Thursday, January 5, 2017

Knight's & Magic Volume 4 Chapter 33

Princess of the Fallen Kingdom Arc

Hoisting the flag of the Silver Phoenix
Translator: Skythewood
Editors: Darkdhaos, Ruzenor
Illustration cleaned by Hiiro

Change Note: I have been grouping the mechas with infantry numbers (e.g. 10 guys in a squad), but I realized that it should be thinking of them as tanks (e.g. 3 tanks in a platoon). Was just being stubborn and using the wrong terms. Fixed all past iteration.

In the eastern territory of the old Kuscheperca Kingdom. Stretching all the way to the foot of the Aubigne Mountain Range, these lands were mostly covered by forest with undulating terrain. The Pan-Kucher road was paved through the vast forest, connecting the various regions of Kuscheperca.

"... Even though Fontaine had fallen, the atmosphere in this forest remains the same."

Martina who leaned out of the wagon to survey the scenery frowned as the wind blew in her face. The lush greenery seemed oblivious of how the nation was suffering, and was serene as usual. As they went further away from Fontaine, the melancholy in her heart became lighter. That city which was currently under the rule of Žaloudek Kingdom’s eastern governance house used to be the territory of his late husband, Archduke Fernando. That’s right, the Lacepede Castle they were held captive in was the place she used to reside in, and where her late husband was murdered. No matter how strong a woman she was, there was still a limit. If she was kept there any longer, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine her doing something rash because she couldn’t take it anymore.

"We are finally taking the first step. I will retake this Kingdom from the hands of those bastards, Fernando my love… Please watch over me."

She had a mission, a mission entrusted to her by her brother-in-law, the king, and her husband. Martina’s heavy words filled with determination were lost in the wind blowing through the forest. No one heard her murmurs, but her nephew who should be sound asleep inside the waiting room changed his breathing pattern unnaturally for a beat. The two Tzendrinbles and the wagon they were towing continued to move, heading towards the grand and sturdy Aubigne Mountains.

C.E. 1281, this turbulent year was worthy of a special mention even in the long history of the western continent.

The countries located in the west of Zetterlund Continent—known collectively as the Western League of Nations. Amongst them, the powerful Žaloudek kingdom’ invaded its neighbouring country suddenly, which started what was known as the ‘Western Grand Storm’ by future generations.

The Žaloudek Kingdom committed overwhelming forces, and conquered the Locard Allied Union in a blink of an eye, and proceeded to invade Kuscheperca Kingdom thereafter. The Žaloudek Kingdom and Kuscheperca Kingdom were both large and prominent nations in the west, and were virtually equal in their military might. In the beginning, the surrounding nations also thought that this would be a drawn out war. But the Žaloudek Kingdom took full advantage of their powerful Silhouette Knights made with revolutionary technology, and together with the first practical application of an airborne weapon, Levitate Ships, turned the battle into a one-sided affair.

The result was surprising. In just half a year, Kuscheperca had fallen.

"Rys-Nii, where exactly is this wagon going? Are we going over the mountains?"

Isadora stretched her limbs that had gotten stiff from sitting inside the entire day, and asked Emrys. Since their escape from Fontaine, they had been traveling during daytime for several days. Considering Tzendrinble’s speed, they should have travelled quite some distance, and will cross the Aubigne mountains into Fremmevira Kingdom if they kept up this pace. Taking into account Emrys’ status, it was definitely possible for them to seek refuge there temporarily.

"No, I can’t give that side any trouble. I already promised my dad. Our destination is somewhere closer.”

"The Centaur Knights arrived here very quickly, but what are you planning to do in this country? The Black Knights will surround us very soon."

Seeing Isadora lower her eyes gloomily, Emrys puffed his chest out confidently for some reason and declared:

"Don’t worry Isadora. We didn’t come here without a plan, of course we are prepared to strike back…! The Silver Phoenix Knights will take care of that!"

"Rys-Nii, at least say that they are doing so on your orders..."

Isadora didn’t understand where his confidence was coming from, and felt worried. She turned her gaze to the wagon travelling beside them with such a thought in mind. On it was the six armed demon god in standby, it was the machine that fended off the Levitate Ship by itself. She realized she was holding onto some expectations— Since his subordinates controlled such fearsome weapons, he must have some unimaginable plan.

And soon, she would witness just what the Silver Phoenix Knights could do—

Shortly later, a scene different from the forest appeared in front of them, it was the city that became prosperous as a relay station situated right next to Pan-Kucher road, Missillier. The Tzendrinbles that had been travelling at top speed eased their pace when the city came into sight. Missillier was surrounded by crude walls, and a flag was flown on top of it. It wasn’t the flag of Žaloudek Kingdom, but one that bore the emblem of a Silver Phoenix. Tzendrinble waved a flag in response, and the gates opened to receive them.

“Phew, that was tiring… Tzen-chan worked hard too!”

“They were the one running, but we the pilots are tired too.”

