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On the 1st of June, 1023, in the imperial year, when the Sixth Princess and her party reached the Berg Fortress. There was no sign of a siege by the enemy, and the Principality of Lichtine’s army was simply setting up their positions at a distance and glaring at each other.
Tris gave a signal to the soldiers on guard, and the iron gate was opened. Once inside, what caught their eyes was the central square. It is mainly treated as a training ground for the soldiers, and when looking to the east, there are the officer’s quarters, while looking to the west, there is a row of tents where the soldiers settle.
The central tower, which housed the operations command center, a large bathhouse, and the mess hall, stood triumphantly to the north. Guided by the soldiers, Hiro and the others stepped into the central tower. After walking up the spiral staircase, a short distance away, they would reach the operations command room.
On the west wall of the room was a map of the central continent, and next to it was a map of the world. There were chairs for ten people in the center of the room, placed across a long desk. A golden lion crest flag on a white background and a rose crest flag on a brown background was erected by the window overlooking the central square.
When Hiro and the others appeared, three men and a woman inside stood up from their chairs and saluted them.
The first to approach was a graceful gentleman with a beard. He wore well-kept armor and hugged Liz with a clattering sound.
“Good job on reaching here safely. You’ve grown up after not seeing you for a while.”
“Long time no see, uncle Grinda!”
The two of them were happy to see each other again. As Hiro smilingly watched them, he noticed a clinging gaze and turned his head to see a dainty girl standing there.
Her thin, supple silver hair glistened in the sunlight streaming in through the window. Her face was small, and her eyes were hollowed out, reminiscent of a small animal, making one want to protect her. Her bangs were cropped long enough to hide her eyebrows, further contributing to her youthfulness.
Perhaps it was the leaden color of her eyes, or perhaps it was her expressionlessness that gave her a cold impression.
She was even shorter than Hiro, who was aware of his short stature. She wears a black-based military uniform, but the sleeves are so long that her hands are hidden from view. She was wearing a military uniform so large that the word “Baggy” suited it.
(I wonder if she’s a soldier. I think she’s too young for that.)
In her left hand, she was holding a book that looked familiar. Hiro tried to remember it, but his thoughts were interrupted as the girl approached him.
“….Who are you?”
She said with a blank expression and a dazed look. The girl seems to be looking at Hiro, but not looking exactly at him, and she wears a strange atmosphere.
“W-what a fool…”
He heard a grunt. Next to the place where the girl was originally from, a handsome man with brown hair was looking at them with a surprised face.
(What is it…?)
As Hiro tilted his head and wondered, his uniform’s sleeve was tugged on, causing his eyes to return to the girl again.
“…Who are you?”
“My name is Hiro. And I’m a commoner.”
Hiro smiled bitterly at the girl who started to mumble and call his name. Please stop saying people’s names as if it were an animal’s cry.
The girl nodded and fumbled through her long sleeves before holding out her white hand. On it was something wrapped in paper.
“I’ll give it to you. The Second Emperor Manju.” [T/n: Manju = Japanese steamed cake.]
He was surprised that there was such a thing as a manju in this world, but he accepted it. Warmed by human skin, it’s a bit hard to eat. It might be a reward for a certain kind of human being…, actually, the handsome brown-haired guy was glaring at Hiro with a force that was about to make him shed blood tears. If he asked for a handshake, a blade would likely pop out.
In front of the bewildered Hiro’s eyes, the girl put her hand on her chest while hanging down her long sleeve.
“Trea Luzandi Aura von Bunadara. My rank is Brigadier General. Call me Aura.”
Hiro bowed his head while taking an interest in such a reliable child, and then he raised his head and looked at the girl seriously.
“Um, can I ask you a question?”
“I don’t mind. What is it?”
She tilted her head back with a big smile on her face. It’s an expressionless but endearing gesture.
“Are you the rumored War Maiden?”
She answered immediately without hesitation. Besides, being called the War Maiden is just like a trivial thing for her, but her face seems to have softened a bit, and she became proud. The girl was once known as the “War Maiden,” and she admired her nickname.
The youngest person to be selected as a member of the Third Prince’s staff, and a prodigy who serves as chief of staff at only seventeen years old.
How could she be so small? To begin with, Hiro was surprised that she was older than him.
(So this girl was…)
While Hiro was taken aback by the unexpected fact――.
Aura disappears from sight with a voice like an old man. When he followed it with his eyes in a hurry, he found Aura being pushed down and being rubbed on her cheeks by Liz.
“Aaw, So cute! What is this? It’s so soft!”
