrant, encircling the fallen carriage tightly. A man in standard issued armour split the group of soldiers wielding crossbows and staves, and appeared to be the captain. Seeing no further resistance, he announced in a loud voice with a smile:
“The people inside the carriage, come on out, it is futile to resist.”
But there was only silence. After being ambushed and taking a heavy blow from a magic shot, this was only natural. The captain snorted unhappily and warned again:
“We are not concerned about your lives, we will be fine with blowing you away like this.”
In concert with the open threat, a Tyrant aimed its Silhouette arms at the carriage. At this moment—
After enough time past for a sigh, there was finally a response. The man raised one eyebrow, and the door of the fallen carriage was kicked opened from the inside. As the Žaloudek soldiers raised their weapons in surprise, a figure climbed out of the carriage slowly. It was Martina. She leapt on top of the carriage, and surveyed the grunt soldiers from high ground.
“Hmmp, you even brought Silhouette Knights, making a mountain out of a molehill. And? You don’t even dare speak to an unarmed woman without holding a weapon in hand?”
She had a slender built for a woman and was trained, so she adopted the position of looking down at the crowd the moment she stood on top of the carriage. Her dress was slightly dirtied from the long journey, but her authoritative aura wasn’t affected at all, and even intimidated the rank and files. The face of the captain was also a bit stiff, but he remembered the current situation, and adopted a superficially respectful attitude.
“Isn’t this consort Martina? It is a great honour to meet you in person…”
Martina frowned, ignored the captain and surveyed the surroundings. She was completely surrounded, and there were Silhouette Knights on standby a further distance away. On the other hand, all the knight escorts had been defeated, the situation was very dire. Even if she used herself as a decoy, she wasn’t certain if she could let Eleonora and Isadora escape. Unsure of her chances, she could only bite down on her lips.
“We have orders from His Highness Cristóbal to capture you, please don’t make any futile resistance… His Highness also said that if we can confirm your identity, it doesn’t matter if you are dead or alive. If you cooperate, I promise we won’t be too rough.”
The man’s tone implied that he had absolute control, which made Martina frown with displeasure. But no matter how rebellious she was, she wouldn’t resist in such a situation. After all, the giant knights that could turn human into minced meat instantly was intimidating her silently, any resistance was meaningless in their presence.
“To think I would be a step behind… I miscalculated. No matter what, Silhouette Knights are hard to deal with.”
When he heard the vexed murmurs of Martina, the captain showed an irritating grin and said:.
“Ah, I forgot to tell you. From the direction the carriage was heading, you probably planned to head into the eastern territory right? You can only seek refuge with the King’s brother. But regrettably, we just came from the eastern territory.”
Even though Martina had a tough front despite her vexed feeling, she showed signs of panicking for the first time.
“C-Could it be… you…!”
“You are smart enough to know the reason right? The pride of our nation, the Levitate Ship fleet! The Steel Wing Knights had already subjugated Fontanier of the eastern territory ahead of you!”
Martina felt the illusion of the ground beneath her feet falling away, and she could hear her pulse pounding beside her ears. Steeling herself with the worst prediction, she squeezed out the last ounce of her strength to glare at that man. He made a show of looking scared, then dealt the final blow.
“Oh right, I heard the King’s brother unfortunately died during the assault. And so, the only royalties left in this nation would be you all. There is nowhere to run.”
Martina fell on her knees weakly, her chest seized gradually to the depths of despair. The hope that she had clung into during the entire journey had been crushed mercilessly.
Ahhh… It’s all over. Brother-in-law and my husband are gone… who will save this Kingdom now…?
The soldiers had surrounded Martina who had given up. Nowhere to run, no strength to fight. The troops captured Martina and the girls trembling inside the carriage.
The last hope of the old Kuscheperca Kingdom— Princess Eleonora’s group fell into the hands of Žaloudek. This news was more than enough to eliminate the will of the old Kuscheperca nobles.
This happened in C.E. 1281, when the early summer wind was starting to blow. Žaloudek captured all surviving royalties of Kuscheperca and the Kingdom itself, completing the invasion.
