“Another of your ‘technology’ ideas, I take it?” The teasing voice that Lamps had grown so fond of permeated through the research facility.
A collection of nearly everything Purnesia had to offer was packed in this warehouse, where the astute inventor could work his magic. If one looked closely, there was much more than that. Creations that no one of this world had seen were casually scattered about. So many that the Mad Empress didn’t bother to ask.
Lamps always had a plan. And if it didn’t give him the desired outcome, then a backup plan and a backup for that backup were in the works. Despite the whimsical nature of the otherworldly man, his skills were no less than astonishing. A complete opposite of his flighty demeanor.
But when the man became focused, there was hardly anything in the world that could disturb him. Knowing that, even the Empress spent her precious time waiting for the next minute or so for him to respond. And finally, he did.
“Of course. Now, why would I bother with anything that wasn’t worth my time, my dear lady?”
The immediate shift in tone, to that of a court jester, hardly threw her off anymore. Her sole confidant, her greatest ally, her right-hand man – any number of things could describe the mysterious Electi of Mana. Inefficient was not one of them.
He had already created a revolution of ideas, normalizing the Empire to goods of his making. The army used weapons of his design, the commoners dabbled in a livelihood rife with his conveniences, and the Empire, as a whole, could thrive so well on the limitless supply of mana gushing from him.
Lamps was literally the heart of the Empire now, providing not only the means for its survival but also the will to exceed its limits.
‘Truly, he is a man that stands above all. For I am a mere puppet before him.’
The Mad Empress, Olivia, could only marvel at his achievements. He had paved the way for everything. All because of her single desire to tear down the world around her. It was he who created the persona of the Mad Empress, the towering figure that brought death upon those who rejected her. All the while, he played the charlatan while holding it all together with wonders.
All this time, he merely slunk back into his chambers – devising, scheming, and laying out the parts of their master plan. Olivia merely played the role that he had given her. She was far from the psychotic, domineering overlord that she normally acted in public. Lamps had sensed that she could draw upon her moments of madness, if only for short periods of time. Enough to deceive the crowd. Enough to deceive an entire nation. And now, they looked upon the world.
What he had in his hand looked like a simple fabric, but that was the beauty of it. Lamps was not a man who created meaningless things. What appeared plain to the naked eye was no doubt a wonder to those perceptive of mana. That was how Lamps saw the world in his view – pure energy flowing around everything, not the surface appearances that people saw at a glance.
But in this case, not even Olivia could see what was so special about the fabric. She tugged on it, noting the rubbery texture. It squished between her fingers, hardly anything worth noting. Unlike the stiff armors that provided a dramatic defense boost, one could hardly think that such a supple material would result in anything fancy. If it weren’t for Lamps’ genius, Olivia would start to wonder if he had gone mad.
But instead, a simple glance at Lamps’ body language told her what to do. She drew her sword and got into position. Likewise, Lamps held out the sheet of material in front of him like a curtain giving shade.
With a swift blow, swirling with blue and purple energy coating her blade, Olivia brought it down mercilessly upon the fabric. If others were in the room, they would no doubt expect the sword to tear through that flimsy defense and bisect the man in half. The Mad Empress’s abilities, forged over the last few years, were on par with heroes. That was exactly how Lamps designed her to be. His lack of offensive ability had translated to his Master wielding his will to fight in his stead. And with the two of them together at maximum level, Olivia fought with the strength of two in one. Every strike was that of two – one purple and one blue.
Yet, the blue and purple aura dissipated, and her sword rebounded upwards, throwing Olivia off balance. She glared in surprise as her strike failed to do anything to a material simply held out like a sheet.
“You, what manner of craziness have you come up with now?” That was all that managed to leave her mouth, which was quivering in surprise.
Already, Lamps had distributed gun weaponry that fired bullets that were near unstoppable. And now, he was showing off something that was near impenetrable. Her strike was no doubt much stronger than the bullets that possessed Lamps’ mana signature.
“The energies of this world are such interesting elements to play with.” Lamps brought a hand to his mouth to form a chef’s kiss. “So versatile. So much potential. Something that the people of this world have hardly scratched the surface of.”
He gently laid the fabric upon the table with a smile.
“To think that something like rubber would behave so differently in a world with mana.”
Somehow, the natural springiness of the material was greatly enhanced when mana was supplied to it. The more it received, the greater the effect. That meant attacks bounced right off it, provided that the mana signature was strong enough to withstand the blow. And certainly, Lamps had plenty of mana to spare.
It didn’t have any of the normal traits of legendary materials that offered massive game-like boosts to one’s ability. Lamps found that whole concept quite laughable, but he clearly understood the mechanics of it. And especially, any loopholes or exceptions there within.
A person wearing an outfit made of such material would be able to repel nearly any attack when fueled by Lamps’ mana. That was, any attack but the Grim Reaper himself.
“That’s fine and dandy. But I don’t see how this gets us out of the current situation. The Grim Reaper charges toward us day by-”
A finger was placed over her lips, silencing her.
