It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (115/125), enjoy~
Chapter 3 – Dwarf And Beastman
13th of June, 1026th year of the imperial calendar.
The sky over Lichtine continued to illuminate the land as brilliantly as a summer day. A line of war horses were marching westward through the wilderness. Even under the blazing sun, there was no sign of disorder in the ranks.
At the head of the line was an open-air carriage.
The rider was a young man with black hair and a strange mask.
“It is almost at the border with the Steichen Republic…”
The young king of the small country of Baum ― Hiro tilted his head absentmindedly.
A wilderness filled his field of vision as far as the eye could see. The withered grass and flowers had turned brown, and the ground was cracked.
It was proof that rain had not fallen for a long time. It was a place that could be described as barren, but a glimpse of what appeared to be a human figure could be seen at the end of the horizon.
“It’s turned into an ugly patch of land, but they say that here, until last year, there were farms stretching as far as the eye could see. The Lichtine must have been reminded that nature has given them life.”
Luca answered about the identity of the shadows, adding a wry one-liner.
“…Do the people cling to hope and try to grow their crops even without water?”
For those who have been kept alive by the crops grown here, it is not easy to give up even if the land becomes barren. They probably came here every day, believing in the hope that they will be able to live in this land even if it becomes barren.
They are waiting for a miracle while holding on to the fear that they may die at any moment and passing many sleepless nights.
“That is why it is compassion. When those who are tormented by the fear of death hold in their hearts the miracle of life connecting them to tomorrow, that great debt of gratitude is deeply engraved in their hearts.”
Hiro’s smile deepened as he placed his right hand on his mask, and Luca expressed her disgust at the gesture.
“That’s nothing short of patronizing while taking advantage of a person’s weakness.”
“It’s an ancient tradition. That’s how the rulers have controlled the hearts and minds of the people.”
“Is that why you are releasing the dammed river…?”
Hiro shrugged his shoulders at Luca’s question.
“That’s only one answer. What I want is something beyond that.”
Luca looked at Hiro with a sideways glance as if to spy on him but was naturally prevented by his mask, which showed no emotion whatsoever. Perhaps not getting an answer was the source of her disinterest, and she dropped her gaze to the floor.
“You can think about it carefully. There is still time left.”
Hiro then looked ahead. A huge earthen wall crossed the horizon and continued to the edge. In the vicinity, slaves could be seen hauling dirtbags. Perhaps they were reinforcing it in case of an attack. It was possible that the wall was still under construction.
“The walls are of different colors, giving a distorted impression. It is obvious where the walls have been attacked in the past.”
Watchtowers were set up in those areas, and many soldiers were seen guarding through the gaps in the breastworks.
(Many of them have chapped cheeks… Are they not getting enough rations?)
As Hiro had this impression, he saw a gate made of wood and iron combined. It must have stopped the enemy invasion many times.
He recognized blood and grease that could not be washed away, as well as countless cuts.
From this point forward, we will be unable to accompany you.”
A Lichtine soldier announced as he drove alongside the wagon.
This is where they will part ways with the 10,000 troops entrusted to them by Marquis Ranquille.
Of the 3,000 “Raven Army” brought from the small country of Baum, 2,500 were to be left here as well.
“Thank you for your hard work. Now, you can wait for the good news at your leisure.”
“Yes, I wish you good luck.”
When Hiro raised one hand in response to the Lichtine’s soldier, the gate in front of him was opened with a heavy sound like an earth tremor.
“From this point forward, two hundred will be placed in the front line, and the remaining three hundred will form the backline. Do you have any objection to that?”
On the way through the gate, Ghada approached.
“That’s fine. I don’t think we’ll be attacked.”
They have already notified the Steichen Republic ― the Nidavellir faction ― that they will be visiting.
Their reply was, “You are welcome.”
However, they were still only allowed to take 500 of the 3,000 members of the “Raven Army” with them.
The others were Ghada and Luca, who were to accompany Hiro.
“What about Munin and Hugin?”
“I just received a message from them. It seems they were able to infiltrate successfully. They are going to proceed with preparations.”
“Well, good. Now, all we have to do is find out who this Utgarde guy is.”
The cavalry armor blocking the front of the carriage was bathed in sunlight, and the reflection of the light caused Hiro’s eyes to narrow. As he looked around to avoid it, he saw traces of the battle all over the area.
