After we reclaimed the town of Minsk, the efforts to drive the Purnesian Army back north seemed to go smoothly. Every time they stopped to reform a defensive line, we advanced forward and struck with the ATMOS portals.
While our magicians tracked and shot down the inferior portals from the other side, I made preparations to unleash our ATMOS ones. This time, I relented on creating less portals, since it was complete overkill last time.
“Hey Claude, why did you choose to make 42 sets?” Cornelius pondered, seeing that I had picked a strange number this time.
“Well, that’s the answer to the ultimate question, now isn’t it?” I replied with amusement.
I looked at Saki, giving her a wink. After a few moments, the expression on her face abruptly changed to a wince as she facepalmed. Of course, Cornelius had no idea what I meant. But Saki had no trouble catching on as I once joked about searching for the ‘Holy Sake Cup’.
In any case, the Purnesian Army continued to flee northward. The other squadrons sent to the east and west regions had no choice but to rejoin the main force or risk being isolated. Even the ruins of Fort Valga offered little refuge for them as the cramped halls were flooded with soldiers who took out anyone that hid within the structure.
In less than two days, the total army of around 10000 that had crossed into Sistina had been reduced to about 7000. Hundreds of magic guns and portal guns had been recovered or destroyed. What remained of those weapons were less effective as mana became harder to replenish in the Northern Lands. We no longer needed to worry about the other side using them against us.
Meanwhile, the Sistina side had plenty of potions and status boosting food in stock. Overall, we were in a great position after retaking Fort Valga, enough so to halt our advance and focus on restoring the integrity of the wall that had defended this kingdom.
Currently, I was walking through the courtyard, checking up on the Earth magicians who sealed up the giant hole present. ‘Fortunately, we didn’t need ‘Titans’ to seal it up against the outside world,’ I thought in amusement. But then again, our foes were purely human in nature.
Watching the earth shift into blocks, which were then magically reinforced before being put into place, I marveled at how easily the destruction was being reversed. A few places that had been charred by the explosion but held up structurally were quickly masked with a layer of cosmetic stone.
I shrugged, hands dramatically in the air, as there was seemingly nothing that I could do to help. The soldiers who had been leading the charge were all resting after their continual assaults. As for me, I was simply tired from mana depletion. Nothing that some cinnamon buns couldn’t fix.
Saki trailed behind me, returning to her normal duty as the Chancellor’s aid. I had sent her to look after Eryn in my absence, but that had been unneeded. She had nothing much to say about her duties before I arrived, merely lamenting that she felt a bit worthless. To divert her away from self-negativity, we quickly shifted to more casual topics, talking about various seemingly normal things that happened in our past lives. She seemed to perk up when I asked her about her figurines, something which I never had the courage to buy.
“The sleek elegance of PVC fully enhances the charm of a girl in swimwear, don’t you think?”
I could feel waves of enthusiasm bubbling from Saki’s voice. I chuckled at how ridiculous her statements would sound to others. But that was only for those who didn’t know that she was a ‘woman of culture’. Personally, wall scrolls and posters were all I could muster with my meager allowance, so her level of commitment had been a step above.
If I had hundreds of dollars to spend like she had on hand, some new games or maybe even a replica sword would have been my top choices. But I could tell, lovely girls were ‘ichiban’ in her mind.
At that moment, platinum blond hair poked around the corner, the sun beaming down on the girl that it adorned.
‘Speak of the devil… wait, that’s a bit mean.’ I thought before I comically whacked myself in the head while sticking my tongue out to the side.
“What’s up?” I said quickly, hiding my mental snafu.
Eryn glanced between Saki and I, her eyes shifting back and forth with a hint of insecurity. Her actions felt a bit strange, somewhat unlike her normal nature to just come out and say things bluntly.
“I have other things to do, if you’ll excuse me.” Saki suddenly spoke before giving us a light bow and walking away.
“Uh… okay….” I briefly stared at her retreating form before turning back to Eryn, who was now fidgeting with her fingers.
After a moment, she seemed to swallow the lump in her throat. “Say Claude, we haven’t had any time to ourselves… in quite a while, huh.” Eryn looked away while twirling her hair, a gesture that caught me off guard by its cuteness.
“Yeah… that’s true. The life of a Chancellor and that of a regional lord is quite fraught with menial tasks.”
After all, there was the rebuilding of a kingdom, the construction of the new capital, various requests here and there, and many things that were dropped upon my plate. And now, external conflict. I hardly had the time to see Eryn for more than a few moments in passing.
“Care to take a walk with me?” Eryn held out her hand for me to clasp.
