The Imprisoned Princess
Editors: Darkdhaos, Ruzenor
East of Kuscheperca. There was a strange rumour spreading among the Žaloudek that moved here, about a ‘demon faced death god riding on a gigantic alien horse’ hunting Silhouette Knights.
At first, most soldiers just laughed it off. It was impossible for such a frightening enemy to lurk in the nation that fell so easily. They were brave and excelled in battles, their absolute confidence in themselves made them let their guard down-- Until, they met it.
“We will be picked off if we split up! Stand together to bolster our defences!!”
“W-We can’t. We can’t stop it! That death god…”
His words were drowned out by a burst of air, and the nightmarish existence appeared before the Tyrants resetting their formation in a panic. The alien charging with its head down was accompanied by the sound of hooves that shook the very ground. Its true identity was a humongous armoured wagon towed by two Tzendrinbles— in mode three ‘Chariot’. On the chariot was the six-armed death god with the mask of a demon, Ikaruga, completing the formation.
In the face of the rumoured terrifying existence, no, it was much worse than the rumours, the Black Knights couldn’t suppress their unease, but still faced it bravely. The slow Black Knights couldn’t run away in the first place.
“I will be taking… your Silhouette Knights.”
Not a query or request, not a notification of something that had been decided. Using the chance while the two sides were still some distance apart, Ikaruga raised the four muzzles of the Sword Cannons on his back, and fired off crimson shots mercilessly, reducing one of the Black Knights to burning ash. The moment their formation was broken, Tzendrinble charged in again. The powerful blow backed by inertia sent the shield and giant body of the armoured Black Knight flying. The last surviving Black Knight stepped forth valiantly, but was caught by the beast slaying sword protruding from the side of the chariot, and its body turned into the shape of a ‘く’. The heavy blade fell innumerable shell beasts in the past, even the armour of the Black Knights couldn’t withstand it.
When the death god chariot completed its charge of destruction, only the wreckages of the Black Knights were left in its wake. The chariot made a large turn, slowed down and then returned to the scene of carnage.
“Yes, we procured plenty of ‘merchandize’ today too. Let’s bring it back for business negotiation!”
“Eru seems so happy…”
“He must be having the time of his life, getting to pilot everywhere with Ikaruga to rob Silhouette Knights…”
A short moment later, the 3rd Company arrived to pick up the remains of the Black Knights and left. Nothing was left behind,and the mysterious unit disappeared.
Reports of Black Knight patrol teams losing contact kept happening in the eastern territories. Rumours of the death god chariot didn’t die down, and became more widespread, planting seeds of terror into the hearts of the frontline soldiers. Worst of all, these rumours confused the Žaloudek army, and it would be quite some time before they notice the existence of a fearsome enemy.
The wagon ferrying the ‘goods’ advanced with the sound of thundering hooves. It sounded too heavy for normal horse drawn wagon as it was a colossal wagon drawn by Centaur Knights, Tzendrinble. It was surrounded by Karrdators which protected the cargo and convoy.
“To think the rumours were true--”
One of the nobles of old Kuscheperca Kingdom, Baron Modesto Letonmaki stared at the row of ‘merchandize’ with his eyes wide open. That was understandable, as the wreckage of Silhouette Knights were on the back of the wagon-- and it was the mass produced models of Žaloudek, Tyrants.
Not just Baron Letonmaki, the nobles fighting force all use the old mass produced model Resvants, and from the battles so far, they had seen numerous examples of them losing to the Tyrants of Žaloudek.
“What do you think about our merchandize? Isn’t this enough for you to make up your mind?”
Emrys presented the results of the Silver Phoenix Merchant’s procurement as he puffed out his chest proudly. The true identity of the demon-faced death god that massacred the Žaloudek was right before the Baron. But after the initial amazement and excitement, his face became sullen once again.
“... Yes, I can see your abilities clearly. These are excellent merchandize, just fighting on par with the Žaloudek we can’t stand up to is worthy of praise. However… That’s all there is to it. Assuming we work together and win battles regionally, it would just draw more enemy to my territory.”
Baron Letonmaki slouched his shoulders and said with a gloomy face.
“You all might be strong, but that doesn’t mean we can win. This will lead to a dead end for you too… Isn’t that why you are wandering around like this?”
Emrys jovial mood in the beginning was like a lie, and he started sipping his tea impatiently. The Silver Phoenix Knights might have sparked frightening rumours after defeating numerous Black Knights, but they were reaching their limits too. There was no doubt that they were strong, but with just three Company (30 machines), there were overwhelmingly outnumbered. They might be great in attacking, but they were not suited for holding ground.
“... You serve the enemy because they are too strong?”
“A weak aristocrat like me has many concerns too. I can’t even safeguard myself, lest keep the citizens safe, how can we fight against them? On top of that, the royal bloodline is already lost… it will be impossible for the country to unite together now.”
Even though the Silver Phoenix Knights kept contacting the aristocrats of Kuscheperca like this, they failed to garner any good response. All of them had their reasons, but the main factor was the lack of a King that they could swear fealty to.
“Are aunt and the others already…?”
“I don’t know, but based on what those guys said, they had definitely fallen into enemy hands. Things aren’t looking good. Even if they are still alive…”
Emrys cut off the Baron’s words. He couldn’t accept that hypothesis calmly, and Baron Letonmaki apologized immediately for having misspoke. Emrys aunt was the spouse of the grandest noble in the eastern area-- Archduke Fernando. The results of the negotiation was obvious-- Baron Letonmaki agreed to support the Silver Phoenix Merchants, but was unwilling to commit any further. The other nobles were the same, willing to provide aid in the dark, but reluctant to participate in the war.
“... It’s no good, no matter how many minions we defeat, no one dares to make a move.”
Emrys growled like a beast. The nobles who understood the situation but was still hesitant, along with the lack of news on the royal family made him gloomier each day.
