“Sores! How dare you!”
The captain bellowed, and everyone immediately ran for the airdock, disregarding whatever tasks they were on beforehand. Isaac too walked with them, grinning with glee at the sudden entertainment.
The airship was the only way to escape from this place. Sores, the man Isaac had rendered unconscious earlier, instigated his men to steal the airship the moment he regained consciousness.
Although they were in exile, these agents of Central were combat agents. The sailors of the airship were only field agents, so there was a huge disparity between their combat capabilities. The sailors were immediately subdued, and the garrison troops who realised Sores was attempting to escape clung on to the airship with their dear lives.
Sores, however, ignored his comrade’s pleas and quickly made preparations to take flight, even kicking away some of the agents who persistently clung onto the airship. When the ship gained sufficient altitude where no one could reach him, Sores heard the Commander’s enraged voice. He and his men panicked, but they had passed the point of no return.
They were well aware that their lives were gone the moment they landed the ship here. Those on the ground were as good as dead anyway, so Sores justified to his subordinates that they might be able to get past the interrogations by lying that the commander sent them to ask for assistance with the intention of defending the garrison to his last breath. If not, Sores explained that they could make a run for it and rally his subordinates after passing through the mana storm.
Although all of them were aware of Central’s information network and its deductive capabilities, his subordinates had no choice but to believe in Sores. They were on the same ship now, and it was impossible to think Noxvil, the man who followed rules and principles as his motto, would forgive them. Desertion before battle was punished with death, both in this world and the other.
“This is some beautiful sight you’re showing me. I thought Central was pretty great, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. I’ll need to reevaluate you guys. The commander decides to leave his post to play, and the vice commander decides to ditch everyone to save his own skin. How did you guys manage to fend off the Expeditionary Forces up to now?”
“You dare! Do not mock the honour of those who have sacrificed their lives to protect this land!”
Noxvil refuted loudly, but Isaac pointed at the airship and smirked mockingly.
“If saying a few words are a mockery to them, then what of the brave souls’ actions aboard that airship?”
Noxvil could only twitch in silence shamefully, unable to speak back at Isaac’s sarcasm. Isaac talked to the despondent Mazelan this time, whose eyes had been closed.
“Did they really meet the qualifications to join Central? Or did you only accept them because of their families?”
“Sigh! To think a disgrace like Sores would come from the Cage family, given their reputation for bravery…”
Everyone could see with their eyes how the group was struggling to keep the ship in flight, what with all the sailors kicked off from the ship. The group of deserters remained at the gondola, unable to figure out what they needed to do. Mazelan muttered glumly as he looked at Sores in the bridge, and everyone around him dropped their heads in agreement with Mazelan. Isaac looked at this disheartened lot scornfully and slowly snuck his way to the back of the group.
“I have brought it here…”
Rivelia handed the object to Isaac. It was something Rivelia and Saints had taken from the warehouse as ordered by Isaac, and Rivelia spoke with a voice full of worry. Isaac replied to Rivelia not with words – but with action.
Saints screamed in terror, and some of the agents standing at the back of the group turned back to see what the commotion was about. When they saw Isaac, they panicked, and the wave of panic spread through the entire group like dominoes. Noxvil and Mazelan were the last to hear the screams, and when they saw Isaac, they shouted out with great surprise.
Even before Mazelan and Noxvil could react, Isaac stabilized his aim and pulled the trigger. With the sound of gushing wind, the rocket flew toward the airship, hitting the gondola.
With a giant explosion, the airship faltered. More explosions followed, and the airship was quickly engulfed in flames and began plummeting toward the ground. All of the airship’s sailors screamed while the captain of the ship fainted.
In the midst of everyone watching the scene with a blank, disjointed look on their faces, Mazelan and Noxvil approached Isaac with faces so stupefied by what had happened.
The two couldn’t even finish their sentence as they spoke with faltering voices. Isaac threw the smoking launcher away and took a deep puff of his cigarette. He then spoke to Rivelia who also stood blankly.
“Back in my world, all deserters were punished on sight. Is it different in this world?”
“… It is the same here.”
Rivelia nodded with a grim look on her face, and Isaac looked at Noxvil and Mazelan as if asking what was the problem. The two finally lost their sanity.
“You! Fool! Do you think we don’t know that?!”
