I felt a cold shiver run down my spine as I saw the portals hovering around me. Each one had a gun poking out and aimed straight at me, as if daring me to make a move. Even in a panic, I could tell exactly what they were holding. The distinct design of the magic gun that Katalina invented was unmistakable.
‘For them to have made both weapons so quickly…’
Barely a week had passed since the blueprints had been discovered to be missing. Somehow, their designs had been recreated and completed in that short time period. There was undoubtedly someone of great intellect on the Purnesian side.
I tried to back away slowly, but a chorus of gunfire immediately sounded. Fire, ice, and electricity struck me all at once, the mixture of different attacks indistinguishable as all I could feel was pain rack my body. Before I knew it, my back hit the ground.
Fortunately, I was strong enough to weather some magic blasts, given my mana training and equipment offering some resistance. However, their weaponry was nearly as strong as Katalina’s, stunning me more than anything. These were no cheap imitations; whoever did this knew exactly how they were made. As a result, there was no way that I could handle more than a few rounds of collective shots.
Therefore, it was best to be knocked on my butt and wait for some other opening.
While I slowly got up, feigning defeat, a man suddenly fell down vertically from a portal. The dark robe he wore and how he presented himself made me think of an assassin. He pulled back his hood, revealing a misaligned toothy grin and a mug that only a mother would love. The scars across his face looked like someone had once rearranged it without proper healing. But despite that, he seemed thrilled to be before me.
“Well, ain’t that a surprise? I recognize that little symbol there.” He pointed at my chest, where the emblem of the Chancellor was displayed. “Guess we got ourselves a person of importance.”
“Fu-…” I breathed out a curse as I forgot how important of a chess piece I was. I could never get used to being in a commanding position.
“I’ve heard a bit about you… Word is that you can cut down anything and anyone. Ain’t that right?”
I didn’t move, neither confirming nor denying what he said.
“I’d like to see it.” With that, the man snapped his fingers.
In an instant, the area was filled with bolts of magic sailing towards me. I swung my hand, coated in mana and tried to cleave them away. Unfortunately, my ability only allowed me to target one magic at a time, so I opted for cancelling the piercing Ice magic.
The spears of ice shattered harmlessly into a flurry of crystals, which promptly evaporated from the plumes of fire nearby. Given that my outfit protected me against heat, standing in front of a flamethrower was the same as a gust of desert wind, stinging and hot but not unbearable.
What hurt the most was the electricity, which I had no protection against. Sharp crackles and pops stung my body as I held no control of how I moved. Until the current stopped, I felt both stiff like a board yet uncontrollably jittery.
I absentmindedly willed my status screen up, seeing that my HP had fallen by roughly a quarter. With these portals circling around me, there was no way that I would be able to avoid their attacks. And the multitude of different elements made it impossible to deflect them all.
“Heh, what a joke. Such a weak and pathetic Chancellor this one is. Quite the difference from the previous one.”
The man bent down and mocked me, telling me exactly what I had known all along. It had required many people to take down the demon-possessed Chancellor who was known by the name, David Willingham. Of course, I would be nowhere near as much of a threat.
“Still, you’re an Electi, right? An outsider of this kingdom. We don’t have beef with you, personally. Just those that are native to the cursed Sistina that banished our people.”
At that point, the man stuck out his hand. “Name’s Raganoff. Take it. Take my hand and turn your loyalty over to us. To the Mad Empress.”
“Are you kidding me? Do you really think that I’d just say ‘yes’ or something?” Even at such a disadvantage, I knew where my heart lied. Not to mention, I doubted that I could bluff my way out of this one.
“Of course not. But I had to ask, for the sake of formality. After all, we aren’t barbarians. You’re lying defeated because of our wits.” As Raganoff stood up, he lifted his arm up.
“Kill him,” he commanded.
But before he could bring his arm down, Favian jumped between us.
“Wait, c-could you not… Spare him?”
Raganoff looked at the merchant with toxicity. “Spare him? He’s an enemy. Enemies are dealt with swiftly. That is the wise thing.”
“But I- uh, h-he could be a great source of knowledge and prosperity!” Favian’s voice jittered as he tried to think of a way to stall for time.
“Oh? How so?”
“He was the one that got me in a good position to steal the plans in the first place, by giving me a reason to get close to the castle. I’m sure you could use his otherworld knowledge for something. It would be a waste!”
Raganoff walked over and gave Favian a slightly upturned smile. With a pat on the shoulder, the assassin pondered what to do.
“I see… He’s probably the reason that you’ve put on some weight since I’ve last seen you… I fully understand what you mean.”
Favian’s face started to light up in hope, before he felt a sharp pain in his chest. Blood spewed from his lips as he looked down, a dagger firmly lodged there.
“It seems that your stay here has made you soft and forgetful of their crimes. Hope you’ve eaten your fill, unlike your starving family. You’ll be seeing them soon.”
Favian’s eyes widened in disbelief before he fell to the ground dead, Raganoff suddenly dodged backward as a knife slashed the air in front of him.
I had watched in awe as Raganoff murdered the person who had helped him steal the Queen’s technology. My rage flared up as I found myself with no other choice but to use my trump card.
