[Magdala V5] Prologue

“The Lord hath spoken! Open the path!”

The pure white girl stood proudly, her voice echoing with through the battlefield in a way different from a beast’s roar, followed by an explosion resounding like a hellish cauldron opened. Following that were dazzling rays of light, and a scorching wave of heat.

It was a common saying to say that the walls of humans toppled over, yet the scene before them was more comparable to bellows whiffing soot and dust up from the floor.

“The Lord had decreed that we are justice, that we are to advance! Proceed without fear! This is the path our Lord has as blessed with his glory!”

It was a quote from a chapter recorded in the Bible, depicting how the people obeyed God’s guidance and went to the Promised Land. According to the Bible, the Lord led his suffering children away from the oppressive ancient Empire, through a hazardous journey, and miraculously led them to the Promised Land.

Normally, such words would seem so surreal, a tall tale, yet it became reality before their eyes.

“Those that turn their backs on God shall be scorched in eternal flames!”

Even big rocks could shatter easily as long as cracks appeared. At this point, they were literally surrounded by flames, charging through the enemy ranks. Such a scene was too surreal to fathom.

In any case, the devices mimicked the dragon fountain, spewing flammable oil.

The armies of ex-Pagans were laying siege on the mining town of Kazan, primed to retake it. The Knights’ forces charging out of Kazan were overwhelmingly outnumbered, and stood out prominently.

However, awaiting the Knights soldiers that were trying to escaping from Kazan was a thick wall human wall. The enemy comprised of heavily armored knights, spear-wielding mercenaries, and archers pelting arrows upon them. A few dragon flamethrowers would most likely be insufficient in dealing with them.

To make up for the difference in fighting forces, Kusla’s side steadied its resolve, and charged towards the weak point of the enemy with reckless abandon. They knew this was the only way out for them.

They followed the flames, and bravely charged forth, instantly changing the situation around.

The enemy was completely intimidated by the vigor shown, and could not muster the urge to fight back. Most of them probably could not believe the scenery before them, and were utterly stupefied.

This scenery was so foreign to them. There was a dragon, stated in legends to roam these lands, and asphalt fire that appeared to rising from the depths of hell, lunging towards them.

Nobody could believe the scenery unveiled before their eyes.

The enemy should have been feeling more courageous than the Knights.

But there was a reason why they were utterly flabbergasted.

And it was due to whatever was before there.

There was a dragon-shaped flamethrower, and standing atop it was a girl.

Someone amongst the enemy ranks yelled,

“It’s an Ancient! The mythical calamity! The ancient spirits have awakened!”

Normally, anyone would have laughed it off.

But once they saw the dragon head turned to another direction, they understood that it was reality.

The war-hardened soldiers were left terrified by the dragon and the strange looking girl riding on the back of the dragon, causing them to panic and retreat to the sides.

A scorching trail blazed through, and was followed by thick black smoke, causing the enemy to sense an impending Death and disperse. Due to the thick hell-like black smoke blocking their vision, the soldiers could only do as they deemed necessary, and the enemy formations broke down. The Knights side charged through the opening revealed by the enemy, lances in hand as they barged in like a giant rake stabbed into a massive haystack. The enemies unable to escape in time raised the shields that were alf their height, forming a wall of metal. While they tried to escape when given the opportunity, the heavy armor slowed them greatly, like a tortoise, and they were slayed from behind by swords, stabbed by lances, and fell one after another. It was no different from hare hunting in town.

The Knights gave a deafening roar.

“Charge!!!”

They bolted through the battlefield that was hell on Earth, and the dragon too accelerated to the frontlines. The enemy had laid a heavy siege upon the town in their attempt to exterminate the Knights. Once they heard the enemy’s deafening roars from the back, they assumed those were cheers from their allies. Unfortunately for them, the ones slashing their way through the human barricade was not the friendlies they had assumed. Once the enemies at the backline saw the forces centered around the dragons and girl breaking through, they were all left stupefied.

Humans are most fragile when struck at the most unexpected moment. The Knights did not let this chance pass, and the metal dragons raised their wings, turned their heads.

The Alchemist Kusla was grabbing firmly onto the hands of dragon-shaped flamethrower operating it. He loosened the leash, and the flames were unleashed immediately. The heat wave scorched his face, and was so bright, his eyes were closed, as the flames were expunged.