The Tzendrinbles passed through the gate with the sound of intake valves that seemed exhausted. When the people in the city noticed that and looked their way, the Tzendrinble had already reached the hangar. The pilots Chid and Ady looked completely worn out, and after uncoupling the wagon, they entered the workshop with wavering footsteps. The two machines had been worked really hard in this long journey, and would need a complete overhaul. The craftsmen who came to take over thanked the twins for their hard work, and started unloading the Silhouette Gears on the wagon.

"Rys, is this city fine? Although it didn’t appear to be under Žaloudek’s rule from how easily we waltz in here..."

"Don’t worry aunt. See that flag? The Silver Phoenix is our trademark."

The door to the waiting room on the wagon opened, and Martina pushed her face out. The loud noises coming from around her made her squint. Craftsmen bustled around in Silhouette Gears to unload the cargo, and in the workshop besides the hangar were a group assembling Silhouette Knights. This place had all the liveliness that Fontaine had lost.

After being freed from imprisonment, they felt deeply moved by the lively scene. Behind them, Ikaruga made noises unique to Crystal Tissues and stood up.

"I will hand Ikaruga over to the guys in the workshop. Young Master, please take everyone to their lodgings.”

Emrys raised his hand to acknowledge, and led Martina and the others in the direction of the city center. They didn’t walk for long when a carriage came to a stop before them. A man rushed out of the carriage. He was Baron Modesto Letonmaki, a minor noble who held a small piece of land in the east.

"Ohh! Lady Martina, you are safe. Lord Emrys did mention that… Ahh!!"

He noticed the person hiding behind Martina, and got down on one knee with a deep bow, even though they were on the side of the road.

"Princess Eleanora, you must have had a hard journey. I am relieved to see that you are well."

Eleanora Miranda Kuscheperca, the only child left behind by King Aukusti who fell in battle, the sole heir to the throne by her royal Kuscheperca bloodline. When they heard Baron Letonmaki’s passionate words, everyone understood what was happening and also bowed on their knees.

Eleanora who was raised in a delicate environment wasn’t used to such a direct display of fealty. In place of the troubled Eleanora, Martina announced to all those around her:

"Lord Letonmaki, and everyone present, please rise. I am honoured by everyone’s gesture, but ever since we were rescued, the Princess just arrived after a long journey and is tired. I hope you can be so kind and lead us to a place for us to settle down.”

“Yes, pardon my lack of consideration. Allow me to lead you to your lodgings, this way please.”

Baron Letonmaki stood up and ushered them onto the carriage, instructing the driver to head for the center of the city.

"You had a long journey too, Lady Martina. Aren’t you tired?"

"I am a little tired, but I don’t have the leisure of rest with the way the nation is. I want to discuss plans for the future immediately..."

As Martina dragged her exhausted body to act, Emrys interjected suddenly:

"Lord Letonmaki, why don’t we continue the ‘trade’ we talked about last time? Everyone is here anyway.”

“Yes, they can’t wait anymore. We have questions about those blueprints you sent us.”

A short while later, they reached a large building in the city center. Letonmaki ordered his servants to bring the Princess and Isadora to the room, and led Emrys and Martina to the war conference room. There was already a large group waiting for them in there.

The Baron announced loudly when he stepped into the room:

“Good news everyone. The Silver Phoenix Merchant rescued Her Highness Martina and Isadora, and even saved Princess Eleanora!”

A loud cheer shook the entire conference room. Not too long ago, Žaloudek released news that Second Prince Cristóbal will be marrying Princess Eleanora, which hit the surviving nobles hard. Unable to offer any resistance, this marriage will mark a clear end of the royal bloodline, a cruel announcement of Kuscheperca’s defeat.

Now that the Princess was saved from the claws of Žaloudek, it was only natural for them to be surprised and happy. Inside the rowdy conference room, Martina looked at each of their faces and asked in surprise:

“Why is everyone gathered here…”

The conference room was filled with the nobles of old eastern Kuscheperca Kingdom. Martina was the archduchess, and was well connected in the eastern territories, most of the nobles present had dealings with her. They all had one other common point, which was their relatively lower noble peerage.

“Allow me to give you a brief explanation.”

Baron Letonmaki who led them here explained the situation— After capturing the royals of Kuscheperca, Žaloudek Kingdom quickly extended their reach all over the nation, and their next target was the grand nobles in the nation. A lot of them died in battle alongside the king when the capital fell, and the survivors were left on their own, defeated one by one by the Black Knights. Some of them surrender to the enemy to save their own live, but their military asset and wealth were confiscated, stripping them of their aristocratic power. Žaloudek kingdom, brutally executed their invasion utterly.

With most of the grand nobles eliminated, the lower ranked nobles were ignored. Taking out all the nobles would take a lot of effort, and completely destroying the governance system would be to Žaloudek’s disadvantage instead. In the end, they only sent out periodic patrols to inspect on the weaker nobles to maintain superficial control over them.

