Chapter 16 – Apocalypse
The warship in the air slowly descends above Regal and the squad, not even Hades, Lande, and Lore escaping its shadow. The warship itself deftly and silently turns in mid-air as it lowers to avoid protruding mountain-like rocks while ignoring and crushing any frail trees beneath it.
When the ship finally lands, it is positioned just in front of Regal’s squad. Regal gets a closer look at the warship and can tell that it isn’t painted black at all, but is made from a reflective metal that is naturally obsidian in hue. The entire balloon compartment at the top is structured from this metal as well, thousands of plates interlined with one another to create a sealed elliptical shape.
A large side panel from the base compartment is wide open and from within it stands a mature woman with fiery long hair tied up in a ponytail. Light shines from within the open door and highlights her extremely voluptuous figure. She is the kind of woman most men would drool over, and even causes Regal to somewhat lose focus in his gaze. Veronica immediately notices this however and gives him a quick elbow in the ribs, earning an affectionate gaze from the woman.
That said, the woman has one somewhat menacing thing, and that is an extremely large multi-barrel revolving machine gun being hoisted over her shoulder. The barrels on the gun are still emitting a light haze of heat, identifying this as the weapon that instantly annihilated the guards before.
“Piora!” The woman launches herself toward Regal’s squad member with the same color hair as her, intense affection radiating from her gaze.
“Mother!” Piora angrily rebukes her, but her flushed expression betrays her embarrassment.
While the squad is greatly relieved and just wants to rest, Piora doesn’t hesitate to draw her gun and shoot at her mother in an attempt to stave her off, but the latter easily passes through the barrage of bullets as if dancing and manages to avoid every single one. She also ignores the Blood Flint Bullets exploding inside the warship, causing small concave dents each time, as she continues her charge.
Regal is shocked at Piora’s abruptness. Despite her having a fiery personality and can erupt in a temper like a spark flying off a flint, such violence is still shocking.
‘Could this be just the way Piora and her mother get along?’ Regal wearily questions this scenario.
Piora gets even more flustered and when her mother is too close to shoot accurately, she reverts to hand-to-hand combat, attempting to beat her back. Unfortunately for Piora, her mother also excels at martial combat and easily traps her in a hold before falling to the ground while holding her.
Piora’s mother charmingly rubs her face against Piora’s and hums, warranting a desperate shout from Piora who is close to tears.
“Mother, stop! That’s enough!”
“But I haven’t seen my darling daughter in so long. I’ve missed you so much it’s been utterly unbearable! When you told me some filthy man locked you up in a prison, I knew I couldn’t leave you be any longer.”
Regal feels a sense of danger from the words Piora’s mother just said, but chooses to ignore it and hope nothing serious comes from it.
Piora’s mother then looks toward the rest of the squad along with the three mutant beasts and says with a smile, “All of you, get on our warship. We have a simple matter to handle before I bring you all back to Grand Theore.”
Piora is then picked up by her mother still restrained and then taken into the warship. Regal and the others have difficulty refusing her command and quickly follow behind her. They step out from the chilly night and enter a brightly lit compartment. Several doors lead off to different sections which would surely be sleeping quarters, a cafeteria, the main deck, storage areas, and other miscellaneous facilities.
Regal had been in the cargo bay of some of the merchant airships which visited Greyhorn Townsend, but he quickly discovers that the lower compartment is many times bigger here than the equivalent in merchant airships. It was difficult to tell from outside because it was too dark, but from inside Regal can tell that the lower compartment must be nearly as big as the metal balloon providing lift for the warship, perhaps even a little larger.
“Are you surprised by the size?” a middle aged man with spiky brown hair and a stubby beard asks as he walks out from one of the doors leading into the open compartment area and notices Regal’s confounded gaze.
“Yes, its huge. I’ve never seen one so big,” Regal wondrously states while still looking around.
“That’s because this is a warship,” the man chuckles lightly, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it. “The upper body of a ship determines how much it can lift. A merchant’s airship is designed for carrying extremely heavy cargos, so they need to minimize the weight on the lower body of their airships while maximizing how much they can carry in order to make the best profit. We don’t move large cargo around for a profit, so our warship is designed specifically for battle. Carry as many weapons as we can and a large number of crew. Of course, only twenty of us came on this little trip so it may feel a little empty.”