“Focusing on weakening the enemy had been working smoothly, it is about time to change our policies now. Also, we need to think of a ‘special way’ for the aristocrats to fight to, if we want to get their support...I will think more about this.”
Eru also groaned with his arms crossed, but his troubles were a little off topic.
“Isn’t there anything else we can do here…?”
Emrys who got this far on his will alone was starting to doubt too. At this moment, the Silver Phoenix Knights that seemed to be at a dead end received a news that could overturn the situation.
The old Kuscheperca Kingdom could be roughly divided into five zones-- The central zone where the capital was located, and the four ‘regional zones’ to the north, south, east and west.
The territory of the late brother of the King, Archduke Fernando Nevarez Kuscheperca, lies in the east. He died during the Žaloudek invasion, and his territory had been seized. Fernando was given peerage by his brother, King Aukusti, and bestowed a territory that befitted his title of Archduke, becoming one of his brother’s subjects. He retained the family name Kuscheperca as a sign that he hailed from the royal family, and his land was called ‘Fontaine’. It was also known by its more common name ‘Eastern territory’. Even though he was now the subject of the king, the Archduke was still tied to the royal family by blood, and would definitely be seen as an obstacle on the grand scale of things, and be eliminated.
The territory where the Archduke resides, Lacepede castle, had been taken by the Žaloudek army and was now used as their base. The most prominent part about Lacepede castle were the four tall towers built around it. These buildings were used for sentries in the past, and its function had gradually been lost after the era of peace. It was now retained simply as part of the castle’s decoration. However, it was being used not too long ago in a completely different manner.
There was a dejected girl with unfocused eyes in the room. Her name was Eleonora-- the princess who inherited the bloodline of Kuscheperca. This room used to imprison the princess had some furnishing, but was definitely not appropriate lodgings for a princess. She stared blankly at the iron bar windows and the extraordinarily sturdy door, then sighed for the upteenth time. No matter how she looked at it, this room would never change.
After falling into the hands of the Žaloudek army, she had been imprisoned in Lacepede castle. This room was located in the highest level of one of the towers, dozens of meters from the ground. The only mean of access was a long spiral staircase, and the tightest security had been arranged to prevent her escape. However, even if she could easily escape, whether she had the conviction was another matter.
She spent her days filled with sighs and silence. After losing her father the king and forced onto an arduous escape,, she was forcibly separated from her aunt Martina and cousin Isadora and locked up here. She was tormented by her helplessness each day, and feared facing her future. It was no wonder that she became so gloomy.
But one day, a sudden change visited this quiet room.
A heavy knock came from the only door leading outside, the sudden sound surprised her. The maid waiting quietly in the room next door walked wordlessly to the door, and after conversing with the visitor shortly, the loud noise of the door unlocking could be heard. Even though it was some distance away, Eleonora could feel a strong presence entering the room. That person walked to the side of Eleonora who was trying her best to lower her head and avoid the gaze of others.
“How are you feeling? Former Princess of Kuscheperca.”
She trembled slightly, then looked up timidly. Before her was the Second Prince of Žaloudek, the commander-in-chief of the Žaloudek army-- Cristóbal.
“Hmmp. Seems that you are living docily now.”
In the beginning, Eleonora panicked and cried hysterically when she was locked in here. But after a while, she became quiet and lifeless like she was now.
“I brought you good tidings today, rejoice. Your ‘use’ have been decided. In order to stabilize the territories of old Kuscheperca, your bloodline would prove useful.”
Cristóbal wasn’t concerned about her lack of reaction, and announced with the corner of his lips raised proudly:
“You shall be my bride.”
“H-How could it be… I refuse.”
Eleonora squeezed out words of resistance. Even though she lowered her head and was really soft, her intent on rejecting was obvious. Cristóbal continued smiling even though he realized this point.
“I know you wouldn’t agree so easily, but do you really think you have a choice?”
Cristóbal leaned forth and grabbed Eleonora’s wrist, even though she wanted to dodge on reflex. He then whispered in her ears:
“You will be useless if you refuse. I will just kill you, and use the other girl we captured.”
Eleonora opened her eyes wide stiffly, with the reflection of Cristóbal’s cruel smile reflected in them.
“Even though she is the daughter of the king’s brother, the bloodline of the royal still flow through her. She will prove extremely useful. After all, her mother was caught too, it wouldn’t be too hard to convince her.”
“Ah… Ahhh, how could you…”
Cristóbal let go of Eleonora, letting her collapse to the ground weakly. He then turned to leave, as if he was done with her.
“I have a merciful side to me too, so I will give you some time to answer. That might be so, but you better make up your mind soon. I don’t have much patience for half-hearted answers.”
He left the room after saying these. A long while later, the dazed Eleonora finally came to her senses.
“... I’m sorry, I’m sorry everyone… I’m sorry, father…!!”
The sound of locks could be heard from the imprisoned princess’ room, and Cristóbal descended the spiral staircase with his back towards her. He couldn’t help sighing. Despite getting to wed a beautiful princess renowned in the west, he had an unhappy face.
“... What a gloomy woman, always weeping. She really don’t suit my taste.”
“Your Highness, you won’t reject the marriage for such a reason right?”
When he heard the surprised voice of Doroteo who was waiting outside, Cristóbal twisted his face with displeasure.
“Hmmp, I will never waste the strategy my sister proposed for the domination of Kuscheperca. I am just venting, I hate that type of woman.”
Doroteo was worried that his impatient and short tempered superior might be… But after hearing these words, he sighed in relief.
“Oh right, I heard that recently, the eastern territory is not peaceful, Doroteo.”
Cristóbal changed the topic suddenly, hitting a weak spot in Doroteo. He hoped that his supervising officer wouldn’t learn about them, but he still answered nonchalantly:
“Yes, those fellows didn’t learn their lesson. I thought they would settle down sooner or later, but never imagined it would drag for so long. I have already prepared a punitive force to be dispatched.”
“Oh? I thought the entire nation is full of gloomy cowards, to think there are people with guts still out there. Hey, I will take down that prey…”
Being interrupted midway spoiled Cristóbal’s improving mood.
