Here’s the chapter, enjoy~
The world was covered by a curtain of darkness.
The thick clouds prevented the moonlight from reaching the ground, let alone the stars.
Hugin arrived at the lord’s mansion, wondering if it would rain tomorrow.
“Oh, Mary-san. What can I do for you today?”
The soldier guarding the entrance called out her name―to be precise, it was the alias she had prepared in order to infiltrate the house, but… in any case, Hugin, not expecting to be called out, turned to the soldier with a surprised look on her face.
“T-that’s right. I was summoned by the lord… haven’t you heard about it?”
“I’m just kidding. I’ve heard all about it. You can come through.”
“Um, may I open the door?”
Normally, the soldier would open the door for her, but today he was just looking at Hugin with a wicked smile on his face. The soldier’s gaze made Hugin’s hair stand on end as if she were being measured.
“Oh… that’s right. I’m sorry. Here, you should go see the lord.”
While wondering about the soldier’s deliberate behavior, Hugin slipped through the door.
At the same time, an eerie feeling passed through her buttocks.
“Oops, sorry. I tried to close the door, but my hand slipped.”
She turned around to see a disheveled-looking soldier with his nose turned up. She wanted to punch him in his stupid face, but Hugin desperately tried to pacify her own rage.
“P-please be careful next time~.”
With a blue vein on her forehead, Hugin smiled amiably and left the place quickly.
“Kuh, I’ll shoot that bastard right between his rotten eyes if I see him on the battlefield.”
Hugin moved down the corridor, her shadow dancing violently with her expression in the torchlight on the corridor wall.
“And what’s with this outfit! How can I do a proper job dressed like this!”
Looking at the pretty uniform that covered her―the frills that trimmed it―Hugin’s lips twitched in disgust. She was tugging at the frill as if she might tear it off at any moment, but then she noticed footsteps coming from the corridor ahead of her and immediately straightened up her posture.
It was the patrol. After moving closer to the wall, she smiled affectionately and bailed as they passed each other.
“Good night~, and good luck today~!”
The end of her mouth twitched slightly in disgust at the sound of her own sweet, flirtatious voice.
“Ooh, good job working late again today.”
“The invasion of the Grantz has begun. You’d better go back to your hometown as soon as possible―but with Felzen now, it doesn’t matter where you run to,” said another patrol.
With that, the patrol left. Since sneaking into Anguis, Hugin had become acquainted with many of the soldiers, but to be honest, she did not want to cross paths with them on the battlefield. Although she had no intention of forgiving them if she met them in the line of death, she still did not feel good about watching those she had befriended die. Because of her profession, she faced such a situation several times, but it is not something she was used to. Once the undercover operation was over, Hugin would be on the battlefield again. She would eventually have to fight with the soldiers she had mentioned earlier.
“I think it’s best to get the job done before the emotions take over…”
As expected, she stayed too long in Anguis this time. Moreover, since she had become a close associate of Queen Lucia, she knew most of the people in her entourage.
“I’ve been told to return if I feel I’m in danger. But I don’t want to go back without getting any results…”
Even if she returned without success, Hiro would probably welcome her warmly without saying a word.
But Hugin has never thought of returning.
She wanted to return with some useful information. It would be possible if she did something reckless, but if she did that, Hiro would probably be angry but would not praise her.
In other words, there was no end in sight for this mission. This is what made Hugin so anxious.
While still pondering, Hugin arrived at her destination.
“…I’m not good with that person. Do I really have to meet her?”
From the first time she met Lucia, she had been physiologically unable to accept that woman.
Her mouth was arched, but her eyes were not smiling. Shining deep within them was a bewitching light, a lurking reptilian creepiness. At one point, she seemed to think that her true identity had been discovered, but it was not. Basically, she never showed a real smile, no matter who she was in contact with.
“Aah, no, I don’t want it.”
Hugin knocked on the door three times while muttering quietly.
There was no answer. Instead, the door opened.
She peeked into the room, but the interior was dark. The only light shining brightly was from the candlestick on the office desk.
She stepped fearfully into the room and was struck by a chill.
The strange air made her break out in a greasy sweat. Her body stopped shaking, and her feet stopped moving even a single step. The situation was exactly like a frog being stared at by a snake, but there was no one in the room to exert pressure on her.
Feeling a rapid thirst, Hugin unfolded her collar to release the heat that had built up inside.
A moment later―a loud noise rang out behind her.
Hugin turned around, not acting but genuinely surprised. The door had closed on its own, even though there was no wind.
A normal person would have panicked, unable to understand the strange situation.
However, Hugin regained her composure with a single breath and decided to leave the place. A moment’s hesitation could cost her life; she made a quick decision and searched for the best way to survive.
But―the reality was that it was not always possible to survive.
“For a maid, you have a lot of experience, don’t you?”
