Chapter 283
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The Venomous Sea and the Starfall Valley. These two locations were our best options to fight back against Envy’s invasion. Both had their advantages and disadvantages. Neither of them was perfect, but it was better than fighting on an open field. 

“Our first option is the Universe Tower, located on a peninsula reaching out into the Venomous Sea. The tower itself was flooded during the last invasion, but even without the tower, the terrain there would give us a massive advantage,” I said while pointing at the map on the table, “For those of you who have never been to the eastern edge of the empire… er… past the Free Cities, The Venomous Sea is a misnomer. The water there is actually highly acidic. Any organic matter that touches the sea will quickly dissolve. Even the thick hides of the Demonkin will melt away after being submerged in the acid for a few minutes.

Sebastion rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “The Universe Tower would not be a bad choice. Only the bottom floors were flooded when we lost control of the location. The majority of the defenses should still be in one piece. The peninsula itself is only wide enough to field a hundred soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder. It would limit the Demonkins’ numerical advantage. So long as we can hold it.”

“That’s the risk,” I replied with a nod, “So long as we can defend the peninsula, we hold the advantage, but if we are pushed off of it, the surrounding terrain is entirely flatlands. Our victory or defeat would depend heavily on whether or not we can maintain our defensive position. My biggest concern with this is that I have seen similar tactics used against the Demons in the past end in tragedy, most notably, the battle of Horizon’s Dawn against the second Archdemon. The Archdemon drowned his own Demonkin to create a bridge. I am worried that Envy attempt something similar. His losses would be colossal, in the tens of thousands, but if he managed to flank our army, we would be annihilated.”

While I talked, General Arthur placed a few wooden tiles on the map as he considered how he might defend the peninsula. By the time I finished my explanation, a detailed formation was already in place. “It is a good location. With the giant serpent, and by extension, the city of Ater-Albus, positioned at the mouth of the peninsula, we could theoretically defend against up to half a million Demonkin before being overwhelmed. Of course, real battle is different from theory, but I estimate that we could hold the location for six days. If we place the portal further out at sea, it will force Envy to sacrifice several hundred thousand Demonkin just to reach our defenses. Then, our biggest concern at the beginning of the battle would only be flying Demonkin.” General Arthur tapped his finger on the table briefly before continuing. “Tell me about the second location. I have never heard of Starfall Valley before.”

“That is not surprising. Few people have any reason to climb the mountains surrounding the valley, even fewer can actually make it out of the valley alive to tell the tale. If Universe Tower and the Venous Sea was considered my empire's first line of defense, then Galaxy Tower and the Starfall Valley was the last.” As I spoke, I placed one of the wooden tokens at the northwest edge of the map, indicating the location. “The valley is a crater surrounded by cliffs on all sides. There is only one path leading in, protected by the Galaxy Tower, but the terrain is not what makes Starfall valley special. Instead, it is the history of the location that makes it so dangerous.”

“History?” General Arthur asked in confusion.

“Yes, long before my empire, Starfall Valley was the site of a great battle. The exact details have been lost in the river of time. Who fought there and why we will probably never know. Even after centuries of looking, I never learned much more than a few distorted legends, but while the stories are forgotten, the repercussions of the battle still remain. Space in the Starfall Valley is damaged and unstable. The space distorts randomly, slicing apart any unlucky soul that gets too close. It is as if the valley is a minefield. One wrong step can lead to instant death. Even the strongest of Domain warriors are no exception. Opening a portal there would destabilize the area even further, turning the valley into a whirlwind of death.”

General Arthur’s widened in surprise. “Even Domain warriors are not safe there? Does that mean Alphas might die to the distortions as well?”

“That’s right. Envy himself could end up seriously injured if he is unlucky enough to stumble into the wrong spot at the wrong time.”

General Arthur moved a few of the wooden tokens on the map as he thought about my words. “Such a good location must have downsides otherwise, you would not have mentioned the Venomous Sea.”

I nodded. “This battlefield would favor the domain warriors more than the regular soldiers compared to the previous option. Where the pockets of distorted space open is completely random. The epicenter of the event, though, is centered on the air above the valley, and most of the distortions happen there. During my tests in the past, about two out of every three of my undead survived walking across the valley, while only one in ten survived flying. Crossing may be risking death, but when you are talking about an army in the millions, even half surviving would be enough to overwhelm us. In truth, the biggest advantage that the valley holds is against the Leviathan’s children and other giant Demonkin. With their large size, making it out of the valley without hitting distorted space is impossible.”

“I see. So, the sea would give us the ground advantage while the valley would give us the sky. The army would have to face far more Demonkin at the valley, but the domain warriors get some reprieve from the strongest enemies.”

The Chancellor that had been complaining to General Arthur earlier, slapped his hand down on the table. “I vote we defend the peninsula. Even without considering whether or not our army can defend the mouth of the valley, just getting out men and supplies up the mountains would be a colossal undertaking.”

