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The Lichtine soldiers’ morale is so high that not even the vanguard troops of the Fourth Imperial Army can stop their momentum. And yet, what is this nagging uneasiness in his heart? Years of experience sound the alarm bells. As the dust rose, Ranquille noticed something strange.
“Is it likely that this is another trap…?”
“General, what’s wrong?”
Karl reacted to Ranquille’s words. He smiled reassuringly and called his staff.
“What do you need, sir?”
“Send Karl-sama back with about a hundred camel cavalry.”
“What are you talking about? There is no need to run away. We’re pushing them.”
Ranquille put his hand on Karl’s shoulder as he complained.
The situation is still undecided. Even if we destroy the Fourth Imperial Army’s vanguard, there are still more than 8000 enemies left.
“But with our current momentum, don’t you think we can win?”
“Maybe, but it’s more likely that we’ll lose.”
“In case of emergency, flee to the capital with a hundred guards. It will buy you some time.”
“And what about you?”
“I’ll stay here and draw them away. As for Karl-sama…”
“Hostiles in the rear! About three to five thousand in number! They seem to be composed mainly of cavalry.”
The report from the messenger sent shockwaves through the main unit. Everyone held their breath and looked behind them. A large cloud of dust was coming towards them. Indeed, a large number of flags could be seen scattered everywhere.
“Are they ambushers from the Fourth Imperial Army?”
Ranquille asked his messenger.
“That’s the heraldic flag of the Grantz Empire and the Eastern Nobility.”
“There are also banners of the Kelheit family. No doubt they are the reinforcements of the Eastern Nobility.”
“The head of the family is supposed to be absent there. Have they taken in a new husband…?”
When he heard that the head of the Kelheit family, which unites the eastern nobility, had died, he expected that the Grantz Empire would finally split internally in a struggle for succession, but he remembers that nothing happened and he was disappointed.
“T-then, how should I put it…?”
“What? Speak up.”
“The second emperor’s coat of arms, a dragon holding a silver and white sword on a black background… was also spotted.”
Everyone who lives in this world knows it. Nowadays, it’s one of the twelve great gods of Grantz, worshipped as the “God of War” and the divine flag of the man who once laid the foundation of the Great Grantz Empire.
“…If that’s the truth, then we’re in trouble.”
The blood flowing through his body is freezing. His fingertips lost sensation, and the thoughts in his head nearly stopped. Ranquille, whose voice trembled as an unaccountable chill struck him, asked again.
“Is it confirmed?”
“If the history books are true…”
“…Are you saying that the blood of the second emperor had not died out?”
The man praised as the “heroic king of the twin black” died without a wife and child. After that, the second emperor’s coat of arms was never used even once. It was forbidden to use it carelessly. Anyone who tried to use it without permission would be executed, regardless of rank. There is no telling why they are so thorough about it. Perhaps they were afraid of incurring the wrath of the Spirit King, or perhaps they were doing so out of respect for the Hero King who had become a god. Either way, the fact that he came out in the open, it’s highly likely that the Hero King’s bloodline has been found.
“Would it be better to avoid running from behind?”
It is better to deal with the Fourth Imperial’s Army, which is still a bit tired, than the reinforcements, which have more than enough strength. Above all, if an unknown person appears, it is safer to avoid them even more. He must take the initiative before the cavalry on both sides of the enemy pin them down.
“It’s no use staying here. Let’s charge with the whole army!”
With morale and momentum high, even if they couldn’t break through the center, they could at least let Karl escape. As soon as the enemy appeared behind them, this battle was a dead end. No matter how high their morale was, they would be annihilated if they were attacked from all sides.
“The fault lies with my inability to reach the heights of wisdom. The blame lies entirely with me.”
If that is the case, let’s disperse in splendor to avert the stigma. I am a warrior, and I have walked around the battlefield with only a sword for a while since my first battle. It would not be a bad idea to return to my roots, said Ranquille.
“Karl-sama, we will clear a path for you! Please run away from there with your guards as shields!”
There was no need to reply. Above all, there is no need to ask.
“Listen carefully, Karl-sama! I have a final plan for you!”
The rest is in Karl’s hands.
