It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (17/60), enjoy~
Chapter 2 – The Captured Flame Emperor And The March of The God of War
The Felzen region was once a major power that rivaled the Grantz Empire.
With the Anfini Sea to the north, it had a thriving fishing industry due to its abundant seafood, and it was also a key point in the east-west trade route between the six allied nations to the west and the Grantz Empire to the east, and it flourished through a trade before its demise.
However, after the defeat in the decisive battle against the Grantz Empire, the country’s security deteriorated drastically, and merchants began to avoid Felzen. The fertile land has become desolate due to repeated wars. The royal capital, which used to be a place where various languages were spoken and traders thronged, has become a miserable sight and has been reduced to ruins after numerous battles between the Felzen remnant army and the Grantz Empire.
Forty-five cells (135 kilometers) to the southwest of the royal capital was the main camp of the Grand Duchy of Dral, which had marched into the Felzen region.
Currently, white smoke was rising from everywhere in the main camp as they began to prepare their meals. There was no sense of alarm, and the soldiers could be seen taking off their equipment, chatting and laughing, bottles of wine in their hands.
“Never has there been a more joyous day!”
“Indeed. It’s hard not to drink, that’s for sure.”
They were all smiling, perhaps because they were still reeling from the victory.
“Hey, you’re letting yourself go too easy. It’s not time to drink yet.”
A serious soldier complained, and the drinking soldiers looked at each other.
“It’s okay, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, we’ve defeated the Grantz Empire. This kind of reward should be allowed, right?”
Yes, the reason why they are so happy is because they defeated the army led by Celia Estrella, the Sixth Empress of the Grantz Empire. Furthermore, the fact that they captured her, the Five Emperors of Spirit Sword wielder, it’s no wonder they’re so excited.
“So, where is the princess we captured?”
“In Pupchen-sama’s tent.”
“Even though we’ve been on the lookout to make sure the Sixth Princess doesn’t get snatched back, Pupchen-sama is enjoying himself.”
“She’s as beautiful as the rumors say. I can understand why he couldn’t resist.”
As the soldiers continued their vulgar conversation, an earnest soldier approached them with a difficult look on his face.
“Well, I guess things didn’t go so easily.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“About six soldiers were burned to death.”
“That’s strange indeed.”
“How did that happen?”
“I don’t know the details. But I hope it won’t provoke the wrath of the gods.”
The soldier’s fearful gaze was directed at a large tent. The one in it is the legitimate heir of the Grand Duchy of Dral ― Pupchen von Dral.
He picked up the silver cup on the desk and brought it to his mouth with a graceful motion. This gesture alone shows that he has a high standard of education. Above all, as a legitimate heir to the Grand Duchy of Dral, he exuded an air of nobility.
However, his muscular and well-trained body showed that he prioritized training over education, which amplified his wildness and created a savage atmosphere.
“Hmm, there’s nothing better than a drink after a victory.”
Pupchen looked at the red wine in the silver cup with an air of arrogance and then turned his unreserved gaze to an object. This is a place where furniture and bedding would normally be placed. But strangely enough, an iron cage was placed there.
That’s not the only strange thing about it. The cage was wrapped with a large number of spirit talismans.
“I used up all the spirit talismans I brought from your home country to hold you captive.”
Pupchen sighed heavily, looking particularly disappointed.
“The cost of this war will be enormous. It’s enough to cover two cities’ worth of tax revenue… But on second thought, it’s probably not a loss at all since we were able to capture you with only that much loss.”
Turning his attention to the cage, Pupchen’s mouth twisted in amusement.
“Hey, are you listening? Which do you think you are?”
In the cage, where Pupchen was looking down, sat a girl bound with iron chains. She is the Sixth Princess of the Grantz Empire, Celia Estrella Elizabeth von Grantz.
She is known throughout the neighboring countries as the holder of the “Flame Emperor” since the first Emperor Altius. In addition, rumors abound that the girl has made remarkable progress by adding a descendant of the “God of War” to her ranks.