“I see! Umm… I don’t know your name,” Regal awkwardly says, trying to keep the conversation going but not knowing who he is talking to.
“Hahah, you can call me Graft. Our violent guild leader over there is Loretta-” Graft says cheerfully before Piora’s mom, Loretta, shoots over and punches him in the face with a fist akin to lightning, crushing the cigarette in his mouth that was still talking and blowing him away and into the wall like a cannonball.
“I have told you to call me Fiona!” Fiona(Loretta) states dangerously, a thick killing intent filling the air.
Graft gets up casually and looks at the remains of his cigarette that is now a scattered mess of tobacco and paper spread out across his beard and the ground he was previously standing on.
“That was my last one…” Graft painfully says while brushing tobacco residue out of his beard. “Well, just call her Fiona(Loretta), else she’ll decide to be violent. As for everyone else on the ship, you will meet them after.”
“I am Regal,” Regal manages to state in the middle of nodding his head toward Graft’s words. “Piora and her mother look so much alike, it’s hard to believe.”
What Regal is pointing out is that all children in this world are adopted, with the exception of the Soulless. For Piora to look so similar to her mother, it is astronomically rare to happen.
Graft grimaces before explaining, “Guild leader is crazy for her daughter. She actually has black hair, but dyed it the same color as her daughter’s. She even changed her name to be similar to hers. Unfortunately for her you can’t change your birth name in the world’s system, but that doesn’t stop her from forcing everyone to call her Fiona.”
Regal looks toward where Fiona(Loretta) has once again restrained Piora and is forcing her to remain in her embrace. Kilde, who was called over by Piora for help, is absentmindedly standing next to the two of them unsure as to what he is supposed to do, and so is remaining on standby. Regal notices that what Graft says is true, that while Fiona’s(Loretta’s) hair is the same crimson as Piora’s, her eyebrows are obsidian black in color.
Graft then looks at Veronica, who is standing half a step behind Regal, her eyes only looking at Regal and ignoring everything else around. His gaze suddenly becomes somewhat mysterious but he doesn’t say anything.
Aqua and Astore seem to be forgotten within the warship, Aqua timidly going over to see Hades, Lande, and Lore in order to look busy, while Astore stands beside the wall awaiting what he has to do next.
“All of you, hurry up and follow. We’re going to the main deck to take off,” Fiona states and walks toward the end of the compartment, still carrying a now ragdolling Piora in her embrace.
Graft is left behind as he takes on the duty of closing the compartment door before also heading toward the main deck. Hades, Lande, and Lore also remain as they are too large to fit in the corridor out of the main compartment. They sit down calmly once Regal transmits his calmness as reassurance through his link to them.
On the main deck at the front of the warship, enormous reinforced glass windows give a large view of the area outside the warship. Eighteen guild members of varying ages and gender are sitting around at various spots either playing cards or checking on complex alchemy formulae that run and operate the warship.
“We are taking off!” Fiona commands aggressively once she and Regal’s squad enter the main deck.
The several crew members who are checking on the alchemy formulae quickly assert their confirmation and operate several levers, causing the slowly rotating alchemy formulae throughout the main deck to brighten several degrees and emit a powerful force of mana. The other guild members are more for military support as controlling the warship does not need a large number of people, but they still keep one eye out for if any battle is to take place and will move into position immediately.
Regal had never felt pure mana before, so the oppressive feeling he received from it comes as a shock and he feels that it is slightly difficult to breathe. The rest of the squad fares no better, each turning pale and feeling weak in the legs. Piora is the same, but is unable to release herself from her mother’s grasp and is forced to sit on her lap when she sits in the commander’s chair in the middle of the deck. Veronica is the only one who is not affected, resisting the pressure through pure force of will as she grabs onto and supports Regal with concern on her face.
“Feeling slightly ill?” Graft appears behind Regal and Veronica unexpectedly and asks slyly.