 A few of the other generals and representatives mumbled their agreement. However, they were drowned out when another lieutenant voiced his concerns.

“Against an army this size, there could be hundreds of thousands of Demonkin capable of flight. Are we really sure we can hold the beach if Envy deploys them all at once? Not to mention the Leviathans, just one of those beasts squashed our army like we were insects. What happens if our domain warriors can’t hold all of them back and one slips through?”

Once again, several people voiced their agreement, splitting the votes in half. For the next several hours, this back-and-forth continued. Both sides had valid points, including logistics, mobility, and possible ways to use the terrain. As the only two people to have ever been to the locations in person, Sebastion and I were forced to describe every possible detail we could remember about the locations.

It was an incredibly frustrating debate and made me miss the days I was Empress. Back then, I could have simply made the decision myself without consulting anyone. Still, the discussion had its value. Discussing the advantages of each location also brought to light the disadvantages we might face as well. There were even a few points brought up that I had yet to consider, like what we would do if Envy did not attack immediately but instead tried to rally his forces at a second location first.

Night had fallen, and the world outside had turned pitch black by the time we reached a consensus. General Arthur took a drink of water before clearing his throat. “It is decided then. We will prepare the Starfall Valley for invasion. The Church of the Realms will monitor how much time we have left. During these next two to three weeks, we will turn the mountain pass into a fortress centered at the Galaxy Tower while the city of Ater- Albus will be positioned on the cliffs to provide cover with splinter cannons.”

The representatives of the various countries all nodded. Some were more enthusiastic than others, but each one knew the price of failure. This would be the most pivotal battle in recorded history. Even my previous war preventing Envy from invading the realm did not compare to what we risked with this decision today. 

One by one, the representatives cleared out of the conference room until only General Arthur, Sebastion, Svend, and myself remained.

General Arthur messaged his temples with a sigh. I could feel the exhaustion practically radiating from the man as he leaned back in his chair. “The three of you have faced Envy before. Be honest with me. What do you think our chances of victory are?”

Svend rubbed his beard for a moment before speaking. “Ten percent.”

Sebastion shot an annoyed glance at the big man before speaking. “I believe we have a pretty decent chance against the army itself. It is Envy and the Leviathan we need countermeasures for. Specifically, Envy’s innate talent needs to be addressed.”

“I have given that some thought,” Svend replied with a shrug, “How familiar are each of you with berserk talents?”

“What is that?” Sebastion asked.

“Innate talents that have gone out of control,” I replied with a frown, “You want to use the backlash to make Envy hurt himself?”

“That’s right. I got the idea from Little Ghost. The girl’s own talent put her into a permanent trance-like state that will kill her if she tries to disobey. If we purposefully bring out people with defective talents for Envy to copy, we could trick him into a similar self-destructive state.”

General Arthur’s face lit up. “That is brilliant! Why do you think we only have a ten percent chance of victory if you have such a plan?”

“Envy is not some rookie Demon like the ones we fought before. He is clever and cautious.” Svend said sternly, “You haven’t seen the war like Aurielle and I have. So, consider my next words carefully before you make a plan. The commanders of the Thirteen Divisions are each able to threaten the destruction of an entire planet without factoring in their military forces or personal equipment. That is the minimum power required to establish a division. Meanwhile, the Archdemon employed only seven Demons to command his armies. Our commanders nearly outnumbered theirs two to one, and yet we still lost three out of every four battles against them. Can you, oh great King Sebastion, stand against planet-destroying power? What about two at once? Because Envy has not only done so but even come out victorious despite the odds. If it were not for the words of the Fifth Division commander, I would never risk a fight with the Demon under these miserable conditions.”

Sebastion clenched his fists in anger but didn’t retort. There was nothing he could say. He was strong, maybe even the strongest person on the planet, but he was not at that level. The kind of power Svend talked about was something most people could only dream of.

Shaking my head, I interjected before Svend could demoralize the two men completely. “Luckily, our goal is not necessarily victory. A stalemate is enough. Creating a stable portal between realms is not easy or cheap, especially since he wants to bring the Leviathan through. If we can collapse this one, he will be forced to start all over. By that time, Reinforcements from the Divisions will have arrived.”

General Arthur breathed out in relief. “I will be counting on you three then when the time comes. Meanwhile, I will do everything in my power to find people with innate talents that match our requirements. Even if your idea for using berserk talents doesn’t work out, it will still make Envy cautious about what talents he copies. That alone might be enough to tip the scales in our favor.”

 

 

 

Legends - A Deeper Look at the First Division

Spoiler

(I had too much coffee writing the last chapter so rather than sleep here is a new mini series want to add to Patreon giving a more in depth look at the Thirteen Divisions, starting with the first. Let me know if you like this sort of content and I will try to write more when i am not quite so sleep deprived.)

