Chapter 163:

Playing With Fire

Atk 0 Crit All ~My attack stat is negligible, so I can't help but rely on critical hits to succeed!~

“Please, convey the details of the arrangements to the lords involved. Tell them that the conveniences enjoyed by those who sided with the Valkyrie will now be distributed to all.”Bookmark here

Queen Katalina dismissed the messengers with a wave of her hand as she sat down on her throne, a bit exhausted. She had spent the entire afternoon surveying the magic barrier setup that surrounded the Faulkner region and making suggestions to the magic tool craftsmen on how to improve upon the initial design. The blueprints that they used were something that she left them many months ago; her insight had developed further since then.Bookmark here

With the drain in military manpower, it was crucial to set up personal defenses in the nearby regions, particularly those that bordered the Empire of Purnesia. Who knew when they would capitalize on the momentary weakness of a kingdom that was afflicted with sudden changes?Bookmark here

“Here, some tea.” A monotone voice, uttered almost as a whisper, said to her.Bookmark here

Looking to the side, Katalina eyed the fancy teacup and dish that a young girl dressed in a frilly servant outfit extended to her.Bookmark here

“Thank you, Ludmila. I’m sure you find all of this boring. Even I find it as such…”Bookmark here

Ludmila shook her head.Bookmark here

“Serving Queen is Master’s wish. Ludmila used to aiding others.”Bookmark here

Katalina smiled and stroked her hair. For someone so young, just turned 13, she behaved with a sense of maturity far beyond her years. When asked about it, she responded that it was part of her family’s culture to train the children at a young age to support the adults in hunting and crafting. Katalina couldn’t imagine how it was like to live a nomadic life where one’s livelihood was always in flux.Bookmark here

“But don’t you have something you want to do? You won’t be young forever. Some hobby that interests you?”Bookmark here

“Ludmila enjoys being helpful to Master and all of his Mistresses.”Bookmark here

Katalina choked on her tea as she heard that. It took several seconds for her to calm herself down.Bookmark here

“M-Mistresses? W-Who?”Bookmark here

Seeing Ludmila nonchalantly point right at her, Katalina’s face developed a deep shade of red.Bookmark here

“And myself, and big sis Eryn, and big sis Saki, and Chrys…,” Ludmila added.Bookmark here

“Wait! Am I misunderstanding what you mean by mistresses?” Katalina almost shouted but remembered to conduct herself as a proper member of royalty.Bookmark here

“Mistresses are those who follow the Master’s lead. Ones who acknowledge and aid each other in their way of life.”Bookmark here

Katalina breathed a sigh of relief at that. Apparently, Ludmila had an entirely different perception when it came to ‘Masters and Mistresses’. It was just too cute and innocent to correct for the time being.Bookmark here

“For a moment there, I thought you were claiming that we all loved Claude…”Bookmark here

“Is that not true?” Ludmila cocked her head, sending Katalina into another jolt of panic.Bookmark here

“Does love not mean trust and rely on each other?” she continued.Bookmark here

“That is… ah, true but…” Katalina didn’t know how to refute her claim. Certainly, the Queen held a high amount of trust and reliance on Claude. That much was for certain. However, she couldn’t help but think that there was more to it than that.Bookmark here

“Love means… that you want to be with that person forever.” Katalina finally decided on that kind of explanation.Bookmark here

“Then, Ludmila loves Master.”Bookmark here

Katalina’s jaw figuratively dropped.Bookmark here

‘No, no. That’s probably not what she means by it. She’s still too young for that… I think.’Bookmark here

“Master is family, after all.” Ludmila added, confirming Katalina’s thoughts.Bookmark here

‘See. She has the love of a child towards a parent… hopefully.’Bookmark here

In any case, it was probably better to drop the conversation before things got further out of hand. Katalina stood up from her throne and thought to herself, ‘I need a break from all of this,’ before walking towards her favorite part of the castle. Ludmila dutifully trailed behind.Bookmark here

Two hours later, the Queen of Sistina could be found in her crafting laboratory, virtually unmoved from the same spot since she had arrived there. In her hand were several parts to the magic gun that she typically used. In front of her on the table, a variety of elemental cores were strewn about.Bookmark here

“Why is this formula compatible with ice, but not the other elements?” She pondered aloud as she continuously scribed and erased the markings on the gun to test the output of magic that resulted.Bookmark here