“My lord, you wish to lead the campaign correct? You must not do that, Your Highness is the commander-in-chief of our Žaloudek army. Please leave such trivial matters to us, and focus on your duties as the commander.”
Cristóbal groaned, but suppressed it.
“Then hurry up and settle those trivial matters!!”
Doroteo hurried after Cristóbal who increased his pace. Even though he wasn’t good at handling his superior, Doroteo still acknowledged formally.
After Cristóbal left, Doroteo summoned his subordinates quickly. These men are under the direct command of the Second Prince, and elites that had braved through numerous battles with Doroteo.
"… That’s the situation. If we don’t solve this problem, His Highness might take an unnecessary interest in this again."
They had served Cristóbal for years, together with Doroteo, and understood his temperament. They could imagine the conversation easily and all showed a wry smile.
"I still need to attend to His Highness. I will leave the rest to you, Gust."
On hearing Doroteo’s command, a slender youth walked forth. He had many belts on his waist, with swords of various sizes hanging off them. The weirdly dressed youth knocked his knuckles together confidently and said:
"Oh, I have been waiting for you to say that. Dad. Leave it to me, I will take care of it perfectly!”
Doroteo’s adopted son, Gustavo Mardones patted his chest and accepted the task. His foster father showed a complicated expression at his crude but reliable son, while his subordinates snickered quietly. The interactions between parent and child had become common scene.
During this harmonious and turmoil atmosphere, the voice of a third party interjected suddenly:
“Can you count me in for that job?”
The sudden appearance of the figure and voice made everyone tense. When he saw the person came out of the shadows naturally, Doroteo narrowed his eyes and said in surprise:
"… Lady Hietakangas… Mistress of the Copper Fangs, what business do you have with us?”
Despite the suspicious attitude of the other party, Copper Fang Knights commander Kerhild Hietakangas wasn’t fazed. She smiled and said to everyone:
"Don’t be so guarded. Those who threaten Žaloudek are our enemies, I just want to do my part in defeating them.”
"I have a feeling that it would become troubling if we took you on your offer. How do you want to help, specifically?"
"You know the forte of us Copper Fangs right? I will help you find those troubling deathgods.”
Doroteo thought silently for a moment. After weighing Kerhild’s motives and the problem of the enemy, and immediately conclude that the enemy was troubling because they were hard to track. And so, he accepted the proposal.
“Fufufu, I will send my subordinates to keep you updated. Please look forward to it.”
After responding with a mischievous smile, Kerhild left. Gustavo watched her go and said in an unwilling tone to his father:
“Dad, is this really fine?”
"… She might be a vixen and is hard to deal with, but her ability is reliable. Don’t worry, we just need to do our job well. Gustavo, set off the moment she notifies you.”
Gustavo and the others saluted Doroteo as one. Shortly after, they left Lacepede castle on a Levitate Ship.
The Silver Phoenix Knights received that news when they were preparing to move out and attack as usual.
"… Are you certain that this information is reliable?"
"Yes. They are probably doing this to suppress the remnants of the Kuscheperca. They are spreading the information earnestly. To be safe, we have confirmed this information.”
In reply to Eru’s question, Nora Frykberg of the Blue Hawk Knights nodded with her usual poker face. When they entered the old Kuscheperca territory, they sent out the Blue Hawk Knights at the same time and achieved results.
"I understand, I will tell this to Young Master… We are making huge progress in one swoop.”
Eru immediately gathered the members of the knights corp. His announcement will influence the direction they would take from now on.
"I have something to tell everyone. Before that, Young Master, do you want the good news first or the bad news?”
“Oh? The good news then.”
When he heard Emrys half-hearted reply, Eru said with a cheerful smile:
“The good news is — We found out where Lady Martina and the other surviving royal family are being held."
"…!! Ernesti, are you for real!? Is that so… I see, so they are fine…!!”
Emrys turned suddenly, and raised his arms as if he was going to shout at the sky. Not just him, cheers broke out amongst the other members of the Knights.
"It’s our win after learning this! Silver Phoenix Knights, set off for the rescue right now!!”
"Please wait a moment. I am sorry for interrupting during such a joyous atmosphere, there is still the bad news. The Lady and the others are still alive… but there are some troublesome matters.”
Eru restrained Emrys who was going further out of control than usual, and continued explaining the information he just received — All the royalty including the Princess were being imprisoned in Lacepede castle, and the prince of the Žaloudek army intended to take the princess as his wife.
At this point, everyone could predict how Emrys would react.
"I see, very well, let’s kill that retarded prince. Invading another country and seizing a princess, he is incorrigible!”
Emrys face looked like a demon whose veins were about to explode from rage. Not only was his aunt Martina important to him, he also emphathized with Isadora and Princess Eleonora Kuscheperca who lost their home nation. When he learned that his kin had fallen into the hands of an enemy state, he was filled with wrath.
“That retarded prince is the worst! Forcing a girl with brute force is unforgivable!”
“That’s right! Let’s teach that insolent fool a lesson!”
The women of the Silver Phoenix Knights were also boiling with rage, especially Ady and Helvi. The three of them waved their arms around while cursing out at the prince, frightening the people around them. They were about to charge off immediately and mount a rescue when Eru said lazily to their backs:
“Alright, don’t be so hasty. We shouldn’t mobilize the Knights for now.”
"What… Then how are you planning to save them!? Or do you want us to watch idly by!?”
Eru seemed unfazed by Emrys intimidating look, and answered nonchalantly:
"The Princess is being held in Fontaine, and the Žaloudek army had set up an eastern governance headquarters right there. In simple terms, that is one of the enemy’s stronghold.”
"… Tch, that’s right. Even the Silver Phoenix Knights can’t infiltrate that place so easily.”
