In a matter of moments, the tide of the battle changed once again, thanks to the new entrants. After greeting me, Katalina shot a set of portals that dropped the new fighters onto the other side of the barrier. A flash of worry hit me, but she placed a hand on my shoulder in reassurance.
“We already heard about the situation. Don’t worry. They’ll go ‘easy’ on them.”
Sure enough, these people were battle-hardened and wise enough to shrug off a simple barrage of bullets, coming fully prepared.
Pietro slid across the battlefield, his legs looking like pistons battering against the ground as he dashed through the crowd. Despite the rapid movement, his upper body was the epitome of calm, only striking with his wooden sword when necessary.
The plethora of experience being a master swordsman cut away any unnecessary motion. The weapon in his hand moved so fast that only the afterimage could be seen, accompanied by people buckling over and toppling to the ground.
Gunfire couldn’t touch him at all as he swung faster than the bullet’s trajectory, batting any incoming attacks with a sharp burst of mana. The only indication that he parried the small objects were the flashes of light that came from the collision of opposing mana.
Near the swordsman, slow, sweeping movements from another elder gave off a stark contrast. Lau, the master of parrying, simply walked through the crowd of gunfire, sweeping his glowing arms around him like a fan. They deflected the attacks like pesky flies swarming around him.
Calm, purposeful, elegant – Lau’s hands moved like a dance. Accents of Tai Chi colored his defense as his smirk implied that it was nothing to sweat about. Given his specialty in dexterity, any bullet that met the sweeping motion of his arms instantly changed trajectory.
With a hearty roar, he came upon the first line of gunners. Arms scooped up bodies, sending them spiraling away. Almost like a comical kung fu movie, the people were launched meters into the air, the weapons controlling them flung out of their hands.
This connection was not lost on the combatants, who noticed that the mana flow coming from Lamps was cut off as soon as the puppets were separated from the Resonance Stones.
“Target the weapons! Tear them from the people’s grip! Got that, Zhi boy?!”
“Of course, old man! I ain’t a protector for Lady Kaguya for nothin’!”
Wen Zhi, clad in the cloak of ‘Heaven Aura Protection’, was virtually invulnerable to the attacks. The glow around his body simply defected the incoming bullets. Like little balls of Styrofoam, they pitter-pattered harmlessly and dropped straight to the ground.
With a mighty swing of his polearm, the blade still wrapped in a leather sheath, he swept the legs of his attackers. Their bodies did a flip before taking a tumble. Eyeing the guns scattering upon the ground, he took the time to smash the blue gem that was housed in each one.
It had been a while since Wen Zhi took to the battlefield. A good adrenaline rush was always welcome, just like his old gang life. Of course, he had always been the more hot-headed sibling. He was more than aptly suited for this mission; it gave him the thrill he needed. As his opponents fell to his strikes, he couldn’t help remembering a time in the past when all he had was a sturdy bat in his hands. Just like these mindless gunners, the grunts he used to face didn’t know what hit them.
Showing off like an invincible one-man army in a video game, Wen Zhi tackled the crowd and felt the rush of bowling over his opposition once again. It was an experience he relished every moment of.
On the other hand, Koujiro was in a slight pickle. The equipment that he donned gave him enough defense to weather through the gunfire. But still, it freaking hurt.
Unlike the other fighters, Koujiro had less experience in true combat. His powerful stats didn’t require him to possess any to begin with, as he simply used them to overwhelm his opponents. Even after he was trounced by Claude and his Master, and then by the Queen of Sistina, there wasn’t exactly any time for him to train. His fatherly responsibilities had essentially taken over.
Plus, there was the limitation that he couldn’t kill any of them. These people were innocents being controlled, not heartless monsters that he could simply slice into smithereens. This level of discretion wasn’t his strong suit.
‘So much for stampeding wildly into things like I normally do,’ Koujiro sighed, wincing from a bullet smacking him right in the forehead.
He brought his gloved hand up to shield his face, lightly rubbing the sore spot where he essentially got ‘flicked’ by a bullet. All he could do was charge into them, one by one. He let out an exhale as he dashed forward.
Like a blur, his body rammed into the nearest foe, but it was Koujiro that ended up crashing backwards like he had run into a wall. Without a weapon actively equipped, his attack power was little more than a common townsperson.
In contrast, the people around him possessed a strength similar to Lamps Magellan, who was at level 100. Koujiro had completely forgotten that fact, which ended with him barreling into solid statues.
“Freak! What the hell was I thinking?! C’mon, Koujiro. You got this. Take out the intent. That’s all you have to do!”
He sprung back on his feet, reminding himself that the best way to attack was not to do so at all. He envisioned himself as a runaway train, all the while trying not to get angry at the annoying smacks that he kept receiving. He couldn’t be angered, as that fed into the concept of ‘intent’ as well.
“ALRIGHT! ALL ABOARD THE KOU TRAIN!”