“This… this feeling… I’ve never felt mana like it… Who is strong enough to release… such an amount?” Regal turns his head and huffs between breaths in pure shock.
“This is not wielded by anyone. It is caused by the Grand Mana Alchemy Formula.”
“What… what is that?”
Graft gapes at Regal before recollecting himself and saying, “Ahem, you are truly young and inexperienced, aren’t you? There is much more to the world than what appears before you. Knowledge is a strong dividing line between the strong and the weak, but I thought this would have been something taught to you in school.”
“Can you… explain it… better?”
“Take a seat first,” Graft guides Regal, Veronica, and the rest of his squad toward a long bench against the rear of the main deck and helping them sit down before continuing.
“As you all know, learning crafting skills imparts upon you basic knowledge of the craft and the skills learned. Recipes are even delivered straight to the memory. Items crafted are then displayed by the world with their information comprehensible by simply reading it. Crafting is not limited to this, however, and it is possible to create things without skills and without the world’s support. These items can’t be displayed by the world because they aren’t part of it.”
Toward Graft’s quick explanation, Regal truly understands. This is because his Blood Flint Bullets come under the same category. The core ‘Blood Flint’ is handcrafted with a complex procedure and then modified into the bullets to create a new product. While Regal has been considering it the fusion of two different skills and slightly different from Graft’s information, the end result is the same – a type of round that is not displayed by the world.
“The old airships and warships used to rely on a type of mana ore fuel to run and were extremely expensive, but fifty years ago a genius third generation Immortalis completed the Grand Mana Alchemy Formula. His name was Mana Austin, and he was a genius at alchemy. He didn’t even have the inscribing skill, yet he was able to devise a foundation for alchemy that only he could understand and create a formula that when inscribed and filled with a particular silver-based reagent, will directly absorb the mana from the air and emit it the same way as we do naturally. It doesn’t require the inscribing skill to create, just the appropriate materials and someone accurate enough to carve it. Airships evolved from that into what they are now.”
Regal naturally understood some principles about mana. He was taught in school that it exists everywhere and inhabits everything within the world. Immortalis naturally absorb mana from the air they breathe, which is how mana is restored. Their bodies are also highly attuned to it, and the mana simply existing around them is the reason why wounds heal nearly instantaneously. At least, this is what he was taught.
“That’s… that’s incredible… Is he… still around?” Regal asks eagerly, greatly admiring Mana Austin just from hearing of his accomplishments.
“Indeed, apparently he lives in one of the southern grand cities and is trying to create more alchemy formulae to give an attribute to the mana and turn it into different phenomenon, similar to Divine Arts. I hear he has made absolutely no progress in it though.”
Graft chuckles at the end before quietening down as the warship lifts off from the ground. There are no vibrations or noise as it lifts up, just the feeling of more pressure bearing down on them as they ascend.
“Turn forty degrees west, head directly toward the battlefield,” Fiona coldly commands from the commander’s seat. Regal suddenly feels a chill of danger run through him from listening to her order and knows something major is about to happen.
Piora sends a helpless glance at Regal trying to express frailty and seeking assistance to be released from her mother’s grasp, but Regal quickly averts his eyes from her, ignoring her plight and earning a scornful glare. It’s not that he doesn’t want to help her, it’s that she isn’t in any danger and he absolutely does not want to get on the bad side of her daughter-crazy mother.
The warship rapidly picks up speed and shoots through the night sky like a spectre toward the battle going on between the invading Yuith Community and defending Greyhorn Townsend. The battle has completely turned as the Greyhorn Guard are overwhelming the Yuith Community. The tides changed considerably when large groups of bandits ambushed Yuith Community from the rear and caused devastating damage. Regal instantly pieces together the rumors he heard about Lord Solace being connected to bandits and the devastating pincer attack that took place on the battlefield.
In only ten minutes, Fiona’s warship is silently hovering above the battlefield. The Greyhorn Guard are the first to notice it when it is revealed by the light emitted from ongoing alchemy attacks.