“…I don’t care about any of that.”
Liz bluntly said, but the words are not powerful, and the beauty of her face is shaded, perhaps because she is exhausted. To add to the reason, her military uniform was torn in a flashy manner, and a blood-soaked bandage was painfully peeking out from the gap. Her arms and legs, exposed to the open air, were dotted with countless wounds, and the cause of her exhaustion was obvious.
However, her will seems to be strong, and she glared at Pupchen with hatred.
“You shouldn’t look so frightening. You’ll ruin your beautiful face.”
Pupchen said, pulling out a wooden box from under his desk. Inside the wooden box was a large collection of small and large stones.
He grabbed one of them, a fist-sized stone, and gave Liz a creepy smile.
“It seems that the Five Emperors of the Spirit Sword will protect the wielder under certain conditions. In the case of the Flame Emperor, for example, anyone who tries to harm you will be engulfed in the flames of purgatory.”
A few soldiers, dazzled by her beauty, snuck into the tent to try their hand at her, only to be burned to death. There was no sympathy for them because they deserved it, and if they had succeeded, Pupchen would have chopped their heads off.
“But ― yes, but. What do you think would have happened if I hadn’t been malicious?”
Pupchen muttered something strange, and Liz’s face showed a question mark. And then Pupchen’s arm went hazy, and a dull, heavy sound rang out in the tent.
And then Liz’s head bounced back, and she collapsed with the same force.
Liz let out an inarticulate scream and rolled around on the floor. Pupchen picked up a new stone from the wooden box, staring at it with cold-blooded eyes.
“It’s like throwing a stone into a pond. What would happen if there was no emotion? What would happen if there was no desire to kill?”
Pupchen’s arm swung down with great force. At the same time, a dull sound like a hammer hitting the ground sounded.
Liz’s back bent into a crooked shape from the intense pain. But before she could suffer, the next stone was released.
It doesn’t even give her time to scream. Liz is struck by a shock that seems to gouge out her internal organs, and the eerie sound of shattered bones reverberates through the tent.
“It’s an overly simple and ridiculous attack, but stone-throwing has a terrifying ability to kill.”
Stone after stone flew into the air and slammed into her thin body without mercy.
“Even a small stone can kill you if it hits the right spot.”
Again and again, as long as there were stones, Pupchen kept throwing them at Liz.
“Human beings are strange things. If the body decides that it cannot bear the pain, it will lose consciousness. But if they are half-heartedly strong, as you are, they will suffer in prison forever.”
Although he explained simply, Pupchen did not weaken his hand in throwing the stone. Rather harshly and fiercely, the momentum increased as he exhaled wildly.
Fresh blood splattered from Liz’s forehead, staining the floor red. She was bound by iron chains and could not even cover her face. If there were no help for her, she would have to be exposed to a one-sided rain of violence.
“It’s not necessary to humiliate you and make you submit, is it?”
The stone that Pupchen threw hit Liz’s body precisely and mercilessly as she struggled with intense pain.
“If I give you pain and make you do what I tell you to do, if I show you who is above you, you will obey me no matter if you are the wielder of the Five Emperors of the Spirit Sword.”
Pupchen stopped when the stone began to run out.
“In other words, I thought that brainwashing through fear was the way to obtain the Five Emperors of the Spirit Sword.”
Pupchen got up from his chair and approached the cage. The bloody Liz was lying on her back, breathing unevenly. Looking at her swollen face, Pupchen stuck out his tongue and licked her mouth.
“It’s not enough, huh? I’m going to hurt you so badly that even your beautiful face will be as ugly as a pig’s.”
He must have intended to break her strong mental strength by making such a declaration. However, Liz’s eyes were empty, but deep within them was a firm will.
“What’s with the defiant eyes? I don’t like it. Do you realize the position you’re in?”