With a tap to my Divine Gate, I felt myself reinvigorated and flooding with mana. In an instant, I had leapt forward and struck, my eyes flaring purple.
“Why did you kill him!? Wasn’t he one of your own?!”
Raganoff, who had dodged my strike, reached up and felt a tear in his clothing. Apparently, the tip of my knife had nicked his cloak ever so slightly.
Shots immediately fired at me, but with my enhanced mana output, the magic simply crashed into my back and bounced off. I could barely feel a thing at the moment, but it wouldn’t last long. I leapt toward Raganoff again.
However, he was a swift man, continuing to maneuver out of my range, and even having the time to answer my question before.
“A man who has lost sight of our purpose is set to betray us. Better to cut off loose ends.”
“You!” My knife grew larger and longer, slicing the area around Raganoff with a deadly aura. The purple glow in my eyes expanded and formed a flaming veil around them.
I knew that my ‘Eyes of Ruination’ had taken over at some point as I could see lines of weakness upon his face. However, this was not the time to worry about that.
More magic continued to bombard my back as I chased after Raganoff, who continued to back himself toward the walls of Fort Valga. I had a feeling that he knew that my time would be up soon, since he placed all effort into simply dodging.
By the time his back was close to the border wall, he gave me a smile.
“You have nowhere to run. But for myself…”
He created a portal on the ground behind him and fell straight through it. By the time I reached where he was standing, the portal had closed. I looked around, noting the mess of fire, ice, and electricity that surrounded me. There was nowhere that I could go that the portals couldn’t follow…
‘Nowhere but inside!’
With a single slice, a large portion of the wall exploded in front of me, leaving a big hole. Quickly, I leapt inside, dashing through a hallway before finding a random empty door to detour into. The cramped areas and darkness would be the only escape from portals that could hover anywhere within visible range.
I took a moment to calm my breathing and tap the Divine Gate again, cancelling my enhanced state. A quick look at my MP showed that I only had about one-third left. My eye skill cancelled out too, and I could feel the sensation of darkness being sucked into the charm I wore.
‘Don’t let them rile you up…,’ my mind roared, diverting the anger I felt that would only make me slip up.
Opening my Item Box, I reached in and grabbed some cinnamon rolls that I had made several days ago. Though they had gotten a little hard over time, that didn’t affect the restorative properties they held. After scarfing it down, the flow of mana started seeping faster from the surroundings into my body.
During this time, I waited in silence, not knowing when my attackers would appear. Despite being in the middle of enemy territory, an enclosed space that limited visibility was the only way to deal with those portals. Furthermore, I had no idea how many had invaded the fort, or whether they were all armed with the same dreadful weapons.
Suddenly, a portal whizzed by the doorway. Another passed by before, finally, one hovered right before the entrance. I pressed myself against the wall, inching closer toward the doorway. A head popped out of the portal, and by chance, he looked in the opposite direction first.
In a flash, I stepped up and tapped him on the neck. His face went slack, and his head plopped back into the portal.
On the other side, I could hear someone shout, “He’s in the storage! Four rooms down!”
Cursing myself that I should’ve stayed hidden, I sliced the wall next to me and dove through the fresh hole into the next room. In order to confuse them, I made holes in two walls before opting to run through the far one. This continued for several more rooms until I finally found myself in a room that was pitch black, save for the dim light that flowed in from behind.
“Gah, can’t see a freaking thing…”
After a moment, I realized that I could make a candle flame with magic to illuminate the area. With a little effort, a dull orange glow ignited at my fingertip. Its light reflected around the room, bouncing off many metallic objects along the walls.
“An armory?” I whispered, seeing the shapes of shields and weaponry adorning the area.
However, a flash of metal caught my eye, prompting me to bring my knife up to block. The end of a spear caught the blade, a strong force behind it pushing me back several steps.
‘Someone is here! And he’s strong!’
I leapt backward to escape the deadlock before aiming my knife ahead. However, the sight of Sistina’s armor caused me to relax. The spear he wielded was familiar even before I could see the face of a veteran soldier behind it.
“Sir Gadwin!” I cried out in surprise. Apparently, someone stationed here had managed to escape from the takeover.
Recalling my voice, he lowered his spear. I brought the candle flame toward my emblem, which made his eyes light up in relief. “Chancellor Evers! How the hell did you get here?! Did you-“
“Looks like we’re both trapped, huh?” I shot down the glimmer of hope that he had for reinforcements.
He turned to the side, a sober atmosphere returning. Still, I couldn’t have been gladder to see someone that I recognized.
“Say, what are you doing in here anyway?”
With a resigned chuckle, Gadwin replied. “Prepping for the worst.”
I wanted to ask him what he meant, but he then lit a torch, brightening the room much more than my dinky finger had done.
All around him, many round objects rested on the ground. And against the wall, barrels filled with black powder stood. It didn’t take me long to realize what they held and what Gadwin had been stuck here making.
“Bombs. Planning to shove these things into the faces of those bastards. The only thing that I can do to take revenge for everyone who was killed.”