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A note from karami92

Author's Corner: Thank you to Andrew Long for your continued support!

Bihena was calm as she watched a battle unfolding on the stage before her. As the Goddess of Battle herself, she had seen this scene too many times to count. People praying to her for victory on both sides of the field. Yet, she could offer support to neither, for doing so would always leave the other side with nothing.

In every match so far, she had chosen the same race, the pure and simple humans that she had watched grow for thousands of years. They were her children, in every way that mattered to her, and she was the most familiar with their abilities. In every match, she would suggest that they use one of the other game modes to compete, but every time her opponent asked for Battle mode.

Yet, as soon as the match started, her focus immediately flared up, and she showed the dignity of the Goddess of Battle. Her first move was to create a scout to identify the enemy’s base and locations. She researched vision-enhancing technology such as the telescope. And sent him out alone.

Although her scout had eventually perished, he provided valuable intelligence. And in a match such as this, that made his sacrifice not in vain. Bihena’s opponent was using a race of six-armed giants, positioned far to the north of her current location. Each one stood at least fifteen meters tall, which was more than enough for her to understand how to fight them.

A being that big would require a lot of resources to produce a single unit. They’ll fall behind in terms of technology or magic advancement in order to produce a significant number of troops and attempt to rush me. This was what was going through her mind as she made preparations.

Bihena spread her forces out, occupying multiple satellite bases to aid in her production and confuse her enemy. She placed siege weapons on every base’s walls, so that whenever a scout arrived, their ballistae could pierce through the giant’s thick skin. Although she would sacrifice the location of a smaller base, her main fort was secured.

And once the first base was discovered, her plan went in motion. Bihena laid an ambush along the one path wide enough for the giants to traverse between the discovered base and her opponents. Lining it with explosives, and placing ballistae units in advantageous positions around the path, it was just a matter of waiting.

Soon, she saw the giants walking through, clad only in leather hides and wielding trees as clubs. A calm smile formed on her face as she gave the order to detonate the explosives. An eruption of smoke and flame filled the stage as the giants had their legs blown out from under them, before being peppered with the giant bolts of the ballistae from above.

Immediately afterwards, Bihena pulled her ambush units back to defend the base, in case there was a secondary attack being launched from a more difficult path. Thankfully, no such attack was inbound, judging by the look of frustration she saw on her opponent’s face. Bihena did a quick calculation, and judged that she might be able to win the battle if she put in a full charge now, but chose to wait instead.

There was still the chance that her enemy was hiding forces inside their base, and she needed to make sure that the battle was finished in a single move. So she continued to defend, letting her opponent misidentify the base that they had located to be her primary base. Meanwhile, her technology continued to advance.

From ballistae to cannons. From cannons to tanks. It took her nearly a half hour to finish advancing her technology, and in that time her satellite base had to defend two more attacks before finally being taken. The look of joy on her opponent’s face when he thought that he had one, only to turn to shock at the realization that he had been tricked caused her to laugh.

And then, she began her offensive. Armored tanks rolled along the ground, while planes filled the air. The fists of the giants could not crush the tanks, and their thrown rocks could not strike the agile planes. From both land and sky, attacks came that decimated the forces of the giants, quickly advancing on their last home.

While artillery shells peppered the wooden walls of the base, a look of resignation appeared on her opponent, the final clue that assured her victory. As long as there was not a second base established, there could be nothing to stop her. And sure enough, the notice of her victory rang out soon after, bringing her score up to seven wins with no losses.

Not good enough… She thought to herself as she waited to be matched with her next opponent. She had also received the notice that points had been transferred to their balance, which meant that Dale had already won a game somewhere, or at least placed high enough to earn a reward.

Her next opponent made her blink, before a groan escaped her lips. Kathy, the girl who had dragged Bihena to this tournament in the first place. Also known as SentinelSeven, one of the leading players in the game so far with only one loss. “Hii, Bihena!” She called out with that same happy smile, her legs chittering as they tapped against the ground rapidly.

“Hello, Kathy…” Bihena responded in a tired tone. Kathy reminded her too much of Aurivy back home, but did not carry the same cuteness that made the personality work as well for her. At least, not in Bihena’s eyes. She could only see Kathy as a hyperactive woman who had likely not seen a true war up close.

She said that her first match in the games would be starting soon… I wonder if I’ll ever see her again after that. To Bihena, someone like Kathy would never survive on a real battlefield. They weren’t patient enough to observe the finer details, and would let their emotions cloud their judgement too easily.

Still, she acknowledged that Kathy seemed genuinely kind, and ultimately hoped that they would have the chance to meet again. “So, would you like to use the Tech Race, or maybe the Culture mode..?”

Kathy simply tilted her head slightly, an action that reminded Bihena again of Aurivy. “Uhm… I really only have practice with the Battle mode… is that alright?”

