It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (74/104), enjoy~
The world was shrouded in darkness. The sky was covered with clouds, and the stars had lost their brightness.
The moonlight had failed to reach the ground, and the cold wind was blowing relentlessly.
The Great Grantz Empire ― the Larix Plains in the northwest of the western region.
The main camp of Hiro and the others were set up in a circle here. There was no sign of any soldiers in the camp due to the cold. On such a quiet night, the sound of metal often echoed with the footsteps of the patrol.
The soldier on guard noticed the sound and turned to look. He was breathing into his clasped hands but stopped and turned to salute the patrolman.
The patrolman returned the salute and then walked past the guard, keeping a sharp eye on his surroundings. Just as the guards were relaxing, they saw a figure walking in front of them.
“Is everyone assembled?”
Orléans Longwill von Mark.
He was the head of the Mark family, who had successfully taken over after the fall of the Krone family.
“They are already gathering.”
The soldier on guard took a glance behind him before replying. Orléans, who nodded in satisfaction, stepped forward. The soldier on guard hurriedly opened the entrance curtain, and Orléans walked in without saying a word of thanks.
The room was filled with warm air, which enveloped Orléans’ body. There seemed to be a heating system in place. Also, the temperature in the room must be high due to the large number of people gathered there.
“Gentlemen, thank you for gathering here.”
Orléans called out, and the nobles who had been looking at the map in the center of the room stood up at once. There were eight of them ― all of them loyal to Orléans.
“I was surprised to be called upon at this hour, sir.”
“Don’t complain; I wanted to let you know as soon as we were ready.”
Orléans handed his jacket to the approaching nobleman and went to his seat.
“But, won’t His Highness Hiro notice us if we are seen?”
“Don’t worry. I have changed the patrolmen’s schedule. The security will be thinner during this time. Well, besides, not many people will be out in this cold weather.”
Orléans sat back in his chair with vigor, leaned his left elbow on the desk, and rested his cheek on it.
“Make yourself comfortable.”
He turned to his right and shouted for the nobles to take their seats. He waited until they were all seated before he opened his mouth.
“We’ll skip the greetings. I know some of you are anxious, so I’ll keep it brief: the plan is working. His Highness Hiro is unaware of this.”
A sigh of relief escaped from the nobles at his strong words. They all lifted their cheeks to express their joy as if they had won a battle.
“How is the reaction of the other side?”
“They are fine. We’ve been in constant contact with them. The response has been excellent, so I’m sure the treatment won’t be too bad. Above all, the first prince Stobel is over there.”
“If that’s the case, we must act more carefully. If our plans are exposed here, the whole thing will go down the drain.”
The nobleman’s opinion was reasonable, so Orléans nodded in agreement. But the nobleman’s expression took a turn for the worse.
“If there is only one thing to worry about, is our position really secure? Isn’t a verbal promise too risky?”
“I can understand why you are worried, but as I said earlier… the first prince Stobel, is also there, so you can rest assured. Even after the fall of the Grantz Empire, our territory will not be ravaged. As long as we continue to cooperate, that is.”
“…but you must hand over His Highness Hiro’s head to them. He has a huge following among the people, and many of your subjects adore him, don’t they?”
The nobleman looked around as if to ask for agreement, and everyone nodded in agreement, though their expressions were bitter.
“If it were known that we had betrayed him, we could be forced out of our position as lords.”
What he meant was that the Six Kingdoms would be able to take advantage of their weakness. In peacetime, the nobles treat the people like slaves, but they are always on the lookout for a rebellion in times of war. If a disgraceful rumor were to circulate that they had betrayed the immensely popular Hiro and turned to the Six Kingdoms, their downfall would be inevitable.
“…The Six Kingdoms would not do such a thing to ensure smooth governance.”
“Originally, we were supposed to be the ones attacking and destroying the Great Imperial Capital…”
A heavy atmosphere filled the room as another nobleman spoke up.
“I was happy to see the Krone family’s old man dead, but… what followed was worse. I didn’t think that His Highness Hiro would be able to defeat the rebels. He really went the extra mile for us.”
The plan needed to be revised from there. If the rebels had persisted a little longer, the Six Kingdoms would have flooded into the center of the country by now, and together with the rebels, they would have brought down the Great Imperial Capital.
