Here’s the chapter, enjoy~
The banquet ended without any problems. Aside from Viscount Wurst’s useless talk, it was generally satisfactory. After showing Hiro and the others to their rooms, Viscount Wurst went back to his room in a good mood.
“Now, let’s decide where we’re going to sleep.”
“Why does Rosa-aneesama have to sleep with us?”
“No, because it’s not right for Liz to sleep here too.”
Currently, Hiro was sandwiched between two sisters who were fighting over where to sleep.
“As the room master-dono says. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, so Liz and I should sleep together. Besides, we have an early day tomorrow, so it’s better for the three of us to sleep in peace here.”
Hiro never said anything like that, but before he could interrupt, Liz spoke up.
“Mu… I guess that’s true too. So, does Rosa-aneesama still prefer the window side?”
“Yes, it’s nice to sleep in a place where you can see the night sky.”
“Hmm, I think it’s better to sleep by the door, so I can react in case something happens…”
“Well, then I guess we’ll have the room master in the middle.”
“Yes. I think that’s fine.”
The two of them climbed up on the bed, and each lay down and looked at Hiro.
“Oh, I have some things to do, so you two can go to bed first.”
“Fuaah… Is that so? Well then, I guess I’ll just go ahead and get some rest.”
Because they are sisters, they are similar, and when they get under the covers, they fall asleep fast. Liz is already sleeping happily. They were both tired from the long trip, but also from the alcohol they had consumed, and their bodies probably prioritized sleep.
After confirming that they were asleep, Hiro quietly walked out of the room. Then, looking at the darkness that lingered in the passage, Hiro opened his mouth.
“So, how did it go?”
In response to his voice, the sound of overlapping steel could be heard in the darkness.
“It is the worst. If it was only a heavy tax, it could still be saved.”
What appears is the big body, Ghada ― his face can’t be seen because of the dark surroundings, but from the sound of his voice, Hiro can tell that he’s not pleased.
“Huh, what kind of stupid thing did he do?”
Hiro had ordered Garda to investigate the area around Zuik in advance.
“After he squeezed the tax money out of them, he had his soldiers pose as bandits and raid the villages.”
“…Is there any proof?”
“When we stopped by the village, there were people monitoring the place. It was a bit rough, but I let it slip. But it’s too early to assume that it was Viscount Wurst who did it.”
“If that’s the case, let’s forcefully bring those people together with Viscount Wurst.”
“I assume they’ll keep their ignorance to a minimum?”
“There are many ways to get them to talk.”
After saying that, Hiro was about to head for Viscount Wurst’s room when he noticed something unusual and stopped.
“Ghada, take the back.”
As soon as he said that, Hiro summoned the Heavenly Emperor and leaped into the darkness. A moment later, sparks flew. The high-pitched sound of sword fights echoed in the corridor in the late evening.
The sound of blades cracking echoed in the hallway, and with a deafening sound, something fell. However, Hiro didn’t stop; he twisted his body and flashed the Heavenly Emperor to the left.
“I’m letting you live. I need you to answer a few questions for me.”
As the moonlight from the window illuminates the corridor, the figure of the man who was trampled by Hiro appears. At his side, the torso of another man, missing from the neck up, lay spewing fresh blood.
Ghada came over to Hiro with an admiring look on his face.
“I took care of one over here, too. It looks like there are only three assassins.”
Hiro nodded at Ghada’s words, moved his foot away from the assassin who had lost his left arm and looked into his face.
“If you can provide us with some useful information, you won’t lose anything more. What do you want to do?”
The assassin shuddered at the chilling sound of the voice, and a smile formed on his face, though his mouth twitched.
“Our ‘Father.’ Give the fools the pain of eternal damnation. Our ‘Father’ gives the fools eternal torment. Give peace to the saints!”
Fresh blood spurted from the man’s face as he suddenly shouted, losing strength from his neck and falling headfirst into the hallway. A puddle of blood spread out on the floor as Hiro watched.
