5 Burn it all Down

Chapter 4

AN: I love dressing formal. Especially during Winter. Anyone else?

POV Cracker. Third Union Fleet

Roma River. (On the way to Italicia)

Bored

That was the way Cracker would describe how he felt. Utterly and completely bored in this boring, dull, landscape.

He knew that if any of his siblings saw him complaining, they would call him hypocritical.

"Shut up and do your job you nutcase." Katakuri would say.

"At least you get to explore a new region." Smoothie would say.

Or perhaps the best one yet… " … take a shower…" His little sister Syrup would remark.

During his time as the Admiral of the third Union Fleet, charged with maintaining the inner circle of Totta Land and the Union territories safe, he had complained on and on about the horrendous, god-cursed, weather of the New World.

Not that he had learned or experienced anything different but at some point, one got to know simply how much of a curse their natural environment was. With the ocean tides bringing down entire mountains of water, the lightning, the indescribable freak storms and the crazy unspeakable which happened on the seas…it truly was a cursed seas.

Mama had a theory of why people seemed so much stronger in the New World. She believed that the connection to the sea, in which she believed was alive, was much stronger in the New World and thus it forced the people to bear the grunt of the stronger-willed ocean. Those who couldn't merely died…and only the strong remains.

Personally, he thought that was bullshit but who was he to say that to Mama? It wasn't as if he had a better idea or theory. He liked to leave the 'thinking' part of things to Mont'dor and Perospero while he would just raise his shield and lance and go ham with the enemies of the New World.

Mama would probably kill him if she found out that he left all of his paperwork and stamp to the Mantis Shrimp (Clone) Commander but that was a story for another time. What can he say? He just really didn't like writing.

To the idiots who said that a pen is stronger than a sword…well, he bet his sword could crush a pen. Idiots, all of them.

(Cracker would find out later on that Linlin had known about him not doing his paperwork himself. He would be the chore of repairing houses around Totta Land for a week.)

But seriously, the world here was so boring. So so boring.

Quite literally, there was nothing of significance or excitement happening. This was the stuff that Syrup and Pudding would like, so why did Katakuri have to push for him to be sent instead?

In fact, it has been over a week since he had crossed over and the most fun he had was watching the bandits of this world get ripped apart by the wasps from a mile away. No chance to even raise his lance or give out orders. It was done by the time he blinked. Donut loving jerk always got all the fun.

So here he was flowing down the Roma River (as the locals called it) with a quarter of his fleet looking to cut off the enemy Empire from their resources. With only 30 medium sized Snail Ships and a few dozen snail tanks, not even a single fortress, they've been sailing down this boring river. For the hours his fleet had been sailing down, it had been nothing but silence…if you ignore the occasional moaning sounds the snails made. (His mother would yell "God Dammit Oda!" He had no idea who this Oda was but Mama seeemed to hate him)

The river itself was as boring as it could be. Little harmless waves, a nice wind, and good sized fishes avoiding the giant snails. What was this, the Blues? …oh wait, Katakuri did say that the sea here was called the 'Blue Sea' so he guessed it was technically true…but that wasn't his point!

There was nothing here of worth.

Nothing of excitement.

Only the prospect of getting to pay back their enemies one day…but it wouldn't be anytime soon if he knew anything about Mont'dor's tendencies to squeeze every last bit of gold before their enemies were killed.

So boring. Maybe he should just lay back and take a nap on this nice, soft, deck…he didn't even have his armor on. It was so soft too…

*SKKRRRGHHHHHHHH!!!* An unmistakable roar of a dragon.

"Oh fuck! Mama, I wasn't lazin—wait" He came to his senses. Mama couldn't be all the way here right now and more importantly he didn't even sense her unmistakable haki. In other words…that dragon found must be…

Observation

He may not be as talented as Katakuri, Smoothie or Syrup in the color of observation but it was enough. In fact, he probably could have relied on his senses as that thing was already in hearing distance. But with his haki, he could see it all.

A dragon was heading their way.

Finally. Some fucking action

… …

The Dragon was injured. That much was obvious from even miles away as it flew unevenly, fell a little, before it forced itself to fix its altitude. If he knew anything about dragons, and he did (unfortunately), then this dragon was most definitely injured.

It wasn't the Pinkish Purple god dragon that Mama turned into nor the Pink monstrosity that Syrup made after combining over 200 different animals into one…but this was a real dragon. A real fucking red dragon.

"Second division on the anti-air cannons now! Commander, you make sure that those wasps are ready to be deployed if the Dragon comes any closer!"

"Admiral Cracker, should be prepare the Suicide Wasps?" The Mantis Shrimp humanoid clone asked, it's thick mandibles below its chin and to its side hanging loose.

"No, not yet. I don't think it's that much of a danger." And he was right…the dragon had no haki or will to speak of. It was a mere beast and that was it…in fact, it seemed even dumber and less of a threat than a rather large Sea King.

"Well then, can you breathe fire, lizard with wings? I know brother Oven wants a new jacket." H whispered before he turned to the point-guard cannons.

"Hold….hold…"

*SKKRRRGHHHHHHHH!!!* The dragon turned straight for them, possibly seeing it as food. It got closer and closer as Cracker felt the lizard beginning to store something in its throat.

Fire. Dragon Fire.

"All clones other than the ones in Close Quarter War Gear retreat below. We're going to let that thing hit us. Pretend to be helpless." He cackled at the prospect of a beast trying to burn down their flame-proof ship.

Every inch of the snail was covered for this very instance. In fact, it was a natural deduction. In the treacherous seas, the most common powers happened to be heat related. So common in fact that non-devil fruit users had gone through lengths to practically heat themselves up to burning measures.

Protection against Fire. It was an absolute necessity. If any form of heat wanted to burn down his fleet, they'd have to bring someone on the scale of brother Oven.

"Steady…steady…"

The dragon flew closer until he could finally make out the ugly thing clearly with his eyes. It was approximately the size of an average snail ship, perhaps standing at around 20 meters high. So just…basically two Mamas (in her human form).