Hugin reacted quickly to the voice behind her. She rolled up her long skirt and reached for her sword. As soon as she turned around, she pulled out a small sword―with a flash. It was a skilled and dazzling move.
The small sword is broken from the base, and only the blade pierces the floor. Hugin, who had been watching with a look of astonishment, choked as a crushing pressure was applied to her jaw.
The next thing she knew, her body was pressed up against the wall, and in front of her was the bewitching beauty―Lucia.
“Now, let me ask you a question.”
Her jaw made an eerie sound. The jawbone began to creak as if it were being squeezed in a vise.
Hugin could only grunt, unable to scream in spite of the intense pain.
“Whose informant are you? Grantz? Baum?”
“…Y-you think I’m going to answer you?”
“You’re stubborn. Do you want to lose one of your arms?”
Lucia grabbed Hugin by the throat and slammed her against the wall.
“I like strong-minded women like you, but I don’t like them under certain circumstances.”
She grabbed her by the chest and pushed her to the floor.
The oxygen blew out of her lungs in one burst of air.
“I see… that you are a woman with considerable spirit.”
Lucia swung down on her heels and stomped on Hugin’s stomach, spreading out her fan.
“Then you shall be punished… and become a comfort to the soldiers until you talk.”
The smile faded from Lucia’s face. Her eyes, filled with a cruel light, looked down at Hugin.
Hugin struggled to get away, but Lucia’s legs wouldn’t budge.
“You will not break easily. Let me enjoy myself now.”
The Felzen region was once a major power that rivaled the Grantz Empire.
It was also a key point of trade between East and West, connecting the Six Kingdoms to the west and the Grantz Empire to the east, and before it collapsed, the country prospered through trade with both countries. However, since its defeat in the decisive battle against the Great Grantz Empire, security had deteriorated drastically―merchants began to avoid Felzen, and the fertile land was ravaged by repeated fires of war, along with people’s hearts and minds.
The beautiful grasslands, withered away, and no trace of the old days remained.
The Senan region, which bordered Grantz, was the scene of one of the most intense battles.
The city of Nex, the gateway to Felzen, was said to have been more prosperous than the capital, but it had been reduced to ruins, and not a single inhabitant remained.
September 17th, 1026th year of the imperial calendar.
The city of Nex was now occupied by the Grantz Army. Tents were set up everywhere because many buildings were in danger of collapsing. In the lord’s mansion at the center of the city, the coat of arms of the Great Grantz Empire and the lily flag owned by the sixth princess were swaying in the wind.
A short distance away, there was a small hill from which one could look down on the lord’s mansion.
It was a park built for the amusement of the nobility, and it was said that the lord of Nex was a man who loved to look down from this point at his mansion and the city spread out around it. He, too, was defeated by the Grantz and executed, along with his family―by the Krone family, the five former great Grantz nobles.
The execution took place on this hill, which the locals now called the Hill of Tragedy.
There was no one in the Grantz Empire who liked to sleep in such a place with such a legend, but perhaps out of sheer madness, the elite “Raven Army” of the small country of Baum had built barracks on the Hill of Tragedy.
“May you rest in peace. The Krone family, whom you seek to avenge, has fallen.”
The king of Baum, Hiro, held out a flower and bowed his head in the cold night wind.
Luca walked up behind him shaking her sleeves.
“Has there been any word from Hugin?”
The torch in Luca’s hand dispelled the darkness, revealing her expression. She seemed to be looking at Hiro, but actually not. Her gaze was fixed on something far away.
“No, I’ve refrained from contacting her for a while. I think it’s about time I got in touch with her.”
Since her arrival in Felzen, Luca had asked Hiro to get in touch with Hugin every day. For her, Hugin was the reincarnation of her late brother Eagle, and Hiro wondered how she came to that conclusion, but there was no doubt that her obsession was genuine.
“What would you do if something happened to her?”
“I’ve told her to stay as still as possible, so I’m sure she’ll be fine.”
Although the older brother Munin would have investigated on his own initiative, Hugin basically tends to follow orders faithfully. She would never move on her own, ignoring Hiro’s orders.
“Hugin is under… that Lucia, isn’t she?”
“What does it matter?”
“When I think of Hugin’s soft skin being hurt by that vicious woman, I want to kill her.”
Hiro gave a bitter smile of half-amazement at the boisterousness of the statement.
“What are you laughing at? Aren’t you worried about Hugin?”
“Of course I’m worried. Not only Hugin but also Munin and the others. After all, their role is always intertwined with death, and not a day goes by that I don’t worry about them.”
If their true identities were to come to light, the lives of spies could easily be lost. There was no country on the central continent that was not on the lookout for the movements of other countries. A king who falls into a state of suspicion and darkness will execute even his loyal subjects. It was not difficult to imagine what would happen if a spy infiltrating such countries were discovered.
“I am only worried about Hugin.”