“My dear Empress, when have I been known to settle for something so… obvious… so straightforward?”
He reached back to the table and fetched two squares of material, thin like paper. Now, he had a sample of both in each hand, holding them up in a demonstration. Visually, no difference could be seen by eye.
“We know from our sources that the Grim Reaper’s attacks rely on damaging weak points. That which we can easily see when mana is supplied to an object.”
Focusing his mana on one square, a bluish glow coated it. It grew so bright that little lines popped into view where the mana spewed out the fastest.
“Energy runs along the mana grains, in what would be known as a weak point to the Grim Reaper. Obviously, materials are naturally filled with defects, and it is by these defects that objects tear and break… But… what if one could create something, some material that is free of all blemishes?”
Lamps’ gaze now turned to the other material in hand. Injecting it with the same mana, the bluish glow grew brighter and brighter, but at no point did any lines appear. The surface of the strange, paper-like material remained immaculate.
“What I have here is a set of stacked graphene, a marvel in my home world. A flawless arrangement of perfectly-bonded molecules, created rather simply when one has complete command of mana to align it all. All but impossible in my world, but now before us in this one.”
Olivia realized where this was going. If it had no weak points, then any attack made by the Electi of Critical would essentially do nothing. Because there was nothing at all to exploit. A smile curled on Olivia’s face as she reached up and tugged on the sheet of graphene.
But to her surprise, the sheet tore from simply that. She hadn’t expected that at all.
“Graphene as it is – quite flimsy. But that is why I will combine it. A coating to ward off the deadly strike of the Grim Reaper, and a rubbery underlayer to elastically repel any others. It will be a combination of legends. A breakthrough in magical science!”
It barely took long at all for Lamps’ endeavor to come to fruition. However, even a great genius ran into bumpy terrain. It was not until the first tests did the true challenge come.
The first few subjects had difficulty controlling themselves in the suit. They weaved and bobbed all around as the mana-based propulsion sent them careening out of control. The conclusion of that experiment revealed that the mana of another person interfered with that which was supplied by Lamps.
While it was simple enough to draw upon Lamps’ mana in a held item or weapon, a full-body suit was completely different. Normal people’s mana flowed in their every action, making it hard to balance. In the end, the unpredictable nature of a person made the task too unstable to control.
However, there was someone else that suited it much better. Lamps suited up the twins that Olivia had taken under her wing, Orwitz and Gwendolyn. Their near non-existent mana signatures made them perfect test subjects to tune the suit’s output.
What didn’t exist couldn’t interfere. And lacking any of their own mana in their movements, they could exploit the mana of another with a mere thought. They desired the power to propel themselves across the battlefield.
These hollow bodies could finally fight for their savior, something they were no doubt grateful for. It didn’t matter that Lamps saw them as stepping stones for his final creation. They were simply proud to serve under the Mad Empress, the only other person to care at all about keeping them together.
The Mad Empress roared as the Electi of Attack unsuccessfully swung at her. The mallets in her hand merely bounced off, leaving her open for a swift strike to her armored front. The sheer force of the Mad Empress’s counterattack sent the girl flying away.
She had dropped into the battle herself, wearing the completed suit from Lamps. She was the only other exception that was able to use the suit. Because her mana naturally bonded with Lamps’, that interference didn’t exist. Rather, they synchronized. They worked in complete tandem.
The weight of two strikes in one exceeded that of the one specialized in Attack. Saki was sent meters away, landing before the feet of those who had defeated the twins. A sigh of relief was muffled by the helmet over Olivia’s head. She wasn’t sure what she would have felt if they had been killed.
‘Did it even matter?’
A sudden clamor echoed behind her. She turned around to look at the capital gates that were now open. From within the city, a large stream of people spewed out. They were not soldiers of Purnesia. The attire that they wore varied in all sorts of manner. No, they were merely normal citizens. Any person that could move charged out with an unbridled fury.
But in their hands, the bluish glow of Lamps’ guns shined. Their eyes were the same crazed ones that were already in the midst of combat. The entire population of Purnesia flooded into the battlefield, with absolutely no regard for danger.
“All for one and one for all, my dear Empress. Just like how you wanted. Just like how ‘they’ wanted.”
The Will of Yaldabaoth controlled everyone in Purnesia. The only exceptions were Olivia, who shared a connection with Lamps, and Golabki, who resisted the temptation of fighting with another’s power.
Olivia knew it herself. She was sending everyone to Hell. Just like how it felt when she lost everything, the desire to tear it all down and destroy that before her still lingered.
She raised her sword at her opponents, flowing with the energies of two people. Backed by the genius inventor who brought her to this point. Carrying everything to the point where it all would end. But even amongst the din of battle, the cries of another Olivia echoed within her.
“Is it worth it? Is it worth it?”
“Is what you have never enough?”
“Is… losing everything again… what your heart truly desires?”