The woman quietly stared at the parchment in her hand.
Because it was suicidal to use electric devices in Bakal's palace swarming with dragons,
they had to resort to paper-based communication.
The dark bloodstains crisscrossing the parchment showed how much was sacrificed for it to reach her hands.
She clasped her hands and closed her eyes, praying.
She knew if there were a god who could hear her prayers,
he would never have let those cruel dragons stomp this land.
Still, she didn't stop praying.
She was willing to be a priestess or shaman if it could help her forces overcome their fears and fight their enemies.
And she wasn't praying to some abstract entity who could one day answer her prayers.
She was praying to her real gods, who'd one day grant everyone what they'd wished for, and they were...
"Irine, who are you always praying to?"
The soldier who'd been watching her pray broke the silence.
Irine opened her eyes and looked at him.
"Someone who I believe will grant our wishes one day."
A puzzled look appeared on the soldier's face. Irine grinned and continued to speak.
"By the way, the Four Dragonoids have headed out to Bakal's palace. Finally, the time Rosa mentioned has come.
Please tell Flo and Juvenil to get ready for the operation."
The soldier quickly nodded his head and disappeared outside her tent.
Irine spoke under her breath.
"Please, let my gods return safely again this time."
With a look of disgust in his eyes
and a gloating smirk across his lips,
Numak looked down at the Empyrean Allied Force at his feet.
He'd been crushed by an object that he summoned.
"You Empyreans are so barbaric."
Numak always judged others based on their manners.
If he decided they weren't refined enough, he became ruthless. Oftentimes, even murderous.
He acted as if he had the right to kill them for their coarseness.
"So many gnats have gathered at my home during the short time I was away to see Bakal."
The soldier stood frozen, helplessly watching his comrade moaning in pain.
"N-Numak... Y-you weren't supposed to be back so early..."
Numak altered the flow of light, instantly moving to the soldier.
In the face of the dragonoid, the soldier shuddered inwardly.
Even the snowstorm raging around them was warmer than the cold look in Numak's eyes.
"You sound as if you know where I've been."
Suddenly Numak's face softened.
The cold aura that had surrounded him just a moment ago disappeared, replaced by saccharine sweetness.
"Please tell me: what are you Empyrean Allied Forces up to?"
Numak caught the vulnerability in the soldier's eyes and cooed.
The soldier let his guard down and opened his mouth in spite of himself.
The words he'd sworn not to speak were about to come out of his mouth.
His bloodied and maimed comrade grunted.
The vivid anger in his dying comrade's wispy voice instantly brought him back to his senses.
Angrily, the soldier pointed his gun at Numak, whose face had regained its usual chilliness.
"You people are so rude. Not only did you sneak into my house, but you're also threatening me with your silly weapon."
Numak casually flicked his wrist. The soldier instantly dropped to the ground, dead.
The dragonoid looked at the blood splattered on his clothes with disgust.
He could hear the remaining human soldiers moving about busily in his mansion a distance away.
"Still too many gnats."
Scowling, Numak made a start toward his mansion.
Then he stopped. He'd sensed a strange power that he'd never felt before.
Numak pondered for a while, and then started concentrating his power with a determined look on his face.
A massive golden ward appeared around the mansion, keeping the soldiers inside it.
Numak sauntered out of the ward, looking at the snowy mountain.
"Perhaps this must be whom Bakal told us about."
The light shimmered, then Numak disappeared.
Life was boring to Neiser, as it usually was for those who could never find a challenge.
Neiser hated noise.
He didn't know why, and he never really bothered to find out.
Like a spoiled child, the Black Dragon was purely driven by the whims of desire.
The silent darkness that stretched endlessly in his place was his only friend
and the only thing that occupied his life.
But the wind of change blew everywhere. Even Neiser couldn't avoid it.
He had to leave his quiet lair and take up residence in some new place, following Bakal's order.
His new home, this forest in Empyrean, was filled with activity and the noise that came with it.
Crickets chirped all day. Tree leaves constantly shook and rubbed against each other. Fish jumped out of water, making loud splashes.
Literally, it was filled with life, and Neiser hated it.
He couldn't handle all this noise.
He had to make a decision. He had to do something about it.
But that meant a lot of work, and he never had to work hard before.
But it was necessary. Neiser inhaled deeply as he made up his mind.
He set about doing what must be done without warning.
He went about cleaning out the forest as a homemaker would tidy their home, sweeping places, moving things around, and whatnot.
But there was an unexpected obstacle: humans.
They were the loudest pests. They were the most reckless, too. The chunks of metal that they swung at him made so much noise that they gave him a headache.
These humans also demanded he returned their forest back to them. Eventually, Neiser grew tired of them.
He had no choice but to exterminate them.
