I looked around. The results of the grand battle in the center had registered all throughout the Purnesian side. Cries of panic rippled through the ranks as their apparent champions had been defeated. Their ultimate weapons were no match for the abilities of the Electi, so it was natural to think that they had lost.
But the man before me, Lamps Magellan, simply chuckled with a snide grin. It looked like he had predicted this outcome, or maybe, he was simply just messed up in the head. He looked every bit like a mad scientist who didn’t know when to give up.
“What are you laughing about?” I drew a knife from my Item Box. “What about all this is amusing to you?!”
He was the one who had created such weapons to fight us. Though indirectly, he was responsible for Cornelius’s death. He was part of the craziness that drove Eryn mad, resulting in her charging to her doom. I felt angry, like I wanted to drive my knife through his skull to end it all. To have my revenge and move on.
But even more so. I wanted to know, “Why? Why did you attack us? Give me answers, damn it!”
By now, my voice had raised into a battle cry. The armies on my side were now swarming the walls, tearing them down slowly with a bombardment of magics. With such an advantage for our side, what else could he pull out? I wanted Lamps to spill everything, so that I would know what kind of person could do such a thing.
But the man simply continued to chuckle in amusement. His eyes were so thin that I wondered if he could even see out of them.
“Electi of this world. Indescribable wonders. What more can I say? You all interest me. Your abilities give me the drive to come up with the most splendid of toys to test. For that is my sole purpose in life, to create. I am a creator. That is my only role. To innovate. To be of use.”
“So you start a war for no reason? How many people have died from this? What kind of creator makes things to destroy?”
I was quickly wondering whether there was any point in trying to make sense of it all. There was not a single ounce of sincerity in his words. Like he was playing with toy figures upon the carpet, the coldness in his speech stung at my heart. He was playing with people’s lives like they meant nothing.
“Oh? But you are mistaken on that point.” Lamps paused to turn towards me. “None of this has run contrary with the will of the people of Purnesia. Their hatred for Sistina is genuine. My Master’s deep grudge against Sistina is the driving force for my machinations. My actions are for the Mad Empress and the Empire of Purnesia.”
Lamps bent forward with a bow. It was almost like he was…
“Enjoy the show!”
All of a sudden, the entire area around us flooded with a mysterious feeling that made my hair stand on end. It was like the world had stopped and decided to spin the other way. Everyone froze in their tracks – the people around Lamps, the Army of Sistina, and even the Purnesian Army.
My head darted all around, wondering what Lamps had put into motion. All I could tell was that a massive spike of energy came from him, enough to flood my senses and blind the eye skill that I tried to activate.
But as I tried to move forward to stop him, I felt a hand on my foot. Looking down, I found Orwitz gripping onto my leg. He had somehow revived, but mana sprang from him like a fountain. I shook him off, but he got up, moving more robotically than ever before but with every intention to stop me.
And then it hit me. His movements had lost every trace of human to them. They creaked. They stuttered. Even more than before, it was like he was merely a puppet on strings, moving not of his own will. And that was not due to the thrusters this time. The body itself felt like there was no soul.
“What did you do to him?” Somehow, the answer seemed apparent.
“The power to transcend and make those connected as my own. The world is my stage, and I am merely the player. But I have chosen to be one that looks upon from above. For that is what my skill, ‘Will of Yaldabaoth’, has deemed.”
I had no idea what he meant by that, but it wouldn’t take long to find out. The skill he possessed allowed him to take control of those who were connected to his mana. Slowly, the noise of people stampeding echoed in the distance. A rush of people spewed from the capital gates and fired their guns. The bang of shots blanketed the area as we were all caught in surprise at the sudden reversal.
Immediately, the battle resumed, the various sounds of magic and the clank of swords shook across the area. The Army of Sistina was shocked though, as Purnesian soldiers charged forward with no care for their own lives. Even as their allies fell next to them, there was no sense of fear, no hesitation. Their bodies moved with no regard but to slay the enemies before them.
I tried to stop whatever Lamps had initiated by dashing toward him, but Orwitz quickly moved in front of me. Unlike before, his movements became wild and unhinged. His head bobbed from side to side, like he wasn’t even conscious. It looked like a ragdoll flailing its limbs at me, the human in him cast away.
“Get out of the way! Ludmila! Can you take him?!”
I heard no utter of her acknowledgement. There was no feel of wind whizzing by. Taking a moment to turn towards her, I saw that she had collapsed, her head lightly shaking as she could barely move. The Clock-endspiel skill had drained her mana, and likely, the aftereffects locked up her body. Ludmila was the last person I would expect to simply give in due to being tired.
I saw Lamps smile at that. A form whizzed by him and headed straight for her. The thrusters were a dead giveaway as to who it was.
“Ludmila! Get away!”