"... While we were being suppressed, a group proposed an interesting ‘business deal’ to us.”

Baron Letonmaki looked straight ahead as if he was implying something, and Emrys patted his chest proudly. When Martina’s face changed from confusion to irritation, Emrys showed a wide devious smile, then straightened his expression and posture, adopting respectful mannerism jokingly:

“Thank you for your kind introduction, we are the Silver Phoenix Merchants, a caravan that just happened to be passing by. We came from the east on the other side of the mountain, and saw that Kuscheperca Kingdom seemed to have met with some trouble. We know that it isn’t our business to intrude, but we couldn’t restrain ourselves from lending a helping hand.”

When they heard Emrys’ stiff and monotonous lines, even Martina who had been talking all this while turned quiet, unable to answer.

“Merchants you say…? No, that’s too fake right? It is obvious that Rio-Nii sent you all here to help.”

“Oh! But Dad said no matter how fake it is, the first one to say it will win!”

“Really now… I am really touched by how considerate Rio-Nii is…”

Martina could only answer with a sigh. Despite bringing an extraordinarily strong Silhouette Knights unit, her nephew still insisted that they weren’t here for ‘international diplomacy’. She understood the reasons why they had to go about it in this way, but their cover story still made her speechless.

“It is thanks to the aid of their merchant group that all of us can gather here like this.”

The Silver Phoenix Merchants who arrived in the eastern territories performed ‘procurement’ that was actually attacks on the Žaloudek army. After suffering losses on multiple occasions, the aggravated Žaloudek army started consolidating their forces to counter. In the end, the patrols frequency in the east fell drastically, and they overlooked their vigilance over the weaker nobles.

“Next, the merchants… Lord Emrys headed towards Fontaine to rescue the Princess, and notified us to gather at the same time. We have completed our given tasks, and would do whatever we can to recover our nation’s territory.”

The nobles present also nodded in agreement. Even though she could see the determination on their faces, Martina still shook her head slowly and said:

“I am grateful that you think that way, but how should we go about taking back our Kingdom? It is vexing to say this… But our Silhouette Knights, the Resvants are far inferior to their Black Knights, and have no chance of winning in a proper fight. We have not won even once, and we can’t depend solely on Rys and his men correct?”

From their experience after multiple encounters, three Resvants could roughly match one Tyrant, which was the consensus of the two armies. This meant that to defeat one Tyrant, three Resvants would need to attack it in concert.

Practically speaking, things weren’t so simple. Žaloudek army’s tight rank formation which was like a wall widens their strength difference. In the face of the tight enemy formation that was difficult to defeat with numbers resulted in losses after losses for the Kuscheperca army. And the Levitate Ships dealt the final blow to them. The never before seen weapon that moves freely in the sky overturned the world’s strategical and tactical rules.

“Hmmp, we are not the only ones who will fight… But leave that aside for now. Aunt, and everyone here, we are merchants after all, so we hope you will purchase these merchandize.”

Emrys walked before the group in high spirits and snapped his finger. A petite youth entered the conference room as if he couldn’t wait any longer. With his silver hair bobbing on his head, he had a bright smile on his cute face. Knight Commander of the Silver Phoenix Knights, Ernesti spoke in a casual tone:

“Pardon for the sudden entrance, I will now introduce the latest merchandize from the Silver Phoenix Merchants to everyone. First of all, I will confirm this, the two biggest problem before us— The difference in performance between your knights and the enemy’s knights, and the means to fight against the Levitate Ships. The Resvants couldn’t handle either of them.”

Edgar and Dietrich who appeared behind Eru suddenly were quietly assembling a blackboard nimbly with practiced hands. Eru quickly pasted some papers onto the board and smiled:

“And so, we the Silver Phoenix Merchants have prepared a proposal to resolve these issues. Please take a look at the design plans I had given out. Like this…”

Eru’s blue eyes had a creepy shine about them, and he looked very happy. He then started his briefing, something he was familiar with in his old job as an engineer.

“According to your explanation, if we use this, we can take part in the battle too. However, this isn’t the only issue.”

After Eru finished his presentation, the Kuscheperca nobles in the conference room were still groaning with a stern face. Considering how futile their resistance had been, the Silver Phoenix Merchants’ proposal was plausible, but the wariness of the weak nobles kept them from agreeing so easily.

“The biggest problem would be time. That design is excellent, but it would take time to craft, and I don’t think Žaloudek will give us time to prepare after the Princess had escaped. If we don’t make it them in time, we will be destroyed.”

“Don’t worry, we already expected this and took measures to stall the enemy. That will buy us some time.”

Eru answered all the questions raised without hesitation. At this moment, Martina said:

“One more point, we might be able to fend off the enemy forces being transferred to the other territories, but their troops already garrisoned in the east can’t be overlooked either. If they found out that we are making those sort of things during their patrol, we won’t have any excuse then.”