Pupchen pulled another wooden box with his toes, grabbed a stone, and threw it at Liz. The inevitable Liz gritted her teeth, but the pain did not hit her. This is because the Fire Emperor’s blessing was activated, and the flying stone was burned away.
“It seems that… I let my emotions overwhelm me a bit. I am sorry, but we will have to do this again tomorrow.”
Pupchen snorted boringly, sat back in his chair, and took a sip of wine.
“It seems that the Flame Emperor does indeed have a will. But where is the source of its power?”
He traces the rim of the silver cup with his finger and turns his gaze to Liz.
“The Five Emperors of the Spirit Sword are capable of causing supernatural phenomena, but I do not believe that they have any function on their own. If so, then the source of its power will inevitably be its wielder, and it is natural to think that it is in your mental or physical power, isn’t it?”
He chuckled and wrinkled his eyes in amusement as he watched Liz’s reaction.
“Then, if I push you to the limit, the blessing will disappear. Although I cannot do it now, I will be able to touch you when the protection weakens.”
Pupchen was intoxicated by the sight of Liz bleeding and enduring pain. So his tongue moved well. He was in a good mood and talkative.
“I can’t wait for that time. I’ll bare my nails, smash my fingers, chop off your ears, gouge out your eyes, shave off your nose, and send you to the Grantz Empire.”
Then he suddenly remembered and sat up with his eyes shining.
“Oh, yes. I’ll make sure to send your head to the descendant of the God of War. As long as he can identify you as the Sixth Princess, though ― Hmm?”
As he said that, Liz’s expression, which had been feigning no reaction, changed.
――A small smile formed on her face.
Pupchen couldn’t contain his irritation, and his anger grew. He ran from his chair to the cage, not caring if the wine spilled, and spewed his hatred.
“What’s so funny? Why don’t you show at least a little tears like a woman!”
It doesn’t matter if the protection is activated or not. He clenched the stone in order to instill fear into her thoroughly.
“What are you doing?”
Before Pupchen could throw the stone, a calm voice interrupted him. He turned around with a surprised expression and saw a woman standing at the entrance to the tent.
“Lord Pupchen, I will ask you one more time. What are you doing here?”
As the woman approached, she turned her slightly upturned eyes toward Pupchen. But Pupchen didn’t seem to take offense and cowered as he let go of the stone.
“You should not look so threatening, Lord Skaaha… I was just having a little chat with the Sixth Princess.”
[T/n: The Katakana for her name is スカアハ, I thought about giving her a name like the female warrior from the Celtic Mythology’s Ulster Cycle, but the Katakana for Scathach is ス カ サ ハ, it’s a little different, so I gave up on that, and gave her the name Skaaha instead. If anyone knows a proper name for this, please let me know. Thank you.]
Pupchen took a step back and looked at her again when she suddenly appeared.
Haran Skaaha de Felzen.
She is a beautiful woman. She is probably about seventeen or eighteen years old.
Her blue-green hair was silky and shiny. Her hair was tied back in a bun. Her eyes and nose are as delicate as glasswork, and her skin as white as pottery is so gorgeous that it seems to shatter if it is touched. By wrapping her slender limbs in heavy armor, she exudes an atmosphere of serenity and tranquility that is at once bleak and distorted, bringing out the charm of a war goddess.
And as her name implies, she is a survivor of the Felzen royal family. According to the Grantz Empire’s announcement, every single member of the Felzen royal family has been executed.
(Good grief, the Grantz Empire is so clueless.)
In fact, the now deceased King Felzen had succeeded in deceiving the eyes of the Grantz Empire and allowing only one person to survive.
“Talking is it…? It doesn’t seem like that at all, though?”
The only surviving member of the Felzen royal family, Skaaha, checked on Liz and gave Pupchen a sharp, criticizing look.
“I just got a little emotional. I’m sorry for treating your captive this way.”
