Power doesn’t corrupt. It only reveals a person’s true nature. Absolute power however, usually causes people to become apathetic and lethargic. This disgusting laziness often turns even the greatest of leaders, into incompetent rulers.
It isn’t something that happens instantly either. They slowly rot away, fatigued by the countless sheep that follow them around… Oftentimes to their collective demise. That’s just how people are though. Foolish cowards who would sooner stab their protectors in their backs, than lend them a helping hand.
My name used to be Beatrix Aust but… Around that time, I changed it to Beatrix Ares Day. My reason? Because I wasn’t just ‘me’ anymore.
“Do you feel that, Beatrix?” A deep and gravelly voice echoed in my mind as I looked through the scope of my favorite sniper-rifle.
“Yes… Arrogance and pride… They don’t understand how weak they truly are.” I whispered to the crimson-armored humanoid creature to my right. He wasn’t really there, but a phantom that Michael lent me as a gift. He taught me how to wield a myriad of weapons. Various techniques and stratagems… Even how to train soldiers through battle. Without his assistance, it’s likely that the Battle of White Mithril would have repeated itself many more times before I learned my lesson: The only worthwhile victory, is a flawless one.
“Tune out the silence… Listen to their souls. Feel their hearts beating in their wicked chests. Hone in on their minds. Do you see it? The sins they’ve committed? Mark the evil ones for death. Once the leaders are gone, the rest will make their decisions. To surrender or die. Not a difficult choice for the weak to make.”
‘His’ name was Ares. One of Michael’s former incarnations, who was known as a God of War. However, he wasn’t merciless or excessively bloodthirsty. This was months before the Great Cataclysm in the North. I received reports from my scouts about a Human threat near the western border of Lorthon Forest. There were hundreds of thousands of the bastards making encampments and preparing to enter from various different routes.
We had just finished cleaning up all the raiders and then even more of those scumbags wanted to encroach on our territory? Obviously I wasn’t going to allow them to taint our nation with their filthy ways. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to simply massacre them all or ignore their existence while defending the border. That wasn’t ‘our’ way. No, Michael’s rules of Karma dictated that whenever we saw ‘evil’, we needed to exterminate it at the source. Save those who could be saved and eradicate the rest.
Guilt or innocence can come later, but the first step is always to neutralize the most dangerous threat. Thus, the white-bearded old man on the distant stone tower was the first target. Although my rifle was loud to me, the sound was dispersed throughout the forest around me and the sound of the birds flapping their wings to escape the area, swiftly drowned out the echo.
Within moments, the man at the top of that tower keeled over. My round hit his waist, but that didn’t matter. The most important aspect of firearms, is actually the ammunition. Since the target was a ‘wizard’ of sorts, I used a black-mithril coated bullet to bypass any sort of barriers… After a few seconds a massive tree trunk started growing out of the man’s back, while branches ripped his head apart. There was no time for him to scream to alert anyone else, because he died before he even understood what was happening.
Of course, the huge green tree devouring the tower was obviously going to be seen by many people, since it was the middle of the day. Also, I was ultimately a general, so that operation didn’t rely totally on my efforts. I simply wanted to have some fun first.
“Kill the marked targets first. Anyone who tries to enter the woods… If possible, the Guardians will apprehend them, but if they put up a fight… Execute.” My words instantly entered the minds of every soldier in the vicinity and bullets began raining down upon the humans that were marked for death.
They were surrounded by forests in every direction, deciding to build a damn fortress in that artificial void they created. Of course, the only thing they had was that ‘keep’ that the wizard was guarding, which housed the royal family. While their armies and workforce had to live in either huts or tents. Neither of which had any resistance to our bullets. Though very few of them were staying in their homes regardless.
Although, if we really wanted to massacre them all, we had plenty of more effective means. Such as bombarding them with mortars, dropping grenades from the backs of wyverns or even just letting loose some trained magical beasts. It was never going to be a fair fight from the start. In fact, it wasn’t a fight at all. Simply cutting away the cancer from the healthy cells.
After the rain of bullets, there were quite a few soldiers who were stupid enough to band together and charge towards the visible Guardian Battalion near the edge of the clearing. No matter how thick their iron or steel armor was, there were plenty of parts that weren’t protected. Not just that, but within ten meters, even the steel armor chest plates could be penetrated by regular shotgun slugs and LMG bullets.
Yes, it had been quite a while since Ailyn had basically created every conventional hand-held weapon she could think of, including automatic pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and light machine guns. Not that automatic means ‘better’ than semi-automatic, but when you’re in a dangerous situation, being able to just hold down the trigger and aim is often able to save your life.