After clearing up where the problem lies, Emrys cooled his head a little. The enemy forces at their headquarters couldn’t be compared to such rural areas. The Silver Phoenix Knights had been winning all their battles mainly because of the Tzendrinbles’ high mobility. Ikaruga and Gordesleo might be powerful, but there were limits to how much a single unit could do. If they want to attack a stronghold, the situation would be overwhelmingly disadvantageous for the Silver Phoenix Knights.
“Also, having the entire knights corp act would be too conspicuous. The worst scenario would be the enemy escaping with the princess, and we need to save multiple prisoners. If they use them as hostages, the rescue mission would become very complicated. Anyway, we have to rescue all the royals before the enemy finds out.”
Emrys’ brow furrowed into a knot again. Finding the place where the royals were imprisoned was heartening news, but it didn’t change the fact that their targets were still in enemy hands. Helvi and Ady also lowered their arms reluctantly.
“That’s why, the Knights corp will stay here and continue to fight, while we go get the royals back.”
There was only one person, Eru, who was smiling cheerfully.
"How are you going to do that? We have to get them back, but we can’t do that without combat prowess."
“No, let’s think of it from the other perspective. Since we dealt quite a heavy blow to Žaloudek, they will definitely increase their forces to destroy our knight corps right? Let’s aim for this. The main units of a knight corps are Silhouette Knights, but we have another weapon… It is time for Silhouette Gears to shine.”
Gradually, Eru’s expression turned into that of a child who just thought of a prank, or one who was showing off his favourite toy.
"While the enemy is concentrating on the main forces of the Knights Corp, we will use the newest model of Silhouette Gears to infiltrate and rescue the princess and the others...…Batson! It is time for Shadowlad’s debut!"
“Oh, oh!? That does— make sense, if it is that..."
Batson who was named suddenly nodded in a panic, then turned to check behind him. The Silhouette Gear over there wasn’t a Motor Beat or a Motor Rad. The Blue Hawk Knights led by Nora stood besides them and nodded firmly.
Emrys who had been listening to Eru quietly couldn’t help laughing out loudly:
“Fu, fufu, fuhaha, hahaha! Ernesti… You are really, fuhahaha, very good, I like this idea! Fufufu, especially the part of making them waste their time!”
After Emrys got fired up, the people around him started moving. In the heated atmosphere, Ady moved to Batson’s side quietly and whispered:
“Bart, even though Eru said that, he just wants to try out the new equipment right?”
"I think so too. It’s Eru after all. Sigh, let’s just keep this between us."
While Ady and Batson was whispering and nodding to each other, the preparations were proceeding smoothly. The Knight Commander Eru decided the plan, and assigned tasks to the members.
"I will lead the rescue team. Chid and Ady will come with us too.”
Not just Ady, even Chid was panicking after being named.
"Yes. You two can pilot Motor Beat just like me, and are the pilots of the Tzendrinbles too. In order to keep the transport and infiltration forces to the minimum, you two would be indispensable members.”
"I see… I understand, Eru! Let’s rescue the princess together!"
Ady raised her fist stronger than usual, and Chid shrugged as if it couldn’t be helped. Emrys who was listening quietly grabbed Eru’s head and said:
"Hey Ernesti, I want to join the rescue team, no matter what. What do you think I came all the way here to do?”
Eru escaped the claws grabbing his head and shaking it, then agreed with a sigh. Emrys might not be that compatible with the mission, but it was no use trying to dissuade him.
"That’s the members of the rescue team. Next… I will be handing an important task to Edgar-sempai, Di-sempai, Helvi-sempai and the company members of the Silver Phoenix Knights."
The Company Captains straightened their backs and gathered in front of the Knight Commander Eru. They had an inkling about where the conversations was heading, the main force’s mission was probably to divert the enemy’s attention. This was a dangerous move, but their expression were determined. Eru took out a pile of paper out of nowhere, showed it to them and said:
"In order to let the Kuschepercas fight too, I thought up a plan to remodel the Resvants. These are the designs."
"Huh!? When did you… That’s impressive as always."
Although the Company Captains were surprised, they still took the blueprints carefully. Eru puffed his chest proudly, then reverted to his serious expression and said:
“I hope the companies can bring this along to convince the nobles in the region. When we successfully carry out the rescue mission, it would mean the return of the country’s monarch. What is left would be a war to reclaim the nation. At that time, not just us, they will need to fight too, and this is a way to give them some strength.”
The Company Captains suddenly felt the blueprints in their hands turned heavier. In a sense, these blueprints would decide the future of this lands.
"… Really now, you are making it sound so easy."
"But this is interesting. I am more suited for defense anyway, I will make sure the plans are handed to the aristocrats safety, and give the enemy a huge surprise.”
Not just Edgar, all the members raised their arms in a loud cheer. And so, the rescue team and main forces stepped onto their own battlefield. The Silver Phoenix Knights that appeared calm on the surface but was as turbulent as a storm began their plans.
"Fufu, the princess rescue plan! That sounds good… Ahh, to be rescued by Eru, I’m so jealous…”
"Stop talking nonsense. Come, we have an important mission on hand, go get ready."
Amongst the Knights getting ready to move, Chid grabbed the collar of the dreaming Ady and dragged her away.
The figure of dark vessels appeared over the serene skies of the eastern territories. Advancing leisurely by means of sail, the two ships — the Žaloudek army’s secret weapon, the Levitate Ships were commanded by Gustavo’s team from Fontaine.
"Ho, to even send out the valuable Levitate Ships, we sure are serious about this."
Gustavo sat on the captain’s seat comfortably and said in a good mood. A man who seemed to be his subordinate replied:
"It is my humble opinion that using Levitate Ships to deal with those rabbles, is a little overkill."
As their opponents so far was the Kuscheperca army, the man’s voice had a hint of contempt. Not just him, the entire Žaloudek army thought the same way. When he realized that, Gustavo showed a restless face, then quickly made a show of being relaxed and asked:
"I’ve heard that the ‘death god’ or something enemy flees very fast! We will cut them off from the front with the Levitate Ships and defeat them! How about it? Isn’t this perfect? We need to settle this quick, wasting more time will just bring shame to my foster father.”