Martina’s query was very possible. Eru answered her with an exceptionally brilliant smile:

“Don’t worry, we took care of most of the enemy in the east during our earlier procurement, and we will continue to do so.”

“I-I see…”

Everyone present knew the exploits of the Silver Phoenix Merchants well, and they were even named ‘deathgod’ by the Žaloudek army, so Eru was definitely not putting on a strong front.

“How about it, aunt? The Silver Phoenix’s merchandize are ‘safety’ and ‘combat prowess’, let’s sign a contract until the country is taken back!”

"...Fu, fufu. I really can’t stand you, dummy. Why not then, it’s a deal!”

When she saw Emrys making such a bold declaration with a fearless smile, Martina finally regain her usual composure and smiled. The two of them had similar smile, which made their blood relation prominent.

As Emrys and Martina made the decision to sign the contract, an unexpected person halted them from behind:

“Please wait, Young Master. Lady Martina and you are relatives, but this is a matter that will decide the survival of a nation. Since we are merchants, we can’t provide aid solely on good will. We have to ask for proper compensation too.”

It was Eru who spoke out. Seeing him going off script, Emrys said in a panic:

“Hey, Ernesti, why are you bringing that up all of a sudden!? The merchant thing is just an excuse, we are not…”

“No, don’t interrupt for now, Rys. He is right and I can accept that. It is unpleasant to rely on your good will one sidedly.”

Martina faced Eru with a firm attitude. For the sake of her late husband and the late king, she had to protect Eleanora and restore the Kingdom. And the Silver Phoenix Merchant was an indispensable force for that. She knew Emrys temperament well, and understood that an organization couldn’t act out of good will alone, and work done should be rewarded with adequate remuneration.

She stared at the petite youth before her, who led a strange and powerful organization called the Silver Phoenix Merchants (Knights). He had the appearance of a young child, but was able to infiltrate the city with a weirdly shaped Silhouette Knight and wrecked havoc. She didn’t dare to underestimate this youth. Eru met her strong gaze and said slowly:

"The compensation we would like are Silhouette Knights. From now on, we want the rights to all enemy Silhouette Knights defeated by us.”

“...Ah? That’s all?”

“Yes, that’s the only condition.”

Martina considered the pros and cons quickly in her heart. She had to rely on their strength for now, but her army would become the main forces sooner or later. Before that happens, there wouldn’t be any losses to her if they took the defeated enemy machines as remuneration. At the root of all this, just thinking about the adequate reward for reclaiming the territories of a kingdom would be stupefying enough, and Eru’s request was trivial in comparison.

“Alright, if that is all you need, then it wouldn’t be a problem. We have no objections.”

She had her suspicions, but still nodded in agreement. The relieved Martina didn’t realized that Emrys who was protesting loudly had shut his mouth.

“Alright then! It’s a deal. We are in agreement then… I will utterly destroy all the enemies, and turned them all into my property!”

Eru also nodded, a vicious killing intent mixed into his dreamy smile. At this moment, Emrys who had traveled with him and gradually understood Eru’s character felt a chill, and understood one thing—

He didn’t say it is the Silver Phoenix Merchant’s property, but his property… There’s no mistake, Ernesti intend to take every single enemy machine out, and claim it all for himself!!

He wanted to stop him, but dismissed that thought after deliberating further. It wouldn’t matter as long as the enemy was defeated. Eru and his aunt agreed on this point too, so it would be fine—

And so, the remnants of the old Kuscheperca Kingdom army signed a contract with the Silver Phoenix Merchants, and the war became even more unpredictable.

“A loser should just act like a loser and obey their orders. How dare they make us waste so much effort.”

The black group advanced along the Pan-Kucher road, every step they took shaking the paved stones under their feet. The intimidating group of black contrasted with their surroundings. They were the Black Skull Knights despatched from the northern region of Kuscheperca, and included 40 Tyrants and 20 conscripted Resvants, forming a battalion.

“Battalion commander, it would be better to not speak of this. Be wary of the Silhouette Knight’s broadcast system receiving unnecessary information.”

His deputy walked to the side of the Tyrant the commander was piloting, and advised him quietly. A few days ago, they received a written order, which was signed off by both Princess Catalina and Prince Cristóbal. It meant that the importance of the document was equivalent to a decree, and took the highest priority on the field. Their orders were to capture the Kuscheperca royals that escaped, and to destroy any resistance forces. News of the royals escaping was a top secret, and only the battalion commander and his deputy knew about this. The other knights were only told they were here to put down the unrest in the east. That was only natural, after all, the royals escaped— or rather, they were kidnapped— which would lower the morale of the Žaloudek army drastically. It would also boost the will of the Kuscheperca remnants and invite unnecessary trouble.

“I get it, don’t need to nag… But really, who is the one who let that wench escape? And we, the glorious Black Skull Knights have to come clean up the mess..."