This was the border gap between the Steichen Republic and the Principality of Lichtine, where many battles must have been fought over a long period.
Rusty swords lie on the ground, and unrecovered armor is buried in the ground. Abandoned bodies were reduced to bones, and a scrawny creature stared at Hiro and the group with a human bone in its mouth.
The sky was blue, but the scenery looked stagnant, perhaps because of the battlefield, which was filled with death and resentment.
“The river has dried up wonderfully.”
Luca muttered to herself as she looked at the moat-like area.
This must be the Zahle River, which connects the Steichen Republic to the Principality of Lichtine.
A large number of bones were lying by the river, perhaps in search of water to quench their thirst.
“No wonder only monsters could survive. It seems only a matter of time.”
The emaciated monster he saw earlier will soon die out if it loses its food supply. With the loss of water, all living in this area were about to cease, along with the plants and flowers.
“And once we pass through this land of death… we will reach the Steichen Republic.”
Ahead of Hiro and the others was the sight of a huge wall of protection lined up to the side.
The wall, much taller than that of the Principality of Lichtine, boasted a massive mass that was worthy of the name “impregnable.” Perhaps in preparation for an invasion, solid fortifications have been built at key points, and if attacked poorly, a heap of corpses would be laid in an instant.
“No wonder they want to attack the Grantz side. It would take more than half a force to overcome such an iron wall. Especially if the majority of the army is made up of slaves.”
As they approached the Steichen Republic’s defensive wall, a soldier emerged from the watchtower.
A large number of archers emerged from the breastworks. All the arrowheads were aimed at Hiro and the others at once.
The “Raven Army” also surrounded Hiro’s chariot with shields raised and bows in hand, ready for battle.
The area became quiet as if hit by water.
The slightest sound would cause a storm of tyranny to erupt over the land.
Hiro kept smiling and raised one hand to open his mouth even under such tense circumstances.
“I am the second king of the small country of Baum, the “Black Dragon King.” I have your permission to pass through, but can you tell me whether your country is ignorant of the art of communication or whether it is a barbaric country that reneges on its promises?”
Before leaving the Principality of Lichtine, Hiro had sent a letter to Utgarde, the lord of Garza, the stronghold of the Nidavellir faction, and had received a pass with his reply.
“Here, you may check it out.”
Hiro took out a permit with Utgarde’s seal stamped on it.
However, the Steichen soldiers did not lower their bows. Nor was anyone sent to check the permit. Hiro carelessly tossed the permit to the floor in disgust.
“I heard that the Steichen Republic has been in frequent skirmishes with the Principality of Lichtine, so it may have somehow turned into a battle between the ‘Dwarves’ and the ‘humans’.”
“So this harassment…”
Sighing deeply at Luca’s words, Hiro plopped down on the built-in couch provided.
“Then let’s wait for a little while. If we let our anger get the better of us, that’s exactly what they’ll want us to do.”
“What if it goes off at any moment?”
When Luca looked around again, he saw that the soldiers were glaring at each other under the blazing sun, not even wiping off the sweat that was breaking out but in the tense atmosphere. However, they were staring at each other for not so long. Soon after, the massive gate was opened as if to break the silence.
A figure emerged from the space dominated by shadows.
The figure was of short stature, much shorter than Hiro. His face is aged, and his beard is neatly tied around his chin. The muscles peeking through the gaps in his armor suggest that he is no ordinary man.
From the outward appearance, there is no doubt that he is a “Dwarf.”
The fact that he was wearing better quality armor than the others made it easy to imagine that he must be a captain.
Hiro raised his upper body and looked down at the person who had approached the carriage.
“I apologize for the rudeness. I have heard from Utgarde-sama. Please come through.”
“What is your name?”
“Torkil, I am in charge of the border garrison.”
“Well, then, Torkil-dono, I have a word of advice for you.”
“W-what is it?”
“You must do better from now on. If you are so blatant about it, it could become a problem between nations. In the current situation in the Steichen Republic, narrow-mindedness is a recipe for disaster. It would be better to avoid foolish actions that could make enemies of other nations.”
When Hiro sarcastically told him, Torkil turned on him with eyes that could not hide his hatred.
