“I see…” Empress Margold nodded as she spoke with a young kitsune woman. The two of them were located in a private meeting room, as this woman had pleaded to speak with her in secret. In fact, it was incredibly risky for the empress to meet with someone without any guards, yet she had barely hesitated.
The main reason for this was the identity of the woman in question. Empress Margold had been a dear friend to Queen Sylvia, so she was naturally familiar with certain faces within her court. After they had both verified the others’ identities, the empress led the kitsune to this meeting room.
Of course, another source of her confidence came from the wards within the meeting room itself. Should anyone in the room have their health fall beyond a certain value, a spell would activate to send that person to the medical ward of the palace. Even if she did come here to harm the empress, she was not strong enough to kill in a single strike.
“My lady wishes for you to be aware of this information.” The kitsune spoke with a deep bow. She was no longer wearing the palace robes, having changed into a common black shirt and pants, a dark blue robe obscuring her figure.
“I appreciate the swiftness of the new queen’s report.” The empress spoke honestly. “In truth, we received this information as well, and I was debating sending messengers to Deckan. However… I believe you were just a step too slow, my dear.”
The kitsune lifted her head to look at the empress with a confused expression. “What do you mean, your highness?”
“I mean in terms of reaching here first.” Margold let out a light laugh at that. “Actually, about an hour before you got here, a demon arrived from Desbar to deliver this information as well. Those guys are even less trusting than I am, I have to admit…”
It was clear that the kitsune wasn’t quite sure what the empress meant by this. So, the empress leaned forward on the desk, an amused smile on her face. “Unlike our two worlds, the demons have a greater focus on technology. You are aware of this, correct?”
When the kitsune nodded, the empress continued. “Our magic is useless in Spica, but their technology suffers no penalty. When one of Desbar’s officers heard that these ‘workers’ came from the Council, he secretly planted a device on this person’s clothes, small enough to escape notice. Apparently, he has a grudge against the Council or something like that.” The empress waved her hand dismissively.
“The point of the matter is that he used this device to secretly follow these people from a distance and listen in on their conversation. And thanks to that, he was able to learn of their ‘real’ orders.”
Only now did the kitsune maidservant seem to catch on, her eyes going wide. “Fyor broke the oath..?”
Margold let out a small sigh, nodding her head. “That’s right. Those ‘workers’ are hired mercenaries, just like your queen probably expects. But really… this is a pain.”
Seeing her late friend’s trusted maid so agitated, Margold put on a reassuring smile to comfort her. Though, her words were far from comforting. “Well, it’s rather hard to move against the Council, even for us. If they see us coming, then they’ll just break their pillar. Oh… right, you might not know.” The empress blinked in realization, before shaking her head again.
“A while back, before the foundation of the Dawn Kingdom, the nineteenth layer of Fyor had its pillar destroyed. That event was long enough ago now that most people have forgotten, but… because their pillar was destroyed, they were completely cut off. Their world was shrouded in darkness, and they were forced to live alone until it repaired itself.”
As an elf, Margold was keenly aware of the events that had happened to the nineteenth layer of Fyor. That event had been a major eye-opener to her, as it presented both strategic strength and weakness in one. “In short… if the Council destroys their pillar, we won’t be able to move against them. From what I’ve heard, even powerful spatial magic wasn’t able to function until the pillar was repaired.”
“B-but, we can’t simply overlook this matter!” The maidservant cried out, before hastily covering her mouth. “I’m sorry, your highness…”
“No, no, you’re right.” Margold waved a hand dismissively, having expected an outburst like that. “We can pressure the Council politically, even if we can’t attack them at their core. For instance… if Bria votes with us, we can place the Dawn Kingdom as the representatives of Fyor.”
“From there, the Council would lose their voice in the Legion of Allied Worlds, as well as control over trade going in and out of Fyor. By now, it is only a matter of time before Demacry notices humans and halflings among Solace’s army, so it would be wise to pre-empt their complaints by publicly denouncing the Council’s actions.”
“Once the church learns that the Council willfully broke an oath made on the name of their Goddess, religious support will likewise be taken away from them. However, this will drive them down a path of desperation. Given their previous actions, they will try to use their pillar to hold all of Fyor hostage.”
“T-then… is there really nothing that we can do?” The maidservant asked, her face having gone pale as she both imagined the implications of that tactic as well as Margold’s own strategies.
“Well… that would normally be the case.” Margold gave a small grin. “But, you must remember… the Council broke an oath made in Bihena’s name… I imagine that their goddess is none too pleased with them right now.”
“You can’t just rely on the possibility that Lady Bihena will act in your favor, can you?” The kitsune woman couldn’t help but argue, as the concept of relying on a god’s intervention was simply madness.
“If she hadn’t already, you might be right.” Margold’s grin grew a touch wider. “Bria should already have been informed by now. You can report back to her, and let her know that we’re aware of the situation. Tomorrow, we will be hosting a L.A.W. conference to officially appoint the Dawn Kingdom as Fyor’s representatives.
Although confused, the maidservant did indeed rush back to her queen, only to see Bria in a daze. Apparently, Bihena had personally visited each of the world leaders to ensure them that the crystal pillar would be protected, no matter what actions were taken. She would not aid the Council in any way, should battle break out.
And, as promised, a meeting was held the following day. During this meeting, the Council was officially denounced as the governing body of Fyor, which was now labeled as a union of independent states. The Dawn Kingdom was unanimously elected by the remaining three leaders to act as the representative to this union.