“Haha, that’s true. Our true enemy is the patience of His Highness. That is more frightening than the Kuscheperca weakling.”
The man left with a laugh, and Gustavo watched him go. Supporting his face casually, he put his elbow on the captain’s seat and crossed his leg.
“... Sigh, you might mess up if you are that careless. With how the rumours of the death god are raging, they must be a difficult bunch to deal with. No matter what, I have to think of a way to deal with it.”
Understanding where the source of the problem lies, Gustavo was confident and fearless. His unit headed east on the Levitate Ship.
Quite some time had passed since Ernesti led the Silhouette Gear units to rescue the princess.
The remaining First to Third Company formed the main forces of the Silver Phoenix Knights, and traveled around the eastern region of the old Kuscheperca Kingdom. The 1st and 2nd Company as the core of the units, and the Tzendrinbles of 3rd Company to facilitate their movements. The objective of the main force was to deliver the ‘Resvant strengthening plan’ to the regional nobles and request for their aid. It would be more efficient to split up into smaller teams, but there were several reasons why they couldn’t move in small groups.
The main reason was the repeated hunting of Silhouette Knights by their Knight Commander Ernesti, which infuriated the Žaloudek, prompting them to adopt countermeasures — prohibiting patrols at platoon level (3 machines), and increasing the scale to a minimum of company level (10 machines), or even multiple companies. For the Silver Phoenix Knights that didn’t have their strongest ace, Ikaruga, fighting such quantity of enemies was very dangerous.
"Seems like they have no intention of letting us finish the job easily."
"If they continue to be guarded against us, it will work to our benefit."
Because of the changes in the enemy’s nation’s movement, the main forces avoided battle. Thanks to the Žaloudek army concentrating their forces, the encounter rate between the two sides decreased instead. On the other hand, the existence of the main force had been exposed, and the alien herd of horses wasn’t a mysterious rumour anymore, but a physical entity visible to the eyes.
"No matter what, our advantage still lies with the leg power of the Tzendrinble. Let’s detour before we run into the enemy."
Behind the horses that were towing the 2nd Company, Dietrich muttered hopefully, but it was in vain. The herd of Tzendrinbles towing wagon was very prominent. It was impossible to cover their tracks, so it was only a matter of time before they were found.
"…… Evasion report, found the horse herd. Releasing the hawks to continue the hunt..."
Dark shadows of giants hid in the forest along the road. Their stature might be imposing, but they didn’t make a sound, and their presence was as faint as phantoms. The Centaur Knights galloping along the path didn’t detect their presence at all. Shortly later, the dark giant moved stealthily, and several soldiers rode away on fast horses.
"… After verifying the reports, they are really there. The Vixen is really efficient."
On the bridge of the Levitate Ship, Gustavo groaned as he stroked his chin. In his line of sight ahead was a group of alien galloping along the forest path.
"So that is the rumoured ‘death god knights’... No wonder it is so hard to locate them, what are those horse like things? Well, no matter who the opponent is, they will fall under my sword.”
With the strange group of horses galloping in front of him, even Gustavo who was renowned for his bravery was surprised by this. Despite that, he composed himself and started issuing orders to his panicking subordinates. His courage was really phenomenal.
When the airborne Gustavo discovered the 2nd Company of the Silver Phoenix Knights on the ground, the 2nd Company also noticed the approaching Levitate Ship.
"What is that? Am I dreaming? A ship… is flying in the sky and chasing us!"
"How should I say this… To think that aside from our Knight Commander, there are other people who can make such things that defies common sense. The west really is a large place."
"Captain Di, that’s not the part you should be surprised about! What should we do now!"
The 2nd Company had quite a shock when they saw the Levitate Ships, it was the first aerial unit in the world after all. Speaking of things that could take to the sky, the most they could think of was demon beasts. It was no surprise that the existence of the Levitate Ships would make them lose their wits. The Žaloudek army had always treated the Levitate Ships as a practical fighting force, but had never sent to the eastern borders. This was a dire situation for the Silver Phoenix Knights.
“Really now, they look just like normal ships. Hmm, those are… sails? On the sails are the flags of the Žaloudek Kingdom, so they are the enemy who are chasing us from the air… They seemed to be faster than us, we will have to fight.”
As expected of the Silver Phoenix Knights, they recomposed themselves in no time after sighting a never seen before flying weapon. To them, shocking things were just a walk in the park, although they didn’t develop such bold attitudes willingly.
"All units prepare for battle! Deploy outer crust for ranged combat!”
After Dietrich gave his instructions, all the machines deployed the simple defensive equipment on the wagon. By using the cargo, the Silhouette Knights, as cannons, they displayed a part of the function of a chariot.
On the speeding wagons, the Karrdators deployed their back weapons and aimed towards the sky. In their cockpits, the reticles were also trained on the enemy ships that were just black dots on the Holo Monitor.
"… Pre-emptive strike! Start firing!!"
After gauging the range and timing the moment to attack, the Captain of 2nd Company Dietrich gave the order, and they attacked the approaching Levitate Ships ferociously.
The sudden shots from the ground surprised the descending Levitate Ships. Looking down from on high and thinking they had everything in their control, they never imagined that anyone would attack the Levitate Ship immediately on sight.
"Hee, they are not afraid after seeing the Levitate Ship huh? They have guts! Let’s return the favour, prepare the Catapult! Contact the other ship, we are going for a pincer attack!”
One man— Gustavo calmly instructed his subordinates to attack. The calm attitude of the commander infected the others in the bridge, and the messenger who was still a little jittery shouted the orders to the messaging tubes hurriedly.
Windows at the sides of the Levitate Ship opened immediately, and wooden platform appeared from inside, taking aim at the dust being kicked up on the road. At the same time, minute adjustment was made to the Blow Engine, and the Levitate Ship started decelerating. During this period of time, the Levitate Ship nimbly dodged through the bullets, and the two vessels caught the Silver Phoenix Knights between them and started moving parallel to each other.