“So this is the War Maiden. Amazing! I might have lost before this overwhelming cuteness!”
With a depressed look on her face, Aura let herself go to Liz. He wasn’t sure if she didn’t resist because Liz was an Imperial Princess, even if she was depraved, or because it was a hassle, but Hiro decided to stop Liz since Aura didn’t seem to like the situation.
“Liz. She doesn’t seem to like it, so stop it.”
“But, she’s so soft!”
Oh, I guess I have no choice, then. Hiro muttered and stepped back. It’s not that he was scared because of the bloodshot eyes or anything.
――Sorry. So don’t look at me like that, said Hiro inwardly.
He apologized inwardly to Aura, who was looking at him with a resentful face and then decided to leave it until Liz got bored. Then the gentlemanly uncle comes to Hiro’s side.
“Hello. I believe you’ve heard about me from Liz, but let me introduce myself.”
The uncle extends his hand, and Hiro grasps it back. It looks thin, but it is obvious that his hands are lumpy and not lacking in training.
“I’m Luzen Kiork von Grinda. I’m the margrave of the Grinda territory. Feel free to call me uncle Kiork.”
“I’m Hiro. Well, I think I’ll just call you Kiork-san.”
How could he call such a dandy person an uncle? Kiork muttered quietly, “It seems it’s still early,” but Hiro didn’t hear him.
And after being rejected by Hiro, Kiork turned his steps to Cerberus and Tris. As if to replace him, a handsome man with brown hair appears in front of Hiro’s eyes.
“…The tension here is bursting at the seams because of you guys. Well, there are 12,000 opponents, so it’s probably better than getting weirdly worked up, but all sorts of things are ruined.”
The handsome brown-haired handsome man held out his hand with a huff and a snort. Hiro squeezed the brown-haired man’s hand, which reacted like a tsundere.
“I’m Lawrence Alfred von Spitz. A viscount and a second class military officer. I’m currently an aide to Aura-sama. You can call me Spitz-sama.”
The Great Grantz Empire’s military officers are mainly in the military sector, and there are also civilian officers and administrative officers. The first, second, and third ranks are the higher officers, and the fourth, fifth, and sixth ranks are the lower officers. By the way, Tris is a third-class military officer.
“…I’m going to call you Spitz then.”
“Well, I don’t mind either way.”
Hiro thought he was the type of guy who would be desperate to ask him for calling him out with an honorific, but it seemed to be different. He was just a little less mature, that’s what Hiro thought.
“How could I, a nobleman, be offended by a commoner?”
He said it in a sarcastic tone, which made Hiro retract his previous statement.
“Ah, right… I’ve got something to say to you, the assistant.”
“What is it?”
“Shouldn’t you be helping Aura?”
“I’m a nobleman of the Great Grantz Empire. You might not know this as a commoner―but how can I give Her Highness an order?”
He crossed his arms in a pompous manner and said pathetically.
“And look at the two beautiful maidens intertwined. I am satisfied with that alone.”
This guy doesn’t have an ounce of tension, Hiro thought.
Anyway, after successfully pulling Liz away from Aura, each of them settled into chairs along with the long table. Liz was the first to open her mouth.
“Why is the Third Imperial Army’s War Maiden here?”
Liz tilted her head slightly and asked, and oddly enough, Spitz stiffened himself and swept his eyes with a hint of laxity. Hiro narrowed his eyes at Spitz’s behavior and watched his every move to make sure he didn’t miss anything.
“L-let me explain that――.”
Spitz stood up vigorously, but a long sleeve was smacking him on his face. It was the work of Aura, whose sleeves hung slackly.
“I will tell them. Lord Spitz, please just sit down.”
With unearthly intimidation released, the strength left Spitz’s knees, and he sat down in his chair. Aura, who was next to him, stood up, took a small breath, and turned her attention to Liz.
“I’m here to capture Your Highness.”
Did anyone hear the sound of the air being cracked?
A strange noise that occurred in a room filled with silence. It must have sounded deep, but it could have been disposed of as just noise. However, there was only one person who noticed it.
It was Hiro, the one who carried the abyss. The space in his hand is cracked, and a small light-emitting pommel is sticking out. Depending on how the opponent comes out, he will pull out the “Heavenly Emperor”.
The expression on Hiro’s face said that, but that opportunity never came.
“But I have no intention of doing so. Don’t worry.”
The tension passed from the scene at once. The next to speak was Liz’s uncle.
“…Well, there were a lot of things, but we decided to hold a truce. The reason for this is, as you know, because the Principality of Lichtine attacked us. Shamefully, I only found out about it because Count Bunadara informed me about it.”