The scales on the flying lizard were a deep crimson red, each one looking as if it was carved straight out of a rock. Totally inflexible and yet sticking perfectly to the dragon like some sort of skin chainmail. Massive wings which it used to fly…but rather weak looking at the speed it flew with. Most of all were those golden eyes…eyes of a dumb beast. Not a sign of intelligence but rather a mere creatures ruled by its instincts.

The lizard was flying lower now, almost at the same altitude as the height of the top of the snail. He could hear screaming nearby.

Who was screaming?

Locals at the side of the coasts of the river were scrambling away in fear, panic, at the sight of the dragon.

Are they really scared of this dumb lizard?

More screaming.

Guess they are.

*SCRRREEACHHHHH!!!!!* … *CRACKLE* *CRACKLE*

A world of red and yellow engulfed them as the fire burned over the banks of the river, the snail ships, and himself. Though the thing was…it only felt warm at most. The heat-based power users of the New World had truly skewed his sense of hot and he knew it.

"Shoot it down." He sneered into his transmitter as the entire ships whirred to life. Anti-Air and skyward cannons jolted into actions as it began to pepper the dragon with bruises and holes in its wings.

*SCREECHHH!!!*

The Dragon turned head as it began flying higher and higher in the opposite direction in an attempt to get away.

"Main Cannon."

"Yes Admiral!"

*PSHHHHHH…..BOOOOMMM!!*

"Target hit confirmed."

A splatter of red and a large limb fell into the river, which promptly floated back onto the surface. An incredibly large, bleeding out, dragon leg was floating down towards them.

Cracker immediately turned his eyes back above as he witnessed the brutally injured dragon attempted to fly away, despite its near death state. The wondrous thing was…it was nearly out of range already. Despite its injuries, the bugger was fast.

"Admiral. A few more moments and it will be out of the Main Cannon's range. Orders to kill?"

" … No" He grinned. He had been too stuffed up with nothing to pent his stress on for the past couple of weeks. It was time he moved a little, well, at least his arms. "I've got this."

Without waiting to hear from the Clone, his devil fruit fired up. Putting both of his arms in front of him with palms up, he pictured his spear. An impenetrable biscuit spear…sharper than a blade's tip and harder than a diamond.

*clap*

A long shaft of hardened flour and water extended from nothing and landed into this hands.

*clap*

A glistening tip extended and fastened itself onto the long spear. As he brought it to his side, he found it to be perfect length, slightly taller than he was and thick enough to be wrapped perfectly with his one hand.

… …

Cracker, I know you have chosen your sword as your weapon of choice…but you can create any weapon with your Devil Fruit…so I will teach you how to wield MY weapon of choice. The Spear.

Mama…I don't want the Spear

A spear is one of the most underestimated weapons in all the seas. A shorter blade, a wooden shaft, and a bad choice for close quarters combat.

Mama, that's why I chose the double bladed great sword. See? My Pretzel

*sigh* Yes yes…you, Amande, Syrup and all their swords. Great great. But you see, there are some things that a spear is better at.

Like what Mama? You said that the Pirate King himself wielded a sword! Oden! Shanks! And of course that dog!

Do you mean Mihawk, Cracker? *sigh* Haven't even sailed and you already have a sailor's mouth. You really are my child aren't you Cracker?

Hehe. Shit! Fuck! *bonk* Ouch!

Now before I send you off to Katakuri, know this about the spear Cracker. It's faster. It will ALWAYS be faster.

In close quarters, it will be better than your sword. Use it as a pole arm to defend yourself and make your enemies hard to maneuver around it.

In a fight, you will control the distance between your enemy and yourself. The spear has the longer reach after all.

And finally…a Spear can be thrown. Many underestimate how much damage it could do but…I would bet a normal Marine in East Blue can kill a veteran here with a lucky shot of a thrown spear. Never underestimate it Cracker. A spear is more powerful and versatile than you think.

… …

"Bah. Might as well practice. Bringing up memories of Mama all of a sudden."

He raised the spear as he turned sideways to raise it to the right height. With one eye he saw the Dragon still flying away, bleeding, and drooping slightly. He adjusted his position slightly as he measured the distance and his strength.

Taking a small peak through his 'sense' before shutting it off, he closed both of his eyes.

"No observation haki 360, fully blind, here I go!"

In a single motion, he lurches forward as the biscuit spear was launched at mach speed. A cocoon of wind formed around the flying construct before it rippled and a shockwave exploded in the distance it as broke through the sound barrier.

The Dragon didn't even have a chance to look back, much less blink, as in a single moment…

*PssssssSSSSTSTTTTTTTCCHHHH!*

It pierced right through the chest, the heart, the lower neck, before it pierced through the tough hide once again and flew off into the sky.

The beast of Falmart had no chance to see or recognize its death. One moment, it was flying…the next…its wings simply stopped flapping and its heart punctured as it fell. Fell down far far below into the cold waters.

Cracker, who had opened his eyes to see the results of the hunt grinned in satisfaction as he took in the scene of his falling prey.

"Once that falls, fish it out."

"Yes Admiral!"

"Get one of the ships to carry it back to base. I want Mama to see that I'm competent with the spear. Tell her to stop giving me those lessons too."

" Uhh…yes Admiral!"

"Hey, tell me I didn't hear any stuttering or hesitation in that!"

"No Admiral!"

"Good." He smiled as he sat back down on the deck of his ship. It was back to the boring waiting. He could only hope there was some form of trouble brewing on in this place called 'Italicia'.

… …

Switzerland, Geneva.

The United Nations

It was in these halls that the peace was announced, wars were stopped, and hope was restored. Created by the aftermath of the most devastating war humanity had ever fought and a successor to its failed predecessor, the League of Nations, the United Nations was a beacon of peace to the world.

The best of each nation gathered here to discuss the betterment of humanity. To discuss the safety, the human rights, and the direction the humankind as a whole should take. Yet, in the face of a threatening issue, the peace within these very halls were shattered.

