It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (120/128), enjoy~
20th June, 1026th year of the Imperial Calendar.
Steichen Republic ― Garza, Nidavellir Territory.
The city was quiet as usual, but the palace was unusually hectic.
Many people with pale faces came and went between rooms and then ran out with large bags in their hands. Instead of doing their assigned tasks, the servants were running down the corridors in a hurry, carrying their furoshiki (wrapping cloths) and other things. Many carriages were parked in front of the palace, and people were boarding them as if they were being sucked in, and horses were neighing as they departed.
In the middle of the palace, where even such angry voices were flying around, there was a room where a cloud of dust was rising.
A boy with a strange mask on ― Hiro shook his head, still drowsy.
“Huh… it’s morning already?”
He sat upon the rubble of his bunk and yawned lazy and absent-mindedly. His eyes, still hazy, turned to the window, where a group of small birds were resting their wings.
It seems like a peaceful start to the day, but a loud noise from outside caused all the birds to flap their wings in unison.
It is not about the shattered bunk but about the hectic palace.
Hiro’s gaze was fixed on a woman standing by the wall in a room that had been the scene of a horrific crime scene, with a blank expression on her face. It was Luca, who, shaking the sleeve of one of her lost arms, let her expressionless face drift away forever.
“Who knows… I was only looking at you, so I don’t care about anything else.”
Had her cheeks been dyed red as well, any man might have misunderstood her and developed a colorful love affair.
But Luca said this expressionlessly with eyes that had lost their light.
Moreover, her voice was filled with murderous intent. This would never be mistaken regardless of how it was interpreted.
“No, if the corridor was so noisy, wouldn’t it bother you?”
“It doesn’t bother me at all?”
There is no room for argument. Having been prodded, Hiro had no choice but to fall silent.
Just as the air was beginning to feel somewhat delicate, not to say awkward, a flurry of activity could be heard coming from the corridor. Luca, who had heard the sound of armor, tried to get into a fighting stance, but Hiro stopped her with his hand.
At the same time, the door was opened vigorously.
“Oh, our old allies, comrades bound together by firm bonds! We are sorry for making such a fuss. It must have made you uneasy!”
It’s Utgarde, as usual, appearing as if in a vaudeville performance. However, unlike the last time Hiro met him, he was dressed in shining golden armor and had a sword at his waist that was richly adorned with jewels. Behind Utgarde, wearing such tacky gear, were two other soldiers, also heavily armed, and Torkil, the border guard captain who had escorted Hiro and the others to the palace.
(Gold armor… It doesn’t look like he’s capable, but this just makes him a target.)
It’s not bad for a commander to stand out. If it stands on the front line, the troops will be inspired. However, it is not as if a man like him, who seems to have never held a sword before, is standing on the front line.
“Utgarde-dono, judging from your attire, will you be standing on the front lines?”
When Hiro asked the question, Utgarde lifted his shoulders in surprise.
“No way, I’ll just stay in the back and wait for the victory, but it wouldn’t be an honor to be on the front line like the “Humans” and the “Beastman,” right?”
Then he should be calmly equipped and confined to the main camp as if he were attending a funeral.
(It would only demoralize the soldiers if you were the only one in a safe place.)
That said, Utgarde would only be outraged. So, Hiro only looked at him with cold eyes, as if he were staring at a stinking person.
“But, Black Dragon King-dono, what is the matter with this room? It looks as if you were attacked by someone or something…?”
Utgarde looked at the devastation in the room and gave him a doubtful look.
“I’m sorry. I broke it when I got into an argument with her. If you don’t mind, I’d like to get a new bunk.”
When Hiro unhurriedly lied in hushed tones, Utgarde looked at Luca and then laughed hysterically.
“Hahaha, you seem to be quite an intense person. Very well, I will have one of my servants prepare it for you later.”
There was not the slightest doubt about Hiro’s words. It would be fair to say that he was a “Dwarf” who did not care about details, but it would be more accurate to say that he did not have time to worry about such trivial matters. Utgarde, who had stopped smiling, looked at him with a hint of impatience.
