It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (85/110), enjoy~
The wind that had been blowing yesterday had stopped, and the air was so calm that it was lulling.
The black masses dotted on the ground lit up by the setting sun were the tents where the soldiers slept. Now that dinner was about to be served, steam was rising from various places to cover the sky.
Still, it was quiet, a far cry from yesterday.
It was hard to believe that more than 100,000 soldiers had gathered here, and the ground was solemnly dominated. The city was the same way, the voices of the merchants lacked vigor, and the people walking the streets were somehow languid, and their steps were heavy.
The capital of the Great Grantz Empire, Cladius, was ruled by such gloom.
The imperial palace, Venetian, which overlooks the city, is tinged with red as if caring for the soldiers and people. In the antechamber of the imperial palace, Liz, Rosa, and the others were holding a war council before their departure tomorrow.
The people seated around them were all powerful nobles who held tremendous power in the regions. All of them had gathered here with their ambitions to serve the next emperor.
Now that Hiro, the fourth prince, has disappeared from the world, all they can see is Liz.
Therefore, in an attempt to make a good impression, many nobles came forward to join this war. The decline of the central nobility and the western nobility. The more achievements they make, the more territories they gain.
The root of this war is not to get rid of the enemy, the Six Kingdoms.
The reason why the nobles gathered together was to see how they could increase their own territory after driving them out and the huge rewards they would receive.
A country cannot grow without profit, and even the nobles will turn against it if there is no profit. If there is too much loss, it is necessary to play tricks to win the people’s hearts, but if there is too much gain, people will gather without playing tricks.
How to win the hearts and minds of the people depends mainly on the ability of the individual.
(The qualities of a champion ― this will be an issue for the future. For now, though, she should keep her focus on the war.)
Anticipating the events that Liz would face in the future, Rosa let out a small sigh.
Eventually, she would have to face the ugly side of political strife. It is a path that cannot be avoided if one is to walk as emperor.
“Rosa-dono, have you received the letter from Her Majesty Queen Claudia yet?”
When Prime Minister Gils asked her a question, Rosa pulled back from her thoughts and nodded simply.
“Yes, but she said that she did not receive any solid information about His Highness Hiro’s death.”
Some of the nobles looked dour as she read out a short sentence written on the parchment.
They were the noble lords who had never supported Hiro. For them, the fact that Hiro’s life and death were unknown was not something to be overlooked, and they lamented the fact that his “death in battle” had not been determined.
For those who considered the Grantz family to be special, Hiro was an eyesore.
In accordance with the will of the first emperor, he was recognized by the previous emperor, Greyheit, and was named to the last seat of the Grantz imperial family, but he was still an unknown man with an unknown identity. There were more than a few people who avoided the idea of such a man on the throne.
They were afraid that the venerable lineage and sanctity of the Grantz, which had continued since the first emperor, would be destroyed. But even so, they couldn’t criticize him outwardly because he was recognized as a descendant of the “God of War” and because of the existence of five powerful noble families, the Kelheit family, in the background.
“As for the confirmation of the life and death of the fourth prince Hiro and the third prince Blutar, we will make a decision after requesting negotiations for their return from the Six Kingdoms that claim to have secured their bodies.”
Rosa agreed with Prime Minister Gils’ words, and the other nobles did not raise any objections.
At this point, there was a man who tried to change the flow of the situation.
“What about the Six Kingdoms? Is that what we should be asking?”
The person who said this was Vetu, the head of the Muzuk family, one of the five major noble families, and the southern nobility leader.
Rosa sensed a mysterious atmosphere, as if he was planning something else, and responded with caution.
“According to the letter, a disagreement has arisen between the commander and the second-in-command.”
“Is there anything else?”
“There is no other new information.”
As Rosa shrugged her shoulders in a dignified manner, Vetu opened his mouth, making no effort to hide his disappointment.
“I guess it wasn’t worth it to postpone our departure for a day.”
“Not really, is it?”
Liz, who had been watching the proceedings, stepped in between them.
“We can’t win if we’re not well informed.”
