Azhure: No, it’s not the end of this book. This chapter simply contained the epilogue for an unwritten (as of this chapter’s publishing) book, ‘War of the Princes and Nobles’ that I plan to write. I added ‘and Nobles’ because ‘War of the Princes‘ was already taken.
The red knight thrust her flaming spear into the opening of the moving suit of armor, breaking its core.
Richard raised his shield as another Iron Knight swung down its greatsword, blocking it.
Aiming true, Alicia found an opening to unleash an [Explosion] in the mob while keeping safe.
STAB STAB STAB
And it was followed by the spears of ice.
∞ Iron Knights left. ??? + 10 destroyed.
The onslaught of the Iron Knights was endless. It’s not that they are strong, it’s just that there was too much to handle. Also, they disappear completely when their core inside their suit is destroyed; that meant the Iron Knight right behind the defeated, like physically touching the front’s back, could follow-up immediately.
Not to mention all the high-grade anti-magic stones along the corridor that managed to make Orders less effective.
Alicia could see that her fellow Court Wizards are getting tired. They must have exceeded the ten percent margin – physical exhaustion occurs when you used that much maneg.
Although it didn’t matter for Alicia, since she used loyal maneg… but Voice refused to let her use Vague Order – the pixie was afraid of the anti-magic stones reacting to her loyal maneg. So, She has to wait for her Catalyst to gather enough fire maneg converted from the torches on the glowing wall.
Jonathan has killed the cultist summoning the Iron Knights. Hold out. (Darc)
The Dark Guardian reported as he was constantly barraging the magically enforced glass barrier with Shadow Stakes. He was facing the direction of where Jonathan did his part.
This was much-needed news, the Iron Knights should stop spawning infinitely now.
But the magic inhibition is still there.
No matter, Alicia and the others need to hold out a bit longer.
Founding another crack within the tight formation, Alicia pointed another [Explosion] within the Iron Knight ranks.
??? Iron Knights left. ??? + 15 destroyed.
As the battle of attrition ensues, Darc had finally destroyed the glass wall. Also, it appears that Jonathan had finished his battle.
However, the problem with the Iron Knights remain – despite the summoner being dead, there were still too many Iron Knights. Owen, Jill, and Richard are out of shape and so must be Darc and Jonathan, Alicia could only do so much with her Catalyst.
But then, another shattering echoed from the other side, vibrating deep into this base.
“Men,” a commandeering voice was heard, “destroy the Iron Knights, we must aid sir Jonathan and his allies!”
Did you tell the guards about the cultists? (Darc)
No, should I? (Jonathan)
You have already told the GrassPlains adventurer guild about them by handing over on of their leaders. Have them come to handle the cleanup. (Darc)
Got it. (Jonathan)
Alicia has almost forgotten, Jonathan had informed the local guards to raid this place. Although it was supposed to be after she and company defeated the cultists, their help was much welcomed.
The trap set by Gray was unprecedented even to the experienced Darcassan, who, according to Ilezenya, had over two hundred years of experience as an assassin.
Although the voice from the local guards was familiar to her.
Emotion suppression is disabled.
There are still a dozen Iron Knights. Even though Alyssa’s knights are here to help, why did her Maneg Soul think she is out of the woods?
Well, Alicia, it’s pretty much over already!
While being confused by what the pixie meant, suddenly, Jonathan shoved Alicia and the others out of his way as he approached the Iron Knights.
Then, Jonathan summoned his Cherished Armament, a sword, and…
In an instant, he tore through the remaining Iron Knights. Alicia gasped in awe over his blade work. So that’s what Voice meant.
0 Iron Knights left.
As the final walking metal suit of armor faded into silverish-black nodes, Alicia could finally see their reinforcements that came too late.
Are they not Alyssa’s knights?
What came to view were not your simple city guards, but guards in silver armor, princess Alyssa von Coastline’s personal knights.
There were also the local adventurers, who were better equipped than the silver knights, which would explain how they were able to shatter the very-hard-to-break magical glass wall, albeit too late with the endeavor.
They looked surprised but seemed relieved seeing their kingdom’s hero effortlessly defeated what must be a dangerous foe for them.
And shuffling through them, Jonathan went straight for the head knight of the princess of Coastline’s personal guards, Alfred.
“Alfred,” Jonathan called the head knight. “He’s dead, the bastard who killed Melaine, your sister, and got away is finally dead.”
Taking his helmet off. “Truly?” Alfred said, his fox ears twitching. “Who was it? Who was the assh*le who killed Melaine and Reg?”
Jonathan hesitated before saying “…Gray.”
“What!?” Alfred widened his eyes. His fangs betraying a hint of confusion and rage.
“The bastard was an Earth to be damned rat.”
