Here’s the chapter, enjoy~
“Tris! Hiro wasn’t there!”
“Calm down, Sixth Princess, you mustn’t run around like that.”
“But he wasn’t in the baptistery! He might have gotten lost…”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible since he was with the Princess Shrine Maiden…”
“So where did he go then… I’m sure he’s crying.”
Liz sat back in her chair and covered her face with her hands. Empty plates are laid out on the table in front of her. At her feet is Cerberus, sleeping with a satisfied look on his face. Sitting opposite her is Tris.
“There is no way that a sixteen-year-old boy is going to cry. Maybe――.”
Tris trailed off as a figure caught his eye.
“Princess, it looks like he’s back.”
When she turned around, she saw Hiro at the entrance. Perhaps it’s because of his baptism, but his expression is slightly tired.
“Hiro! Over here!”
She waved her hand and called out to him, and then Hiro turned his gaze toward Liz.
“Geez! You’re late!”
Unable to resist Hiro’s slow walk, Liz ran up to him and pulled his hand and made him sit next to her.
“Hiro, you look kind of tired, was the baptism that hard?”
“Yeah, I’m exhausted mentally.”
“I didn’t know where to look, and I have been touched in so many ways.”
“Well, it looks like there’s a lot of people here today. Hiro has a rather cute face, so there’s no helping it if the old men got strange ideas.”
“Huh? Old men?”
“They were old men, right?”
As they both tilted their heads, a shadow fell between them.
“――Celia Estreya-sama. How was your breakfast?”
When they turned around, the Princess Shrine Maiden was standing behind them.
“Oh, it was delicious. Just as I expected from the Spirit King Temple’s dining hall.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Would you like to stay the night again today?”
“Hmm. It’s all very tempting, but we have to leave soon.”
“That’s too bad. I know you’re busy with many things, but I hope you’ll visit us again.”
“I will be back soon. I need to come back to pick up my injured men.”
They can’t take the wounded soldiers with them. Because from this point on, they don’t know what’s going to happen. It would be difficult to protect them and fight with them if a battle occurred.
Perhaps sensing Liz’s thoughts, the Princess Shrine Maiden gave a small nod.
“That’s right. At that time, Hiro-sama is also welcome to visit us. I’d be happy to talk to you about many things again.”
“Oh, um, yes. I’ll visit again…”
“Hiro? Your face is so red. Did you catch a cold?”
“No, I-I’m fine, okay?”
“Fufu, I guess I’ll be going now.”
“Oh, thank you for everything. I’ll never forget it.”
“It is the duty of a servant of the Spirit King to help those in need. If I can be of service, you can always count on me.”
“Thank you so much!”
“And I’ve prepared some horses outside. You are welcome to use them as you see fit.”
Then, as she bent her waist and bowed, the Princess Shrine Maiden walked away. After watching it, Liz sat down on the chair again and looked at Hiro.
“Hey, your face is still red, you know?”
Hiro was visibly panicked when Liz pointed it out to him.
“No, i-it’s just your imagination! Better yet, we need to get ahead of ourselves!”
“H-hmm? What are you so panicked about?”
Liz has a question mark on her face as Hiro pulls on her arm.
“Let’s just get on with it!”
The Princess Shrine Maiden has been watching their exchange from the shadows for a long time. When Hiro and the others’ backs were out of sight, she began to walk. Her feet were heading towards the northern section of the Spirit King’s Temple.
The area that only the Princess Shrine Maiden was allowed to enter―the Baptism Palace. There was a dazzlingly bright sphere there. The Princess Shrine Maiden gazed at it intently. She was a beautiful girl with a reputation for never ceasing to smile, but right now, she had an expression that was lacking.
“What are you thinking about now… Why did you decide to summon back that heroic king? O our Father, the Spirit King. Please answer me.”
An eerie silence fell, like being on the edge of the world.
“Can you please answer me…”
With a sigh, the Princess Shrine Maiden turned her attention to the two statues behind the sphere. Everyone who lives in this world is familiar with the two pillars of the Twelve Great Gods of Grantz.
One is a bronze statue of a handsome young man with a sword thrust into the earth—the lionhearted king who founded the great empire, Leon Welt Altius von Grantz.
The other is a statue of a man clutching the hilt of his sword with both hands and holding it up to heaven—the heroic king who established the great empire, Herth Ray Schwartz von Grantz.
“…Your Majesty Altius, please protect His Majesty Schwartz.”
After leaving Natua, Hiro and the rest of the group were near the border of the small country of Baum. Even though they were less than seventy, the sound of horseshoes stomping on the ground all at once could make one’s heart uneasy. It was Liz, of course, who was leading the way. Skillfully maneuvering her horse, her beautiful red hair fluttered backward. Hiro was clinging to her waist with his arm around her.
“W-we’re already at the border, right?”
“Yeah. We’re going to go straight into Margrave Grinda’s territory.”
Tris, who was running alongside them, made an awkward face as he had heard their conversation.
“The advance party has not returned. We don’t know what’s happening there. In another cell or so, we’ll have to abandon our horses and walk away.”
“…Do you still think my brother’s hand has reached out to it?”
“It’s hard to say with certainty. There’s no harm in being cautious.”
Liz nodded and looked ahead. The road between the small country of Baum and Margrave Grinda’s territory was a wilderness.
A third of Margrave Grinda’s territory countryside is barren and lacking in water, and although it’s not clear if this is the reason, the area near the border of the small country of Baum is also dry and covered with sand and dust.
A small hill built of sand. Sandstone crumbling down from a cliff. A desert-like land with no trees or grass. The group abandoned their horses at the entrance to the wilderness――.
