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――At the same time.
One hundred cells (three hundred kilometers) southeast of the great imperial capital, Cladius, there is a small village called Zegen. Due to the proximity of the Second Imperial Capital, it is a safe area with few bandits and monsters, but it was currently enveloped in a bleak atmosphere.
A number of tents of various sizes were set up around the village, and the ones guarding the area were heavily armed infantry. The villagers, either not wanting to get involved or afraid, uniformly shut themselves up in their homes.
Dozens of heavily armed infantry were on guard around the village chief’s house. In front of the door was a flag with a sword and shield emblem on a purple base, floating in the air as the wind blew.
Once inside, a well-kept passageway―and by going to the left of it, you’ll reach the guest room. There were two people there, a lovely girl and a young man with a fearless face.
“Aura-sama. Should I check around this place for more?”
The young man’s name was Lawrence Alfred von Spitz. He looked at his superior, who was a woman who he adored like a goddess.
Perhaps because of her silver hair and leaden eyes, she looks terribly cold. But it’s also true that her bangs are trimmed at the top of her eyebrows, and perhaps because of her large eyes, she looks as protected as a small animal. Due to her small and slender stature, the word “lovely” fits her well.
Despite being 17 years old, one might say that this body shape is a miracle.
(Ah… God-given looks are as good as the princesses of the Grantz imperial family.)
Aside from her looks, she also has a tremendous background.
Trea Luzandi Aura von Bunadara. Graduated from the Imperial Training School with the highest grade. She was the youngest person ever to be selected for the Third Imperial Army staff and the commander in chief and is now the chief of staff. She became chief of staff when she was 15 years old.
It was also the year that the third prince, Brutar, who wanted to gain an achievement, invaded Felzen, a great power in the west, which had been engaged in a series of small-scale clashes on a daily basis. However, he was forced to fight harder than he had expected and caused enough damage to destroy the trust of the Emperor.
The Third Prince, Brutar, who had been cornered, gathered his staff and said: “Whoever can devise a plan to win this war, step forward! If you speak poorly, I shall have you beheaded.”
Every member of the staff was silenced, and the anger of the third prince, Brutar, was about to reach its peak.
“Your Excellency. I can lead this war to victory.”
The girl, who had been added to the end of the staff, stepped forward and brought curiosity to the table. The third prince, Brutar, named her chief of staff for her bravery and, since he was disappointed by the fact that the others did not come forward, he beheaded all of them except for the children of the most powerful noblemen.
She was chosen as the chief of staff, and her extraordinary intelligence was soon put to good use. She devised, executed, and succeeded in a succession of clever and cunning operations, and in the blink of an eye, she began to chip away at Felzen’s territory. Meanwhile, the great power of Felzen would suffer war after war, resulting in many deaths and a rapid decline in national power.
It was decided that further warfare would lead to the collapse of the state, so Felzen offered a ceasefire, which resulted in negotiation.
The third prince, Brutar, praised her as the “War Maiden” for her contribution to the Empire’s victory, in honor of the second emperor’s nickname, the God of War. She is now leaning back in her chair and opening a book.
The only sound in the room where the silence fell was from the sound of flipping papers. Maybe she didn’t hear it, or perhaps she was ignoring it, but still, Spitz didn’t give up and called out to her.
“Aura-sama. I would appreciate it if you could listen to what I have to say, instead of just reading the book.”
Whenever she has even a little spare time, Aura has a habit of reading books. Moreover, she always reads a book―a book about the life of the second emperor. Probably no one else in the entire Empire would know the second emperor as much as she does.
“Aura-sama, please listen to me.”
At last, Aura’s eyes turned to Spitz as she closed the book, perhaps because his voice had reached her. Aha―and Spitz was so moved that he dropped to his knees and prostrated himself.
“Viscount Spitz. What I am about to say is not an insult to His Majesty the First Emperor.”
It’s starting again, Spitz lamented inwardly. After reading the folklore, she would always commence with this story.
“The reign of His Majesty Altius, the first Emperor, was brilliant. But who laid the foundation for it is… His Majesty Schwartz, the second emperor, who brought victory to the country on the verge of destruction and conquered the surrounding countries. Without him, we wouldn’t have the Great Empire of Grantz today.”
“That’s very true, Ma’am.”
“After Altius’ death, his brother, His Majesty Schwartz, was over 70 years old when he took the throne. He had little time left. In fact, he passed away after only one year on the throne. If he had been the first emperor, he could have united the world.”
Spitz’s head drooped in a paragraph as he looked at his superior, who was talking passionately with muffled expressions. She’s talking about a story from a thousand years ago―both of them are now revered and worshipped as the one and two great gods of Grantz. Since the Great Grantz Empire exists, it’s certain that the two of them were real.
However, the story must have been adapted in many ways. For example, Schwartz, the second emperor, defeated an army of 10,000 men in his last battle alone. Also, with a single swing of the sword, the city was destroyed in the legends, but even with the five spirit swords, such a feat would be impossible to achieve.
After all, the wielder is a human being. It’s also a problem in terms of physical strength. Spitz thinks it would be around a thousand people at best. It’s a great achievement, but…
――I would like you to focus on what’s in front of you rather than that right now.
“How long are you going to stay here, Aura-sama?”
“…I still have a lot more to say.”
“A letter from Brutar-sama has come for you.”
When he mentioned the name, she grumbled but listened grudgingly.
