Here’s the chapter, enjoy~
The radiant sun, rising from the eastern sky, was beginning to light up the horizon as it tilted to the west and turned into the setting sun. Soon, the black curtain would be lowered, and night would take over the earth.
A dragon was running through the desert where the hot wind was blowing.
Its legs are not entangled in the sand, and it is running gracefully and sometimes robustly like the wind. Riding on the dragon’s back was Hiro, a man who could not ride a horse, but somehow he could ride the dragon and control it without being thrown off.
The destination is just around the corner, but considering… the swift dragon, they need to take a break.
“There should be a village around here.”
He slowed the dragon down and took out a sheet of paper from his breast pocket―a map of the Principality of Lichtine. He looked around in the distance and spotted a small shadow on the horizon.
“Can you hang on just a little longer?”
The dragon nodded its head and started running again.
The shadows grew larger and larger until they were within sight of a row of earthen houses. Hiro immediately sensed something was wrong. No, even if it weren’t Hiro, one would have noticed something strange in the small village. Hiro stepped down from the swift dragon and walked into the village, looking around. The village was filled with a strange silence, and all the people looked anxious.
Hiro immediately pulled the hood of the “Black Princess Camellia” and put it over his eyes.
“Um, excuse me. Is there something that happened?”
Hiro called out to a nearby farmer. The farmer was startled by Hiro’s appearance and opened his mouth with an alarmed look on his face.
“…Are you a traveler?”
It was hard to imagine how he would react if Hiro told him that he had entered the country from the Great Grantz Empire. So Hiro introduced himself as a traveler from the Steichen Republic, a neighboring country of the Principality of Lichtine.
The Principality of Lichtine was initially a part of the neighboring Steichen Republic until two hundred years ago. Perhaps it was because of this, but the farmer’s expression faded slightly in alarm.
“I’m surprised you’ve come this far away from home. But it seems that you have come at a troublesome time.”
He was probably referring to the fact that the Great Grantz Empire had attacked. There is another possibility… but Hiro wanted to get some information, so he decided to listen to the conversation in depth.
“It appears that the Great Grantz Empire is invading.”
“It’s not just that. In the south, slaves are on the rampage. The prince’s army has been defeated, and even the survival of the country is at stake.”
“…The prince’s army was defeated?”
“Yeah, that’s why the young prince Karl stood up. He started to gather soldiers again to defeat the rebels. Because of that, the area around here is fragile. Bandits are running rampant here and there. Not only that, but even the monsters have started to swarm. And then the Empire’s army came along. I heard they’re moving south at breakneck speed and closing in on the capital.”
The emperor’s order was to seize the northern part of the country and then let the Principality of Lichtine negotiate with them. Why is it that they are closing in on the capital on their own?
(Have they lost their minds?)
The Fourth Imperial Army’s role is to take possession of the oasis cities in the north and then watch the other countries’ movements bordering the south. The current Great Grantz Empire doesn’t have time to worry about the Principality of Lichtine.
The emperor’s focus is currently on the Felzen territory, and the nobles in the center of the empire are searching for various interests. If you report that you have destroyed the Principality of Lichtine, you may be lamented, and you won’t be appreciated.
(…And what if they lose?)
No matter how strong the Fourth Imperial Army is, it will not be easy. The other side’s resistance will be fierce to prevent the destruction of the country, and the war may be prolonged. This means that the south will be worn out, leading to a decline in national power. Furthermore, military supplies are not available for free. There is a limit to what can be procured in enemy countries.
(If there is a shortage of food, there is only one thing to do. I hope Liz didn’t clash with her commanding officer.)
The farmer called out to Hiro, who was thinking silently.
“You’d better get the hell out of here before you get caught in the crossfire.”
“You people aren’t running away?”
Hiro thought it was a stupid question, but he couldn’t help but ask.
“What will happen if we abandon our land and run? We don’t have any savings. There are no reserves, and we will starve to death. Besides, when the war is over, the soldiers will come back.”
The farmer picked up the rusty sword at his feet and shrugged his shoulders.
“Other countries may call us a slave state or barren land, but this is the land where I was born and raised. No matter what hardships we face, we will endure until the soldiers return.”
His attitude was strong, but if you looked at his legs, you could see that his knees were trembling.
The nobles with deep pockets should just go into exile in another country. However, they can’t afford to do so, and only a handful of them can survive away from their birthplace.
Hiro was about to open his mouth to advise such a healthy farmer. Then a villager shouted at them from the entrance of the village.
“It’s a disaster! There’s a group of bandits heading this way!”
The man was pointing to a cloud of dust that was spreading out horizontally. It was getting closer and closer, and the villagers were in an uproar.