“But more importantly, Black Dragon King-dono, it seems that the Jotunheim people have begun their march. So we, the Nidavellir, are going out to intercept them.”
Hiro listened to Utgarde’s words in silence.
Everyone knows that he used the authority of the first emperor to raise money and seize people’s hearts. It is the pathetic hunk of gold standing before him who is overconfident in his own abilities.
If that is the case, his next words were predictable.
“What about Black Dragon King-dono? If possible, I would like you to come with me.”
Advertise to other countries that the small country of Baum is on their side. Others may want to use Hiro’s presence to cut off the Jotunheim camp.
If the small country of Baum had something to gain, Hiro would have been happy to lend a helping hand, but there was nothing to gain but it would only lower their reputation in the region. So, after a moment of contemplation, Hiro shook his head.
“No, let me refrain from doing so. The number of soldiers we have brought with us is only five hundred. Even if I borrowed soldiers from Utgarde-dono and led them, I don’t think they would follow me.”
When he gave a clear reason, Utgarde’s face fell, and he thought about it.
Still, he wanted Hiro to follow him, which was conveyed through his shadowed, invisible face.
“We are here to negotiate trade, not to cooperate with you. But, above all, our escort of five hundred will only slow down the brave “Dwarves.” So let us wait here to hear your report of the victory.”
Hiro inwardly wished that he could lift Utgarde as much as possible and get the hell out of there.
It is not clear whether he understood this or not, but Utgarde nodded repeatedly as if delighted about it.
“Then, please wait for me at the palace. We will return soon after we have made a bloodbath of those fools. But now that we are in a time of war, I cannot allow you to move freely.”
Utgarde put his hand to his forehead with an exaggerated hand gesture and made a lamenting gesture.
“I’m sorry, but may I suggest that you allow us to monitor you and restrict your movements while you are staying at the palace?”
“That’s as it should be; I have no objection.”
“Then I will leave him here.”
Utgarde pointed to Torkil. He was still glaring at Hiro in a rude manner. Still, he remained calm on the surface, and after bowing reverently to Utgarde, he turned to Hiro.
“I look forward to working with you.”
“Oh… it’s my pleasure.”
After throwing a few words at Torkil, who bowed to him, Hiro asked Utgarde a question.
“By the way, the palace seems to be noisy from a while ago, is something wrong?”
“Since war is about to begin, we are in the process of removing those who are in the way and preparing to evacuate the influential people in the neighborhood here. Therefore, it is not for you to worry about.”
After waving his hand in front of his face, Utgarde turned on his heel.
“Then, Black Dragon King-dono, I will leave you here. The war council will be starting soon.”
Utgarde and his party leave the room in the same hurry as when they arrived.
When the door was closed ― Hiro was eerily emotionless under his mask.
“I’m speechless with dismay that they would send their servants away… just to evacuate the influential people, even though they are not an elected army.”
As he positioned his mask to suppress his anger, Hiro felt a presence behind him and turned around.
“Well, what were the results?”
“It is written here. Perhaps the result is as Wise Brother had imagined.”
In front of Hiro, Hugin was on one knee with her hands raised above her head.
On top of both hands was a sheet of the report, which Hiro picked up and quickly read through.
“Huh… I see.”
Hiro gave a small laugh and shifted his gaze to Hugin, who was waiting for the gist of it.
“It was a good job. Tell your men to continue to do the same.”
He patted Hugin’s head, who smiled happily and put his hand on the tip of his chin, letting the thoughts flow out of his mouth without hesitation as he went over the next steps in his mind.
“Hugin, I want you to head down to Ghada, who is encamped outside the city walls, and tell him to start the plan.”
“From here on, it’s a race against time. So tell Munin that, too.”
“As you wish.”
After sending a cheerful reply, Hugin jumped out of the window of the room.
“You look very sad, huh?”
As Hiro watched Hugin off, Luca, who had been silent up to this point, approached.
“Does it look that way to you?”
“Yes, what did the report say?”
Luca asked if she was curious about the letter’s contents, but Hiro only smiled back.
“It was very funny and amusing.”
But Hiro’s eyes never smiled.