The fox beastfolk rolled his eyes solemnly. “Then good riddance to him,” he replied. “Now Mel-” Jonathan clicked his tongue, stuttering Alfred. “Ahem,” the fox-eared knight coughed “Reg’s soul can rest easy now that his killer is dead.”
“Yes, it’s finally done…”
Jonathan said it with a smiling face, a smile as if he had never done it for years but finally did so when it paid off. Though Alicia thinks it might have been an empty smile, considering what he has done to achieve it.
Alfred too had a similar expression, further opening his subordinate’s mouth agape even further. They were in their own world, ignoring everyone else listening to their conversation.
Glancing at Owen raising his eyebrow, Jill trying to hide her astonishment, and Richard who muttered “That is a first,” convinced Alicia so.
Even with all the noise, Alicia has still heard what Jonathan said to Gray, the deceased lead cultist, and the interpretation was pretty obvious.
Hence, Alicia was afraid to turn her back on whatever the carnage Jonathan had brought.
However, there were one or two things she must inquire.
“Master Darc…” but Alicia hesitated. To speak about a perished Court Wizard to a Court Wizard was like treading on a minefield.
Maneg Souls forge a strong kinship between Court Wizards, so talking about a Court Wizard who passed away wrongly would mean a sudden violent retaliation. And by proxy, the most painful death to those who hurt or even killed a fellow Court Wizard.
Alicia had felt anger when she heard Melaine, a Court Wizard who should be a total stranger to her, was killed by Gray and sadness when she has heard that her fellow Court Wizard had died. The same sort of melancholy did surface before when Jake Rhaims told about Edward Rhaims, his father, the Water Court Wizard who died to a plague.
And Darc must have guessed what she just thought and so does everyone else (minus Jonathan). And they gave their subtle approval for the Dark Guardian to answer her.
“If we look over our records,” he said. “Other than dying old, very few of us died a warrior in battle. Usually getting caught off guard.”
Like what happened today.
“Otherwise, we would meet our ends through betrayal.
“Such was the case with Gray. It was our mistake to let him get close to us, and that costed Melaine. She didn’t know who killed her when we got to her.
“People like him are dangerous and manipulative, being able to anticipate and plan our downfall. It was only a fluke that Jonathan had easily killed him in the end.
“Otherwise, like the 1246 Incident, we would die… by slaying each other.”
It was disheartening, to say the least. The recurring tragedy of how Court Wizards finish their story.
A series of events could happen, concluding with a Court Wizard killing another. The 1246 Incident attested to that. That and also the Eleven-Century War.
People like Gray would appear and take advantage of the Court Wizard’s trust. Backstabbing them when it benefited them the most.
And Alicia’s mind so-called downhill, wondering if such a thing could happen to her. What if…
“Don’t worry, Alicia.” Owen, being Alicia’s first and only friend for sixteen years, would have long known his childhood friend’s train of thought and proceeded to act accordingly. “Your dad’s pretty damn good at picking the right people. I haven’t seen any managers backstabbing us.”
“And it had been ages ago since we fell into the unfortunate event where we were forced to kill each other, and it will not happen anytime soon,” Jill added with a huff, though she seemed like she was uncomfortable with something. “So do not fret, Alicia. It is unbecoming of you!”
Richard simply nodded in agreement, under his robe that he quickly wore back after the battle, having nothing to say.
“Yeah! Don’t worry about it! It’ll be fine, Alicia!”
“…Thank you, everyone.”
With all of that said and done, Darc turned to Jill who was fidgeting uncomfortably all this time.
“Is there something wrong, Jill?” he asked.
“…Master Darc, could you please cover the child’s modesty?” Jill demanded, averting her sight with red cheeks.
What was Jill asking? Well, Darc had the rescued child slumped over his shoulder, with the child’s naked posterior for all to see.
“Is there a problem with it?” Alicia inquired innocently.
“What!?” The female knight shouted, knowing what her friend had implied. “Are you not ashamed of seeing a boy’s rear!?”
“Well, I and Owen frequently changed diapers for babies at the orphanage and helped younger kids bathe. So… I guess we do not mind seeing naked children, regardless of gender,” Alicia replied. “Right Owen?” She looked at Owen and he nodded.
“I see,” Richard interjected. “That is… quite the activity both of you have.”
“No one asked for your opinion!” Jill snarked. She turned to the “Earthian” Court Wizards, “and you two should learn not to breach people’s privacy, even if they were much younger than you!”
No one knows what the future hold. Though the battle against the cultists doesn’t end in Coastline, it was no reason for the knights and adventurers to cheer for victory, even though they had no part in it.
Especially the adventurers when one of them said that they would still get their reward in full just for their participation.