"Don’t need to be too precise, just fire as fast as possible!!"
With a heavy thud, waves of stones were shot out of the small windows. The so called ‘catapult’ were small mechanisms mounted on the Levitate Ship. Just simple devices that launch stone projectiles with springs, and could be easily blocked by normal Silhouette Knights.
But it was a different matter if it was mounted on a Levitate Ship. After all, the Levitate Ship possess altitude advantage unlike any other weapons, so even a small and weak stone projectile would possess lethal power once it hits the ground.
The stone shells flying in with howls shattered the stone paved road with loud explosive noise. As if in retaliation of the shots fired at them, the stone shelled at them one after another. The pilots of the Tzendrinble shouted in a panic:
"Oh no, 2nd Company, the road surface is filled with potholes, the wagon will flip if we continue at this speed!!”
“Well played… All 3rd Company units, uncouple your wagons! Lighten your load and charge into the forest, get out of catapult range!”
Their brakes screeched and sparks flew alongside smoke as the uncoupled wagon started slowing down. The 2nd Company braced themselves, absorbing the inertia of the sudden brake. Incidentally, the dust that was kicked up became a sort of smokescreen, hiding them from the Levitate Ships.
"Haha! They have amusing tricks, but this won’t do! All pilots get in position! Land the ship, let us resolve this with swords!"
Right after saying that, Gustavo left the bridge and dashed for the hangar, and his subordinates followed right behind. In the meanwhile, the colossal bodies of the ships got closer to the ground, and their wake blew up waves of dust. Its dramatic movement gave the illusion of it being on the verge of crashing. The sails that were used to propel the ships acted as an air brake. The ships’ altitude was lowered to about the height of trees. The next second, a large dark hole opened on the armoured ship, and Tyrants linked to heavy cranes leapt out one after another. The heavy steel armour grazed the ground, and with a loud tremor, the Black Knights descended onto the road.
After unloading all the Black Knights in one go, the Levitate Ship didn’t stop. It retrieved its steel cables and continued going forward right above the height of the trees, then accelerated and flew away. Levitate Ships might be powerful weapon, but only when they were airborne. The instant when they lower their altitude and speed to unload the Silhouette Knights was its most vulnerable moment. That was why they executed the tasks of decelerating, descending, and unloading the Black Knights in one smooth movement. The ship crew that performed these circus like movements were worthy of praise.
The giant figures of the Tyrants formed a rank on the road. Four platoons, a dozen Silhouette Knights blocked the path of the Silver Phoenix Knights’ 2nd Company.
"I thought the Levitate Ships would attack, but it is just these Black Knights. The enemy is really busy too huh. But if the opponent are things like Silhouette Knights, I am very familiar with them. Don’t look down on us, the 2nd Company."
Dietrich complained as he let Guyaralinde stand up on the wagon. He swivelled the neck of the machine to survey the situation and sighed.
The 2nd Company stood off against the Tyrants who formed a horizontal wall as usual. The Tyrants didn’t act rashly because of their advantage in numbers, and closed the distance slowly. Not only were the machines powerful, they were intimidating when they advanced in a tight formation too.
"We will try our best to avoid fighting… But we need to dispose the troubles that seek us out.”
Guyaralinde drew its swords. Its Ether Reactor roared, and the mana was injected into its body that was ready to pounce. The Karrdators marked with crimson crosses beside Guyaralinde also raised their weapons.
"My grudge isn’t as deep as Edgar, but I have my own ideas too. You annoying people, using the technology you stole from us and showing it off everywhere..."
Dietrich stepped on a pedal, and Guyaralinde bend its body to store up energy. Its Crystal Tissue was as tight as bow strings, eager to unleash its energy explosively.
"… The price isn’t cheap."
Guyaralinde sprinted, the dust it kicked up giving the illusion of being a sort of explosive shot. The Karrdators of the 2nd Company followed right behind him. They were also known as the ‘gangbangers’ — A group specializing in offensive prowess. Uninterested in grinding out with others, their true value lies in their attacking capabilities.
"Hmmp, you dare challenge a Tyrant head on? I will show you our power!”
The pilot inside the cockpit of the Black Knight chuckled to himself. For the Tyrants with exceptional defence and power, a close frontal fight was exactly what they want. It was a fact that they had defeated Resvants with twice their numbers with ease before. In their mind, the result would be no different for this ‘Death God unit’.
In the face of the attack by the Karrdator charging straight at it, the Tyrant engaged head on. The armour on its arms were as durable as the shields of normal machines. He planned to parry the strike and then counter attack.
The powerful collision of steel resounded loud and heavily, followed by sharp screeches of friction and sparks. The pilot of the Tyrant never expected this— the Karrdator might look like a normal machine from the outside, but within it was the Strand Crystal Tissues of the latest model. Compared to it, the power output of the Resvants was child’s play. A sword strike destroyed the wrist guard of the Tyrant, and even hurt the Crystal Tissue beneath it.
"I-Impossible! The Tyrant’s armour is…!? These guys are completely different from the Resvants!”
“Oh, I can’t cut right through? The armour is tougher than it looks!”
The Tyrant stumbled back with shards of Crystal Tissues falling from it. For the Karrdator, the heavy armour of the Tyrant was unimaginably strong. If the Tyrant was on par with a Duel Level demon beast, the sword attack would have fell it easily.
“But no matter how hard the armour is, it’s nothing compared to the Behemoth!”
Dietrich ran through the middle of the battlefield where the two forces were facing off against each other, and started attacking the two Tyrants right in front of him. As the Žaloudek side had superior numbers, he had to take on two heavily armoured Black Knights at the same time. The position of Captain sure is a thankless task— Dietrich mocked himself internally.