“We should be cautious from here.”
Liz began to walk through the wilderness with her eyes on the soldiers. At this rate, in about half an hour more, they would enter the Margrave Grinda’s territory. Hiding behind the cliffs to be inconspicuous, Liz and the others proceeded with a cautious gait.
”Princess. The advance party has not returned. We must assume that something has happened.”
“Yeah… it could be dangerous if we keep going like this.”
Liz agreed with Tris’s words and started to climb up the rock with her hand. They moved to where they could see the border. Noticing Hiro’s anxious expression, Liz smiled to reassure him.
“It’s okay. It’s my uncle’s territory.”
It was as if she was telling herself that. We finish climbing the cliffs where we can see the border, and Tris creeps up to the brink. A little later, a signal is sent to Liz. The fact that he hadn’t turned back and called for her to come over means that something was wrong.
Liz approached Tris with a dubious look on her face, and looking down at the ground from the edge of the cliff――.
Liz hurriedly covered her mouth as she almost shouted out. The scene spread out in front of her was nothing but despair. Unable to believe her own eyes, Liz rubbed her eyelids again and again. Still, the cruel landscape remained the same. Tears came to the corners of Liz’s eyes.
“What has happened…”
At the entrance to Margrave Grinda’s territory, ten of the advance party were exposed as miserable corpses. They may have been tortured, and all of them had missing parts of their bodies.
Behind them were three thousand brown-skinned soldiers. They wore leather armor with brown cloth wrapped around their heads, exposing their arms and shoulders. Hanging from their hips was a scythe with a spear and an oval shield thrust into the ground.
The wind blowing in the wilderness made the tiger’s crest flag swim on the brown ground, propped up at the top of it.
“Looks like the Principality of Lichtine, huh?”
Tris twisted his face in bitterness and added. “The starving wolf of the desert, the Principality of Lichtine―the statehood is nothing short of brutal and inhumane. The people of a hostile country have only two choices: to become slaves or to be killed. That is why it is one of the countries where slavery still exists.”
“I know that without being told. But why are the soldiers of Lichtine here?”
It had been under the influence of the Grantz Empire for many years, and there hadn’t even been a skirmish in the last few decades. The reason for this was slavery.
The Great Grantz Empire had abolished slavery, so they could not ransom officers of hostile nations they had captured in war or sold their people to the Lichtine. With its broad battle lines, the Great Grantz Empire was a favorite, and above all, too powerful to be foolish enough to attack. It should have been thought so.
“Since they’ve deployed their forces here, their objective must be the princess, nine times out of ten.”
Tris gives the enemy forces a sharp look.
“How they know the princess is passing through here is a mystery, though. For now, let’s go back to the small country of Baum.”
“No. We can’t involve the Princess Shrine Maiden.”
“I don’t think they would attack the small country of Baum. If they do, they will incur the wrath of many nations.”
“This is an invasion of a noble territory. Moreover, it’s against the Great Grantz Empire. I don’t think those people would hesitate to destroy the Spirit King’s Temple.”
Liz opened her mouth as Tris stuttered beside her.
“We should force our way through here and join my uncle.”
“If they are here, it means they have breached the Fort Berg.”
To get to this point, they would have to pass through Fort Berg and then Fort Alt in that order. Considering the fact that the enemy forces are closing in on this place, there is a great possibility that it may have fallen.
“And they can’t stay in the empire’s territory forever. In time, the Fourth Imperial Army should come to rescue us.”
“If they don’t show up, they’ll raid the surrounding villages. They might even invade the small country of Baum.”
Imagining a future where villages and towns were burned, and people were overrun, Liz, who clenched her fist and slammed it into the ground, staring at the enemy army below her.
“I can’t stand the idea of innocent people getting hurt because of me.”
“We can’t win. If anything were to happen to you, Your Highness――.”
“It’s the role of the royal family to fight for their people. No matter the circumstances.”
“…Will you not give up?”
“Of course, I won’t. I’m the Sixth Imperial Princess of Grantz.”
“…Well, it’s no use. I’ll go with you then.”
“I’m counting on you.”
Breaking off the conversation, the two of them joined their men who were hiding behind the rocks in the rear. Standing up, Liz forgot to clear the dust and was the first to approach Hiro.
“We’re about to have a fierce battle. Hiro, go back to the small country of Baum.”
“Hiro will be a burden from here on out, so… It would be better for you if you didn’t stay with us.”
“No, I’ll fight with you.”
Hiro’s resolve seems to be firm. He had never experienced war before. In fact, when he lowered his gaze, his legs were trembling with fear.
“No, you can’t. Hiro, go back the way you came and run away.”
Liz threw away all personal feelings and shunned him, but Hiro was momentarily frightened, but he bit back.
“Didn’t I help you with the ogre? This time――.”
Sensing Hiro’s kindness, Liz’s expression was filled with delight, but it was replaced by confusion, which soon turned to determination.
“I’ll be honest with you. I get distracted when Hiro is around. So I don’t want you to follow me.”
Hearing that, Hiro’s body staggered as if a heavy object had hit it. Still, Hiro clenched his fists and stepped back. There must be a lot of things he wants to say, but nothing comes to mind, and he is desperately trying to spin out words like that.
Feeling affectionate towards such Hiro, Liz put her hand on his cheek.
“It’s okay. I’ll really be fine… I’ll see you again later on.”
As if to reassure him, Liz spun the words exceptionally gently.
“Thank you… for coming here with me.”
If she talked any more, she would surely wish for him to stay with her. Liz stroked Hiro’s cheek as if she was regretting the loss of life and――.
“The journey is over here. This has been so much fun.”
She said her farewell.