After Ailyn finished making her idea of ‘conventional’ weapons, she started working on other things. Engines for vehicles, turbines to generate power, the ‘Super Lorelei Project’ and more. I didn’t have time to keep track of that though, because all that mattered to me was what I could use at the time.
Fortunately, Ailyn had left behind plenty of learning material and her apprentices had entire classrooms full of second-generation disciples. One of which, invented the innovative method of using magic to take previously semi-automatic or even bolt-action weapons and give them the ability to become automatic. Of course, he didn’t come up with the idea of Runes or anything. Michael started that and taught it to Ethir, who went on to create a school with Raelin and well, they taught a lot of students before they disappeared.
Still, the incredible thing about those Runes, was that they could be painted onto weapons with a special ink and they’d never be able to come off. From that point on, the weapons could become far more deadly. Of course, there were also other types of magical weapons that were developed once the concept of firearms was firmly understood.
For example, ‘Railguns’ that were essentially mithril tubes, with similar light mithril ball bearings for ammunition. The bbs would be controlled through Earth Manipulation and be able to fly several times faster than the speed of sound. This tiny projectile would oftentimes deal more damage than an ordinary .50 caliber explosive round. And it could be fired as fast as the Earth Mage could shoot it, being weaker or stronger depending on their concentration, mana capacity and other similar effects. Of course, it was also possible to create Runes to perform the actions, so that the Mage wouldn’t need to think about it too much… But ultimately, mana was still required.
The Rune on my bolt-action sniper rifle was the same way, it would need me to power it with mana for it to swiftly pull back the bolt and push it forward again. I remember when mages used to be revered for only being able to do rudimentary and ineffective spells, but after a few years, everyone could perform one or more types of magical manipulation. The truth was that, if you were in the First Ring of Lorthon, even on the outskirts… You already had enough impetus to use magic, assuming you understood how or had the natural talent. Most people couldn’t wield magic consciously, but they could still use it to heal faster while asleep or to save themselves in a dangerous situation.
Every soldier in my army around that time, had to spend a few weeks at Alfirin Academy’s special Magic Boot Camp. Also known as Magical Basic Training. It was important to understand and control mana, in order to protect yourself from enemy mages.
*Du, du, du, du!*
*Bang, bang, bang, bang bababa~!*
The few hundred meters between the enemy camp and our defensive line was a killing field. They didn’t even make it halfway to us, before being torn to shreds by the shotguns and light machine guns of the Guardians. Although the Dark Dwarves and Wood Elves were generally much smaller in stature than Humans, their bodies were generally stronger due to better food and training. Thus, they were able to wield heavy automatic weapons with easy.
The three hundred Guardians annihilated the five thousand Human soldiers before they could even make it within the effective range of their shotguns. Then we went on the offensive, the Bear and Tiger Battalion charged out into the clearing.
Huge frames up to three meters in height, wearing heavy black mithril or light magical beast hide armor. They had spears, swords, axes, hammers and shields that had all sorts of incredible effects. The enemy archers fired their arrows, but their iron heads were immediately controlled by the Wolf Corps Earth Mages and either deflected or reflected. Although their armor would protect them from getting injured, it was best to prevent any damage from occurring at all, since it isn’t cheap to repair those fancy armors.
“Surrender or die!” A deafening bellow rang out from the sky, though no one was actually speaking. It was just a Wind Manipulation trick. There was another similar ‘attack’ shortly afterwards, which was a bit more direct. Once their minds were in disarray, my Judgement Squad entered the battlefield and telepathically ordered all the remaining enemies to surrender.
As soon as the human soldiers started putting down their weapons, the Tiger and Bear Battalion stopped slaughtering them. Then it was a matter of rounding everyone up and performing a brief ‘Judgement’. Since I was there, the elderly Wood Elves didn’t need to do much work. Even from a mile away, I’d be able to make a pretty accurate judgement of whether they should be killed or not. So at such a close distance, I only needed a few moments to pick out the three hundred rapists and/or former slavers among the nearly twenty thousand captives.
“Alright, send them over to the Village. Our work here is done. Tell the Scavengers to come over and clean up this mess.” I gave out some telepathic orders, then rode ‘Midnight’ over to the next warzone. Midnight was a pet I raised, that turned out to be a breed of magical beast that grew quite rapidly. He was a giant panther-like creature, almost as powerful as the demons from the Forth Ring.
Our little ‘ambush’, was something we repeated at least ten times before then and in different locations as well. We didn’t destroy the keep, because for whatever reason, humans just seemed to fall into our trap repeatedly. As long as we cleaned up scene a little bit, they would eventually come again. Each time we would gain another ten to twenty thousand humans. In only a few months, all the other races combined, sill weren’t enough to compare to the human tide.