Lord Solace, who Regal has only met once, appears on the wall personally like a hurricane and glares up at the warship with hostility. He does not know who is aboard the warship, but with the timing that it made its appearance, he can tell that it is not a friendly force. Little does he know about the might of the people he is directing his hostility at.
“All guild members, board the aerial battlestations! Commence full scale bombardment to the vile community below!” Fiona commands with absolute malice, causing every member of the guild to rush out of the main deck at a speed akin to lightning.
Even Graft disappears from Regal and Veronica’s side, leaving them to sit in silence. Aside from Regal’s squad, the only other remaining person is Fiona, who still refuses to relinquish her hold over Piora despite the occasional unhappy outburst and unsuccessful escape attempts.
Fiona takes out her transmission plate from her inventory and quickly opens up a communication channel with all guild members currently on this expedition.
“Don’t make me wait.”
Immediately following her frigid words, a deafening thunderstorm erupts outside as a third of the heavy machine guns and cannons attached to the outside of the warship open fire upon the ground.
Hundreds of heavy caliber bullets and a dozen oversized artillery shells are fired at the battlefield every second like a storm of death. Even inside the warship on the main deck, Regal finds the noise deafening as it is incomparable to any sort of gunfire he has heard before. To make the attack even more destructive, extremely high level alchemy attacks are fired off simultaneously, creating lightning dragons and rivers of lava that melts iron like butter.
Both communities and the bandits desperately tries to flee from the concentrated attack, but what was initially an isolated assault rapidly spreads in destruction. All the fleeing Immortalis are caught with the area of effect of the bullet rain and alchemy barrage, with only a handful of stragglers escaping out of sight. Screams of anger and injustice are lost to the wind as what was once a battlefield has become a desolate no-man’s land. The attack doesn’t stop there however, as the target of the guild members manning the weapons and launchers change targets to sweep through Greyhorn Townsend.
The wall Regal was once so proud of instantly turned to rubble, the Silverstone Building fragmenting into small pieces and becoming an ocean of Silverstone dust and rubble that continues to increase in size every second. Silver and grey dust fills the air in a massive smog that blots out the moon and stars, but the flashing of alchemy Divine Arts can still be seen emanating within the smog, like vicious beasts fighting an apocalyptic war.
Less than a minute later the gunfire stops, leaving a faint ringing in Regal’s ears. Not only that, but Regal and the rest of the squad also receive a notification from the world that appears in front of them.
Subsidiary Rebirth Pond has been destroyed along with Greyhorn Townsend. Point of rebirth has been reset to Primary Rebirth Pond in Grand Theore.
Regal is shocked speechless. The entire attack only took place over two or three minutes, yet everything had been destroyed, including the community itself.
“All guild members pull back, we are returning to Grand Theore,” Fiona speaks calmly, smiling satisfiedly at the destruction of the community.
The guild members of Fiona’s guild enter the main deck relaxedly, as if they just went off for a stroll, returning to the positions they were in previously.
The warship turns around and departs from the wasteland, but before they move more than several dozen miles away, Fiona stops the ship and has it turn around to face the mountain of dust still floating around and preventing a direct visual of the damage.
Fiona then raises her hand toward what was once the Greyhorn Townsend community and massive overlapping alchemy circles shaped like a pentagonal stars fills the main deck from the floor to the ceiling. Layer upon layer of complicated runes and formulae fill the circle and form an overlapping pattern that rapidly breaks out of the confines of the alchemy circle and spills into the world in strings, mixing with the mana in the atmosphere.
“O-Over-Tier!” Regal panics immediately upon noticing it. Aqua and Piora are also frightened while Veronica, Astore, and Kilde become highly alert and await the outcome of the Over-Tier Divine Art.
Perhaps because of the shock of seeing the alchemy Over-Tier Divine Art Fiona released, Regal didn’t even notice that he had already become accustomed to the pressure of the mana drawn in and released by the warship’s Grand Mana Alchemy Formula.
In the skies above the ruins of Greyhorn Townsend, a flaming red speck of light rapidly enlarges. A large meteor falls towards the wreckage on the ground with seemingly invincible might. Regal shakes lightly as the air trembles under the barometric pressure, caused by the meteor hurtling through the atmosphere, blowing a massive hole in the dust and revealing the fine rubble where the community used to stand.