The towering Aubigne Mountain Range was covered in clouds, marking the borders of the Western League of Nations. Between a valley, there was a road paved through the earth. This road was named the ‘East-West Highway (Occident Road)’ and leads to the east— one of the few ways leading into the Fremmevira Kingdom. Despite the powerful demon beasts running rampant in Fremmevira Kingdom, it also held fertile lands blessed by Aubigne. Merchants would scale the mountains and travel through here from time to time.
On this day, there was a caravan that came to the west through the East-West Highway. It’s convoy of wagons meandered along the relatively even roads, each one of them carrying a vast amount of goods. They seemed to be very successful merchants.
The caravan moved smoothly, and at this moment, the leading wagon gave the signal to stop.
“What is the matter, Young Master?”
“... Something is amiss. The flag flying at the checkpoint is different.”
A checkpoint could be seen ahead. It was built along the foot of Mount Aubigne, and was the leading into Kuscheperca. The banner flying above it was obviously not Kuscheperca. Those who knew what happened could guess the colours of that nation immediately. But it was a shock to the caravan that travelled here from a long distance away.
“I see. That flag… How do you plan to proceed?”
“... Do I even need to say it, begin the ‘trade’ immediately.”
The person addressed as Young Master frowned, and the petite boy who queried him nodded. The boy then signaled the caravan behind him, and they resumed moving shortly.
“...Sigh, we really drew the worst lot.”
A sentry on top of the checkpoint complained as they faced the blue sky over Aubigne. The emblem of Žaloudek Kingdom was on their armour. The influence of that Kingdom had spread to the far east of Kuscheperca.
“Hey, since the checkpoint is built here, that means something is on the other side of the mountain right?”
National policies aside, for the soldiers, a place with sparse population and only forest, mountains and roads in view was terribly dull. Bored out of their mind, they stared blankly at the mountain range that stretched beyond the horizon as they chat.
“Let me think… Eh, there should be a remote country called Flamberge over there.”
“Huh~ the other side of Aubigne isn’t remote, that is the far end of the world.”
In this era, most people resides within the Western League of Nations. Aside from the people with power and merchants, the ‘world’ they knew was the west. With such a world view in mind, the Aubigne Mountains was as good as the far end of the world.
That was why the soldiers deployed to the far end of the world couldn’t work up the motivation for this task. Since there was a checkpoint and roads, that meant people would pass through. Their rational side told them that, but to be honest, they weren’t interested in realms outside of their world.
“Why are we guarding this place… Hey, what is that…!?”
Another soldier who was in the midst of complaining suddenly saw something in the distance. Dust was being kicked up on the road passing through the forest, and the tremors of horse hooves could be felt through the ground. Any soldier would be familiar with this rhythmic sound, but it sounded ‘too heavy’. As if horses as large as Silhouette Knights were galloping, making these terrible noise.
“Is that horses…? No, that’s too strange. Horses aren’t that fast! They will be here very soon. Close the gate!! Just drop it!”
The shocked soldier shouted. The checkpoint’s gate was a portcullis, which could be raised or lowered by chains. During emergencies, the ropes securing the gate could be cut to close the entrance immediately. In response to the sentry’s cry, the other soldiers charged to the opening mechanism and used axes to sever the ropes tied to a counter weight. With the rattling of the sliding chains, the gate plunged onto the ground.
The moment the steel gate fell, the Silhouette Knights realized something was amiss and prepared for battle. Žaloudek’s newest model of machine, the Tyrant, stood up and took a stance inside the checkpoint entrance. The next second, the cause of this unnatural situation burst onto the road and appeared before them.
“What the hell is that!? It’s not horses… Men? Could those be… Silhouette Knights?”
The ‘thing’ that appeared under the sun had the top half of a human but the bottom half of a horse, an alien that could be more aptly described as half man half horse. The familiar grind of Crystal Tissues under its armour meant that it was a Silhouette Knight. But in the face of this extraordinary existence, the soldiers could only stand in place dumbfoundedly.
