Carve a Path to the Confederacy – Part 02
Upon approaching the Stone Golem, it was clear that it had ceased operating. Its upper body was entirely gone, melted and blistered. The Flame Gospel seemed to have burned the fuel source completely.
Hikaru looked around, but found no one within sight. Whoever was controlling the Stone Golem should have been watching, but they must have fled as soon as they realized their plan had failed.
“Looks like your magic’s been boosted,” Hikaru remarked.
“Yeah. I’d say it’s about a fifty percent increase,” Lavia said. “I have a new spell I picked up from reading. I’ll use it when I get the chance, so look forward to it.”
“That sounds great.”
Lavia’s fire magic was already formidable, but with a fifty percent boost, it became an incredible force that could bring down the huge Stone Golem with a single blow.
“D-Did you really take it down?” Jillarte came running to them. She had snapped out of it.
“What’s wrong, Lavia?”
“My wand is shaking… Recoil from the spell, I’m guessing.”
It didn’t look like a big problem. Hikaru nodded to Lavia and examined the Stone Golem.
“What are you doing?” Jillarte asked. “There’s no point in examining it. Stone Golems run on complex form of Sorcery.”
“I suppose it’s complex to the average person.”
Roland, the reason for Hikaru’s arrival in this world, had his memories imprinted on his physical body, which Hikaru shared. Although they were faded and no longer resonated emotionally, the remaining knowledge was still useful.
“To operate the Stone Golem,” Hikaru explained, “you need a fuel cell, a command system inscribed around it, and a magical catalyst that connects the rocks together. The command system is divided into a main program that describes its entire set of actions, and a subprogram that contains prohibitions, exceptions, and subsequent overrides. These are directly connected to the fuel using a storage medium.”
“…What?” Jillarte had no idea what he was talking about. “Y-You know about Sorcery too?”
“I just have some knowledge. Anyway, the materials used are expensive. I thought we could figure out which country supplied them.”
But with the golem burned, there was no way to examine it. Lavia was disheartened, but Hikaru reassured her by gently stroking her head. She didn’t really mean to destroy it.
“No need to look into it,” Jillarte said. “Probably my pursuers. It’s safe to assume it’s a Sorcerer from Ponsonia.”
Under normal circumstances, that was most likely the case. Hikaru crouched down and examined the silver powder stuck between the rocks. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket—Jillarte was surprised to see it was clean, not what she would expect from an adventurer—and collected some of the powder.
“This is the shell of a Black-Silver Tortoise,” Hikaru said.
The silver powder adhered to the handkerchief. Roland’s knowledge said that it was a catalyst of immense value due to its rarity, high viscosity, and ability to conduct mana with ease. Normally black in color, the powder transformed into a luminous silver hue when mana coursed through it.
“So what?” Jillarted asked.
“Think about it. The kingdom would only need to send soldiers after you. There’s no need to use something as expensive as a Stone Golem.”
“How much does it cost exactly?”
“As far as I know, Black-Silver Tortoise powder needed to move a Stone Golem of this size costs about a million gilans.”
“Plus the fuel cell and the storage medium… I’d say all in all, at least 2 million gilans.”
“It’s hard to imagine the kingdom spending that much.”
Jillarte blinked repeatedly. “Then who made this? Bandits? Wait, no… Bandits wouldn’t fork out that much money for something like this.”
“I agree. That means they’re willing to spend this much to hide their identity. That should give us a clue as to who the culprit might be.”
“Wh-Who is it?!”
Studying the silver powder, Hikaru said, “The Black-Silver Tortoise is found only in the forested areas at the central part of the continent—in other words, Einbiest. This powder is available only there.”
Leather-elka, a fortress city nestled against steep mountains, boasted impregnable walls encircling the entire metropolis. It was the only city where dwellings beyond the walls were prohibited, which gave rise to a race for vertical real estate on the limited land available. However, in this world without elevators, even a five-story structure was considered a high-rise building.
As a city bordering Einbiest, Leather-elka thrived on trade with the neighboring nation. The city attracted a plethora of merchants seeking unique agricultural and mineral products found only in the central parts of the continent.