(I see, his hatred for the “human race” is considerable…)
When Hiro looked down at him with cold eyes, Torkil seemed to notice the emotion seeping out of him and bowed his head in a concealing manner.
“I appreciate your advice. I will keep it in mind.”
Torkil then showed his back and began to walk ahead.
A glance at the breastworks showed that a large number of archers from earlier had disappeared.
Hiro signaled the flag bearers to advance.
There was some trouble, but they could finally enter the Steichen Republic.
Once through the sturdy gates, Hiro and the others were surrounded by 3,000 Steichen soldiers. The most conspicuous among them were those on small horses – the “Dwarves.” They are clad in armor far more massive than that of ordinary soldiers and carry swords with jewelry on their waists. On their chests, they all had the design of Nidavellir. And the eyes that looked at Hiro and the others contained a contempt that could not be hidden. They were determined to attack if they saw any strange movement.
“The troops, mostly “Dwarves,” are giving me the most fervent glances.”
“The Steichen Republic ― an elected army of the famous Nidavellir of the East. It is an annoying country.”
Luca spat this out and, unable to suppress her irritation, bit her thumbnail and began to mutter bitter words while kicking at the floor.
“The “Dwarves” are a race said to have the hand of God. When it comes to making swords, there is no one better. That is why many of them are arrogant, and although they are held in the palace, they are driven out because of their rough personalities.”
“Do you have any personal grudges against them?”
“No. It’s just that I can’t stand it when some “Dwarves” who are too good at what they do in other countries are touted as their own by those who are holed up in their own countries, sucking the sweet nectar from people who are no more useful than a spoonful of salt.”
“I see, and that leads directly to the current disturbance…”
“It’s an asshole system.”
Luca’s language gradually becomes rougher and rougher. It’s time to stop talking to her. It will be a problem if she gets out of control in a place like this.
Even though she has burn scars, she was a beautiful woman in normal circumstances, but because of this, not only men but even women don’t approach her. She is said to be fond of children, but of course, she never goes close to them, so this is just wishful thinking.
“But then again, they are elected army…”
I had heard rumors about the existence of a special privileged class in the Steichen Republic ― Nidavellir territory.
It was an institution that only those whose grandfathers, fathers, or themselves had contributed to the nation could enter.
Half of the Senate is made up of “Dwarves,” but all of them are from the Electorate, also known as the Nidavellir faction, which has long been responsible for managing the Steichen Republic.
At first glance, the elected army seems to be a wonderful system, as it is based on merit, regardless of one’s origins. However, a contribution must be recognized by someone.
However, it is the elected army that determines whether a person has made a contribution or not, and although they say that their origins are irrelevant, the only people in the elected army are the “Dwarves.”
In other words, in the Steichen Republic – Nidavellir territory, no matter how many accomplishments you have made, if the elected army does not recognize you, everything will come to nothing, and if you are not a “Dwarf,” you cannot hope to advance in the world. The system is designed for those who wish to rise in the world, have no choice but to go to other countries and make their mark.
I remember reading this in a book I once read. In the Steichen Republic, the “human race” is bred as slaves. The “Beastman” is used as livestock; the “Long-Eared race” is decorated as an ornament. Even the lower classes of the “Dwarves” were oppressed.
Creating a privileged class like the elected army would not fail to create fissures.
That is what sparked the recent uproar in the Steichen Republic.
“Well, how could a representative of such a group call himself a descendant of the first emperor?”
“The politicians are all people who think that they are the most important people in the world. When they are about to lose their position, they will use whatever they can get their hands on.”
“It’s so simple and clear that I can’t think of a better answer.”
Hiro smiled bitterly, and his thoughts turned to the future.
“Now, what should we do…?”
He is limited in what cards he has in his hand, but that’s all he has to choose from.
Which will be more efficient and generate huge profits?
“Come to think of it; I hear the Great Grantz Empire is also on the move.”
It was Luca who sidetracked his thoughts.
“Yeah, I’ve heard reports of that.”
“And I hear the little red-haired girl is in command?”
“Yes, that’s right. I heard that Liz went directly to the Jotunheim faction for reinforcements, is something bothering you?”
“No, it’s nothing.”
With that said, Luca once again enters her own world.
Seeing her unusual reaction, Hiro tilted his head, but thinking about it did not bring an answer, so he quickly dismissed it out from his thoughts.
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