After grabbing Eryn, we dashed back to one of the earth domes that dotted the landscape, an impromptu headquarters where Cornelius and the rest of the squad leaders had gathered. Everyone looked worn out after six continuous days of being on edge. There was no true rest with the enemy hunkered down right in front of us.
The Purnesian army had parked themselves in the town of Minsk, a perfect place to temporarily house those stationed there. From various reports, a total of roughly 3000 had gathered over the course of the week. Compared to that, Sistina had almost twice as many here, but a large majority of them did not have the capability to attack from long range.
No one was a fan of sacrificing people to charge forward, at least not without a concrete plan.
Some had hoped that they would run out of supplies as Minsk was a fair distance away from Purnesia. However, Cornelius’s familiar, Hal, saw something peculiar from the skies.
Cornelius drew sketches of the speedy forms of transportation being used, able to carry significant loads while moving several times faster than a horse-drawn carriage. Everyone looked at the sheets of papers with expressions of confusion, until they made their way to me.
“W-What?! Th-These are… semi-trucks!?” I blurted out as soon as my eyes fell upon the drawings. Saki, who had joined the meeting after finding out that I was here, looked over my shoulder in surprise.
Sure enough, Cornelius had detailed the frame of a passenger vehicle from modern times, built to carry large loads of goods cross-country. Given that, they would have no issue maintaining a swift resupply.
“It seems like you two are the only ones with some idea of what these are,” Cornelius spoke up as she saw our expressions.
“Well, yah. These are vehicles from my former world. A place built around science and technology.”
Saki also nodded. “Larger than what I remember. American-sized?”
Sure enough, the thing looked like the typical 18-wheeler that I was familiar with. But I had no idea if that was unique to my home country. Explaining what I knew about them to the crowd, there were blank stares of awe, wondering how a mana-deficient nation could manage to create such a magical device.
It didn’t take long for someone as smart as Cornelius to put the pieces together – a genius inventor named Lamps Magellan located in Purnesia, firearms that didn’t exist anywhere else, and now, strange vehicles that existed originally from my world.
“The man behind such strong resistance is undoubtedly an Electi, and a rather clever one too. I had heard rumors of a coup recently, which placed the one referred to as the ‘Mad Empress’ into power. While such a capable person as her right-hand man, this no longer comes as a surprise.”
I nodded in acknowledgment. Knowing that modern technology was now being combined with magic in this world, our opponents could end up being quite troublesome. These weren’t desperate people that were lashing out blindly in rage after being wronged in the past. Someone had enabled the path forward to give them a fighting chance.
In that case, we had to be smarter. Luckily, we had a genius of our own.
“Now that I understand the situation, it seems like we have to take our fight to them. Despite that, our swords can’t reach, our magic is being absorbed, and we cannot step forward without being riddled with attacks from a distance…”
I could see stiff expressions all around me. There was no other better time to bring out the secret weapon.
“Therefore, I have a gift from our Queen. As we have vowed to defend the kingdom in her name, she has provided us with her ingenuity to do so. After all, Her Majesty was the one most regretful that her inventions had fallen into the wrong hands.”
I brought the flat board that Katalina gave me out of my Item Box, showing it to everyone.
“If they think they can overwhelm us with portals, then we’ll just have to be one step better!”
Before long, nearly five thousand people had formed orderly lines behind the structures shielding everyone from the battlefield. With the mana-enhanced food that I had brought with me, their spirits were revitalized, and they were brimming with strength to begin the operation.
Surely, the Purnesian side could see this strange activity going on, but I doubted that they could do anything about it.
On a table before me was the flat board device, or rather, it was more appropriate to call it a magical tablet of sorts as it now glowed with a three-dimensional hologram above it. Measuring three meters wide on each side and half as tall, a diorama of the battlefield before us showed the two sides that were currently in a deadlock. Likely, Katalina had combined her video capturing device to create this real time simulation.
However, this was just to show where to place the inputs. Fiddling with the buttons, a blue dot suddenly hovered over my finger, which I poked at a space somewhere along our side of the battlefield. The blue dot stayed there, and suddenly, a green dot now replaced it. Quickly, I tapped a spot on the Purnesian side.
Pressing the buttons again and again, I continued to place more and more glowing points all across the miniature battlefield until there were exactly 100 pairs of dots lining the two respective sides. Finally, I hit the large red button that would be the trigger for it all.
A giant text box popped up in front of me saying, “Execute? Please press again to confirm.”
With a smirk, I gave a loud roar to signal the start of the operation, before I firmly pressed the red button again.
In that instant, I felt my entire body lose nearly all its strength as my mana was sucked dry. But of course, it would. I strained to keep my eyes open as 100 portals suddenly opened up in front of the neatly-lined Sistina troops. That had been essentially the limit that I could summon at a single time.
With a deafening battle cry, the soldiers of Sistina tore through the portals and ended up right on top of the Purnesian army. They let loose their weapons and mowed down their surprised foes, who were still in a panic at their enemies’ sudden appearance.
The Purnesian defensive line had been focused on the magicians on our side, leaving their backs open to the creation of portals by Katalina’s new device – The All-Terrain Multi-Operational Spatial Portal Generator. For the time being, it was easier to refer to them as ATMOS portals while I explained the plan to everyone. Given how the huge line of portals behind me felt like something from an anime, I resisted yelling out something fancy like ‘Portals of Babylon’ or ‘Unlimited Portal Works’!