Once the words were cut off, Kiork continued.
“I was surprised. They waved the white flag to prove that they would no longer fight. As soon as I wondered, a messenger came to me and told me that the Principality of Lichtine was acting suspiciously.”
“That’s natural. We don’t have time for family quarrels.”
“That’s true… even if we’re not on the same page, the Great Grantz Empire must always be monolithic in external enemies’ faces. There are some who don’t fit within this framework, though.”
And I gave the War Maiden a failure mark, added Kiork, proudly.
Aura raised her eyebrows irritably and said, “We didn’t even fight, so we didn’t lose.”
She puffed out her cheeks. It’s an indescribably cute gesture. Hiro gave a wry smile. Liz, sitting next to him, also sent a passionate gaze to Aura, perhaps because she had something to think about, but after a while, she put her finger on her chin and tilted her neck.
“Huh? Speaking of which, uncle, what happened to the Fourth Imperial Army?”
“…I’ve sent them several letters, but they haven’t responded.”
Kiork, responding to Liz’s words, looked around the room, and suddenly muttered.
“Come to think of it; I don’t see Lord Dios, however.”
And then the air changed. Not noticing the change, Kiork continued.
“He was supposed to have gone to Fort Alto to pick you up, Liz… could it be that you didn’t meet him?”
Seeing Liz with a somber face, Kiork seems to have realized his blunder. However, the words that were uttered cannot be undone. Tris raised his brows and jumped in in an attempt to break the awkward atmosphere.
“There was an ambush by the forces of the Principality of Lichtine near the small country of Baum. At that time…”
Kiork’s shoulders slumped as he rested his back against the chair. Kiork must have known that three thousand separate troops of the Principality of Lichtine’s were heading in the direction of Fort Alto, but seeing Liz safe, he might have thought that Dios would be safe as well.
“I’ve sworn to meet him again, but…”
When Hiro looked at Aura’s face, she too seemed surprised and rolled her eyes.
Aura muttered quietly. Kiork also exudes regret.
“If we hadn’t missed the enemy’s separate forces…”
Spitz, Aura’s aide, responded to this line.
“Now is not the time to talk about ‘those.’ We indeed let the other side pass by unchallenged, but it would be suicidal to chase three thousand separate troops with our backs against twelve thousand.”
Everyone agrees on this. If they abandon this fortress and pursue the enemy, they will not only be caught in the rear, but they may be caught in the crossfire.
The first step is to defeat the twelve thousand men and then pursue them, but that is not a task that can be undertaken easily.
“But Your Highness has taken care of the 3,000 detached troops.”
“The enemy would know about it by now. We know they are very cautious. The fact that they are not attacking us is proof enough.”
Hiro nodded. The opponent would know that Liz had entered the Berg Fortress. As for why they weren’t moving, one would have to wonder if they were still upset that hundreds of soldiers had defeated their number of three thousand, or if they were unable to move due to some other factor.
“We don’t have much time left, but it looks like we can prepare for a lot of things.”
Several ideas popped into his head… Hiro wasn’t sure how to convey this. However, the hesitation was immediately dismissed because Aura said with a quiet fighting spirit.
“…Now it’s our turn.”
A small fire lit aura’s leaden eyes. Kiork straightened his posture and asked her.
“Do you have any good ideas?”
“We’re coming out of Fort Berg.”
“We have only 3,000 men over here. We won’t win if we fight them head-on.”
“Margrave Grinda will remain in the fortress with Her Highness, just in case.”
Then two thousand troops alone would have to deal with a large army of twelve thousand. Hiro thought he heard wrong, but seeing her aide, Spitz nodding proudly out of the corner of his eye, it doesn’t seem to be the case.
Kiork sighed deeply.
“That’s absurd. We’d be better off fighting together.”
“It will be fine. Just leave it to me.”
Aura did not shake her head. Then, he tried to convince Aura many times, but she continued to refuse stubbornly.
Hiro somehow realized Aura’s intentions. For one thing, she couldn’t coordinate with Margrave Grinda’s soldiers. There is a difference in skill level, and above all, it is the cavalry that she has brought with her.
In contrast, Margrave Grinda’s soldiers were mainly made up of infantry. It would be important to fill in their weaknesses without destroying each other’s strengths, but it would be reckless since they had never even trained together.
The next thing he could think of was that it might be her own way of apologizing. Maybe she feels guilty for causing unnecessary confusion in Margrave Grinda’s territory.
As such, Kirok gave up on persuasion and decided to have another meeting tomorrow, and the military council was dismissed.