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Chapter III: Daydream Believer 

As the world leaders got used to their smartphones, they realized just how useful a tool it actually was. 
As far as foreigners went, I handed them out to leaders associated with my alliance. In Brunhild, my fiancees received one each, and the Babylon Gynoids all got one as well. Along with Karen, Moroha, the former Takeda Elite Four, the Knight Commander and Vice-Commanders, Laim and Micah from the Silver Moon. 
I also made sure that their contact addresses only had people they were familiar with in them. I didn’t give Micah the king of Belfast’s number, for example. She had mine, though. Otherwise, the highest rank in her phonebook was Lain. 
She’d be able to register the king’s number if he personally told her it, though. But I didn’t want just anyone having a direct line to a national leader. 
There were some unintended negative consequences to my introduction of smartphones, though. People would just send texts or make calls for every little thing. 
The novelty wasn’t lost on them, so they were using it as much as they could. I could understand how they felt, though. They’d likely calm down after a while, so it was fine. 
“This is... tremendous... It’s even better than the artifact I currently use for communication. Are you saying I can truly have this?” 
“Yup, I am.” I explained the general functions of the phone to Guildmaster Relisha, and then handed it over to her. I’d come to the guild on important business. 
Relisha had made some tea, so I was drinking it down. It was a little different to the usual kind, but it tasted great. Relisha had a preference for black tea. She had a large variety of tea leaves on her office shelves. 
“How’s the Phrase situation looking?” 
“Two Lesser Constructs in Hannock last week. They were taken out by a party of Red-ranks. It’s the third emergence this month. They’ve been appearing a little more frequently lately.” She wasn’t wrong. It seemed like the boundary of the world was being torn at again. It was good that the ripped areas weren’t too close together, though. If they connected up, then the tears would become even larger. 
If that happened, then they’d open up to the point where Upper Constructs and Dominant Constructs could come out. That wouldn’t be good. 
Our options were limited for the time being. We had a few courses of action, however. 
Method One: All-out Phrase Purge 
This one was a little extreme. I didn’t know how many Phrase existed on the other side, after all. There’d also be massive loss of life on humanity’s front. 
Method Two: Phrase Diplomacy 
Only the Dominant Constructs seemed capable of intelligent speech. I didn’t think talking with them would do much though, they clearly wanted us dead. Even if I’d only encountered a couple, the two Dominant Constructs I’d met so far were volatile and dangerous individuals. 
Method Three: Take the Sovereign Core, and Push it Somewhere Else 
The world would definitely survive if we sent on the Sovereign to the next world, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable with the ramifications. I’d be putting the crisis on another society instead. I also had no idea how to do that. It wasn’t like I could just ask God Almighty for advice, either. He had a firm policy of non-interference. 
Method Four: Destroy the Sovereign 
That would make Ende my enemy. I wasn’t keen on that. Plus I had a feeling that the Sovereign itself wouldn’t go out without a fight. I didn’t want it to wake up and for things to get really bad. 
Method Five: Repair the World Boundary 
I had no idea how to do that. 
Each option I had was inconclusive. Realistically, method one would be the best for tangible progress. Method two would be my default if I met another Dominant, but even then... 
“Oh, right. Got some news out of Yulong. There’s a new heavenly emperor marching around.” 
“What, again?” How many self-proclaimed rulers can one country even have? Ever since the old one died, there’s been a new heavenly emperor popping up in every major city. It made the broken remains of the country like a collection of competing city-states. 
“Well, this guy’s pretty serious, apparently. He’s waged a war against all the other self-proclaimed leaders and slaughtered them. He’s been pretty brutal in his means so far.” 
“How so?” 
“He’s ruthless. Bribery, assassination, he even had one of the homes of his competitors blown up. The biggest threat though? His Steel Battalion.” 
“Steel Battalion?” I frowned as I heard Relisha’s words. I had some suspicions. 
“Just as the name suggests, it’s a force of steel soldiers that operate autonomously. We currently believe they must be based on the Frame Gears, or some form of plagiarism.” 
“I knew it...” I figured the stolen Frame Gear parts would come into play at some point. But they’d managed it sooner than I expected. They must have had serious technological or financial backing. 
And that probably meant, though I was assuming here... Gordian, the Golden Order, had stolen our parts, created the Iron Soldiers by reverse-engineering the tech, and brought it over to the new self-proclaimed heavenly emperor in Yulong. The Golden Order had members ranging from merchants to scholars, after all, they probably had many contacts. 
Hell, it was even possible that this new emperor was a member of the organization too. I didn’t really think he was a blood relative of the previous guy anyway. 
“Tell me more about it? How similar to a Frame Gear is it?” 
“Ah, sure. There’s definitely a resemblance. Look here, one of our guild members sketched one. Here, this one.” Relisha passed me a slip of paper from the huge pile on her desk. 
“Mm, I see... There’s definitely a resemblance.” The image depicted a metal giant with long arms and stubby legs, it was fairly short but made up for that with how broad it was. It had a short neck too, and generally looked somewhat malformed. It definitely looked durable and stable, though. Hm... So this is one of his Steel Battalion... 
It sure looks like a Frame Gear... No idea how it’ll actually fare in battle though. 
“And how many of these things are there?” 
“There isn’t an exact number, but our guild report states around one-hundred exist. He used these machines to attack the other independent cities, and succeeded in no time at all.” That made sense, there was no way a normal soldier could fare against mechanized infantry. If there were a few they might’ve been able to fight back, but not against a hundred. 
“So what do you think this new heavenly emperor intends?” 
“Likely to unify the entire nation under his banner. He could probably do it with the support of those machines.” The Steel Battalion was definitely formidable. Unifying Yulong was probably something he could do with their power, Relisha was right. 
What should I do...? The tech was definitely stolen from Brunhild. I don’t feel good about it being used for warfare or anything. But at the same time, I can’t just barge in... I’m a bit mixed in general here... 
Still, if Gordian is behind this, then I can’t just let it lie. They might have malicious intentions. Guess I could come up with an easy excuse to interfere. 
“Alright, then... They stole our Frame Gear, so let’s steal one of theirs. How about that?” 
“Hm?” Relisha raised an eyebrow in surprise. 
“...And that’s why I’m gonna steal one of their Steel Battalion!” 
“Ohoho... Superb. I like this idea, Touya. You’re gonna let me give it a thorough, deep analysis when you get it, right?” Doctor Babylon grinned menacingly towards me as she spoke. She was probably wondering about what they’d done to her tech. 
Yumina, Lu, and Hilde, the three princesses, were staring at me with wide eyes. Sakura was technically a princess, but she was raised and lived as a regular noble. Elze, Sue, and Leen also seemed pretty enthusiastic about the idea. Linze, Yae, and Sakura just seemed a bit puzzled. 
“A world leader talking about something so dishonorable as stealing? Just what are you planning?” 
“Don’t call it stealing! Call it, uh... Unauthorized eternal borrowing.” 
“That’s the same thing!” Hilde frowned. She was the honest type, so it made sense. 
“It’s fine, I’ll hide my identity. Look!” 
“You are wearing that again, you are?” Yae sighed a bit as she recognized the silver oni mask. It seemed to have a bit of a negative connotation with her for some reason. But I loved it, it let me hide my real identity and also go all-out! 
“Then if you steal these machines... Will you be going alone, will you?” 
“Nah, I was thinking of taking Tsubaki and Kohaku with me. I don’t want too big of a group, it’ll increase the chances of getting caught.” 
“I want to go, too. Can’t I, Touya?” 
“You can’t.” 
“Hmph. Bully...” I promptly rejected Sue’s request. I didn’t expect her to be at any risk with me, but there was still the chance things could go wrong. 
I didn’t tell Kousaka about this, either. He would’ve absolutely vetoed the idea. 
“Why’re you doing this, though? Isn’t it fine just to leave them be?” 
“I don’t know if they’ll use their mechanized soldiers against other nations afterward. Felsen, Hannock, Xenoahs, Roadmare... I want to know the potential of the enemy, just in case.” 
“Then why do you have to go and do it, Touya?” 
“It’s my personal prediction, not a national one. I can’t have someone do this on my or Brunhild’s behalf.” I gave general replies to Elze and Linze, but in truth I wanted to find out the true mastermind and take them out for good. 
There was just one thing I was worried about. 
The king of Felsen had talked about the former Golden Order’s ambitions. 
“These people attempt to revive ancient techniques and make use of them, out of sight. This is the purpose of Gordian, the Golden Order.” 
It made me wonder if their goals were still the same. If this Neo-Gordian Order was trying to revive the same kind of forbidden magic. 
I had a hunch that aiding the current claimant to Yulong’s throne was a part of their ambitions. I couldn’t say for sure, though. It was just a gut feeling. 
My gut feelings tend to be right, though... Is this an effect of my divinity, perhaps? Eh... I guess that’s fine... It’s not like it’s an issue. 
Using such ancient, taboo techniques took a lot of power. They wouldn’t easily be able to do such a thing. The possibility of it being dangerous or destructive was extremely high, and they could probably cause a major incident by invoking something so primal. 
If that was the case, then I had to take them out before it got to that point. I needed to acquire solid proof of their activities before I could make my move, though. 
I had a feeling I was going to be in for a wild ride. 
The former glorious capital of Yulong, Shenghai, was now no more than a pile of rubble and trash. There was no trace of the gaudy city that sat there once before. 
The Phrase had done a real number on the place, and it honestly made me more than a little uncomfortable. Just looking around really gave a sense of scale for the awesome power that Upper Constructs wielded. 
Our group had just gated over from Brunhild, when Kohaku suddenly raised a warning growl. 
Kohaku was glaring off in a certain direction, and it didn’t take long for us to see a group of vagrants heading toward us in that direction. They were holding knives and axes. 
“Hooh... Boy... Leave your money, leave the girl. If you do that, we’ll let you live. Scram.” One of the men raised a dirty laugh as he yelled. The girl he was referring to was Tsubaki, who stood by my side. 
“Who are they?” 
“Likely a group of scavengers. They’re probably salvaging valuables from the remains of the capital.” 
So they’re vultures... Gross. A group of villains, more like. 
“Bastard! You listenin’ to me?!” 
“I’m not deaf. I can hear you just fine.” They were way too impatient, it was a real annoyance. They surrounded us in a circle, knives at the ready. 
“Burst forth, Fire! Crimson Eruption: [Explosion]!” I had a feeling they weren’t interested in diplomacy, so I aimed an explosive spell at a nearby mound of rubble. A massive sound echoed out as the debris fizzled out into nothing. 
Huh? Were my spells always that strong? Is this another side effect of my divinity? I wondered if I’d end up joining the actual gods at the rate I was going. Immortality definitely didn’t sound like a bad deal. 
“Shit, it’s a mage! Get the hell outta here, boys!” The would-be bandits began to scatter in all directions. 
So it’s already this lawless, huh...? Guess I’ll head toward wherever the new heavenly emperor is. I pulled up my map and made it display the surrounding area. 
“Uh... Let’s see here... The new capital was called Heilong, right?” 
“That’s correct. Right here... Northwest of our current position.” 
“Alrighty, let’s get going.” 
“W-Wait a moment... Do you intend to fly there?” 
“Huh? Yeah. Why?” 
Kohaku and Tsubaki made pained expressions. Seemed like they hated flying just as much as the others did. 
I could’ve used [Teleport], but I wasn’t used to operating it at long range, so I didn’t want to appear above a river or something. Seemed like I had no choice. 
“...Alright, then. I’ll go to Heilong myself and open up a [Gate] for you guys when I land.” 
“That would be greatly appreciated...” 
“Y-Yes, it very much would be.” If I knew they’d be so fussy, I would’ve brought Gungnir. Still, I could fly faster than any machine all on my own, so it’d be fine. 
It was fine by me really. All I had to do was invoke [Fly] and then zap off at full speed. 
It took me about three minutes to get there at my top speed. As the landscape shifted beneath me, my eyes finally settled upon a city. It was Heilong, the new capital. 
Man... That was just a three minute flight, why’d they have to make such a big deal about it? I grumbled as I made my descent into a forested area. 
Once I was out of sight, I opened up a [Gate] to Shenghai. Kohaku and Tsubaki came through a few moments later. 
“Alright, we’re ready. Oh wait, I gotta disguise myself.” I used [Mosaic] to censor my body as I quickly changed my clothing. The people of my old world would associate such mosaic censorship with stark nudity... But I didn’t quite strip down to that degree. 
“How... fancy...” Tsubaki stared at my Silver Oni outfit and had a fairly interesting reaction. I was a little surprised, since the getup didn’t seem particularly gaudy to me. Mask and hakama aside, it didn’t strike me as all that special. 
“N-Not the color or style or anything, it’s just... Your outfit just feels... Evil? I know this is a mission to steal and all, but... It doesn’t feel very befitting of a ninja.” 
Hmph... Being berated by a ninja feels a little funny... Still, no big deal. Not like we’re here solely for infiltration, after all. 