The name aside, this device essentially created an instant dominance of the surrounding space, once all the positions were set up. And since the portals didn’t appear until the command was executed, our enemy had no way of tracking where they would pop up, unlike the portal gun which one had to manually launch the gateways into position. Not unless they could see the hologram.
Another difference was that these portals were set to be active for five minutes, rather than manually kept active by the user. Because of that, the activation had taken the necessary mana from me at the moment of execution, making me stumble to the ground from sudden weakness.
However, it was all worth it.
A steady stream of soldiers continued to pour right behind the Purnesian defensive line. At such close range, the advantage they once had with projectile weaponry evaporated in an instant. Though our soldiers literally exited right in the middle of their entire defensive line, they knew how to handle the chaos of an all-out brawl.
The gunners had merely been trained on how to shoot ahead, lacking any close quarter training when they failed to keep the enemy at bay. The yells of panic and rumble of retreating steps rippled across the horizon as they were accompanied by the gruesome cries of death. Those caught in between the portals and the battlefield were denied escape as I watched the uniforms of the Purnesian army slowly thin out in the distance.
By now, the rest of them that could escape were making a mad dash away from Minsk, abandoning everything that they had stocked there as a temporary base. I stared at the hologram as five minutes finally passed. The blue and green dots disappeared from the projection, along with the portals that were hovering in place.
With the sounds of battle growing softer and farther away, I finally laid back on the ground and breathed a sigh of relief. The invention given to me by Katalina was no less than miraculous, turning a deadlock into an overwhelming victory.
The reports later would estimate that Purnesia lost over a thousand troops from that skirmish, whereas our side barely hit double digits in casualties during that charge. A loss this one-sided would hopefully drive them back and out of this kingdom.
A pair of footsteps drew close to me. I looked up at Cornelius, Eryn, and Saki, whose faces had lost the tension that was there before. We could all finally relax now that the drawn-out battle was over.
“Our dear Chancellor, did you have to overdo it this time? It wouldn’t have hurt to cut back on a few portals to maintain some air of dignity. After all, you are a leader of our great kingdom,” Cornelius whimsically said with a smile, almost chuckling at my sorry state of mana overdrain.
“Unnecessary burden,” Saki added.
“Maybe I overdid it just a tad… but I thought a nice round number like 100 would’ve had a better ring to it than 94 or 95. At least, that will make it easier to remember in history lessons.”
When I saw how much MP it required to activate a single portal, a hundred of them seemed to dip dangerously low into mental exhaustion, but still, I felt compelled to do it anyway. That was one of the warnings Katalina had inscribed in the instruction manual. It was programmed to suck mana dry until it collected the necessary amount to execute the command, regardless of the state it put me in.
Eryn sighed and shook her head. “There you go, taking all the glory for yourself again. After all the hard work us magic knights did to hold the line, to go and end it all in a flash.”
“Critical attacks for the win! Ah- Owie…” I tried to raise my arm in victory from my sprawled position, but even that felt like it strained my muscles. Mana exhaustion was seriously no joke. “I mean, I didn’t really do much other than serve as a glorified mana battery to run the portal generating tool. Though, I really have to hand it to Katalina. She really comes through in a pinch.”
“Another wild idea through the collaboration of genius and otherworld knowledge, I presume?” Cornelius guessed.
“You bet. Even if there’s another Electi over on that side, you can count on Katalina and I to come up with things just as bizarre!” I said with a chuckle. “Hey Saki, come to think of it, why haven’t you contributed? You watched just as much anime as I have.”
Saki shot me a sharp gaze. “And break the world any more than it already is? I have more of a filter than you, I suppose.”
“Are you kidding me? I really want to see it! There’s got to be something you want here!”
As the group bantered on and on about various things, Eryn slowly backed away. A slight bitterness crept into her heart.
‘There he goes again. Talking about Katalina this and that.’
Barely any time had passed since they had met up again. Her hopes of fighting by his side were slowly pushed aside as he pulled out his plan to defeat the Purnesian army, one that didn’t involve her at all. Rather, it had all come down to one of the Queen’s gadgets.
Certainly, they had grasped instant victory, but it felt somewhat hollow to her. She was barely able to do anything. Instead, her rival’s intellect had won Claude’s favor. A spark of jealousy couldn’t help but emerge in Eryn’s heart.
‘I have to do more. I want him to look at me. Just me. No one else…’
Eryn clutched her head as she walked away, unsure of how to face Claude at the moment. She had to think. While he was here on the battlefield, away from Katalina, what could she do to cement his love for her?
What lengths did she have to go to be the only one in his heart?
That battlefield plagued her more than any Purnesian soldier. She was swift with the sword and magic, but when it came to Claude, nothing else made her hesitate more.
“I have to… cut it all down… the pride… the hesitation… anything standing in my way.”
Eryn’s whispers danced in the wind, too light for anyone to hear. The desperation that crept upon her eyes seemed to make them glow briefly as she trodded away. Her exit was noticed only by one girl, whose grip tightened on her hammers.