He had assumed that the Vanguard led by the dragon would have pulled quite some distance. However, there were too many enemies, mobbing them endlessly. This uncertainty awoke a worry within him, as he wondered if the forces behind them had caught up.

Looking back, he saw the Knights’ soldiers giving chase. They were completely blackened by the soot in the thick smoke, the eyes the only ones that looked exceptionally white. Weyland, another Alchemist, was firing another metal dragon flamethrower upon the enemies.

At this moment, the girl standing at the throne behind had called the soldiers ‘Warriors of God’.

The girl was a member of what they called the cursed bloodline, born with a non-human deformity.

Kusla turned around, and looked forward.

The enemy soldiers were rattled by the flames that were expunged, and hastily escaped from the wall of black smoke. There was no way they could stop the surging Knights.

He sensed a looming miracle, and the excitement was rising up his throat.

The enemies at the back fell one after another. It was an omen that their ranks were collapsing. Perhaps their hopes to barge through the enemy wall could become reality after all.

And while all the Knights were filled with such elation.

“Fire away!!”

A shout could be heard to the left before they.

Kusla tugged at the dragon leash as he looked up to the left, and saw a flock of birds passing by.

No.

They were arrows.

The enemy archers were not defeated by the fear in their hearts, and fired at the Knights in unison.

Kusla and the others concentrated their penetration at a point in the enemy’s formation, like a flaming lance burning with the intention to charge through. Thus, the Knights probably intended to charge through in a narrow, straight line, but no matter how clear the goal was, no matter how fast they ran, there was no way they could be as fast as the wind. Also, it was thoroughly difficult for them to change directions rapidly when they were dashing forth.

The arrows, hovering like birds above in the sky, rained down upon them like a massive serpent, and it was a nerve wracking sight to behold.

In a charge, if the Vanguard was to fall, the ones behind would follow. The enemy’s objective was obvious. The rain of arrows would surely fall upon them, the Vanguard. Kusla held his breath, leaving his fate to the Heavens.

At that moment.

“The Lord is protecting us!”

Everyone present looked over.

Standing there, at the throne resting upon the back of the dragon, was a girl holding a Bible in a hand, rallying them. The white sister robes were covered with helmet and armor, and she resembled a War Goddess. The part most striking of her, as compared to the battlefield, was the diminutive, pristine body.

The girl was staring forward, ostensibly spotting something.

While everyone else remained stunned, her white long hair fluttered with the wind, and she looked so fleeting. She had a pair of non-human, beast-like ears, and a non-human appearance, forced to act as a symbol of calamity that had spread amongst the Pagans since ancient times. However, the main reason for their reactions was that her appearance was too beautiful, so fleeting in comparison to the cruel battlefield.

She was a white War Goddess rising from the depictions of the war memoirs.

Everyone present seemed out of it as they watched the sidelong face of Ul Fenesis.

The arrows of death rained from the sky, and the armada of thousands stampeded in a deafening manner.

“…”

At that moment, Kusla did not understand what happened. It had gotten quiet around them.

The ground beneath him continued to move, and he understood that the carriage ferrying the dragon was racing forth. He, hidden behind the dragon, lifted his head, and found the carriage pierced with arrows.

But he remained standing, breathing, alive!

Thinking about this, Kusla heaved a sigh of relief, and lifted his head.

Fenesis remained in his sights, her expression starkly different from before, stunned, like a dead person. He was taken aback, and a chilling fear rose within his heart.

But once she stared blankly at her own body, she lowered her head at him.

Her green eyes were looking at him with incredulity.

And she again looked forward.

“It’s a miracle!”

Someone yelled, and it pulled Kusla’s consciousness back to the battlefield.

He looked around, and saw the soldiers around them checking themselves.

None of them were hit.

“It’s really a miracle!”

The Knights raised their lances to cheer, and ran faster than before.

There was nothing to fear.

This thought had reached the enemy’s heart.

The enemy lines had crumbled.

The Vanguard penetrated through.

Is this even possible?

Kusla looked forth at the land devoid of people, and muttered in utter disbelief. Surely they would have died back then, yet not only was he incredulous, he was strangely terrified. A miracle, an empty thing in itself, would only be called one if it did not happen, no?