I took Tsubaki and Kohaku with me to Heilong. There was a little bit of trouble at the gate, but we managed to bribe the guard for entry. It was at this point that I realized how corrupt the guardsmen were in the area. They felt out of place. 
Heilong was a traditional Chinese-styled castle town. It had various rows of red-tiled houses lining the streets. There was a tall tower in the distance, and some stalls lining the street paths. I saw some paper lanterns here and there, too. 
There was a large castle around the middle of the town, too. I didn’t get a good look at it, though. Walls were too high. 
It was a town with a lot of things in it, here and there. I saw people shuffling around lifelessly, like they were depressed. I suddenly felt a strange sensation, though. 
“Kind of feels like we’re being watched...” 
“That’s because we are. You’re being stared at.” 
“...I told you that your outfit stood out as evil, didn’t I?” 
Bleh... No point worrying about it now. Besides, people are just looking. 
“So, now what?” 
“Intel, Tsubaki. You need to collect info on the Steel Battalion. Kohaku, you go guard her. If you can find information on where they are and who made them, that’d be ideal. Don’t chase after them or anything, just get the information if you can. We’ll meet up again tonight.” 
“Yes, my lord. I’ll contact you if anything happens.” Tsubaki and Kohaku promptly vanished into the hustle and bustle. 
I decided to take it upon myself to hear from the townsfolk about the new heavenly emperor. 
“Hm... One would typically go to a bar for this kinda thing, right?” Even though I was following that logic, it was still midday. I decided that checking out a store or a restaurant would be just as good. I hadn’t eaten lunch either, so it was good timing. 
“Uhh... Hm. I’ll go there, then.” I headed toward the roadside and sat in a weathered old chair. There was a menu on the nearby table, but I didn’t recognize any of the dishes at all. I wondered what this ‘Meat Ramein’ thing was, especially. Presumably it had meat in it, but I didn’t know about what kind of meat. 
“...Whaddya buyin’?” The stall owner called out to me suspiciously. His eyes were fixed on me, like he was concerned. It was probably because of my mask. 
“Ah, er... I’ll have that meat ramein.” 
“Sure. One meat ramein comin’ right up.” I decided to people watch as I waited for my food. I saw people coming and going all over the place. I suddenly noticed a distinct lack of women and children in the crowd. 
I noticed a disproportionate amount of young armed men walking around. They were wearing pauldrons with a shape that vaguely resembled a Dragon’s head. I wondered if they were the town militia. 
Some kind of incident going on? That’s a lotta guards walking around... 
“Here. Meat ramein.” 
“...Wait a second...” I looked down at the bowl of noodles and meat and came to a stunning realization. 
Ramein is just ramen! Wait, no... They’re a little different. The noodles are thinner and shorter. Kinda looks like somen, though. 
I slurped up the soup, but it was way too thin and gruel-like. The noodles kind of tasted cheap, too. Kind of like the sort of food you’d get on a plane or in a hospital. The meat was tough too, almost like beef jerky. I thought it might soften if I dipped it a bit in the soup, but... Nope, it was as tough as a leather boot. 
Well whatever, let’s just chow down... This is... Huh...? What the hell’s with this flavor and texture...? It kinda tastes like... rubber? It kinda smells raw, almost...? What the hell kind of meat is this thing? Seriously. 
“Hey, shopkeep. What meat is this, anyway?” 
“Troll flank steak.” 
“Hgh... K-Keep the change!” I slammed a copper coin down on the table and promptly left. 
Wh-What the hell are you trying to feed me, here?! What the hell... 
I grumbled in quiet disgust, but I didn’t want to make it too obvious on my face. 
This area of the country was near Xenoahs’ border, so it seemed like some kind of demonic fusion in their cuisine was going on. From what I understood, people of noble families like Sakura and Spica culturally avoided eating the meats of magical beasts. It was hardly tasty, so I didn’t blame them for not partaking. 
It was true that we’d eaten Dragon meat in the past, though... But that taste was on a whole other level than something like troll meat. I wondered if perhaps Dragons had evolved to be so powerful in order to avoid being hunted for their tasty meat. 
I wanted to drink something to wash the bad taste out of my mouth, but I didn’t want to check out a store and get something bad again. I opened up my [Storage] and took out a thermos of water. 
Aaah! After that crap, even this normal water tastes amazing... Hm...? 
“Scour the area! They can’t be far! Keep looking, fools!” A fuss had been kicked up all of a sudden. There were soldiers all over the place. It seemed like they were looking for someone, which meant something must have happened. 
“You there! I’ve never seen you before! What’s with the mask?” One of the soldiers glared at me. I wasn’t too surprised, really. I looked super suspicious. 
“I’m just a travelin’ adventurer, son... Burnt my face real bad back in the day, so I wear this mask ta mask them there scars.” 
“Really? Prove it!” I quietly used [Mirage] to change my face beneath the mask. The soldier approached me quickly, so I began to remove the mask. The image he was presented with was a grizzled, hideously scarred man. 
“Ugh... Alright, got it. Put it back on.” The soldier was visibly nauseous after seeing ‘my’ face. I put my mask back on and used the chance to get a little more information out of him. 
“What’s happened, hm? What’s the noise all about?” 
“It’s troubling, but we’re after dangerous criminals. They attempted to kill His Greatness the Heavenly Emperor. A group of two men and a single woman. They likely serve one of the other fakers claiming to be the real rulers...” 
Oh my... Is this just what happens in Yulong? Assassination attempts all day? Apparently he’d been attacked in his courtyard. The bigger issue was the fact that assassins had managed to get this far, though. The heavenly emperor was successfully defended by his personal guard, and the would-be assassins made their escape. 
“One of the males in their group, a man wielding a bo staff, was injured around the shoulder. If you see anyone like that, let us know.” The soldier nodded toward me before dashing off. Yulong seemed like it was dangerous as ever. 
Man, this is totally unrelated to me, but... The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right? 
“Let’s see here...” I opened up the map on my smartphone. I didn’t want to attract too much attention or anything, so I didn’t project it. Though I had the feeling I stood out enough anyway. 
“Search. Man with wounded shoulder.” 
“Search complete. One in local vicinity.” Bingo. I didn’t know the guy, but it seemed like he still had a wound so noticeable that it was still showing. 
I thought perhaps they’d have patched it up with light magic, but it seemed like there wasn’t anyone capable of casting it in their group. Nobody must have brought a potion, either. 
I decided to go and track the guy down. I was a little guarded, however. I didn’t want to get suicide bombed right in the face again. 
“Hmm...” I headed off from the street and found myself in a dense expanse of bamboo, there were few people in the area. 
This place seems like the prime spot for a panda to live... Wait no, pandas probably aren’t normal in this world... They probably end up wisecracking and learning kung-fu or something. 
I walked down the beaten path as such thoughts passed my mind, but then I paused. 
They’re here. I felt the presence of two others. One felt different. The different one had already noticed me and was already coming toward me. Wait, from above?! 
“Augh!” The dense mass of bamboo provided the perfect cover for attack, and I just barely managed to avoid the strike. My attacker landed, launching a flurry of blows that I expertly parried, before sweeping out with a mighty kick that I just barely avoided by jumping back. They were wearing a dark black robe that covered their entire body, but they had a voice that reminded me of a woman’s. 
We clashed again before jumping back and establishing a good distance. The hooded woman suddenly raised her palm and pointed it in my direction. 
Wait a second...! 
“Haaah!!” She blasted a shockwave toward me and I just barely dulled the impact with a cross counter. I knew that move! The attacker didn’t relent, closing the gap in under a second and unleashing a merciless barrage of fists upon my body. 
I darted to the side and made a sweeping kick toward her legs. She fell off balance and immediately jumped back, flipping in mid-air as she moved. The jump caused the hood of her cloak to fall away, revealing her true identity. 
“Aaaahaaa! I knew it!” 
“Mh?!” The dragongirl retreated cautiously as I spoke, beady eyes trained on me. 
She was none other than the woman I’d met in the Sea of Trees, the dragongirl who had furiously fought Elze during the pruning, Sonia Parallem. 
“What’s going on here?! What’re you doing out in Yulong? Wait, does that mean the injured staff guy is Rengetsu?” 
“...Who are you?” 
“Huh? Oh, right! You can’t tell because of the outfit.” I was still wearing my mask, so I pulled at a string and let it fall to the ground. 
“See? It’s me!” 
“Who are you?!” 
“Huh?” Sonia was startled by my face for some reason. That was when I remembered I’d forgotten to undo [Mirage], so I looked absolutely horrifying. I quickly dispelled the illusion on my face. Sonia had a Mystic Eye that allowed her to see through illusions, but it seemed like she had to actively invoke it. She was similar to Yumina and Her Holiness the Pope in that regard. 
“See? It’s me. Mochizuki Touya.” 
“Touya...?!” Seemed like she finally had a grasp of what was going on. I sure as hell had no idea why she was in Yulong, though. 
“Come forth, Light! Calm of the Goddess: [Mega Heal]!” I used one of my stronger restoration spells on Rengetsu. The cut on his shoulder was patched up in a matter of seconds. 
“...Most incredible. It’s just as it was before.” Rengetsu stood up and smiled as he rolled his shoulder around. 


“Still... Why are you here in Yulong, Touya? Or, er... Your Highness the Grand Duke of Brunhild...” 
“Ah, don’t bother with the formal stuff. I’m traveling in secret, remember? Right now I’m just the Silver Oni, a wandering warrior from Eashen.” I very quickly intercepted Rengetsu’s attempt to bow down. I didn’t want my identity exposed or anything. Still, it seemed like Sonia’s interest had been piqued. 
“Let’s put that aside from now, I have a question. I’ve heard about a group of three that attempted to assassinate the new heavenly emperor. Is that you guys?” 
“Assassinate? Is that what they’re saying? It’s certainly true that we broke in and attempted to take his life. But that was no mere assassination attempt. That was justice.” 
“Guh... That damned Xiaofah! We got so close, but his guards were stronger than we expected...” Sonia spoke with anger backing her words. 
“The new heavenly emperor, or so he claims. Chieh Xiaofah. Even though he claims divine heritage, he’s nothing more than a weaselly adventurer who became an even slimier thief.” Rengetsu spoke with bitterness behind his voice. 
Thief, you say? What’s that mean? 
“Ever since the great Phrase invasion of Yulong, there have been a lot of people who showed up claiming they held the rights to the throne. The late heavenly emperor definitely slept around a lot, so him having a large number of successors isn’t all that surprising, honestly. But the concubines and their children, as well as his legal wife, all died when Shenghai blew up. Even his directly known sons that escaped the blast ended up being killed a while ago. That’s why it’s almost impossible to verify who’s lying or not in their claims nowadays.” That all made sense to me. If a person fabricated a story, all they really had to do was show some kind of object that backed it up, and that would be enough for the foundation of a reasonable claim. 
But there were no longer any items in the world that people could use as solid evidence, especially since the capital city was gone. 
And so, naturally it just came down to talent or strength. By displaying his might, the candidate could receive powerful support. 
But that too wasn’t without risk. The others claiming to be the heirs wouldn’t just roll over and accept defeat. If anything they’d be galvanized to attack each other in order to assert dominance. 
“Xiaofah is one such candidate asserting his dominance. He brought out a rare item known as the Heavenly Seal. He claimed that it was definitive proof that he was part of the previous leader’s bloodline, as it’s a royal treasure from the Yulong imperial family.” 
“So he’s actually related to the previous guy?” 
“Absolutely not. The Heavenly Seal is a precious item that was excavated from a ruin. He coldly murdered the adventurer who found it, and is now trying to claim he’s had it all his life.” 
So he swiped it, huh...? Then that means the item he has might not even be legitimate, either. 
“The adventurer that he killed was a man who did a lot for the two of us. He looked after us when we were young and inexperienced. We must murder Xiaofah and avenge his death!” 
“Normally a guy like him wouldn’t be recognized, even with the Heavenly Seal... But he managed to obtain a frightening force from somewhere else. I’m referring to his—” 
“His Steel Battalion, yeah.” Rengetsu nodded at my words. 
So a man suddenly appeared with Yulong’s Heavenly Seal, and a battalion of mechanized soldiers. It certainly seemed enough to assert one’s dominance in the rat race. 
But I definitely wondered where he’d obtained his technology. I really didn’t want to find out Gordian was pulling the strings here, but I had a bad feeling in general about it. “By the way Tou... Oni Warrior, why are you here?” 
“Ah... His Steel Battalion is based on technology stolen from my country. I just came here for a little bit of payback.” 
“Oh, interesting... They certainly are a technological marvel. But I believe that the Frame Gear I saw fighting those Wood Golems was much more powerful than the Steel Battalion I’ve seen fighting so far.” That much was obvious. The ones in Yulong were reverse-engineered pieces of crap in comparison. But I still couldn’t afford to make light of them, they were based on serious tech. 
Hm? Who’s that... 
“Sonia! Rengetsu! Are you alright! Who is this masked man?!” 