"Can we please have order in the house!" Ban Ki Moon, the secretary general, hammered his gavel once more as the hall exploded into chaos. "Delegate of Japan, please continue."

The elderly Korean man turned to the well dressed man on the podium. The delegate of Japan was a slightly tall man, just short of six feet, and dressed in a typical formal manner. A black suit and pants with a white button down shirt and a deep navy blue tie. The man's hair was pulled back and his overall features looked sharp.

"Thank you Secretary General." He nodded towards the head chair. "The delegate will make this quick. First, the trans-dimensional Gate at Alnus is not the only one. The JSDF drones have gotten enough footage to determine that there is another gate somewhere north of Alnus and into the Sea. Second…their technological level remains unknown but their threat level is calculated to be much higher than the 'Saderan Empire'."

"Is there a reason the Japanese think that way?" The Delegate of India asked.

"Yes. JSDF drones have tracked down major movements from the Empire. The other faction has had to face against equal number of legions from the Empire, but they appear unharmed. Furthermore, footage from drones before their destruction shows large vehicles which resemble…armored automobiles."

" … "

"So what are we up against?"

"Still not yet known. The JSDF expects to cross paths with this new faction at tomorrow noon at the district of 'Italicia'. We can only hope that their intentions are peaceful."

"And should they not be peaceful?" The Delegate of UK asked.

" … if so, then the Japanese government will reconsider the domestic state of Gate and the Special Region to 'International'. Should situations arise, we would like to call upon the help of our allies and the United Nations Peacekeepers."

… …

Italicia.

Princess Pina, third princess of the Saderan Empire

Italicia's history was as deep as its strategical importance in its location. Serving as the central trade hub for the Empire as wells as its cultural value of over 200 years, Italicia used to be of great importance.

The Principality had once been ruled independently. Ruling over the city state with its own laws and beliefs. Banning the common practice of slavery and governing with a softer hand than most of the Empire. Due to the constant flow of money, spices, and riches into the city, the people were content with such. After all, most would choose wealth over a little pride.

However, with the Empire's expansion a hundred years ago, the Principality lost their independence and political strength. Their standing army was absorbed into the legions of the Empire and assimilated until it was hard to tell who was Italician and who was not.

As trade flourished in the Empire from the East, the Blue Seas, and the vassals, the importance of Italicia died little by little. The trade hub was no longer necessary…and the lack of care from the Empire began to show.

The representatives who once used to care for the city state now only appeared to collect taxes…and demand men and women. The walls which had once been manned at all times was beginning to dust and empty as people left for better lands, better hopes.

Still, the Principality stood. The original royal bloodline ruling the city having earned the noble title of 'Count' for their bloodless surrender and accepting the rule of the Empire. Count Formal and his three daughters were the remaining rulers of the Principality of Italicia.

Count Formal's state, however, was unknown since his endeavor into the otherworld beyond the gate on Alnus hill. Along with much of the Imperial army, the count had not returned from the other side. As the chances were deemed slim, the Count was assumed to be dead. A dishonored noble for not bringing back honor for the empire. A shamed man for dying against barbarians.

The Count's wife had died of an accident a long time ago.

His two daughters, Elle and Loui, had been married off and thus had given up their heirship of the Principality.

Only his youngest daughter Myui, held the right to rule the city…and in this state of emergency, the rule fell on the eleven year old child. And of course, who could truly believe or trust an eleven year old to run a city?

The already declining city fell into greater depths by neglect and ignorance. The young heiress was trying, truly, but even the vassals had to draw the line at obeying the orders from an eleven year old. Her orders were ineffective, her knowledge too little, and her vassals in disarray. The city was truly at its worst.

To make matters worse, the battle of Alnus had devastating effects on the city. With the already deteriorating security of the city, Italicia became a prime target to traveling caravans, merchants, and any who passed the roads.

As the bandits grew in number and became more and more organized, their movements and tactics grew bolder by the day until…until Italicia itself was attacked.

"Princess! Are you alright!" Hamilton, the trusted knight and right hand of the third princess of the Empire rushed towards her princess.

"I am alright Hamilton. Aid Grey in his defense at the gate!" Princess Pina yelled in response.

By the hundreds of bandits which had gathered since the defeat at Alnus, they had finally attacked the city the Princess happened to be at. The city's gates were already breached and all those who could hold a spear had been called to arms.

Still, the situations seemed dire. With more bandits arriving each day to aid in the band of marauders, the chances seemed little to none. At worst…she would have to run with her knights but until then…

"Hold the line! Defend the city! In three days, my order of knights will arrive!" She yelled to the men behind her. A short roar of cheers erupted before falling back into the grunts and screams of pain as the morale once again died to the blades.

Why are we fighting our own?!

That was the question she had to ask herself since the day the bandits had begun attacking the Principality of Italicia. She had rode towards this city to protect it from the barbaric otherworlders.

After hearing from some sources that the forces of 'Alnus' seemed like they were going to march towards Italicia, she had decided that an battle suited her better than a mere reconnaissance mission. Truly her father had misjudged her. She was the leader of the Rose Knight order after all.

The Rose Knights had no battles to speak of under their belt. She felt it was about time that her order got the respect it deserved. With the first victory against the otherworlders held by the Rose Knight Order, she would be bathed in the glory and honor. Her father would acknowledge her and her efforts.

But alas the reality was far more cruel.

"Saurel!" Hamilton's voice echoed in the winds, even through the clashing of metal on metal, as another one fell to the blades of the bandits.

Why. Why are they attacking us. Aren't we the Empire? Aren't we who brings the light of civilization unto the savages? Shouldn't we be united against the otherworlders at this time above all?

But neither she nor the heiress of Italicia were granted the opportunity to talk to the leader of these bandits. Without the chance of words, there were only swords to speak with. Swords that the heiress, the leader of the city, could not hold to raise morale. Swords which the city was lacking. Swords which was failing against the ever increasing strength of the enemies.

