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A Battle Ignited  

It was just before dawn. The snow had stopped falling, but it was still bitter cold outside. Over in a nook of the High-End Residential District’s park, a trio of former nobles shivered as they stared at the burnt remains of their homes.

“What’s…what’s gonna happen to us?”

“Hell if I know.”

The pudgy youth sounded like he was on the verge of tears, but Kyle, their byuma leader, replied bluntly.

“I had no idea the empire would take such extreme measures while we nobles were still in the city…” The tall youth, who’d lost his glasses in the evacuation, seemed to be at his wit’s end. As a relative of Marquis Archride’s, the young man had never felt so fearful for his life before. However, the truth laid out before their eyes was all too clear. They’d been left with nothing.

But as they crouched there despondently—

“Hey, wee nobles over there.”

—a middle-aged common-born woman holding a stack of blankets called out to them.

“We’ve got a fire goin’ and some food cookin’, so c’mon over. And here, take these. You kids’ll catch your death of cold, dressed as you are.” The woman handed them each one of the quilts. Two of them eagerly received the kindness, but Kyle…

“…Giving charity to nobles, huh? I bet you’re getting a real kick outta this.” Still crouching, he glared at her and spat out a snide remark.


“K-Kyle, this is no time to be saying stuff like that…!”

“Y-yeah, that’s right! C’mon, you gotta apologize…!”

The byuma was uninterested in the advice of his friends, however. His upbringing and the way he’d lived his life forbade him from accepting anything from the woman. Why should a noble like him have to accept charity from a commoner? He would’ve rather frozen to death than live with the shame.

Instead of reaching out, he piled on the vitriol.

“You rabble must be having a hoot seeing us like this. You’re all filthy hypocrites!”

The woman sighed in exasperation. “Look, you nobles spent generations actin’ all high and mighty and lookin’ down on us even though you didn’t do squat. If you ask me if I like y’all or not, to be honest, I hate your guts.” The woman gazed down at Kyle with contempt in her eyes.

“See?! Then why even bother?” But when Kyle tried to shoo her away…

“But noble or commoner, an empty belly on a cold winter night hurts just the same.”

Suddenly, warmth filled the young byuma boy’s body. The woman had draped the blanket around his shivering shoulders. As she stared straight into his bloodshot eyes, the corners of her mouth curled into a gentle smile.

“We’re all just people, and we know darn well how tough life can be. We’re not about to leave you boys in the lurch.”


“Now, c’mon and get your butts over here already. Gimme any more lip, and I’ll just drag you there myself!”

With that, the woman hoisted Kyle up by the collar and carted him off. As an aristocrat, he’d never worked a day in his life. To him, this older woman seemed unbelievably strong. Her actions left Kyle at a loss for words.

He couldn’t bring himself to spew any more complaints or hostility. That smile she’d given him had begun melting the cold around his heart. In that moment, Kyle finally realized something—just how little he understood. The pompous byuma had known nothing about the world or the kindness of the people who lived in it. Such a realization brought a tremble to his voice.

“…I’m sorry…”

In his heart, Kyle resolved to confess to the Seven Luminaries about the terrorist attack he’d been plotting with the Roaring Thunder bombs.

Meanwhile, Tsukasa Mikogami was sitting atop the burnt wreckage of the city’s municipal office and talking to someone on the phone. The call was from Shinobu Sarutobi, who was in the middle of her mission to infiltrate the Gustav domain.

After getting in touch with the Blue Brigade resistance movement, she’d heard about Heavenly Fire—the war magic known as Rage Soleil—and had retrieved her phone from Elch to warn Tsukasa of its danger.

However, upon discovering her report had come too late—


—she shrieked so loudly the phone speaker’s audio peaked.

Tsukasa’s right ear took the hit directly, very nearly blowing out his eardrum. With a grimace, the boy switched the phone to his still-functioning left ear and made his displeasure known.

“Keep it down, Shinobu.”

“So wait, you’re serious? You guys already got hit by Rage Soleil?!”


“I-is everyone okay?! From what I heard, that spell is a real nasty piece of work!”

“Everyone pulled together, so we were able to limit the damages to only a third of the city.”