It was the nobles, including Orléans, who were gathered here, who were supposed to be in agreement with that. There were others, but they were killed by stray arrows in the battle against the Six Kingdoms’ Second Conquest Army.
“There’s no way we can beat the Six Kingdoms, but then again, patriots are really a pain in the ass.”
Orléans looked at the map on his desk.
Repeated skirmishes with the Third Conquest Army have lured the Grantz Army deep into the west. According to the scouts’ report, the number of soldiers of the Six Kingdoms that had joined the entire army had swelled to 180,000. In the beginning, there was some confusion, but it had already been settled, and the reorganization of the large army had been completed.
“And besides, it’s not as if we can turn back now that we’ve said something.”
There is no turning back now. There was no turning back from the day they decided to betray the Grantz Empire.
“That anxiety will end with tomorrow’s battle. With the death of His Highness Hiro.”
The battle will be over soon. They were happy to see Hiro on the front lines.
After he is defeated by the Six Kingdoms, the arrangements for their surrender will be made. After that, they will return home as defeated soldiers in a disgraceful state, and if the Six Kingdoms attack the Central, they will turn to tears for the sake of their people.
And if they accomplish the historic feat of bringing down the Great Imperial Capital, their stigma will be blown away, and they will be remembered for generations to come.
“However, His Highness Hiro is a descendant of the God of War, so isn’t there a possibility that killing such a person will bring about a curse? I’m afraid of incurring the wrath of the Spirit King.”
The one who said those pathetic words was Lord Kyrthia, the lord of Sabelt and a western nobleman.
His father had expressed his willingness to surrender to the Six Kingdoms but had apparently made a mistake at the meeting and had his head chopped off. As a result, he was invaded by the Second Conquest Army as an example, but it was the Grantz Army that saved him from that predicament. However, it seems that all of this was a ruse by the other side, and he, who succeeded his father, also turned on the condition of his own safety.
“There is no such thing as a curse. As the first prince Stobel had said. The power of the gods has already been lost. What is there to be afraid of? Tomorrow, we will deliberately run for our lives and give His Highness Hiro’s head to the Six Kingdoms, and that will be the end.”
Orléans slammed the desk in frustration. Surprised by this, Kyrthia shook his shoulders.
“Lord Kyrthia, you’ve got a cowardly wind up here!”
“N-no, it’s not like that…”
“Look, for the future, your decision to join the Six Kingdoms is not wrong.”
Orléans, who repeatedly slammed the desk, urged Kyrthia to look at the map.
“Be prepared to use the Six Kingdoms to your advantage. Then we will definitely have the central region in our hands. But that’s not the end of it. With the power of the Six Kingdoms behind us, we will attack and destroy the east, north, and south. We can be the new rulers of the Great Grantz Empire.”
“I-I understand. I’m sorry for saying such a trivial thing. Please forgive me.”
“Haha, it can’t be helped. He has just taken over the position of the lord. You can’t blame him too much, Lord Mark.”
Another nobleman put his arm around Kyrthia’s shoulders and comforted him as he was overwhelmed and frightened.
“You’re right. Forgive me, Lord Kyrthia. But I hope you will consider my words for the sake of your people’s peace.”
“No, I’m sorry I made Lord Mark uncomfortable by saying something unnecessary.”
“Then I suppose we are both to blame…”
And the nobleman who had his arm around Kyrthia’s shoulder fell back with a loud thud. With the sudden and incomprehensible event, everyone’s thoughts stopped.
The map spread out on the desk turned red. A head rolled there with a smile on its face.
“Ah, ah, Uooghh――”
Kyrthia took a good look at the head rolling around on the desk ― the severed part ― and vomited.
The nobles widened their eyes in surprise. Orléans also stood up from his seat in astonishment.
“You seem to be enjoying your conversation.”
A flat voice interrupted the stunned nobles. Everyone felt a chill run down their spines at the lack of emotion in the voice, and all eyes turned to the entrance.
“I got a tip-off from an anonymous person. Some fat livestock has taken over one of the tents.”
He had black hair and dark eyes, and his soft face looked young for his age, perhaps because he was not wearing an eye patch.