Hiro’s eyes widened in astonishment, and he immediately checked to see if the assassin was alive or dead, but the assassin was dead.
“…These aren’t just ordinary assassins, are they?”
“That’s right; they are an assassination group known as the Black Land of the Dead.”
When Hiro looked in the direction of the voice ― at the end of the corridor ― he saw Driks, the second-grade military officer, standing there.
“It’s been about three hundred years since their name first came to light. There was the greatest famine in the Great Grantz Empire at the time. The nobles and lords imposed heavy taxes on their people, provoked revolts, invaded other territories, and other misdeeds were rampant ― and the emperor was assassinated.”
As Driks approached Hiro, he sat down with his back against the wall.
“This is the only time in the history of the Great Grantz Empire that an emperor has been assassinated, so the name ‘Black Land of the Dead’ spread throughout the central continent.”
When Hiro saw Driks sweating profusely, he frowned.
“Are you injured anywhere?”
“I’ve been injured, but it’s only a scratch. The reason for this sweat is because of my desperate escape from the Black Land of the Dead.”
“So it wasn’t us they were after, but the second-grade officer Driks?”
“Yes, that’s right. When I was searching for various things, I ran into them. They seemed to have the same goal and attacked me out of the blue.”
Driks threw Hiro a bundle of paper tied with rope as he came over.
“It seems that Viscount Wurst has received contracts with the slave traders, records of human trafficking, and even bribes from the merchants, and there are many other things that can be found if you look through them.”
With all this evidence in hand, Hiro could use it to sway Viscount Wurst. It will be easy to reach his goal. Hiro tried to thank Driks, but a scream that cut through the darkness shook his eardrums.
“Could it be―?”
Hiro’s heart pounded, and he kicked the floor, making an instant decision.
“Ghada, you’re coming with me. Second-grade officer Driks, go wake up Rosa and Liz!”
Running in the direction of where the scream came from, they eventually saw the light illuminating the dimness. It seems that the door to Viscount Wurst’s room is open, and light is leaking out.
When Hiro got there, he found a servant sitting on his back with a pale face in front of the door.
“Too late, huh…?”
When Hiro stepped into the room, he saw that Viscount Wurst was dead horribly.
“His both eyes were crushed, and his brain was destroyed at the same time. That’s quite a dexterous thing to do.”
Ghada, who had caught up with Hiro, said, and he opened his mouth again, catching his breath.
“Shall we lock down the city? Perhaps it wasn’t the three guys from earlier who did this.”
“No, there are no walls in this city, so they can get out from anywhere. It’s just a waste of time.”
Hiro draped a cloth over Viscount Wurst’s body ― and found something falling beside it. It was a headless clay doll, which Hiro picked up and looked at with a suspicious expression.
“What’s this? Can you tell me, Ghada?”
“Isn’t it a clay doll made by Viscount Wurst’s child?”
“He doesn’t have any children.”
Even if a child made it, it was eerily elaborate.
While they were looking at the clay doll, they heard hurried footsteps coming from the hallway. Not long after, Rosa appeared. Behind her were the soldiers guarding her and Driks.
“You! Are you alright?”
Rosa looked very panicked ― she suddenly hugged Hiiro.
“I’m glad you’re okay. You don’t seem to be hurt. Are you in any pain?”
“I’m fine. Why are you so panicked?”
“I heard about the Black Land of the Dead. Driks-dono told me about it.”
Rosa was checking to see if Hiro was injured or not, but then she caught sight of the clay doll. Hiro noticed and lifted the clay doll and asked Rosa.
“Do you know what this is?”
“It’s a clay doll that imitates the ‘Father,’ who is worshipped as a god by the Black Land of the Dead. They’re very assertive. They always leave it at the scene of a murder as proof that they killed someone.”