“It’s okay, Jesty. This is a friend of ours. He healed Rengetsu’s injury.” I was worried we’d been found by the city militia, but I’d been mistaken. It was another fellow wearing the same robe as Sonia and Rengetsu. From what I understood, the two of them had stayed behind to let him escape, but he ended up coming back for them. 
“Touy— Oni Warrior... This is Jesty Parallax. He’s the son of the adventurer we mentioned just before.” 
Damn... This really is a revenge mission. The man referred to as Jesty Parallax took his hood down. His hair was short and brown, and his eyes seemed to be hazel in color. I estimated his age at around twenty-one or twenty-two. He was roughly a hundred and eighty centimeters tall. 
He was certainly taller than average. Rengetsu was about my height, but Sonia was taller than the two of us. Apparently the draconic clan had many tall women. 
Hm... I’m only around a hundred and seventy centimeters right now. I-I’m still growing, right? I’d like to get at least five centimeters more... W-Wait, hopefully my body doesn’t stop growing entirely if I fully awaken as a God or something... 
“A pleasure. I’m Jesty Parallax. Thank you for healing my friend.” 
“Hm? Oh, seriously. It’s no problem.” As I was lost in thought about height, I was greeted by the newcomer. He seemed to be a pretty kind and cheerful young man. 
“Alright, staying here isn’t gonna do us any good... [Gate].” I opened up the same portal that I’d connected to the former capital a while ago. 
“Let’s go.” I ignored the triple assault of stunned faces and walked through my portal. After a brief period, all three of them followed through. Sonia came first, followed by Jesty and then Rengetsu. 
“We’re in the former capital of Yulong, Shenghai.” 
“Seriously? That’s way far...” 
“Incredible... This is the power of transportation magic...” 
The three of them looked around with wonder, when Sonia suddenly adopted a combat stance. Seemed like she noticed something. 
“Hooh... Boys... Leave your money, leave the girl. If you do that, we’ll let you live. Scram.” 
“...Again, really?” The gang I’d encountered earlier came scuttling out of the shadows, like cockroaches. 
Seriously guys? You’re doing the exact same thing you did before. 
They didn’t seem to realize it was me, probably because of the mask and the different getup. 
“Gwaugh!” I quickly used my smartphone to incapacitate the entire group of dumbasses. Seemed like scaring them wasn’t enough, so I wanted to humiliate them and hope that would drive the message in a bit more. 
“So, back to what you guys were saying earlier. If this guy becomes the heavenly emperor, what’ll happen?” 
“We’re unsure, but we doubt anything good. You saw his town, right? The lack of women and children? That’s because his men are unreasonably violent. They’re also extorting money from the stores and businesses within the city walls. A lot of merchants have left the city entirely, so trade is largely stagnating. Even if their goods did come back, they’d just be diverted to the castle. The people shuffle around lifelessly because they’re just waiting to die. He doesn’t care.” 
Hmph... Was that shitty ramen caused by this, too...? Maybe not. 
“Why is he collecting so much money, then?” 
“It’s for his Steel Battalion. He’s trying to improve them further, and mass produce them. According to our sources, a vast amount of raw construction materials were brought to his castle a few days ago.” Jesty answered me quickly. It seemed like they were producing the units inside the castle itself, then. 
I did wonder where he was getting such vast quantities of materials, though. If he had connections with the Golden Order, then it was probably from Felsen. 
“If we leave him be, he will surely use his Steel Battalion to wage war on other nations in the future. He doesn’t want Yulong, this is just a convenient place for him to flex his muscles. He’d much rather focus on more prosperous nations. And there are some countries bordering Yulong that are doing very decently.” Sonia was probably right. 
Which country would he attack, though... We’ve got Roadmare and Xenoahs... That’d be bad. Eashen’s a possible target, but it’s across a lot of water. 
If I were him, then... I’d target Hannock. It might be protected a bit by a river, but a united Yulong could easily stomp it to pieces. There are also a lot of mines in Hannock, so taking it would be strategic. He could bolster the numbers of his Steel Battalion if he conquered that place. 
His intentions were probably to conquer Hannock with the Steel Battalion, and establish a new kingdom using that place as the base. He probably viewed Yulong as a lost cause, something that would cost far too much time, money, and effort to rebuild. That would explain why he was hoarding money and goods, and letting the people suffer and die. He was going to abandon Yulong as soon as he found a better piece of land. 
He was proclaiming himself the heavenly emperor so he could have a legitimate excuse for building his army, but it was all a temporary measure to him. 
“...Yeah, that sounds about right.” 
“You agree, then? Even if it doesn’t have anything directly to do with us, we can’t simply turn a blind eye to this situation! Lives are at stake, we must do something!” Jesty clenched his fists, the determination on his face was palpable. He was pursuing the man that killed his father, so such a reaction was only natural. 
“We cornered him a long time ago, you know? This was before he was doing his whole heavenly emperor thing, too... But we failed and he escaped. If only we’d managed to kill him back then...” I didn’t think that lamentation was going to do us any good. What mattered was what we could do going forward, not what we couldn’t do in the past. 
“I should get some information from my friends soon, they’re investigating the situation in the capital right now. Incidentally... have you guys heard of the Golden Order?” 
“Not ringing any bells here... Rengetsu, Jesty? What about you.” 
“Not I.” 
“Nope, never heard of them.” All three of them shook their heads. 
I wasn’t too surprised, it was a secret society. Information on them wasn’t supposed to come easily. 
“What is this Golden Order, exactly?” 
“It’s a secret society that might be behind the Steel Battalion’s creation. They might be backing Xiaofah as well.” 
“Ah, well... Now that you mention it... Two of the men guarding him were wearing unusual golden pendants around their necks.” Sonia seemed to remember something all of a sudden. 
“It was a six... No, seven-sided shape. One with a golden circle in the middle of it, that’s what I recall at least.” Sonia used a stick to draw out a basic image on the ground. 
Interesting... The pendants being gold was suspicious enough, but it being seven-sided made it even more curious. From what Leen had told me, I understood that in this world the heptagon was a shape that represented magic. Or, more specifically, the seven pools of magic. Fire, water, wind, earth, light, dark, and null. 
The Golden Order was a group built around magic, so it was likely that this pendant could’ve been their symbol. 
I better ask the king of Felsen about this... Wait, that reminds me, I never gave him a smartphone! I had no choice. I pulled out my phone and started scrolling through my contacts list. Eventually, I came to Laim, our household butler. 
“‘Sup, Laim. You hear me okay?” I asked him to use the Gate Mirror to send a letter to the king of Felsen. It was a simple enough message, asking for him to send over any picture of the Golden Order’s emblem if he knew about it. 
I figured it’d take a while to wait, so I took out a couple tables and chairs from [Storage], seated us all, and then pulled out some tea and donuts. 
I should’ve just eaten these to begin with... I’m never gonna get the taste of troll off my tongue. But I guess I shouldn’t close myself off from new experiences... This one just happened to be really, really bad. 
The other three were surprised at my sudden inexplicable production of a full table and chair set, but they quickly shrugged and began devouring the snacks I’d set out. They must’ve been hungry. Sonia seemed especially starved. I wondered if draconians needed to eat more than humans. I didn’t mind though, there were plenty of donuts to go around. 
I started munching down on the donut I’d picked up. It was tremendously good. But that was to be expected, it was baked by none other than Crea, after all. 
Most of the donuts were gone by the time I received a text message from Laim. He’d attached an image to it and sent it without any trouble. He was surprisingly adept with the smartphone for a man his age. 
I looked at the image I’d been sent. 
“Guess I was right, then.” A heptagon with a golden circle in the middle. 
With that, I had my definitive proof. This new heavenly emperor absolutely had ties with the Neo Golden Order. 
“I see... So the Steel Battalion is located in a storage hangar beneath the castle?” 
“That’s right. I was unable to infiltrate, but the approximate number down there is around a thousand.” 
“There’s seriously that many...?” I was more than a little surprised by what Tsubaki was telling me over the phone. Approximately a thousand? That was incredible. Even Brunhild’s Frame Gears only numbered around four-hundred. 
Do they just have more raw materials to work with? Or does it take that much less to produce one? Hell, maybe it’s something different... Could they seriously have a place that rivals the Workshop, though? I guess at this point their Steel Battalion is too different from my Frame Gears, so I shouldn’t compare. 
If the materials were being transported to the castle, then it must have meant that they were producing them inside the castle too. That meant if I took the place out, it would render them unable to make any more. 
I decided that destroying the place was the smartest move, if only to prevent future complications. 
“Ah, one other thing. There’s an incredible barrier placed around the castle. It’s negating most any kind of magic in the vicinity.” 
“What a pain in the ass...” That meant I probably wouldn’t be able to send any of the Steel Battalion back to Brunhild. I’d need to hijack one and drive it out myself. 
I wondered about what kind of barrier it was, though. 
There were various kinds of barriers, after all. 
Magic Evasion Barriers prevented targeted spells. 
Magic Jammer Barriers prevented invocation. 
Magic Enchant Barriers ended up bestowing positive effects on people in the vicinity. 
Magic Protection Barriers just straight-up blocked entry to certain locations. 
And finally, Magic Seal Barriers prevented people from leaving. 
I only knew about these five in particular. There were definitely a lot of others. The talismans and other stuff people could carry on their persons fell under the Evasion category, while the barrier around our very world that prevented the Phrase from coming in would be closer to a Protection type. 
Such barriers differed in strength, and it took a lot of time, effort, and magic to produce a powerful one. 
The fastest way to take out a barrier would be to destroy the artifact or inscription holding it in place, but these things would often have their own barriers around them as well. It was typically impossible to find these things through my search magic, too. 
Really the easiest solution here would be to obliterate the entire city... But obviously I couldn’t do that. I’d end up losing the Steel Battalion, and I needed samples. 
Either way, I decided to join up with Tsubaki. 
I just had to deal with Sonia and her friends first... 
“If you’re sneaking in, can’t you take us with you? We can’t possibly excuse ourselves from a mission if it’ll get us closer to that scumbag.” 
“Please take us with you!” Sonia and Jesty bowed their heads toward me in reverence. I sighed. Well, fine... Taking them isn’t a big deal, I guess. 
“Is it gonna be alright for you guys to come to the capital? Didn’t you get identified already?” 
“They already know us, yes. We ended up giving our names when we entered the city with Jesty.” 
“Either way, it’s a revenge mission for my father’s honor... I have to do this.” 
“Guh...” That definitely meant that they’d be known at this point. Plus, Jesty had been walking around with a dragongirl and an extremely bald guy. They were the definition of standing out like a sore thumb. 
“Fine, then. I’ll change how you look with illusion magic.” It’d just get undone the moment we got into the castle, anyway. 
It was probably a Jammer barrier, after all. One that prevented the invocation of magic. It also had the added bonus of wiping out passive effects, magic disguises included. 
Still, we only needed it to get them through the town. 
I used [Mirage] to give all three of them the appearance of Yulong peasants, and we headed through a portal back to the bamboo grove. 
There were a lot of soldiers hanging out in the area where I’d arranged to meet Tsubaki. The spell held up, and none of them recognized the trio I was with. That was good, except... I was questioned repeatedly due to my mask... It wasn’t fair at all. 
Night fell, and the surrounding streets were shrouded in darkness. 
We didn’t want to be spotted, so we headed toward the castle down a deserted road. Up close, the sheer height of the walls was a lot more impressive. 
“How’re we gonna sneak in, then...” Once we got close to the walls, I cast a cautious and experimental [Light Orb]. It manifested for a split-second before flittering out. That meant we were in range of the barrier already. 
“We won’t be able to use magic from here.” 
“They’ve amped up the guard at the front gate, too.” Rengetsu, Sonia, and Jesty had all lost their magic disguises, as well. 
Losing magic was a pain. We could’ve just used [Invisible] to sneak through, but that wasn’t really viable. 
“Hm... Well, this is annoying. Should we just charge them head-on?” 
“What?!” We had firearms, and the enemy couldn’t use magic either. The had bows and arrows, but they could be dodged. If it was just me on my own, I’d have wanted to just rush them. 
“W-W-Wait a second! If we’re too reckless in our approach, then our target might run off! We want to avoid that...” Jesty flailed his arms as he spoke. He certainly raised a fair point. I’d completely forgotten about that. I still thought I’d be able to take hold of the whole castle even without magic, but I didn’t want to discourage my allies. Hm... In that case... 
Kohaku’s ears suddenly twitched, and she stared into the blackness. 
“My liege. Someone’s coming this way. It’s likely a guard patrol.” 
“Damn it! Guys, scatter! Hide in the nearby bushes.” Everyone quickly obeyed my command. 
I strained my eyes to see who was coming by. It was just a couple of guards. They completely failed to notice us. 
Once they were far enough for it to be safe, we came out of the bushes and began brainstorming our infiltration again. 
We definitely couldn’t jump over it. It was about ten meters tall. Though, even without magic, my body was more than capable of leaping about six meters into the air. 
