Here’s another chapter brought to you by the Patrons, enjoy~
Outside the window―the sun has gone down completely, and the stars are twinkling in the night sky. In a room at Fort Taoen, Hiro is there, but he is just sitting on his bed, not doing anything.
On the table beside him is a plate that had been decorated with food just a short time ago. Apparently, Liz wasn’t lying, Hiro was welcomed as a guest.
Although he was never interrogated, his actions were restricted, and there was always a soldier standing in front of the door on guard. It was selfish to be vigilant, but to Hiro, in a world where he didn’t know left or right, there was no way he would move around without a care in the world.
However, time passes in vain as he tries to figure out what to do next, without any good ideas. It was around the time that Hiro began to fight his drowsiness――.
“I’m sorry to interrupt your rest.”
Suddenly the door was opened, and it was Liz who walked in. As soon as she came in front of the startled Hiro, Liz scratched her cheeks apologetically.
“I’ve got something urgent to do…”
“What’s going on?”
“We’re moving out of here, and we’ll be leaving tonight.”
“…In other words?”
“We’ll have to return this place to the First Imperial Army, so Hiro won’t be able to stay here.”
“That’s… indeed, a problem.”
He is thrown into a strange land, a place where he doesn’t know right or left. And at night―there’s nothing more frightening than this.
He wanted to think about what to do here, but… he suddenly looked at Liz and saw that she had an impatient look on her face. Maybe there is no time to think about this anymore.
Then… Hiro decided.
“Is it okay if I follow you?”
Liz blinked her eyes as Hiro gave a wry smile.
“It’s going to be a tough journey. You’ll be dead if you’re not careful. You sure you want that?”
“Either way, I’d probably die if I was thrown out alone on a night like this.”
“I wouldn’t leave you empty-handed, you know. At least I’ll give you a little flexibility and food…”
“I owe you a meal, though. There’s a chance that I might return the favor, but… if it’s okay to follow you, I’ll follow you.”
“You’re a strange man, aren’t you, Hiro?”
“Yeah. I have been told that a lot.”
――Mostly by Fukutaro, though.
Liz led him out to the central square of the fort, and there, a bonfire lit the area. Looking up at the sky, a full moon peeked out of the clouds, showering the ground with a calming light.
In front of the main gate of the fort―a large number of soldiers were waiting in armor, their armor emitting a dull glow in the moonlight. At the head of them stood Dios and a man in his mid-forties.
The middle-aged man was approaching Liz by pulling the reins of her horse.
“Princess. We are ready. We’re ready to leave at any time.”
“Thank you. Well then, let’s go.”
After receiving the reins from the middle-aged man, Liz gallantly mounted her horse. A moment later, there was a burst―and a shout of cheers. When Hiro turned around in surprise, he saw that many soldiers from the fort had come to see them off, regardless of when they had gathered.
“Celia Estreya-sama, take care of yourself!
“Long live Celia Estreya-sama!”
“Long live the Great Grantz Empire.”
“May you have the blessings of the Spirit King!”
“May you have the blessing of the Twelve Grantz Gods.”
“See you again!”
Liz smiled and waved back, and that brought another round of cheers.
As Liz shouted while turning her horse’s neck, the horn blew, signaling their departure. The soldiers began to move forward in step. Hiro walked behind Liz’s horse to avoid getting too far away from her.
“When we can no longer see the fort… we’ll split up. Keep following me, so we don’t get separated.”
Liz’s voice came down from above his head.
“Yeah. I understand.”
After returning the reply, Hiro continues to walk in silence. No one speaks a single word in private. Only the sound of armor shaking the night air. Surrounded by a strange sense of tension―she suddenly looked back and saw that the fort was shrouded in darkness and out of sight.
“Tris! You’d better show us the way properly!”
Liz shouted and jumped off her horse.
“I do wonder if you can keep up with this old man, Princess.”
Tris started running ahead of Liz.
