Here’s the chapter, enjoy~
The impregnable city of Garza ― those were the words on everyone’s mind.
They had marched to Garza with the determination that the city would not fall easily. However, the morale of Jotunheim’s army was high after defeating Nidavellir’s army and defeating the hated “elected army” in the first battle. They were capable of taking down any fortress.
They marched with such spirit.
However, they were disciplined not to let their guard down after the initial battle when a raid on the main camp attacked them.
Therefore, the Jotunheim army prepared a large number of siege weapons and rushed to the city of Garza.
However, they were now faced with an incomprehensible situation.
The 30th day of June in the 1026th year of the imperial calendar.
The city of Garza, the headquarters of Nidavellir and renowned for its impregnability, was on fire.
Black smoke rose from everywhere, and angry shouts and screams swirled in the sky, only to be drowned out by the wind. If anyone had served in the war, they would have seen this scene many times.
Everyone must have thought of the word: looting.
But this was not like a village that was just surrounded by fences. Neither was it a town that was not protected by a wall.
It was the culmination of the work of their predecessors ― the Garza Wall, which had been called impregnable.
“What is going on?”
Liz was overwhelmed by the high walls, but she immediately sensed something was wrong and became puzzled. The walls had not been damaged by the attack. Yet the gates that protected the city of Garza were open. The numerous angry shouts and deafening screams that echoed through the air only added to their doubts.
Skadi has left her own army and came under Liz. The faces of the soldiers escorting her were sharp and focused. The air of mystery made them more alert.
“What is this all about, Skadi?”
“We don’t know either. In the meantime, we have sent several units to check on the situation.”
Skadi’s face told her that there was a possibility that it was a trap, but that didn’t make any sense.
“What about the possibility that Utgarde burned down the city and moved their base of operations?”
Liz asked, and Skadi shook her head.
“Unlikely. No city has better defenses than Garza.”
“It could also be the work of the Principality of Lichtine.”
“The defenses on the border are not as strong as the city of Garza, but a weakened Lichtine today would never be able to take it down. Even if they could, it would take 100,000… or even 200,000 men to take down the city of Garza.”
Then, a horseman came rushing toward them, a cloud of dust rising from the ground. The red flag on his back was the sign of a messenger from Jotunheim.
“The advance party has reported in. There are no signs of enemy infiltration in the city, but the people are running amok and repeatedly looting the city.”
“…It’s pretty noisy for that.”
Liz understood what Skadi was trying to say.
The city of Garza is almost exclusively inhabited by dwarves.
The population of Garza must have decreased significantly due to the exclusion of other races who fled the city to escape forced conscription and those who resisted.
The messenger, who may not have been aware of such a question, answers it.
“It seems that those who fled from various villages have returned to Garza after hearing rumors. They have outnumbered the dwarves, and the looting has increased in intensity.”
All the resentment that had built up over the years likely exploded all at once. Resentment is a terrible thing. It makes one lose one’s sense of reason, and one does not hesitate to resort to excessive violence.
Once they calm down, they may feel self-loathing, but if others around them repeat the same thing, their senses become numb, and their sense of guilt is pushed into the corner by sympathetic thinking.
“Tsk… I understand that they have a grudge against the dwarves, but if they loot the place, it’s like admitting that they are the same as the dwarves.”
Skadi gazes at Garza from a distance with her bangs swept back. Her eyes were filled with sadness. Was it because of concern for the people who repeatedly commit violence, or was it because of concern for the dwarves who cannot escape and are subjected to violence?
“I will move the army immediately. We will stop the riot. And forbid the soldiers from looting.”
After ordering her aides to do so, Skadi gave Liz an apologetic look.
“I’m sorry. The war is over now. You came all the way here to help us, but I’m sure you won’t be satisfied with an ending that brings shame to our country.”
“No, it won’t. Besides, I’ll help you quell the riots.”
“That would be great. Can I trust you to take care of the humans? If it is the word of the same race, they might listen to you.”
The riots would soon die down. The opposing Jotunheim army had arrived. Above all, vengeance had been taken. They must flee in haste to avoid punishment.
The problem was not so much the people as the bandits who were taking advantage of the chaos to loot the city repeatedly.
“What is Utgarde going to do?”
“If he loses the city of Garza, there is nothing more he can do. Even if he did return… it’s doubtful he’d be alive after what he’s done.”
Skadi and Liz headed for the city of Garza, riding side by side.
The closer they got, the more surprised they were at the height of Garza’s defenses.
However, considering the current situation, the walls seemed to be mere decoration.
That was Liz’s impression as she followed the Jotunheim army that had gone ahead of them through the gate.
The shards of glass scattered along the streets emitted a dull glow in the sunlight. Blood was flowing between the cobblestones like a stream. The bodies of the dwarves were lying everywhere, all of them showing signs of having been violated. The corpses of other races were also conspicuous.