Vetu’s face tensed up as if he was upset to be interrupted from an unexpected place.
Liz’s gaze narrowed sharply as if it were a sharp blade.
“The disagreement between the commander and the second-in-command, that information is valuable. If it’s part of the enemy’s plan, we need to take countermeasures, and if it’s true, we can expect to divide the enemy. If it is, we must move to keep the disruptions in the chain of command from converging.”
There was no hesitation. She is clearly stating her opinion. The nobles around her were stunned to see such an imposing figure.
“From now on, let’s send out scouts to observe the situation in the Six Kingdoms. Depending on the results, it will be possible to move the other party according to our intentions. It will be of great help in retaking the west.”
The cold air that had been flowing through the war council suddenly became heated. A soft yet strange sense of oppression enveloped the noble lords. Everyone could feel firsthand that the flow of events was about to change. In the midst of this situation, Vetu quietly raised his hand. His eyes, glowing with a mysterious light, showed a hint of eeriness as he probed.
“There’s a good chance we’ve wasted a day of our time. The faster we retake the west, the faster our people will be relieved of their suffering. What do you think about that?”
“I don’t think that rushing the soldiers’ minds will solve anything. If we take the foolish step of fighting despite the lack of information, the west will suffer further tragedy. What we need is to liberate the west with a sure victory, there is no other shortest way, and we cannot free our people from suffering.”
Both of them were right, but Liz’s statement captured the hearts of the noble lords.
Liz’s immediate response made a smile appear on Vetu’s face.
What was he smiling about? It was hard to tell what he was really thinking from the strange atmosphere that Vetu radiated.
(But still, Liz won… she’s grown up, hasn’t she?)
Rosa was deeply moved. Liz must have been watching Hiro closely. The way she said things were very similar. Liz had a calm perspective on things. She was flexible and spoke her mind in a way that did not allow others to argue with her.
Vetu, on the other hand, seemed to be speaking out of emotion. There was a lack of information in his words. He may have wanted to induce Liz’s opinion into his pocket, but he was in a difficult position because he had given away too little information. Vetu probably didn’t intend to start a war of words, but he must have been very unhappy that he was talked out of it when he objected. If he were to say anything here, there was a possibility that the other noble lords would ostracize him in this mission.
Therefore, he had no choice but to remain silent.
“So, there is no change in the strategy, and we will go to the west as planned, is that correct?”
When Prime Minister Gils confirmed this, Liz nodded her head.
“In the meantime, each commander should return to his post and assume command from this day forward.”
The war council came to an end, and Prime Minister Gils announced the dismissal.
As the nobles and lords hurriedly left the room, Rosa left her seat and approached Liz.
“Today is the day that Ghada-dono is scheduled to leave. I will go and bid him farewell, but what about you?”
“Oh, I’m going to visit Hugin and the others…”
Liz rose from her seat.
“Your Highness Celia Estrella, may I have a moment of your time?”
A nobleman walked up to her with an apologetic look on his face. After that, a large number of nobles rushed to Liz’s side.
“I’d like to talk to you about our future plans if you don’t mind.”
The nobles are trying to make a connection with Liz for a variety of reasons, such as to consult with her about troop operations.
Liz looked at her sister and the nobles alternatively and then made an upward glance at Rosa as if to ask for help.
“You can send a letter to Ghada-dono and the others later. I’ll send your regards to Hugin-dono.”
If she refused the noble lords’ request unconditionally, it would leave a bad taste among them.
Rosa gave a complicated smile and tapped Liz several times on the shoulder to encourage her.
“All right… then please.”
Liz nodded ruefully and turned to the nobles, and surrendered herself to the waves of conversation.
Rosa left the room with Liz surrounded by people.
She went to the Kelheit family mansion where Ghada and the others were waiting for her.
(If Ghada and the others leave Granz, our war potential will be greatly reduced.)
They also received the news that Hiro was killed in battle. However, that was not the only reason why they decided to leave the Grantz Empire.
It was the letter that Hiro had left for Ghada that had spurred them to action.