“My lord... I can jump over with little trouble.” 
“Even with me on your back?” 
“It won’t be a problem.” 
Hm... Guess we should, then. We’re just sitting around like idiots right now. 
Kohaku suddenly reverted to her true form, which absolutely terrified the people we were with. I ignored their shock. 
I tried opening up [Storage] to get some rope, but it closed in just a few seconds. The barrier even blocks this, huh...? I moved away from the castle walls to open it up, and I pulled out a long rope. 
I won’t be able to use magic in there, so I should probably get what I’ll need in advance. 
I made the necessary preparations and then headed back toward the others. I handed one end of the rope over to Tsubaki, then climbed on to Kohaku’s back. 
Kohaku crouched and then pounced in a flash. She easily cleared the ten meter wall, landing atop it with a surprising grace. Heavenly Beasts sure were impressive... 
Nobody was in the area when we landed, thankfully. There were little shrubs and plants here and there, it seemed we’d landed in a little garden area. I tied the rope to a nearby tree and then yanked on it, sending the signal to Tsubaki. 
I looked around and prepped Brunhild on my waist. 
Oh, right... I need to test this... 
“Blade Mode.” Brunhild’s blade expanded a bit. Hm... So it still works, just only a little? 
“Blade Mode.” 
“Blade Mode.” 
“Blade Mode.” 
“Blade Mode.” I repeated the command several times, and eventually the blade inched its way to full size. It seemed like I could still use magic, but only for a total of a few seconds. One second of [Slip] was still beneficial. A quick use of [Boost] or [Accel] would help too. [Apport] would probably work as well, since it was instant. Brunhild’s Reload command was instant too, so I didn’t need to worry about that. 
[Fireball] would probably only work at point-blank range, but I didn’t want to put myself in a situation where I’d get caught in the blast too. 
I couldn’t use my smartphone’s target lock in this situation, either. It relied on me using [Multiple] for more than a few seconds. [Paralysis] probably wouldn’t be much help, either. I’d need to directly touch people for it to take hold. 
After thinking about it, I probably could’ve used [Teleport] to get through the wall since it would’ve only taken a split-second. I briefly tried to use it... But I ended up coming out in the wrong place. It was too dangerous to use in a place like this, after all. 
As I was testing my magic, Sonia came up over the wall. Sonia and Rengetsu were pretty skilled at moving themselves, but Jesty seemed to have a little more difficulty pulling himself up. 
Once everyone was up, I took the rope and hooked it on a jutting-out part of the wall, then cast it down to the other side. 
We all climbed down to the inner wall, and then Tsubaki retrieved the rope for me. We quickly hid in a nearby shrub. Alright... We won’t need the rope on the way out since I’ll be hijacking one of the Steel Battalion, but... 
I had no idea if I’d actually be able to pilot one. I could use Frame Gears no problem, and they were knock-off Frame Gears... But I still couldn’t be certain if that’d be enough. “Firstly we need to take out this barrier.” 
“My lord. Patrolling soldiers inbound.” Kohaku, who had returned to her tiny form, caught my attention. 
We’d landed in the castle’s rear yard. I peeked out from behind a bush and saw two soldiers on patrol. They were holding torches. 
“Alright, let’s get info on the castle from these guys.” 
“What should we do? Want me to strike them down?” 
“No, hold off. I’ll paralyze one of them and interrogate the other.” I denied Rengetsu’s offer and took a step forward. I very quickly used [Accel] for the briefest of moments I could, and timed it perfectly to dash out and intercept the duo. [Accel] only let me burst out for a few seconds, but it was more than enough time to get behind the two of them. 
I placed my hand on the back of one of them and promptly pulsed him with [Paralyze]. Then I held Brunhild’s blade to the throat of the second guard. 
“Not a move.” 
“Eeep!” Guess he thinks I killed the guy... He’s being surprisingly obedient. 
Sonia and the others followed after me, promptly putting out the fallen guard’s torch. 
“How do I disable the barrier around this castle?” 
“I-I don’t know, I promise... Master Gad erected the barrier, but I know nothing more than that!” 
“Gad? Who’s that?” 
“Th-The heavenly emperor’s attendant! He and Master Sol often work closely together...” I had the guardsman tell me more, and learned that Gad was a mage. Sol was a swordsman, and he was the one who had injured Rengetsu. They seemed to be a duo and were rarely seen apart. 
This Gad fellow had been the one to put the barrier up. That probably meant that Gad and Sol were members of the Golden Order. 
The guard didn’t know all the details, but apparently some magical artifact was responsible for the barrier. 
We’d gotten everything we could out of him, so I used [Paralyze] on him, too. 
Rengetsu dragged them off into the undergrowth and hid them behind a tree. 
Guess we’ll capture the mage guy and have him take out the barrier... That’ll be useful to us, since he’s an attendant to the fake emperor. Plus, we need to help Jesty get his revenge. We can hold off on the Steel Battalion theft until after that. 
So for now we just need to find the heavenly emperor. It’ll probably be easier to find him if I just keep interrogating soldiers. 
“Alright, let’s go!” Thus, our infiltration began. 
“Well, this could’ve gone better...” I sighed quietly as I knocked down a few more soldiers. 
Our stealthy mission hadn’t exactly gone to plan. We were in the middle of a pretty big battle, as a result. 
Even Tsubaki, our infiltration expert, couldn’t have helped us. There were four of us holding her back, after all. 
We were charging through the castle, fighting hordes of soldiers in narrow hallways. They didn’t have any mages to hurl ranged spells at us, which was a relief, but there were still archers supporting the swordsmen. The combination of Kohaku’s roaring shockwave and my bullets took out most of the backliners, though. Sonia and Rengetsu then took out the guys closer to us. 
We went on and on and on and on, fighting them repeatedly... The repetition kind of reminded me of an old song my grandpa would sing. Not too much, though. 
“Is the heavenly emperor’s court around here?” 
“It is, but we haven’t got much time. We’ve been discovered, so he could flee at any time...” 
“Yeah, we can’t let him get away.” Tsubaki was right, we couldn’t afford to waste any more time. If we floundered here, Jesty and the others wouldn’t be able to get their revenge. I decided that the best course of action would be an explosive one! 
“Kohaku! Blast all these jackasses away!” 
“As you wish!” Kohaku fired a massive shockwave from her mouth. Every enemy hit by the sudden blast fell unconscious where they stood. 
“Alright! Let’s head straight for where that bastard is!” We ran past the fallen soldiers and pressed on until we found a grand hallway with a big red carpet. It was lined with expensive looking vases along the walls. Frankly they looked tacky as hell. 
We headed toward the end of the hall and reached a massive door with a dragon carved into it. Naturally we kicked it down. 
The room we charged into had a very high ceiling, and contained nothing other than a gaudy throne. 
He looked about thirty years old and had a beard. The man wore gaudy, baggy yellow robes. They looked hard to move in. There was a sheathed blade sitting at his waist, and he wore a funny hat that resembled the one Chinese Emperor Zheng, the king of Qin, wore. 
Two men stood on either side of him, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out who they were. 
One of the men looked to be over thirty himself, and he wore dark red armor with a matching helmet. His left hand bore a heavy shield, and his right hand held an unusual weapon that somewhat resembled a hatchet. It was just as large as his massive shield. 
The other man wore a black robe and carried a staff. It was crooked at the end in a way that made it look a bit like a question mark. Judging from the getup, he had to be the mage. He looked a tad younger than his partner. His eyes were blue, and his hair was blond. He seemed frail, appearing tall and thin. His eyes, however, reflected malice and cruelty. 
Both of them wore pendants around their necks. The symbol of a heptagon within a circle. Proof that they were members of the Golden Order. That meant they were definitely the Sol and Gad that I’d heard about earlier. 
Going from what I’d been told, the armored man was Sol, while the gaunt mage was Gad. 
“My my... You haven’t learned your lesson at all. Do you crave my seal that badly?” The throne-seated man, Fake Emperor Xiaofah, tossed a golden cube up and down in his hand. It had what looked like a dragon sculpted into the side. 
That must be the Heavenly Seal... Looks bigger than I expected. Geez, it’s around the size of an apple. 
“Shut it! I don’t need your words, all I need is your blood! You’ll pay for what you did to my father, cretin!” Jesty promptly drew the sword at his waist. Rengetsu and Sonia stood ready to back him up. 
I shrugged slightly, and then a gunshot rang out through the room. 
“Wh...!” I fired a single clean shot at the Heavenly Seal, causing it to explode into little fragments. The fake emperor simply stared at his own hand in disbelief. 
What an idiot he was. I could’ve easily shot him too, but that wasn’t my job. 
“Y-You little rat! What have you done?! That’s Yulong’s treasure, the Heavenly Seal! It’s my seven-thousand year heritage!” 
“I don’t give a shit. Who cares about Yulong or its heritage? Plus you’re full of it. Yulong didn’t even exist that long ago.” If you asked me, there weren’t any true heirs left. Trash like the heritage of a pathetic, broken country didn’t need to exist in this world anymore. I honestly couldn’t give less of a crap about their pathetic excuse for a culture. 
Honestly, this country has been nothing but a pain to me. I think I’ll just come in as the Silver Oni and conquer the whole place, then divide the territory between Hannock, Felsen, and Xenoahs. 
The soldier, Sol, suddenly pointed his weapon toward me. 
I fired several bullets in his direction, but his massive shield took the brunt. And after that, he charged toward me. 
“Graaaaaah!!!” He swung down his unusual weapon at me... But it was no good, I deftly dodged every cumbersome strike. I then pulled my trigger point-blank at the lumbering oaf’s head. Ping! Ping! The shots ricocheted off his helmet. It was surprisingly tough. My bullets didn’t penetrate the armor or harm him. 
“Aye!” Kohaku launched a shockwave which knocked Sol to the ground. He rolled around the ground, and I used the time to reload and stock some Explosive Bullets. Those bullets invoked an explosive spell on impact. Their damage would be dampened somewhat by the barrier in the area, but I was sure they’d still do some serious damage. 
“Gwuh!” I fired another shot toward Sol’s head. 
“Come forth, o Light! Shining Duet: [Light Arrow]!” I suddenly heard someone chanting an incantation, so I leaped to the side. 
Several arrows of light blasted through the location I’d just been standing at. That was a close one! 
I turned my head to see Gad pointing his staff toward me. You sneaky bastard! 
“...Wait, how’d you cast a spell to begin with?” 
“I created this barrier, you impertinent whelp. Do you think I wouldn’t install insurance?” 
What, seriously?! You can make it so you aren’t affected by the barrier? You cowardly asshole! But... well, I guess I can’t blame you for setting up the field to your advantage. 
“I guess I’m not all that surprised. The Golden Order has some capable mages among its ranks, huh?” 
“Wha—?! You little... Who sent you?!” Gad and Sol looked alarmed when I name-dropped their organization. 
“A dog from Felsen, are you?!” 
“Hm... Who can say? Tell you what. How about you take that barrier down? I’ll show you guys an interesting spell.” 
“Unfortunately for you, that can’t be arranged. Unless my magic is drained, or the artifact is destroyed, it can’t be deactivated.” Gad grinned broadly in my direction. He told me exactly what I needed to know. 

“Then all I have to do is destroy the artifact, right? This is a pretty damned big barrier, you know. I doubt it’s easy to hide, so all I have to do is find it and take it out!” 
“Worry about your paltry life before that, vermin! Chill to the bone, o Darkness! I Seek Obedient Bones: [Skeleton Warrior]!” A magic circle appeared on the floor, and a bunch of rattling skeletal warriors rose out of it. They started shambling toward me with their old, worn-out weapons. 
Oh god damn it. Skeleton Warriors are undead monsters... They’re undead! They’re not very strong, but they’ll get up after they’re defeated. If I want to put them down for good, I need light magic, or a weapon with light infused into it. 
The big issue here was that magic had been sealed for everyone except Gad, so we couldn’t generate the light we needed. Well, it’s not like it’d be impossible, but I’d need to get into close-range with them to do it. 
“...You really are an asshole, you know that?” 
“For the sake of the Golden Order, you must die.” I shot a bullet from Brunhild toward one of the skeletons near me. It fell down to the ground with a clatter, but I knew it’d be up again in under a minute. 
Tsubaki, Sonia, and Rengetsu easily took out some of the enemies on their own, and even Jesty had managed to take one out. But we couldn’t keep fighting an endless tide. Sol was attacking us alongside the skeletons, too. The situation was grim. 
Damn it... I guess I don’t really have a choice here. I’ll try it out... 
I let some of my own divinity flow through my palm, and I allowed it to soak into Brunhild. I lined up a shot at the head of a Skeleton Warrior, and... It crumbled into dust the moment it was hit by a divine bullet. 
“What?!” I ignored his screams of surprise and continued to reduce the skeletons to dust. Divinity was beyond mere magic, after all. I was fairly sure that the divinity inside me was the reason I could use all of the elements, as well. 