The stores lining both sides of the street were burned down and empty inside; presumably, their goods had been looted.
It was as if they had wandered into an abandoned city.
Angry shouts are flying from the surroundings — the faint sound of sword fights. Somewhere, a battle between Jotunheim soldiers and bandits may have begun.
“The worst seems to be near the north gate. That is where the mansions of the nobles are concentrated.”
Skadi, who had received the report from her subordinate, pulled her horse up to Liz with a hint of lamentation.
“I heard that bandits have taken over the place, and the corpses are piling up.”
“Shall I send some of my soldiers to help?”
“No, they’re the ones who didn’t manage to escape. Most of them escaped as soon as we arrived.”
Liz could see that Skadi was forcing a smile.
Considering the difficulties she would face in the future, she would have to force herself to smile to keep going. Reconstruction will be difficult if the area is so thoroughly destroyed. It will be hard on security and on funding as well. If Jotunheim’s army had let the city fall, there would have been no problem. The Jotunheim army could monopolize the spoils of war, although the soldiers may have gone out of control. However, because they came too late, there was no property left to confiscate from the nobles, and most of the looted goods were taken out of the city. The reconstruction of the destroyed city would require a huge amount of money. In order to cover this, they had their eyes on the assets accumulated by the influential people of Nidavellir, but their guesses were off. The only other place with any promise was the Utgarde palace.
“…..The palace seems to have been looted as well.”
The iron gates were broken down loudly, and the bodies of Nidavellir soldiers were piled up around the perimeter.
The walls were splattered with a lot of blood, and the palace was also engulfed in white smoke from the flames.
As Liz and Skadi crossed the broken iron gate, a Jotunheim soldier jumped out from the entrance of the palace.
“Skadi-sama, we were searching inside, and we have confirmed that the treasury is completely unharmed.”
“The flames were extinguished a short time ago, so I assume it was not looted.”
“…That’s good news. Tell the men to bring it out and secure the palace perimeter.”
“Yes, right away.”
The relief in Skadi’s profile was evident as she gave instructions to her aides and soldiers.
However, Liz has her own doubts. Why had the treasures not been taken out?
Why was the treasure intact and only the palace on fire? With a sense of discomfort that didn’t quite add up, Liz stepped inside the palace with Skadi.
“It’s beautiful compared to the outside…”
Strangely enough, there were no scorch marks near the entrance.
However, as they made their way through the hallways, they learned the extent of the fire’s threat.
“It sure is… strange.”
Skadi, who moved her nose, also seemed to notice something strange.
The flames seemed to be spreading around the throne room.
“What is this guy…?”
The throne room was filled with burnt corpses. None of the bodies were whole, and all were damaged.
Skadi crouched down in front of a corpse.
“This one has… had his head decapitated. Was he robbed? No. Then why is he still wearing the jewelry?”
And even the treasure was left in the palace. So it is highly unlikely that they were attacked by bandits.
Then there is only one possible explanation ― if the goal was their lives.
Passing by Skadi, who was searching through the bodies and pondering, Liz set out for the throne.
On the way, she noticed a faint residue of spirit ― Liz reached into the void and grabbed it.
It slipped through the gap between her fists and dissolved into the air, vanishing.
For a moment ― and still, she could feel it.
A power that felt like a disaster ― but intense loneliness tightened her chest.
She had felt this power only once before. It was part of the power the young man held in his hands.
“…I see. You were here, huh?”
Liz walked further and found a dead body, bowing low toward the throne.
Judging by the size of the body, it was probably a dwarf. His clothes were burned off, and his skin was reddish-black from the fire. A strange smell wafted through the air, but it was relieved by a breeze coming in through a broken window.
Then Liz noticed something, quickened her steps, and closed the distance to the throne at once.
“A lion adorned with gold and silver… necklace of the first emperor, right?”
Picking up the necklace from the throne, Liz once again checked her surroundings.
The room was burning extensively, but there was not a single sign of scorching around the throne.
“…Hiro, what were you doing here?”
No one answered.
The only thing that comes in through the window is a gentle breeze that caresses Liz’s cheeks.
“That guy’s amazing… that this is the only place that isn’t on fire; it’s kind of creepy on the contrary.”
Skadi was stunned, not knowing what it meant, but Liz, who had some idea, could only smile wryly.
“Skadi-sama! Messenger, it’s a messenger!”
The messenger rushed in, looking panicked. Skadi turned her body around, ruffling her hair.
“What is it? You are too noisy. Calm down a little.”
“The Principality of Lichtine is invading near the eastern border of Nidavellir! The Principality of Lichtine is invading!”
Skadi’s eyes widened as she stopped scratching her head.
However, the rigidity was soon broken, and she approached the messenger with a large step.