Mazelan grabbed at Isaac’s collars and shook him wildly. Noxvil quickly drew his sword and immediately started throwing waves condensed mana into the air using his sword.
“Do you see that ?! If we wanted to destroy the airship, I could have done so myself!”
“Cough cough! Then why did you just sit and watch?”
Isaac grumbled despite being shaken down to his soul by Mazelan. Mazelan and Noxvil both pointed at the airship which was but a smouldering ruin.
“Because that was our only way to send a message out of this place!”
Isaac scratched his head with a sorry look as if he’d just realised. The airship had to leave the Forbidden Lands to notify the rest of Central of the current situation. Isaac had destroyed, with his own hands, the only way to withdraw when even the Communicator was destroyed.
“To think we would lose this place so incompetently… When so many have spilled their blood to protect this land for ages…”
Noxvil muttered with an empty look with his shoulders dropped, and Mazelan let go of Isaac’s collars and stretched his hand out with a drained look.
“Hand me that cigarette of yours, not the choyu leaf.”
“You really want to smoke it?”
“What wouldn’t I do in this situation.”
Isaac couldn’t help but hand out a real cigarette that he couldn’t bear to throw away earlier. He lit the cigarette for Mazelan, and Mazelan took a deep breath.
“Cough! Cough! Uweek!”
Mazelan was hit hard by the sudden intake of the nicotine; dazed, he sat on the ground. Despite this and the constant coughing, Mazelan continued to smoke.
“How is it?”
“Why do you people smoke this horrible thing?”
“See? That’s why I only smoke choyu leaves.”
Mazelan glared at Isaac as if he had been cheated. Isaac responded with a shrug, and then he looked at the others who were all over the docks with a defeated look.
“What will you do now?”
Rivelia asked when Isaac was about to light a new cigarette.
“What do you mean what will we do? We fight!”
Mazelan screamed just before Isaac was about to speak.
“Bring over my men. We will fight, but it will be different from what he planned.”
“… Yes sir.”
Rivelia stared at Isaac for a moment before nodding and disappearing to gather the Security agents.
While Isaac looked at Rivelia’s disappearing figure, Mazelan grabbed Isaac’s shoulders with a glimmer of hope in his eyes and shouted.
“You are going to use a different method? You shot down the airship because you were confident! Right?”
Isaac felt extremely uncomfortable when Mazelan’s face came ever so close to his and turned away before answering.
Five Humvees raced across the rough, desolate plains where not a single blade of grass could be seen. The Humvees stopped occasionally to check for directions before dashing through the plains again.
EDN: Humvees are short for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, which is basically a modern form of the older military Jeep. Wikipedia article.
“Seems like everyone’s gotten used to driving.”
Isaac muttered to himself as he sat on the passenger’s seat and glimpsed at Mazelan, who seemed to be having fun flooring the pedal and subtly competing with the other cars. The automobiles that had just been released in this world had the same basic mechanism, the only difference being its power source. Isaac picked the drivers from his Directorate of Security agents based on past driving experiences. Although they stalled the engines multiple times at the start, they quickly got used to driving them, perhaps because they were a bunch of brainiacs.
“Over there! Where the wind gathers and forms a twister is the location of the Gate’s appearance.”
Saints, who was suffering from severe car sickness at the back seat with windows down and his body limp as a snail, shouted out when he noticed a twister forming for a brief second before disappearing.
Mazelan turned his wheel toward Saints’ direction and sped up. The other cars quickly followed behind. Isaac witnessed the phenomenon of a twister forming and disappearing just as Saints had described with great fascination, when the Humvees stopped at an adequate distance away.
As soon as the humvee stopped, Saints leaped out of the seat and retched. Agents from other cars also started disembarking.
“That point where the wind gathers is precisely where the Gate will open.”
As Isaac took out a cigarette with one arm leaned out of the Humvee’s window, Rivelia came around pointing at the spot to explain with her hair tied to the back, annoyed that her long hair flew wildly in the wind.
“Hm. Do we still have time? Distribute the weapons and let them have a quick practice session.”
With Isaac’s order given, Rivelia passed the order to the agents. Soon, the agents received the unfamiliar weapons awkwardly and began distributing the ammo evenly amongst themselves.
Their mood didn’t seem foul for knowing that they were using the very weapons that killed their friends in the past, but Isaac’s training had borne fruit. None of them uttered a single word, merely doing as they were told.