Together, we walked up to the top of the fort and traced the long wall that separated the two nations. With everyone busy repairing the fort or resting, the sounds in the distance grew softer, leaving only the breeze dancing in our ears.
On one side, the lush plains of Sistina, healthy and green, stretched out in the distance. The rolling hills and forests dotted the horizon, with only the buildings of Minsk barely appearing like a tiny Lego set placed on a far-off table.
Turning around, the scenery was a morbid difference – a gloomy brown and gray that looked like a winter landscape made out of sand and dried, dead leaves. A pang of pity rang in my heart as I understood why our enemies could hate living here so much. The sight was utterly depressing compared to the ‘paradise’ we seemingly lived in.
I felt a pair of palms plop onto my cheeks and forcefully turn my head front and center.
“You know, I didn’t bring you out here to bask in the quiet countryside,” Eryn exclaimed with a pout.
“Oh, you didn’t? Then what did you bring me here for?”
“To finish what ‘you’ started.”
Eryn’s hands dropped from my face and gently traced the back of my neck. Her face lunged forward, and instantly captured my lips with her own. Like I had done to her before, now she took the initiative, slowly backing me against a nearby wall.
My mind was racing in a daze, but I knew that I wanted this as well. I had loved her ever since I first met her, strange as it might have been. A strong feeling to be by her side compelled me to do the best I could. It pushed me farther than I ever thought possible. And now, the weight of her body against mine was like a desire fulfilled. It didn’t even matter than the hardness of her armor pressed up against me. I could somehow feel the rest of her as my arms instinctively wrapped around her back.
Our moment continued for another minute or so, until the sound of footsteps approaching from the distance caused Eryn to back away. She turned away from my gaze, appearing somewhat bashful. That made my heart skip even more.
I turned toward the footsteps, seeing Saki casually approaching. Her eyes narrowed momentarily as she stared at us, but then they softened before she spoke.
“We are being called for a meeting. To discuss the strategy from this moment forth with Queen Katalina.”
The two of us nodded in response, already edging back towards the fort. Saki’s eyes appeared downcast as we passed her.
‘That’s right. Saki has the hots for Eryn. If she saw us just now…’
Of course, that was something that would drop her spirits, but she probably didn’t press any further because nothing would come of it. At the very least, I hoped that we would remain on friendly terms, but a bit of time to herself might smooth things over.
Ten minutes later, we sat down around a large table in a conference room. Already, Cornelius had gathered the others and was talking to Katalina over the long-distance communicator. She was still back in the capital as it was unsafe for her to be here.
We arrived in the midst of a heated debate of whether to end the assault and restore the border, or to press onward and punish Purnesia for attempting to invade. The region lords appeared to hold quite the grudge even after the Purnesian Army retreated on all fronts.
“We may have sent them running with their tails tucked, but that won’t last! Will we wait until they have gathered enough strength again to invade? The time is now to press on! We must make them submit to our rule!” Marquis Deggendorf barked.
He had led the defense on the eastern side, finding that his rolling boulders crumbled into dust before reaching the armies. They had just as much trouble holding back the Purnesians, losing many troops in the process since I was not there to provide warp support. He simply did not want to bury the hatchet after losing so many of his own people.
“I agree. That mysterious Electi on their side who can create things that we have never seen before is too dangerous to leave unchecked. Not only does Lamps Magellan possess high intellect and knowledge foreign to us, but as a summoned being, an unknown blessing has been bestowed upon him!” Roderick added.
He had been fighting alongside Earl Hohenheim, who was staying behind to serve as the rear defense. The adept Wind magician’s barrier alone was able to repel any portals or magic that came his way, making it much easier to defend the western front. Roderick was tasked to remain at Fort Valga with Gadwin, who had not fully recovered yet. They were tasked to guard the front line headquarters while the rest stepped into enemy territory.
“However, we must be careful in our approach. Though we have the momentum currently, we do not know what power this man has, nor do we know what tricks the Mad Empress possesses. After all, she had the capability to usurp the previous ruler.” Cornelius urged the others to calm down and think through it rationally.
“My tinkering sense tells me that Lamps Magellan is quite capable of overturning that disadvantage, given what creations we have seen so far.” Katalina’s voice sounded hesitant even over the device. Surely, she was fretting over what path to do as the kingdom’s leader. While she was normally passive when it came to confrontations, even she could feel the danger of giving such a man opportunities.
Inventing guns, vehicles, mana canceling tools aside, what kind of Electi was the man called Lamps even? Aside from his silly name, there was hardly any information about him, aside from what he had created. I cycled through the Electi that were known so far. It seemed like the entire set of stats was nearly complete.