“W-why all of a sudden… how about their number!?”
“About 10,000, but they seem to have stopped when they marched to the Zahle River!”
While approaching the messenger, Skadi’s feet stopped, and she crossed her arms as if scooping up her ample bosom.
“What, the Zahle River?”
Skadi’s question was met with a wide nod from the messenger.
“The river was dammed up by the Nidavellir a long time ago.”
“There, huh…? damn it, I can only assume they were aiming for it to come under such circumstances.”
Liz called out with a somewhat distant look in her eyes to Skadi’s back as she stomped on the ground.
“He was aiming for it…”
Her heart beats faster. Liz involuntarily puts her hand on her chest.
There was a boy here who was good at all sorts of tricks and deceptions.
A huge flame spread in the back of her mind as she realized the certainty that he was nearby.
Skadi, oblivious to Liz’s state of mind, turned around with a dubious look on her face.
“What did you say?”
“In anticipation of the disappearance of soldiers from Nidavellir… if the leader is gone, there will be no one to ask for a decision. In the meantime, he has used the tricks he has devised to cause this chaos.”
It’s nothing short of brilliant. No one knew what brought him here.
However, he managed to bring down the city of Garza, which was said to require 200,000 troops, with just his scheme. Even if his methods were inhumane, he had done it.
“He then took advantage of the chaos and attacked and destroyed the city in one fell swoop. That’s what he does best.”
Still, the sweetness remains ― he was taking care that the treasury was not looted, considering that Jotunheim will probably restore Garza in the future.
So, that’s why she wanted to save such a sweet and gentle broken soul of his.
Recalling the promise they made on a distant day ― sweet, sad, and compassionate thoughts tingled deep in Liz’s chest.
Liz gripped the necklace of the first emperor with great strength.
Her eyes fixed on the throne on which Hiro would have been sitting.
“I wish you could have stayed a little longer…”
Liz smiled at Skadi’s words.
“I want to take him home as soon as possible, so please pardon me this time.”
Liz looked at the roofless carriage behind her. There was a coffin on top of which Cerberus was sleeping sadly. Inside the coffin was Tris, who was sleeping in a sleep from which he would never wake. After returning to the Great Grantz Empire, she would have to give him a grand send-off so that he and Dios could enjoy drinking together in the afterlife.
Skadi’s shoulders slumped with resignation after recognizing Liz looking at the coffin with eyes filled with desolation.
“I see… call me if you need anything. I’ll fly out and come right over.”
“But first, you have to do something about the Principality of Lichtine, don’t you?”
“I’ll find a way to settle this through negotiations. We can’t fight them any longer.”
But, Skadi said with a smile.
“The beastman will always return the favor they have received. Grantz is in a lot of trouble these days. If you find yourself in a crisis, call me immediately.”
With a wry smile on her face, Liz gave a slight nod.
“Yeah, thank you. Please do help me at that time.”
“Well, I’m heading over there to greet you once again. As a representative of the Steichen Republic.”
“I’ll be waiting for you with a sumptuous meal. Next time, I’ll entertain you with a Grantz-style feast.”
“Oh, really? If so, I shall go immediately.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
Liz turned her head and waved her hands behind her back.
Looking up at the sky, she saw that it was clear and cloudless.
Tris von Termier.
His life had not been a happy one.
An old soldier who was hated by the nobles and lords for supporting Liz, the sixth princess who was never wanted by anyone.
Despite his many accomplishments, he could not rise in the ranks and ended his life as a third-grade military officer.
Some time ago, on a day when Liz accused the nobles of arrogance, only to be criticized for the opposite.
When Liz blamed herself for her helplessness, Tris gave her a stern look but in a gentle voice.
“If you are so frustrated that you cry, if you want to change the arrogance of the nobles, you have to become stronger. But it will be the hardest road you can imagine.”
Liz, who had a strong sense of justice, declared without hesitation that she would become stronger.
Tris gently patted her on the head and gave her a troubled smile.
“But it is impossible for the young you to do that now… so until then, I will be your shield, your sword, and protect you until the end of my life.”
Tris got down on one knee and bowed deeply when she held Liz’s hand.
“Let us weep together, laugh together, and fight together.”
And finally, he concluded with a smile.
“I am the first vassal of Her Highness Celia Estrella.”
The memories of those distant days remain with her to this day, and she keeps them close to her heart.
“Now, let’s go home.”
There will be no time to rest once they return to the Great Grantz Empire.
The plan to recapture Felzen had to be started in earnest.
If she neglected to do so, the first vassal, who was watching from the “Palace of Heroes,” will be furious with her.
There is no time for sadness. Tris would never forgive her for that.
Liz tightened her grip on the reins.
“Tris, watch me. I will become an empress.”
Her childhood dream was becoming a reality.
The sun shone brightly to light her way.