Isaac stepped out of the Humvee and took a big stretch to loosen up, when Noxvil came around with a stiff expresion.
“Why are you doing this? You should know they won’t be able to fight properly using weapons they’ve never used before. In fact, it will decrease our combat capability.”
“Huh? I’m surprised you’re here when you acted like you’d never tag along.”
Isaac looked with great surprise when he saw Noxvil. Noxvil had vehemently opposed using the cars and weapons in the warehouses. Noxvil continued, not bothering to hide the hostility in his eyes.
“Answer my question.”
“I swear, the hierarchy of this world is a complete mess.”
Isaac grumbled and climbed onto the car’s bonnet. He leaned back onto the windshield and flicked the burnt cigarette off his finger as he answered.
EDN: A car’s bonnet is also known as a car’s hood.
“Why, are you suspicious I have ulterior motives? You should know I would never assist or cooperate with the Expeditionary Forces if you know where I’m from. Well, don’t worry. I have no intention of joining the Expeditionary Forces. I still have some work I need to do in this world.”
“I need to play to my heart’s content before I leave.”
“… I will cut your head the moment you show even the slightest hint of treachery.”
Isaac glossed over Noxvil’s threat nonchalantly. As he breathed in a freshly lit cigarette, gunfire echoed from the desert. It seemed the agents started their target practice.
Isaac looked at the agents and noticed that all of them were frowning. Isaac asked Noxvil, who was also looking at the agents with a fire in his eyes.
“Hey, old man.”
“I have a question I want to ask.”
“How come your weapons are still the same when you’ve already stolen useful ideas such as airplanes and subways?”
“I thought they explained to you already.”
“Because it’s too strong and cruel? Well, I can just accept that argument for now, but I’m sure someone in Central would have suggested the idea in the past. Even if they didn’t, shouldn’t you take advantage of the goods in the warehouses? I’m just surprised that they’ve been untouched until now…”
“Do you think the honourable knights of the Empire would use the uncouth weapons of their most dishonourable foes? It is the path and honour of the combat knight to not rely and shackle oneself to convenience and efficiency, to carve a path of their own that through their own strength and skill that has been honed through endless training!”
Isaac gawked at Noxvil who jumped about as he spoke of honour and training before smirking.
“I guess it’s an annual festival – not war – if you only brawl once every 10 years.”
War was pouring all of one’s resources to achieve victory. Nobody cared about the method in order to achieve that result. To steal the advantages of your enemy’s weapon, to create a stronger and more efficient and effective weapon was one of many basic steps taken to win a war.
Modern day weapons were a direct product of such steps followed since ancient times, and they weren’t at the pinnacle by a long shot. The development of weapons continued to this day.
Isaac had no clue as to how combat-proficient these combat knights were since he’d never seen them battle the Expeditionary Forces before, but if they could truly dodge bullets as they claimed, then fighting with comparable weapons would be far more efficient than fighting with swords.
Shooting from afar would cut out the time needed to dance about the battlefield just to get into melee range. Just the simple estimate that they could kill more enemies in a shorter time alone should have convinced them to give up on swords and move on to firearms, but the people of this world still proclaimed ideals such as honour and ran about with swords.
Then again, if the masters of these swords had this mindset, their students would follow their beliefs as they were taught. The timeframe of 10 years could be extremely beneficial in terms of logistics and manpower, but it was a lethal poison in a grand scale. It’s obvious they would use their old, standing strategy that had never failed before over an uncertain one to fight a battle that is but a mere ceremony. The higher-ups hate change, as usual.
Noxvil seemed to have caught fire as he raised his voice in explaining his beliefs and principles, and he ran over to the agents who were mid practice to lecture them about what the sword meant and such. The agents, although confused, had no choice but to stop their training to listen attentively to a rare lecture given to them by their respected Sword Master.
Isaac looked at the sight, displeased; perhaps they hadn’t been educated enough. Just as he considered reeducating his agents, Mazelan approached Isaac with a tired look and glimpsed at Noxvil before sighing and making his explanation.
“What Commander Noxvil says is an opinion of the combat knights. Truth is we have new weapons referencing the weapons used by the Expeditionary Forces. Everything from its mass production to their distribution to the armies has already been prepared.”
“Then how come you aren’t using it when it’s already prepared?”