Approaching at a brisk pace, that ‘thing’— the Centaur Knight Tzendrinble slowed down when it saw that the gate of the checkpoint was closed. There were two of the strange Centaur Knights towing an enormous wagon. It made an ear screeching sound and sparks flew during its deceleration, kicking up a cloud of dust and leaving marks on the ground before grounding to a halt right at the entrance.
One casual voice came from somewhere, speaking to the soldiers who had frozen on the spot.
“Sorry to disturb~! We are the Silver Phoenix Merchants, we came from the other side of the mountains to trade. Could you let us pass?”
“Don’t bullshit! It’s impossible for merchants to possess such messed up horses!!”
When he heard the immediate retort, that voice sighed exasperatedly:
“You all don’t know? Demon Beasts run amok in the nation on the other side of the mountains. It is very dangerous, so we need such specialized horses!”
“It’s not a matter of it being specialized! This is too suspicious! All of you dismount from the machine and line up before me. We will check your luggage and origins thoroughly!”
As they spoke, the Tyrant unit raised their weapon and got ready for a battle. No matter where the Silver Phoenix Merchants came from, they didn’t think an armed group of such a scale would follow docilely.
“Oh… Can I ask you something? That isn’t a Kuscheperca flag right? Where do you come from?”
The soldiers didn’t notice that the voice lowered its pitch slightly, and told it the ‘obvious truth’:
“You claim to be merchants, but are behind in learning the news. Kuscheperca had already fallen! This place is run by us, the Žaloudek Kingdom now!”
“... I see, since it has fallen, I don’t have time to talk with you lot anymore.”
A sharp noise of air flow erupted from the giant wagon towed by the Centaur Knight, the sound of a Silhouette Knight’s heart— it’s Ether Reactor taking in Ether and churning it into mana. Immediately after that, the steel lines securing the cargo broke off, and the canvas on top was uncovered. Reflecting the golden ray of the sun was Gordesleo, the Silhouette Knight clad in golden armour and designed after the form of a lion. Emrys who was piloting it, glared murderously at the checkpoint on his Holo Monitor.
“If you don’t open the gate, I will have to resort to violence…!!”
Gordesleo jumped off the wagon, and started sprinting. It’s back weapon was deployed on Emrys’ command, alongside the Silhouette Arms that were concealed inside the machine’s pauldrons. Powerful mana flowed into the Emblem Graph, and the spell was activated.
“Outta my way!!”
The air tremored, this was the Overt spell cast by combining multiple Silhouette Arms, the certain kill arms of Gordesleo — ‘Blast Howling’. The huge expenditure of mana yielded the result of a powerful shockwave that went straight to the checkpoint. The sturdy steel gate that looked strong enough to withstand the body slam of a duel class demon beast was bent out of shape. After the joints cracked and fissures appeared on the walls, the gate was blasted into the air along with its hinge, flying straight at the Tyrant unit standing by behind it.
They couldn’t evade in time to the sudden change in circumstances, and the giant gate scored a direct hit on a tyrant. The heavy armour that withstood a direct hit from a catapult couldn’t take this blow. Its torso was bent inwards deeply, a critical hit from just one hit. The machine collapsed and couldn’t get up again.
“Im… Impossible! The gate that could withstand a body slam of a Silhouette Knight is destroyed! They possess Silhouette Arms with such ridiculous might!?”
“H-How dare they do this to us!”
Even the Black Knights were wavering after witnessing firepower beyond their expectation. The Centaur Knights used the chance and took action, the Tzendrinbles disconnected the link with the wagon and charged into the checkpoint that had lost its gate. The unique sound that was only possible with twin Ether Reactors was like the neigh of a horse, and their thundering hooves seemed to be threatening to break the very ground. After passing the gate, the Tzendrinbles readied their lances like cavalries, aiming them at the enemy.
It didn’t slow down, plunging its lance into the body of the Black Knight, sending shattered armour and splinted Crystals into the air. However, the heavily damaged Tyrant didn’t fall, and held tightly to the lance.
“What is this? Incredibly hard!! Hey, let go of my lance!”