“Oof… Th-this is a bad look. In fact, if I had to rank every humiliating thing that’s ever happened to me, this’d be third from the top! I’m supposed to always get the scoop on dirty dealings before they go live, but this time, I missed my deadline! I mean, Gustav did go off on his own without even getting in touch with his army… Dammit. Has this guy never heard of a little thing called patience?! Go bald, jackass!”

“If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather you keep the strange curses to yourself.”

Shinobu, who normally hid her true feelings behind an evasive front, was throwing a fit like a child. She must really have been upset. After all, the prodigy journalist prided herself on being the best. Finding that fact somewhat reassuring, Tsukasa changed the subject.

“…As far as Rage Soleil goes, what’s done is done. There’s no point brooding about it. Now, about this resistance you mentioned…the Blue Brigade. Good work getting in contact with them. That alone made your mission well worth the effort. I want you and Elch to continue working with them while feeding us any strategic information they give you. I’ll need intel on those rebels, too… There’s no guarantee they’ll stay an ally forever.”

“…Aight, got it. I’ll text you what I know so far.”

“Please do.”

“I really am sorry, you know…”

After an apology that sounded like she was on the verge of tears, the call ended. Masato, who’d been waiting in the wings with a stack of papers in one hand, called over to Tsukasa.

“Was that Shinobu?”

“It was. She was calling to warn us about Rage Soleil.”

“Little late to the party on that one.”

“And quite torn up about it, too.”

“Ha-ha. Yeah, that’s gotta be a rough blow for a top journalist like her,” Masato laughed. “But hey, these things happen, y’know?” The fact that Shinobu regularly exposed the Sanada Group’s legally murky dealings probably factored into Masato’s amusement.

“Oh, and by the way, what was that ‘last idea’ of yours?”

“Hmm? What are you talking about?”

“When you called us, you said you might have a way to deal with the magic fire, remember?”

“Ah, that,” Tsukasa replied. “It was more or less the same as what Lyrule told us. I was going to suggest firing another missile at the spear. Apparently, magic’s power is proportional to the number of spirits it employs. The more ice spirits your ice bullet uses, the greater its penetrative power; the more wind spirits you use in your wind slash, the sharper it’ll be.

“With enough of them, even mere spears of frozen water made with tactical magic could pierce iron shields. Taking that into account, converged-state war magic is probably tougher than steel. It made sense that our missiles couldn’t break it…but with the flames spread out around the city, I thought we might have a chance. It was all just conjecture, though; no guarantee it would’ve worked.”

“Yeah, but you hit the nail on the head.”

“In this world, magic is just another technical system. Proper research goes a long way. I took what I’d learned and made an educated guess.”

After making it all sound easy, Tsukasa picked up his phone to make another call. Seeing his friend like that filled Masato with confidence. Magic hadn’t even existed in their world, but in just one short month, Tsukasa had been able to get enough of a grasp on it to make an accurate prediction in a time of crisis.

Lyrule’s awakening had been an unexpected boon for them, but even without that, Tsukasa had already taken the threat magic posed into account and made proper preparations to deal with it. Honestly, the guy was unreal.

Y’know, you’re the only person in this whole world I can truly rely on. That was precisely what made Tsukasa so scary.

You’re trying to save as many people as you can, and I’m trying to get my hands on as much stuff as I can. Eventually…our paths are gonna diverge.

Masato was certain of it. At some point, he and his childhood friend were going to end up as enemies. That battle was bound to be the fiercest, most trying battle the Devil of Finance would ever face. A pang of loneliness crossed Masato’s face as he thought about the future.

“Oh, Merchant, there was something I wanted to tell you. Lyrule remembered something.” Tsukasa was evidently finished with his short conversation.

“Apparently, she heard a female voice in her dream telling her that she needed to ‘guide the Seven Heroes.’”

Burying his worries for the future, Masato replied, “Huh… That’s pretty specific, isn’t it?”

“I’d suspected as much since the incident at Castle Findolph, but Lyrule, the reason we’re here, and this strange woman’s voice all seem deeply connected. The voice wants us to defeat this ‘evil dragon’ or what have you, and it also wants Lyrule to help us do it… Given the information we have so far, that’s about the shape of things.”