The meteor collides with the ground moments later, resulting in a force unlike anything Regal has ever conceived possible. The ground splits open like a cobweb all the way to the nearby mountains, each crack becoming bottomless ravines. The impact point turns into a massive crater as large as a single floor of Grand Theore, while all the dirt, sand, rocks, and plants that used to exist there are annihilated into fine dust, forming a large mushroom cloud which extends even further than the visible horizon.
The force of the collision was so great that despite being in the warship floating in the air, Regal could still feel the vibrations in his bones.
“Oh, I levelled up,” Fiona cheerfully says in surprise, despite panting from breath from a sudden lack of mana, which puts her in an excellent mood, even releasing Piora in the process. Regal is aghast while the guild members can only sigh in comparison.
Piora flees directly to Kilde and squeezes in between him and Astore, then leaning on Kilde’s shoulder wearily and relaxing. Kilde looks at her in puzzlement but Piora just ignores him and refuses to get off him. Regal grins wryly and truly wants to point out the irony of how the daughter is very similar to the mother, but fears the repercussions that will follow so chooses to remain silent.
The warship then turned around once again and slowly drifts toward Grand Theore, Regal is told that the journey is expected to take a day. It was much quicker coming here, as Fiona rushed everyone to move at full speed to save Piora and the squad, but the Immortalis can live forever if they want. They have all the time in the world, so there’s rarely a need to rush.
Graft is back to sitting with Regal and Veronica, but this time he sits beside Veronica and decides to chat with her.
“So, beautiful lady, what’s your name?” Graft lathers on his rugged charm and tries to get close with Veronica.
Graft had seen how close Veronica is with Regal, but from his observation, it only appeared to be a relationship between a squad leader and an overly loyal squad member. While his observation was indeed correct, their relationship extended far beyond what he had predicted.
Graft stretches out his arm to shamelessly pull Veronica into his embrace. Regal was about to react aggressively to that action while reaching for his gun, but before he could do anything, Veronica acted.
Veronica unhitched the ‘Warlock Penetrating Rifle’ that was slung over her back and pointed it at Graft’s face in point blank range. Graft knew that he is in the wrong and was expecting to receive a threat so he didn’t react to it, but Veronica pulled the trigger on her rifle without a single shred of hesitation.
The high caliber Blood Flint Bullet caught Graft completely off-guard, exploding in his face violently and blowing him away from the bench, colliding with the rest of Regal’s squad and causing them to fall into a heap. Regal and Veronica didn’t escape the explosion either, being blown away themselves in the opposite direction and even losing a third of their health at the same time.
Veronica regrets hurting Regal, but she isn’t remorseful in the least, as the man who tried to touch her was cleanly blown away. Graft even took damage and lost a sliver of his health. Considering the enormous difference in level and equipment, to be able to break through his defence and cause damage only served to highlight the might of the Blood Flint Bullets even more.
The explosion caught the attention of every guild member in the main deck, and even caused Fiona who had been watching the entire time out of the corner of her eye to raise her brows in surprise. Regal recalled that when the guild leader’s punch blew him away into the wall earlier after he called her by the wrong name, Graph’s health did not drop at all, despite the guild leader being a mighty powerhouse over level 100.
“Graft, don’t be sleazy or I’ll throw you out again and make you run all the way back!” Fiona says cheerfully, stabbing a verbal spear in him in the form of a threat. “Piora, you shot them at me too. I thought it was the gun, but it seems that I was wrong. What are those bullets?”
Piora also looked confused and glanced over at Regal, who Fiona then addressed in regard to the rounds.
Regal, under the pressure from the overbearing woman’s enthusiasm, helplessly takes out one of the spare bullets from his inventory and hands it over to her. He then explains that they are his own creation and are exclusive to him, indicating that no matter what, he won’t explain how to make them.