“Hiro! Let’s go!”
Liz grabbed Hiro’s left hand, and they started running without saying a word. Behind them, they were separated from the soldiers who were breaking from the ranks, and those who were advancing without any problems.
Next to them, Cerberus sprinted along at a steady pace with a relaxed look on his face. Slightly envious of the wolf’s agility, Hiro tried his best to keep his legs from getting tangled up, and desperately followed Liz.
Rather, it would be more correct to say that he was being forced to run――.
When Hiro was nearing his limit, Liz finally began walking.
“Are you okay?”
Liz looked into his face. Her forehead is drenched in sweat, but her breath isn’t disrupted at all. Surprised at her, Hiro gave her a feeble smile.
While breathing wildly, and careful not to bite his tongue, he says it, and Liz smiles at him.
“Is that so? Let me know if it’s too hard. We can take a break for a bit…”
“You shouldn’t do that, Princess.”
It was Tris who interrupted the conversation.
“If you spoil the boy, he will only become a weakling. A man grows by being pushed down from the valley.”
He wanted to retort it, but with his mouth monopolizing the oxygen, he couldn’t do that. As if to mock Hiro, Cerberus was running around happily.
“Hiro is just a child. If you push him out of the valley, he’ll die.”
“Hm? That boy is 16 years old, isn’t he? That’s what I’ve heard from Dios.”
“But he’s a child on the outside. You have to be nice to him.”
“Hmm? It is true that he looks young at sixteen… but a child? Fumu, I can’t understand.”
Removing his gaze from Tris, who had begun to laugh, Hiro looked behind him. A large number of soldiers were following them. Even though their breaths were ragged from the heavy armor’s burden, they didn’t seem to fall off.
(They must all be well-trained. Still, the most amazing thing is――.)
Once again, looking at Tris, despite being the oldest, he wasn’t even sweating.
“Is there anyone left behind?”
Liz said worriedly, and the old soldier looked confident.
“There is no such thing as a weakling. We are not trained half-heartedly.”
Without any checking, Tris assured her. It seemed that he trusted the soldiers so much, and the trust could be felt from his words.
“Is that so? That’s good then…”
Liz lets out a sigh of relief, and Tris gives her a good-natured smile.
“So far, so good. We should be able to set foot in the mountains before sunrise. If we keep this up, it’s likely we won’t be seen by anyone.”
“How do you think Dios is doing?”
“Don’t worry. That guy’s very strong.”
As Hiro listened to their conversation, the sky began to turn white, and he could see the vast mountains in front of them. Liz still held Hiro’s hand. Maybe it’s from fatigue… or perhaps he’s getting used to it, he’s not as embarrassed as he was the first time.
When they step into the entrance to the mountain path, Liz comes closer to his face. Hiro’s face turns red again at the sudden approach, but he decides to wait for Liz’s words in silence.
“Beyond this mountain, there’s a small country of Baum, and it’s a very safe place. A beautiful city full of nature. But we don’t have time to stop by this time, however.”
“I wish I could have shown you around. I’m sorry.” Liz muttered regretfully and called out to Tris.
“I wonder if my brother’s hand has reached out to the small country of Baum?”
“I’d like to say that there’s no need to worry about that, but I don’t think that’s a comforting thought. However, we cannot dismiss the possibility that they have discovered our strategy.”
Tris made a problematic face and continued to speak.
“Besides, since we haven’t notified the small country of Baum this time, we have to head to the Margrave Grinda’s territory as soon as possible without causing any unnecessary inconvenience.”
“…You’re right. I mean, we’re about the size of a company, so they’ll likely find out pretty quickly.”
“Even if they find out, they can do nothing against the Empire. Though they may swear at us inwardly.”
“It makes me feel guilty that I’m taking advantage of their weakness.”
“I’ll send them a letter of apology when things are settled in Margrave Grinda’s territory.”
“Yes. I’m sure they’d forgive us if they knew what we’re up to.”