Pupchen smiled affectionately and uttered an apology without a shred of sincerity. At that moment, the wind reared up, and a sharp pain hit Pupchen.
At the same time, he felt his cheeks heat up, and when he touched it with his finger, a warm feeling returned.
“W-what are you doing?”
Pupchen looked at his fingertips, which were wet with blood, and then his voice trembled.
“She’s an important prisoner, and I hope you’ll be careful how you treat her in the future.”
Without hiding her anger, Skaaha glared at Pupchen.
(Chivalry and all that ― she’d be a good woman if she could fix that fastidiousness.)
Pupchen muttered in his mind and lifted his mouth in sarcasm. She must have noticed that. As Skaaha held her blue spear, she looked at Pupchen with zero-degree eyes as if to condemn him.
If there is a next time, She may get emotional and cut off his head.
“A-alright. I’ll be careful in the future.”
It seemed that he had provoked her too much. Pupchen hurriedly dropped to his knees and hung his head on the spot.
It was frustrating, but the hierarchy was clear. Pupchen was no match for the strangely powerful Skaaha and because it was the Grand Duchy of Dral that had offered cooperation in marching into Felzen.
For Pupchen, this march was also a matter of calculation. As a substitute for his ailing father, he wanted to solidify his position as the heir to the Grand Duchy of Dral… There were many other reasons, but the most important was his desire for achievement.
If he and Skaaha were to come to grips with each other at this point, everything would be for naught. If he returned to his country without gaining anything, what awaited him would be a backlash from the nobles and lords.
(Compared to that, bowing to a woman like her and trying to curry favor is no small feat.)
Pupchen’s face fell, and her lips twisted in a scornful smile as he decided it was time for patience.
“I hope you understand.”
Skaaha lowered the blue spear she was holding and turned to Liz.
She is also not in a position to be too aggressive with Pupchen. She failed to capture the War Maiden, and the Second Imperial Army, led by the Third Prince Blutar, still has power left. For Skaaha, who leads the Felzen remnant army, it would be painful to have the Grand Duchy of Dral, which is a barrier to the Second Imperial Army, back off at this point.
“Then we have to cure her. Lord Pupchen, please call on the military doctor.”
Because of their mutual interests, Skaaha is unable to demand Pupchen’s extradition even though he has treated her precious hostage, Liz, in this way.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have a female doctor in our army. Do you mind if it is a man?”
Obviously, their personalities did not match, but he still had to listen to her opinion for now. In order to continue to work together smoothly against the Grantz Empire, a compromise was necessary.
“No, my troops are waiting outside. Please ask for the female doctor there.”
“Very well. I’ll get her right away.”
Pupchen gave a short reply and left the tent, turning his back on Skaaha. Skaaha saw him off to the side and approached the cage, opening her mouth to Liz, who was crouching painfully.
Skaaha bowed her head. She apologized as if she was genuinely sorry. And because of her sudden apology, Liz was taken aback, as if she had forgotten the pain.
Skaaha, with a wry smile on her face, continued to speak.
“My purpose is not to hurt you. Of course, it is not to humiliate you either. But that doesn’t mean I can release you…”
Skaaha is full of the compassion of a holy mother as she speaks kindly to Liz while expressing her regret for exposing the weakness of her position.
“I’ll tell Lord Pupchen not to do this in the future.”
As Liz moved, the iron chains around her made a strange noise.
“…What on earth do you want?”
Liz said, her face contorting in pain as if the mere sound of her voice was enough to send a rush of pain through her body. Still, her red eyes never wavered, and she stared straight at Skaaha.
“It’s a trivial wish. It’s not like I’m hoping for the whole world. It’s really a very small wish.”
Skaaha’s emotions were in turmoil. The tip of the blue spear in her grip was trembling slightly.
“Above all, I am not as corrupt as the Grantz imperial family.”
With killing intent rising from her body, Skaaha quietly let her anger seep into her words.