That might be so, he still had a plan in mind. He activated Guyaralinde’s secret weapon as he ran— The Magius Jet Thrusters embedded in his shoulder and waist armour. Guyaralinde’s equipment and Jet Thrusters had much more restrictions compared to Ikaruga, having lower power output and could only go forward. Even so, depending on the situation, it could be a powerful technique.
A heavy and vague explosive burst pushed Guyaralinde a bit more forward from his original position, and that was more than enough. Even though the Tyrant reacted to match the Crimson Knight’s speed, it missed the timing to block because of that sudden acceleration. It was possible to slow down before an attack, which was a type of feint they were wary of. However, speeding up was completely unexpected. How could a machine that moves on two legs accelerate at will?
Guyaralinde slashed its dual sword at amazing speed. Without giving the enemy a chance to react, Guyaralinde swiped the heads of the two Tyrants. After the sneak attack, the Tyrants lost their vision and had to fall back on the defensive. Although the vambrace on the two machines parried away the sword blow, it was within Dietrich’s expectations. Guyaralinde deployed its back weapon Kamtha firing air blades at the Tyrant’s wrist. At point blank range, even the Tyrant’s heavy armour couldn’t withstand the damage. It’s vambrace twisted out of shape, and shards of Crystal Tissues were blown off.
It wasn’t clear to him what wizardry the opponent was performing, but he couldn’t just take a beating one sidedly. The pilot of the Tyrant suppressed his wrath as he forcefully counterattacked despite being unbalanced. It might lack the usual power, but no machine could escape unscathed from a direct hit of a Tyrant’s warhammer— But Dietrich was one step ahead of him. Guyaralinde used the explosive air from earlier to accelerate and retreat out of range. The pilot roared furiously, but couldn’t stop the momentum of the warhammer and smashed it into the ground, cracking the road and raising a dust cloud.
Even with the power of the Tyrant, the machine still showed a gap after its attack. This was more than enough for the crimson knight. The next second, a flash of lightning appeared soundlessly— No, that was the dual swords being swung down with a speed that others would mistake for lightning.
Suppressing his surprise, the pilot of the Tyrant backed away hurriedly, and at the same time, he saw something in the air fell onto the ground. It was a giant arm grabbing a warhammer— The arm of his Tyrant that had been severed at the elbow. He stepped back with a scream, and drew his backup short mace with his left arm in a panic. The pilot’s hand that was holding the control stick was sweating, and his heart was beating like drums. It was impossible to cut off the thick armoured arm of the Tyrant cleanly without extraordinary techniques. He had always thought that the armour of the Tyrant was invincible, but suddenly, they looked as frail as a strawman.
“Stand down! You all are no match for him. It is time for ‘Swordsman’ to shine!”
Before Guyaralinde could continue his onslaught, a young and cheerful voice of a man and a Black Knight came between the two of them. A strange machine that was unlike its allies was actually hiding behind the dark wall of the Tyrants.
The enemy machine was similar to a standard Silhouette Knight, and looked like a old model at a glance. But what surprised Dietrich was its overly strange feature—
"W-What the hell? … Swords? Why do you have so many swords?”
That’s right, swords. Even though swords were standard equipment for many Silhouette Knights, but the machine before him was too ridiculous. On its head, torso, shoulders, arms, waists and even legs— its entire body was covered by swords of various length. The only adequate description being a bunch of swords, the weird Silhouette Knight made Dietrich dumbfounded, but that was to be expected.
“Ah? Isn’t it obvious? Swords are strong, so carrying more swords will make me even stronger of course.”
“Yes I see. So he is a retard…”
“You have swords too, but that’s not good enough! You are not at the level of ‘Swordsman’ yet!!”
Right after saying that, the Silhouette Knights with plenty of swords— Swordsman pounced at Guyaralinde. Dietrich focused his attention and engaged with his dual swords.
“What chilling comedic skills! I have to handle this seriously now!”
The dual sword crimson knights clashed with the black knight with many swords. A myriad of breathtaking, high speed blows were exchanged. In order to gain a more advantageous position and deal out more powerful attacks, their feet didn’t even stop for a moment. The two machine fought in very similar ways, with a tendency for strong strikes. Compared to a single focused hit, they both preferred consecutive attacks like a typhoon. So ferocious were their exchange that the 2nd Company hesitated on lending a hand.
"Bunch of swords, you are too arrogant!"
A Karrdator tried to force its way into the space filled with the howls of swords. But before that, the Swordsman sheathed its long sword and drew out a dagger as if performing a magic trick, and flung it at the Karrdator without even looking. Despite that, the dagger still flew towards the Karrdator with terrifying accuracy.
"Hey, stop getting in the way. You don’t even have a sword, how can you be my opponent?"
Using the chance when its opponent was unarmed, Guyaralinde shot with its Kamtha. The Swordsman evaded the sword shaped shot, and slid into the flank of Guyaralinde, drawing and slashing its sword at Guyaralinde like a hurricane. Guyaralinde was already ready for this strike, and blocked it, throwing up sparks from the clash of arms. The next instant, Guyaralinde countered with its other arm, and the Swordsman parried with its sword blade, drawing a circular arc in an attempt to disarm Guyaralinde. Dietrich pulled his machine backwards in a hurry, and barely managed to avoid losing his sword. The Swordsman with a long and short sword in either hands pressed forth towards his retreating adversary, and started his sword dance from close range.
"Ho, that was disrespectful of me. To think you can match my swords so far, you are pretty good, red one!"
"What a persistent fellow! I can’t be happy when you are that ecstatic!"
While the black and crimson knights were rampaging in the middle of the battlefield with intense exchanges, the Swordsman threw out daggers at the Karrdators around him. This put the Karrdators on edge, and the morale of 2nd Company was obviously waning.
"Follow Sir Gustavo! How can we Black Knights back down from something like this!?”
At the same time, the Black Knights that had been pushed back reignited their fighting spirit because of the Swordsman’s might. Even though the Karrdators were powerful, the enemy’s heavy armour remained a serious threat.
“Ugh, the bunch of sword guy… Looks retarded, but he is strong! He can spare the effort to attack others while fighting me… No, that just means I am being suppressed!!”