“The burning of the rations has made it impossible for the opponent to wage a prolonged war. After this, if the Fourth Imperial Army is going to loot, we will surprise them from behind. If they are dispersed, we will destroy them individually. If we are bastions ourselves, we must continue to provoke them and exhaust them! Then we will choose the path of self-destruction!”
“What’s the matter with you all of a sudden… what are you talking about…?”
“I’m counting on you to do the rest!”
He pulled out the sword at his waist and blasted the soldiers.
“Don’t be afraid! Raise your voice! Give the enemy a defeat!”
Ranquille shouted through the dust.
And then―he knew despair.
The soldiers who had gone through the dust before him were all buried in the sand. There were countless arrows lodged in their bodies, and no one within Ranquille’s sight was breathing. His feverish body was rapidly cooling down. The camel’s feet came to a halt at the unusual situation. It also meant that the army had to stop. Karl, who had been running with them, turned pale, wrinkled his brow, and held his mouth.
“…Dragon grasping a silvery-white sword on a black background?”
The Fourth Imperial Army’s headquarters―averting their eyes from the emblematic flag swimming in the sky with a light breeze, and looking left and right, the cavalry was coming at them with a mighty rush. Looking behind over his shoulder, he saw the enemy reinforcements with their mouths wide open, ready to devour his prey.
“Haha, that’s quite a siege they’ve put together. We can’t even let Karl-sama escape.”
In the foreground, the Fourth Imperial Army’s archers and their mixed troops of heavy and light armor are lined up in an orderly fashion. Even though they are the enemy, their leadership skills are something to be admired. Ranquille thought it would be fun to lead the well-trained soldiers in battle. On the other hand, the soldier is exhausted, no different than an old, skinny dog.
“Looking back… there were several strange things from the start.”
If he came up with a brilliant plan, it was only what he expected; if he thought he had taken advantage of an opening, he was only following his own plan; in short, he was dancing in the palm of someone’s hand.
“…Then, I guess he knows what I’m going to do.”
They can’t afford to lose Karl here. The only person to blame for the defeat is Ranquille himself.
“…Lay down your weapons. Wave the white flag.”
The sword slipped from the hand of the man known as the “Raging Eagle of the Sky” and was buried in the sand, scattering dust. The soldiers sat there helplessly. As if to remind them that they were defeated, the weapons they had thrown away reflected dully in the sunlight.
“But I don’t understand the purpose. What did he want by hunting me down this far?”
He stroked the scar on his own cheek and stared at the divine flag of the “God of War” as it swam effortlessly in the main camp of the Fourth Imperial Army.
The sun’s rays pouring down from the clear sky are unobstructed by any obstacles. It continues to send out heat to take away the energy of the creatures living on the ground. Looking at the ground, the sand stretched out endlessly, suggesting that this was a place without a trace of coolness.
This is the Principality of Lichtine―a country dominated by the scorching desert. How the story will be told to future generations remains to be seen, but right now, on a nameless battlefield, a war is coming to an end.
Wearing armor forged with craftsmanship and holding swords and spears manicured only for the purpose of killing, soldiers with brave faces were lined up in an orderly fashion. They are warriors born for battle, the Fourth Imperial Army, the guardians of the southern part of the Great Grantz Empire. In the center of the line―in the heavily guarded main camp―were the commander, Liz, and her strategist, Hiiro.
The sun was shining so brightly that Liz formed a visor with one hand. Heraldic flags are standing in disarray in front of her gaze.
“The Kelheit family’s… could be my sister? But why are they here?”
It’s no wonder she’s wondering. It would take quite a few days for the eastern nobles to come here through the southern nobles’ territory. It would be even more so if they had a full army. Hiro approached the puzzled girl to give her the answer, but Liz, who had noticed his presence, opened her mouth first.
“Hiro. My sister’s here.”
“It looks like that to you, too, Liz?”
“Yes, because the flag of the Eastern nobility is…”
“Fufu, yes. Yes, there are a lot of flags of the Eastern nobility.”
Liz looked at Hiro.
“…What’s with that look?”
She made a quizzical expression with her neatly groomed eyebrows at the boy who gave her a laugh.
Hiro put his hand over his mouth to hold back his laughter. The gesture seemed to aggravate Liz, and her cheeks puffed up a little. Hiro mouthed an apology and then threw some words at her.