Saki for Attack, Wen Zhi and Wen Lu for Defense and Magic Defense, Ludmila for Speed, Lau for Dexterity, Chrys for Luck, and Critical for me. While we had never confirmed what the previous Chancellor had, the only stat remaining was Magic.
Of course, there was also Koujiro with the strange bonus to proficiency, so did that mean that other Electi existed outside of the normal stat parameters? Or was there something else going on?
“Question – can more than one type of Electi exist at any given time?” I raised my hand to interrupt.
Cornelius immediately answered, “No, at least not in recorded history. Those who possessed the trait were the sole bearers until the time of their death, in which a gap of time existed before the next one appeared.”
“Then, could Lamps Magellan be the new possessor of Magic?” That seemed like the most promising conclusion for me, but Cornelius immediately denied it.
“Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case. My reports have shown that he has existed in this world since before Willingham’s demise. Therefore, the two would have to possess different specialties. The deities of this world can only bless one summoned being at a time. However, of the remaining Electi powers that have not been confirmed, Lamps Magellan likely possesses one of the remaining three.”
“Th-Three? I thought only Magic was left?”
“Afraid not, in addition to that, there are records of ones possessing seemingly limitless mana.” Cornelius almost looked jealous while saying that. An image of how unstoppable she would be if that were the case. She could freeze the world like a contracted spirit gone rogue after a failed ‘Barusu cycle’.
“So, an Electi of Mana? That’s… troublesome. Then the last one is… Life?”
“Correct, but there is actually nothing to confirm that such a power exists. No person mentioned that could not be killed, possessing endless vitality. It is more a plausible theory.”
Certainly, that sounded like another overpowered, annoying as hell specialty for an enemy to have.
“In any case, we must remain vigilant if that person were to ever appear before us. That is why everyone here is worried. The very possibility that Lamps could wield unrestricted mana in an otherwise barren area makes it difficult for us to ignore any hostility from Purnesia.”
I scanned the room, seeing that everyone, even Eryn, nodded in agreement. There was zero merit in claiming the Northern Lands as territory. But the danger of a ‘hero’ that possessed unknown strength in very troublesome categories made it imperative to put them under our control.
“Still, hidden dangers could be waiting for us ahead. We should form a strong squadron to lead the way.” Cornelius looked over at Eryn and me. “Can we ask the Valkyrie Squad to perform this task? The high maneuverability of your members would be key to passing back information.”
Eryn nodded with confidence. Of course, that meant that I was going along for the ride, as well as Saki, who normally protected us. With two high-level Electi and a Master that had devastating abilities, there would hopefully be little to worry about. Several hundred soldiers would keep pace with us, in case we ran into any heavy fighting. With the rest catching up.
Cornelius would bring up the middle, pushing the bulk of the army forward, while maintaining a defensive front. After stepping into the Northern Lands, covering a wider perimeter was necessary as we were exiting a funnel point.
Also, since the ambient mana in the surroundings would grow thinner up north, combatants that relied on magic would be less useful. The various lords agreed that they would have to split off and guard the rear as we conquered territory. Despite Cornelius’s lack of physical aptitude, she was the brains of the army, so she had no choice but to move forward.
Princess Katalina spoke at that point. “I will also be coming forth. It does the Kingdom no good for a queen to sit around the capital while her people fight. I’ve done what is needed here, so it is time.”
As the other nobility muttered around the table about her bravery and walking in her father’s shoes, the only thought in my mind was, ‘what kind of contraptions did she come up with next?’
It would be anyone’s guess. I brushed away the silly ideas. “In any case, when do we move out?”
“Tomorrow,” Cornelius replied to me. “We are to invade the Empire of Purnesia and take control over its lands while searching for Lamps Magellan.”
With that, everyone was dismissed. I opted to retire early for the night.
I plopped into a bed in one of the private officer quarters, exhausted from the day’s events. Much had already happened since I joined up with the front line, with us advancing steadily toward Fort Valga to retake it. Since travel was much slower as a group, I had slept in a wagon the night before, which made the bed here feel extra comfy. Soon, I dozed off.
However, I could hear shuffling in my half-asleep state not long after. And then, the touch of something rubbing against my leg. My eyes popped open as a silhouette hovered over my body.
Red eyes stared back at me, and platinum blond hair tickled my face from above. Popping up in a panic, my body pressed up against two soft mounds, causing me to panic and fall back down again. Eryn had me somewhat pinned to the bed.
She smiled sweetly as she bent down for a kiss.