It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (60/92), enjoy~
Chapter 2 – A Lie In The Darkness
January 6th, 1024th year of the Imperial Calendar.
The Imperial Palace Venetian ― ostensibly, it was getting back to its usual noisy days.
Many dignitaries were visiting, nobles were exchanging words, and soldiers were keeping a close watch. It seemed as if the scene before the rebellion had returned.
However, the interior was still intact, and the long corridor leading to the throne was covered in blood. Not wanting to be reminded of the horrific scene, people tended to avoid this corridor.
At the end of the corridor, there was a faint sound of noise coming from the entrance.
But it was soon drowned out by the sound of the armor of the patrolling soldiers.
In the midst of this, Hiro was walking down the long corridor that connects to the entrance.
There is still a strange smell lingering in the air. The blood of the nobles who were killed during Stobel’s Rebellion was sticking to the walls.
(I wonder if they will temporarily seal off the passage and replace the wallpaper. Or will it be left as a warning…? No, it’s the next emperor’s job to think of that.)
Hiro traced the bloodstains with his fingertips and pondered the future plan.
(Now, there are plenty of ways to defeat the Six Kingdoms. But even if I could do that. The mastermind will never come out on the stage. I need bait to draw out those who are hiding in the dark.)
What kind of future does the mastermind not want? What kind of future does he crave?
It’s obvious that there is insufficient information to make a decision.
Then a decoy will be needed to make it clear.
(What they want is…)
Hiro paused. He found himself at the entrance of a heavily guarded building.
There was a familiar face in there ― Liz, looking around as if searching for someone.
When her red eyes caught sight of Hiro, a smile bloomed on her face, and she ran over to him.
“Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you!”
She threw her complaint without hiding it, and Hiro gave her a wry smile and scratched his head.
It was hard to say that he had been at the Emperor’s Cemetery just like the day before yesterday. He didn’t want her to know about it yet. It would be too much trouble for her to track him down, so he decided to lie quickly.
“Some noblemen have approached me for advice.”
“Oh, really…? Hiro is becoming very popular nowadays, isn’t he?”
Liz was easily convinced. It’s not like he’s lying about being asked for advice by a nobleman, either.
It seems that the nobles see Hiro as the closest to the throne and are trying to contact him, talk to him, and offer him a marriage proposal. The latter, however, gave up with an apology when he told them that he wanted them to go through the Kelheit family, which unites the Eastern nobility.
“More importantly, have you prepared everything, Liz?”
“Well, I’ve left the preparations to Aura.”
Hiro lamented, without showing it, that this girl had thrown her duties away again. As if sensing the delicate atmosphere, Liz hurriedly waved her hands in front of her face.
“Oh, no, that’s not it. The two of us discussed it and decided on it. Aura told me to leave the rest to her. It’s true, you know.”
“That’s good to hear.”
Hiro stroked his chest in relief. If they have decided on their roles properly, there is nothing to say.
“I’ve already grown up, you know? You can trust me a little bit…”
She pouted her lips in frustration and made a kicking gesture at the floor. She emphasized, “I’m going to sulk, I’m going to sulk if you don’t apologize.”
“I’m sorry. From now on, I’ll listen to you before I make a decision.”
“Yes, good. Then listen to me!”
Her index finger was pointed at the tip of Hiro’s nose, and he replied with a gentle smile.
“Yeah. In the meantime, I’d like to hear what Liz and Aura have decided after discussing the situation.”
“Then, since we can’t just stand here and talk about it, and since it’s not a secret either, so… let’s talk about it over there!”
Liz pointed to a couch in front of the entrance and grabbed Hiro’s arm. After being forced to walk, Hiro narrowed his eyes at the sight of Liz’s back, still as energetic as ever.
When he reached the chair, he was thrown into it and sat down next to her, who then put her finger on the tip of her chin and looked at the ceiling. It’s a gesture she makes when she remembers something.
“I’ve decided to limit the number of guards I take to around three hundred because of the urgency and speed of the march. You see, we might have to start a war with the Steichen Republic, so we’d better hurry and go to the south.”
Liz began to explain, bending one of her fingers and making a counting gesture.