Luca threw the torch to the ground, and as she closed the distance between them, she grabbed Hiro by the arm.
“I don’t care about the others, and it doesn’t hurt my heart when they die.”
With eyes that gave a chill, Luca looked at Hiro with a glare from below.
The bones in his arms creak as she grabs them. Hiro always thought that her obsession with Hugin was unusual, but he did not think that she was so attached to Hugin that she could not maintain a balance in her mind.
That’s why he can’t tell her the “truth.”
However, if she was left alone in this state, she might go to the territory of Anguis by herself.
“I understand. If you’re that worried, I’ll send a fast horse out later.”
Hiro said admonishingly and then slowly pried Luca’s hand away.
Luca looked at him with suspicion, wondering if he could be trusted.
“You must promise me.”
“Yeah, I promise.”
Nodding deeply, Hiro smiled. Luca gave him a skeptical look but, after a moment, stepped back, perhaps realizing there was no point in continuing to stare at each other.
“…So, what were you doing here?”
There was no need to ask, but looking down from the top of the hill, the view was of the encampment of the Grantz. In the middle of it, in the lord’s mansion, Liz, the next emperor of Grantz, was resting herself. Luca nodded in understanding when she saw where Hiro’s eyes were looking.
“Was it the little red-haired girl? I heard rumors of her even to the far east, to the small country of Baum. I heard that if the times were different, she would have been a beautiful woman of inclination, so I wonder what the real story is!”
“Rumors cannot be trusted, though. But as far as she is concerned, you can believe them.”
She may grow up to be a brave woman like Altius, or she may turn into a winning and lively woman like her mother, but either way, her looks are guaranteed.
“I’m looking forward to it, but… I’m more interested in what’s inside than what’s outside.”
“Then why didn’t you just show your face at the military council?”
Since joining up with the Grantz Army in Felzen, Hiro had not seen Liz once.
He had been sending the commander of the “Raven Army” as his deputy.
“I have already done my part for the small country of Baum this time. All I have to do now is to be assigned to a unit somewhere and march behind it. There’s no point in participating in the war council.”
There were other reasons as well. Hiro’s participation would create discord on the Grantz side.
Among the officers of the Grantz and the nobles, there were not a few who had a special regard for the small country of Baum. But on the contrary, there were many who considered them a nuisance.
Under such circumstances, if Hiro participated in the military council, his opinion would surely be sought, and there would be those who would listen and those who would not. If this happened, there would surely be a dispute between the two sides.
“Just observe quietly and don’t meddle.”
Hiro’s explanation was interrupted mid-sentence. A woman came out of the lord’s mansion.
Her red hair shone in the torchlight. There was only one person in the Grantz who had that feature. She was Celia Estrella Elizabeth von Grantz, the sixth princess and acting emperor of the Great Grantz Empire.
Luca, who was standing next to Hiro, also noticed, and her eyes were glued to her.
“…..I can’t find the right words. Isn’t she growing so beautifully?”
Luca’s venomous tongue had lost its sharpness. It was a rare occurrence for her to come up with such a clichéd comment. It was understandable why she didn’t swear. Liz’s appearance was beyond the realm of the “imagination.”
“Is she really “human”? If anything, she looks more like the long-eared people.”
“Hmm? What’s wrong?”
When Luca squinted at Hiro in the darkness, he held his mouth and uttered no words at all.
If she attacked him now, it’s 100 out of 100―Hiro was so glued to Liz that Luca was certain that she could take his life.
That didn’t mean he was admiring the beautifully grown-up Liz. His eyes were wide open to the limit, and he stood there stunned, like someone who could not accept reality. It overlapped with the image of Luca, who once witnessed the death of her brother.
“..Why is she here?”
“What are you talking about? You came to see the little red-haired girl, so of course, she’s there.”
“It’s not that… I’m not talking about that.”
He just kept mumbling deliriously.
There was no reply, and Hiro was quiet, staring only at Liz with an intense willfulness on his face. But such a time did not last long.
Liz turned her gaze to where Hiro and the others were.
Luca hurriedly held Hiro’s head and put him down on the ground.
“…Do we have to hide since there’s no way she can see us?”
Luca chuckled as if ashamed of her own actions.
“I don’t think there would be any problem if she found us in the first place.”
Luca muttered something ridiculous and tried to get up but stopped moving when he saw the look on Hiro’s face with a sideways glance.
“No… she can ‘see’ us.”
“What do you mean?”
“If it were normal, she wouldn’t be able to find a person in the dark, out of reach of the moonlight.”
The flame of the torch that Luca had brought with her had died out in the mud. The only other source of light was the “Raven Army” tents, but it was too far away for the light to reach the place where Hiro and Luca were.
Moreover, with the moon hidden by thick clouds, it would have been impossible to find them under normal circumstances. But Liz did not hesitate to “see” them.
“There is no doubt… that she is――”