He sensed his throat was parched and unbearable, several times he tried to swallow his saliva, only to nearly spit it out.

He turned behind.

The Knights soldiers were like him, giving looks of utter disbelief. Surely this was a normal reaction, so he thought with relief, looked away, and lifted his head. He was a little worried for the girl before him.

Kusla then narrowed his eyes, for he could not believe the scene that was unveiled before him.

The carriage ferrying the dragon broke through the enemy’s ranks, and raced through the frontlines. The girl on the dragon was holding a Bible in hand, showing no signs of trepidation as she stood proudly on the throne. That alone would have left Kusla thoroughly impressed.

But that was not all.

Fenesis stood boldly, her pure white hair fluttering with the wind.

Kusla watched her stare blankly. Even at this moment, she was smiling. In the past, she would show a determined look, and clearly it showed that she was not some weak, pure-hearted girl. Once he saw that however, he had to understand something.

Fenesis was a person, filled with emotions, and was not a kitten that was only to be understood, protected, and doted on.

He looked forward, and found himself rattled.

Why did he feel so bitter? What was he terrified of?

No, it was likely that he was feeling overwhelmed as they had just broken through the enemy’s ranks. It was embarrassing for him, so he thought, and he could only believe so.

Once the forces finally broke through, and arrived at an open field. There was a path before them, leading towards the forest. It was more advantageous for the Knights, inferior in numbers, to enter the forest, Kusla did not think that the Knights could weave their way through as easily as before, and fend off the incoming enemies.

The enemy soldiers had forgotten to raise their weapons as they watched the Knights leave.

They escaped.

So Kusla consoled himself, the pain smacking at his heart was due to the emotions that could not be repressed, the exhilaration of victory rising in his heart.

Soon after, they escaped into the forest, and slowed down.

Nobody said anything as they continued to make haste.

The soldiers, more riled up than the horses, started to stumble as they arrived at their designated vantage point. It was a mound, a cliff to the side. If they positioned the dragon flamethrowers atop the mounds, they could gain a complete advantage by holding the high ground. The path was narrow, forests on both sides of the mound, and the landscape was hard to tackle.

No matter how many armies came, if they set up position here, they could hold their ground as long as the dragon fuel was not depleted.

But when they first heard of this plan, none of them could believe.

It was likely the Commander was the only one who actually believed that the forces could reach this place, for his job was to believe.

So when they actually arrived and set up their defenses, all of them was stunned.

Were there no enemies around? How was it possible for them to arrive?

None of them could say anything.

They silently looked in the probable direction the enemy would arrive from.

Suddenly, they heard the galloping of the horses.

Reality was finally catching up to them. Only when the enemy arrived would they dare believe it was reality. It was abnormal of them.

However, arriving at this point was not the enemy.

“The enemy is not giving pursuit!”

The scout, riding on horseback, yelled.

“The enemy has given up on pursuit, and is preparing to attack Kazan!”

All of them stopped.

The scout bringing good news was momentarily taken aback, and then, he lashed out angrily.

“We did it! We escaped!”

Immediately, there were no cheers on the mound, just giggles.

All of them snickered, and soon after, they burst into laughter.

They dropped their weapons, and laughed out loud.

Kusla was standing by with the metal dragon, waiting to fire the flames once the enemy came. At this moment, he too heaved a long sigh of relief. His shoulders relaxed, and the soldiers next to him were guffawing and patting him on the head and shoulders, embracing him.

Someone then shouted,

“Praise be to God!”

Someone else then shouted,

“Praise be the great Knights!”

“Praise be to Archduke Kratal!”

“And!”

It seemed everyone had premeditated upon something as they looked in a certain direction.

No, it was likely that ever since the battle started, everyone had focused their attentions there.

Kusla too looked over there.

There was a girl seated on the throne installed at the back of the dragon, collapsed there as she heaved a sigh of relief after the battle ended.

“Praised be our War Goddess!”

The exhilarant soldiers gave a thunderous roar. The startled birds flew out of the forests in flocks, but as Fenesis herself did not have wings, she could not fly away from the throne. The beast ears on her head were twitching like wings.

“Eh? Eh?”

With the stares gathered upon her, Fenesis immediately reverted back to being a town girl, and was on the verge of tears as she fidgeted around.