Bihena only gave a light sigh as she heard that, nodding her head. “Yeah… it’s fine.” Just like every other match, the game started in Battle mode. Thanks to Kathy’s talkative nature, she had learned on the way to the tournament that she always plays the same race as herself, though Bihena held the faint suspicion that she might have been lying in order to get an advantage later on.

Still, as soon as the battle began, she ordered all but one of her initial units to begin digging a trench around the base. If her opponent truly was using a spider-like race, that meant they would likely be able to rapidly produce units. She had to make sure that she was ready for an attack at any time.

Because technology would not allow her preparations to proceed quickly enough, Bihena instead chose to pursue the path of magic for this battle. After producing mages, she set them as lookouts at the empty moat surrounding the base. Her chosen race would have incredible land speed for their size, meaning that she won’t need to invest points in transportation technology. The most efficient means of attack would be a fast rush… there they are.

Sure enough, enemy forces had already shown up on the map, their numbers great enough to easily wipe out an unprepared base. Bihena quickly ordered her mages to ignite the moat, and a wall of fire surrounded her base. The enemy units had upper bodies similar to humans, but the instincts of spiders still remained. They were unwilling to simply throw themselves into the towering fire and stopped as soon as they felt the heat licking against their skin.

Time to work fast. Bihena knew that her mages wouldn’t be able to hold out forever, so she quickly began mining resources and upgrading both her units and her facilities. The more powerful her mages, the less were needed to maintain the fire barrier. And as long as she kept producing more mages and set them to work in shifts, her defenses would be complete.

Across from her, Kathy looked surprised at the appearance of a fire wall, but her bright smile quickly returned. She didn’t pull back her units, and chose to keep them stationed just outside of Bihena’s base, preventing her from being able to expand any further. Every now and then, a new wave of units would come in through the fog of war, adding more to the growing army.

Fortify the ground to prevent burrowing tactics. Bihena thought to herself, choosing to invest in a druid to handle her ground fortifications. By now, her mages were on a tight rotation, able to easily maintain the fire wall.

The only thing that Bihena had to worry about was a sky attack, so once the other defenses were taken care of she began to invest in anti-air magic cannons. Outside of her small base, there was nothing that could be seen except for an endless wave of dark carapace and pale skin, the numbers far too high to begin counting.

Not a single unit that Bihena had spotted had appeared with armor or weapons, and she knew that was unlikely to change. In order to equip themselves, the forces would have to pull back, which would give Bihena room to grow. However, going by Kathy’s attack style, she wouldn’t give Bihena a single inch.

An effective battle plan, but not a wise one. Although Bihena had been stuck within her wall of fire, her forces had grown far stronger. She estimated that a single one of her human mages would be worth at least a thousand of Kathy’s troops. “Begin the counterstrike.”

At her order, another row of mages walked up behind the wall of fire. They did not pass through it, because to do so would be suicide. Instead, they began to silently chant a spell in unison. This was a siege-level spell that was listed in the magic tree, ‘Infernal Eye’.

When the group chant was complete, the wall of fire surrounding the base seemed to warp, folding in on itself before exploding outwards. Fire bathed the ground, washing out in all directions as the pain-filled screams of Kathy’s troops filled Bihena’s ears. Yet, doing so had only eliminated the innermost portion of Kathy’s forces.

Seeing the destruction of their kin, those that were spared had no desire to move in to fill the gap. Even Kathy’s face seemed to pale, only able to watch the wall of fire around Bihena’s base moving outwards, her base expanding to gradually cover the territory that had been occupied by the slain forces. Until once again the wall of fire had met the enemy forces.

This was Bihena’s plan. In the face of a defensive battle, burn everything. Leave no land for the enemy to stand on. Of course, as she moved she continued to reinforce the ground, even before the flame wall moved over it.

Each expansion took ten minutes to buy enough mages, enhance their magic, and fire the spell again. And each time, the enemy troops were forced back further and further. After the third expansion, Bihena was able to detect troops hiding beneath the ground, using their companions’ bodies to mask their presence. Yet, once the ground above them became reinforced, they were unable to return to the surface.

Only after the fifth expansion, when Bihena’s base covered a third of the map, did armored troops appear on Kathy’s side. However, by that point the flame wall was no longer a simple flame. Even the troops clad in armor were burned to death when they tried to jump through.

After the sixth expansion, mages appeared among the arachnid forces. Kathy’s face clearly displayed her struggle as she fought to find a solution to her problem. She had spent so many of her points on breeding facilities to bolster the numbers for her troops that she had fallen too far behind in advancing her units. Her mages could not affect the wall of fire at all, and were similarly turned to ash when the base expanding once again.

Like this, Bihena continued to expand, wave after wave until she found the mountain that was Kathy’s original base. Now the wall of fire had shifted, with Bihena’s base covering the rest of the map, and Kathy’s being surrounded by the flame. Finally, the mages began to chant a different spell, hundreds of them gathered in a circle behind the safety of their flaming barrier.

The last thing that Bihena saw before the match ended was a flaming rock falling from the sky atop Kathy’s mountain.

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A note from karami92

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