The battalion commander shooed his deputy away and turned off his broadcast. The Black Skull Knights was an exceptionally elite group in the Žaloudek army, and was given more important missions than other knight corps. So when they were tasked to clean up some other people’s mess, they weren’t too happy about it.
A short moment later, the battalion arrived at a fort located next to the road. This fort served as a stronghold of sorts, but was abandoned due to the threat from Levitate Ships. Keeping their guard up, the battalion entered the deserted fort.

"It is completely abandoned, and nothing is left behind. Never mind, we will perform maintenance on the Black Knights after meeting the supply team. Deploy the sentries! We will be staying here temporarily.”

After the commander gave his orders, the troops started moving. As it was abandoned without a fight, there were no signs of damage to the fort, and could be utilized immediately. The battalion was getting tired from their long march to the south, and decided to have a good rest to perform maintenance with the facilities here.

After the arrival of the main forces, the supply unit also moved into the fort. They were well supplied and there was a full range of facilities inside the fort. With things going well, they didn’t have any worries and it was only natural for them to let down their guard. They didn’t have any doubts and focus on resting up.

— The incident happened at midnight, the second day after they moved into the fort.

Sentries patrolled on top of the walls that surrounded the fort. Despite their assigned task, the sentries were unfocused, and it was clear they were just going through the motions. Light from oil lamps flickered onto the wall as they walked absent mindedly. Suddenly, the light was gone. The lights that were lit all over the walls were engulfed by darkness one by one.

In place of them, shadows appeared on the walls. Collapsed at their feet were the corpses of the sentries, and the oil lamp knocked down onto the floor revealed their true identity. Full plated armour that were 2.5m tall— the Silhouette Gear Shadowlad.

The Shadowlads surveyed the inside of the fort from the walls. As the fort belonged originally to the Kuscheperca army, they had already investigated its internal structure beforehand. After watching cautiously, they grasped the situation of the Žaloudek army. With a short exchange of hand gestures, they continued with their operation.

In the middle of the night, an earth shattering explosion woke the Žaloudek army.

“W-What is that ruckus!?”

The battalion commander who was sleeping inside a room charged out with his sword, and asked those around him loudly. One subordinate ran to him and answered:

“Reporting! I-It’s an enemy attack! The enemy set fire to the fort!”

“What did you say!? What are the sentries doing!?... No, leave that for later. Send men to put out the fire. The others are to engage the enemy, don’t let them leave this place alive!!”

The battalion commander had an ominous feeling when he saw his subordinates stuttering, and pushed them to take action.

“B-But… The enemy are wearing strange equipment like a mini Silhouette Knight, and human soldiers are no match for them! And they scaled the walls in an instant, and had already escaped outside.”

“How is that possible, what are those things!?... Damn it! Send my orders to the pilots, tell them to pursue in their Silhouette Knight! We can’t let them off so easily!”

The pilots took action after receiving their orders. Several Tyrants and Resvants stood up, and took off to chase the attackers. The attackers escaped into the forest on the side of the road, and moved in the dense vegetation, which was a difficult terrain for the Silhouette Knight. This worked to the Silhouette Gears; advantage. However, the forest that was dim in the day was pitch dark at night. No matter how fast the attackers try to escape, there was still a limit.

The Tyrants deployed their back weapons and fired at the forest. The ensuring explosive flames exposed the Silhouette Gears that were hidden in the dark. The enraged Silhouette Knights started chasing intensely. Even though Silhouette Gears could run faster than horses, it was still slower than Silhouette Knights and the gap between them closed gradually. During this time, the Tyrants kept shooting with their back weapons. They couldn’t score direct hits because the trees were in their way, but the fire helped them stay on target. The Silhouette Knights hastened their pace.

— But they didn’t know that the pilot under the armour of the Shadowlad was smiling deviously.

The Shadowlad dodged randomly. When they reached a certain point, they lowered their stance and passed under something that was intertwined between the trees. One of the Tyrants was in hot pursuit, its eyes fixated on where the Silhouette Gears were going and not on the trap by its feet. Immediately after that, its feet tangled on something and it fell down hard. With no time to brace itself, its face planted onto the ground directly. It crushed its armour and slid quite a distance from its inertia.

The Silhouette Knights behind did an emergency brake, but it was too late. Several machines couldn’t react in time and was tripped by the trap, falling into a heap.

“What’s going on, there seem to be something… T-They tied steel cables!?”

“Damn thieves! Setting a trap in the forest!”
Visibility was already poor as it was night, and the Silhouette Knights were inside a forest that was hard to maneuver in, so it was virtually impossible to notice such stealthy traps. In the meantime, the Silhouette Gears gradually disappeared from their sights. There would be traps ahead even if they continue their pursuit. It was impossible to catch up to the target if they had to watch out for traps too, and their angry curses echoed throughout the forest in the night.

