Azhure: With this, my rewriting spree is over.
Azhure: After going over my notes, Owen’s Collection should be up and running in the foreseeable future.
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 a small [Explosion] on the mob while keeping it safe.
STAB STAB STAB
And it was followed by spears of ice.
∞ Iron Knights left. ??? + 10 destroyed.
The onslaught of the Iron Knights was seemingly endless. While each of them wasn’t much of a hassle, all of them together in this tight space was less than ideal. As they disappeared when destroyed, the Court Wizards couldn’t rely on a wall of iron junk giving them breathing room. Alicia could see the others were getting tired. They must have started to go past the ten percent margin where a Court Wizard started to get exhausted using too much maneg all at once.
Alicia was fine since she used loyal maneg, but the problem was that she was using loyal maneg. Even Voice refused to let her toss pieces of her soul in and out, so she also had to alternate with her Catalyst which needed time to gather enough fire maneg converted from what little heat the magic torches gave along the glowing wall.
Jonathan got the cultist that summons the Iron Knights. Hold out. (Darc)
The Dark Guardian reported so as he was constantly barraging the magically enforced glass barrier that was also anti-magic with Shadow Stakes, meaning 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 there were still a lot of them. No matter, they just 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. ??? + 5 destroyed.
As the battle of attrition continued, Darc finally destroyed the glass wall just as Jonathan finished his battle. However, the problem with the Iron Knights remained. Despite the summoner being dead, there were still too many Iron Knights. Owen, Jill, and Richard were out of shape and so must be Darc and Jonathan, Alicia could only do so much with her Catalyst and loyal maneg.
Then, another shattering echoed from the other side, vibrating deep into the base.
“Men!” a commandeering voice was heard. “Destroy the Iron Knights and aid sir Jonathan and his allies!”
Alicia had almost forgotten that Jonathan had informed the king about this place as well as tagged it with the Catalyst. Their help was much welcomed, no one expected the trap set up by Gray that specifically targeted Darc’s personal magic. It was so convenient that it felt like it came out of a bad novel.
Emotion suppression is disabled.
There were still at least half a dozen Iron Knights left. Even though Alyssa’s knights were here to help, why did her Maneg Soul think she was out of the woods?
Well, Alicia, it’s pretty much over already!
While being confused by what the pixie meant, suddenly, Jonathan squeezed past Alicia and the others as he approached the Iron Knights. Then, with his Cherished Armament at hand…
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 the reinforcements that came.
Are they not Alyssa’s knights?
What came to view were not some city guards, but knights in silver armor, princess Alyssa von Coastline’s personal knights. One of them carried some kind of magic pickaxe that explained 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 defeat the Iron Knights. 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.” Pausing for a moment to breathe, Jonathan continued, “and Reg too.”
“…Truly?” Alfred said, his fox ears twitching as he took off his helmet. “Who was it? Who murdered them?”
“Gray,” he answered.
“What!?” Alfred widened his eyes, his fangs betraying a hint of confusion and rage.
“Bastard was a traitor from the start,” Jonathan shook his head. “He only joined to spy on us.”
The fox beastman closed 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…”
From the distance, Alicia could see the fox beastfolk smiling in closure, as if a heavy burden had been lifted from him, allowing him to move on. And although she could only see his back, Alicia had a feeling Jonathan was feeling the same. The knights around them, for one, were taken back seeing Alfred and Jonathan in their own world, ignoring everyone else listening to their conversation.
Glancing at Owen raising his eyebrow, Jill hiding her intrigue, and Richard muttering, “So it was over…” convinced Alicia so.
Even with all the noise, Alicia 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 about.
“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.
When Alicia heard how Melaine was killed by Gray, she felt a pang of anger and sadness in her heart despite never meeting her because she was a fellow Court Wizard who had died. The same sort of melancholy also surfaced before when Jake Rhaims told about Edward Rhaims, his father, the Water Court Wizard who died from a plague.
Darc must have sensed her inner turmoil and decided to give her some answers. “From my time as Guardian,” he said. “Other than dying old, we rarely die in battle. Usually, it was getting caught off guard.”
Like what happened just now, she thought.
“Otherwise, we get backstabbed,” the dark elf continued. “We didn’t even know who killed Melaine, we all thought she got careless. People like Gray are dangerous in that they’re confident they can get us.”
“Or…” he paused, closing his eyes before continuing. “Like the 1246 Incident, we’d die killing each other.”
It was disheartening, to say the least. The recurring tragedy of how Court Wizards finish their stories. A series of events could happen, concluding with Court Wizards killing each other – the 1246 Incident and the Eleven-Century War attested to that. 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 went 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 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, 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.
Incidentally, Darc has been carrying the rescued child the entire time in his arms after Jonathan unceremoniously offloaded the boy onto him. So the Dark Guardian had been talking while holding a kid in his birthday suit for all to see.