Immediately afterwards, word was sent to Demacry, informing them of the Council’s betrayal. Although a simple apology would not be enough, they were offered more favorable trade as compensation. At the same time, troops were sent marching towards Solace’s territory to demand the return of the treasonous forces.
Naturally, Demacry and Solace were both shocked by this turn of events. Although Solace refused to hand over the soldiers, they were given a simple proclamation by the troops that had been dispatched.
‘Five hundred troops were illegally moved to your territory. If you refuse to return these troops to face justice, justice will be brought here. Do not force us to join this war of yours.’
It was a simple proclamation, but at the same time an overbearing demand. The emperor of Solace, as well as the Magic King, were both entirely aware of its meaning. If they refused to hand over the reinforcements from the Council, it was likely that Earth’s alliance would join Demacry in the war.
Faced with such pressure, the emperor had no choice but to accede. The five hundred troops were brought back to face trial. Although their crimes were lighter than those of the Council, they had still knowingly continued their mission after learning that they were breaking that same oath.
Back in Fyor, things were proceeding just as the world leaders had predicted. With their power restricted, the Council began to act like a cornered animal. Troops were dispatched to surround all of the gates within the first five floors, while the reception room of the Council itself was remodeled into a bunker. Without fail, they immediately demanded the ‘rightful’ rule of Fyor to be given back to them.
It was only when this plan failed, when the soldiers of the other worlds began marching within Fyor, that their true downfall arrived. When they saw that their only path for survival was to carry out their bluff.
Six men walked in full armor through the halls of the Council, each carrying a heavy greatsword on their back. These were the elite guards of the Council, their strongest warriors. For years, they had been groomed, sent out in groups to dangerous regions to hunt until they had reached the limit of power that could be allowed within Fyor.
Their name was the Six Pillars, and their primary role was to ensure the continuation of the Council. Now, they had been tasked with what could likely be their final mission. They were asked to ensure peace within the Council by destroying the very thing that they had guarded for so long.
However, when they turned the corner, pushing open the door to the Pillar Chamber, they were met with a surprise. Two human women stood before them. One had long black hair and a curvaceous figure, draped in a black robe. Meanwhile the other had short, fiery red hair, clothed in leather armor and carrying twin daggers.
“Sorry, boys...” The black-haired woman began, before the other spoke as if naturally continuing the sentence.
“But we can’t allow anyone near this thing. Boleer, hark.” The shadow connecting the two figures rose up, wrapping around the one with red hair while the other took a step back.
“I’ll leave the melee to you, Thelsa!” Julia shouted bringing her hand forward. A large spell diagram appeared in front of her hand, and she made a pushing motion towards it.
“I am the shadow of salvation. Heed my call and come forth, riding on ebon wings. Soldiers lost to the abyss, warriors forgotten within the darkness. Let shine your final moments on this field, and redeem yourselves and your honor.”
Called forth by her words, a pulse reverberated through the room. Even as Thelsa charged forward, darting between the armored knights drawing their heavy weapons, three figures stepped out of the circle. Another pulse seemed to accompany every step, their pitch-black figures soon taking shape.
Like the knights, they wore heavy armor. However, their armor was black and ethereal, looking to be made of ghastly flames. Beneath that armor was a mass of grey, unmistakably bone. Skeletons clad in dark magic, great black wings attached to their backs. Each of them carried a single sword and a single shield, the empty eye sockets of their skulls filled with a blood-red glow.
These dark soldiers did not charge, instead simply standing near Julia defensively as she prepared her next spell. This time, there was no fancy chant, no surge of elemental might. She was not casting this as an elementalist, but rather purely as a mage.
The Six Pillars were having a hard time fighting Thelsa, the slippery rogue able to evade their relatively slower swings. At the same time, however, their armors were reinforced enough that she could only strike at their joints, making their own defense much easier. Given this, their fight so far had been a stalemate, even leaning in favor of the Six Pillars due to their numbers.
That is, until they saw the spell diagram forming beneath Julia’s feet. The spheres embedded within the different points of the diagram was enough for them to identify this as a third tier spell, something that immediately made them alarmed.
With a silent understanding, two of the six knights broke off from the battle with Thelsa, ensuring that the rogue would not easily be able to gain the upper hand while they charged the spellcaster.
As expected, the three figures summoned by the former spell began to step forward, blocking the way of the knights. Unfortunately, these were not true soldiers, merely spells given humanoid shape. They had no true combat experience to block off the knights, and could only activate their spell effects in their final moments.
As their magic was unleashed, the room was wrapped in darkness, at least in the eyes of the two knights. In truth, they were wrapped in black spheres that held them in place, each sphere created from the death of a shadowy warrior.
Thelsa. Julia called to her partner mentally, and the rogue vanished, her body falling into her own shadow. Julia stretched her hand out towards the knights, her spell finally ready. “Abyss Break.”
Black lines stretched up from Julia’s spell diagram, spreading towards the door. Whatever those lines touched appeared to be cleanly severed, whether it was stone, steel, or the limbs of the trapped knights. These lines raced towards the knights stationed near the door, arriving sooner than they could retreat.
Screams filled the room for but a brief moment, before the lines widened, swallowing everything that they had severed. Now, Julia stood once again in an empty room, letting out a deep breath of relief. Trade with me for the next batch. I need to recover my mana.