If so, it doesn’t seem to make sense to keep it. However, although he had expected that the noble lords would try to sabotage something, he hadn’t expected them to go to such extreme measures.
What to do from now on… the plan has certainly gone awry. Originally, the plan was to use Viscount Wurst as a puppet by taking advantage of his weaknesses and set up a plan to destroy the central nobility.
“But Viscount Wurst was killed. This means that a new lord will be elected from the central nobility.”
Rosa said anxiously, so Hiro patted her shoulder to reassure her.
“Don’t worry, thanks to Driks; we still have the upper hand.”
The assassination was a success, but they failed to destroy the evidence.
“I didn’t expect it to be so easy in the first place. They hired the Black Land of the Dead to assure us that they were serious. It’s not all bad.”
The reason why they hired the Black Land of the Dead instead of using one of their protégés was probably that they were afraid of being traced, but also to increase the certainty of the assassination and the destruction of evidence.
When Hiro called out their names, they came closer and dropped to one knee on the floor.
“Ghada, I want you to join the army that’s setting up camp outside and prepare to leave.”
“As you wish.”
Ghada stood up and turned on his heel to run down the hallway.
“Driks, I want you to go ahead to the Great Imperial Capital with the guards. I want you to make a report of this on the way and give it to Prime Minister Gils.”
Hiro handed Driks a bundle of paper bound with string, the weakness of the central nobility.
“I will deliver it to him, even if it costs me my life.”
With a tightened face, Driks also ran down the hallway with a few soldiers.
The only people left in the room were Hiro, Rosa, and the soldiers guarding her.
“Where’s Liz, by the way?”
“As soon as she woke up, she took the soldiers and went out to patrol the mansion. She was worried about you but said she had other things to do.”
As Rosa said this, Liz came into the room with Cerberus.
“I’ve woken up all the servants and gathered them in the hall. I’ve also sent a team of four soldiers to patrol the mansion. If there is anyone suspicious, they will report it immediately.”
“Thank you, that’s very helpful. I’ve sent Ghada outside, so there should be backup soon.”
“Yes…Hmm, you don’t seem to be hurt ― I’m glad you’re okay.”
Looking at Hiro’s body, Liz confirmed that he was unhurt and hugged him.
“I really wanted to help you here, you know?”
Hiro smiled at the pouting girl.
“I was fine here. So I’m glad you could put up with it.”
If Liz had made such a decision to come to Hiro’s aid, he would have scolded her for neglecting to ensure the safety of the servants, even though she had no idea what was going on.
“Hiro, do you think I’m stupid?”
“No, I don’t, but you do act like one sometimes.”
“You’re awful… Is that what you really think?”
Obviously, since she is a member of the imperial family, it does not mean that she does not have qualities. Her quality is also sufficient for Hiro to see. It is not inferior to the great general that she once tried to become.
“Sorry, I was just kidding.”
Hiro chuckled, and Liz puffed out her cheeks in displeasure.
“Mmm, that’s fine, but… what are you going to do now?”
“We’ll leave this place in the hands of Zuik’s secretary, and we’ll leave tomorrow morning. We need to leave before strange rumors arise. Of course, we’ll still keep an eye on things…”
If it were true, he would have preferred to leave the temporary lordship to one of the Eastern nobles, but that might have given unnecessary irritation to the central nobles. It would be better to leave the decision of personnel to Prime Minister Gils.
“Then, you two ladies should go to bed for tomorrow. I’ll take care of the rest.”
“Liz, let’s be lenient here. If you don’t get some sleep, you won’t be able to put on makeup properly.”
Hiro nodded to Rosa’s words.
“When you make your triumphant return to the Great Imperial Capital, you will be seen by many people, so you should not make a bad impression by lack of sleep.”
Hiro urged them to leave and was left alone in the room.
“…’Black Land of the Dead,’ huh?”
Hiro’s gaze turned to his own hand. There was a clay doll that the assassin had left behind.