Fortunately, Lorthon Forest was massive. It wasn’t only a single plane either. There were enormous underground spaces and it was also possible for people to create treehouses, like the elves of old, if they really wanted. No matter how many humans came however, most of them would be limited to the First and Second Rings of Lorthon, since they couldn’t adapt to the mana radiation farther inside.
There was an irritating problem with humanity however. They seemed to be broken up into different imaginary ‘races’ based off their skin-tone and other mundane features. The darker skinned ones hated the pale skins, the slightly bronzer skinned humans hated the others as well. It made absolutely no sense from my perspective, since regardless of whether a Rat Tribe has black or white fur, we don’t try to murder them because of that.
Regardless of their idiotic problems, they still needed to follow our laws. Slavers, rapists and murderers died. If they wanted to become and ‘Adventurer’ or soldier, they would have to get a Mark of Michael. Then they would have the right to bear firearms. It was sort of like the sword licenses we used to have when I was a kid, but much more effective, since it prevented them from misusing the weapons. As for swords, spears, bows and other non-firearm weapons, there were no requirements to buy or own them. If someone murdered someone else with them, they were executed all the same.
Of course, murder isn’t simply killing. It’s the killing of another person unjustifiably. For example, if Person A rapes Person B and Person C knows about it, both Person B and C can kill Person A without consequences. Though they can also report it to the Judgement Division and they’ll handle it themselves. Still, people tend to enjoy seeking revenge with their own hands.
There’s a big difference between vengeance and justice though. If the victim of rape kills their rapist, the family of the rapist might try to come for revenge. In that case, we let those idiots know that if they even just threaten to kill the victim, the Judgement Division will send some people to deal with them. Obviously we wouldn’t eradicate them for a threat, but they would be fined for making us go out of our way to deal with the situation. They would also likely have to pay the victims as well.
It took Midnight about an hour to carry me home, though I did live rather close to the edge of the forest. Rather than a conventional house, I lived on the top floor of a large black skyscraper. It was similar to the Alfirin Academy and the Angren Tower, since it was many stories tall and made out of a concrete, black mithril composite. Along with plenty of steel beams. However, this one was a bit less sturdy and covered with all sorts of armaments. There were also many other smaller buildings surrounding it.
Borderfort-7 was the official name of the town. I moved a lot though, so it was only temporary. Still, Muissel always tagged along and followed me wherever I went. She was basically my daughter at that point. I didn’t understand why she stuck around, but she did.
In fact, Muissel had become somewhat famous around that time. When radios were starting to become more commonplace, she was one of the first talk-show hosts, copying her ‘idol’: Lorelei. She was still a child from my perspective, but technically, she became a teenager. The ‘Mui Network’ featured stories about current events, politics, interviews with celebrities and sometimes, she even held free magic lessons occasionally.
As usual, when I rode Midnight over to the huge concrete wall, he easily climbed up a nearby tree and jumped over it. Fortunately, other creatures in the region could never do that, aside from some random squirrels and monkeys. They weren’t even considered magical beasts though, so we just ignored them for the most part. While some of the non-combatants liked to feed the animals for entertainment.
I hopped off Midnight’s gigantic back and landed on the ground with my rifle in my arms. It was pretty heavy, but I was a lot stronger than I used to be. After putting it onto my back, I casually walked past the sentries and over to the central tower of the fort. The huge mithril doors opened as soon as the rune above them scanned my mana-signature and I spoke my password: “Open.”
It recognized my voice and mana, then opened the doors. There was a massive lobby, with some people sitting or sleeping on benches, while others were walking around or speaking to desk clerks. Borderfort-7 was a popular location for mercenaries and adventurers who wanted to leave Lorthon Forest to either join the war or adventure into the human lands. Obviously they needed to fill out forms and keep a record of their departure, otherwise no one would even know how long they were gone or if they were gone. It also helped them return more smoothly and if necessary, allowed other adventurers and mercenaries to take up jobs to go rescue them or retrieve their corpses, assuming they were gone for longer than their file dictated.
Although Runes were really becoming popular, most paperwork was ultimately done with normal paper, pens and pencils. Regardless, none of that had much to do with me. I wasn’t even a general at that point, but the Supreme Commander of the Alfirin Military. At that point we had plenty of Army Generals, one or two Navy Admirals and we were about to get an Airforce as well.
When I reached the top floor, via the VIP elevator, I could see that Muissel was already on the air. Her Radio Station was a large soundproof room, big enough to have even three-meter tall Bear Tribe guests walk around inside. There was a glass wall separating it from the living room of our penthouse, so the moment I arrived, she saw me as well.