“Well, at least this voice doesn’t seem like an enemy…”

“…But there’s no guarantee it’s an ally, either.”

“True, true. Hey, you said you were looking into Lyrule’s origins, right? How’d that go?”

“I stopped by Elm last week and asked Winona and the mayor about it again. Nothing new on that front.”

“They just found her in the woods, huh?”

Tsukasa nodded.

“I kept an eye on their pupils and lip movements, but it didn’t seem as though either of them was lying.”

“So we’re at an impasse…”

“It’s fine. This time, the unknown took a step toward us. Besides, once we decided that we’d see the People’s Revolution through, information on how to get home shifted down in our priority list. Right now, what we should be worrying about…is what’s listed in that stack of papers you’re holding.”

“You can say that again.” The prodigy businessman heaved a gloomy sigh as he rapidly flipped through the stack. That was all he needed to parse the words and numbers recorded within. Enumerated on the documents was a list of all the food and supplies that Dormundt had lost in the fire.

“Thanks to those inventories you had us put together in advance, rebuilding the city should go pretty smoothly, but the food situation’s a little dire. Losing the Port District’s warehouses hit us pretty hard.”

“How long do we have?”

“Even with contributions from nearby villages, we’re gonna run dry in about a month… And that’s right when winter gets its coldest and nastiest.”

“I figured as much.”

“Yep. So what’s the plan?”

“This.” As the word left Tsukasa’s mouth, a throng of soldiers came rushing over and stood at attention before them. At their head was the Order of the Seven Luminaries’ commander, Bernard. His voice boomed as he spoke.

“Mr. Tsukasa, the first squadron’s armaments have been fully modernized. We’re fifty in total, at your call.”

It was just as the commander said. The soldiers had traded their armor for winter gear and their swords and spears for the newly minted wood-and-iron firearms.

In the Le Luk Mountain Range, it was a struggle just finding somewhere to stand. However, there was a single, wide, smooth road that cut across that treacherous terrain.

A few generations ago, when the Freyjagard Empire had ordered the Findolph family to break ground to the north, they’d carved their way through the mountains and built the mountainous region’s only road capable of supporting carriage traffic.

Naturally, such a path had a checkpoint.

The stone brickwork checkpoint barred the way to the mountain’s wide valley, and it boasted a gigantic gate easily thirty feet tall.

Normally, it had fifty Buchwald soldiers stationed in it, keeping watch twenty-four hours a day. Now that they were on high alert, though, that number had been quadrupled. The checkpoint stood two hundred guardsmen strong. They were split into three teams, each taking an eight-hour shift, and together, they made sure to survey from every direction.

It was midnight, a few days after Rage Soleil had set Dormundt on fire.

“Gah, I’m freezing my balls off here. Looks like we’ve got another blizzard today, too.”

“Hey, it’s time for the shift change.”

“Ah, you’re a lifesaver. If I had to stay in this drafty rat trap any longer, I’d probably freeze to death.”

“Yeah, they could at least put up some glass windows or something.”

There were a number of little watchhouses mounted atop the stone ramparts stretching across the mountain valley. The soldiers stationed in one of them glanced off into the blizzard as they shivered from the bone-chilling cold.

“Nah, glass’d get all fogged up. Can’t keep watch if you can’t see.”

“Who cares? Not like anyone’d be stupid enough to try crossing Le Luk in the winter… Now, c’mon, let’s get back to the barracks already. I wanna sneak some booze and jerky from the larders on our way back.”

Hearing the gaunt-faced soldier say that took his stubbly, stern-looking partner aback. “Hey, whoa, they execute people for that kind of stuff.”

“Not if they don’t find out. The cold storage is always packed to the gills during the winter, and with how they’re prepping for war this year, it’s practically overflowing. Who’s gonna notice if a bottle or two goes missing?”

“Yeah, I say go for it. The battalion commander turns a blind eye to that stuff on purpose. After all, going to sleep in weather like this without a little something to warm you up means you risk not waking up at all.”

