It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (18/60), enjoy~
It was a clear day. There was not a single cloud in the sky, yet strange black shadows dotted the sky.
The shadows were too far away for anyone to catch them accurately, but they were definitely some kind of monster. On the ground, the budding grass was spreading all around, and the flowers and grass were dancing happily in the gentle breeze. Looking beyond the horizon ― the Travant Mountain Range, the natural boundary of the six allied nations to the west, was adding some color to the majestic scenery.
November 12, 1023rd year of the Empire’s calendar ― the suburbs of Raonen in the northwestern part of the Western Region.
An army of horses, men, weapons, and armor, all dyed black, moves through the grasslands in an orderly and unhurried fashion. In the middle of the army line, a carriage is running, and inside it, Hiro is discussing the current situation and future plans after joining up with Ghada.
“The Berg Fortress is at peace itself. Aside from Kiork-dono’s heartache, that is.”
With a wry smile, Ghada held out a letter.
“This is a letter from Prince Karl of the Principality of Lichtine.”
“As soon as Hiro received the letter, he checked the contents and smiled.”
“It looks like he’s going to do exactly what we want.”
“You sent him a letter before you left the Great Imperial Capital, didn’t you?”
“Yes. I told the Principality of Lichtine to gather troops on the border of the Steichen Republic to keep them in check.”
“If they do start a war, what are the chances of us able to help them?”
“It’s a bit of a gamble, but… it should be fine. The Steichen Republic is not in a position to invade another country to fight for succession. If they were to start a war, they would have to deal with the Ravenous Eagle. He can at least buy enough time for us to come to his aid.”
Ghada nodded deeply but then tilted his head.
“What happened to the Levering Kingdom, by the way?”
“The new ruler is quite a strong figure. In a good way, you can expect a lot from her. In a bad way, she can be tricky. And now that she has all of the magic weapons, I doubt anyone will be able to stand against her.”
“Oh, magic weapons… I’ve heard of them a few times when I was leading the Liberation Army.”
“It’s a weapon that is based on the magic stones of the monsters that once rampaged through the central continent.”
“I’ve heard of it a few times when I was a kid. I have no special weapon since the Five Demon Emperors Swords abandoned me. If the opportunity arises, I would like to have it.”
It’s not something that can be expected. Hiro shrugged his shoulders and then decided to change the subject.
“Now that the exchange of information is over, let’s talk about the Felzen region and the Grand Duchy of Dral.”
“There’s not much information available from the Berg Fortress. Kiork-dono cooperated with us, but due to the fact that the locations are so far apart, we only received information about the capture.”
“I’m in the same boat. If we can locate Liz, we can come up with a rescue plan. As for Aura, she seems to be stalling for time by holing up in a fortress called Fort Mitte.”
“I think we’d better hurry on both matters.”
When Ghada said with a serious look, Hiro nodded his head to show his agreement.
“For that reason, we need to talk to General Bakish.”
“It’s either the general who failed to act as a check, or he’s an incompetent who allowed the Grand Duchy of Dral to march into the Felzen region.”
Hiro shook his head seriously at Ghada’s harsh words.
“It’s still too early to make that judgment. I’ll have to hear what he has to say first.”
Hiro turned his gaze to the window. On the other side of the window, he could see a solid fortress.
The cornerstone of the border with the Grand Duchy of Dral is the Fort Tutelary. The walls, built in a multi-layered ring, are equipped with turrets that serve to stop enemy attacks from all sides. In front of it is a heavy iron gate that opens into a courtyard, where the cavalry standing by can penetrate the flanks of the enemy troops who are holding back against the high walls.
The soldiers on the watchtower at the main gate were clearly shaken when they saw the “Raven Army.” When Hiro got down from the carriage, the watchtower became even noisier, indicating that the soldiers were surprised.
Eventually, the iron gate was slowly pulled up, and a man arrived with a guard. He was of medium height, with no distinguishing features, and had a somewhat ordinary appearance.
