“If they insist on attacking our caravans, then we must respond to them in kind. Between the established guild branches, as well as our new army, we no longer have anything to fear from their petty attempts.” A young girl sat at her desk, giving out commands like she had fully become accustomed to the role.
Few could believe that barely a year ago, this girl had just acquired a nobility title. Now, she was commanding other members of nobility that even outranked herself.
Her name was Viscountess Eryn Faulkner, and the nobility that stood before her were fellow lords that had gathered under the banner of the Valkyrie, a symbol that seemingly represented her brave resistance against a corrupt king.
Not simply through a show of force, but with the popularity of her domain and the influence of her merchant guild, these merits fueled the decision for others to join her.
Though many were initially skeptical about the claims of her prestige, they saw for themselves the destructive power of her spells and the ingenuity of the technology created within her domain. Already, the region under the Faulkner name had a stable measure of independence, not needing to rely on the kingdom for its defense or productivity.
Housed within a magic barrier that encompassed the central city, which continued to expand as adjustments were made, the King’s army could do nothing to break through those boundaries, much like how the Southern Isles were protected.
The lords that agreed to give their support to her were greeted with a fascinating sight – a vibrant city where many luxuries had become typical conveniences. Products that would make waves in other areas were readily available to even the common folk. A guaranteed standard of living was present that even the poorest could feel comfort in. Lively people enjoyed many of the pleasures reserved normally for the nobility. Truly, the world within those walls was a stark difference to what was outside.
Hoping to gain a portion of this miracle, many lords decided that it wouldn’t do for them to be left behind in the stagnant world that King Oswald believed in. They believed in the overall prosperity that this new venture would lead them down.
And those that took that leap of faith soon reaped the benefits. Their own towns had been given the same protection from the King, receiving crafters to erect a barrier for them. Ideas and blueprints flowed to their workshops for local artisans to make sense of. Trade flourished between the allied towns, while the others were left out of the loop.
The remaining supporters of King Oswald could do nothing but watch as their own people started to trickle away, emigrating to the modernized towns. Though they were called ‘cowards’ and ‘disloyal to the crown,’ the people could care less. Who would listen to a king that did nothing for his people?
Yet, there were still plenty that had not learned of the booming towns that started to dot throughout the kingdom. The staunch followers of King Oswald resorted to a gag rule and flagrant lies to keep their people in order. Many people who had never stepped foot outside of their domain had no choice but to blindly believe in their lord. Their ignorance was taken advantage of to imprint a belief that their opponents had fallen to the temptation of a seductress who shamelessly bared her skin to lure men to her side. Truly, the Kingdom of Sistina had split into a tale of two different paths.
As Dengel oversaw the conversation between his lord, Viscountess Faulkner, and the other men of nobility, he could plainly see that those statements were pure propaganda.
Eryn Faulkner had an impulsive nature, but she was far from charismatic enough to seduce others. If anything, her strong presence as a magician and fighter could melt a few hearts, but she was still a bit green when it came to a way with words.
Yet, those around her did not mind. She spoke with a candor that left them relieved. No person wished to second guess another’s intentions and live constantly in fear of being stabbed in the back. That was something that many had already experienced with how the Kingdom of Sistina had been.
Dengel adjusted his glasses as the talks between them started wrapping up, the individual parties satisfied on their parts in defending the trade routes. Currently, that was all King Oswald could target, as they could not make a dent on the magically-reinforced towns themselves.
After the men left the room, Dengel breathed a sigh of relief.
“My Lady, you’ve gotten better at this. I only had to step in two times during the entire conversation.”
The Viscountess flinched at that remark, realizing that she still had a long way to go. “This is so exhausting. That’s why I leave it to you for all of the pre-planning. I simply cannot get used to this.”
“But you must, for it is only befitting of your title. You can no longer rely on the distracted gazes that they used to give you to cover for your slip-ups.”
She frowned at that statement, recalling the outfit that she first wore when these alliances began. It had been the bikini armor that Claude left her, the reason for all of the strange rumors. To think that her actions had spawned whispers of a battle maiden that resided in this domain.
Of course, the peculiarity of her revealing state of dress was not lost on those she met. The leering eyes of others gave her the chills. Since it would be a waste to discard such powerful armor, she had instead requested for additional pieces to be fashioned over them, making her current appearance more modest.
Her head flopped onto the desk, her tendency to relax a bit too quickly kicking in.
“Seriously, is this ever going to end? I know I started something, but this has certainly become quite the ordeal. I just wanted to watch over my lands in peace.”
“Why certainly, you have dragged a number of people with you in the process. After all, weren’t you trying to establish a safe haven for Sir Claude’s return?” Dengel chuckled at her.