Seeing the relief-shift soldiers agree so strongly turned the sterner guardsman’s opinion around. “Well, when you put it like that…”

“Then hey, let’s—”

But right as the two off-the-clock watchmen made to leave their post, something unusual happened.

The sound of an explosion rocked the ears of the four guards, and a mighty tremor ran through the floor.

“Wh-what’s going on?!”

After frantically grabbing torches, they made for the ramparts and looked down. The soldiers stationed at the next watchhouse over looked to be doing the same. Below, they spotted it: a massive hole blown in the side of the wall’s masonry.

“Th-there’s a hole in the wall?!”

“If someone broke through, d-does that mean the noise just now was cannon fire?!”

From atop the ramparts, the soldiers squinted in disbelief out into the thick darkness. That very same moment, a number of sparks flashed in the rumbling gloom.


A few soldiers toppled backward, blood gushing from their bodies.

“Was that gunfire just now?!”

“Th-there’s no way! No one could aim a gun in a blizzard like—geh!”

“No, it is; I’m positive! We’re under fire!”

Bullets were barreling out of the blackness, speeding toward the soldiers visible atop the ramparts. At that point, there was no doubting it. One of the soldiers let out the cry of alarm.

“We’re under attaaaaaaack!”

No sooner had he done so than the alarm bells affixed to the watchhouses all began sounding, and the checkpoint came alive. The guardsmen had already been on high alert, so a squad of crossbow archers was ready on the wall in no time.




“What are you doing?! Hurry up and return fire!”

“We can’t, Captain! I-it’s too dark to see, so we don’t know where to shoo—geh?!”


The lack of light and the raging blizzard meant the soldiers had no recourse against the unbelievably accurate bullets but to roll over and die. The resident Bronze Knight captain had no idea what to make of it.

The only guns the man could think of capable of shooting accurately in a snowstorm were flintlock rifles. However, those were so new that even the forces in the imperial capital weren’t all equipped with them yet. Most of the Freyjagard Army was still using matchlock guns.

What’s more, defending Findolph hadn’t exactly been high on the empire’s list of priorities. As far as the knight knew, the region barely had any guns at all. How had the rebels who’d overthrown Findolph gotten their hands on such quality armaments? Perhaps more importantly, even if the insurgents did have flintlock rifles…

“How are they shooting us so accurately when it’s this pitch dark…?!”

The answer to that question lay on the heads of the Order of the Seven Luminaries’ fifty-man squad. Each one of them was wearing a large pair of goggles. The genius inventor, Ringo Oohoshi, had armed the battalion with night-vision specs.

“These are great! Still wish we had some sunlight, but even with how dark it is, I can totally make the enemies out!”

“The guns are nasty, too. Wind’s completely nuts, but most of our shots are still landing. This magic gear from the angels is no joke!”

It wasn’t exactly magic, but there was still a good reason for the strength of the weapons. Their guns, produced at the arms factory beside the power plant in Dormundt, made use of a technique that even the imperial workshops hadn’t been able to come up with a cost-efficient way of implementing. It was a process called broaching—in short, they had rifling. Older gun models couldn’t hold a candle to them when it came to range and ballistic stability.

All fifty of the soldiers from Dormundt were equipped with night-vision goggles and rifles, making their ranged battle against the hundred-odd crossbow archers decidedly one-sided. Little by little, the Order of the Seven Luminaries whittled down their enemy’s ranks while the Buchwald army remained unable to land a single bolt. Eventually, the imperial side seemed to have their hands full reloading, as their crossbow fire died down for a moment.

Now’s the time!

Commander Bernard used that pause to give his order. “Conrad Squadron! Concentrate your fire on the top of the fortress wall! Don’t let them stick their heads out!”

“““Yes, sir!”””

“Bernard Squadron, you’re with me! Charge!”


At the command, twenty or so soldiers who’d been chosen in advance roared as they charged through the snow toward the checkpoint’s bastion.

“A battle cry?!”

“This is bad! They’re rushing toward that hole they blew open!”

“Don’t let them inside! Shoot to kill!”

Having finished reloading their crossbows, the soldiers obeyed their captain and leaned out over the ramparts to take aim at the now-visible insurgents.