“Mmm… what did it say?”
“I haven’t read it yet.”
“…I can’t just tear open a letter from a member of the imperial family without permission.”
“I’ve just read the folklore of His Majesty Schwartz. I want to enjoy the aftermath of this. So read it, Lord Spitz.”
“…Alright. Then I will read it for you.”
Spitz took out a fancy decorated envelope.
On a piece of paper is written: “My dear War Maiden”. It has been ten days since you left the castle and I am surprised that the good news has yet to arrive. You do not have to hesitate just because you are dealing with an imperial family. Give the impudent little girl the hammer of death. If you are worried about something, I will send an army to help you, as many as you wish. May the twelve great Gods of Grantz bless you, my “War Maiden”.
“――That’s what it says.”
“…A stupid person.”
Aura declared with a disgusted look on her face. Spitz turned a wry smile on her face.
“It can’t be helped. Even though he is the third in the order of succession, if something happens to the First Prince, the Sixth Princess, who has the blessing of the Five Spirit Sword Emperors, could take the throne.”
“The twenty-eighth and thirty-sixth emperors didn’t even know how to handle a sword. It’s not about being chosen for the Spirit Sword, it’s about having the qualities of an emperor.”
“…I hoped Brutar-sama would understand that.”
“If he understood, he wouldn’t be doing anything to incur the Emperor’s wrath. In fact, he didn’t even think that he was endangering his own position.”
“Well… he has a short temper.”
“Burn the letters, it’s just disgusting.”
After throwing the letter into the nearby furnace, Spitz took out a single red paper. As he continued to throw it in, a small pillar of fire rose up and turned it into ashes, leaving not a single piece of the letter behind.
When Spitz looked at Aura again, a difficult color spread across her face.
”It’s a waste of a spirit talisman to burn a single letter.”
“We have burned the letters from an imperial family. If even the smallest fragment of the letter is left behind, Aura-sama will be in danger. We have to be thorough about these things, or we won’t know what will happen.”
“Mm… you have a point. I’ll send a letter to the Spirit King’s Temple later. The paper should be charged to Brutar-sama… are 20 sheets enough?”
“No, you don’t have to do that, just a single spirit talisman is no big deal.”
Spitz says so, but one spirit talisman costs three Grantz gold coins. A commoner’s wage per day is three Dratz silver coins. Ten Dratz silver coins are worth one Gratz silver coin, and ten Gratz silver coins are worth one Grantz gold coin.
Although they are too expensive for the average person to afford, spirit talismans are valued for their ability to cure diseases. Many people, regardless of their status, come to the Spirit King’s Temple to buy spirit talismans.
However, it is unlikely that commoners can purchase them. This is because the number of papers that are produced in a day is between eighty and one hundred, and the imperial family and great nobles buy most of them. And if they did occasionally appear on the market, most of them would be sold for double the price.
“And we also have some reserves, so we should have enough for this mission.”
These days they are mainly used when dealing with spirit weapons because they are expensive and rare. So no one uses it to light a letter on fire as they did just now. Even if it’s the imperial family, if they used it like that, their finances would collapse, and waiting for them would be ruin.
The Spitz family is not poor, but they are not wealthy either. Spirit talismans are valuable, but…
(For the sake of Aura-sama, I don’t care if my house falls over.)
It’s not much of an expense, Spitz thinks, compared to his respected and beloved lord. Looking at her workaholic subordinate, Aura sighed and then turned serious.
”It’s not that I’m playing around here. This place is right next to Margrave Grinda’s territory.”
If they travel a few dozen cells south of this village, they can enter the Margrave Grinda’s territory.
“…Are we going to invade them?”
“Don’t be so hasty. And above all, you don’t have any cause to do that. If you do that, your head will be flying.”
“Then why are we here?”
“To meet with the sixth princess.”
“I doubt they would be willing to be obedient if we met in person, right?”
“Then I will give up and go home.”
If the sixth princess said she didn’t want to, Aura would go home as she said. However, if she did that, Aura would be the one responsible.
“Brutar-sama wants the sixth princess dead.”
“What do you think will happen if we kill the sixth princess?”
“…If His Majesty the Emperor is angry, the worst case scenario is that Brutar-sama will be beheaded.”
“The owner of the Flame Emperor is rare. I’m sure His Majesty will not forgive his son’s barbarism.”
“But we would be in danger if we disobeyed Brutar-sama’s orders.”
“Therefore, we must buy time for His Majesty to return from his campaign. Then Brutar-sama will give up too.”
Currently, the Emperor is not present in the Great Empire of Grantz. This was because the negotiations for a ceasefire with Felzen had broken down, and they were invading again with the first prince. In other words, the third prince, Brutar, was, as it turned out, taking advantage of the Emperor’s absence to turn his sister into a dead person. If the Emperor returned, the third prince, Brutar, would have no choice but to give up, but the anger of his failure would surely be directed at Aura.
(That much must be avoided.)
Spitz decided to make it look like he was convinced on the outside.
“I understand. What do you want me to do now?”
“First, write a letter to the Margrave Grinda. The content is appropriate.”
And then Aura dropped her gaze and went back to her pleasant reading. Spitz exited the guest room and let out a heavy sigh as he leaned back against the door.
“I’ll have to do it when it comes to this.”
When it comes down to it, Aura will be stubborn. She wouldn’t move, no matter what. Spitz bowed his head towards the door and started walking out of the house.