After they finished, Liz turned her gaze upwards. When Hiro looked at her, he saw a gentle hill. The plant-filled path was really a perfect picnic spot, and although he had heard it was steep, the air was so peaceful that he felt nothing like that.
A small animal ran up the mountain path, and as Hiro looked on, his eyes softened.
“Fufu, looks like you’re having fun.”
Liz called out to him. Hiro nodded with a smile on his face.
“Yeah. I heard it was steep. I was prepared for it, but it’s a nice hill. I think it’s perfect for a nap.”
“Agreed. Himmel is one of the easiest mountains to climb in the Glaozarm mountain range. But it’s so riddled with monsters that it’s impassable to peddlers. We’re still okay here, though.”
He asked back in a hysterical voice.
“Yes, that’s right. The closer you get to the summit, the more violent it gets. This time we have to cross that and get to the other side, so it’s going to be tough, you know?”
It’s scary to hear these words that he only hears in games from a beautiful girl. It’s because her face is so well-defined that she is strangely compelling.
“Don’t worry, I’ll protect you, so you can stand behind me and keep your chest up.”
Cerberus is barking. I’ll protect you too, bro. That seems to be what he said, looking by his expression. But after a moment or so, they didn’t see the monster, and then――.
“Why don’t we take a break here?”
Liz called out to Tris. And the old warrior nodded while stroking his beard.
“You’re right… Considering what’s ahead, it’s best to regain some strength.”
“Then it’s decided! Each of you can rest as you please!”
The soldiers began to lower their shields and swords to the ground, as Liz’s voice was heard. Hiro sat down in the shade of a nearby rock while watching it with a sideways glance.
(Not as painful as I imagined it would be…)
Perhaps he’s taking it too easy since they’ve only just entered the mountain… but his body is enduring this climb more than he thought it would. The same is true when he ran from Fort Taoen to the entrance of the mountain road. Although not as much as Liz and the others, Hiro was able to keep up with them properly.
It was amazing that Hiro, who hadn’t even done any club activities, was able to run like the soldiers who trained on a regular basis.
(Maybe that’s why… I find it enjoyable.)
When Hiro couldn’t help but smile――.
“Oh, boy. You’re doing great.”
An old soldier patted Hiro’s shoulder and said so.
“You’re pretty solid for someone so young. I thought you’d be scurrying back in an hour or two.”
“Good grief. It’s not so easy, you know.”
A young soldier approached with a laugh. The old soldier shook his head with an exaggerated gesture.
“Still, he deserves a compliment for following us this far at his age, doesn’t he?”
“Well yeah. That’s certainly a big feat considering his age.”
Somehow… it seems like he may be misunderstood, so Hiro decided to correct it.
“Just so you know… I’m sixteen years old, okay?”
“Haha, the boy’s got some funny things to say.”
“That’s right. You shouldn’t be joking.”
“It’s the truth.”
Liz interrupts the conversation. The two appalled soldiers looked at Liz.
“No, eh, really?”
“Yes, it’s true. Do you think I would lie?”
When Liz smiled and nodded, the old soldier looked at Hiro while scratching the back of his head as if he was troubled.
“No, Princess-sama wouldn’t lie. But, oh boy, it’s too confusing…”
“Well, now that I think about it, I guess I can understand that you’re sixteen years old.”
The two soldiers take a good look at him. Hiro was puzzled, but out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Liz looking at him happily.
(Ah… maybe she was paying attention to me?)
An unknown man is accompanying them on their journey. Naturally, the soldiers would be tempted to ask who he was. However, due to Liz’s presence, they didn’t erupt in the complaint. Liz may have interrupted the conversation in an attempt to close such a delicate distance.
“Well then, the break is over! We’re leaving!”
Moreover, he was interrupted at the most critical conversation. He did not know when the next break would be, but he was sure that the distance between him and the soldiers would be closer than it was now. Hiro stood up, thanking Liz for her help.