However, despite his gentle appearance, the expression on his face is a cruel smile.
Everyone was taken aback by his calm and natural appearance.
“Food is precious. That’s why I’ve come to slaughter them myself before they escape.”
Hiro, his voice trembling with enjoyment, took one look at Kyrthia and quietly walked away.
“I want to be a part of this historic meeting that will bring down the Grantz Empire.”
“Anyone on guard――”
A nobleman was about to speak up, but his head instantly fell to the ground. A dull thud, like a bag of dirt being slammed, echoed through the tent, and the headless body collapsed.
“Unfortunately, the guards are here.”
A new head was placed on the table.
The soldiers were killed without being able to figure out the situation, but a tight smile remained on their faces.
“Don’t make a fuss, livestock. If you utter even a single word, I will kill you without a second thought.”
Hiro put his index finger to his mouth and formed a gentle smile. It was eerie to see that his eyes were not smiling at all.
Everyone was stiff with fear and stood still. There was no way they could say a word.
Hiro nodded in satisfaction and walked over to the head of the Mark family.
“Hello, Orléans. Are you doing well?”
“…how long have you been aware of this?”
Orléans’ voice trembled as he turned pale.
Hiro showed signs of thinking and laughed innocently.
“It’s from the beginning. I’ve been struggling to hold back my laughter since you’ve been acting exactly as I expected.”
Hiro tapped Orléans on the shoulder in amusement as he spoke.
“The reason I turned to the central nobility and appointed you as my second-in-command was all for this moment.”
Orléans’ expression changed as he watched. He gritted his teeth in frustration as he understood.
“It was easy to see through your shallow schemes.”
Hiro turned behind Orléans and glared around at the nobles with a deepening smile.
“But there might be one way for you to survive.”
“W-what is that…?”
“It is for that reason. Orléans, you’re going to help me out a bit.”
When Hiro stretched his right arm into the empty space, a crack appeared, and the hilt of a sword popped out.
It was not a spirit weapon. It was an inwardly curved sword, a favorite weapon of the southerners.
However, it had no shape as a weapon and was rusted and covered with mud.
In addition, the blade had a saw-like shape and was not in a condition to be used as a weapon. It looked as if it would break immediately upon impact.
“Here, clench your teeth.”
Hiro thrust the rusty sword into Orléans shoulder without hesitation.
The moment Orléans opened his mouth wide, Hiro reached out and covered his mouth. Orléans struggled to move his arms and legs, but Hiro didn’t budge an inch. The central nobles cowered in fear and gnashed their teeth.
“I will torture Orléans now. If I can extract useful information from him, I will forgive whatever you’re up to. But if he doesn’t give anything up until he’s dead, I’ll get information out of each and every one of you.”
Hiro pulled out the rusty sword and found a piece of flesh stuck to the chipped blade.
“Do you know what tetanus is?”
This made Orléans’ eyes widen with tears, and his body tremble.
“This sword is called the Balance of the Vile. It was named after the second son of the Principality of Lichtine, who used it as a torture weapon. And I heard that tetanus has a mortality rate of five to one, so I named it Balance.”
Hiro put his mouth to Orléans ear, adding at the end.
“I’m going to take my hand away from your mouth, but if you make a single sound without my permission, I’ll cut off your right arm with the Balance of the Vile. But this thing is not as durable as it looks. So I’ll use it as slowly as I can.”
Hiro said in a calm tone and then removed his hand from Orléans’ mouth. He sank his teeth into his lower lip so hard that blood dripped from it.
He kicked the ground with both feet over and over again, trying his best to distract himself.
“And you know what, I don’t need you for my plan. Kyrthia is all I need.”
When he whispered this in her ear, Orléans stiffened as if he had forgotten the pain.
“C-could it be that… everything was your――”
As he was about to say this, Hiro covered Orléans’ mouth again.
“Oh, it’s a pity. You spoke without my permission. I’m going to cut off your right arm.”
This night is short, and there was no time left to torture everyone gathered here.
(If I don’t start moving soon, I’m not going to be on time…)
In order to make sure that he would be able to speak quickly, Hiro moved the “Balance of the Vile” with a wish.