Afterward, he created dark spirits out of them that silently followed his orders,
turning other humans into their kind and protecting his forest.
Finally, Neiser's hard work had paid off. Nothing in his forest made a noise, not even the humans.
For the first time since he came here, he felt at peace.
A dying human feebly asked.
Neiser grunted in disapproval.
He'd worked so hard to make this forest to this liking. How could this human not see that?
For 500 years, they didn't leave him alone. Now, he got to enjoy his peace.
Grumbling, he stamped down on the human's head as if it was a cigarette butt.
You humans are like moths
flying to flame.
Eternal Flames, you say?
But there's no light or flame here.
You're needlessly passionate.
This is the land of darkness—the forest of death!
There's no place for your passion here.
It's for me and my precious silence only!
Underneath his stamping foot, Empyrean's soil quietly swallowed the blood flowing out of the dying soldier.
The ground shook.
What used to be a threatening weapon collapsed into a heap of scrap metal,
adding to the piles of junk already scattered throughout the barren desert.
Straddling the scrap metal, Itrenok violently scratched his head.
"This is boring."
Itrenok didn't bother with having a home.
The haughty Numak, who constantly lectured him about class and dignity, had the Empyrean mansion that their master gave him.
That creepy kid had taken over an entire forest.
Ash Core, who was obsessed with showing his loyalty to their master, volunteered to guard his palace.
Itrenok just moved from one place to another, picking a fight with anyone that even looked slightly strong.
Of course, even he couldn't ignore a summons from his master, who always gave him such boring and uninspiring missions.
This time, however, was different.
His new mission made Itrenok's heart pound with excitement.
Visitors from a strange place! How strong were they that even Bakal took notice of them?
If Itrenok found them, he wasn't going to kill them quickly.
Itrenok welcomed the emotion, anger.
It gave him the strength to punish those puny humans who ran their mouths at him at first,
and then realize how strong he was and how they were not.
Looking at their helpless, desperate looks on their faces even made him feel like a god.
This time, he was going to take as long as he could to play with his prey and enjoy the adrenaline rush from his anger.
If it got exhausted before he lost his interest in it, then... he'd take its most precious thing. It'd perk up and come back at him again.
Humans got angry at things like that.
...At least, that was his plan.
He came running to the Tomb of Iron with his heart swelling with excitement. So far, he'd found nothing but dead heaps of scrap iron and things that were still moving, but not for long, now that he was here.
There were humans, too. They kept firing something at him, but it barely left a scratch on him.
He didn't bother with them; he just let them be crushed by their own weapons that fell onto them.
After turning the Tomb of Iron into a sea of iron,
Itrenok wondered for a moment if the otherworldly visitors were hiding among these feeble humans.
He quickly decided they weren't.
The familiar sound of a mechanical engine running was heard again.
Ugh, another boring machine.
Itrenok leaped into the air. When he landed, there was another heap of scrap metal behind him.
Please come to me, visitors from a strange place.
I've been waiting for you. I demand you entertain me.
"I don't want to die...!"
The weak must die.
Your own weakness is to blame for this.
He instantly turned dozens of Empyreans into ash before they even had a chance to scream.
Watching the glowing embers left behind them, Ash Core took in a deep breath.
He could smell and taste the blood, ash, and dust in the air.
A wind blew, scattering the ashes along with glowing embers.
I smelled something worse than this a long time ago.
Ash Core remembered when he was just a hatchling.
Bakal was ripping everything in pieces in front of him.
Buildings. Pandemonians. Even dragons. Bakal destroyed and burned everything in his way.
Nothing could touch him.
Ash Core admired Bakal and his strength.
It's only natural that the weak perish and the strong survive.
He followed Bakal to Empyrean, and there he started acting upon his belief.
He butchered humans simply because he believed they were weak.
He even dispatched his own kind to be fair.
Only the strong can stand next to Bakal.
And... have I become one of them?
Ash Core pondered for a while and tightened his fist with an audible crack.
Have I proved my worth to Bakal?
He wasn't sure even though he'd been following in his steps, worshipping strength, all this time.
"This is not the welcome I expected."
"That's because you're not welcome."
Ash Core didn't even bother to look back at the voice that was heard all of a sudden.
"Numak, you know you're trespassing, right?"
"Oops, my apologies. I came bearing a message."
Numak didn't sound apologetic at all.
"Bakal has summoned us."
Ash Core quickly turned toward Numak, scowling.
The disdain in Numak's eyes that gazed upon his surroundings quickly disappeared when they met Ash Core's. Numak put on a contrived smile as he said,
"Yes. He has something to say to us."
Ash Core clenched his fist again.
For a different reason, this time.
He could barely hold back his laughter.
I knew it! Bakal has been watching me!
"Hah hah hah! Let's go. We can't keep Bakal waiting, now can we?"