“And if I can get to Fort Berg, there will be 20,000 of the Fourth Imperial Army… and if I can get the cooperation of the southern nobility ― depending on the Steichen Republic ― there could be over 50,000 of our troops by the time I arrive back.”
Liz’s voice was bouncing happily and beginning to heat up. She wanted to tell Hiro that she was being helpful. Hiro nodded with a smile on his face.
(After all, the time it takes to get back to the center is too delicate.)
Even if things go according to Hiro’s plan, it will take roughly two months.
(Even if I move in accordance with the plan, how much time can I gain against the Six Kingdoms…)
Hiro turned his face down and began to worry. In his field of vision, something passed by with great force.
Hiro snapped out of his thoughts and saw Liz’s white hand swaying in front of him.
“Hey, Hiro… you didn’t hear what I said, did you?”
A low voice struck his ear. A chilly sensation ran up his spine.
This is not good. Hiro hurriedly tried to make up an excuse.
“N-no, I heard you fine. I’m sure there’s no problem with that.”
He cowered deliberately, but Liz’s face was as indifferent as if she were a con artist.
“Hmph… that’s a pretty bland answer.”
“No, no, I didn’t have anything to point out. I think it’s unavoidable that the answer would be like that.”
“I don’t care. If you don’t want to hear it… then it can’t be helped.”
She threw him off. It’s too late to regret what he has done.
Hiro’s shoulders slumped, and he was thinking about how to apologize when suddenly a large shadow appeared above him.
When he turned his gaze upward, he saw a knight standing there, his entire body wrapped in black armor.
“I’ve been looking for you, One-Eyed Dragon.”
This is not the time to be dealing with him. He could feel the anger flowing from Liz next to him. He knew that his life was in danger.
“What’s that react――”
And then, Ghada abruptly cut off his words and nodded as he looked alternately at Liz and Hiro. Although the helmet obscured his expression, he seemed to have grasped the current situation.
“Did you get into a fight?”
“No, we didn’t fight. It’s just that Hiro wasn’t paying attention to what people were saying.”
“Oh… I see, that’s the One-Eyed Dragon’s fault.”
He suddenly appeared, interrupted the conversation, and instantly understood the situation.
Hiro’s eyes appealed for help as well as he thought he was an intelligent demon.
“…Hah, why don’t you apologize anyway? That should make the little girl feel better, right?”
“Right. When I come back from the south, I can forgive you if you accompany me to the city to have some fun.”
It was a very specific and lengthy request. Whether there would be time left to play or not, he wondered. But if he refused, it would be like pouring water on a fire.
“All right. Let’s go to the city together when Liz comes back. I’ll buy you something else.”
“Really? Can you promise?”
“Of course. The next time I see Liz again, we’ll definitely go into the city together to do some shopping.”
“Mmm. Well, I’ll forgive you.”
Despite her words, Liz’s mood seemed to have improved, as her cheeks relaxed with satisfaction.
Even though she’s developing, she’s still got the little girl parts that go with age.
“Now that the dogfight is over, why don’t you listen to what I have to say?”
“Oh, yes, of course. What’s the matter?”
Hiro shifted his gaze to Ghada, letting his sarcasm wash over him. Liz also listened with interest.
“Why do you think I have to go to the south too?”
“As I’m sure Liz told you, I want you to bring the Raven Army with you. If you add in those who have been healed and those who are practicing on their own, there will be around 3,000 to 4,000.”
“In that case, send Hugin and Munin, and there will be no problem. I’ll be working with you, One-Eyed Dragon.”
“No. If we have to fight the Steichen Republic, your knowledge and experience will be needed. And if the Raven Army is to join in, your command is absolutely necessary.”
“But… You’re going to fight the Six Kingdoms, aren’t you, One-Eyed Dragon? I think that’s where you’ll need my help the most.”
Even though Hiro clearly rejected him, Ghada was still stubbornly reluctant to admit it.
“It’s just a way to buy time. I’m not going to start a full-scale war until the Grantz Empire’s forces are in place. That’s why I’m going to have you head south.”
Hiro said forcefully as if he did not want to say anything.
“…Are you sure you’re okay with this?”
Hiro’s mouth twitched as the stubborn Ghada refused to budge.
