It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (4/32), enjoy~
“I apologize for this. I never thought my brother would act out like this.”
Claudia bows her head in apology. The light from the torch illuminates Claudia’s profile. Tears streaked down her cheeks.
Hiro looked around in all directions. There were torches on the walls, and they seemed to be leading to the exit.
After closing his eyes, Hiro took a long, deep breath and opened his mouth to Claudia.
“It’s no use just to stand here. Let’s head for the exit first.”
Hiro grabbed one of the torches from the wall and started walking, lighting the torches evenly distributed on the wall. Claudia followed silently behind him.
“Do you know where this connects to, Princess Claudia?”
“Yes, the exit ahead leads to a village called Carilus. My father has told me this many times, so I am sure of it.”
“Prince Fraus doesn’t know about this, does he?”
“Only those who possess the precious jewel are allowed to enter this place, so father must not have told brother.”
The king may have anticipated this situation before he died. Now that the king is dead, it is impossible to know his true intentions. So, what they had to do now was to figure out how to stop Fraus from getting out of control.
As they continued to walk in silence, they eventually reached the exit.
The stone door was dimly illuminated by light. There was no moss as if it had been well cared for. Hiro made Claudia step back and opened the door by pressing his shoulder against it.
Dust flew around, and pieces of stone fell down on their heads. As they entered, they found rusty farming tools placed all over the room. Hiro made his way to the exit of the room without making a sound.
He looked around for any sign of people outside, then turned around.
He couldn’t help but make a dumbfounded sound. This is because Claudia had taken off her dress and was now in her underwear.
“…Um, I’d appreciate it if you would refrain from looking.”
Claudia’s cheeks turn red. Hiro then sighed and looked forward.
“If I may ask, why are you taking off your dress?”
“I thought I’d change since the dress would make me stand out…”
“I see. That’s true now that you mention it.”
If he went outside with Claudia in her dress, the soldiers would immediately find her. Hiro looked down at his own figure and then picked up a burlap sack that had been placed nearby.
“To create a blind spot. Guess I’ll have to hide mine too.”
The black cloak was especially noticeable in this snowy land. Hiro tore off the sack, spread it wide, and put it on over the Black Princess Camellia.
“I’m ready. Hiro-sama, let’s go.”
When he turned around, he saw Claudia standing there in farmer’s clothes. Her purple-silver hair was covered with a cloth, and her clothes were dotted with small holes.
“Why don’t you take off your eye patch, Hiro-sama?”
“I’m injured. I can’t take it off because the cold would hurt the wound.”
“I see… Then let us take the most secluded road possible.”
After Claudia’s words, they both walked out of the room at the same time. There were no stars in the cold sky. The thick clouds obscured the moonlight. No light reached the ground, and the strong wind roared like a beast.
“Hurry up, this way!”
Claudia’s hurried voice cut through the air as the snow blended with the freezing wind covered her vision. However, she was caught in the snow and fell to one knee.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m sorry, I’m fine, let’s move on. If we stay here, we’ll freeze to death.”
“That’s right. Even if we can escape from our pursuers, in this blizzard, we’ll be freezing to death anyway…”
Hiro took Claudia’s hand. It’s very cold. It seems that there is not much time left. There is no need to be extravagant about keeping warm, but they should at least find a place to shelter from the wind. Once the blizzard is over, the next step will be to escape from the pursuers.
Until then, they should conserve their strength as much as possible.
“Let’s go over there. No one seems to be working there at this time of night.”
Hiro pointed to the cowshed, where they could maintain a reasonable body temperature and avoid the wind.
“Yeah, but if you don’t like it, we can go somewhere else…”
“I don’t mind. No one would believe that the princess slept in a cowshed.”
Claudia took the initiative to start walking and smiled with a finger over her mouth.
“But it’s a secret. If the people knew, they’d have a stroke.”
“Of course I understand.”
Hiro shrugged his shoulders and smiled. And there is a reason why he chose the cowshed, which he did not tell Claudia.
He chose the cowshed because Driks and the others who had been hiding in the city beforehand were supposed to have taken refuge in this village. The decision they made was quite simple: if something happened to the royal palace, they would leave the city and go into hiding in a nearby village.
(It’s this cold. Hugin and the others would not be able to withstand it.)