As brave as a frontal charge may have seemed, the snow was up to the incursion’s calves. Getting anywhere fast was out of the question. Even through a blizzard, they were like sitting ducks.


“Damn th—akh?!”

—a fierce barrage of gunfire hammered the ramparts and stopped the archers in their tracks. Two storms surged through the mountain pass now, and one was made of lead.

“I-it’s no use! There’s too much gunfire for us to risk sticking our heads out!”

“There’s too many of them! They’ll blow us away the second we stand!”


The Bronze Knight captain couldn’t even rebuke what his men were saying. He himself was thinking the very same thing. The leaden squall pounded over their heads without letting up for a moment.

To the warriors of this world, who were only familiar with guns that required manual reloading from the muzzle after every shot, the rapid-fire barrage was like a bolt-action nightmare. The hearts of the guardsmen froze over, and it had nothing to do with the temperature. The ability to maintain that level of high-density fire was unbelievable.

Just how many hundreds of flintlock snipers does the enemy have out there?!

It had been a short while now since the battle started over on the Findolph side of the checkpoint.

From the Buchwald side, the back door attached to the main gate swung open, and five soldiers waded into the snow. Each was a messenger tasked with delivering news of the enemy raid to the main army down in the foothills.

With desperate expressions on their faces, the quintet rushed through the snow. Each was eager to escape the hellish site of battle as quickly as possible. Then, right as the sounds of the insurgents’ gunfire began to fade into the distance…



Bang, bang, bang.

Sparks flashed from the dark nearby, and all five couriers crumpled onto the ground. A little while afterward, five figures robed in white cloth crunched across the snow.

“…I won’t apologize for this. Our lives are on the line just as much as yours were.” The voice speaking to the dead men was dignified, despite its obvious youth. It belonged to Tsukasa Mikogami. In order to cut off any messengers the checkpoint might’ve sent, the young prime minister had led a small group around to its Buchwald side.

“Still, these Le Luk bastards are all sorts of shoddy.”

“Yeah, for real. We managed to sneak past their defenses like they were nothing.”

“Maybe they’re all just napping on the job ’cause it’s too cold.”

The exasperation of the Seven Luminaries’ soldiers was only natural. After all, they hadn’t needed to hide, take a treacherous route, or anything of the like.

They just strolled across the mountain.

By doing so, they’d found themselves on the other side of the checkpoint in no time at all. Such an achievement brought on a wave of relief for the soldiers. Perhaps their enemies weren’t as tough as they’d been made out to be. However, Tsukasa knew that wasn’t the case.

His group not getting caught had nothing to do with the Buchwald army’s proficiency. The thing was, the route they’d taken was the same path Shinobu and Elch had used to cross the border themselves. If anything, Shinobu’s ability to spot the holes in defenses was just that fearsome. Little of the merit for their feat belonged to the young white-haired man and his soldiers.

Tsukasa barked an order to the others to keep them from letting their guards down. “That’s enough chatter. Our job is to stay here until the Bernard Squadron conquers the checkpoint, shooting any enemies who try to flee. We can’t let a single person through. If anyone escapes, it’s game over. Keep your wits about you.”

“““Y-yes, sir.”””

The four soldiers obediently straightened up. It was clear from their conduct how much they respected the boy with heterochromatic eyes.

The angels of the Seven Luminaries had built weapons these troops had never seen before, improved conditions for the common folk, and even defeated a giant fire monster. After they’d accomplished all that, there were none left who doubted their divinity.

Meanwhile, as Tsukasa and his men were cutting off their enemies’ escape route from the Buchwald side…

Bernard’s squadron had taken the western half of the east-west bifurcated checkpoint. They raced through the central courtyard, ready to claim the opposite side as well.

“D-dammit! How’d they get this far already?!”

“The west side is done for! Lower the iron gate!”

Unable to fight back against the power of modern weaponry, the checkpoint’s guards fled to the east half. Despite the fact that they still had allies stuck on the west side, the retreating men dropped a heavy iron grille onto the path that led out from the central courtyard.

“H-hey! You’re just gonna leave us here?!”

“You bastaaaaards!”

“Commander, there’s an iron gate…!”