“T-That concludes the details of how the thieves escaped…”

The Silhouette Knight team reported to the battalion commander after returning to the fort. The commander’s face twisted from anger and he lashed out:

“Damn thieves! They are well prepared… Just whose forces are they from!? Forget it, how’s the fire extinguishing going?”

“Sir, we let the Silhouette Knights help in putting out the fire too, but the enemy seemed to have used demon beast oil. The fire is still out of control.”

Demon beast oil was a type of oil extracted from a demon beast found in the east of Aubigne. Once ignited, it was difficult to put out, a common tool used in sabotage missions.

“Damn it… The more I hear about them, the more disgusted I get. What items got burned?”

“Sir, according to reports, we lost a portion of our food supply, and the enemy mainly targeted the Silhouette Knight’s spare parts.”

When he heard that, the battalion commander finally reached his limits, and was on the verge on venting it out on the surrounding. But his subordinates were before him, so he restrained himself. Losing food supply was serious, but the lost of spare parts were even worse. The Black Knights might be formidable in battle, but its heavy armour was a huge burden on their legs. They were tough enough to hold its own weight, but to bring out its full potential, frequent maintenance of its legs was a necessity. The part that would run into problems the most was the Crystal Tissue. The Žaloudek’s bulk of Silhouette Knights were Tyrants which uses Strand Crystal Tissue. And amongst the destroyed supplies were a large number of Strand Crystal Tissue spare parts.

“How did this happen, this will seriously delay us…! This is a direct order from His Highness, we can’t give up so easily!”

The battalion commander and his deputy looked at each other. The expedition force wouldn’t receive frequent resupply, and they had to make do with the resources they have on hand for quite a long period of time.

“There’s nothing we can do about that. Oh right, the conscripted Resvants have normal Crystal Tissues, so modify them for our use. We need to inform the Knightsmith early, so they can prepare the Strand Crystal Tissue early."

The problem was that normal Crystal Tissues couldn’t be used on the Tyrants directly, and needed to be modified into the form of strands.

As they had to make haphazard adjustment, the maintenance team had the additional task of crafting Strand Crystal Tissues on top of their original duties, and their burden during their journey increased.

The night raids were mainly aimed at their resources, but losses in terms of manpower and combat readiness were minimal. And so, the Žaloudek army resumed their march after just a short delay. And as expected, their enemy wasn’t satisfied with just sabotaging them once.

The second incident happened when they were advancing along the road.

A sudden rain of arrows as if they were launched from a siege weapon was fired onto the Žaloudek forces from the forest. The Silhouette Knights defended immediately, but the powerful bolts were aimed at the workhorses of the supply unit, which caught the soldiers in the vicinity too. The attackers ignored the counter attacks by the incensed Silhouette Knights, and they fled without even checking the effectiveness of their assault.

Once again, steel cables were laid carefully in the forest, forcing the Silhouette Knights to abandon their pursuit.

As their horses were killed, they had to slow their pace. They maintain a state of high alert after the repeated attacks, which slowed their speed even further. Their losses were no longer negligible, and the Žaloudek army didn’t think the attacks would be ending. The unit was determined to ‘get them back next time’, but the attackers already switched targets to another unit.

They targeted the supply unit instead. When the supply unit was still in northern Kuscheperca which should be under the control of Žaloudek Kingdom and relaxed their vigilance, they suffered heavy losses from an unexpected fire attack.

"Tch, there is no end to this, those bastards! Their objective is the supply line huh. We already suppressed them with our Levitate Ships, but it looks like there are still fellows with guts out there.”

The reason their supply lines had been smooth in the past was thanks to the Levitate Ships. It was easy to spot a Silhouette Knight’s movement from the air, and in fact there were actually several sneak attacks by the old Kuscheperca army, but trying to break through Žaloudek Kingdom’s forces was no different from suicide.

In contrast, these attackers didn’t use Silhouette Knights, but opt for mini Silhouette Knights machine instead. It would be difficult to track them from the air since they use the forest to hide themselves.

While the Žaloudek army was at a loss, the supply team was attacked several more times. The only things they could do were assign more escorts to the supply team, which reduced the number of attacks, but slowed the supply speed.

The stagnation in supply had more serious repercussion than they thought, and the advancing Black Skull Knights gradually fell into a state of supply shortage. Silhouette Knights were weapons that consume a large amount of resource, even more so for the Black Knights with their huge bodies. There was a limit to how far they could go with the supplies they had on hand, and would just increase the burden on the maintenance team traveling with the unit.

The proud and confident Žaloudek army that had always overwhelmed the Kuscheperca army one sidedly were becoming tense and hysterical. That slowed their progress even further, and the journey which was supposed to be smooth sailing was filled with turbulence.

On a knoll some distance away from the path the Black Skull Knights were traversing, a group was watching them.

"... The enemy is becoming more vigilant. It is time to withdraw, we have achieved the effect of stalling their movement.”