Seeing this, Kusla grimaced, but the soldiers were exuberant with exhilaration as they had just escaped death, more direct in their reactions.

They gathered before the carriage ferrying the dragon, first embracing Kusla, and then surrounding Fenesis.

In a frenzy, the mercenaries and Knights roared with joy, and Kusla stood on the sidelines, watching them whisk Fenesis from the throne.

The latter was completely overwhelmed. Surely, it seemed like–

Soon after Kusla had such a thought, Fenesis vanished as she was pulled them, and she was tossed above their heads.

“The Prophet of our Lord! Glory to this beautiful spirit and our great Knights!”

Fenesis was raised by the mercenaries who were thrice as muscular as her, and she despately cling onto the hem of her robes.

What is she being worried about here? Kusla gave a wry smile.

A Knight meekly requested to shake hands with her, and she shook his hand tentatively. The others too swarmed in, “Me too, me too!”

None of them were bothered by the fact that Fenesis had ears on her head. No, their actions were saying that the beast ears were a miraculous sign.

Surely the soldiers were simpletons at heart.

They were probably thinking that they could win due to these beast ears, that those with deformities were not all bad.

In any case, it seemed Fenesis was not shunned as a cursed symbol, and neither was she dismissed as a plain town girl. She should not be in any trouble. Upon seeing this, Kusla gave a temporary sigh of relief. There was a group of veteran, collected soldiers away from the soldiers surrounding Fenesis. They were effervescent in praise and thanks towards him.

Once Fenesis was finally released from the mercenaries, she momentarily lost her footing as she stumbled over, so Kusla went over to support her. After she was released all the cheering, her hair was as messy,.her clothes crumpled, and she was soaked in sweat, as though she was working before the scorching furnace.

“Are you fine?”

Kusla asked. Fenesis nodded her head, and suddenly lifted it up high.

“Wh-what about Miss Irine and Mr Weyland?”

More concerned with others instead of yourself now? Kusla gave a wry smile as he scanned his surroundings, and spotted Weyland. The latter had noticed him too, and waved back heartily, as though they had just encountered each other on the streets.

“Looks fine.”

“I…see…”

Fenesis heaved a sigh of relief, and went limp in Kusla’s clutches, slipping down as though her body was devoid of bones. Physically and mentally, she was probably at her limits.

“Hey, hang on a little longer.”

Kusla held her up again, but her eyes were already closing. While Kusla himself was all worn out, he could not let a groggy lady remain in his clutches.

Thus, he carried her up, and placed her on the carriage. Some alert mercenaries had already prepared a blanket for her. Goodness me so he grumbled, but he was also relieved. He was finally able to notice her face. The smoke from the flames left lots of soot, and on a closer look, he found her face to be covered with black streaks.

Kusla gave a chuckle, and wanted to use his thumb to wipe off Fenesis’ face. However, he found his hand to be dirtier than her face, and ended up making it worse.

Fenesis herself was too weary to sleep. Once Kusla touched her face, she turned to look at him with her discombobulated eyes.

“Close your eyes. You’ll be able to sleep soon.”

“…”

Upon hearing that, Fenesis lowered her eyelids, but did not shut them off completely.

“Sure is dirty though. Better get some hot water or handkerchief..”

Fenesis’ face was thoroughly dirtied. Kusla looked at his hands again, and found them to be so black, it appeared he had just touched some charcoal. He was completely covered in sweat, and really wanted to wipe his body clean.

He thought as he tried to stand up, only to be tugged at by something.

He lowered his head, and found Fenesis, with her eyes closed, tugging at the hem of his shirt. The little hand was more forceful than he expected.

Was she sleeping, or hiding her embarrassment?

In any case, he could understand what she yearned.

Kusla sat back again, and leaned on the railing of the carriage. Fortifications were established around him, and the non-combatants were all hastily preparing food. In any case, it seemed they managed to escape unscathed.

He lowered his head, looking at the face of the sleeping Fenesis, and chuckled, before his lethargic self finally fell to fatigue. As he laid down, looking at the sky, he sensed something strange in his heart, though not unpleasant in the slightest.

Kusla glanced aside at Fenesis, and closed his eyes.

With the stench of sweat and ash around him, his consciousness was taken by Sleep itself.

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