It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (41/79), enjoy~
The rain that had been pouring down on the ground for so long had stopped. The sky was clear and cloudless. It was as clear as if the rain of the other day had not happened.
A gentle breeze carrying cold air rushed across the ground, and the budding flowers and grass danced gently.
December 23rd, the 1023rd year of the Imperial Calendar, near Fairalert in the north of the southern region.
After parting ways with Rosa, Hiro and the others were resting in a camp about 25 cells (75 kilometers) from the Berg Fortress. A tent for the commander was built in the center of the camp. Around it, on all sides, were built the tents of Hiro, Skaaha, Aura, and others.
A little further away from there, in an open area ― Liz and Skaaha are training.
Liz swung her wooden sword down from the top. Skaaha catches it with her wooden sword. The two wooden swords struck each other with great force and made an eerie sound.
However, both of them seem to be conscious of the enemy in front of them and do not show any signs of concern.
Liz released a fist to distract Skaaha, then bent forward and put her hands on the ground and gave her a solid kick to her ankle.
Skaaha’s stance crumbled. However, she quickly thrust her wooden sword into the ground and then raised her body to launch a counterattack with a jumping kick.
Liz jumped in there without hesitation and slammed her fist into Skaaha’s powerful kick to counteract it.
Skaaha was pushed back by her unbelievable arm strength. However, Skaaha did not want to go against the force and used the impact to turn around in the air and landed on the ground.
Liz, having been carried away by the momentum, stepped on her foot bellows, and Skaaha kicked the ground with great vigor and came close to her.
“I got you!”
Skaaha swung her wooden sword, but Liz twisted her body in a collapsed position and flipped it back with great strength. Reading that, Skaaha quickly tried to slam her fist into the right side of Liz’s head but was easily swept away by Liz.
“Kuh, I’ll lose in a simple contest of strength!”
Then, as if to say that she is superior in terms of skill, Skaaha’s attack is centered on slashing.
Liz calmly manages the attack and thrusts out her fist when she finds an opening. If even one of those fists hits Skaaha, she will fall into darkness due to the “monstrous power” that is a blessing of the “Flame Emperor. Even if Liz had lost her weapon, she would still be able to reap her opponent’s life with her bare hands.
Hiro was quietly watching the mock battle performed by these beautiful women. The ground was covered in mud from the rain, so he sat on a simple chair to watch.
“Aura, who do you think will win?”
Hiro called out to the girl next to him, who was also watching. She took her gaze off the Black Book in her lap and turned her leaden eyes, which did not show any subtlety of emotion.
“Hmm… I don’t know.”
It may be better just to say that she is not interested. In the first place, her consciousness was on the Black Book, and she was not looking at Liz and the others at all. Even now, she keeps glancing at the Black Book, as if she’s bothered by Hiro, and doesn’t pay attention to the heated battle between Liz and the others.
Hiro smiled bitterly, thinking that he couldn’t understand her.
“But, Aura, if the time comes when you have to make the decision to put these girls in charge of a unit, you’ll be in a lot of trouble if you don’t know what each of them is capable of.”
As there is a right person for the right job, there is also a right person for the right position on the battlefield. If they work well together, a small number of people can defeat a large number of people, and if they don’t work well together, no matter how large the army, they will lose.
“…You have a point.”
Aura, who nodded her head, still only stared at Hiro’s face.
He knew that she was trying to find out something about it. Aura was trying to touch the inside of Hiro’s mind.
“W-what is it?”
Hiro was a little overwhelmed by the spirit radiating from the petite girl. Aura tilted her head as if searching for words and opened her mouth while shaking her shoulders.
“…Where is your place?”
When Hiro realized what Aura was thinking with just one word, he forgot to breathe. Aura reached out and touched Hiro’s chest, who was lost for words.
She looked up at him and gave him a look that contained a hint of melancholy.
“…Where is your heart?”
Hiro fumbled for an answer. Her thoughtfulness is truly something to be feared. He admired it.
There was no point in keeping quiet. Just as Hiro was about to speak…
“Emergency! I have an urgent message! Where is His Highness Hiro?”
An impatient voice rang out from the right side of the place. Hiro turned to look in the direction where the rush was coming from.
Then, a man was running, looking around in a panic.