An unexpectedly youthful protest came from the Centaur Knight. Although it had to drop to one knee after losing its balance, the Black Knight still held onto the lance stubbornly. At this moment, another Tzendrinble charged in and impaled the Black Knight again. The heavily damaged Black Knight couldn’t withstand it. The lance pierced through its body, breaking its armour, Crystal Tissue and Inner Skeleton. The Tyrant fell to the ground heavily after the blow by the two lances.
“W-Why you! And you claim to be merchants! Don’t think I will let you off so easily!!”
The Tyrant Unit regained their composure quickly and roared with rage. Two platoons (6 machines) were deployed here, and normally speaking, this would be enough to protect this far off place. But in a blink of an eye, they lost two of them.
The Tyrant eyed the ferocious Centaur Knights and Gordesleo which caused all this cautiously, and closed in on them carefully with shields raised and hammer ready. If they could put up a strong defence, the armour of the Tyrant could withstand any attacks, even if the enemy was as strong as monsters.
—At this moment, there was a terrible noise which could only be described as a ‘roar’. A feral roar to show its might to all living beings. With a tremor, the intense intake sound of the Behemoth’s heart erupted.
“... You all are too much, starting the fight without me. Let me and Ikaruga join you!”
The other ‘cargo’ left on the wagon at the entrance of the checkpoint started moving. A sudden burst of flame burned the canvas covering it and created a torrent of wind. A shadow passed through the center of the flames and into the air.
The soldiers witnessing this from the top of the checkpoint were certain that they had lost it. The figure blocked the sky above them. It didn’t look like a bird, was definitely not a beast, an existence that had the shape of a giant human— that of a Silhouette Knight. That’s right, a silhouette Knight was flying in the air. The checkpoint was about 30m tall, a height not even a Silhouette Knight could scale easily. But that Silhouette Knight could fly even higher.
The confused soldiers realized a fact quickly. If the shadow was over their head— That meant the landing spot was where they were. The group scattered in shock, and the next second, ‘that thing’ landed on the stone walls. With its back to the sun, its shadow reached the Tyrants beneath it. ‘That thing’ slowly stood up before the frozen Žaloudek army who had yet to grasp the situation.
That Silhouette Knight was strange. About 10m tall, it wore armour of unique design and held two weirdly shaped sword in its arms. But the most prominent thing was on its back— That crazy machine had four more arms growing on its back. The Centaur Knights were very impactful, but the existence of this thing wasn’t far off either. Standing before the intimidated Žaloudek soldiers was the personal machine of the Silver Phoenix Knight Knight Commander, Ernesti Echevarria— the six armed armoured samurai with the face of an oni, Ikaruga. It’s Eye Crystal moved beneath the mask that resembled a human face.
“Let’s go Ikaruga… The battle starts now!”
In response to Eru’s joyous words, the main Reactor ‘Behemoth's Heart’ and secondary Reactor ‘Queen's Coronet’ revved loudly. The violent mana produced by the hearts of the colossal demon beast flowed into the Magius Jet Thrusters under the control of Eru, and the machine turned red as if it was wearing a crimson outer coat. Ikaruga kicked off the walls of the checkpoint and jumped into the air once again.
The body of Ikaruga turned black as its back was to the light, and the pilot of the Tyrant felt a chill as he locked eyes with its Crystal Eye.
Using the inertia of its fall, Ikaruga slashed down at a Tyrant with the swords held in both arms. The blunt swords cut into the shoulders of the Tyrant through sheer brute force, shearing its arms off. The fearsome power output of Ikaruga allowed it to cut all the way down to the Tyrant’s feet and into the ground, causing an explosion of dust. The Tyrant lost its balance from the impact and collapsed.
Ikaruga stood up slowly before the maimed Tyrant. The sight of the alien shaped enemy defeating the heavily armoured Black Knight terrorized the heart of the other knights.
“D-Damn it! What in the world are these things!! D-Don’t come here! All units fire!!”