“Is there a problem with it?” Alicia inquired innocently, tilting her head.
“What!?” The female knight exclaimed, knowing what her friend had implied. “Are you not ashamed of seeing a child’s-s-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, rubbing his chin. “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 pointed her finger at them, “you two should learn to care about breaching people’s privacy, even if they were much younger than you!”
No one knew what the future would hold. Though the battle against the cultists doesn’t end in Coastline, there was no reason for the knights to cheer for victory, even though they had no part in it.
“Here’s the report, your majesty,” Alfred reported, laying the bundle of parchment on the desk.
“Thank you, Alfred,” Albert said, leaning his body forward and picking up the report on his desk. “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 left for the door.
“You need not be so formal to be so formal to me!” Albert shouted as the fox beastman left his office.
Once alone, he made a long sigh in the palace of his kingdom. It has been five years after the succession war ended, the conflict people started calling the ‘War of the Princes and Nobles’.
Please, it should have just been called ‘War of the Nobles,’ he mused to himself.
When the war started, many nobles flocked into every faction of the warring princes. In truth, only a few of his brothers, including himself, truly vied for the throne. Most of his brothers were simply dragged into the war by the leading nobles they were connected to. They were ambitious ones truly leading the factions so that their puppet princes become king and their daughters become queen.
Speaking of which, I need to find some woman to marry just to make those ministers shut up, Albert frowned internally.
All of the nobility joined up the factions either out of obligation being vassals of the leading nobles or not wanting to be left stranded in the war. And yet, the one camp they didn’t join was his; the youngest brother with no connections whatsoever who wanted nothing more than the well-being of every citizen, humans and beastfolk alike, a concept that’s so foreign to them.
And they say I am the fool for wanting the people to prosper, Albert mused, sifting through the documents. Meanwhile, they put unfair tariffs on the common merchant thinking they would undermine the kingdom even though that was how CoastLine even came to being!
As the corrupt nobles weren’t an option, Albert admittedly had little idea how he was going to go about achieving his dreams, and being a young boy back then, it wasn’t a good prospect especially factoring in his sister and mother potentially being targeted if he even managed to pull through. That was when Jonathan came, a hero’s descendant coming to him on behalf of the organization he was a part of, the Otherworldly Court.
Albert reminisced that day when he learned Qantasia wasn’t alone. That was also when he met his most loyal subordinates who helped him through the war and eventually where he was today. That said, although he was thankful for the Otherworldly Court’s help, he has some misgivings about them.
For one, they held extreme prejudice against nobles that even he was appalled by it. 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 when trouble came. In other words, they were useless parasites of society. Albert suspected the only reason the Court Wizards even helped him in the first place was that he was not associated with any nobility at all.
Never mind that, he thought as he read the report.
The ‘Black Mages,’ as the report dubbed them, were a group of mages in black clothing like their namesake. They seem to accept any member so long as they have something to bring to the table making them formidable adversaries. It was fortunate that Jonathan found out about this conspiracy brewing in his kingdom, it would have spelled trouble if they were allowed to do what they were doing.
What is this? Carol von Sands!?
He met her at a party once, she was a nice lady once he got to know her. His father was a decent man, but he was interested in keeping his household alive and decided the then-prince Albert’s faction to be a losing one, a decision that didn’t end well for him. The war must have dragged her into deep depression as Albert recalled that her father and fiancee were assassinated and she failed to protect them despite being an excellent mage.
The Black Mages must have manipulated her emotions and had her join them. Considering the report of how scheming these Black Mages are, the assassination may as well be their craft, all to recruit a valuable pawn. Wonderful, now he’s forced to conduct raids on every remnant of the noble families. There was also the fact that Gray was the leader of the Black Mages in Coastline, that eccentric seagull beastfolk who showed up and joined him in the war. To think he helped his cause just to sever Jonathan’s arm and murder Melaine and Reg.
Albert made another sigh and proceeded to devise a countermeasure to these Black Mages. Jonathan may say the Otherworldly Court would deal with them, but Albert would rather not rely on them forever. Perhaps he should try reaching out to other kingdoms to decide what to do with these Black Mages. It may be difficult given the tensions caused by the nobility’s tomfoolery culminating in the civil war.
But the Black Mages were trying to resurrect the Great Evil with child sacrifices, no sane ruler would ignore that threat. It was just a matter of convincing them and as Jonathan and his companions grounded the ritual, the Black Mages hiding in other kingdoms would be too spooked to try anything hastily like restarting the ritual unprepared, so Albert had time to gather the evidence.
For the people, all of them, Albert said his creed to himself and got to work.
Azhure: So, what do you all think of this sub-chapter? Is it good? Are there any problems with it? Any reviews or feedback is appreciated as long as they’re not plain insults meant to blow off your stress.
Voice: Don’t do that to people! Not even on the internet!
Support My Work
SociaBuzz (for local and global donations): sociabuzz.com/azhureraven/tribe