Thus Pina was forced to reveal herself to the heiress to take control of the defense of the city…and here she was. Unable to turn her chin for the failing city. Now…she was beginning to rethink her decision.

Was it perhaps a wiser choice to investigate the other gate instead? The one beyond the seas? Though from what she had heard, the enemies from that gate was full of monsters beyond understanding. Creatures of all sorts which preyed on human hearts and ate their flesh.

No. She would rather deal with humans.

"Push!" Grey lead the men as they slowly but surely pushed the invading forces out the gate. Bodies contained to fall and pile as the bandits tripped over their dead as their momentum was stopped by the combined efforts of the city and the partial order.

"Barricade the gates! Man the walls! Archers!" Hamilton yelled at the ones above the walls as they jumped into action. Quickly slaying the few remaining within the walls as the planks were brought in to barricade the gates once again. To hopefully stop the bandits for a couple of hours at the very least.

… …

Too many lost in just two days of battle. Morale was at an all time low.

This was not how she had envisioned her first battle. It was supposed to be a victory against the savages rebelling against the rightful rule of the Empire…not against stragglers of their own. It was not supposed to be a pyrrhic victory…

… …

POV Yoji Itami. JSDF. First Lieutenant. Third Recon Team.

Directed to: First Lieutenant Yoji Itami. Third Recon

Order from above state that you and the third recon are to continue following the road to the Principality of 'Italicia' and through any means hold down the city.

Enter the city through a flag of peace and hold it peacefully.

Or.

Forcefully open the city's gate through firepower and force the city to be permanently or temporarily surrendered to the JSDF. You are authorized for any actions necessary.

Denizens of the Special Region fall under the jurisdiction of 'aliens' and are debatably not protected by the Geneva Conventions.

In no unclear terms must the city remain independent of the influence of the JSDF by tomorrow 14:00 Japanese Time.

Another force is approaching the city by the river-way. This unknown force is potentially a threat to the JSDF and the greater world. Little is known but threat evaluations by the intelligence shows a threat degree much higher than the combined force of the Empire.

If encountered earlier than expected, do not cross fire. Do not engage hostile actions first.

You are cleared for self defense.

General Yagami. Director of all Special Region Operatives.

JSDF

… …

It was not everyday that a first lieutenant would receive a direct order from the General himself. It was even rarer, or in fact never, to hear the ok-go clearance for breaking human rights and committing what could be argued as war crimes.

The first time reading over the log which had been sent over to him, Itami has had his doubts but as he read the short log over and over…it became evident that something had come up…and that something was an issue that was way over his paycheck.

Another unknown force? Approximated threat level higher than the entire damn Empire? Coming towards the very place he was sent to go?

He was suddenly feeling very religious.

He just wanted to go to the manga convention and enjoy himself dammit! Can't the JSDF just let him be an otaku?

Apparently the answer was no as time after time, whichever god ruled over his life seemed to have some sick pleasure in dropping him in the worst of places at the worst of times.

First was the Ginza Massacre in which he was simply on his way to the manga convention. Then out of nowhere the 'Gate' popped into existence and barfed up crazy, zealot-like, Roman cosplayers in the tens of thousands with magical creatures to begin slaughtering the innocent civilians nearby.

What was he to do? Simply run like the rest when he had been trained to stay and fight? He was a special operatives for god's sake! He might not have been feeling the best that day but his training kicked in over the instinct of just wanting to avoid trouble.

Taking control over the Ginza police force and tunneling the flow of fleeing civilians to the Palace, he had managed to save hundreds if not thousands of lives…or at least the critics state. All of a sudden, the boring otaku (which he liked being) was suddenly a nationwide hero and a symbol of heroism.

Followed up by a promotion, he was shoveled into the team to be sent through into the unknown 'Special Region'. Of course his life had to turn crazier with a fire-breathing dragon (bulletproof, mind you!), an elf girl who thought he was her lost father, a crazy war loving goth loli, and a genius mage girl who was crazy for knowledge.

Just great. Not that he didn't like the extra companionship…in fact he enjoyed it more than it was a burden but…but sometimes he felt as if life was throwing him way too much lemons than he can make lemonades out of. For all the lemons being thrown at him, he had run out of sugar and cups to make/put the lemonades in.

So it was just typical of life to throw yet another, and the biggest, lemon straight at his face. He had a feeling this was a rotten lemon as well.

"Hey, Liuetenant Itami! We're arriving to the gates of Italicia!" Sergeant-Major Kuwabara exclaimed as she put her head out of the window of the moving humvee. In the distance she saw Italicia in its dying glory for the first time.

Massive walls in a true medieval fashion complete with small figures (due to the distance) seemingly manning the walls for protection. The few towers which rose even this far in the distance away from the city walls. The massive gate which…oddly seemed broken in many places.

"Huh. Seems kind of downtrodden." Itami simply commented, only to grunt as Rory crawled over him as she made her way to the window.

"Ahh~ It's been so long since I had visited this part. Bless Emroy…I can smell the battle which has happened here. The sensation tells me that another one is to happen. Plead yourselves to his service!" At her antics, Itami could only sigh.

This mission is already tiring me out…and it hasn't even begun.

"Hey! Are you friend or enemy! If you are friend, show yourself!" Someone on the walls yelled at them in the Empire's language.

Itami could only look at Lelei, the young mage, in confusion. "Well. What did he say?"

… …

POV Cracker. Snail Ship.

Italicia

"Admiral Cracker! The city of Italicia is within sight!" On deck, the Mantis Shrimp clone commander was looking through his binoculars. Far away in the distance, they could begin to see signs of civilization. A massive looming wall…and smoke.

It had been hours since Cracker's fleet had left the waters and onto land (as the snails can go on both water and land). Approaching the first stronghold of the Empire…and also their first offensive in this world.

"Good. Full speed ahead. I want all men on the cannons and ready for deployment. I want spikes up on the snails as well. Equip some of them with battle rams as well." Cracker mused as he looked over the little he knew about this primitive lands. "Scorched Earth tactics, castle walls, and no artillery to speak of. How primitive. Show them how we treat fools."