Royal Palace of Coastline
“Here’s the report from the Adventurer Guild,” Alfred reported, laying the bundle of parchment on the desk.
“Thank you, Alfred,” Albert said. “You may leave.”
“I will excuse myself, your majesty.” The head guard of king Albert’s sister’s knights gave a salute, fox ears twitching a bit, and promptly opened the door.
“You need not to be so formal to be so formal to me!” Albert shouted as the fox beastfolk left his office.
Once alone, he made a long sigh.
It has been five years after the succession war ended, the conflict that the people start calling it the ‘War of the Princes and Nobles’.
Please, it should have just been called ‘War of the Nobles,’ he mused to himself.
Very few of his brothers, which ironically included himself, actually vyed for the position of king. Most of his brothers were simply dragged into the war by the nobles they happened to be acquainted with, supporting them and promised to marry their daughters when they won.
And not all nobles actually did it for power. Some felt insecure when the more aggressive nobles entered the war and entered themselves in self-defense. A few of them actually had similar ideas to Albert himself and decided to take the opportunity, pushing their acquainted princes out of being passive.
However, their lives were forfeited in the war by the very same nobles that made them fight in the first place. At least, Albert had executed them for their crimes.
And then there’s Albert. The youngest brother with no connections whatsoever. A young and naive brat who wanted the well-being of every citizen, humans and beastfolk.
Then came Jonathan, who came as a messenger for a mysterious man with lots of money who offered to help him.
Albert reminisces two months ago when he met Alicia Bell, the daughter of the enigmatic Ronald Bell, the very mysterious man, though the lady does strike him as inexperienced. And it was there he learned that Qantasia wasn’t alone.
Afterwards, after the whole charade with Doug von SaltWaters, Alfred had begun telling him and Alyssa about the Otherworldly Court – his sister, Melaine, was a Court Wizard, which was how Alfred was even in Coastline those years ago, but she sadly lost her life in the war. The reason Alfred never revealed this fact until two months ago was that he was told that it will be revealed, but not by him.
While Albert was thankful for the Otherworldly Court’s help, he didn’t like some of their way of thinking.
For one, they held extreme prejudice against nobles, Alfred said so himself. They see nobles as a bunch of arrogant scum who had strayed from what their title means, exploiting the very citizens they were supposed to protect and even leaving them to fate as they ran to save their hide.
It didn’t help that, according to Alfred, there was no Court Wizards of aristocratic background, the least was only former nobles, Alicia Bell, or perhaps the entire Bell family, might be one given her proper etiquette.
Honestly, the only reason the Court Wizards even helped him in the first place was that he did not associate with any nobles at all.
Nevermind that, he thought as he read the report he requested from the Adventurer Guild.
According to the report from the guild master, spread from the GrassPlains kingdom branch, the ‘Black Mages,’ as the Adventurer Guild dubbed them, consist of very powerful mages in black garb, hence their namesake. Each member is estimated to be very dangerous so much so that the guild master had drafted at least a dozen A-ranks and even a few S-ranks to storm their hideout.
It was fortunate that one of Alfred’s knights happened to pass by the guard who Jonathan told to bring reinforcements to on an errand. The knight immediately reported it to his superior, and then Alfred told the crown and the Adventurer Guild. Then, Alyssa authorized her knights to go with the adventurers to help the Court Wizards, though the battle was over when they got there.
What is this, Carol von Sands?
He knew the woman at a party, she was a nice lady once you got to know her. And such lady was among the Black Mages.
The war must have dragged her deep into depression, Albert recalled that her father and fiancee were assassinated and she failed to protect them, despite being an excellent mage.
Then, the Black Mages manipulated her emotions to have her join them. And considering the report of how scheming these Black Mages are, the assassination may as well be their craft, all just to recruit her.
Wonderful, now he’s really forced to conduct a raid to every remnant of the noble families.
There was also the fact that the leader of the Black Mages in Coastline was Gray, that eccentric seagull beastfolk that came up and joined him in the war. To think he helped his cause just to remove a possible threat (Jonathan and company) and managed to murder Melaine and Reg.
Albert made another sigh and proceeded to devise a countermeasure to these Black Mages: organizing parties to be sent across the kingdom to hunt any remnants of the Black Mages in this nation, writing a decree for the finance minister to work on allocation of funds to the Adventurer Guild to entice adventurers, and appointing knights to rein these adventurers.
Perhaps he should hold a summit to discuss the Black Mages with the other kingdoms, they were confirmed to be trying to resurrect the Great Evil, in which the sacrifices were the heroes’ descendants whom they abduct in the same day as their ritual because the hero comes at the last moment or whatnot, after all.
For the people, all of them, Albert said his creed to himself and got to work.