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Chapter 3 – Rain of War
December 16th, 1023rd year of the Imperial Calendar.
The rain that had begun to fall in earnest on the tenth day of the month continued to envelop the land without stopping. Even though it was morning, the skies were gray, and even the farthest reaches of the sky were dyed black as if to eradicate the light from the world.
Cladius, the capital of the Grantz Empire, is no exception. Even the grand and graceful metropolis had lost its old glory after being drenched by the rain.
Surrounded by such huge walls, the city’s always bustling central street was sparsely populated. It was a cold winter day, and the rain was forcing the people to stay indoors. Nevertheless, whether the people are confined to their homes or the temperature drops rapidly and it’s piercingly cold is of no concern to the nobles.
The center of the Grantz Empire, the Imperial Palace Venezine.
On the west side of the grounds, which are divided into four sections, are the residences of the influential nobles.
The place was enveloped in a heat that was a complete contrast to the city. There was a place where a large number of nobles were gathered amidst the chilly wind blowing.
It was in front of the mansion of the Kelheit family, one of the five major noble families.
The reason for the gathering of the nobles is not difficult to understand. They were here to see off the fourth prince and sixth princess who were returning to the Berg Fortress in the south on this day. Naturally, their eyes were on the members of the imperial family who appeared at the door. Cheers that could cancel out the rain enveloped the entire compound, filling the world with pure goodwill without malice.
The red-haired princess who appeared with Hiro – Liz, who was affectionately called “Flame Princess,” rolled her eyes in surprise. However, she gradually came to understand, and a big smile bloomed on her face.
“Thank you for sending me off!”
Waving her arms so vigorously that they made a buzzing sound, Liz climbed into the carriage. At her feet was a rare creature from the Eastern Archipelago, the white wolf Cerberus.
Hiro silently raised his right hand in response and followed Liz and the others.
From behind him, Rosa’s voluptuous body was cramped into her military uniform, and on either side of her were Aura and Skaaha. The nobles cheered as the girls climbed into the carriage one after another. While receiving such cheers from behind, the imperial family departed from the great imperial capital.
“The carriages, however spacious, were indeed cramped with so many people on board.”
When the carriage began to move, Rosa said, loosening the collar of her military uniform as if she was struggling to breathe.
“For the time being, the eastern nobles will do their best to cut down the Krone family’s ranks.”
A week after the banquet ― the Krone family had eerily made no move at all. Hiro had expected them to run amok, but it seems he was mistaken.
From now on, Rosa would be in charge of dealing with the Krone family. Her subordinates remained in the Great Imperial Capital to make impressions and cut down the central nobility.
“Liz and the others should go back to the south and wait for good news. The Krone family may or may not make a move, but either way, we’ll need to increase our forces, right?”
The Raven Army’s strength has indeed been greatly reduced due to the fact that they had to deal with the Grand Duchy of Dral and the Felzen Remnant Army in succession. The death toll was low, but the number of wounded was high. Now, their numbers have been reduced to around 800. They would have to bring in new recruits and have Ghada train them hard again.
Most importantly, Rosa said in a hushed voice with a suspicious glint in her eyes.
“You need to take care of the southern nobility as well.”
The southern nobility is led by the Muzuk family, one of the five major noble families. Although they had visited the capital for a while, they had not shown up for either the conference or the banquet.
Hiro has a vague sense of the reason for this.
(He was probably gathering information. Who’s dangerous and who’s easy to control.)
In other words, he was using this event to tighten up his faction. A large number of nobles had gathered in the Great Imperial Capital. Seeing that, there would naturally be some who would want to join the banquet. There would also be those who would meet with the rival factions that they were working with. The point was to determine who would betray them and who would be worthy of having their backs.
Perhaps they have achieved their goal, but two days ago, the southern nobility, led by the Muzuk family, returned to their respective territories.
(It would be better to meet the head of the Muzuk family face to face when we return to the south.)
Hiro might as well consider whether to let him live and use him or kill him and replace his head at that time.
Hiro propped himself up on one elbow by the window and put his cheek against his hand to look out. The raindrops that were pouring down so hard were being canceled out by the glass and were hitting the window in defeat.
The amount of rain was so heavy that it blocked out the sound of the wheels ― this would slow down the horses as well as the coachman’s vision. It also made the horses more mentally and physically fatigued than when the weather was fine. Once the horses’ legs start to slow down, the mud will hinder the path. This would definitely delay their return to the south.
“Rosa, I’m sorry. You might be the slowest to get back to your home base.”
Hiro apologized to Rosa.
The reason why she is riding in the carriage with Hiro and the others is because she is planning to return to the east via the south. Hiro wanted her to stay with them as long as possible, partly because he wanted to ensure her safety. When Hiro felt sorry for her, Rosa shook her head and laughed.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s fun to travel for so long with others like this.”
The acting head of the Kelheit family. She is also one of the five major noble families, so everyone knows how busy she is. There are many problems that are delayed by her absence.
Therefore, if she returns to her home base, the Twin Passes in the Graozam Mountain Range ― and the Iron Eagle Castle in the valley, she will face days of sleeplessness.
“Sooner or later, I won’t have time to slack off because I’ll be too busy. I’m sorry for the men I’ve left behind at the castle, but I’d like to spend a little more time with my sister.”