In a sense, a blast of divinity probably contained all the elements of magic in one place. The barrier also did nothing to stop my divinity. Only a god could hinder the power of another god. 
I finished mopping up all the mooks and then turned my attention to the throne. I charged over and held Brunhild’s blade to Xiaofah’s neck. 
“Drop your weapons, or I’ll drop his head.” I leveled my threat toward Sol and Gad. Doesn’t really matter in the end, though. I’m gonna give this guy to Jesty, and then he can do what he wants. I need these two alive though, so I can interrogate them about the Golden Order. 
Gad suddenly adjusted his posture and pointed his staff toward me. 
“Come forth, Fire! Purgatorial Sphere of Flames: [Fireball]!” A massive fireball suddenly came hurtling toward both Xiaofah and me. 
W-Wait a second, hey! 
“Oh come on!” I shot a bullet toward the fireball, splitting it clean in two with divinity. 
The two halves of the flaming projectile landed behind me and exploded. 
“Did... Did you seriously just try to kill the two of us?” 
“We have no use for him anymore. We were going to get rid of him soon, either way. All you did was bump up the schedule!” 
“Wh-What?! You dare betray me?!” The fake emperor screeched at Sol and Gad. 
“A betrayal? Don’t be foolish. Who ever said you were our ally? We gave you the Steel Battalion, and you gave us manpower. We are thankful that you so thoroughly field tested the units for us, but that’s where our relationship ends. The Golden Order will handle matters from here, and you’re no longer needed.” 
“What are you going to do next?!” 
“We’ll use the Steel Battalion to conquer Felsen, of course.” I stared at them in disbelief. I thought they intended to invade Hannock, not Felsen. 
Wait, wait... Felsen? Don’t they know how strong the magic military is over there? There’ll be massive losses on both sides! Unless they’re seriously saying that they’re prepared for that... 
“Are you trying to avenge the old Golden Order? Get vengeance for Garland’s death? That’s fruitless!” 
“I care not for avenging my father. I simply wish to create a world where the Golden Order reigns at the apex. A new world. A magical world. Where we mages stand elite. I wish to create the Magia Imperium.” 
“Wait, father?! You’re the old leader’s son?!” 
“That I am. Leader of the Neo Golden Order. Son of Garland Goldie. I am Galzeld Goldie.” Gad, or... Galzeld, introduced himself in a flashy manner and smacked his staff against the ground. This guy was the leader. I had never expected to meet him here. 
“I will succeed where my father failed! I will cast the forbidden spell [Sanctuary], and when I do... This world will be purged of all non-magic users! This world will be pure at last!” What...? [Sanctuary], is it? Is that the spell his dad was trying to cast? I guess he’s saying it’ll wipe out people who can’t use magic, but not everything adds up here... 
Why Felsen? Why invade them? Is there an artifact there that they need or something? 
“There’s still a lot I don’t really get, but that doesn’t matter. If you’re the leader of the Golden Order, then I can’t let you get away.” 
“Oh, really now?” Galzeld stared me down. There was no fear in his eyes. As he laughed, the wall behind him and Sol broke. A large mechanical hand burst through into the room. 
A short and headless machine appeared amongst the wrecked wall. It wielded a conical lance in its hand. It’s one of the Steel Battalion! It bounded into the room with incredible force and thrust its weapon toward the throne. 
“Eeekeeeh!” The fake emperor and I darted out of the way just in time. His beautiful throne was completely trashed. No manner of gaudiness could save it from looking like the trash it was now. 
Damn, this thing’s actually pretty strong. If the old model Chevaliers are around a ten, then this thing’s definitely an eight. 
“Uwaaah!” The fake emperor ran away down the hallway at top speed. He was a former thief, so I wasn’t too surprised. It seemed like his biggest talent was running. I couldn’t afford to let him go, though. 
“Tsk... Jesty! You guys! Go after him!” 
“G-Got it!” Jesty, Rengetsu, and Sonia all ran after the faker. 
The only people left here on my side were Kohaku and Tsubaki. 
“You really think you can attack the Steel Battalion on your own? How arrogant...” A loud voice came out of the machine. It sounded crackly, like it was being transmitted through a cheap speaker. It was the voice of the pilot inside. 
There was a lot of stuff falling over, so the voice was a little difficult to make out, but... I knew who it belonged to. 
“...I see. So you ran off and joined these guys, huh? Is that right, Bowman?” 
“Wh— Buh... H-How?! How do you know who I am?!” 
I knew it. What an idiot... This guy is none other than Roadmare’s former magitech expert, Edgar Bowman. 
He was the guy that caused that disaster with the rampaging Golems. He was stripped of his position and sent to the mines as a convicted criminal. He obviously had no idea who I was, since I was still in my Silver Oni disguise. 
I’d been informed that he’d escaped due to outside interference, but it all fell into place now. He’d been jailbroken by the Golden Order. 
“I see, I see... So your Golden Order buddies made this with you, huh? This piece of junk.” 
“Junk?! What did you say?! This is one of my incredible Steel Battalions! They are my masterpieces who will conquer the entirety of Yulong! You’ve seen what they’ve done, haven’t you?!” 
“Don’t go getting high and mighty over something you reverse engineered based on stolen tech. Compared to the Brunhild Frame Gears, these things are garbage.” 
“You little wretch!” He thrust his lance toward me. But his movements were way too telegraphed. 
I dodged it, over and over, while taking note of how it attacked. 
The function behind moving it seemed different to a Frame Gear’s. The Frame Gear scanned your brain and read your motions, so it was like an extension of your own body. It worked in tandem with its pilot. 
The machine before me felt like it had been programmed with movement patterns. It kind of moved like fighting game characters did after inputting certain commands. 
I didn’t exactly mean it seemed as simplistic as ‘press A to punch and press B to kick,’ but it definitely felt similar to that kind of control system. The controls might have been functional, but it probably meant they couldn’t adapt all that well to diverse situations. The one inputting the commands was human, after all. 
It could’ve been influenced by the barrier, though. Frame Gears had magic flowing through them and that helped their movements. But I didn’t think that any of the Steel Battalions could replicate such complex functions. 
“These things really are crappy!” 
“Silence!” I darted beneath one of its heavy arms and sliced it at the elbow with my Divine Brunhild. 
The arm, along with the lance it was wielding, crashed to the ground. 
“What?!” I dived beneath the machine and sliced both knees in a similar fashion. The mech fell off-balance and fell forward, crashing to the ground. 
“No! Impossible, improbable, inconceivable! How could this happen?! How could one of my beautiful creations be defeated?!” 
“Wh— How could this be? Defeated by one man?!” Sol stared upward in disbelief, so I quickly used [Accel] to dart toward him. The barrier made it last almost no time at all, but it was enough time to close the distance. 
“Guh!” He raised his shield, but that mattered not. I sliced right through it, and it cut through to his arm. 
“Enough already. Just shut up! [Paralysis].” 
“Ghuh!” I touched him and his fate was sealed. His body slumped to the floor in an instant. 
There was a massive amount of blood spewing from the gash on his arm, so I quickly sealed the wound with a brief burst of healing magic. I had questions for him, after all. 
“Got anything else up your sleeve?” I stared Galzeld down with fire in my eyes. But he just responded with a gentle smile. 
“Ahaha... You’re strong. Incredibly strong... What a wonderful Oni. You can use magic as well, it seems. How about it, would you like to join the Golden Order? Once we create the Magia Imperium, and I stand tall as the Mage Imperator, you could join me as my right-hand man.” 
“Right-hand man? Don’t give me that. I was promised half the world once by a jackass like you, and I declined that offer too.” 
Well, that dragon guy would’ve ended up getting eaten regardless of whether or not I joined him. 
“Oh? How unfortunate. You need to die, then.” 
“That Steel Battalion bot is busted. Your soldier friend is out cold. Do you really think you’re in a position to negotiate and talk big?” 
“And just what do you think a battalion is, young man? It is many.” Galzeld grinned, and the very ground beneath me began to shake and rumble. 
I looked through the ruined wall at the garden area, and I saw several magic circles on the ground. An entire Steel Battalion of battle robots began to rise up from them. 
They looked the same as the one I’d defeated before. They held many different weapons. Some had spears, some axes, some swords. Some even held what appeared to be crossbows. 
“Crap. That’s right, there were a thousand or so in the basement... I forgot.” 
“Oho? You even knew that much? Well, let me tell you a little secret. There aren’t that many here anymore. We’ve already deployed more than a good ninety percent of them toward the Felsen border. We’ve been improving them steadily, as well. We already have enough to take on those Felsen fools.” 
Talk about prep work... I guess we should’ve acted sooner. If there are around fifty here, then that means there should be around nine-hundred-and-fifty over by the border... That’s bad. I guess I should take these ones out before worrying about them, though. 
I wasn’t worried at all, though. I had a good reason to be calm. 
“...Hey, Galzeld. Don’t you hear that sound?” 
“...Excuse me?” I grinned at him, and he suddenly became a little more uneasy. He perked up his ears in a desperate attempt to understand what I was hinting at. 
The sound of steel upon steel could be heard in the distance. The sound of the rumbling earth was getting closer and closer. The sound of explosions, of shaking. He ran outside to see what he’d heard. 
“No...!” What he witnessed outside was simple. His Steel Battalion being ripped apart. The perpetrators? A light purple samurai machine, and an orange-gold knight machine. 
It was Yae in her Schwertleite, and Hilde in her Siegrune. 
“Impossible! Why are the Brunhild Frame Gears here...?!” Yae’s Frame Gear danced around the battlefield. It used its short sword to strike the Steel Battalion at all angles, separating limbs from bodies in the blink of an eye. 
Hilde’s Frame Gear valiantly stomped around, blocking lances with its mighty shield. It then violently rended its foes apart with heroic slashes. 
I’d considered the possibility of the Steel Battalion being deployed, so I’d set up a portal that only Frame Gears could pass through before the mission began. I telepathically contacted Luli and Kougyoku to have Yae and Hilde prepare for battle. The magic barrier didn’t affect the telepathic link, after all. 
The Steel Battalion went after Schwertleite and Siegrune, one after the other. There were over twenty of them remaining. It wouldn’t be impossible for them to win if they swarmed with sheer numbers, and that was probably what the pilots were hoping to achieve. 
But the swordswomen from my household weren’t the kind who would lose to mere fakers, numbers be damned. The new Frame Gears weren’t just for show, after all. 
The destroyed members of the Steel Battalion piled up one after the other. 
“I don’t know what you were planning, but you should just give in here. How about I take you straight to the king of Felsen?” 
“Hah... Hahahah... You are a Felsen dog, then... But Felsen has no future, I promise you this! They will yield to the Golden Order, they will yield to me!” Galzeld yelled as he held his staff to the sky. 
At that moment, his staff let out a tremendous burst of light, I brought my arm up to shield my eyes. 
When the light subsided, Galzeld was no longer there. I heard the sound of small, beating wings, and I looked over toward it. There was a bat flying toward the east. 
Wait, is that him?! Did he use a transformation spell or something? Is that his Null magic?! Regardless of how he’d done it, I couldn’t let him get away. I invoked [Fly] in order to give chase, but I flew about two meters before crashing to the ground. That damned barrier was still active! 
“Understood!” Kohaku ran over, and I jumped on to her back. She sprinted for the massive walls and leaped over them. I soared into the air with [Fly] once I was out of range, but I couldn’t find the bat at all. 
“Search. Any bats nearby?” 
“...Search complete. No bats within a five-kilometer range.” 
Damn it! No way can a bat fly that fast. Did he transform into something else? Or did he just use another barrier to screw with my search spell? 
Guess he got away... No, wait. I can still get him! 
I used my smartphone and locked on to all trees in a five-kilometer radius with [Multiple]. It took a while to calculate, the city had a good number of trees in it. 
But then I used my spell... [Absorb]. The trees, on command, began sucking out all magic from their vicinity. All the magic around them was wiped away, except mine of course. 
“Search. Galzeld.” 
“Search complete. Three kilometers, southeast.” The magic had been sucked away, effectively undoing his disguise. I needed to hurry up and catch him. He’d be able to regenerate his magic if he got away from the trees. 
I ran through the city and dragged Kohaku along with [Teleport] to quickly reach his position. 
We came out in the forests on the city outskirts. I looked over to see a bird suddenly turn into a man and fall to the ground. The process repeated itself a few times. It was Galzeld, constantly trying to transform so he could escape. After a while, he noticed Kohaku and I. 
“D-Did you do this?!” 
“Well, well. We meet again. Time to show you that spell I promised you. [Slip].” 
“What?!” I canceled [Absorb] and tripped him up. He fell down and lost his staff, and promptly smacked the back of his head. 
I loaded a special round into Brunhild and then pointed it at Galzeld’s feet. It was my ultimate Infinity Omega Slip Bonanza Bullet. 