Fiona inspects the bullet with the red painted ring on it closely, opening her eyes wide in surprise after realizing it was a special item that was not registered with the world. She proceeds to pull it apart only to find the dual types of ‘Earthen Blood Flint’ hidden within the head of the bullet and is puzzled by it. She has a rough understanding of how the bullet is crafted as a whole and finds it quite simplistic, but is still greatly impressed nonetheless.
“Regal, what level is your ‘Forging’ at?” Fiona asks tenderly.
“Well, I did help with building the wall at Greyhorn Townsend, and made everyone new weapons, so it’s already reached ‘Forging: Intermediate’ skill level 9.”
Regal says it proudly, but Fiona just laughs at him and chastises, “Don’t be too proud. While reaching such a stage at your age is truly impressive, you can’t be proud until you reach ‘Forging: Advanced’. That is the stage all the master blacksmiths are at, and if you want to be proud of your crafting, reach that stage first.”
“Eh? But I’ve done so well so far, doesn’t it count for anything?” Regal asks softly, his pride wounded from her previous words.
Fiona just grins slyly at him and says, “Wait until you reach the advanced stage, then you’ll understand. Ignore all requests to join guilds or communities before you reach that stage, you’ll thank me later.”
Regal doesn’t have any rebuttal to say to her and can only accept her words. While her tongue is a bit vicious, her advice is solid and trustworthy.
“Regardless of that,” Fiona continues, “I want purchase large quantities of this ‘Earthen Blood Flint’ of yours. I would buy the bullets, but you are only one person and I need large quantities of them crafted. Don’t forget to give me a bulk discount. Now, everyone go to the cafeteria and eat before getting some rest. Hilbert, you’re in charge of the main deck tonight!”
Fiona doesn’t leave any room for Regal to even negotiate with her and pressures him to accept her business transaction.
Regal and his squad follow a now gloomy and downcast Graft toward the cafeteria where a simple meal has been prepared, before being introduced to their own rooms for the night. The warship is mostly empty of crew so everyone gets their own room.
While he was preparing for bed, the door to Regal’s room silently opens and Veronica sneaks in. Ever since Veronica broke through the compulsion on her and reignited her feelings for Regal, she has been extremely passionate about not leaving his side and has spent every night with him.
Regal was expecting her and doesn’t need to turn around. The two of them quietly remove their armor pieces, placing them in their inventory, before changing into loose and thin clothing to sleep in.
Once Regal is in bed lying down on his back, Veronica quickly slips into the bed as well and moves closer. Tonight is different from the previous few nights they’ve spent together as she directly climbs on top of him and stares passionately into his eyes. Even in the dark, they are so close they can make out the small details on each other’s face.
Regal feels Veronica’s hot breath on his face, her large breasts tightly pressing through her shirt and onto his chest. Despite sleeping together every night, Regal and Veronica have not been intimate since the first few days they had sex, leaving Regal to feel awkward in the current scenario and unsure as to what he should do.
Veronica slowly moved her face closer to Regal’s as his heartbeat began to accelerate. The next moment however, completely blew away all Regal’s thoughts.
Lying on top of him, Veronica didn’t try to kiss him, neither did she try to do anything that would be considered intimate, she merely pressed her face into his. Veronica’s messy amber hair, which appears like it will explode into a Needle-Backed Lizard should the iron and copper hair clips come loose, is sprayed out across the pillow around Regal’s head.
All personal space banished, the awkwardness Regal was feeling increased, and he was suddenly wide awake. Veronica lay there with her face pressed against his comfortably, her eyes closed, breathing softly, displacing her hair and tickling Regal’s ears with each exhalation.
“Umm, Veronica?” Regal tries to quietly gather her attention.
“Mmm?” Veronica hums, purring gently into Regal’s ear.
“Can you move over?”
Veronica lifts her head and opens her eyes slightly, gazing into Regal’s eyes tenderly. She states a simple, “No,” before closing them again and pressing her face back against Regal’s, this time falling completely asleep, leaving Regal helpless for the entire night. All he could do is gently wrap his arms around her and try to get comfortable.
For Veronica, it was one of the most comfortable and satisfying sleep she’s had in a long time. For Regal, it was one of the longest nights he’s had in a long time.