Whether it’s Liz or Ghada, it seems that… they don’t trust him…
“Yes, it’s okay; it’s not a problem. So I want you to get ready to leave, Ghada.”
It’s a waste of time to ask and answer any more questions. With no intention of giving in, Hiro decided to change the subject forcefully.
“Liz, how are Aura and Rosa doing?”
As Hiro’s attention turned to other issues, Ghada could not say anything more and fell silent.
Suddenly, Liz, who had been asked to speak, opened her mouth in a panic.
“Um, it looks like Aura is headed to the spirit temple in the city. She said she was going to say goodbye to the children. Rosa-aneesama is having a meeting with her entourage.”
Then Liz clapped her hands loudly as if she remembered something.
“Oh yeah, Skaaha regained consciousness. She wanted to see Hiro.”
“How’s she doing?”
“Well, she hasn’t regained her strength yet… She also has some discomfort in her legs.”
“That’s enough for her to go with Liz and the others.”
“But is it really okay to take her with me…?”
Liz crossed her arms and tilted her head.
“The more she rests, the faster she will recover…”
Hiro could sense that Liz was concerned about Skaaha’s well-being from her words.
“I think so too. But there is no one to protect Skaaha in the imperial palace to ensure her safety.”
If it were just her, it would be fine, but there would be a high possibility of ugly political disputes in the Imperial Palace. There’s no guarantee that Skaaha won’t get caught up in it. There is nothing more troublesome than the issue of succession to the throne. However, whether it’s Hiro, Liz, or the second prince Selene, the people involved don’t have time to think about such things. However, even if they don’t intend to do so, they are certainly in a situation where the people at the end of the line could go out of control.
“We don’t have time to think about who will be the emperor now, though. I guess for those who don’t go to war; politics is war.”
There was no need for Liz to bother with such small matters. For now, her priority should be to gain experience and accomplishments. Hiro sees this period of turmoil as an opportunity. He was convinced that it would encourage her to grow even more.
“Yes, I agree. Now the heirs to the throne must join hands.”
Liz nodded her head in agreement with Hiro’s words.
At that moment…
“Your Highness Celia Estrella!”
A voice called out to Liz, and the three of them, including Ghada, had their attention drawn to it.
A soldier was standing there.
The three of them looked at him at once, and he stopped as if he had shrunk. He was so nervous that he could not continue to speak but only moved his mouth.
“What’s the matter? Do you need something?”
When Liz called out in a calm tone, the soldier saluted her with a panicked look.
“Yes! Lord Bunadhara wants to see you. She wants to ask for permission to bring in her luggage!”
Lord Bunadhara is Aura.
The Bunadhara family is a prominent family that has produced many excellent counselors known as the Five Counselors, and they reside in the west. Currently, they have switched factions, so their daughter Aura has taken refuge under Liz.
(It doesn’t look like the Six Kingdoms are closing in on Bunadhara territory yet…)
It’s only a matter of time. If he considers the future of the west, he doesn’t want them to do anything rash.
(In the meantime… it is better to nail them and send them a letter later…)
While Hiro was pondering, Liz stood up vigorously.
“All right. Please tell her to wait for me; I’ll be right there.”
“Understood! Lord Bunadhara is supposed to be waiting for you at the Kelheit family mansion!”
The soldier who had fulfilled his role as messenger bows to Hiro and Ghada and then leaves.
“Well, we’ll talk again at dinner today.”
Liz waved her hand towards Hiro and started walking.
“Yeah. I’ll see you at night.”
After hearing Hiro’s reply, Liz turned away to go.
“Then I’ll go get ready.”
“Yeah, and give my regards to Hugin and Munin.”
Hiro carved out a small smile as Ghada blended into the crowd flooding the doorway.
The calm air that had been hanging in the air earlier was gone.
Instead, Hiro wore a ruthless expression of wild madness.
“She’s about to make her move… and it’s time for me to make my move in earnest.”
The image of the black-hearted queen who is steadily building up her power in the north comes to mind.
“I can’t afford to fail from here.”
Start the lie of a lifetime.
It’s a tightrope walk of life, to the abyss if one step is missed.
“Eat or be eaten… Only God knows.”
Hiro then laughed happily.