“Isn’t that the same people who have attacked us before?”
“Shit, those bastards… we’ll pay them back!”
“Yeah! I’m ready to fight this time too! This is our chance to get the kidnapped child back!”
Hiro listened to the villagers’ words and then called out to the farmer in front of him.
“Have you ever been attacked before?”
“Yes. The prince invaded the Great Grantz Empire. The bandits took advantage of that. For bandits, if the garrison doesn’t come to the rescue, the village is a good feeding ground. Every village is the same, and many women and children are kidnapped.”
The farmer’s expression tightened as he clapped his cheeks with his hands. “My children, too,” he said regretfully.
“Get the women and children to my house! Men, take your weapons! Don’t let them have any more control over us!”
The farmer raised his voice and then turned to Hiro.
“You should get the hell out of here.”
Hiro shook his head several times. It’s not only the Principality of Lichtine that caused this to happen but also the Great Grantz Empire that took revenge. The people of other countries must not be harmed unnecessarily. Even if the empire doesn’t do it directly, they still have a part to blame, so Hiro thought he must fight.
“…Let me handle this.”
“H-hey. What are you――?”
As soon as Hiro walked out of the village, he was surrounded by bandits.
“Are you a representative of the village?”
Three of the bandits were astride camels. In the back, there were seventeen shabbily dressed bandits.
“Hey, I’m asking you.”
The man in the center is probably the leader of the bandits. He was wearing a silver armor that stood out from the rest of the bandits and shone in the evening sun. The two men on either side of him had lesser equipment, but they seemed to be more robust than the rest of the bandits around them. Hiro’s voice trembled as he acted as if he was frightened.
“Um… Is there any way to negotiate? We’ll pay you some money.”
“There is no negotiation. We will take every single thing from your village.”
“I see――then I have no choice.”
As soon as Hiro summoned the Heavenly Emperor, he thrust it into the ground and spread his arms. A gust of wind flapped the hem of his black robe and tossed the hood that hid Hiro’s face, revealing his face.
“Who wants to die first?”
The bandits around him burst into laughter at his words.
“You’re a funny kid, aren’t you?”
“I think I just heard the best joke of the year.”
“Wait, this could be a new kind of negotiation. Hey, kid! Let me die first!”
A man comes forward with tears in his eyes.
From the men’s point of view, there was no sign that Hiro had moved. Even the sound of wind could not be heard, and the silver sword was still stuck in the ground. But the man who approached Hiro lost his head, and a spray of blood dyed the sky redder than the setting sun.
“What the hell is happened…?”
The men could not sense the change in the situation even though they were covered in their companion’s blood. The blood spattering the desert dyed it vermilion and the body of the man who lost his head collapsed.
Then Hiro once again, in the same position as before, with his arms outstretched, ruthlessly said:
“Who wants to die next?”
His hair, which was as deep as the darkness, seemed to embody the darkness, and his eyes of the same color could be compared to obsidian. The light that shines in the depths of his eyes is as cold as the snowy Graozam Mountains, even in the hot and humid desert.
A voice that could not be described as a scream came out of the back of the throat of a timid-looking bandit. He backed away and turned away, but before he knew it, his head was lying on the sand.
The sound of falling bodies drew everyone’s attention to it.
“Now, are you still going for it?”
Hiro’s voice sent shivers down their spines, and the bandits’ faces tightened in unison. The bandit on the camel let out an inaudible scream and raised his sword. Hiro didn’t look like he was swinging his hand, but this bandit also lost his head.
But―the boy has done nothing. That’s how it looks to the bandits.
“…I will let some of you live. So that you can tell the whereabouts of the people you kidnapped.”
Hiro grasped the handle of the “Heavenly Emperor” and twisted his body. The black robe spread out in front of the bandits’ eyes. It was jet black, a symbol of darkness, and a sign of fear.
Everyone was appalled and stiffened at the sight. One of the bandits was cut down. The bandit next to him has kicked away with a loud blow through the body. Immediately after that―the figure of Hiro in the middle of the bandits disappeared, and a silvery-white line easily passed through the bandits’ bodies.
It was as if they were wearing no armor at all. The bandits were cut down as easily as if they were ripping silk. With a single swing, everyone’s life light was extinguished, and their blood was sucked out by the desert.
The bandits fell into a panic as they saw their companions dying. They didn’t know what kind of attack they were under, so it was understandable. The bandits reacted in various ways. Some fled. Some bravely stood firm. Some were too terrified to move from the spot. But those who turned their backs were cut in half, those who stood firm were decapitated, and the deadly blade struck down those who could not move.