“His Highness Hiro! Where is His Highness Hiro?”
Liz and Skaaha were distracted by the loudness of his voice and stopped their hands.
“That’s… the Kelheit family’s messenger.”
Hiro muttered to no one in particular and waved his hand to inform him where he was. The man who noticed him came running straight to Hiro.
“I’m sorry for my rudeness! It was an emergency, after all!”
As soon as he said that, he held out a letter and opened his mouth again.
“The head of the Krone family has been assassinated.”
Hiro sat up in surprise. Aura was also looking at him in astonishment.
“When a false rumor is circulated that the mastermind behind it is the emperor, the nobles, driven by revenge, raise their troops and begin to march on the great imperial capital.”
His voice trembled as the messenger continued to speak.
“The commander is former General Loing, he asked the nobles from all over the country to respond, and it seems that they are approaching the Great Imperial Capital while joining the nobles who agreed. The number will probably swell to around 30,000!”
“…I understand perfectly.”
Hiro nodded and told a guard to bring water to the messenger, but he suddenly stopped the guard who was about to run.
“Oh, please wait. I also need you to bring Ghada to me, okay?”
The guard who had been stopped saluted and then started running.
Cutting his gaze from the back, Hiro told the messenger to rest.
Then a letter was handed to him ― the sender was a central nobleman who had a cooperative relationship with Rosa.
Hiro compared the contents of the letter with the words the messenger had just said.
Reacting to Liz’s voice, Hiro turned his gaze upward to face her. There was a tense look on Skaaha’s face as she stood next to Liz. From the look on her face, she must have heard the conversation that had just taken place. However, just to be sure, Hiro decided to check.
“Liz, did you hear the conversation earlier?”
“…Yes, I heard it. I never imagined that the head of the Krone family would be assassinated.”
Liz shrugged her shoulders and sighed, not knowing what to think. It’s no wonder. She thought it was only the Krone family that was making a move.
But why would the emperor take such a step to assassinate the head of the Krone family?
No, it was an effective way to quickly undermine the Krone family’s power, but it was too forceful a measure. It would only show other countries an opening, and that would not be beneficial.
“…Do not misread the truth.”
It was Aura who muttered quietly. Skaaha nodded her head in agreement.
“You’re right, Aura. If you take a narrow view of things, you’ll never be able to recover.”
To confuse people so that they don’t see the truth of things. It’s a trick that has been used by everyone, from ancient times to the present.
It is impossible to read the intentions of others. Therefore, true intentions are not something that can be hidden in the dark. That is why people are misled by words. They focus only on what they want to believe.
(What if that is the goal? If it is in the intention of someone else, then…)
This is not good. Hiro decides that he should return to the Great Imperial Capital immediately.
“Liz, let’s go back to the capital right away.”
“Yes, I understand.”
If Hiro were to delay any longer, the situation would become irreversible.
Never believe only in the words of others. You should face reality with your own eyes and listen to the truth with your own ears. Then, you should take action right away.
Hiro tried to give Liz instructions.
“Prepare to leave immediately! We’re leaving the camp intact, and we’re leaving out the rations! Act quickly!”
Without showing any signs of hesitation, Liz gave the soldiers the order without hesitation.
“…We can’t fight a war without food.”
Before long, Aura had picked up a pen and paper and was walking along with Liz.
“Don’t worry. If the problem is happening in the enemy country, we can’t throw it away, but the problem is happening in the territory of the Grantz Empire, we can ask for help from influential people along the way, or if they refuse, we can buy it from the city.”
“…Hmm, you pass.”
Aura must have been testing her. She nodded her head in satisfaction when she heard Liz’s answer.
“And also. Could you please ask the nearby nobles to clean up the camp and collect the rations?”
If they abandoned the unbroken camp, it would become a bed for bandits, and the discarded foodstuffs would not only attract monsters but would also cause unnecessary disputes as villagers in dire straits rushed to the camp.
“Hmm… Leave the arrangements to me, and Liz can concentrate on the instructions.”
“Thank you! And instead of heavy armor, let’s switch to light armor. I think it will speed up the march and reduce the effects of the mud.”
“…Bury the equipment we leave behind to prevent it from being seized.”
“Yeah, you’ll have to arrange that.”