Rosa didn’t know what was written in it. She wished she could have read it again, but she chose not to, which is why Hiro left the letter to Rosa.
(You’re really good at playing on people’s minds.)
Rosa complained and walked down the hallway and through the heavily guarded entrance.
When Rosa arrived at the Kelheit family’s mansion, she found Ghada and the others waiting at the entrance, ready to leave.
A man who looked like a traveling merchant was kneeling in front of Ghada, who was wearing black armor with grooves to hide the color of his skin. She saw Ghada handing him a letter.
Rosa tilted her head at the sight, which made her feel uneasy, but she approached.
As Ghada and the others seemed to have noticed Rosa’s footsteps, they bowed to her. At the same time, the traveling merchant ran vigorously past Rosa. After taking a glance at his back, Rosa walked up to Ghada and the others.
Ghada’s face was still covered by a helmet, so it was impossible to read the subtleties of his emotions, but Hugin and Munin, who were behind him, were making dark expressions that showed they were discouraged.
“Are you leaving already?”
Rosa asked, and Ghada looked up at the sky.
“There’s no reason to stay here anymore.”
“Well… that’s unfortunate.”
She knew that they would not change their minds. She couldn’t think of any reason to stop them, so she gave up on that.
However, there was one thing she wanted to know before they left.
It was the contents of the letter that Hiro had left.
So, in an attempt to guide the answer out of the conversation, Rosa asked the question with an inclusive tone.
“More importantly, just now, was that man a spy dressed as a traveling merchant?”
“That guy was one of the merchants who asked for an escort. The Raven Army is mainly made up of former mercenaries. Now that we are free, we’ve decided to return to mercenary work.”
Returning to the mercenary business, he began by guarding the merchants. It was understandable since it made sense, but it didn’t wipe away the doubt in Rosa’s mind.
“Have you decided where you’re going?”
“There is a small country in the far east.”
“…Small country of Baum?”
“Yes, it’s a small country founded by the twin black hero-king, the ancestor of the One-Eyed Dragon.”
Rosa wondered if it was a coincidence that their destination was the small country of Baum, but if it was Hiro’s order, she was strangely convinced. Rosa was unsure of what to say next, but there was no point if she was left in the dark. The best way to read someone’s emotions is to ask a simple, clear question, and the most effective way to sway someone’s mind is to be direct.
So, after a pause for breath, Rosa cut straight to the chase.
“Is that an order from your lord?”
She kept her eyes on Ghada, not wanting to miss a single move.
Ghada gave a slight shake of his shoulder and looked Rosa straight in the eye as if to prevent her from realizing his emotional turmoil.
“Well… I wonder about that. But the times are certainly beginning to move.”
Rosa admitted that Ghada’s pause for breath muddled her thoughts, but the implied words left her with too much to think about to narrow down her options. Was it about Hiro’s death, or the situation in the Grantz Empire, or even the Six Kingdoms? In order to narrow it down, Rosa decided to ask the next question.
“The times are indeed moving, not only in the Great Grantz Empire, as you say, but does that include the small country of Baum?”
Ghada didn’t answer Rosa’s question but pulled on the horse’s reins and jumped into the saddle.
“The roar of the black dragon distorts the reason of the world; the roar of the lion brings order to the world.”
Ghada referred to the abrupt phrases written at the end of the Black Book and the White Book.
Historians claim that it is a single line of text written to conclude the story in praise of the twin black hero-king who saved the people from the tyranny of the demons and the Lionhearted King who led the human race to peace.
“Give my regards to Her Highness Celia Estrella, okay?”
Ghada turned his head, not bothering to hide his uneasy smile.
“――And that I look forward to our next meeting.”
Unable to understand what the words meant, Rosa shot the words at the back of the huge body.
“What do you mean by that?”
Is he implying that he will eventually come back to Liz’s camp?
Or is it…
Ghada waved his hand to his back but did not reply.
Only the sound of hooves drifted between them.
Rosa had no choice but to stare blankly at his back as they departed.