It constantly invoked a slipping spell, over and over again. It would draw from my magic to constantly reapply the spell, trapping someone in a slippery hell that never ended. Even if I wasn’t nearby, a single bullet contained enough power to keep someone falling for three days. So I guess calling it an Infinity Omega Slip Bonanza Bullet wasn’t quite right... Maybe Three-day Omega Slip Bonanza Bullet worked better. 
“Gwuh! Ughuh! Fhguh!!!” 
Can’t channel magic while you’re falling all the time, can you? The beauty of my slipping magic was that it responded to motion. So a person falling into it would slip again, and then slip again forever. From the first fall, your fate would be completely sealed. 
I whistled merrily, ignoring Galzeld’s pleas, and took a certain item out of my [Storage]. 
The item was a large three-meter by three-meter cube with a glass-like surface. Within this cube was the foul-smelling corpse of a particular species of slime. That’s right. It had been a long time, but the dreaded stinkbox was back. I’d also added a few improvements since last time, as well. 
I didn’t want sealed people to use magic in there, so I enchanted the interior with [Absorb]. That would prevent any kind of magic. Not that it was really a place that facilitated magic very well. 
“Punishment time...” I used [Gate] to trap Galzeld in the box. 
“WH— BRUGHGAUUUH! IT STINKS?!” He held on to his nose and used his free hand to bash against the walls of his confines. His face went from a shade of red, to purple, to white. There was an enchantment that let you hear his voice from the outside, too. 
“Urgh... Blurgh... I-It reeks! Please!” 
“Too bad. It’s not over yet, you know? Try this on for size.” I pushed a button on the outside of the box, which triggered the internal speakers. The writhing man within was suddenly assaulted by the combined sounds of nails on a chalkboard and forks scraping on plates. 
“Oof!” Ow, damn it... I forgot to soundproof the box. I hit another button, and the man’s screams were silenced. Fortunately, his suffering continued regardless of whether or not I could hear it. 
“&*^%!!!” He tried to cover his ears so the sound wouldn’t reach him, but that only caused him to inhale the vile stink. When he cupped his nose, the sound drove him wild again. He kept repeating the motion in a desperate search for relief. 
His face was covered in snot, drool, and tears. It was disgusting. 
“My liege... Don’t you think...” 
“Look, Kohaku. This guy really pissed me off. Those barriers were a pain, you know? This is just a little bit of fun, it’s no big deal.” 
“I still think this is a bit much...” 
I gave Kohaku a small glare and she backed off. Putting him in the box is good for screwing with his sense of hearing and smell, but... I bet I can make it worse! 
I cast [Mirage] to generate the sensation of vile creatures all over his body. From his perspective there were cockroaches, worms, and larvae crawling over and under his skin. 
Ha! He finally started hitting the wall again. It’s made of phrasium, you idiot. Not gonna break unless you have a crystal weapon in there, moron. Hope you’re having a good time, jackass! 
Galzeld began sweating profusely, and his knees shook to the point of buckling. He looked like a squirming, writhing newborn baby. I took a sadistic glee in watching him cry. 
Eventually he fell to the ground like a puppet with all its strings cut. His entire body violently twitched, and foam spewed from his mouth. He was clearly unconscious, but his eyes were wide open. Suddenly, I had a great idea. 
“I just realized. If I use [Refresh] to keep him at peak health, I could keep him in a perpetual state of suffering. That’d be hilarious.” 
“My liege... If you go any further, I’m afraid I won’t be able to view you as a human anymore.” Alas, Kohaku’s pleas stopped me from executing my plan. That was kind of annoying. 
I left Galzeld with Kohaku, and headed back to the castle. 
I couldn’t put humans in [Storage], sadly. He smelled absolutely awful when I pulled him out of the box, but I needed to leave him with Kohaku in case he had any allies around. 
By the time I got back, the battle was pretty much done. There were pieces of the Steel Battalion all over the place. 
Damn it... I wanted to take an undamaged one home... But that might not be possible. Ah well, maybe Doctor Babylon can fix one up. 
Soldiers and servants alike were streaming from the castle in droves. This was a major incident, so it wasn’t too surprising. 
I headed back to the throne room and found Tsubaki tying up Sol and Bowman. I figured I’d need to give Galzeld and Sol to Felsen, and Bowman to Roadmare. 
“Your Highness. Where’s Galzeld?” 
“Caught him. Kohaku has him.” More importantly... Where the heck is Jesty? I can’t use my search magic because of the barrier... Guess I’ll follow after where the faker ran. 
Eventually I found Jesty and the other two. They were looking down at the bloodied corpse of the false emperor. It seemed like they’d achieved their goal. 
Jesty had slashes all down his body, and he held a sword in his hand that dripped crimson. It was obvious that neither Sonia nor Rengetsu had helped him. If they had joined in the fight, there was no way Jesty would’ve sustained wounds like that. 
“Looks like you’re done here.” 
“Quite... Thank you, I owe you a debt. The killer is gone now... I think my father will be able to rest in peace now.” 
Is he crying...? His eyes look kinda red. But I guess he’s finally killed the man who took his beloved father away, so there’s nothing worth questioning here. 
“Let’s leave, then. You can come to Brunhild if you don’t have anywhere else.” 
“Thanks.” Rengetsu answered. Jesty still seemed a little out of it. I brought the three of them over to Tsubaki, and found that Yae and Hilde had exited their Frame Gears. 
“Hm...? These are the individuals from the Pruning, they are.” 
“Oh? That’s right... They were Elze and Lucia’s opponents, no?” 
“Ah, I remember you...” 
“Then it was you two in those Frame Gears?” The four of them vaguely recognized each other, but they hadn’t directly encountered one another before. The most they knew about each other was their general appearance. 
I properly introduced Yae, Hilde, and Sonia’s group to each other. Sonia was surprised to learn that they were both my fiancees, but they were even more surprised to learn that I had seven other fiancees, including Elze and Lu. 
Marriage revelations aside, I wondered what to do with the destroyed machines. 
It would’ve been a lot easier if I could’ve just mass transferred them with [Gate]. 
I wondered just where the artifact maintaining the barrier was. Usually they were tucked away in a corner somewhere, or right at the center of the barrier. But there was nothing in particular in the corners of the throne room, and only the trashed throne was in the middle. 
I suddenly noticed two glimmering objects above me. Two golden dragon heads on each corner of the roof. They faced each other and glimmered brightly in the light. They kind of reminded me of the traditional Japanese fish decorations used in some castles. 
Wait a second... I drew Brunhild and blasted them to bits. I was operating under the assumption that they were the things maintaining the barrier, so they’d be useless to anyone that wasn’t Galzeld. 
Right after breaking them I attempted to use [Fly]. It went without a hitch. I’d clearly broken the right things. If only I’d noticed sooner. 
I opened up a massive [Gate] and moved all the Steel Battalion remains to the hangar. 
It’d be nice if this place was settled now that heavenly emperor bastard’s gone... But it probably won’t be the case. Another one will just rise in his place. This country really sucks. It’s trapped in a vicious cycle. 
That being said, I later learned that Xiaofah had already killed all the other contenders for the throne. It was likely that Yulong as a nation was finished. 
I figured that allying the remaining city states in the broken Yulong and choosing a leader from those people might be wise, but it was likely that no matter who was chosen they’d end up being crooked. 
No, come on... That’s prejudiced, Touya. You can’t just write off an entire people. There has to be at least one good person in Yulong... Even if you haven’t met anyone meeting that criterion... 
I got involved in the situation this time because of the Steel Battalion, but I really would’ve preferred it if they handled their own internal affairs. 
From what I’d heard, there were cities close to Hannock in Yulong’s territory that wanted to defect to Hannock. It was possible that neighboring nations would just naturally eat up the territory formerly known as Yulong. 
The imperial family started fighting each other after the Phrase... All these fake successors started popping up... It was honestly possible that there was just nobody left who could claim leadership. 
I checked the castle basement and, sure enough, there was a facility designed to create the machines. It was evacuated though, which meant it was no longer functional. I didn’t want any trouble in the future, so I trashed it before leaving the place for good. 
The following day, I traveled to Roadmare with Bowman. He wasn’t going to be lucky enough to get sent to the mines this time. They unanimously decided on the death penalty. A lot of Yulongese people died in his insane pursuit of knock-off Frame Gears. He had to atone for his crimes. Doge Audrey thought that she had to make an example of him. 
After that, I brought the other two to Felsen. They were more than happy to take Sol into custody. Galzeld, on the other hand... He smelled really bad. Like, really bad. I kind of screwed up in that regard. 
The situation was worsened when it turned out that Sol didn’t know all that much, and Galzeld was so mentally traumatized by the box treatment that he couldn’t even form a coherent sentence under duress. 
His eyes were glazed over, and he drooled like an idiot. All he would do was mutter and giggle. I... I definitely overdid it. 
“Grand Duke... What... Wh-What did you do to him?” 
“...I uh... I just made him smell some stuff, and hear some stuff. You know? Like, a little revenge. It wasn’t a big deal.” The king of Felsen looked down at the murmuring husk of what was once Galzeld Goldie. He pinched his nose and glared in my general direction. 
There was a barrier in the underground jail that negated magic, but it didn’t negate the godawful stink coming from the man. 
We couldn’t take it much longer, so we headed out to the courtyard. I took in as much sweet, clean air as I could once I got out there. 
“Man, that stuff really lingers...” I sniffed my clothing and felt like the stink was actually sticking to me. I remembered reading about a deodorant spell in the Library. I decided I definitely needed to memorize that one. 
The king of Felsen took out a strong-smelling perfume and started liberally applying it to himself. I borrowed it and put some on myself as well. Now the two of us smelled like citrus and mint, which was definitely an upgrade. 
I didn’t expect this guy to carry around something like this... He probably had it around so he could smell good for his fiancee. 
“Ah yes, Grand Duke. Do you recall the Guildmaster from our Magical Chamber of Commerce and Industry?” 
“Hm? That guy with the sunglasses?” He was called Easeus, right? He’s in charge of the massive Felsen organization that manages all the craftwork, mages, and trade in this country. 
“He has three sub-masters that work beneath him, but one of those three went missing this morning. We searched his home, and found a certain item.” The king of Felsen held up a circular pendant with a heptagon in the middle. It was a clear mark of the Golden Order. 
“Guess he freaked out when he learned Galzeld got caught.” 
“That’s likely, yeah. He was part of an elaborate plan to murder me, in fact.” The raid on the sub-master’s house revealed more details on an extensive game plan. Galzeld would attack Felsen from the outside, while this man would subvert Felsen from the inside. 
“Shame I didn’t get to make use of my Brave King...” 
“...What kind of name is that...?” The king of Felsen gestured toward the fancy sword around his waist. 
Brave King, huh...? What a name for a sword. This guy has a really terrible naming sense. I think he’d probably get along with Fashion King Zanac, though. 
“Anyway, there’s still the matter of that forbidden spell they were trying to cast...” 
“Oh, you mean [Sanctuary]. To be blunt, that’s a domination spell.” 
“A what now?” 
“Ludo told me all about it. It’s a foul spell that twists the mind. The worst thing about this particular spell is that it can affect many people at the same time, and the affected parties won’t even be aware that their free will has been stripped away.” 
So, like brainwashing? That’s certainly beyond mere subliminal messaging... 
“If people were under the effects of the spell, then they’d readily accept anything the caster wanted to be considered normal. Galzeld probably planned on using this to create a nation where magic supremacy was not only accepted, but celebrated.” We didn’t really know how to invoke it or anything. Sol was a warrior for the most part. He had some magical aptitude, but he barely knew a thing about the finer details. Galzeld wasn’t in a position where he could answer questions, either. 
“Well, that’s annoying... I guess I’ll have to ask my resident expert.” 
“Excuse me?” These taboo, forbidden spells were created by the ancient civilization. For matters like this, it was just more convenient to ask someone who lived in it. 
I took out my smartphone and started making a call to a certain contact. The phone rang a couple of times and she finally picked up. 
“‘Sup, Doc.” 
“Ah, heyo. C’mon, don’t call me that... Doc is so impersonal, you know? How about you call me Regina? We are lovers, after all.” Doctor Babylon picked up the call and started casually yapping away. 
Since when were we lovers? I don’t recall accepting your love. 
“Anyway, I have a question. Do you have some free time to answer, Doctor?” 
“Hmmph. Are you really gonna be like that...? Fine, what is it?” 
“Have you heard of a spell called [Sanctuary] at all?” 
“Oh, that one? Uh... yeah, it’s a pretty potent mind control spell. What about it?” 
“Do you know how to invoke it?” 
“Sure do. A lot of sacrifices. Specifically, magically potent people need to be sacrificed. They have to be the same race as the caster, too. The bigger the range, the more sacrifices are needed. Although if the caster has a huge amount of magic, that can offset the amount of people who need to die.” 
Sacrifices, geez. That sure sounds bloody. But I guess these spells are forbidden for a reason. 
“The effect wears off after you leave the spell’s range, though. It wasn’t considered a popular or useful spell, especially since anyone with decent magic power is resistant to it.” 
“Wait, seriously?” 