“Anee-sama’s entourage is full of talented people, so I’m sure they’ll be fine even if you’re a little late getting home.”
“Some of them have a lot on their minds, though, so I can’t let them off the hook.”
Rosa continued in a happy tone of voice, adding to Liz’s words.
“Well, they’re still good people who want to enrich the East.”
“It’s nice to have subordinates who are willing to do that, isn’t it?”
Liz looked at her sister with sparkling eyes. She wanted to say that she respected Rosa once again.
“A person with virtue has the makings of a great ruler, that’s for sure.”
Skaaha murmured with deep emotion as if she were saying to herself.
“It’s not difficult to become a king. Anyone with power and authority can become a king. If your parents are kings, you naturally inherit their power, so it’s not particularly amazing. It’s only after the crowning that a king can become a king. It isn’t easy from there. Those who are compassionate to their people, considerate to their soldiers, and considerate to their country are praised as great kings. Those who do not have any of these qualities will either be known as foolish kings or will be the cause of the destruction of the country.”
“Heh… Aura knows a lot of difficult words for such a small girl.”
Liz stroked Aura’s head in admiration, muttering, good girl, good girl.
It doesn’t seem that difficult to begin with… but Aura is older than her.
Hiro thought that Aura would be dissatisfied, but surprisingly, Aura proudly threw out her chest, and the expression on her face was filled with joy.
“It’s all thanks to this, Liz; you should read it.”
Aura suddenly summoned the Black Book out of nowhere. Hiro wondered why Aura was in such a good mood and was so talkative.
And Skaaha, who was being baptized, let out a small scream and quickly turned her face away.
“Eh ― no way…”
Liz stopped stroking her and paled when she saw the Black Book. It was a form of escape that failed.
“If you were born in the Grantz Empire, if you are a member of the imperial family, you should have read it at least once. No, rather, you should read it a hundred times. It has a horrible addictive quality to it, so you’ll probably end up reading it, which is surely a worry if you don’t, but don’t worry, you’ll be enlightened after about the second hundredth time.”
What… no one is talking about it. It was because they didn’t want to get involved.
Liz was gazing around the carriage, teary-eyed and looking for help. Her red eyes were pleading for help, but no one was reaching out to her.
Seeing Liz’s gesture, Aura tilted her head.
“Don’t worry; I’ll let Liz read it now. Also, write me your impressions later.”
“It’s great that you wanted to read it so badly.”
Liz shook her head, but it would be impossible to escape from her in the carriage. She would be forced to write a huge book report. If you don’t praise it, you will be forced to rewrite it over and over again… Skaaha, who has already experienced this hell, is trying to kill her presence and become one with the wall. She had tears in the corners of her eyes.
“Fufu, compared to the past, Liz’s expression has become richer. Before you got transferred, although you were still smiling, it was a stiff smile. I guess this is all thanks to you.”
Rosa narrowed her eyes smilingly and leaned in close to Hiro’s shoulder. Maybe she was happy to see her sister enjoying herself.
“You look at her like you’re looking at your grandchild.”
Hiro couldn’t help but blurt out.
“Hohou? I don’t even have children yet.”
Rosa’s beautiful mouth twitches as she wraps her arms around Hiro’s neck.
“You still want to try suffocating to death on my chest? Isn’t that what men want?”
Rosa threw her words with anger, shaking her twin hills, which could be used as a weapon.
Hiro’s face twitches as he utters his apology. Still, Rosa’s anger didn’t seem to dissipate, so Hiro thought to divert the topic.
“Oh… that’s right. There was something I wanted to give to Rosa.”
He took out an envelope from his pocket, pretending as if he suddenly remembered.
“Hmm? A letter?”
“On your way back to the East, I want you to send a messenger to deliver this to the Princess Shrine Maiden.”
Rosa took the letter and then whispered into Hiro’s ear.
“I’ve got about three thousand hidden away with the help of someone who belongs to the central nobility.”
As she said this, Rosa tightened her grip on Hiro’s hand. A crumpled paper fell in his palm. When Hiro looked down, he saw a piece of paper in his hand, with the names of the collaborators written on it.
“If you are ever in need, please get in touch with them.”
It seemed that Rosa was already in the process of cutting down.
“Thank you. I really can’t thank you enough.”
“Don’t worry about it. It is only natural to be devoted to your future husband.”
When Hiro thanked her, Rosa gave her a mischievous look.
(I’m sure the Krone family will soon know that we’ve left the capital.)
Hiro thinks. When will the central nobility start to move? Hiro predicts that they will make a move quickly. He guessed that they would turn on the emperor now while they were still able to maintain their strength and influence.
(Still, it seemed like a foolish move ― a terrible move.)
But they were cornered, and that was the only move they had left. No, the emperor had made it that way.
(Truly, human desire is bottomless. The more power they gain, the more they become unsatisfied with the status quo.)
Still, there is no way to avoid questioning the current emperor’s policy.
Is the unification of the central continent so attractive that he wants to achieve it even after making so many enemies?
Hiro denies it.
If it had been Altius, he would have snickered at the ridiculousness of it.
A thousand years ago, he and the others had never dreamed of unifying the central continent. More importantly, they did not want the Grantz Empire to grow to this size.
Hiro cast his gaze at the window to distract himself from his feelings of depression.
The rain didn’t seem to be stopping. The sky was rumbling with thunder, and tears were pouring down on the ground.