Female. Age unknown.
The Archpriestess who led the Black Roses and the Empyrean Allied Forces to resist Bakal's tyrannical reign that lasted for 500 years.
She was elected the commander of the Allied Forces because of her charismatic leadership.
Later, she entrusted the Black Roses to her right-hand man, Flo. As the commander of the Allied Forces, she acted as the center of her community, uniting everyone across the social hierarchy.
The records say that after the success of the Machine Revolution, she made the Black Roses an official force and appointed Flo as General of the Imperial Capital with her authority as the Archpriestess.
Male. Age unknown.
Irine's successor who led the Black Roses in her stead and resisted Bakal's tyrannical reign that lasted for 500 years.
He developed a variety of special projectiles against the dragons whose thick skin couldn't be easily penetrated by ordinary bullets.
He was also a great fighter. The battlefields beautifully dotted with the aftermath of his explosives explained why he was named the Black Flower of the Battlefield and the very first Spitfire.
He spoke and acted carelessly and cheerfully to give strength to his leader, Irine, who carried the future of a nation on her shoulders.
The records say that after the success of the Machine Revolution, Flo was appointed as General of the Imperial Capital by Irine. Later, it became custom for Spitfires to be appointed as General.
Female. Age unknown.
The leader of House Wane who was the most active among
all nobles in resisting Bakal's tyrannical reign that lasted for 500 years. She also united the will of the great houses of Empyrean.
Believing that what made one noble was not her bloodline but her spirit, she practiced her ideal of true noblesse oblige.
Even when a majority of nobles submitted to the dragons and moved to the Imperial Capital, she remained and led the other nobles in the Empyrean Allied Forces.
The records say that after the success of the Machine Revolution, she passed down her name and spirit to her foster daughter, marking the beginning of the great House Wane.
Female. Age unknown.
The iron woman who served as the advisor of the Empyrean Allied Forces, overseeing all their battle, reconnaissance, and even supply operations to overthrow Bakal's tyrannical 500-year reign.
She was instrumental in the success of the Machine Revolution during which the Allied Forces were closely matched with their enemies despite their inferiority in everything.
The epitome of reason and composure, she was ready to throw her life away for her cause and her forces, who had absolute faith in her.
The records say that after the success of the Machine Revolution, she was named a meritorious retainer and her family became one of the greatest houses in the history of Empyrean.
Male. Age unknown.
He revived Eternal Flame that declined after the failure of the Gaebolg Project.
He was also instrumental in understanding and recreating the Anti-Bakal weapon originally designed by the Seven Meisters.
This achievement got him attention within Eternal Flame and even sent him all the way up their ranks.
But for some reason, he's been omitted from history.
Male. Age unknown.
The leader of Company Doch, the weapon dealer that supplied the Empyrean Allied Forces during their revolution against Bakal's 500-year-long tyranny.
As a descendant of Frantz Doch, he'd inherited Company Doch.
He took advantage of his organization's well-earned reputation to secretly supply weapons to the Allied Forces and help them communicate with each other.
His overly friendly and cheerful manner often gave the wrong impression, but he was a faultless expert when it came to his job.
The records say that after the success of the Machine Revolution, he renamed Company Doch to The Company, and converted it into a security company. He also set the rule for the most skilled member of the organization to become the next leader.
The most challenging aspect for the Empyrean Allied Forces in working to end the 500 years of Bakal's oppression was finding a suitable base. The fortress that the Eternal Flames built to carry out the Gaebolg Project a long time ago was besieged by Bakal's overwhelming army.
The Allied Forces followed Advisor Jurgen's instructions and scattered, hiding in forests, caves, and underground tunnels. Bakal's army could no longer easily find them because they kept switching places through the password system that only they knew.
A mansion in the snowy northern area that once belonged to a traitorous Empyrean noble.
Currently, it's warded by glowing golden energy to keep the Empyrean Allied Forces, who entered the tarnished place at the wrong time, from escaping.
Save the forces and lead the battle to victory.
A forest where everything's so quiet that it feels like death.
The Black Dragon hides in the seemingly endless darkness, watching for intruders.
Stir up the flames where light can't reach to shatter the silence and amass allied forces.
After the failure of the Gaebolg Project, Eternal Flame declined and went into hiding in the western desert.
A long time has passed. Now, the final piece of the puzzle that's the Machine Revolution,
the Anti-Bakal weapon, is near-complete.
Protect the weapon against the steely dragonoid's tightening grasp.
The lush forest of Mount Hardt was burned by Bakal.
Bakal's palace stands tall beyond the ashen vestiges now called the Dragon's Garden,
safely guarded against human invaders
by the flaming dragonoid who admired Bakal's fiery breath and volunteered to be his gatekeeper.
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