“…What the hell is happening?”
No other words can come to mind that can describe this. The expression of the leader says so.
“I-is it a dream…?”
The leader’s eyes blinked as he looked at the corpses that had just been alive a short while ago. Then one of his subordinates, whose face had turned pale, approached him.
“Boss! We should run! That guy is a monste――!”
He couldn’t finish what he was saying and drowned himself in the sand as if he were offering his body. The screams of the bandits spread through the quiet space and fear took over the place.
“Damn it, you guys, let’s run!”
The bandit leader tried to escape by turning the camel’s head around. As soon as he was in a position to escape, Hiro kicked the ground, grabbed the bandit’s head, and pulled him off the camel’s back. Hiro, without hesitation, slammed his fist down on the face of the fallen leader.
“Agaahh, Higuhh!? Ooo!?”
After swinging his fist down several times, Hiro finally struck the leader’s face with his leg, causing him to faint in agony.
Then, Hiro dexterously rotated the hilt of the “Heavenly Emperor” in his opposite hand and positioned it horizontally. One of the bandits was pointing the tip of the sword at him, and he let go of the weapon and burst into tears. He was trying to slash Hiro from behind but failed.
“I-I’m sorry, please forgive me! I will not… attack the village again!”
“Only if you can escape from here, though.”
The man’s face lit up with hope. But then, a blade was thrust into his neck, causing his life to end.
As soon as the man collapsed with a lot of blood pouring out of his mouth, the rest of the bandits threw down their weapons and scattered in all directions to escape. Hiro coldly looked at the back of the bandits, flashed his white silver, and left the scene.
The villagers who had been watching were in a state of shock. In the blink of an eye, a group of twenty bandits had been destroyed without even striking the village, a fact that left the villagers speechless.
Then Hiro approached the village. In his hand, he grabbed the leader’s head. Hiro threw the unconscious leader to the villagers.
“He is the leader of the people who plundered your village. I leave it to you to deal with him.”
Hiro turned his back on the bewildered villagers and approached the swift dragon, who was resting in the shade of a tree.
“I’m keeping him alive, so if you can get him to tell you where their hideout is, you can find out where the women and children that were taken are.”
If they were to see the power that out of the ordinary people had, they would feel a sense of repulsion, no matter how much they were indebted to him for saving their village. Hiro was about to leave the village with that thought in mind, but…
“Wait a minute. You don’t have to tell me that, but it gets cold at night in the desert. Do you have somewhere to stay?”
The first farmer he met stopped Hiro.
“Yeah――I know someone a little further down the road, and I was thinking of staying there today.”
“I see… then――please wait a minute.”
The farmer turned on his heel and disappeared. Then he returned quickly.
“It’s not much, but I want you to take this.”
He had a blanket and a lot of food in his hands.
“I hope it will help you on your journey.”
“No, but this is… everyone’s――.”
The farmer shook his head, interrupting Hiro’s hesitant words.
“We would have given you some money for it, but… we’re a poor village. I apologize, but we can’t afford to do that.”
If that were the case, food would be a precious commodity. It’s a shame to give up even a single blanket. Especially after being attacked by bandits… But the farmer smiled and pushed the load he was carrying to Hiro.
“We would have been dead. And we probably wouldn’t have been able to eat. But thanks to you, we’re still alive. So let us express that joy in this way.”
The farmer’s eyes told Hiro that he would not give up. Hiro sighed with a bitter smile.
“…I understand. I’ll take it gratefully. Well――.”
Suddenly, he realized that he had never heard of the farmer’s name.
The farmer smiled as if he could see through Hiro’s expression.
“My name is Kukuri. I’m the chief of this village.”
“I am Hiro. Kukuri-san, I will never forget this favor.”
“That should be our line.”
When he bowed deeply to the smiling Kukuri, Hiro flipped his black robe and headed for the swift dragon.
Let’s end this war as soon as possible. At this moment, many villages are still being sacrificed. With a new resolve in his heart, Hiro was about to leave the village when…
“Thank you! Next time I’ll prepare a sumptuous meal for you, and then you can relax!”
When he looked back at the cheers, he saw the villagers waving at him, with Kukuri in the lead. Hiro smiled and pulled on the reins. The proud roar of the swift dragon echoed in the sky.
The destination was a fort nine cells (twenty-seven kilometers) away from the village―a place that would take less than a second to reach with the strength of the swift dragon’s legs.
As the stinging cold began to cover the desert, Hiro reached his destination, the fort. It was once magnificent. But now, it had been burned to a crisp by the Fourth Imperial Army.
However, such a place is perfect for hiding――one can hold a secret conversation without anyone knowing.