The Black Knight screamed in fear as he tried to regain his composure. He couldn’t spare the effort to face this bizarre adversary. Abandoning close quarter combat which was their forte, they deployed their back weapons. But unfortunately, their opponent acted before they did.
A series of explosions rocked the ear drums of the Žaloudek soldiers, and Ikaruga charged forth with abnormal speed from the crimson flames bursting out from its back.
The Tyrants fired off shots on reflex with a moan, but Ikaruga dodged them all with its propellor and got within sword range at the same time. It was mere coincidence that the Tyrant’s shield managed to block Ikaruga’s sword in time. After taking the powerful blow from the sword, the shield twisted out of shape immediately, and the Tyrant’s feet sunk into the ground. The arm shards of Crystal Tissue also flew out of the arm supporting the shield, it was a miracle that it didn’t fell on its knees right there and then. This was a power several times stronger than that of the Tyrant they knew, and a direct hit would definitely end badly. The Black Knight struggled to push the sword back, but only sunk in deeper. The pilot started doubting his eyes, the Tyrant was actually losing in a competition of strength? The alien enemy was overwhelmingly stronger than the Black Knights that ruled the battlefield in the west. He couldn’t fathom what kind of existence he was fighting, and could only endure the fear in silence.
While the Tyrant was suppressed, Ikaruga launched its attack mercilessly. The four arms on its back extended. Two of them held a halberd each, and attacked the Tyrant by drawing arcs through the air. Using its centrifugal force, it sliced off the arms of the Tyrant at the shoulder. While the Tyrant which lost its means to attack or defend stood still on the spot, the sword attacked a second time. The Tyrant that received a terrible blow bent at the waist and fell onto the ground.
There were only two Tyrants left, and the pilots were in a complete state of panic. They belonged to the Green Bronze Claw Knights, and piloting the Tyrants were proof that they were elites. Despite the numerous battles they had been through, the enemy before them was beyond anything they had seen before. In the face of this extraordinary threat, they couldn’t think of a way to achieve victory. Even so, they still fired off their back weapon haphazardly while the enemy was still some distance away, attacking with all they had. The shots fired at the armoured samurai, Centaur Knight and Gordesleo were random and spastic.
The shots soared through the sky like screams of terror, and was easily deflected by the halberd of Ikaruga, which then raised its sword against the Tyrant that was firing off shots single mindedly. Even though Ikaruga was obviously out of sword range.
“A shoot out huh! Great, I am happy to oblige.”
The sword wielded by Eru— Ikaruga wasn’t normal. The moment a switch was pulled on the sword, the blade split into two. From within the thick blade, a mechanism that was obviously foreign to a sword appeared— Silver Plate, Steel Frame and Crystal Catalyst. A shocking amount of mana flowed into the sword, and the the Crystal Catalyst at the tip of the sword started to glow. This meant the sword also had the functionality of a Silhouette Arms— It was the giant version and latest model of Gun Staff, ‘Sword Cannon’.
The Overedt Spell constructed from the Emblem Graft exploded with tremendous mana, and the glaring shot flew towards the Tyrant. The targeted Black Knight could only watch helplessly as the shot came at it from a place that defied common sense, and got hit before he could even dodge.
The Sword Cannon used the same spell as the large Silhouette Arms equipped on the chariot, ‘Falconet’. The firepower used to fight Division-level demon beasts tore the Tyrant’s heavy armour to shreds. After taking a few shots in succession, its figure finally disappeared in an explosion of flame.
The last Tyrant had no regards for its image as it turned and ran. This was a wise choice as the alien ‘fierce god’ was not an adversary he could take on. The two platoons (6 machines) were decimated in no time, and he didn’t have any allies left.
And of course, Ikaruga wouldn’t let him go. It opened its armour, and hellish flame blasted out from the crevices.The overwhelming propulsion force of the Magius Jet Thrusters made Ikaruga disappear. No, the truth was, it gained explosive speed from a standstill, and drew near the Tyrant in one fell sweep. The Black Knight didn’t even have time for last words as the Sword Cannon destroyed its back weapon and pierced into the spine. The Sword Cannon was then deployed while inside the machine. The entire Tyrant exploded from the shot fired inside its body, and turned into a pile of scrap metal the next instant.
