The advancing Ishtalika army stopped in the wilderness between Heim and Birdland.
As the group stopped, the rising dust in the air settled down.
There was no snow in this area, but it was winter, and the wind was cool. Still, the air in the camp was warm.
“──But then again, I didn’t expect you to even bring out the Leviathan.”
Lloyd lost his left eye in the previous battle with Edward.
He listened to Ain’s words as he waited for the meat to cook in front of the fire in the encampment.
While other knights were eating and chatting, the two were in front of Ain’s tent, which was just as lively as any other.
“The Leviathan was unfinished, but this time the circumstances were different.”
“And the Leviathan then headed for the port town of Roundheart?”
“It was scheduled to meet up with Princess Olivia, that Chris is onboard.”
“Very effective. Many Heim soldiers are already exhausted, and it should be less dangerous to attack from the port town. The port town has no defensive walls. …But are you sure? Even though there have been many problems──in that town.”
Lloyd was concerned about Ain.
The port town of Roundheart was Ain’s birthplace, and now they were going to take over the whole town.
“Don’t worry. I don’t care about any of that.”
But here came a smile of concern for himself, and Lloyd quickly pulled his chin back.
Soon after, Majolica came to the tent.
“Your Highness, I’ve finished the inspection of the magic tool you asked me to do.”
“Thank you, is everything alright?”
“The miasma had damaged some of them, but that’s okay. I’m sure you brought it here with the intention of using it up anyway, so I just did a little maintenance.”
Majolica looked at Lloyd, “And then,” he said.
“Varra-chan wants to check on you one more time, so she wants you to visit her later.”
“I understand. Ain-sama, I will come again after I finish my check-up with Varra-dono. I need to check on you again for the upcoming battle.”
“If there is anything wrong, you should tell me, don’t hide it.”
“Hahaha! Don’t worry! I have no more eyes, and it can’t get any worse!”
Lloyd boldly told a story that was not funny at all and left with a great stride.
The way he called out to the knights on the way and made them work for him was so dependable that Ain and Majolica couldn’t help but giggle.
“Oh, is it cooked?”
Taking a skewer that had been inserted into the meat he was grilling, Ain brought the skewer to his mouth.
They were thick and fragrant and would make you happy just by chewing on them.
“Oh, Majolica-san, do you have any extra magic stones?”
“Why, you look so happy eating the meat. ──You don’t want to eat the magic stone too, do you?”
“I’m ashamed to admit that I do.”
“Ara, well… you were very active the other day. I wonder if your magic power was drained too much.”
With a half-hearted look on his face, Majolica handed the magic stone to Ain.
It must not be a particularly expensive magic stone, as he held it with his bare hands. But when Ain held it in his hand and sucked in the magic power of the magic stone, he felt fuller than if he had eaten grilled meat.
“──Oh, I thought Father was here.”
Dill, who appeared unexpectedly, looked around as he said that.
“If it’s Lloyd-san, he went to Varra. What’s wrong?”
“Actually, I thought I’d confirm with him about the march… but it looks like we must have crossed paths.”
“If you wait, he’ll be back, and let’s have some food together. Come on, Majolica-san.”
The two heard Ain’s voice.
“Since it’s a good opportunity, I might as well accompany you.”
“Then, I, too, will do so with your permission.”
They nodded in return and reached for the grilled meat.
◇ ◇ ◇
“Varra, are you there?”
After dinner, Ain left his tent and proceeded through the encampment, stepping into the tent where Varra was staying.
This tent also served as a medical clinic, and there were many wounded knights here and there.
Varra was among the knights checking on their injuries.
“Oh, yes! How can I help you?”
She left the check up to someone else and came before Ain.
“I’d like to ask you a few questions if that’s alright with you.”
“It’s fine. It’s not necessary to do it here, so let’s do it in the back.”
Varra took him to the back of the room, where supplies were laid out for the treatment of the patients.
It was hard to find a quiet place to take the crown prince, and the only other place that was quiet was Ain’s tent.
“I presume you are referring to the body of the Marshal, sir?”
“Ah… that’s okay, I’ll hear it from him, but it’s something else. ──I just thought of telling you a little bit about the old days.”