Nora from the Blue Hawk Knights muttered quietly behind her were several camouflaged Shadowlad, which made it hard to detect from far. Her subordinates waiting at the side nodded in agreement. Nora took part in the activities of the Silver Phoenix Knights, and was familiar with the controls of Silhouette Gears. Her skills were recognized, and she was made the commander of the sabotage team.

All the attacks against the Žaloudek army was her doing. Spies were proficient in disruption and covert operations, and having the Silhouette Gears made them even better.

"The rest would be the job of the Silver Phoenix Knights main forces and the nobles. Let’s hurry back to base and prepare for the next mission."

She turned her gaze to the east. To ready themselves for the real fight that was to come, the shadows ran through the forest as swift as the wind.

On the other hand although the Black Skull Knights battalion suffered heavy losses after being attacked several times, they still reached their next destination. The army wasn’t as arrogant as before, and walls which cut off the forest and roads were getting nearer. That was the gates that blocked the way from the north to the east— the Gedeon city fortress.

This city was well known for being the junction between the East West Highway leading to Fremmevira, and the Pan-Kucher road that joins the north with the south. That was why it was surrounded by sturdy walls, a city with strong defenses.

“... All units halt.”

The lack of supplies and exhaustion would make it dangerous for even an elite unit like the Black Skull Knights to carry on marching.

Under such circumstances, it was easy to see how relieved they were to reach a city that could serve as a base. When they were about to reach the gates, the battalion commander issued the orders to stop the advance. When his deputy enquired his commander in confusion, the commander’s Tyrant pointed at ‘that thing’.

"... Why aren’t our flags hanging there? Or rather, whose banners are those?”

The flags on the walls of Gedeon city fortress were fluttering in the wind, the emblem of a Silver Phoenix spreading its wings was on it. The flag was a way to announce the allegiance of one’s forces and to differentiate between friends and foes. Since the flags of Žaloudek Kingdom weren’t flying here, it could only mean one thing.

"...Fools. They only rescued one little wench, and they are letting it get to their heads!”

The battalion commander utter in rage, and ordered all units to prepare for battle. Since the other party had made their intention to rebel clear, then there was only one thing they should do.

“They are probably getting cocky just because they are hiding in their shells, but that’s useless before the Black Knights! My troops are in high spirits, don’t think we will show any mercy!”

And so, the Black Skull Knights that suffered greatly from various sabotages finally found a way to vent their frustration. The entire army was full of fighting spirit, and was also upset that the stronghold that should be their safe haven had been occupied. They should have been exhausted from the long journey, but their rage made them forget even that as the unit deployed in formation, and advanced with an imposing air.

"Prepare for siege battle! Ready the Battering Rams! Crush those fools!!"

At the forefront of the formation in a horizontal line was Tyrants wielding small Battering Rams. The powerful Tyrant could destroy walls even if they used smaller sized Battering Rams, and so they developed the tactic of letting all the machines wield small Battering Rams to attack the walls.

In the face of the black tide, Gedeon city fortress didn’t show any reaction. After all, the mass produced machines from Kuscheperca was no match for the Black Knights, and this fact had been proven time and again. Therefore, the Kuscheperca didn’t engage the enemy outside the wall, and planned to make use of the wall to defend from the start. This was the usual scene in all the Black Knights earlier skirmishes with the Kuschepercas, so the Black Knights approached the walls without suspecting anything. When they entered Silhouette Arms attack range, they finally saw the Kuscheperca Silhouette Knights taking position on the walls. The front ranks of the Tyrants paid them no mind, their armour could take several shots from their Silhouette Arms without any problem.

And so, the first to realize that something was wrong was the battalion commander standing by in the back line.

"What is… that? They are shaped differently from the strawman Resvants!”
The Silhouette Knights formed a line on top of the walls of Gedeon city fortress, and the Resvants had a completely different appearance. The machine was surrounded by a thick layer of additional armour, and their ‘barrel-like’ shape made them look like towers on the walls.

As the battalion commander watched on in surprise, four Silhouette Arms reached out from the back of the mysterious Silhouette Knights and aimed towards the front. They seemed to have harnessed the technology known as back weapons of the Žaloudek Army. Together with the two arms protruding out from the gaps of their armour, each of the Silhouette Knights lined up in a row had a total of six Silhouette Arms. When he understood what he was seeing, an ending that was completely different from what he was expecting flashed across his mind—

“It’s not that they are not approaching, they just didn’t need to!? Damn it, the Black Knights will..."

He was a step late in his yell, as the Silhouette Knights fired in unison the very next second. Their Silhouette Arms launched a higher volume of projectiles that were also more powerful in a continuous barrage. The ferocious bulletstorm landed on the heads of the Black Knights, and constructed a large wall of fire, attempting to burn the Black Knights along with the ground they stood on into ash.

Not just that, the catapults inside the fort also used this chance to launch their attacks. The Black Knights were having a hard time dealing with the volley of shots, and the boulders falling from a different angle made things worse. Even with the heavy armour that was the pride of the Tyrants, they needed to defend themselves in order to guard themselves from the boulders, and the invincible rank formation showed gaps for the first time.

