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November 25, 1023rd year of the Imperial Calendar ― Three days have passed since the siege of Fort Mitte. On that day, many of the Felzen remnants, realizing their defeat, took advantage of the darkness and disappeared.
There will be no major battles from now on, but there will be frequent skirmishes in various places. The people of Felzen’s resentment will not disappear just because they lost, and as long as they’re oppressed, they will not be able to regain their peace.
It will be a long, long time before peace is restored to Felzen. The Grantz Empire will have to continue to spend huge amounts of money on Felzen.
The Felzen region has also been exhausted by repeated wars. The people have nowhere to live, and the soldiers have nowhere to go. There are thieves, bandits, insurgents, and others, but before long, there will be rampant looting in many places, and monsters that smell blood will attack the villages.
When that happens, a massive military force will be deployed again to restore security.
(But it’s not like the west can afford that.)
Then what will happen ― Hiro sighed deeply as he concluded.
He was currently in a temporary infirmary in the courtyard of Fort Mitte. A bed with clean sheets was placed in front of him.
The one breathing quietly on it was Liz. Hiro squeezed her hand gently.
“Yes, Tris and Cerberus are safe. Both of them are injured, but the military doctor said that they are in good health. They’ve eaten a lot of food, and they’re fine.”
There was no answer. Hiro cast his eyes down sadly.
“──… All that’s left is you, and everyone is waiting for you to wake up.”
Hiro continued to speak, trying his best to hold back the emotions that were threatening to overflow from his throat.
“It’s the opposite of what happened that day. I remember how worried you were about me that day.”
Hiro’s consciousness became clouded as he could not withstand the vast amount of knowledge that flowed into his mind as a reaction to the use of the “Heavenly Spirit Eye” when he was brought back to this world. She was the one who took care of the young man who she had just met and was probably did not even have any feelings for him. When he woke up, the gentle girl’s compassion soaked into him.
That’s why when he learned of Liz’s situation, he vowed to himself to support her. He will never forget the vow she made to him that day. But the feelings are far away.
“Liz… what do you think I’m trying to achieve now?”
He wondered what she would think when she found out about his true goal, which he hadn’t told anyone about. In Hiro’s mind, the conclusion has already been reached. It will probably never change.
“Please, when the time comes, it will be your――.”
With a self-mocking smile, Hiro gently stroked Liz’s hand, which still bore a fresh scar.
“…Please tell me Liz’s condition.”
He was suddenly called out from behind, and Hiro turned around with a surprised expression.
At the entrance of the infirmary. Aura was standing there. The bandages on her head were a painful sight.
“How long have you been there?”
“Hmm… I just arrived.”
Aura’s words were unclear as she looked from Liz to Hiro, her leaden eyes filled with shame.
“I apologize for this.”
Aura suddenly bowed her head to Hiro.
“I know it’s not something that can be forgiven with an apology.”
Aura clasped her hands tightly and turned her eyes to him with all her might, trying not to shed a tear. It’s rare for the usually expressionless Aura to reveal her emotions so strongly.
“I take full responsibility for everything.”
Therefore, she is prepared to accept any punishment or reprimand.
She may also be one of those who have received indelible scars from the recent battle. There is nothing that can be said to her. There was no point in offering words of comfort.
So Hiro just smiled at her and opened his mouth.
“I’m glad you’re okay, too.”
Aura’s eyes looked down as she clenched her lips together to hold back tears.
“Aura’s plan was not wrong. I think it was a good and well thought out plan.”
But that doesn’t change the outcome. Aura’s plan failed and caused a great deal of damage to the Grantz Empire.
Although Hiro’s advice will probably change the punishment, it is certain that she will not be unaffected.
“The future is bleak. Your position is on a precarious balance.”
Aura nodded knowingly as if she understood this. Her eyes told him that she was prepared to accept any outcome.
“But it’s harder for Hiro than it is for me.”
It’s not only he who makes the Grand Duchy of Dral that has withdrawn from the Felzen region. Not to mention the fact that he has been assured that the Grantz Empire will bear a portion of the losses from this battle.
Above all, he rescued Liz, the holder of the Five Emperors of the Spirit Sword, and even saved Aura from being isolated. His achievements must be immeasurable.
The central nobility, led by the Krone family, would not remain silent. The First Prince Stobel and the other heirs to the throne, who had been plotting behind the scenes, would also come to the stage.
“I know. But I won’t let my guard down, and I won’t be complacent.”
And Hiro renews his determination to protect everyone so that nothing like this will happen in the future. Aura sensed Hiro’s intentions and nodded in agreement.
Then, as if suddenly remembering something, Aura tilted her head.
“I’ve called… The Felzen Region Governor Booze to the command center.”
“Thank you. Then, since it is bad to keep him waiting, I’ll go now.”
“Meanwhile, I entrusted Liz to you. The doctor said she should be awake soon.”
“Then maybe it’s okay to keep Booze waiting.”
“No, I want to get this over with before Liz wakes up.”
After saying that, Hiro left the infirmary, leaving Aura to handle the rest. The sunrise greeted him as he stepped outside. The soldiers were busy running around.
They were cleaning up Fort Mitte to prevent the spread of disease, disposing of bodies, and other tasks that made them feel like turning away. Still, they did not complain and were absorbed in their work.