“Leave it to me.”

Bernard took a step forward and readied his weapon.

The gun, which consisted of a short, squat barrel affixed to a disk, hadn’t been built in the arms factory. It was a special weapon Bearabbit had made himself, and the AI only gave it to those he trusted—a grenade launcher.

The explosive Bernard fired hit the grille with a peculiar plink, then detonated in a large explosion.

Just like the checkpoint’s outer wall before it, the gate was completely blasted away—along with the enemy soldiers who’d been clinging to it.

“…M-magic…?” One soldier who’d miraculously survived let out a small yelp as he stared, aghast, at the obliterated barricade.

Bernard and his men rushed past the frightened survivor, charging into the east wing. Their enemies were forced farther and farther up and responded to the insurgent push by forming a defensive line on the east wing’s spiral staircase.

The corkscrew set of stairs had been built counterclockwise on purpose. That way, intruders coming from below wouldn’t be able to use their dominant hands, whereas the defenders above would have no such restriction.


“Don’t retreat this far, idiots! You’re practically handing them the fort on a silver platter!”

“E-easy for you to say…!”

“What’s with their shields?! They’re so huge, but they’re carrying them like they weigh nothing!”

—even that was no match for the duralumin shields the intruders’ vanguard was carrying.

Spears, clubs, and swords were all rendered useless. The silvery shields repelled them all and forced the Buchwald soldiers to give more and more ground.

Finally, their brawny Bronze Knight leader roared in exasperation, “All right, rank and file, outta the way! I, Bronze Knight Gambino the Great, will take them on myself!”

He kicked his allies aside, then swung his metal flail toward the duralumin shields. The weapon’s iron ball weighed over forty pounds, meaning it should have easily crushed the shields and skulls of the invaders in one fell swing.


“ ”

—it was like they’d known it was coming, as a double-barreled shotgun peeked its head out from the gap between two shields.

Fire erupted.

Bronze Knight Gambino, who’d made a valiant charge on his foes, felt a terrible impact in his abdomen. Blown against the stairs, he passed out. The shot had left a gruesome dent in the man’s armor.

Instead of lead, the shotgun was packed with buckshot made from small stones. At close range, the attack had quite literally rocked him. The Bronze Knight was going to be out for a while, and with no CO, the Buchwald soldiers were routed.


“Ah! They got Gambino the Great!”

“We can’t stop them! No one can stop them!”

The guardsmen grew more and more terrified by the minute. As far as they were concerned, power that overwhelming could’ve only been magic. Against such strength, all they could do was scream and flee.

“Their weapons are nuts! Who are these people?!”

Well, that and curse their misfortune for having been there in the first place.

An hour after the battle started, Tsukasa got a call from Bernard. It was to inform the young politician that they’d seized complete control of the checkpoint. When he heard the news, Tsukasa turned around, looked toward the Buchwald side of the fortress, and thought back.

The boy recalled the conversation he’d had with Masato in front of the soldiers before they’d launched the attack.

“…Hey, yo, what’s the plan here?”

While Masato glanced at the fully armed soldiers, Tsukasa had answered.

“As I’m sure a tremendous businessman like yourself is well aware, patience is an indispensable quality for anyone hoping to manage personnel or capital.

“Gustav is the type of man to fire off his Rage Soleil without waiting to mobilize an army. The odds that he keeps himself in check until the snow melts are slim. In fact, I imagine he’s already getting ready to march on us. And he’s probably given Buchwald’s and Archride’s forces the order to move out, as well. I’d bet the duke told them that he’d cut them down from behind if anyone questioned his order. With the Warden of the North being so forceful, they had no choice but to follow his command.

“However, they prepared all their equipment under the assumption the invasion would be in spring. Crossing Le Luk in the gear they have will be a suicide march; it’s the best chance we could have asked for. I see no reason to sit around waiting for them to cross the range. Do you?”

Tsukasa’s tone had been matter-of-fact, but a cruel, fierce light had burned in his blue eye.

“We’ll meet them in the mountains, slaughter them, and take the three northern domains before winter’s end. With that territory in hand, we’ll raise the flag of our democratic nation.”

It was thus that a new battle began.

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