“I apologize for keeping you waiting!”
The man who looked flustered approached Hiro and took a vassal’s bow.
“I’m Bakish von Hass, the man in charge of Fort Tutelary assigned by His Majesty Greyheit. I am delighted to welcome the Fourth Prince Hiro Schwartz.”
Hiro’s eyes widened when he heard his true identity. To be precise, it was the high spirits that exuded from his body. His behavior was ordinary, but his dominance was unimaginable, given his appearance.
“Please make yourself comfortable. I’d like to hear the details of the Felzen region and the Grand Duchy of Dral.”
“Ha, I’ve checked everything that was written in the letter that Your Highness Hiro gave me.”
Bakish took out a piece of paper from his pocket. It has Hiro’s signature on it.
“Please come inside; it’s not appropriate for us to talk here.”
As Hiro and the others were urged by Bakish to go through the gate, the “Raven Army” followed one after another. The people living in the fortress rolled their eyes when they saw the scene.
“What the heck is going on here?”
“The abyssal armor means it’s the Second Emperor’s Imperial Black Knights!”
“No, no, they’re the army that replicated it.”
One of the residents replied to the ignorant resident. The next thing he pointed to was the banner of the Black Army.
“The only army that can raise the Divine Banner of the God of War is the Raven Army.”
A thousand years ago, the “Five Generals of the Black Sky” gathered under the “God of War,” and they commanded the battle-hardened “Raven Army.” They defeated the demon race, rescued the human race from the world of chaos, and brought peace to the world.
However, after the second emperor, the “God of War,” passed away, the third emperor, who feared their power, tried to stigmatize them and destroyed the Raven Army. Because of this, the “Raven Army” was disgraced for a while, but the fifth emperor restored the honor. Since then, the “Raven Army” has been spoken of as a brave and valiant army led by the “God of War.”
“So… who leads this army?”
“Oh, it’s the descendant of the God of War, the One-Eyed Dragon, of course.”
The feverish words of the residents were quickly passed on to the surrounding residents. It’s like a game of word of mouth ― exaggeration creates anticipation, which leads to joyful shouts.
The armor the soldiers were wearing vibrated as the cheers filled the Tutelary Fortress. Even so, the “Raven Army” didn’t seem particularly proud of themselves, and without breaking ranks, they proceeded with Hiro’s carriage in the lead.
The end of the journey was the end of the residential area ― Gehirn Castle, which was built on a small hill overlooking the whole of Fort Tutelary. Hiro and Ghada were the only two allowed to enter the castle, while Hugin and Munin were ordered to wait in the courtyard with the “Raven Army.”
The command center of the famously impregnable Fort Tutelary was located on the second floor of Gehirn Castle. Perhaps to increase secrecy, there were no other rooms on the second floor except for the command room, and soldiers guarded the only entrance on a 24-hour guard.
When Hiro entered the command room, he took his place in the upper seat, while Ghada stood on the right side and put his hand on the hilt of his sword, glaring at Bakish and his subordinate to check them from making any suspicious movements.
“Haha… you seem to have a subordinate with a lot of work ethic.”
Bakish said, his cheeks twitching, and he ordered his second-in-command to take the bundle of reports.
“I will now report to you what Your Highness Hiro Schwartz has ordered me to do.”
Bakish was the first to speak up.
“The first is that Brigadier General Aura, who is isolated in Felzen region, after learning of the defeat of Her Highness Celia Estrella, seems to have taken refuge in Fort Mitte in the southwest of Felzen region. There is no information that the fortress has fallen, so I assume that she is safe. However, I don’t think they can hold out much longer.”
There are also concerns about food and supplies. The number of soldiers is also limited. If they didn’t get rescue as soon as possible, Fort Mitte would turn into a hell filled with dead bodies. As Hiro put his hand to his chin and pondered, Bakish asked if he could continue. Hiro nodded and urged him to continue.
“It seems that the Third Prince Blutar is trying to rescue them, but the results are not good, and the Dral army is blocking them from moving as they wish.”
