Volume 5 Chapter 9-2: The Boundary that Protects One’s Humanity

I had planned to spend thirty minutes, but I ended up spending about an hour with Yukino in the workshop. After parting with Yukino, I headed for my and Lucy’s home.

As I arrived at the house, I called out as I entered.

「I’m home, Lucy.」

I felt a strong sense of nostalgia, even stronger than when I arrived in Erucy. The moment I stepped into the house, I was comforted by Lucy’s scent. I realized at that moment that I’d always been surrounded by this scent.

「Welcome back, Cyril.」

Lucy came to the entrance to greet me. Then came a gentle embrace. Compared to the hug I got from Yukino, this one was a calm, lover’s hug. Lucy rose onto her tiptoes and looked up; our lips met naturally in a kiss. After a few seconds, our lips parted.

「I only feel like I’ve truly come home when I see you, Lucy.」

「What’s that?」

Lucy chuckled, amused.

「It’s just that Erucy might be where I’m from, but you’re where my heart is.」

「Cyril, that line is a bit cheesy.」

Lucy complained, but her tone was playful.

「Being cheesy is just the usual for me, right?」

「That’s true… So, was it worth going to see the Empire?」

「It was. They’re seriously planning to attack.」

「…So, it’s war again.」

「It’s unfortunate, but unavoidable.」

Now that they’d fanned the flames of hatred and gathered troops, the path from here on was a straight line to war. There was no stopping the conflict now.

「What will you do, Cyril?」

「Well, I plan to train Erucy’s troops more rigorously than ever before. That probably won’t be enough, so I’ll also prepare various new weapons.」

For example, landmines. As we were outnumbered, we would have to rely on ambush tactics. Due to Ashno’s presence, we were also deprived of our superior vision and range, so we needed to put more emphasis on traps. Landmines fitted these requirements perfectly. They were buried in the earth, making them hard to detect, and could be mass-produced at low cost.

Alternatively, we could use a coil gun that employed magic stones to generate electricity. Ashno’s ability had a maximum range of 300m. If we attacked from beyond that distance, she couldn’t interfere. While a crossbow bolt might be easily blocked or deflected, the tremendous power of a coil gun couldn’t be blocked as easily and had a much larger range, if we used our ability to reduce air resistance to zero, our shots could maintain accuracy even over ultra-long distances.

We could even create a large hybrid model combining gunpowder and electricity, its projectiles should exceed twice the speed of sound. The time it would take for the projectile to reach its target after being detected by Ashno’s sensors would be too short; she probably wouldn’t have time to react. She might be able to protect herself, but safeguarding her allies would be impossible.

We could also consider using poison gas. We could release a tasteless, odorless poison gas from upwind. “Me” had unlocked some recipes for this, so we could use those. If Ashno detected it, she could probably disperse it instantly using wind magic. However, if we used a toxin with an incubation period, even she would take time to notice. The aim was to create a situation where it was too late to act by the time the symptoms manifested.

「But what if a large army comes? If they have enough numbers, they might overwhelm us.」

「That’s why I had everyone work hard to build the ramparts.」

We couldn’t engage in a head-on battle given our numbers, so we would chip away at them with guerrilla tactics, force them to exhaust themselves, and then fight a siege in Erucy. Given Ashno’s [Mana Complete Control] range of 300m, even with landmines and coil guns, our guerrilla tactics would be less effective than last time. A siege in Erucy was almost certain to occur and would likely be the main stage of the war. Anticipating this, I had given up on self-sufficiency for food and focused almost all of Erucy’s workforce entirely on building the walls, relying solely on purchases from Erin for this year’s food supply.

「Cyril, you’re being even more cautious than usual. Will the battle be that tough?」

「Yes, this battle will probably be the hardest.」

It would undoubtedly be the most difficult battle we’d ever faced, and probably the last. If we won this battle, the Empire would likely recognize Erucy as an enemy they can never defeat.

「That’s why I plan to use every trick in the book before the battle begins. I intend to hold a strategy meeting tomorrow.」

The goal was to propose the mass production of counterfeit bonds and narcotics. Around the time Erucy’s ramparts were completed, the cannabis cultivated on Bell Erucy should be harvested and on its way to Erucy.

The seeds and leaves of cannabis could serve as raw materials for narcotics. Furthermore, cannabis leaves and stalks could also be used to produce high-quality paper, which could be used for the production of counterfeit bonds. In the little time we had left until the start of the war, we would produce as many of these two items as possible. I’d already arranged what to do with the counterfeit bonds and narcotics produced, during this recent reconnaissance mission.

We would distribute them among the anti-empire factions surrounding the Empire. Using the counterfeit bonds, they would buy up large amounts of food and precious metals. At the same time, they would sell the narcotics. For these transactions, only coins will be accepted.

The counterfeit bonds would destabilize the economy, and the hoarding would exacerbate the food shortage. Caught in this turmoil, people will succumb to the allure of the narcotics, spiraling into addiction and ruin.

It was an inhumane strategy; I was fully aware of that. But we wouldn’t be able to win unless we went to such lengths. That was what it meant to fight a High Elf and an Empire bent on annihilating us.

I was still uneasy. Was there anything else that could be done?… Contaminate all the rivers connected to the Empire with poison… Now that I thought about it, poison gas would be more effective used in a town rather than in battle… Or we could distribute blankets soaked with the smallpox virus in the slums… If I called that guy with [Samsara Recursion], I could use his unique magic to change blood into poison, if we vaccinated the people of Erucy in advance… Sure, it would also affect neighboring countries, but do we had the luxury to worry about that?

「Cyril, you’re making a scary face.」

「Haha, looks like I got a bit too fired up.」

Lucy’s voice brought me back to my senses. My thoughts had definitely become too extreme. It was clearly overkill.

「Hey, Cyril. You can take it easy today, right?」

「Yes, I’ll begin working on the new plans tomorrow.」

「In that case, all housework and work are absolutely forbidden today. Your job today is to rest. Okay?」

Lucy held up her finger and pressed the point without room for argument. I found myself nodding almost involuntarily.

「Excellent, I’ll prepare a feast for today. Also, let’s take a bath together. And tonight… it’s been a while, so we should…」

While blushing, Lucy was smiling happily. Seeing that, I realized something. Because she was here for me, I stopped short of becoming an inhuman monster.

「Lucy, thank you.」

Those words left my mouth unimpeded.

The reason I could stand up, continue fighting, and stay sane—it was all because she was here with me. That’s why I had to express my gratitude, no matter what.

「You’re welcome. And also, thank you too.」

The Lucy who said those words was so beautiful, it left me at a loss for words. As long as she was with me, I could be myself and accomplish anything. I truly believed that from the bottom of my heart.

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