On the way to the walls from such a hectic place, Hiro called out to some of the patrolling soldiers and instructed them to follow him.
The command center was located above the main gate, in a small tower built into the breastworks.
Many men were waiting at the entrance, and one of them stepped out in front of Hiro.
“I have been waiting for you.”
It was Spitz, one of Aura’s aides.
His handsome face, which would elicit high-pitched screams if he walked the streets, was shaded by fatigue and lack of sleep. In the vicinity, Aura’s aides were standing around, looking nervous.
“They’re all brought him there.”
Spitz pointed his thumb at the door behind him.
He then straightened his posture, dropped to one knee, and bowed his head. Aura’s aides in the surrounding area repeated the same gesture as if they were following Spitz’s lead.
“I’m very grateful for your help.”
This was a rare and sincere attitude for Spitz. This indicates how dangerous the battle was.
Hiro patted Spitz on the shoulder and shook his head, saying there was nothing to be concerned about. However, Spitz still remained bowed at the waist and did not raise his head.
“I would like to make a plea regarding Her Highness Celia Estrella. I know this may seem like a convenient thing to say, but could you please give Brigadier General Aura your warmest consideration? The blame for this debacle lies not with her but with us for failing to make it a success.”
They seemed to be saying, “We’ll give up our own heads for that.” They gave off the vibe like that.
“By all means, I beg Your Highness Hiro to intercede with His Majesty the Emperor!”
Her subordinates really cherish Aura, Hiro thought.
“It’s okay. She may not be able to escape punishment, but she should be able to avoid severe punishment.”
“Are you serious?”
When Spitz raised his head in surprise, Aura’s subordinates shouted in delight.
“Yes, so don’t worry, you can go back to work. I’ll take care of the rest.”
“Ha! Please take care of Aura-sama!”
They bowed deeply again, and Hiro made them step back with a wry smile.
Then, after knocking on the door of the small tower twice, he stepped in with the guards.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting.”
“Inside, Felzen Region Governor Booze von Krone was sitting on a chair with a nervous look on his face.”
“Y-Your Highness Hiro!”
As soon as Booze recognized Hiro, he stood up from his chair and saluted him. Hiro looked at Booze quietly without returning the salute and opened his mouth.
“Do you know why you have been summoned here?”
“…..N-no, I don’t.”
Booze is confused. He really doesn’t seem to understand.
“Then let’s have a look at him first so that you can know why you were summoned.”
Hiro pointed his hand at one of the guards he had brought with him.
“It’s been a long time… Lord Booze.”
The guard ― Rach, took off his helmet and glared hatefully at Booze.
“Wha, y-you’re… why are you here?”
It is natural for Booze to be surprised. Rach is a man who served Skaaha, the leader of the Felzen remnant army. Prior to that, he was the commander of the royal guard that protected the Felzen royal family.
In other words, he’s an enemy ― someone who shouldn’t be here.
“Your Highness Hiro! What is the meaning of this?”
Hiro put on a calm expression when Booze raised his voice.
“I’ve decided to cooperate with them. I had to hand you over to them so they wouldn’t think I was just making promises.”
“D-don’t be ridiculous! What are you saying ― hey, what are you doing?”
Soldiers other than Rach, who was serving as Hiro’s guard, restrained the shouting Booze. They are also soldiers belonging to the Felzen Remnant Army.
After the battle was over, Hiro had Rach and a few other soldiers infiltrate Fort Mitte.
Things were easy. Aside from his rank, no one would be suspicious of Hiro’s actions as a member of the imperial family. He had sent them to patrol Fort Mitte under the guise of the Raven Army.
“Your Highness Hiro, if you kill me, you’ll be in big trouble!”
Hiro sniffed mockingly, annoyed by Booze’s screaming.
“Can I ask you to be more specific?”
“If I disappear, the Krone family will surely become suspicious! Naturally, they will be suspicious of you, who is supported by the Eastern nobility. If that happens, you’ll be making enemies with the central nobility!”
“What about it?”
Booze was speechless. Hiro looked at the soldier who had pinned Booze down.
Booze, who had received a blow to the back of his head, fell to the floor with white eyes. Hiro looked down at him with cold eyes and let out a small breath.
“I’m running out of patience, you know.”
Wherever he is, the vicious behavior of the Krone family is on his nose. It’s not only annoying, but they’re even trying to kill him.
“The Krone family will fall soon. They will soon follow in your footsteps.”
Hiro declared as he watched Booze being stuffed into a burlap sack.
Then Rach approached him.
“Your Highness Hiro, thank you for your cooperation.”
“It’s still too early for that. I haven’t fulfilled my promise yet.”
“It is only a matter of my feelings. I can’t thank you enough.”
“Then I suggest you leave this fort before Booze’s men notice anything unusual. I don’t want this opportunity to go to waste.”
Rach nodded and ordered his men to carry the burlap sack containing Booze on their backs.
In normal times, the appearance would be suspicious, but in Fort Mitte, where people are busy disposing of the bodies, there is no reason to be suspicious. They would be able to escape from the fort without being detained.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
“Please pass on any information you get from him to me.”
“Certainly. I will be sure to extract some useful information from him.”
After bowing, Rach left with his men. Hiro saw them off, then left the command center and walked silently down the stairs of the walls.