"Yes Admiral!"

The bio-engineering marvel underneath them rumbled to full power as the snails burst forth from the extra power. Rushing forward at speeds previously only experienced on the currents of the New World as they sought to crush the Empire underneath them.

"Admiral! Observations from top deck state that the city is currently under siege!" The Mantis Shrimp Commander looked up from wrist-transponder as he informed his admiral. As he looked through his binoculars again, he indeed was able to make out more than the walls themselves.

The sun was beginning to rise and the battlefield was bathed in a red light. The battlefield was of the city and its unknown attackers. Unknown attackers in the thousands flooding the gates and scaling the walls of the city. All holding swords, spears, and dressed in makeshift armor and some broken pieces of a uniform long past. There seemed to be no coherent order among the attackers…only blind rage and the adrenaline for blood.

"Pirates, Admiral Cracker. A rogue pirate group is laying siege to the city."

"I see. So it seems the hopeless idiots are even here as well. Do they simply not know their place? It's because of these fools that Smoothie is always bitching to me about." Cracker complained as his armor began to form around him.

Biscuits intertwined with each other as the curves of the armor were formed. Plates of biscuits were drilled into these as they fastened themselves on his chest and back. Finally, his head was entirely covered with the fake head of a brutish looking, beard heavy, biscuit head.

Four arms appeared from his sides as four blades of sharpened biscuits were conjured.

"All Pirates know the risk of the sea, there is no mercy or sympathy for those like us. Make way for the city…and should they stand in our path, show them what the 3rd fleet does to fools."

"Yes Admiral Cracker!"

The cannons whirled to life as the sounds of guns clacking filled the air. Swords and spears were drawn for the close-quarter fighters as the clones prepared for battle.

"We are in sight of the field and walls Admiral!"

"Good. Open fire."

… …

POV Italicia

The battle had been going on for too long already. Since the dead of night, the bandits had begun their attack on the city. Under the darkness and the cover of night, the bandits let their flaming arrows fly towards the Eastern gate of the city.

Thousands of bandits from across the continent had gathered here…growing in strength and numbers. Dreams of greatness and burning hatred had given them the courage and will to pull off something so daring. Even when the arrows rained, the hot oil was spilled, and the shield wall held, the bandits continued to push. Push, push, and push in undiluted rage of their failure…of their fate.

The majority of these bandits were not bandits a mere two months ago. Two months ago, most of these men were conscripted soldiers of the Empire and their vassals, honored knights, or a simple person making their living off the lands. It were the two crusades that the Empire had raised which brought them all together.

The Holy Hill of Alnus and the Aurtria Island of the Blue Sea.

They were the greatest mistakes of their entire history. The entire expedition…slaughtered. The defense force to retake the hill and the sea…a massacre. They still remembered clearly of the unknown magic which laughed at the very gods themselves. How the ripping sound of the air killed thousands in an instant. How a blinding light of heat had simple tore its way into existence…bombing them into oblivion.

The men in green. The fish-shaped monsters. Their iron staffs. Their monstrous strength and their giant vermin in which they sued as their mounts.

The survivors of Alnus ran from fire.

The few, very few, survivors of Aurtria stated they ran from monsters. Stuff of nightmares.

They recounted tales of fish-men ripping apart men, armor and all, with nothing but their webbed hands. How their very skin repelled spear tips and arrows. How they moved through the turbulent waters like it were their own domain…tearing the wood and splintering the core of the ships from underneath.

They mentioned the giant insects which carried magic to burn into a fiery inferno when it crashes into the ships, the wyverns, and ogres. Leaving nothing but ashes and bones.

It was by the hand of the otherworlders in which they had been forced into this situation…reduced to nothing but the scum of the earth. Killing…pillaging…robbing to feed their own mouths and stealing for their own greed. They hated themselves and yet nobody could muster the courage to lead a crusade, an attack, once again against the other worlders.

They had witnessed for themselves the nightmare the Empire had brought unto themselves…and they wanted no part of it. No more.

So they turned their anger and hatred against the next thing, the Empire. The dying Empire which had lost everything against the other worlders. The same Empire which had demanded their servitude as a vassal, as a soldier, and sent forth as fodder and sacrifice against a force so overwhelming. The empire which was the reason they had no food, no home, no allegiance, and no hope for the future. Their families…their families were sure to be dishonored and punished…and they could do little about that.

The same empire, in which they knew, would hunt them down and demand their lives if they ever figured out that they had run away. An empire in which demanded their deaths rather than their survival…a heartless Empire. So their hatred burned…burned…and all which stood by their flag had to burn.

Italicia.

It was a good place to make their statement. Their burning passion against the Empire and their allies. So they had declared war on the city knowing its weak state. Spears were gathered, swords were sharpened, arrows were crafted as armor was shared among their ranks.

And soon the madness of war followed. A war in which the Emory himself smiled at. And this was the second day of battle. This time, the walls would be breached…and the city would burn in their anger.

Ladders were raised against the high walls and logs were rammed against the gate. The fallen were cheered for as the madness of blood consumed them all. The satisfaction of stabbing, slashing, killing…the fill of blood would avenge them. As the shields bashed against the falling comrades, they knew…they knew that the fallen would enter the realm of Emory. That they knew…this they prayed to Emory through the madness.

But gods were cruel. There were times when gods rejected their faith…when their blood and madness reached no purpose or greater power.

A shadow was cast over the red skies as a halberd dropped in front of the fortress walls. A halberd in which cracked the earth beneath, a testament to the weight of the divine weapon. An elegant and petite figure followed the great weapon as she jumped feline-like onto the tip of the halberd.

A figure dressed head to toe in black. A figure dressed in the robes of Emroy, a priest of the highest order, the god-blessed; an Apostle.

The small figure looked up to meet the eyes of the fools who had dared to earn the approval of her god, the fools who had tried to slaughter and earn the blessing of war. Her laugh was heard clearly through the rising dawn as the heavy halberd was picked up, light as a feather, as it was swung around like a whip.