Dashing forward again, this time Koujiro’s body shone with an aura of mana equivalent to the ones around him. The armored king slammed into his targets and bucked them off the rails. Since their colliding mana signatures canceled each other out, it was like normal people bumping into each other in passing. The extra weight of Koujiro’s armor prevailed. Soon enough, an empty line in the middle of the crowd was formed, a clear path of toppled people.
Pretending to be a natural force that just happened to run into things, the gunners could barely do anything against the stampeding man as he chugged across the battlefield.
Katalina and I watched as our allies decimated the remaining forces of Purnesia. Their abilities were well suited to keep them occupied without inflicting more casualties. Also, I noticed a flaw in the Will of Yaldabaoth skill that I couldn’t see until I was sidelined.
The people couldn’t do much more than simply head towards their targets and fire their weapons. With the sheer number under Lamps’ direct control, there was no way to micromanage them all. The best that could be done was to give a blanket order, telling all of them to attack with abandon.
These puppets on a string couldn’t perform any complex actions. They couldn’t even register a desire to avoid any attacks. The natural sense of self-preservation had been robbed from them completely, making their movements robotic and predictable.
Sure, their attacks were intimidating but so was a stationary cannon. Once the path of their shots could be read, it was a simple matter of maneuvering around and disabling the human turrets. And for that, experts on the battlefield found the task to be almost laughable.
“Such reliable friends we have, don’t we?” My thoughts spilled out of my mouth.
“Who do you think brought them together? It surely isn’t my heroics.”
Katalina’s voice was gentle and comforting. She brought a vial up to my mouth, likely an expensive potion reserved for the best. It tasted like equal parts of bitter medicine and alcoholic mouthwash. Immediately, I could feel my battle weariness melt away. The mana that I used up had been mostly restored. If I weren’t the Chancellor, then surely my wallet would be aching for the little drink that cost as much as an entire house.
Restoration potions, the good ones, were no doubt invaluable out here where the mana was thin. But that made it even more obvious what Katalina expected me to do. I still needed to fight. I still needed to stand at the front. The enemy boss was waiting, and it wouldn’t do to have one of the others take the lead. At this moment, I was the commander, like it or not.
Katalina didn’t have to say a word. But I knew.
The only way to regain the favor of the public was to bring an end to this conflict. To don the mantle of a hero that seized the day. People had short memories. Doing something grand would scribble over the low points that stuck in their minds for now.
So, I stood up. I glanced once at Katalina, ready to be on my way. She simply nodded and smiled, seeing that I carried myself like I should. Her knight, her hero. The man who opened new possibilities for her. She was yet another that knew exactly how I was. I couldn’t let her down now.
“W-Wait, I, I should come too.”
Saki hobbled over, but I could clearly tell that she was in pain. Her fight with the Mad Queen had left considerable damage. Even the strongest potion would require some time to fully heal the wounds. I shook my head at her.
“No, you have no obligation to. Take care of yourself, Saki. I can handle a bit of a challenge. So what if she has two sources of power?”
“But, but there is also Lamps to deal with! You can’t possibly take on both at once! At least, let me distract-”
“No, please allow me then.”
Golabki walked up to us, still looking somewhat fresh. He had simply been protecting Ludmila, so he hadn’t worn himself out in battle.
“I cannot stand still while my fellow people are played with like fools. The nerve of that man treating us in such ways! Please, let me join you! I have a score to settle with him!”
Golabki’s eyes were serious. And the way he held one of his pistols told me that he was itching for revenge. After seeing everything in the empire turned upside down by a single man, I couldn’t help but think he was like the ‘Claude’ from the previous world.
But the difference was, he could switch sides before things went bad. He saw for himself that Lamps Magellan was not a man to be trusted. By refusing his ‘convenient’ weapons, he had inadvertently saved himself from being brainwashed. I couldn’t brush away a desire that fought against the same injustice that I once faced. My other self would be calling me a hypocrite if I did.
I reached out and offered him my hand.
“Alright, Mr. Golabki. You have yourself a deal. If you join, you join as family. No complaints, got it?”
“Hmph, that may take some getting used to. It’s been quite some time since I last had one. But if it’s anything like these allies you brought in, then it will be something to look forward to.”
His hand met mine in a firm grip, with enough pressure to make me wince. But that was a simple price for forging a new bond. No blood pacts or sake cup sharing was needed, thankfully. Having his help would certainly make the battle tilt towards our favor.
“Alright, let’s go! Straight for Lamps Magellan and the Mad Empress!” I said, pointing at Golabki to take on the former while I took the latter.
Katalina was ready and waiting with a set of portals that would dump us right on top of them. I stared into the distance, where the two of them waited. It was only a matter of minutes since the tide of battle shifted, but they stood there unmoved.
Just what were they waiting for? Nothing that I could make a guess on.
Like hawks waiting for the right moment to act, all they did was watch as the remaining resistance of Purnesia slowly died down. Did they think that they would prevail regardless? Or were there more hidden schemes amidst?
I couldn’t let that scare me off. Rather, the thought of joining hands between Sistina and Purnesia felt all the more worthy to be the future that everyone could accept.