The Third Prince Blutar, who had lost Aura, would not be able to develop a plan of action. Until he added Aura to his staff, he was a man who always said that war is about numbers. He doesn’t have the power to break through the current situation. The Second Imperial Army is like a snake without a head, without a mouth to bottoms up its prey, without poison to kill its victims.
“And the Grand Duchy of Dral has prepared a negotiating table with the Third Prince Blutar. As long as we’re able to accept their demands, they’ll hand over Her Highness Celia Estrella and guarantee the safety of Brigadier General Aura.”
Judging by Bakish’s expression, he must have been forced to do some impossible task that he could not overlook. It was easy to imagine what kind of result it would lead to.
“The condition was the withdrawal of the Grantz Empire from the Felzen region. They demanded 20 spirit swords, 100 spirit stones, 2,000 gold coins from the Grantz Empire, and more than that; they demanded territory in the west.”
“The negotiations have broken down, have they…?”
Hiro sighed after saying that.
“Yes, and since then, it has been a back and forth battle, and nothing has changed.”
With Liz, Aura, and the country in the balance, no one would accept such a demand. But it’s a good thing that Aura is still alive and well, although it’s hard to say if it’s a blessing or not. As Hiro was thinking this, he suddenly noticed that Bakish was making a difficult face.
“Is there something else on your mind?”
‘Yes… it’s about Her Highness Cella Estrella. The Third Prince Blutar offered to send a messenger to confirm her life and death, but the other party stubbornly refused.”
Is it because they are afraid of them taking her back, or is she already dead?
Assuming the worst, the Grand Duchy of Dral may have handed over Liz to another country. Since she is the holder of the Five Emperors of the Spirit Swords, other countries want her as much as they can get their hands on her.
In addition to this, there is also the possibility that she may have been handed over to one of the six nations in the western alliance. But it’s still not out of the realm of expectation, and there’s not enough information to be certain.
“Can I entrust you to gather information about that as well?”
“Yes, leave it to me.”
To Bakish, who saluted, Hiro decided to ask about the Grand Duchy of Dral.
“I’d like to hear about the internal situation of the Grand Duchy of Dral. Why did they decide to march into Felzen this time…? If you know that, it will be easier to deal with them.”
“The total number of Dral troops that have marched into the Felzen region this time is about 30,000, and the one leading them is Pupchen von Dral, the legitimate heir. The Archduke is ill, and his legitimate son has already taken control of the situation. But that was only until he signed a truce with the Steichen Republic, and that foundation has recently been shattered.”
“Are you aware, Your Highness, that the Steichen Republic is currently divided over a succession dispute?”
“I don’t know all the details, but I’m pretty sure two major noble houses are fighting over it… I see.”
When Hiro said that much, he realized what had happened to the Grand Duchy of Dral.
“In other words, the noble and powerful lords of the Grand Duchy of Dral are not convinced that the truce was signed despite such an opportunity. Is that what you mean?”
“As expected of Your Highness Hiro, you are correct. And since it was at the sole discretion of Lord Pupchen, the dissatisfaction seems to have been even greater.”
After a pause, Bakish opened his mouth again with the report in his hand.
“In the meantime, a faction has emerged that has chosen the second son as the successor, who is easier to manipulate.”
The Grand Duchy of Dral is also falling into a state of near division. Why did they decide to march on Felzen despite the situation? The answer came naturally to Hiro’s mind, and he found an opening to take advantage of, his ferocious mood surging wildly. In the end, the Grand Duchy of Dral was the one to attack. He even regretted that there was no map in this place.
“So what are you going to do now, Your Highness Hiro?”
“I will now lead the “Raven Army” to attack the Grand Duchy of Dral.”
“…From what I saw, it seemed that there were only about five thousand of you. Are you planning to reunite later?”
“No, the soldiers I brought today are all I have.”
“It sounds more reckless than unreasonable, but… If you want, I can lend you a few thousand from my private army. You may want to reconsider that.”