"Why is she against us?! We are fighting for Emroy!" The unnamed bandit's head was crushed into the ground as Rory jumped onto him while holding her halberd. The combined weight left his head crushed into a pulp.

"Rory Mercury! Run awa-" He never got to finish his sentence as the top half of his face was met with the sharper side of the blade.

With the strength of a Demi-goddess behind each of those strokes, the victims were mushed into ground meat than truly cut. The apostle rampaged into the raging crowd as the true blessings of Emory manifested.

A carnage. A blood-fest.

"Haha HA HA HA!!" The Apostle cried in joy as she felt the very souls of the fallen flow through her. The few worthy which had to stand up against her in honor, for cause, and for war.

The madness affecting her intensified as her vision clouded in a crimson ecstasy. Only blood can fulfill her need. Only death. Only war.

As she delved deeper into her madness, she felt her senses becoming more and more carnal as the true aspects of war manifested. Her breathing hitched as it grew faster and faster. She felt the heat spread across her body as her heart pumped the blood of life in response.

"AhhH!!!" "Emroy spare me!"

There would be no mercy. Mercy has no place in the madness of war.

It was simply the truth. Those who came attacking others should know well that their own lives were on the line. Even as a Demi-goddess, an apostle, she had never once forgotten that fact.

In her ignorant youth, she had faced defeat many times during her time as a new apostle. Decapitated. Buried. Suffocated. Burned. Starved to death. She would rather not have to experience such pain again.

!!

Her honed danger senses reached its peak as she jumped to the right. An instant later…

*BOOOMMM!!!!*

The red skies grew brighter as the wrath of god manifested his anger. But they did not stop…it only grew. An explosion of a scale she had not witnessed before.

*BOOOM!!!* *BOOMM!!* *CRACSHHH!!!*

Rory weaved and dodged through the pillars of light and death. Rolling to the side to dodge yet another 'guaranteed-ten-years-of-burial' as she made her way back to the fortress walls in relative safety. It was only then she realized her burnt self. Her arms' surface was cracked as some parts her were blackened by the pure heat.

But it was only by looking back she saw a scene she had expected only of Hardy's realm.

A realm of fire and death. As pillars of red, yellow, and black erupted forth from the ground from seemingly nothing. Carpeting the entire area as the Earth beneath them fractured and shook from the impacts alone.

The souls…the souls no longer flowed through her. Not because the bandits were all but dead but rather because this was no longer a war…it was a slaughter. A heartless slaughter with no honor or hesitation in the least.

"AhhH!!! It's them!!" A bandit screamed before a pillar took him to Hardy.

Rory saw them. As did they all. The fleeing bandits hysterical with fear. The defenders on the walls…the third princess of the Empire, and the third recon team of the JSDF.

In the distance, a new faction approached…one in which nobody but the dead men in the seas had encountered. A strange group which had mounted warships as the shells of a snail. A new group waving the flag of a skull.

"What the hell?" Itami let out. It was not like him to slip up during an emergency but the pure chaos which had happened in a mere minute had gotten to him.

Within a moment, a losing battle had turned into a slaughter by a carpet bombing demonstration by a new entrance. A new entrance he believed was the one that the JSDF director had warned him about.

This group has the capabilities of accurate bombardment from a fair distance away.

Bombings seem far more powerful than an average M2 Sherman Tank…though I'm no expert.

This group had no hesitation in wiping out the bandit force. Are they always this brutal or did they confirm that these 'bandits' fell into an enemy category?

"Is this the wrath of a god…?" The third princess exclaimed in fear as she saw the last of the bandits fleeing…and more often than not failing. Falling to the ground dead by an unseen magic, only to be followed shortly by the sound of clapping thunder, as the fires of hell ceased.

She stood in horror as she imagined the armies of Sadera being sent forth against such a force. Entire legions decimated in a single attack…to not even leave the bones or ash. An attack to send entire armies into oblivion.

She saw the annihilation of the expedition into the other side of the gate. She saw the carnage left behind as the vassal armies fell under the wrath of these otherworlders.

"Itami…" She turned to the man in green. "Please tell me that those are your soldiers."

She must get them on her side. No matter what. The fate of the Empire laid on her shoulders. Any attempts for war must be stopped…all hopes for conflict had to be doused. They could only hope for survival.

The truth was often disappointing, however.

"That's not the JSDF I'm afraid." Itami raised his rifle again as his men did the same against the approaching force. "They're not stopping either. I'm not sure how this will go down."

It went down in an instant.

Itami barely had a moment to react before he realized that a perfectly spherical black ball of iron was hurling towards him at a speed he couldn't even recognize.

He was going to die…

*KLANG!!!*

The demigoddess of war and insanity jumped out of nowhere as she swung her halberd as hard as possible. The flat side of the halberd made contact with the black ball of iron as it was flung far up into the air.

*BOOOMMM!!!*

Fire rained down from above as people clutched their ears in pain. Rory simply looked down at her hands which shook slightly from the contact…whatever that was, it was no joke.

"Fuck! They're hostile! Fire! Fire!" Itami ordered. His soldiers didn't have to be told twice as they opened fire on the small figures on the snails. He had hoped that it wouldn't go down this way…that perhaps a first contact scenario could go peacefully.

Why was it that all of these aliens just so happened to be so trigger happy? Would he be recorded down as the foolish officer who gave the first order to fire back and cause the next inter-world war?

*Radadadadadadadaa!!!*

Meanwhile on the forefront, a man encased in a nigh invincible armor watched with mild amusement at the change of pace.

Guns? Bullets? I'm guessing they have some explosives as well.

He couldn't figure out why…or more importantly how the Empire had these tools up their sleeves and didn't use them for the expedition or even the defense against the gate when they knew they lost.

"Are they just stupid?" He mused as the bullets continued to bounce off harmless against the shells of the snail, his armor, and the bulletproof gears of the clones. "They had all this and they didn't even make use of it."