The Tyrants didn’t just take hits one sidedly, and deployed their back weapons to fight back. Their shots hit Kuscheperca’s Silhouette Knight, that just stood still. But its heavy armour protected it, and was unhurt even after several shots. The gulf between their range attack power was clear.

"Damn it, what the hell are they! Their Silhouette Arms can fire consecutive shots!?”

The attacks from the catapults and Silhouette Arms forced the Žaloudek army into a tough situation, and they started feeling that something was amiss. Silhouette Arms were powerful weapons, but it consumes large amount of mana with its usage. If they attacked continuously with Silhouette Arms, their manapool will run dry, forcing them to stop. But they showed no signs of stopping since the start of the battle. It was obvious the enemy was using some sort of gimmick.

“Damn it, they can’t win in melee combat, so they don’t plan to let us get close from the start? Trivial tricks… Oh no, our losses are mounting. We have to pull back for now! Relay the orders!”

Veins appeared on the forehead of the battalion commander, who roared his orders. Even though the Tyrants wore heavy armour, the fierce attacks from the enemy were powerful enough to damage it, so the slow Tyrants would need to pay a heavy price before they reach the wall. Their objective here was for a long term invasion campaign, and even ignoring this point, the repeated sneak attacks exhausted them heavily, and they couldn’t afford to suffer too much casualties.

For the first time since the Žaloudek army started this war, they suffered a defeat in a siege battle.

When they saw the Black Skull Knights retreat, the Kuscheperca troops moved in a panic on top of Gedeon city fortress’ wall.

"The Žaloudek army is retreating! Vido team, ceasefire!"

“We don’t know when they will be back. Infantry, use this chance to reload the catapult!”

"Keep your Silhouette Arms deployed. Vido team to maintain current position to deter them, and wait for your manapool to recover!"

The Silhouette Knights in line formation kept their Silhouette Arms raised as their Ether Reactor made intense sound of air intake. These Silhouette Knights with the appearance of barrels were Resvant Vido, machines built according to the blueprint proposed by Ernesti, and distributed by the Silver Phoenix Merchants. Using the mass produced Resvants of the old Kuscheperca army as the base, it was a simple modification with the installation of Back Weapons and Capacity Frames to increase mana storage.

The main component of this modification was the additional armour that covered the entire machine, the ‘Wall Robe’. Not only did it improve defenses, it was made entirely from Capacity Frame. With this, a Resvant could store more mana than normal. The huge amount of mana storage and multiple guns made it a machine that specialized in ranged attacks. Unfortunately, the hasty modification made its flaw really obvious. The weight of the Wall Robe also rendered the machine virtually immobile, turning it into a machine used exclusively for fort defense. But even such a failure of a machine was enough to intimidate the Žaloudek army that wasn’t aware of the truth.

“Look… Those Žaloudek bastards have left the road! We defended the city successfully! We won!”

Seeing the Black Skull Knights retreat from the walls, there was first a commotion amongst the soldiers, which finally erupted into cheers.

In the group of rowdy soldiers, several of the commanders appraised the situation calmly.

“We finally won a battle. But we only chased them off once. Their damage is minimal, and will definitely be back. If we can keep them on their toes and stay away for now, that would be great.”

The Resvant Vidos that lacked mobility were well suited for base defense, but on the other hand, they were poor for offensive actions. The threat of the Žaloudek army was far from over, but they still immersed themselves in the victory they won for the time being.

News of the victory at Gedeon city fortress spread all over the nation. For the resistance movement that had been growing since the rescue of Eleanora, that was a great morale boost.

Only the Silver Phoenix Knights could fight the Žaloudek army on even grounds in the past, and the battles they won weren’t really a true victory for the Kuschepercas. With the addition of the new weapon Resvant Vido the nobles of old Kuscheperca also took to the battlefield. The revolt of the minor nobles shook the influence of Žaloudek army’s eastern governance house, and reverted the east back into a field of battle.

On top of that, the defensive lines set up by the Resvant Vidos also stopped the advance of the Black Skull Knights in the south that were heading to the east. The continuous attack of the Silhouette Gears before that also dealt higher than expected damage to the Žaloudek army. Their plans had been disrupted, and they were forced to amend their timetable.

Žaloudek originally planned to put down the unrest in the east in short order, but had to regroup because their plans were thrown into disarray. As for the remnant army of old Kuscheperca, their new weapon Resvant Vido lacked mobility. And so, the battlefield formed a dangerous balance, and the Western Grand Storm entered a short period of calm.

C.E. 1281, It was almost autumn and about half a year had passed since the Žaloudek Kingdom declared war. This war was about to enter a new chapter.

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1 comment:

  1. Sooooo, I just visited this site and to my surprise, there was an update. It has been so long. Will you be doing this moving forward? Thanks for the update by the way! :)