“No, that feeling alone is enough; my private army is fine.”
Hiro then asked Bakish’s second-in-command if he had any maps.
“Yes, a map of the Grand Duchy of Dral. It doesn’t need to be very detailed.”
“Very well. One moment, please.”
The second-in-command approached a waist-high jar in the corner of the room. He returned with a piece of parchment in his hand.
“Excuse me, let me spread it out on the desk.”
The second-in-command spread the map out on the desk in front of Bakish, who had a questioning look on his face, as he was used to doing. Hiro stood up from his seat and walked over to the map, grabbing some of the nearby pieces.
“Then I will explain it to you.”
Hiro placed one of the pieces in the southern part of the Grand Duchy of Dral.
“Even though the Grand Duchy of Dral and the Steichen Republic have signed a truce, the seeds of war are still smoldering near their borders, so both countries must be on alert and devoting a lot of resources to the fight.”
“It’s true what Your Highness Hiro said, but…”
“So, the Grand Duchy of Dral cannot afford to leave the south untouched. Then, the obvious place to start taking soldiers is from the north.”
Hiro placed another piece in the northern part of the Grand Duchy of Dral.
“In addition, if the legitimate heir of the Grand Duchy of Dral is declining in power, it is possible that he is conscripting the people. In the end, the northern part of the Grand Duchy of Dral is stretched thin. Even with an army of about five thousand, you can still achieve amazing results.”
As Bakish looked down at the map as well, Hiro took out a piece of paper.
“But for added certainty, I need your help with a few things. It’s not difficult; it’s simple. I just need you to do what is written here.”
Bakish frowned quizzically, but his eyes widened when he opened the paper to see what it said.
“T-this is… are you serious?”
“Yes, I am serious.”
“Unless I’m reading this wrong… it says burn the village?”
When Hiro told him clearly, Bakish paled. His second-in-command also gave Hiro a look of disbelief. But Ghada, who had heard about it beforehand, was not shocked at all, and his expression did not change at all.
“Please read to the end.”
Bakish, pressured by Hiro’s powerful eyes, proceeded to read on. He was busy running his gaze over the paper with a problematic look on his face but eventually placed it on the desk and exhaled deeply.
“I can’t simply accept this kind of… order from Your Highness Hiro, no matter how it may be. If I fail and am held accountable, my head will fall to the ground.”
“General Bakish will not be held accountable. His Majesty has already given his permission. If you fail, there’s nothing to worry about. I did this on my own, so please feel free to carry out what is written there.”
In order to win, various measures had to be taken. This was the only way to save Liz and Aura. It was different from the time when he could not save anyone in that time of chaos. He has definitely grown since that time. He felt that he had acquired enough power to save as many people as he could hold in his tiny hands.
“…..I understand. I’ll be happy to help.”
As the command center was enveloped in silence, Bakish finally gave a colorful reply. Hiro’s smile deepened in satisfaction, and he stroked the eye patch covering the left half of his face.
“Oh, and General Bakish. There’s something else I need your help with.”
Hiro invited him with his hand. Bakish obeyed honestly, though with a dubious expression on his face. Then Hiro whispered a couple of words in his ear and put his hand on Bakish’s shoulder.
“Then, can I leave the rest to you?”
“Yes, but it will be difficult to prepare what is written on this paper today. I would prefer to wait until tomorrow if possible?”
“That’s fine. Thank you for your cooperation.”
Although he really wanted to defeat the Grand Duchy of Dral without any help, it was indeed difficult for Hiro and the others to prepare everything from scratch. It’s not a bad idea to borrow a favor from General Bakish here if nothing else. It’s just a matter of handing over some of the credit.
“So, since we’re running out of time, I think we should get ready too.”
Hiro took Ghada with him and left the command center.
He was able to get Bakish’s cooperation. After that, he needs to attack the Grand Duchy of Dral and skillfully guide the other party to get them to the negotiating table.