Dietrich thought bitterly as he swung his swords. Not only was he the Captain, his partnership with Guyaralinde was also the strongest unit in the 2nd Company. Being suppressed proved how powerful the enemy was.
"But… This is bad, now of all times! Did I dragged on too long?”
What made things worse was that Dietrich could feel the movements of his machine dulling. The reason was obvious, the fight had dragged on for too long, and the mana pool of the machine was depleting.
“Hahaha, dual sword fellow! Your movements are getting dull!! What’s the matter!? You can’t match me with such slow swordsmanship!”
The Swordsman suddenly increased his pressure. As Dietrich did all he could to fend his opponent off, he felt a strong sense of dissonance. The Swordsman he was fighting didn’t slow down at all. Since Guyaralinde’s mana pool was getting depleted, the Swordsman and Tyrant should be slowing down too, but he couldn’t see any gaps in his enemy’s movement. Judging from the muscle mass of the Tyrants, they should have depleted a large amount of mana. If he was to gauge their mana reserves from their body, they shouldn’t be able to even stand.
"Ah—? You are out of power huh. Well, I had fun, so it is time to end this!”
The sound of friction when the muscles of the Swordsman tightened was audible to everyone in the vicinity, and was abnormally powerful. In contrast, Guyaralinde and the Karrdators were slowing down from the lack of mana. The tables were turned in a blink of an eye, and the 2nd Company fell into a desperate situation.
"… I admit that the we are at a disadvantage… But, aren’t you forgetting something?"
Gustavo frowned when he saw Dietrich being unfazed despite being the underdog. He is just putting on a strong front— He refute such thoughts immediately. The pervert obsessed with swords could understand the thinking of the adversaries he crossed swords with. In his mind, there wasn’t any falsehood in the Crimson Knight’s fiery swords.
"… Tch, so that’s how it is!"
The next second, Gustavo finally got it. But it was too late, the battle had already changed. The incredibly loud metal hooves echoed in the forest. After shaking off the Levitate Ships’ attack, the Tzendrinbles from the 3rd Company were back.
"Those horses aren’t just used to draw wagons! We are outnumbered now! This isn’t good…”
One company (10 machines) plus the 5 Tzendrinbles transporting them were numerically superior to Gustavo’s team of twelve. Considering the unknown prowess of the Centaur Knight, the difference might be even greater than the number suggests.
The sound of the hooves spurred Guyaralinde, and it committed its remaining mana, taking a stance to make its certain kill move. The Ether Reactor churned with the sharp sound of air intake at its highest power output. The tables had turned, and it was their turn to show their ace.
The Tzendrinbles that ran through the forest charged Gustavo’s team that had obviously been shaken. The fast and powerful thrust of the Tzendrinble’s lance was lethal to the Black Knights damaged during their bout with the 2nd Company. After the Centaur charged by, five Black Knights were utterly damaged, and fell on their knees.
“Wha… These horses are strong! Damn, they are good!!”
When Gustavo was about to counter with an angry roar, something unexpected by everyone present happened. A Black Knight was incapacitated from an attack that exploded without warning, and all of them were caught in the explosion before they could react. However, there wasn’t any impact from the explosion, and the surroundings were engulfed in a blinding smoke.
"Smoke… A smoke screen? Such despicable methods! Everyone retreat, we will hit our allies if we fire carelessly. Get away from the smoke first!”
Dietrich’s vision was obscured and he was wary of sneak attacks from the enemy, keeping his guard up as he backed away. Since they couldn’t grasp the position of their allies, they couldn’t fire carelessly. It was the same for the 3rd Company, it was too dangerous for the Tzendrinbles to charge into a place they couldn’t see.
"What the… hell is going on?"
Even Gustavo was backing away in confusion. He never heard of the Black Knights having such a function. The smoke allowed him to evade the attacks of the Centaur Knight, but he couldn’t grasp the situation.
As both sides retreated at the same time, a large gap appeared between them. As if it was aiming for this moment, a gust of strong wind came from behind Gustavo, and the dust lingering over the battlefield dissipated quickly.
"That is… the Levitate Ship! It’s flying back!?"
The attacks the 2nd Company were wary of didn’t came. In place of that, the ace of the Steel Wing Knights— a Levitate Ship appeared. The Levitate Ship flew in at a low altitude that almost touched the tree tops, opened the bottom hatches and lowered its chains. Its intention was obvious, so the surviving Black Knights and Swordsman grabbed onto the chain and it slowly took off. As they rose, the Swordsman gave a parting speech:
“Tch! Let’s continue our match another time. Hey, red one, you are pretty good with your swords. Let’s fight again if we have the chance, don’t die on me before that—!"
The moment the Levitate Ship pulled the Silhouette Knights on board, the Blow Engine started churning loudly, increasing speed and altitude. And of course, Dietrich wouldn’t let the enemy go so easily. The 2nd Company immediately fired off shots intensely, but only a glancing shots hit the target. It didn’t hinder the Levitate Ship one bit, as the equipment they had on hand couldn’t stop their foe.
"… They escaped huh? It’s regrettable, but we took a lot of damage too. And we will need an effective weapon to take out that ship.Looks like I need to ask Ernesti to help us prepare some things.”
Dietrich muttered vexingly as he watch the Ship picked up speed and left.
“... I see. So you are the one who did this. When did you do that?”
After boarding the Levitate Ship to escape and going to the bridge, Gustavo asked the person on the Captain’s seat unhappily.
“Before we set off of course. This is just a trivial gift from me, but it proved useful, right?”
Kerhild replied with a devious smile as she sat easily in her Captain’s seat. Gustavo was furious about being interrupted when he was just getting into the fight, but it was true that he only got out of his predicament because of her butting in midway.
“... I owe you one, but there won’t be a next time.”
After thinking for a moment, he left these parting words and went to the hangar to check on his men. Kerhild’s smile deepened as she watched him go.
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