While the concept of a gun firing elemental magic sounded simple in practice, one must convert the mana in a specific manner to actualize the spell cast as a result. By substituting the mental interpretations of a seasoned magician with formulaic writing, one could theoretically get a mana-absorbing stone to imitate the same spell.Bookmark here

However, elemental-based magic stones behaved differently when mana was provided to them. Fire Stones burst into uncontrollable flames, Ice Stones froze the area around it, Wind Stones emitted a swift breeze, and Earth Stones resonated with the ground nearby. The fact that they responded differently made it a challenge to combine with an all-in-one magic tool.Bookmark here

Having studied the precise mana control of Duchess Reichenstein, who boasted the highest-level Ice magic, Katalina was able to adapt an Ice Stone to her magic gun. Currently, the inscription for this gun consumed mana to rapidly collect and freeze the moisture in the air, forming spears of ice that could be launched forward with a mana burst from the stone.Bookmark here

That same inscription resulted in complete failures when the Ice Stone was replaced with any others.Bookmark here

The Fire Stone caused an explosion right in front of her face. Thankfully, she had been prepared by encasing herself in a magic shield created by a portable version of Faulkner’s barrier generator.Bookmark here

The Wind Stone created a miniature tornado that threw her entire laboratory into disarray. Fortunately, she had maids to help her clean up now.Bookmark here

Lastly, the Earth Stone simply created a stalagmite in the middle of the room. Claude swiftly demolished it before questioning her how it got there in the first place. ‘Bad prototype’ was all that was needed for him to nod and walk away. How kind of him not to tease her for her failures.Bookmark here

Without careful demonstration of how magicians craft their spells, it was difficult for Katalina to visualize what to inscribe on the gun. Possibly, it could take many months of trial and error to stumble upon the correct formula.Bookmark here

While she could order some of the best magicians to aid in the research, they were wrapped up in other, more important tasks. It wouldn’t be proper for the Queen to tear her subjects away from restoring the kingdom simply to appease her intellectual curiosities.Bookmark here

Katalina held her breath and pulled up a magic shield again before aiming her gun around it and pulling the trigger. The barrel was facing towards a makeshift testing range, cleared of anything important. With a sizzle, flames spewed out of the gun but promptly spilled downwards like orange water flowing out of a cracked pipe.Bookmark here

“Darn, I just can’t seem to propel the flames forward… What am I missing?”Bookmark here

At this point, the fire version of the magic gun was only able to spew flames out, but with little force. It would be perfect to start a campfire or to light some torches. As a weapon though, her enemies would likely laugh at the weak stream pouring out comically.Bookmark here

She cut off her mana to the gun and dissolved the magic barrier. Gently, she laid it down before her eyes starting gazing into the distance, lost in thought. She barely even registered Ludmila, who had been standing behind her the entire time, tapping her shoulder.Bookmark here

“Your Majesty, Master has come to visit.”Bookmark here

Katalina shifted with a jolt as she realized how unpresentable she was at the moment. The consequences of playing with fire had resulted in some lightly singed hairs and a thin layer of soot on her face. That was hardly an appearance suitable for facing the man that made her heart pound.Bookmark here

“Yo, Katalina. Found some free time to tinker, finally?” The chef turned Chancellor nodded to Ludmila before addressing her.Bookmark here

Strangely, Claude never seemed to mind it. Even as the Queen, he didn’t hesitate to treat her the same as before in a private setting. That was one of the things she adored about him.Bookmark here

“Um, yes. Actually. I’ve been trying to expand the capabilities of my magic gun.” Katalina stammered as she reached around for a cloth to wipe her face at least.Bookmark here

“I would say that it’s not looking so hot, if you didn’t happen to be playing with fire.”Bookmark here

There he was joking again, a typical characteristic of his that lightened up the mood.Bookmark here

“I can stop if you have business with me,” Katalina replied, having long decided that Claude’s attention was more valuable than her own hobbies. However, Claude raised a hand suggesting that he didn’t have anything of that sort.Bookmark here

“Nah, I just finished some stuff early, too. Was curious what you were up to. Besides, I think it would be interesting if you could fire something else besides ice.”Bookmark here

Suddenly, Katalina had a thought. At times, Claude had a strange insight into her inventions, likely due to a different perspective fostered by his home world. It didn’t hurt to ask him.Bookmark here