“Four… Hmm? It’s over? Not enough, Ikaruga hasn’t had enough yet…”
In the wake of the explosion, Eru who was piloting Ikaruga threw a tantrum like a kid who didn’t get his candy. Ikaruga shook its halberd in response.
“Can’t be helped…”
After uttering the mutter from the bottom of his heart, Ikaruga folded the arms on its back, and withdrew them together with the halberds. It then turned the Sword Cannons around, and allowed the small sub arms secure it. After letting out an exceptionally loud roar, the noise that echoed to the surroundings finally stopped. After the battle ended, Ikaruga stopped the Behemoth’s Heart, and switched to the normal power output— Queen’s Coronet.
“... I just saw Eru came, and the battle was already over.”
“Of course, no matter how tough that black thing is, there is no way it could stand up to Eru and Ikaruga.”
At the checkpoint back then, the Tzendrinble noticed the deafening howl stopped, and could only look at each other dumbfoundedly.
The Tzendrinble from 3rd Company of the Silver Phoenix Knights walked down the East-West Highway one after another, while the Silhouette Gears captured the remnants of the Žaloudek forces quickly. They were scared out of their wits after witnessing the Tyrants being crushed, and surrendered without much resistance.
“Come look at this.”
At this moment, the Young Master— Emrys gathered the Company leaders of Silver Phoenix Knights and laid out the map he found in the checkpoint.
“Damn it, the situation is worse than I thought! This checkpoint is located to at the eastern border of Kuscheperca, while Žaloudek that launched the invasion is at the west of the Western League of Nations. The two of them are equally powerful, but Kuscheperca fell! I don’t understand, what happened to their King? And Aunt…!?”
His face twisted in pain as he spoke, and the faces of everyone turned gloomy. Everyone knew he was worried about the safety of his aunt, which was the reason he participated in this conflict. In other words, her well being was one of the directives of the Silver Phoenix Knights.
“There are too much we don’t know, so we should collect intel first.”
Eru cast his gaze to his back as he said that. Understanding what his intent was, several people nodded and slipped away quietly. The spy group for this mission— the Blue Hawk Knights also dispatched people along. They were tasked with supporting the Silver Phoenix Knights, and collating intel was their forte.
“It’s true that we need to investigate! But the influence of the enemy has already reached here, it goes against my nature to just wait idly.”
After hearing Emrys said that painfully, Eru crossed his arms with a serious expression.
“Our plans has gone haywire. We were supposed to collate intel while pretending to be merchants, and then move in the dark.”
“I have been meaning to ask. You approached so boisterously with Tzendrinble, so were you serious about pretending to be merchants…?”
Dietrich’s retort was ignored very naturally.
“How about this? Before the collection of intel is complete, let’s ‘procure goods’ in the vicinity.”
“We are still going with the merchant setting huh… What goods are you talking about?”
When he heard the annoyed question from Dietrich, Eru turned towards him with an ominous smile.
“The Silhouette Knights of that Žaloudek something Kingdom of course.”
After deciding the course of action, the Silver Phoenix Knights used the captured checkpoint as a temporary base. The supply unit continued ferrying resources in, and people in Silhouette Gears bustled around their headquarters. Their procurements of goods were actually a destructive job.
“From this perspective, we are acting like terrorists. Instead of merchants, how about becoming bandits?”
Dietrich’s complaint was ignored. As the Silhouette Gears started setting up camp, the Silhouette Knights were also taking care of the wreckage of the Tyrants. These would be dissected and studied by knightsmiths to understand the prowess of the enemy.
“Is this…? In that case…”
Edgar who was cleaning up the scene in the white Silhouette Knight Ardiladcumber stared the wreckage through his Holo Monitor and stopped his hands. He opened the cockpit and jumped onto the wreckage, studying something curiously.
“Hey, what is it? Edgar, we are still in the middle of work.”
“Helvi, look at this. The design of the enemy Knight… Doesn’t it look familiar?”