“The problem is it’s too powerful for something so simple to use. The reason why the Empire practices provincial warfare is to maintain a pool of battle experienced soldiers readily available for the worst case scenario, but the casualty rate of those wars would rise dramatically if we allow guns. That’s why the plan to distribute firearms is under lock and key until the scenario when the Gate is secured by the Expeditionary Forces. Not to mention that the Expeditionary Forces isn’t the only enemy we are fighting against.”
Isaac smirked at Mazelan’s explanation and leaned onto the Humvee’s windscreen. It was true that the scale of casualties would rise to multiple digits if weapons like these became the norm. And with two other foes that needed attention, Central wasn’t going to increase their enemies’ combat capabilities just for convenience’s sake.
EDN: A car’s windscreen is also known as a windshield.
Isaac also considered there were more complex, political reasons just by looking at Mazelan’s face, but he decided not to ask out of laziness. After flicking another cigarette to the ground, Isaac scanned the surroundings and muttered.
“Will this work?”
Isaac took out the pen from his finger and thought in his mind the magic circle to dig. Soon, the lens in his left eye came up with the image of such a circle, and his arm immediately set about to follow the lines on its own. The flat plain he was standing on quickly sunk to the point where a Humvee would be half-buried underground.
“How did you do that?”
Mazelan stared with wide eyes of disbelief. Even Rivelia who was coming over to give an update quickly dashed over when she noticed.
“It’s just magic.”
“Do you think a magic that destroys the basic foundation of magic like this would exist!”
“To me, magic itself goes against everything I know.”
Isaac shrugged as if it was unfair, when Rivelia muttered as if she’d realised something.
“Is it the Queen’s Artifact?”
“Ahh! That’s it! The Queen’s Artifact! Knowing you, you would have immediately taken off in that airship to escape if you didn’t have any answers!”
“… You’ve been pestering me with hard facts for quite some time now. So much so that I can’t even argue against it.”
Isaac grumbled with squinted eyes, but Mazelan looked back with eyes full of hope as he spoke.
“There must be some kind of an answer that can turn this situation if it’s the Queen’s Artifact!”
“Wow! Is this the difference of reputation? None of you even pretended to believe in me when I spoke, but now you’re so optimistic when you’ve learned that there is the Queen’s Artifact?”
Mazelan didn’t seem to budge at Isaac’s comment and continued to smile excitedly, and even Rivelia gently stared at Isaac. Isaac smirked and shrugged, turning back to look at the hole he dug with a complicated look.
Although Isaac bluffed with confidence, he was just as confused in his mind. Although it turned out like he intended, something which he didn’t expect had happened as well. Isaac originally intended to create the magic circuit and place a mana crystal inside to activate it just as he had in the past. Because that was how it was supposed to be. But for some reason, the crater dug itself immediately as the magic circuit was completed. With a cigarette in his mouth, Isaac quickly put his brain to use in order to figure out why.
‘Where did the mana to activate the magic circuit come from? The mana inside the artifact? Or mana crystal?’
For Isaac, who didn’t know how magic worked, there was no way he could figure out why it worked. But he couldn’t just sit idly by, so he had to test it multiple times just to get a grasp on the reasoning of magic.
“Damsel, bring me a mana crystal.”
Rivelia immediately ran over to the Humvee without a word, shuffling through the pile of equipment before finding a fist sized mana crystal.
‘If it uses mana from mana crystal, it must have used one of the crystals in my coat. Does that mean it uses any of the mana crystals in the surroundings? Or was it possible for the pen to provide the mana required because it was a weak magic circuit?’
Isaac held the mana crystal in his left hand and stood up on his feet, thinking in his mind ‘use the mana crystal in my hand.’ He then mentally visualized to himself the strongest magic circuit in his memory, and designated its location at the agents who were listening attentively to Noxvil’s sudden lecture. With a ‘crack!’ the mana crystal lost its blue glimmer, turning into a black, grey rock.
At the same time, a wild screech could be heard, as a wyvern showed itself out of nowhere.
“What the! How did a wyvern suddenly get here!”
The agents immediately spread out in all directions at the sudden appearance of the monster. Despite the confusion, these agents reacted accordingly and fired at the wyvern.
Bang bang bang!
The sudden hail of bullets pierced through the wyvern’s scales, and the wyvern screamed in pain. It spread its wings in an attempt to escape to the skies, but Noxvil charged at the wyvern and shattered it to pieces in an instant.