My words were futile. I tried to break away from Orwitz to chase after Gwendolyn. The other sibling looked like she was tossed toward Ludmila rather than moving of her own volition. Another puppet slung by the whims of Lamps.
But before I could reach halfway, another person stood between them. He spun the pistol in his hand around and whipped Gwendolyn in the side, sending her crashing to the ground. My eyes widened at the figure of Golabki standing in front of Ludmila, as if guarding her from attack.
“What is the meaning of this, Commander!? I wish to know what you have done as well! The people, our people, we did not swear fealty to you for such a thing!”
There was clear anger in Golabki’s eyes. They saw his fellow citizens, his countrymen, mowed down by attacks like herds of charging cattle. While the Army of Sistina was suffering casualties from the all-out assault, many more Purnesians were dying at the same time. He saw no reason for such insane commands.
“Tsk tsk. It was not ‘I’ who proclaimed that they would give their lives to fight back against Sistina. It was not ‘I’ who swore to give everything for the sake of the Mad Empress. My role was simply to grant their wishes. To make tangible that which their ambitions held. And the solution to that, the one answer that would satisfy every one of those jeering voices full of hatred was to… turn them all into living weapons. By accepting the tools I crafted to enable them.”
The Resonance Stones in Purnesia made that happen. That was the reason Lamps had pushed for the military to equip the special guns made by him. Holding onto anything manufactured with those stones would allow that person to tap into the endless reserves of mana that Lamps possessed, but they also formed a bond with him. They had secretly signed off on a contract that bound their cores to him. And by invoking ‘Will of Yaldabaoth’, they were now his slaves.
“Have you… no shred of humanity that you are fine with treating people’s lives as disposable?!”
My anger spewed out at Lamps, who simply shrugged at the gruesome battle with no sign of sympathy. Granted that I couldn’t see the eyes that remained closed – the sounds of people being ripped apart, the wails of death, and bursts of mana being snuffed out – the chaos around us affected him not a single bit.
“Humanity, hmmm. I must admit. The very definition of it eludes me. I am a man of science, likely from a similar world as yours, Claude Evers. An otherworlder such as yourself would believe in peace and love, bringing those principles into a world such as this. That’s natural, for you are a normal man of the masses. A normal person imposing normal values after given a spectrum of power to act upon it.
“But that is the same for me. People have long considered me uncaring, inconsiderate, hollow. After a while, you start to believe that. As any person growing up as such, all I could do was make myself useful then. If I satisfied the standards that they held me to, then would I be considered human? Would I become a person of society?
“If not due to what others think, then what is humanity? Am I not doing what they all have asked me of?”
Golabki aimed his pistols at Lamps. The veins in his temple protruded and his face flushed red in rage.
“They asked for you to fight with them! Not use them! Not throw away their lives! They wanted to be allies walking down the same path, not be pawns of some god with total control!”
“God, you say? Perhaps, that’s what normal people see when chosen ones are placed upon a pedestal. I merely take their words literally and work in the capacity that I can. If you can grant their wish in the end, then why does the process matter? They wish to prevail or die trying. What more am I doing but simply just that?”
“Then, I cannot stand by you then! You disgust me!” Golabki fired his pistols at Lamps, aiming to end the whims of a madman. But suddenly, Gwendolyn leapt in front of him, batting away the bullets with arms flowing with mana.
Soon, Orwitz joined her. The two siblings in super suits blazed with Lamps’ mana as they faced off against Golabki and me. To think that we would stand on the same side not long after a contest of our own.
I got into a fighting stance, leery as to whether I could protect Ludmila with this man. But I had to believe in his disgust of the situation and his honest actions. At least, I would be willing to put our grudges aside until this was dealt with.
The two siblings were guarding Lamps, while the two of us were keeping Ludmila safe, a battle not unlike the capturing of bases. Once again, I took on Orwitz, while Golabki dashed toward Gwendolyn. Even if they were full of thick mana, that was still something that I could cut. And after their protection was blown away, they would be getting another taste of acupressure pokes!
But as we charged into the siblings, the light clink of two small objects rolled on the ground. A blinding flash erupted from it. My strength, my mana was sucked away, and so was Golabki’s.
“Shit! The absorption grenades!”
Even though Lamps was not a fighter, he still had a plethora of toys for support. Immediately, all four of us dropped to the ground as the grenades pulled our will to fight into them. The lack of mana made me feel weak. The heavy armor that I was wearing felt like lead weights on my body without the support of mana. I needed to quickly consume something to restore it.
But then, Orwitz and Gwendolyn were the first to rise from their exhaustion. Golabki and I stared at them in realization. It didn’t matter that they were in the path of the grenade. There was plenty more mana to spare as it all came from Lamps.
Now, the two of them hovered over us, ready to dish out a killing blow. My mind rigorously tried to figure out some way to retreat, but then, the cry of another came to our aid.
“Aura de Gigante!”