“Hey Claude, what is your impression of this flame-emitting gun?”Bookmark here

Katalina repeated the test fire moments ago. This time, there was no need for the safety precautions. Seeing the underwhelming result of the attack, Claude asked to play around with it for a bit. With purple eyes intently staring at the discharge as he used it, he spent the next several minutes simply studying the output.Bookmark here

“Well, it’s kind of like a flamethrower, I guess? Not enough propulsion though. It’s like you aren’t ejecting the flammable gas far enough-“Bookmark here

“Wait, gas? What do you mean?” Katalina cut him off. “What does gas have to do with fire?”Bookmark here

“Huh? Fire needs fuel to burn, right? In this case, it looks like mana is being used to combust the oxygen in the air. Tracing the mana flow, the oxygen is getting collected and igniting, but it seems to be consumed all at once. There isn’t enough time for the fire to spread, probably because there’s a drop in the oxygen concentration in the surroundings.”Bookmark here

Katalina was hearing some strange words mixed into the explanation, but likely, those were terms originating from the ‘science’ of his home world.Bookmark here

“Wait, I’m getting a bit lost. Ook-see-jen? Care to explain?”Bookmark here

Claude walked over to a scribbling board and started drawing a triangle there. On each side, he labeled, ‘Oxygen’, ‘Heat’, and ‘Fuel’. Within the triangle, he shaded in part of the area.Bookmark here

“Look, this is a Fire Triangle Diagram. It’s a simple way to explain what is needed to keep a fire going. Based on your gun’s current design, mana is being used as the ‘fuel’, which creates fire by consuming the Oxygen gas that’s present in the air. The magic stone also seems to be containing the heat and propelling it forward.Bookmark here

It appears to me that it is burning up the Oxygen too quickly, while also, only the heat is carried outwards with the mana, when there needs to be some Oxygen getting pushed forward as well to sustain it.”Bookmark here

Katalina took a moment to process all the words Claude had said. With her quick wit, she was able to work around the unfamiliar terms to grasp the concept that he had jotted down. Taking back the gun from him, she dissected it and proceeded to adjust some of the markings placed there.Bookmark here

“Lower output… slower mana injection…,” Katalina mumbled as it seemed clear what she had to do based on his explanation.Bookmark here

After a few minutes, she had finished rewriting the formula. However, it hadn’t been complete yet. Taking a smaller green Wind Stone, she inserted it into an auxiliary port of the gun and started scribbling some more.Bookmark here

Ludmila and Claude looked on in awe as she whole-heartedly focused on the adjustments, ignoring anything they said to her. After several more minutes, Katalina finally looked up in excitement.Bookmark here

“There, maybe it will work now!”Bookmark here

A bit too excitedly, she turned on her magic barrier and fired forward.Bookmark here

With a noisy puff, flames ejected from the gun. This time however, a thick plume of fire burst forward, reaching many meters in front of her. It shot so far that the wall on the other side of the room was now being smothered with an intense heat.Bookmark here

Hardly surprised at the resulting effectiveness, Katalina simply shut the gun off and squinted at the charred marks on the wall.Bookmark here

“Oops. Too much wind.”Bookmark here

The auxiliary Wind Stone had been the key. A formula to direct a gust of wind in one direction was straightforward. The Fire Stone simply had to focus on a slower consumption rate while the wind carried the mana fueling the magic forward. She dialed it down like Claude had suggested to prevent all of this ‘Oxygen’ from being used too quickly.Bookmark here

What resulted was a gun that spewed dangerously hot flames with an effective range of 15 meters, quite threatening for anyone willing to approach her.Bookmark here

“Yeah… I’ll say….” Claude’s jaw almost dropped at how much his advice had affected the output. Then again, this was Katsys the Inventor, a girl who was already responsible for a Portal Gun and an Ice Gun that was near-impossible to deal with to all but a few in the kingdom. Surely, a simple flamethrower was child’s play in comparison.Bookmark here

Katalina smiled warmly at Claude. Once again, his otherworldly knowledge had come in handy. She would never cease to be amazed by how a perspective unbound by the norms of this world could open things up for her.Bookmark here

Perhaps, this was why otherworld humans were given the role of Electi in this world. With strange abilities and completely different rationale, there was no doubt that Electi had helped shape the events of where they resided. After meeting Claude and following his rise, she could feel how special it was to be close to one.Bookmark here

“That was so helpful. Part of why I love you.” Those words slipped out of her mouth before she realized what she was saying.Bookmark here

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