While all divisions have over a hundred habitable planets under their control, the First Division is known best for only one location. The city of Tressa has existed since the time of the first Archdemon. It houses the first ever found Preateritum remnant and stands as a symbol of the Thirteen Divisions as a whole. Every member of the first division regardless of where they were actually born will call themselves Tressan in honor of the city.

- Bloodline— The Tressan bloodline is unique among the divisions. Due to mutations caused due to the first Archdemon, every Tressan is born with an innate talent, and almost all will create a domain before the age of thirty. Upon creating a domain, a Tressan’s aging stops completely. It is unknown if a Tressan can die from natural causes outside of disease, but the current oldest Tressan is nearly 1400 years old and still looks as if he was in his early twenties.

- Coming of Age Ceremony—When a Tressan creates their domain is when they are considered an adult. Only after this can they serve in the military, purchase land, or get married. First, however, it is customary for every Tressan to complete their coming-of-age ceremony. This ceremony consists of the child leaving home with only the clothes on their back and enough rations for a week. The goal of the ceremony is for the child to earn something without the help of their parents and gift it to the military faction they hope to join in the future. This gift can be as small as working to earn a bit of money or as big as a planet. There is no set time for the ceremony, but on average, most people spend one month to a year trying to secure a gift.

- Society— As people that have fought against the Demons since the age of the first Archdemon, Tressan society is dictated by a strict caste system directly influenced by strength and skill. This caste system loosely follows that of ancient noble titles, starting with commoner, baron, viscount, earl, marquess, duke, and Archduke. Every Tressan is born as a commoner regardless of their parent’s rank. The only way to increase your caste in society is to contribute to the division in some meaningful way. Usually, this is done through military service though people with higher education skills can receive baron rank upon graduation (i.e. Doctor, engineer, scientist). This caste system has many effects on a person's daily life, including the types of jobs they can get, their maximum military rank, the property they can buy, and the taxes they pay.

- Military—The military can be considered the most important facet of Tressan culture and society as a whole. Military service is mandatory for every adult citizen of the First Division, two out of every ten years. The military is split into seven factions called families that each jointly rule the first division. These families are named after the innate talents of the seven founders of Tressa, Fire, Earth, Water, Wind, Light, Shadow, and Spirit. Every citizen is required to join one of these families at some point. They are allowed to choose which one, but their starting rank is still determined by their strength, skill, caste, and coming-of-age gift. The head of each of these families is its own separate royal caste above all others. These seven leaders are referred to as kings and queens. They may choose their own successor from among the Archdukes, who are then referred to as princes or princesses. While the lucky few that get the opportunity to retire from the position as head of the family without dying are referred to as regent.

  • (Each of the seven families can be loosely compared to different branches in the military though while they specialize in these areas, they are not necessarily bound to these specializations completely.)
  • Family of Fire/flames—can be compared to the green berets or navy seals. This family usually moves in small specialized squads. Among all the families, this one values personal strength above all else.
  • Family of Earth/stone—can be compared to general infantry and most armored vehicle units. This family is the most numerous of the seven, and while strength is important, tactical and command abilities are equally valued.
  • Family of water/seas—can be compared to a combination of the Navy and air force. (Most ships can fly.) This family values engineering skills and reaction time above others.
  • Family of air/wind—can be compared to the C.I.A. or M.I.6. This family almost never works in large groups, often preferring stealth, sabotage, and intel over direct combat. This family values adaptability over strength.
  • Family of Light—can be compared to military medics. While they can fight, it is not their specialty. This family directly values healing talents and skills above any other factor.
  • Family of shadows—can be compared to research and development. This family specializes in inventing and researching new technology to fight the Demons. They value creativity above all else.
  • Family of spirit/soul—can be compared to the coast guard and F.B.I. This family rarely leaves the borders of the first division. It exists solely as a shield to protect, not attack. Unlike other families, this family does not recruit trainees. Only those who have served in other families and proven reliable have the opportunity to serve the family spirit.

- Laws and Senate—While the military impacts most aspects of a Tressans life, it does not have any official say over laws or the justice system so long as they do not interfere with the army. That is not to say they have no influence. Instead, the government is run by an unbalanced republic based on caste. The Senate consists of one hundred elected members. However, thirty of these seats are elected by the dukes and archdukes, thirty by the earls and marquess, twenty are elected by the barons and viscount, while only ten are elected by the commoners. Any tiebreaker vote is decided by the king of the spirit family.

- Civilian life and trade—The First Division’s highest export is art and entertainment. Everything from paintings to finely woven textiles are shipped all across the Thirteen Divisions. Its cities are colorful places covered in mosaics and murals. Second, only to the military, creative crafts are valued highly by Tressan culture.

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