In a small village like this, outsiders would be conspicuous. So the only place to hide would be in a place where they would not be seen but where they would not lose their body heat. Considering the fact that there were very few people going outside in this blizzard, including the time of day, the answer naturally came to mind.
Hiro stopped and looked above him ― a barn with a red triangular roof stood before him.
After opening the sliding door, Hiro walked inside with Claudia at his back. There were three signs of life, and although they were hiding well under their breath, they were not yet fully trained.
“It’s me. I need all three of you to come out.”
In response to his voice, two men and a woman came out. They knelt down in front of Hiro and bowed their heads.
“I’m glad you’re safe, wise brother.”
“That’s right. If anything happens to Hiro-sama, Chief Ghada will be angry with us.”
Hugin and Munin approached him in a friendly manner, and Driks stood up before he could thank them.
“Your Highness, I’m glad to see that you’re okay. But we don’t have much time left, so why don’t we check on each other’s situation first?”
“Yes. I also have several things I want to know. We don’t know much about the situation in the royal capital.”
“Well, first of all, we were able to escape from the capital easily.”
When Hiro was caught up in the conspiracy surrounding the throne, it seems that something strange was happening in the city. It is said that a large number of soldiers came and went along the streets, heading for inns and noblemen’s residences.
However, no tight security was put in place and the soldiers who had reached their goal headed out of the royal capital. And then, one after another, the nobles rode out from the royal palace, including Fraus and the others.
“Very well. I guess the next one’s on me.”
Hiro gave a word of encouragement to Driks, then turned his hand to Claudia and introduced her to the three of them.
“I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. I had no idea that my brother would rebel.”
“No, we’re glad that Princess Claudia is safe.”
Driks said while shaking his head and looked at Hiro again.
“And, Your Highness Hiro, have you noticed anything in the village?”
“Speaking of which… I didn’t see any soldiers after we escaped.”
“Of course not. The security around this place is as good as empty, so it seems that most of them have joined the army of Crown Prince Fraus and headed south. The number of them may have exceeded thirty thousand.”
“Not to the Grantz Empire… but the south?”
“I don’t really understand that part.”
Driks shrugged his shoulders. Hiro interrupted, trying to think. Then Claudia approached him.
“My brother is probably going to attack the south.”
Everyone’s eyes turned to her as Claudia spoke up.
“The one ruling there is Haniel, one of the three demon generals. He is loyal to my father, so he is sure to fight them if he hears about this. Above all, there are many nobles and people in the south who adore him, so I think my brother has decided that Haniel is a hindrance.”
“Does Princess Claudia know how many troops the south can mobilize?”
When Hiro asked, Claudia opened her mouth without hesitation.
“It’s about 10,000, but it’s mostly civilians… including the elderly.”
“Your Highness, I think we should seek help from the Second Prince Selene. It’s fortunate that they were practicing near the border, and combined with the southern part; we should be able to overwhelm the army of Crown Prince Fraus.”
Driks’ suggestion wasn’t a bad one, but…
(So that’s what this is about…)
Hiro remembered the last words that the second prince had said. The answer is created by the chain of uncomfortable feelings that led up to this point in his mind.
“It seems that the Emperor saw through this situation.”
“You think he knew there would be a civil war?”
There are many things that could not be explained otherwise. It’s not only that the second prince is near the border, but also that Hiro, who continues to make remarkable achievements, would not be sent as an envoy to a peaceful country.
If Hiro’s presence is bothersome to them, they can just throw him into an appropriate battlefield and use him. Perhaps they were trying to deal with the civil war in the Levering Kingdom before it reached the Grantz Empire. They may be trying to save Hiro and the others from captivity, or they may be using the murder of the envoys as a pretext to launch a short battle with the overwhelming military power of the north.
(I won’t let them do what they want. This is Rox’s country. I can’t let them destroy it.)
Hiro mobilized all the knowledge he had gained a thousand years ago and desperately searched for a way to prevent the Levering Kingdom from being destroyed. Then, looking at Claudia, a strange idea popped into Hiro’s head.
“Second-grade military officer Driks. I want you to go to the Second Prince immediately and tell him. No help is needed. The envoy was killed, but it was a rebel outburst, not the intention of the Levering Kingdom.”
“Very well, sir. But what are you going to do now that you mention that?”
“I’m going to join Haniel with Princess Claudia. Then we will put down the rebellion.”
Hiro stroked the eye patch covering half of his face, and a thin smile appeared on his lips.