Hiro was looking at the two of them with dazzling eyes. It was as if he was reminiscing about the old days, and a nostalgic feeling welled up in his heart.
“One-Eyed Dragon, you called for me; what do you want?”
When he turned his attention to the low voice, he saw Ghada standing there, wrapped in black armor.
“What’s with the distracted look on your face…? Do you have a situation where you can relax?” Said Ghada.
“Fufu, Hiro-dono must be surprised. Because Liz-dono’s recent growth has been remarkable.”
Skaaha said with a happy smile; she turned her attention to Liz and the others. Ghada nodded in agreement as if he was thinking about it.
“Certainly… that’s true. He was at a loss for words, but I feel like he has been blown away.”
She had talent from the start. There is no wonder since she was chosen as the “Flame Emperor” in the first place. She just had lost sight of the path she should take.
Her hesitation was stifling her talent, making it difficult for her to grow. She just needed a chance to come out of her shell, and that was what Felzen’s battle had given her.
She never ceases to amaze him. That’s why he wants to take good care of her.
(I believe that Liz is the one who will carry on your will.)
Once the baby bird learns how to fly, it will spread its wings everywhere. It will fly to the sky, high in the sky, forever and ever.
Hiro looked at Liz’s back one more time and then shifted his gaze to Ghada.
“The opponent is thirty thousand, and we are only eight hundred.”
“It’s a hopeless situation, isn’t it? It’s obvious that we will be annihilated.”
“All eight hundred can operate as a cavalry unit, but even that won’t be enough to overcome them.”
“But I see by your face that you have a plan?”
“The power gap is obvious. The first step is to close that gap as much as possible.”
He’ll use the 3,000 that Rosa left in the center, though it’s too soon to tell. In addition, the only way to get more soldiers is to ask for the cooperation of other nobles to gather soldiers.
“I also need you to send out a messenger.”
“To the central nobility. Most of them will be very opportunistic.”
There would be many who would remain silent until victory or defeat was decided. But they would not allow themselves to be so naive. They will have to decide which side they are on.
“Besides, this is the only time we’re going to need a plan to win. There is something I want you to prepare for them. I’ll write them a letter later, and I want you to be ready to send a messenger at any time.”
“All right. Then I’ll go and get them for you.”
After calling out to the back of the departing Ghada, Hiro looked down at the ground. The rain had already stopped, but there was no doubt that the mud would hinder the march.
Even so, since there are only a few of them here, and they are lightly armed cavalry, they will be able to reach the great imperial capital quickly. The conditions are the same for the opponent as well, and considering the time it will take for the rebels to join up, they should not be close to the capital yet.
Above all, the emperor has the Golden Lion Knights. The first imperial army is scattered in various places for protection, but they must still be in the center. It’s not that easy to attack the great imperial capital.
(No matter how you look at it, the rebels don’t stand a chance…)
If Hiro and the others received the news, then the other nobles must have heard about the sudden change in the situation. So, the people who were on their way back to their home base will be coming back in droves.
Even if the rebels were lucky enough to capture the capital in a short battle, they would surely be destroyed by the forces of the noble lords who rushed to support.
(They must be hiding something. What they want to accomplish even if they are annihilated…)
Hiro put his hand on his chin and thought silently. There is nothing that they can gain by being wiped out.
No matter how much he thought about it, he couldn’t seem to get an answer: whether there was a way to ensure the fall of the great imperial capital or a way to drive back the noble lords who rushed to reinforcements.
There was not enough information. It was too risky to make a decision under such circumstances.
For the time being, he should keep it in the back of his mind.
Hiro gathered his thoughts and looked around. The soldiers were moving around in a hurry. Despite the sudden departure, not a single one of them looked dissatisfied.
Horseshoes were roaring through the gap. Unit commanders were running around to return to command their own units or to call their men.
As far as he could see, there was no drop in morale. Everyone was getting ready to leave with a good sense of urgency. Hiro decided that this would be fine.
“Liz! I want to talk to you!”
Hiro called Liz. She seemed to be having some kind of conversation with Aura, but when she noticed Hiro’s voice, she came running up to him with light steps and a somewhat happy expression.
“What? Did you call me, Hiro?”
If she had a tail, she would be wagging it so hard it would make the wind roar.
Hiro opened his mouth with a wry smile.