“Your Highness. We have been waiting for you.”
A soldier appeared in front of Hiro without a sound. He is a private soldier of Kiork, the unit leader that Hiro had sent a letter to in advance.
“Is everything ready?”
“Yes. As you ordered, we have prepared everything. This way, please.”
Hiro followed the unit leader, who started walking ahead. Hiro threw a few words towards his back.
“Where are the other soldiers?”
“They are hiding in this fort, sir.”
Stopping at the waiting area, the unit leader opened the door and pointed his hand inside, urging Hiro to enter. There were five soldiers in armor inside, and they all stood up from their chairs at once and saluted.
Hiro turned his hand to them and told them to make themselves at ease, then walked over to the long desk in the center.
“Where is the Fourth Imperial Army now?”
“We won’t know for sure until the scouts return, but it’s probably around this place. It would take about a day to get there from this fort. If you are in a swift dragon, it will take half a day.”
“What about the rebels?”
“According to the information from four days ago, they are here.”
The leader pointed to a point 32 cells (96 kilometers) away from this fort.
“What about the Principality of Lichtine’s army?”
“There is no movement from the capital. Perhaps they’re trying to defend themselves, gathering soldiers from all over the country, and the flags of the nobles on the city walls seem to be increasing every day.”
“Flags on the city walls…?”
“Is there something on your mind?”
“Yes, just a little.”
Hiro picked up a piece from the desk and placed it on the map.
“Is there any information about Fort Arzuba here? It’s a fort located close to Azbakar.”
The soldiers’ eyes were drawn to the point, and the leader muttered.
“I don’t know the details, but… there are about 2,000 soldiers stationed there. It seems that they didn’t try to reduce the number of soldiers there because it’s a key military location where they can watch over all sides.”
Hiro stared at the map in silence. He positioned himself in Lichtine’s generals’ shoes and formulated a series of plans in his mind.
(Lure the enemy into a dead zone and cut off their supply lines for water and food. In that case, there was no telling what kind of action the enemy army would take. Then, they could either corner the enemy in a suitable fort and let them starve to death in an enduring battle, or they could disperse them and destroy them individually. But the Principality of Lichtine doesn’t have much time left to waste.)
Therefore, the options are limited.
(They don’t have enough time, and they don’t have enough soldiers. There is also a concern about the movements of other countries. Considering the future, a short-term battle is preferable. If they were able to force the Grantz Empire to retreat, other countries would be reluctant to move forward. If that’s the case, the best way to do it with a small force is to throw the rebels against the Fourth Imperial Army and crush them while their formation is in disarray. That would be the best option.)
In that case, where will the war start, and what will the terrain be like?
(If something goes wrong in the capital, the only place suitable for rushing to and observing the two armies is Fort Arzuba. The flags growing on the capital’s walls were no doubt a smokescreen.)
Having collected his thoughts, Hiro looked up.
“Do you know the leading general of the Principality of Lichtine?”
“It seems that most of them were killed in the battle against the rebels.”
“So there are no famous generals left?”
“No, there is only one. His name is Ranquille Caligula Gilberrist.”
“What was his war record?”
“His name only became known about two years ago. About two years ago, the Steichen Republic invaded the Principality of Lichtine with an army of 30,000 men. Because of his victory despite being outnumbered, he is known as the “Raging Eagle of the Turning Sun.”
“I guess his talent was not appreciated, and he was dismissed from his position?”
“That’s right. As you say, it seems that he was subjected to a variety of difficulties. Because of this, he seems to have become the commander of a frontier regiment on the border of the Steichen Republic. However, it is an important place, so he was the right person for the job.”
(He is popular with the people and soldiers but hated by the nobles, huh.)
There may be an opportunity to take advantage of this. It may be possible to destroy the Principality of Lichtine’s army. Hiro pulled a piece of parchment and ink from nearby and flicked the pen.
“Here are the instructions for the future.”
Hiro handed over the parchment, the unit leader, who had checked the contents, turned to look at him.
“Are you going to join the Fourth Imperial Army now, Your Highness?”
If Hiro rode the swift dragon right now, he would be able to meet up with Liz by noon tomorrow. The future strategy is written on the parchment. It won’t be a problem if he’s not present.
“Yes, I’ll be leaving soon. Can you take care of the rest?”
“No need to worry, sir. I will make sure that your orders are carried out.”
“Then, please take care of the rest.”
“Ha! Please give my regards to Her Highness Celia Estrella.”
Hiro was seen off by the soldiers and went outside. A chill tried to envelop his body, but he did not feel the cold thanks to the “Black Princess Camelia.”