Currently, all the flags of the Kingdom of Ponsonia had been lowered in Leather-elka. Originally stationed with 3,000 soldiers, the city’s population of 20,000 was left with only 1,000 soldiers after the governor and 2,000 troops departed for the capital. Thus, a handful of 1,000 elite warriors, belonging to minority races, infiltrated the city disguised as merchants and swiftly occupied it within a day.
There was no grand-scale battle. Casualties were low, and the only soldiers who were imprisoned were those who attempted to fight back.
“Doesn’t look like they’ll be attacking anytime soon,” a Half Dragon said.
The leader of the Dragonfolk, adorned with scales that made his age difficult to discern at first glance, stood atop the city wall, gazing outwards. He was clad in well-worn, iron armor and wielded a slender spear in his hand.
He was watching a wasteland where about 500 Ponsonian knights had stationed themselves.
Though the minority races had managed to take over the fortress city through a surprise attack, they knew that it would be impossible to maintain their hold on it if they faced resistance from the locals. Thus, they opened the gates, allowing business and daily life to continue as usual.
Now troops dispatched from the Ponsonia capital had arrived. The demi-humans could just hole themselves up, but a siege would inevitably lead to an uprising from the locals and force them to fight out in the open.
The enemy numbered 500, while they had 1,000 elite fighters. They were confident that they could win, and the ease with which they had secured the city dulled their judgment.
This morning, a battle took place.
And the result was a crushing defeat.
“Who the hell is that monster?!” shouted the leader of the Ratmen.
Indeed. ‘Monster’ was a fitting word for the man leading the 500 knights. He was still on his horse, glaring in their direction.
“That’s the Sword Saint Lawrence D. Falcon. He’s strong,” said the leader of the Ogrekin, a man over two meters tall.
“He is,” remarked a man wrapped in bandages. He was the leader of the Sinners. “Just one swing of his sword killed many.”
As soon as the battle began, Lawrence broke through the center alone, each strike taking several lives.
The knights were strong themselves. Had the demi-humans fought calmly, it would have been an evenly matched battle, but Lawrence’s impact startled them, and their formation crumbled. They immediately ordered a retreat and barricaded themselves in the fortress, barely escaping with their lives.
“That was close.”
About a hundred perished, but they had successfully sieged the fort. Merchants were already starting to complain, but their lives were more important. The leader of the Dragonfolk breathed a sigh of relief.
Before they knew it, Lawrence was standing on the ground. In his hand was a short spear.
From over a hundred meters away, Lawrence hurled a short spear at the leaders atop the ten-meter-high castle wall.
Everyone crouched and held their heads as the spear whizzed past them.
“What ridiculous power…”
As they raised their heads, their eyes met with Lawrence, who was staring straight at them. Dozens of short spears were piled up behind him.
The Dragonfolk’s leader whimpered, uncharacteristic of a seasoned warrior, but no one blamed him. They all shared the same fear—that they might lose this battle against a lone man.
It was early evening when Hikaru’s group arrived in Leather-elka. The knights of Ponsonia were already in position and had blocked off the road to the royal capital. Breaching the walls would be difficult, even for the knights, and it seemed they were at a stalemate for now.
The gate leading to Einbiest was open, so they planned to wait for dawn and proceed that way.
“There’s a lot of people here,” Hikaru said.
He had gotten better at basic horse handling. It was him and Jillarte on the driver’s seat.
Dust rose at the gate where people were coming and going—no, it was all people leaving Leather-elka. Merchants were abandoning the city after the gate leading to the capital was closed. Armed Dragonfolk watched helplessly as they fled, bringing with them loads of goods.
“A few days later, and the kingdom would’ve taken the city back,” Jillarte said.
Hikaru agreed. With such a massive loss of resources, the people would have no choice but to leave. Food supply would run out. If the kingdom sent reinforcements, Leather-elka would be reclaimed in no time.
“What’s the plan?” Hikaru asked.
Jillarte wore a bitter look. “First, we’ll have them abandon this place.”
She stood on the driver’s seat and removed her hood.
“Hey!” she shouted, waving her hand.
One of the Dragonfolk soldiers noticed her, eyes widening. He called out to his comrades. Their surprise quickly turned to joy. It didn’t take long for more soldiers to appear at the gate.
The cheers that erupted made Hikaru realize how much Jillarte was loved among her people.
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