“I know that, but I’d rather be out there pounding some sense into those troublemakers.” Viscountess Faulkner had a strong urge to let off some steam that had been built up. The only ones who could match her swordplay were Pietro and Roderick, the latter who had also joined their cause. In fact, several of his subordinates disapproved of the King and had abandoned the Royal Guard, taking up positions to train the citizens of Faulkner and other regions into a proper militia.
“There’s no need for you to personally take care of those matters. Remember, you are now the symbol of opposition against the current Sistina. There are many other things that require your attendance.”
She banged on the desk. “Where’s Cornelius when you need him? I can’t handle this and the guild duties in his absence.”
The Magic Knight Guild had been one entity that had become split amongst this turmoil. Many of the knights had already chosen sides, leaving what was left of the organization in a mess. In particular, Cornelius had to be mindful of his own position as the Watchdog, which was a role that supported the royal family. He had been supporting her in secret during this time.
One day, Eryn received a short message from him saying that he was planning to be gone for an important mission. She tried to ask him for the reason, but no reply came back. There was no way of knowing that he had been tasked by the Chancellor to bring back her Electi, in exchange for her safety.
That had been over two weeks ago, so she was starting to get worried for her dear friend. Not only her, but another certain someone at the castle had become listless.
One of the nobles from before suddenly burst into the room, causing Eryn to pop up quickly. “What is the matter?!” She cried out.
The nobleman, a connoisseur of wine named Viscount Lingonberle, was a bit breathless as he fought to get the words out.
“I-It’s a- It’s an invasion!”
Eryn and Dengel looked at each other. Dengel stepped forward with a look of reassurance.
“There is no need to panic. The barrier should be able to keep the kingdom’s army at bay until they grow tired of it. Just like the many times before when they tried.”
But that did not calm the Viscount. “Is the barrier supposed to flicker like that? I’m no expert in magic, but I’m getting an unsettling feeling from it. My daughters, who have keener senses, told me of the peculiarity of it. Furthermore, they’ve been feeling tremors for a while now.”
Dengel and Eryn felt a chill run down their spine. Lingonberle’s daughters were magic knight trainees who were notably advanced in magic application. An abnormality in the barrier’s magic output would certainly be felt by someone of their skills. Furthermore, the constant tremors around the area were worrisome. They had not noticed it earlier, but a very slight rumble could be felt even at the city center, miles away from the barrier.
Dengel was the first to realize the possibility. “They couldn’t have!”
“What is it, Dengel? Do you have some idea of what they are planning?” Eryn had confidence in him, as he was one of the few with the intellect to decipher Princess Katalina’s diagrams.
“The barrier’s mana source comes from the veins that run through the earth. Though one could cut off its mana source by directly attacking the locations, they are all within the barrier. However, one does not necessarily need to attack those to weaken it. If perchance, one could modify the veins running deep below the surface…”
“One could weaken or even cut off the flow, could they not?” Eryn guessed, a sudden wave of nervousness hitting her.
Dengel calculated the possibility of it in his mind. “Yes, indeed. But that would require incredible might or magic to achieve! The likes of…”
“The Chancellor!!!” The other two chimed in.
Up until now, he had recused himself from the battlefield, mainly serving as the King’s advisor. He seemed strangely disinterested in the current affairs, only looking from afar as to how they played out. Previously, he had sided with Duke Charlemagne, only to overturn his decision suddenly. And now, he was helping the King, but in a half-hearted manner. Who knew what that man planned for this kingdom?
However, he was a man known to have the greatest magic potential. And beside him was an Electi with boundless strength. Though Eryn had defeated Saki in combat once before, she noticed that she had been rather distracted, as if she was hesitant to face her at the time.
However, the recent reports had shed a different light on her in recent days, attacking her targets viciously like she was a completely different person. Things would not likely be as easy this time around.
“Inform the other lords at once! We must defend this city! Most likely, King Oswald doesn’t have the resources to face off against us for much longer. Due to his crumbling support, he must be banking it all on cutting his problems from the source!”
Though the powers had shifted significantly in Sistina, the King likely still had half of the army’s support. Aiding them with magic, the retainers of nearly half of the lords remained loyal to the crown. They were not easily swayed to abandon countless generations of tradition.
The four lords that had come to the Faulkner domain – Marquis Deggendorf, Earl Warrington, Viscount Cornwallis, and Viscount Lingonberle – they had brought an entourage for protection. It had been necessary due to the rising attacks of those traveling on the roads.
Still, that only amounted to an additional 10 magic knights and roughly 100 soldiers on their side. The entire force of Viscountess Faulkner had certainly grown at a rapid pace, but that only equated to a force of about 500 men, the size of two battalions. If the kingdom’s remaining forces could be estimated, it would likely be in the range of 5000-6000, discounting the portion devoted to guarding the northern border.
They honestly hoped that the King had not grown desperate. Not even the advanced weaponry that they possessed could hope to overturn a worst-case scenario.
Eryn stood up from her desk and grabbed her sword from the wall.
“Dengel! Alert the entire city! It’s time to ride!”