Helvi tilted her head confusedly and exited her machine, then looked at the wreckage he was pointing at. She didn’t need much time to reach the same conclusion as Edgar.
“Hmmp, I see, Back Weapons and Strand Crystal Tissue huh. Pri… Young Master said that the enemy is a nation that was on par with Kuscheperca not too long ago right? I understand why there is such a large gulf between them now.”
“Are you two talking about Silhouette Knights? You are discussing Silhouette Knights right? Let me join in!”
“Wah! E-Eru, where did you come from?”
Eru came to the side of Helvi who was crossing her arms out of nowhere. Where there are Silhouette Knights, there will be me— that’s his motto.
“You came at the right time, Ernesti, can you tell me what is going on here?”
Eru followed the gaze of the unmoved Edgar, and showed an enlightened expression.
“The black Silhouette Knights they are using have the same technology as us. Our newest invention had been committed into live battle… It is probably as you imagined, their technology probably stemmed from the stolen Tellestarle.”
An image from several years ago flashed through Edgar’s mind— the Silhouette that defeated his Earlecumber and escaped. As if a string was connecting the past with the present.
“Then these guys… the people who threatened this nation is also our enemy! They destroyed my Earlecumber and stole Helvi’s Tellestarle…!!”
Edgar tightened his fists further. The Casadesus incident— Edgar had always bore a grudge for the event which led to the founding of the Silver Phoenix Knights. Someone gently held his fist that was clenched so tightly that his knuckles went white. It was Helvi.
“Calm down, I understand how you feel. I am angry and think this is unforgivable… But you are a captain right? How can you lose your cool so easily?”
Edgar groaned, exhaled, then relaxed his fists.
“That’s right… Sorry for making the person I promised remind me of that… I am still too inexperienced.”
“You’re welcome, or rather, I am happy that you are angry for my sake. Thank you.”
Helvi left a soft sensation on Edgar’s cheek momentarily, then returned to her Tzendrinble. Leaving behind the frozen Edgar.
“Ah— what the hell? I have the urge to vent by fighting the enemy, or I don’t think I can go on.”
On the other hand, Dietrich who continued working besides them felt like abandoning his work. He tossed aside the debris in his hand and sighed to the heavens for all sorts of reason.
“There are plenty of enemies that we need to defeat, please don’t hold back and get as many as you want.
“Ohh, Eru is envious of that too right! Then I will also kiss—”
“Ady, Di-Senpai’s face is becoming really interesting, so please calm down.”
Eru soothed Ady who hugged him from behind out of nowhere. The gloomy Dietrich started to think that nothing mattered anymore, and shrugged resignedly in the end.
“... Forget about that for now, what do you think, Ernesti? That technology is ours, or rather, you thought most of them up. And after coming full circle, they are now our enemy.”
“Well, I am really excited.”
When heard an unexpectedly cheerful voice, Dietrich and Ady looked at each other with a weird face.
“Not a Silhouette Knight made by our Silver Phoenix Knights, or our nation Fremmevira. I am very curious about what technology they uncovered from the Tellestarle, and how they made the final product. Also…”
It wasn’t clear what Eru was thinking, but he had the smile of a predator before its prey.
“At the root of all this, those machines are made with our technology, so it isn’t wrong for all of them to belong to us. Furthermore, they are our enemy, so it will be fine to snatch them away and make them mine right? The more Silhouette Knights, the merrier!”
“No, that’s definitely twisted reasoning…”
Dietrich felt that Eru shouldn’t say such brutish things with a smile— but realized he had the same smile on his face.
“Just the thought that they are the same gang as the ones who stole Tellestarle makes it impossible for me to sympathize with them. Edgar is full of drive, more so for the Young Master. I think we should follow the instruction of the Knight Commander and make them all sacrifices.”
Dietrich looked towards the foot of Aubigne Mountain, and the Kingdom of Kuscheperca that expanded from then on.
The flag of the Silver Pheonix knights was hoisted in the eastern borders. The storm had a new seed of fire, and at the same time, the ‘Silver Pheonix Merchants’ began the operation earnestly.