“Pretty much. It was used in maximum security prisons at most, and even then it wasn’t all that great. Not every country used it, either. Partheno certainly didn’t.” 
Huh... I guess it’d be useful to prevent prison riots and stuff. But I wonder who they sacrificed for it... Maybe death row inmates were sacrificed to maintain the spell? Who knows. 
“So what would it take to cast it on an entire country?” 
“Don’t make me laugh. Do you know how many people would have to die for that to pay off? You’d basically need to kill the population of another country just to maintain that kind of effect. Plus the people dying would have to come in a steady stream. Humanity would have to go extinct for it to work out.” Well, that certainly lined up with what was said. I wondered if that’s why they’d declared war on Felsen. They could’ve used the casualties as fuel for the spell. The elite soldiers of Felsen were famed for their magic potency, after all. 
Even so, it seemed like the Golden Order had fundamentally misunderstood the spell. If a person left the range, then it’d be undone. It’d be super impractical to try to reign using it. Plus more sacrifices would be necessary. Were they planning on fighting an eternal war? It was possible that they’d learned about the spell from old writings or something, but misinterpreted or simply missed information that would’ve clarified the important details. 
“Alright. Thanks for the help.” 
“Sure, no problem. Oh, I have a request. I would like for you to show me more of those Annie Mays we were watching the other day.” 
“Mm... Yeah, alright. Just don’t go binging them all night again, alright?” 
“Fine, fine. I got it. I promise!” I showed her the anime that originally inspired me to create the Fragarach, but it probably ended up being a mistake. I’d shown her a single show, but she was thirsty for more... She seemed to get a lot of ideas while watching the shows. It made me wonder if she’d start making legless Frame Gears or something at some point. Though, those robots were more suited to space battles than anything else. 
I told the king of Felsen about what the doc had told me. He was a little surprised I had such a comprehensive source, but gradually began to nod along. 
“I see... So they simply missed the information about the limitations and passed down the knowledge of it being a more powerful spell than it was, hm?” 
“Maybe, but I’m not so sure. After all, they could mentally condition people with a command like ‘leaving the sanctuary is dangerous.’ It doesn’t change the fact that controlling the mind is messed up.” Despite the limits of the spell, they would’ve still been able to do it. The prison method used in the past was a little frightening, honestly. Putting human rights issues aside, sacrificing the condemned to placate the imprisoned... It was super messed up. It really did deserve its status as a forbidden spell. 
“Still, in the long-term, the spell wouldn’t have helped Gordian create what they longed for...” 
“That’s right.” They really were a pathetic lot... They’re the daydream believers who hope for something better, and cling on to stuff they can’t achieve. 
“It’s still troubling that there are so many that followed their ideals, though. According to Sol’s testimony, Gordian’s members number more than we expected. There’s also the remaining members of that Steel Battalion. Their leader has been captured, and there’s only a faint glimmer of hope for their forbidden spell. They only have one final course of action, I think...” 
“Your Highness! Armored Wood Golems and several strange machines are near our Yulong border! The scouting report numbers around three-thousand of them in total! They’re marching in the direction of the capital!” An exhausted soldier charged over and started screaming at us. 
I goddamn knew it. 
But wait, Wood Golems too? Bowman, you son of a bitch! 
“Th-Three thousand...?!” The king of Felsen started sweating bullets, but I turned to him with a grin. 
“Need a hand?” 
“Yeah, no worries. Our stolen Frame Gear ended up creating the basis for the Steel Battalion anyway. Also they kind of pissed me off, so I’d like to put a stop to them.” 
I already had enough to worry about with the Phrase and everything else. I didn’t need these guys adding to the troubles. 
I decided that I’d end the problem right there, once and for all. 
“Oooh... There’s a lot...” They were pretty far off, but the Steel Battalion and Armored Golems were advancing in our direction. 
There were roughly three-thousand in total. About nine-hundred-and-fifty of them made up the Steel Battalion, and the rest were Golems. 
Some of them were being piloted by mages, but not all of them. About two thirds of them were being automated by Golem cores, and a lot of the pilots were non-mages. 
The Golden Order saw anyone who could even use a little bit of magic as an ally. Sol was only capable of a small amount, but that’s why he was accepted by them. But anyone that couldn’t use magic was seen as inferior beings, and treated like barbarians. 
Sol had been promised a high-ranking military position in the new Magia Imperium that they wanted to establish, but that dream wasn’t going to happen now. 
Operating one of the Steel Battalion wasn’t difficult. An amateur could handle it after a few days of practice. Though of course the individual capability definitely varied. 
So yeah. Nine-hundred-and-fifty Steel Battalion units, two-thousand-and-fifty Armored Golems... And about sixty Frame Gears waiting to fight them. We were outnumbered roughly fifty to one. 
They had an overwhelming numerical advantage, that much was true. I wasn’t afraid, though. I’d fought the one Bowman was piloting, and figured out a few things. It was clearly different to the Frame Gears. They just couldn’t compare to our new models. Though I definitely needed to support the army. I couldn’t expect everyone to be able to take out fifty enemies alone. 
“Grand Duke... Will this many truly be enough to win?” 
“We’re going to be fine, don’t worry about it. Just trust me on this. I don’t think your battlemages need to trouble themselves, honestly.” The king of Felsen sighed quietly, so I gave him some reassurance. 
There were around two-thousand battlemages behind the Frame Gears, just in case. I told him we didn’t need them, but I didn’t mind them standing by if it made him feel better. 
A rabbit-eared knight came bounding over toward us. 
“Milord. All combatants have boarded their Frame Gears. We’re ready to move whenever.” 
“Roger that. Let’s take care not to overexert ourselves.” 
“Of course.” Knight Commander Lain gave me a little salute and boarded her Shining Count. I was really proud of how far she’d come. She had the makings of a true leader in her. 
There was a crest with a rabbit design carved on to the pauldrons of Lain’s Frame Gear. Given she was a rabbit beastman herself, it made sense to me. Apparently Linze had designed the emblem, which caught me by surprise. 
Similarly, there was a fox emblem on Vice-Commander Nikola’s Frame Gear, and a wolf on Vice-Commander Norn’s. 
Each of them was leading a sub-group of twenty Chevaliers. On top of that, Elze, Yae, and Hilde were participating with Gerhilde, Schwertleite, and Siegrune. Moroha was also hanging around as extra firepower. With all that stuff backing us, I had nothing to fear at all. 
“Alright. Shall we begin?” The moment I spoke, dozens of portals opened in the air above the enemy. I connected my [Storage] and allowed several small phrasium balls to rain down on the enemy. Naturally I’d increased their weight with [Gravity] as well. 
“[Meteor Rain]!” They all fell down at the same time. The altitude was too high for a pin-point precise attack, but it wasn’t like they were easy to dodge to begin with. 
The Steel Battalion and Golems alike were whittled down by the crystal barrage. The earth itself trembled as the balls penetrated the ground. 
Their numbers ended up being reduced by about a third by my initial strike alone. I used my smartphone to broadcast to everyone on the battlefield. 
“All units, engage! Let’s wipe ’em all out!” 
“HOO-AH!!!” All the Frame Gears started following their respective commanders. The gray Chevaliers began to trade blows with the Steel Battalion. After only two or three hits, a Chevalier was able to slice one of the Steel Battalion scrapbots in half. 
Height-wise, the Steel Battalion only came up to a Frame Gear’s chest. They still looked sturdy due to their stout design, but it seemed like that was more for their looks than anything else. In all honesty, they were more flimsy than you’d expect. They were kind of like cheap foreign knock-offs, with a lot of cut corners in the manufacturing process. 
I wondered exactly how shoddy the raw materials they used were. They were honestly crumpling like dollar-store goods. 
Hell, when they hit Frame Gears, little bits of them broke off on impact. It was pitiful to watch. 
“I guess I’ll be heading out, then.” 
“Just don’t go nuts, yeah? No need to rend the earth or sky. Just offer your support.” 
“I got it, I got it...” Moroha merrily charged on to the battlefield, wielding a two-meter phrasium blade in one hand. 
You’re gonna shock them on appearance alone... None of them are gonna expect a swordswoman to charge them! 
“Die, die, die!! Get crushed, losers!” Elze’s Gerhilde was firing its pile bunkers all over the place, crushing Golem cores left and right. She raged across the battlefield like a crimson deity of destruction. 
Yae’s Schwertleite was gracefully dancing across the battlefield, slicing any enemy it came across cleanly in two. She didn’t waste a single motion. 
Hilde’s Siegrune was supporting the Chevaliers by blocking attacks with her shield, and crushing the enemy with counter-attacks. She was doing a great job of defending her allies in the more crowded parts of the battlefield. 
“Touya, Touya! Come on! Haven’t I waited long enough?!” I suddenly heard a voice from a mech that I hadn’t deployed to the battlefield. It was Sue, in her personal Frame Gear. Ortlinde. 
It was a Frame Gear that specialized in defensive functionality. It had a coating of phrasium above its orichalcum base, giving it the strongest armor out of any Frame Gear produced so far. It was golden and adorned with black here and there, giving it the most gaudy appearance as well. It wasn’t quite to my taste, but Sue demanded it... I couldn’t win against her whining. 
It was a complete coincidence that the name matched up with her family name, too... It just happened to go with the naming scheme. I’m serious. That’s why I said it twice. 
While it specialized in defense, that wasn’t its true power. 
“Alright, let’s let you debut then. It’s the first time, so we’ll try manual control. Cesca, Rosetta, Monica. You ready?” 
I put my smartphone up to my ear to get the final confirmation. 
“Gungnir ready, Master.” 
“Laevateinn ready, sir!” 
“Mjolnir is, like, totally ready!” I confirmed that they were all ready to roll. It was time to test this out. 
“Alright. Sue, begin the combo sequence! Docking approved!” 
“Gotcha! Frame dockinggg!” As Sue yelled, a spear-like object flew in from the sky. It was Gungnir, the flying boat. 
Then the armored train, Laevateinn, kicked up dust into the air as it barreled in from the rear. 
At the same time, the multipurpose underground tank, Mjolnir, burst out from the ground with its mighty drill. 
Laevateinn wasn’t technically a train, since it floated a bit above the ground and didn’t use rails. It’s kind of similar to a linear motor train... I guess? Nah, not really... They’re not alike at all. 
Mjolnir didn’t actually drill the earth in front of it, either. It just used magic to displace the earth in another area. The drill was little more than a snazzy decoration for the most part. 
Basically, Mjolnir used [Storage] to shift the earth in front of it out of the way, and then put it back in the space behind it. So it could move through the earth without actually making tunnels. It was capable of using the drill, but that only really happened when it initially entered the earth and rose up out of the earth. Its design was based on something in an older anime I showed them. 
When all three support vehicles came together and got within range of Ortlinde, the Frame Gear would rise into the air and prepare for the combination mode. Ortlinde’s specialized docking system allowed it to combine with the three support units and enhance its power. Mjolnir split itself into two and fused with Ortlinde to become its legs. 
Then Laevateinn split itself into two and stuck itself on to the end of Ortlinde’s arms and created longer limbs. 
Lastly, Gungnir would swoop down and fold itself into a V-shape before docking on Ortlinde’s back. After that a mask would pop out of the Frame Gear’s chest and land on its face, and its horns would start emitting light. I questioned the need for a gimmick like that, but whatever. 
“Behold our true power! Ortlinde Overlord!” 
Seriously...? Ortlinde Overlord? These guys are just getting out of hand now. What kind of tacky naming convention is that?! The earth shuddered as the uh... Ortlinde... Overlord, thing, crashed to the ground. The mighty hero finally made its debut. 
The lumbering golden god descended upon the stage. It was twice as big as a regular Frame Gear. It was absolutely a symbol of pure power. 
“Wh-What the...” 
“It’s huge... Can that thing fight?!” The Felsen army stared in disbelief. Honestly it was enough to even blow me away, so I could understand what they were feeling. 
“Here we go! Cannon Knuckle!” The Ortlinde Overlord’s right arm detached and rocketed toward one of the Armored Golems. It was a thick lump of orichalcum and phrasium that hurtled through the air at impossible speeds, shattering the Golem to pieces. 
The right arm, which worked similarly to the Fragarach system, swung around in an arc before pulling back and clicking back on Ortlinde’s elbow. 
You guys even made that...? Talk about getting carried away! Installing a Fragarach is fine and all, but you remodeled it into a goddamn rocket punch? I imagined that this was Doctor Babylon’s doing. She probably said something like “this needs more punch!” 
The Ortlinde Overlord suddenly charged into the heat of battle. Its body was massive, but it still moved with a startling level of speed. This was because it was enchanted with [Gravity] at several key points. 
The Ortlinde Overlord smashed itself into a Golem. It was then that I realized I hadn’t really designed any weapons for it. I made a mental note to put some together later on. 
The Golem she’d hit fell to the ground and died immediately. The struck area had been completely obliterated. Ortlinde was an unreasonable powerhouse... I questioned whether it was wise to actually give it to Sue. 