Something's not right. It's only that small part of the walls using the firearms. The rest are still armed with nothing but swords and bows.

"Bah! Thinking's overrated!" He felt Mama in the back of his head scolding him but he ignored it for now. He put away all of his logical thinking process away for another time, possibly never, as he felt a smile creep up on his face. Planning and fighting smart were for smarties like Katakuri and Syrup. He just like to crush stuff under his invincible biscuits.

Perhaps if he was lucky, he might even have a worthy adversary here to fight against. It was ages since he had a proper fight.

Katakuri: You just like to brag you won against strong opponents. You nut job. Get an actual hobby.

Syrup: …go take a shower.

He ignored the annoying things his siblings would say as he motioned for the snails to charge forward.

"I want that wall down now! Forth division get ready for infiltration for hand to hand battle. Front cannons deactivate after that wall is down! I don't want friendly fire. Do you fishes understand me?!"

"Yes Admiral!"

"Good! Because I'm not saying it twice. GET TO WORK!"

*Psshhh…* *PHOOFFF* … … *BOOOMMM!!!*

A dozen main cannons fired in synchronization as a wave of death met the stone walls. The wall didn't stand a chance as the pure explosive force blew away the entire section down to rubble. Shattering the stones and bringing down the entire part.

"Suppressive fire on the sides! Get it done!"

"Yes Admiral!"

The side cannons whirled to life as the walls next to them were blown to bits as the defenders were crushed under the weight of their own walls.

"Where are those gunners? They were up there!"

"They've gone silent Admiral. I think we got them!"

"No…I sense them somewhere. Damn it. I wish Syrup was here. She's good at finding rats!" Cracker grumbled. "Get the octo-squad down there to scan the rubble! I want them alive!"

"Yes Admiral!"

A weak spike of haki sparked warning him of danger. Immediately, his tilted his neck to the side as a thick ax missed his neck….carried by a very tiny figure as she jumped onto his ship.

The said girl immediately turned to her neck target- the Mantis Shrimp Clone Commander- as she swung her halberd in a full swing directly towards his torso.

"TEKKAI!" The commander yelled as his body went stiff as he took the strike head on. As the halberd made contact, it made a sound of steel on steel as the halberd was repulsed back…failing to create an injury on the clone commander.

"Huh?" The reaper looked in confusion as the lack of sense…just as she dodged a fist. Dodging under the fist and going right under his chin, she prepared for another strike…when she saw two incredibly large mandibles strained backwards. (Search up mantis shrimp)

"You're done girly. Predatorial club!" The large clubs hit her before she even realized what had happened. A spark of light, an intense heat…and a tell-tale signs of her body being shattered.

She fell off the side of the snail as she landed on her back…which was once again broken.

*cough* *cough* Blood trailed from the side of her mouth as she was forced herself to stay away. What was broken? What had happened?

It happened so fast. So fast that even she couldn't track what had happened until she saw the mandibles.

Ribs. Bursted Heart. Spine. Punctured Lungs. Neck bone shattered. One of her eyes didn't seem to work and she was bleeding from countless places from all over her body.

*cough* *cough* This had to be among one of the worst injuries she had experienced in her 900+ years of life. What was that?

Yet even in this death-like state she could feel the powers of Emroy working its magic as she felt bones snap back into place. She felt her wounds close, lungs fix and arteries close. She felt her heart being restored and her throat re-opened as she finally took a breathe in what felt like forever.

"What in the name of Emroy??!!" At least her trust Halberd was still with her, unbroken. Even in such a state, she had kept her grip on her weapon tight.

She looked up to see a dozen snails of the same size and scale pass her as it laid siege to the city. Some going through the broken parts of the wall as it entered while others simply pushed through the walls themselves…the large stones crumbling down like sand in front of these monstrous creatures.

"Crush any sign of resistance. We are taking this city!"

… …

*bzzt* *bzzt*

Itami: This is First Lieutenant Itami. Could anyone hear me?

He buzzed into the transponder but he heard no reply. It was understandable as it was quite unusable…no signal. No satellite to transfer his signal to anyone else. It was a false hope that he could perhaps send a signal directly to the approaching JSDF force…or at least what they promised.

He looked around in the dim light. Under the crevices of the stones, the third recon team hid from whatever those monsters were. Monsters from the sea from what he could tell from up close. It was as if someone got a dozen types of fish and cross bred them to create these monstrosities…which apparently was also insanely strong judging by how he witnessed a few of them flip over boulders to search for…well…them.

"Crap! No one's responding." Itami exclaimed.

"What are they…" The third princess, Pina, who had also hiding together shuddered at the memory of what happened mere moments earlier. Power to bring down entire walls in an instant. Creatures of such magnitude to simply roll over their greatest defenses with such ease. Weapons of explosions and death…the same iron staffs in which the men in green from the Jay-Es-Dee-Eff used to rain down death.

It was horrifying…horrifying to witness the symphony of death firsthand.

*bzzt* *bzzt*

Haku: This is Major Haku of the JSDF. We are approaching Italicia in 5 minutes. Explain your situation. Over.

Itami: This is first lieutenant Itami! Enemy forces have laid siege to the city! We are in need of immediate air support and evacuation! Over.

Haku: Have no worries Lieutenant. Over a quarter of the entire JSDF force in the Special Region is coming your way. Over.

… …

*Ratatatatatat*

The sound of choppers in the air echoed across the lands as a dozen aerial war machines took flew towards their destination.

"What the fuck is that." The pilot said as he witnessed the gigantic snails rolling over the city of Italicia like a kid playing with legos. "Khmm…permission to fire?"

"Permission granted. Fire." He pressed down his red buttons.

Two missiles detached from the airborne construct as it lit themselves of fire and rushed towards the forefront snails.

Similarly on the ground, a specific dumb-but-tough admiral was looking at the flying iron chariots with an open mouth. Unknowingly, he mirrored what the pilot had said.

"What the fuck?"