“By the way, do you have any idea how many there are?”
“…Let’s see, it’s about three thousand.”
She seemed to be unhappy, but she answered in a dutiful manner, which was endearing.
“Actually, it’s five hundred.”
“What do you mean?”
“They’re just trying to make it look like a big army. And the reinforcements aren’t Eastern nobles. Those are Kiork-san’s private army that he had hidden there beforehand.”
“My uncle’s private army?”
“But those banners belong to the Eastern nobility.”
“I asked them to deliver the flag in advance.”
“So you’re saying that the flag belongs to the Eastern nobility, but the people there are my uncle’s private army?”
“Yeah, I think that’s a pretty good plan for an instant!”
Hiro suddenly gets a pinch on his cheek by Liz, and his speech goes haywire.
“That’s why you were smiling when you saw me confused.”
“Are you satisfied?”
As Hiro struggled to choose his words, Liz quickly told him.
“It’s hurt me a lot. I demand an apology.”
“Good. Buy me something to make up for it.”
After pinching Hiro’s cheek, Liz’s hand fell away.
“As long as it’s not too expensive…”
“Eh? You have a lot of money, don’t you?”
“That’s… I have to save it for the future.”
The money given by the widow of the Kelheit family must be saved for the future.
First of all, there’s a need to get a private army and pay their salaries; the money can’t be wasted. Although he had given away a lot of gold during this mission, he was going to ask the Principality of Lichtine to repay it, and he had to keep his expenses down.
“Don’t worry about it. I won’t buy anything that expensive.”
He didn’t know how much the royal family’s “so much” would be worth. So it’s best to have an insurance policy, Hiro muttered, feeling like an unworthy husband.
“As long as it’s not any kind of jewelry…”
“No, no, no. I don’t wear jewelry.”
Liz laughed and waved her hand to the side. Hiro said, “Is that so?” While tilting his head, he observed Liz. Although she was still a little young, her vibrant smile was reminiscent of a blooming flower, and her well-proportioned figure would make anyone gasp in admiration. If she hadn’t chosen a career in the military, the men of the world would have been all over her to get her attention.
(Come to think of it… there are only a few pieces of jewelry that would look good on her.)
Everyone nodded in agreement that she didn’t need to dress up. Even a stone on the side of the road may turn into a jewel if she wears it.
“Well, let’s get settled and go to the Lynx.”
“A promise. If you lie, I’ll make you taste the Fire Emperor.”
“Haha… I’ll be dead for sure.”
“Don’t worry. It’ll only give you heartburn.”
The two of them were having a friendly conversation, and Driks, a second-class military officer, watched.
“When I look at them from a distance, they appear to be boys and girls of appropriate age.”
One is a girl who has been chosen as one of the five emperors of the Spirit Sword, and the other is a descendant of the second emperor.
Do they know what that means?
“At the very least, the world will be celebrating the return of the Twin Spirit King.”
――The Twin-Spirit King.
This is a nickname in honor of the first Emperor Altius and the second Emperor Schwartz. A thousand years have passed, and the two bloodlines are about to cross again.
The first emperor, Altius, had a wise man, Schwartz, who helped him to conquer the world. The sixth princess, Liz, not only possesses unparalleled intelligence but has also added a noble descendant of the God of War to her ranks. It’s getting interesting, Driks thought.
The First Prince’s welcoming of the Long-Ear tribe into his fold was fresh in his mind, and the Third Prince has begun to accumulate achievements with the acquisition of a talented woman known as War Maiden.
“Whether this will lead to prosperity or decline depends on the leadership of the emperor… I suppose.”
In the future, the struggle for succession will be more active. If handled poorly, it could spark a major uprising. It also means that the Empire will be divided.
When he turned around, he found a messenger on one knee.
“What is it?”
“We have captured the commanders of the Principality of Lichtine’s army, Count Karl and Marquis Ranquille.”
”You have done well. Be sure to treat them with the utmost respect.”
As the messenger ran off, Driks approached Hiro and kneeled down.
“Your Highness, Hiro. It seems that the commander of the Principality of Lichtine has been captured.”
“Let’s start negotiating right away. Please prepare a tent for it.”
“Very well, Your Highness. We’ll begin preparations immediately.”
After bowing again, Driks turned back and began to make preparations.