“If we know about it, it must have reached the ears of the noble lords.”
“If that’s the case, do you think it could be over by the time we get there?”
“It’s not going to be that easy. We will definitely be the first to encounter the rebels.”
Hiro and the others led only eight hundred of the “Raven Army.” In addition to this, there are several other factors to consider. Even with that, the speed of their march was incomparable.
Above all, the army led by the Second Prince Selene is a large force of 20,000. They can’t just throw away food like Hiro and the others, and it will probably take a long time to turn back.
“If that’s the case, do you want to join up with Anee-sama? If we wait a couple of days, we can meet up with them.”
It’s not a bad decision, but Hiro rejected it by shaking his head.
It is true that if they join up with Rosa, they will have more than 10,000, and the gap in strength will close quickly.
But now that time is at stake; it should be eliminated as an option.
“I’ll send a messenger, but we won’t join up. If we were to join up with Rosa, it would increase our strength, but it would also take a few days to reorganize, and our marching speed would be significantly reduced. If that happens, we might reach the great imperial capital later than the other noble lords.”
If he thought that the noble lords would join them later, he would not want to give up the lead in order to strengthen Liz’s position. Above all, it is important to instill in the people’s minds that Liz was the first to come to reinforcements.
“But is it safe with just eight hundred people…?”
“No, Rosa has drawn some of the central nobles into her camp. Even so, at this point, I can say for sure that it’s only about 3800.”
It’s still… Liz muttered to herself as she looked at the Heavenly Emperor on Hiro’s hip.
But as soon as she looked back at Hiro’s face, she frowned nervously.
“We have two of the Five Emperors, but it’s hard to deal with 30,000 people. The rebels, led by the Krone family, must have many spirit weapons.”
Spirits love clean waters and produce crystals that contain their own properties on rare occasions. The beauty of the crystals, which shine no less than jewels, is why people call them spirit stones with respect.
In the Great Grantz Empire territory, only three to seven spirit stones are discovered each year. Spirit weapons are made from these spirit stones and a special manufacturing method.
Because they contain a small amount of spirit power, they can be used to improve physical abilities. This is why they are so rare and valuable, and it is possible to live an unencumbered life with just one spirit stone.
Even now, only the imperial family or those who are related to them can have one.
“It’s not surprising that they have them. But there should be around ten of them at most ― that’s enough to pose a threat, but only if ordinary soldiers have them. Even so, they’re not enough to take on you or Skaaha.”
As soon as a person with a spirit weapon is found, the head should be cut off on a priority list. It’s hard to imagine a single soldier having one in the first place, and if they do, it’s likely to be a commander. If that’s the case, it’s unlikely that the central nobility will go to the front lines, given their temperament.
“So don’t worry. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Hiro put his hand on Liz’s shoulder and looked her straight in the eyes.
“You have to show that you fight well. You don’t have to think about winning the first fight. It doesn’t matter as long as you win in the end. When you do, many nobles will come to your aid.”
There are many ways to achieve this. Hiro’s head is filled with the knowledge he has gained from his past battles.
“The difference in strength can be overturned. The time of the heavens, the reason of the earth, and the harmony of humanity ― even the three sacred treasures are with you.”
The look on Hiro’s face made Liz look worried, but
“…..I understand. I trust Hiro.”
She looked away from Hiro’s gaze and gave a slight nod.
“So let’s get going.”
Liz began to walk next to Hiro, glancing at him to see how he was doing.
Aura was staring at the two of them.
“Aura-dono, I’ve brought the horses.”
Skaaha leads two horses and walks up to Aura, who does not move a muscle.
Skaaha’s face lit up with a question mark as she was told something that she didn’t understand.
“Ride! The Raven Army is now on its way to the Great Imperial Capital!”
Hiro shouted so loudly that it overcame the crowd of soldiers’ boots.
“Right. When I hear that voice, I feel strangely reassured.”
Skaaha muttered with a hint of admiration and mounted her horse.
“Well then, Aura-dono, why don’t you get on your horse? Or you’ll be left behind.”
“What’s the matter with you? You’re not like usual, Aura-dono.”
“…Hiro was laughing.”
“No, forget it… It was probably just my imagination.”
He seemed to be smiling the whole time he was trying to convince Liz.
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