The confusion lasted no more than a moment as he saw two flying spears coming towards him at mach speed. Iron spears…spears in which his haki was not happy about.

"Biscuit Shield toss!"

Like a frisbee, he formed two shields on his arm as he chucked them into the air to perfectly intercept the two missiles.

*BOOOMM!!!* Both of them burned in an infernal fire…as two burnt biscuit frisbees fell to the ground.

"Woah. What dangerous toys they have up there!" Cracker laughed as things finally began to spice up. "Release the wasps! Red ones as well! Get those iron bird things down!"

"Yes Admiral!"

In sync, the top of the snail ships opened up revealing hundreds of wasps…however some were different. Some were of a different design. Among the giant yellow wasps, there were a few which were a bit smaller, but not by much.

There were two tell-tale signs that these were of a different breed. First was their red glow and aura in which they emitted from themselves. More obvious, however, the was bulge in their stomachs and tail; or rather, it was obvious a bomb.

*hiss!!!* *hissss!!!*

Two dozen of these red wasps beat their wings as they got closer and closer to the helicopters.

"What the fuck? Open fire!!"

*Tadadadadadadada* Most of the lead bullets bounced harmlessly off the of the red insects while a few caught their marks in the wings and eyes…but they didn't hold off the suicidal beasts for long.

"What the fuck are these! Fire the missiles!"

*BANG!!*

An insect was blown to bits in midair but two more took its place.

"FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!" *Stick* A red wasp landed on the front of the helicopter as it's mandibles widened as if to smile…or mock.

*BOOOOOOMMMM*

*BOOOOOMMM*

*BOOOOOOOMMM*

"They've got bio-missiles! Mostly bulletproof!"

"No shit!"

A yellow wasp accidentally got caught up in the chopper's rotors as it's own wings were shredded to nothing as it fell to its death …but not before destroying the rotors of the copter.

"FUCK!! Mayday Mayday! We're falling!"

*Bzzt* Haku: This is Major Haku! What is happening! Report! Tank Division is entering red zone in minutes! Over.

"Fire! Fire! Fire!"

In a desperate attempt, the helicopters emptied their explosives on the flying wasps and the snails.

*BOOOMM!!*

A dozen wasps burnt to crisps fell down dead…as their dead bodies began to shrivel, their legs curled.

*BOOOMM!!* Two missiles hit their mark on the snail ship as the slimy exterior was busted open…only for it to close.

"MOOOO!!!!" The snail moo-ed…yes it moo-ed.

"WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!" The remaining pilots were losing their minds at the boggling reality happening in front of them. "This is enough, we need to get out of here and regro-" *CRRASSHHHHH!!!!*

A spear, thrown by the admiral himself, had pierced cleanly through the bottom of the chopper, through the pilot's chest, and out through the top of the chopper.

Those inside the chopper immediately made their parachute jumps for safety as the chopper began to fly out of control…before crashing against the walls in a fiery explosion.

"New Forces. It this perhaps the real force of the Empire? It would make sense how they managed to dominate the entire landmass." Cracker mused as he formed another spear in hand. Ready to shoot down the few remaining flying things.

"STOPPP!!! PLEASE STOPPP!!!" A loud voice echoed across the battlefield. "STOPP NOWW! STOP FIRING FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD!!"

A loud voice screamed in a language that Cracker did not understand. It sounded…softer than the dialect he had heard here in the Empire. Still, such details were of no concerns for him.

The spear was already thrown and the fight would continue.

In the madness of war, such voices were often times ignored…unheard…or simply targeted as a fool. Cracker was about to order the entire bombardment of the section to get rid of the fool when he realized…that the entire arriving faction had stopped.

Not a single more shot fired. The flying machines merely hovered in the air. Those (humans) who had made it to the ground alive lowered their guns.

*che* "All forces stop firing! I want to see where this is going!" As he relayed his orders into the transponder on his wrist, his entire fleet came to a stop.

The snails' movements stopped. The cannons whirled slowly until they too came to a full stop. The clones on the ground lowered their guns.

Silence reigned on the battlefield with only the groaning of the injured, the crackling of the burning fires, and the wailing of the lost around them.

A figure emerged…a figure in which Cracker recognized. His was one of the haki signatures in which was above the wall at the time and he had missed.

"My name is Itami! I would like to negotiate a temporary cease-fire with your group!" The figure opened his arms wide, mostly to show that he was not armed, Cracker assumed.

But the thing was…

"Hey, you know what that fool is saying?" Cracker didn't understand a word of whatever language that short human was using.

"No sir. It seems not to be Saderan dialect, however. If I may guess, they would be asking for a cease-fire or a terms of surrender." The Mantis Shrimp responded.

"Huh. Well, I guess I should respond somehow." The massive 3 meter tall man in his 4 meter all suit of biscuit armor jumped off the side of he snail. A good 15 meter jump, at least, but he landed unharmed with ease with only the earth underneath cracking.

He marched slowly towards the tiny man. The man, by all accounts, looked rather plain.

"Can I take this as you accepting a cease-fire?" Itami asked hopefully…basically pleading. Enough people had died today…and he had enough to worry about with his involvement of basically starting a war (even though the opposition fired first). "We are called the JSDF. We would like peace with your group."

Itami reached out with his hand.

"Wut…" Cracker had no idea what this little human just said. He just looked at the outstretched hand in confusion. Was he agreeing to a deal which would confirm his surrender? Their surrender? Peace? What was happening?

'Fuck it. I'm a Pirate. If it doesn't work out, then just pull out.' He decided to use Perospero's philosophy on this one.

"Whatever you said little man." He responded as he took the hand and shook it lightly. Well…lightly he meant but the other man nearly tripped. It wasn't his fault the other guy was so weak.

"Uh well…this is awkward." Itami forced a smile as he scratched the back of his head.

Cracker ignored him as he retracted his biscuit hand and whispered into the transponder. "Someone get Pudding here ASAP. Before this turns into another one of Katakuri's donut parties!"

End of chapter.

Reviews are love!

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