“Sue. Be a little more careful with your movements. Think about where your hits’ll land.” 
“I got it! Rosetta handles that stuff anyway, don’t worry!” She answered as she made Ortlinde casually smash a Golem’s head. 
Hmm... We initially planned for the vehicles to be in autopilot mode. It might be better if they’re always set to manual gynoid control... 
“Cannon Knuckle!!!” ... Yeah, manual’s best. They can stop her if she gets overzealous. Holy crap she just wiped out a ton of them! 
The enemy had already been routed in the area where Ortlinde Overlord was rampaging. That made sense though; the very presence of the thing had completely demoralized the opposing side. 
Moroha, however, wasn’t going to let anyone escape. She sliced off the arms and legs of the Steel Battalion bots, and then sealed their cockpits shut, effectively trapping the pilots inside metal tombs. 
A mere hour after the battle had begun, it was over. 
“Milord. We’ve accomplished our mission.” 
“Excellent work. Keep an eye out just in case any enemies try fleeing. Sue and the rest, keep an eye out for any weird magic readings. We don’t want anyone looting us again.” 
“Gotcha!” I looked over at the king of Felsen. He was simply staring in disbelief. 
“I’ll leave the arrest of the Steel Battalion pilots to you, alright?” 
“Huh...? O-Oh, yes... Right. Leave it to us. We’ll jail them, interrogate them, and such. I’m sure they’ll come peacefully after seeing this one-sided victory.” 
With that, the dream of the Golden Order had been annihilated. 
The Felsen army bore witness to the event, so news would probably spread fast. Even if the Golden Order had remnant members around the country, they’d probably keep quiet after hearing what happened here. 
Naturally, we’d still interrogate the captured members here in order to find out more information on the members, hideouts, and other details. 
All I did in this battle was invoke [Meteor Rain], so I was impressed. This wasn’t a battle against the Phrase, so they would’ve probably done just fine without me. 
I looked up at Sue’s Frame Gear with a smile on my face. The rising sun shone against its glimmering gold. 
All the members of the Golden Order had been successfully rounded up, including the sub-leader. With that, the organization was done for. 
Upon being caught, all the members were informed of the truth about the [Sanctuary] spell. After learning that, most came quietly, apparently crushed by the news. Even though it was far too late for them, they realized the futility of their plans. 
They looked miserable, but they were just reaping what they’d sown. Their efforts had resulted in the deaths of many, and their ambitions would’ve killed even more. I had no sympathy for them at all. 
Those who had committed serious offenses were immediately put to death, those who committed lesser offenses were given fifty years of hard labor in the mines. 
In regards to the Steel Battalion, it seemed that Galzeld’s Magic Corps operated separately from Bowman’s Magitechnicians, so all knowledge about how to create them was confined to Bowman and, to a lesser extent, his team. 
Still, it’s not like the two would be able to make anything ‘proper’ compared to a Frame Gear even if they worked together perfectly. 
Bowman had been publicly executed in Roadmare already, and Galzeld’s execution was already scheduled. There were definitely magitechnicians and engineers that had some vague ideas of how the Steel Battalion was put together, but they were all in custody. I had a good feeling that I wouldn’t be seeing any of those machines around ever again. Nobody with that kind of knowledge was around anymore, after all. 
Then again, they’d been built, so it was possible that someone could reverse engineer something from that which had already been reverse engineered. It was entirely possible for knock-offs of knock-offs to appear, or maybe even knock-offs of those knock-offs of knock-offs could sprout up in the future. 
“Trash is trash at the end of the day, but I’m honestly impressed he managed to create such an effective bastardization of my Frame Gears.” 
“That’s right, ma’am! It’s crude as heck, but still impressive in the worst possible way! I’m amazed to the point where I can’t even think of how he did it, yessir!” Both of the Babylon twerps jeered and shook their heads as they looked at the wrecked mech. 
Y’know if you two keep bitching about the Steel Battalion any longer, Bowman’s vengeful ghost might float over here and whine. I’d just use [Banish] on him, though. No biggie. 
We took the preventative measure of trashing every member of the Steel Battalion we could find. I really didn’t want to find out that someone stole one and made an even shoddier version. 
Felsen was thankful to me for sweeping the dark matter under the rug. My reputation in Yulong, on the other hand, had gone down even further... 
I’d gone in disguise, but Yae’s Schwertleite and Hilde’s Siegrune stuck out like a sore thumb. Everyone who saw the incident now believed the Silver Oni to be an agent of Brunhild. 
The people of the capital were happy that the Heavenly Emperor was dead, but they weren’t thankful that it was me that had done it. They probably didn’t appreciate that I had barged in without formal declaration and just done what I wanted. 
It’s not like I did it for the sake of the people of Yulong or anything, but even so... It was a little disappointing to not be appreciated. It’s not like I needed their thanks, but it still would’ve been nice to have. 
Yulong was absolutely not gonna recover as a nation at this point, and that suited me just fine. They’d have to rely on foreign aid to pull themselves back up, and no nation on the continent wanted to offer them anything like that. 
There already wasn’t enough food to go around in the central provinces, so most Yulongese citizens were moving outwards towards towns on the borders of the other countries. 
Those towns effectively relied on those external countries to survive, so it’d only be a matter of time before the territories were absorbed by Roadmare, Felsen, Horn, Hannock, or Nokia. 
Xenoahs maintained its typical non-interference policy, but that was nothing new. There weren’t as many immigrants heading up that way anyway; the climate was rougher and the food that their people ate took quite a bit of getting used to. 
Plus, there were no major towns near the Xenoahs border anyway. 
Either way, a lot had happened, but I felt like I could finally relax a little. 
I wanted to take some time off, but there was still enough left to be done that it wasn’t possible for me to totally rest... 
“So what will you guys be doing now?” 
Sonia, Rengetsu, and Jesty were staying in the Silver Moon for the time being, I decided to visit them. Their quest of vengeance was over, after all, so I had a feeling they’d be moving on. 
“Well, we’re adventurers... And we happen to have heard about a certain set of ruins accessible from Brunhild. So we were thinking of settling down here for a while and tackling quests here in order to make some extra money. Sound good?” Sonia and Jesty nodded along with what Rengetsu told me. I was completely fine with it. Having talented adventurers like them around would surely be a boon. 
I asked them to keep quiet about what had happened in Yulong. But I didn’t really think they were the types to brag about having killed one of the prospective Heavenly Emperors of a foreign nation. 
In all honesty I wanted them to join my knight order. They were absolutely strong enough... But I held off on the invitation because I didn’t want to tie them down. 
I waved goodbye to the trio and then started wandering off. 
“Oh, milord. Taking a lone stroll, today?” 
“Ah, milord! Got some tasty apples for sale!” 
“Milord! Wanna play spinning tops with us?!” A bunch of different townsfolk from all walks of life greeted me as I strolled along. It wasn’t really possible for me to go around without attracting attention, but I didn’t mind too much. 
Everyone had seemed to default to calling me ‘milord,’ though. Felt almost like a weird nickname. They weren’t trying to mock me or anything, so it was fine. They were just finally getting used to my hands-on approach. 
The Duchy of Brunhild only had one town. So in a sense, this town was Brunhild. If the town became any bigger, it’d absolutely be Brunhild’s capital city. 
I decided to head out east. There were a bunch of rice paddies there, because it was the site of our farming operation. Environmentally speaking, that area of the country was similar to rural Eashen. Honestly the whole place felt like a Japanese farming village. The water wheel I had installed there also added to that aesthetic. 
“Things are looking good here.” 
“Ah, milord. Visiting little old me?” Lakshy the alraune was taking a little break beneath a tree. She was ostensibly a member of our knight order, but most of her duties these days were agricultural. 
She was a demonkin species rooted in plant life, after all. She was the ideal person for the job. It was for this reason that she was allowed to skip out on most regular knightly duties. 
Our knight order had around a hundred members, but around forty of those weren’t actually combatants. They were assigned to other areas. Some tended the land like Lakshy, some worked in clerical positions, some worked as covert intelligence, some in construction, and so on. 
Still, that didn’t mean they were weak. They were still people who had passed my examination process. They still trained on their own in their spare time, too. It wasn’t like they could farm or paperwork shuffle their way out of a conflict if it came to them. 
“We’ll be expecting a heavy haul of rice in the fall.” 
“Looking forward to it. Is there anything troublesome going on around here, by the way?” 
“Uhm... Lemme think. Oh, I guess I was a little concerned because it hasn’t rained much in the past couple days. But it’s not like you can fix that, milord...” 
“Descend, O Water. Blessing of the Heavens: [Heavenly Rain]!” The pitter-patter of water fell down to the ground as the heavens opened up. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, but rain fell all the same, localized entirely on the farm. In the past I’d made a mistake in regards to the range, but I’d since honed it to the point of selecting the area. 
The farmers in the field seemed a little confused at the sudden rain, and even more confused at the [Shield] spells I’d manifested above their heads. But once they saw me they just shrugged as if they understood it was one of those things, and sat down a bit to relax. 
Lakshy looked on in wonder before turning her attention to me once more. 
“Goodness me... Is there nothing you can’t do, milord?” 
“There’s a lot I can’t do, Lakshy. That’s why I rely on you and everyone else.” 
Doing everything myself is no way to live. I’m glad that I can depend on others to build my nation with me. Doing it alone just isn’t right. Old man Naito, Kousaka... Lakshy, and everyone else. You guys are the ones that actually run this country. The best thing I can do is keep you all safe while you keep on moving forwards. I won’t forgive anyone that targets this nation or its people. If anyone wants to start shit for no good reason, like Yulong, I’ll come down on them like a ton of bricks. 
The rain finally ended, and I headed away from the farmland. 
I decided to visit the recently-built school. There weren’t any students in attendance yet, but Fiana and the two other recently-hired teachers were cleaning up their respective classrooms. 
The two new teachers were a female human in her 20s, and a male elf. He looked young, but he was an elf... I later learned he was apparently over two-hundred years old. That still made him younger than Doc Babylon and Leen, though... which felt a little weird. 
The woman was named Miette, and the elf guy was called Leisail. Miette had gotten a formal education in the Regulus Empire, and then made her way to Brunhild. Leisail was a mage, and apparently quite the veteran adventurer. He was hired on Relisha’s recommendation. 
Yumina used her Mystic Eye to determine whether or not they were good people, just in case. They were both deemed to be pure of heart. 
I was heading over to greet them, when I suddenly noticed a clowder of cats in one of the schoolyard corners. 
“What in the...” 
The cats were surrounding a cardboard box. Stood atop the box, on his hind legs, dictating to the group in some foreign tongue, was none other than Mr. Mittens... 
“Meow meow meow. Yeow meow. Meow! Meeeeow!” 
...Cat language? What the hell is he saying? 
“The hell’s going on here, Mr. Mittens?” 
“It’s D’Artagnan! And I’m acquiring pawsitive infurmation from my informeowants here.” 
Your informants...? You became king of the strays, now? Well, Kohaku still outclasses you. 
“And what are you gonna use that information for, huh?” 
“Fur security purrposes, of course! The school’s my territory, so I’m gonna protect my venerable benefactor from harm!” 
...Since when was this place your territory? Well, whatever. Using cats to get information on suspicious happenings is actually really smart. If anything happens around here, then a stray cat has a good chance of seeing it. Good job, Mr. Mittens. 
“Well, alright then. If anything weird happens, let Sakura know.” 
“You got it, meow.” I hadn’t summoned him, so he didn’t have a telepathic bond with me. He still had a link with Sakura though, so if he informed her, she could phone me right away. 
As I pondered the effectiveness of a cat spy network, my phone began to ring. Huh. A call? I took my phone out of my pocket and saw that the caller was none other than Doctor Babylon. I have a bad feeling about this... 
“Touya, Touya! I think the next one should have a transformative function that allows it to shift from humanoid form to a more battle-oriented form...!” 
“Master, Master, sir! The next one should be a supercarrier battleship that can transport all the Frame Gears at once, yessir it should!” 
“There should be A-Parts that slot into B-Parts...!” 
“If Ma’am Sakura’s Frame Gear uses singing to create oscillation attacks, then...!” 
Shut up! The moment I picked up the call, I received a flood of screaming from Rosetta and Regina both. I instinctively pulled the phone away from my ear. I really shouldn’t have shown you guys any anime... You’re just making whatever the hell you want! God damn it. 
Well, I’m a dude, so I can understand their excitement... It’s honestly a little bit jarring when I see girls get so fired up about giant robots. Maybe I’ve been thinking about this from the wrong angle the whole time. The two of them started blabbing and asking more details about some mecha shows they’d seen. 
I didn’t want to go into too much detail, since some of the giant robots they asked about worked on nuclear fission, and I absolutely didn’t want that kind of technology getting introduced into this world. I knew Babylon would up and make something like that if I was too detailed. 
In the end, I sighed in defeat and moved the phone far from my ear, but I could still hear their chattering voices... 

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