It was about Edward.
In the fight against him, he thought he was never going to ask Varra. But as they marched on, he thought about it again.
…Even though he was thinking this way, to Varra, Edward was her immediate family.
He felt uncomfortable with the idea of playing the game without asking Varra anything.
“You know about my father, don’t you?”
“──I know. And he was a great general.”
“I see. So, do you know why I suddenly brought this up?”
Ain was trying to get Varra’s thoughts on the subject by saying that they both had thoughts on their father’s behavior.
Varra realized the ostensible reason and nodded with a mysterious expression on her face.
“I have no feelings for my father, but what feelings does Your Highness have for your father? I knew you had a grudge──.”
Ain’s eyes widened at the unexpected response.
“You don’t have any feelings for your father, Varra?”
“Yes, that’s right. It is difficult to put these feelings into words, but the closest I can come is to say that I don’t want him in our lives anymore.”
“You mean even if you ever see him again?”
“Yes. I am convinced that I cannot think of him as my father anymore. My sister May is still very young and may be different, but she too is now living happily in the castle.”
Believing what she just said, it would be better not to tell her about Edward. He should settle the matter with himself being the only one who knows the facts.
“But if I ever see him again, I’d like to slap him hard on his cheeks.”
Varra smiled and said, never conveying sadness, and Ain clearly understood that she meant what she had just said.
After that, the two continued their casual conversation for a while, and Ain turned his back on Varra, saying, “I, too, have already moved on.”
Chapter 1 – Near The Capital of Heim
──Strangely enough, things were going well.
Ain muttered to himself the next morning as he rode his horse in the march.
Ain was raising his eyebrows in disbelief at this situation, where not only Heim soldiers but even half-monsters had not appeared along the way to this point.
Behind him, Dill, on his horse, expressed the same thought.
“Things are progressing too smoothly, aren’t they?”
The one who answered him was Majolica, who was riding next to Dill.
“The Heim side has lost a lot of strength, so I think they are sending troops to the port town. But, you know, even before we came to reinforce our troops, they had attacked them many times with crossbows, right?”
The first time was at Rockdam, and the second time was at Birdland.
The attack with the crossbow slaughtered many Heim soldiers and also caused a lot of damage in the clash between people.
If this is the case, Heim would not have much room left.
Even with the half-monster force, the fact remains that they were forced to wear out for sure.
“Ara, you don’t look convinced.”
“I think what you just said makes sense. But there is one more thing I’m wondering about. The purpose of the red fox is still unclear, as you may know, Majolica-san. I have my doubts about their actions.”
“What do you mean?”
At this point, Ain joined the conversation.
“We don’t know why the red foxes are doing what they are doing, Majolica-san.”
“But, Your Highness, considering the nature of the red foxes, wouldn’t it be fair to say that they are just enjoying this war?”
“I don’t think that’s wrong either. I’ve read that the red foxes are pleasure-seekers in an old book that Katima-san bought. If we believe that, it is not surprising that they are enjoying the situation.”
However, Heim is currently being overwhelmingly pushed.
Unless they were enjoying such tension and a sense of danger, it would be a fearful thing if even the current situation was going as planned by the red foxes…
(There is no chance that Heim will win.)
The result would inevitably be that Edward and Shannon would lose their lives. Even if they seek momentary pleasure out of sheer hedonism, this was too inexplicable and even suicidal.
“It seems to me that they are just trying to gain supremacy on this continent, but if that’s the case, they shouldn’t have messed with Euro. When they did that, one could imagine us coming out of the woodwork.”
“I wonder if that means they have a purpose other than to try to gain supremacy.”
Ain shrugged his shoulders and said to Majolica, who tilted his head.
“Well, who knows? But I think what they’re doing is too half-hearted.”
(If I’m the target, we can talk.)
According to the living-armor Marco, the red fox was waiting for Ain.
And Gail’s diary in the basement of the first king’s villa left information that the red fox said they would never forgive Gail. Connecting these stories together, it seems that Ain, a member of the Ishtalika royal family, was the red fox’s target, and they were trying to drag him into the fray.
“I know, right…? It doesn’t look like they are going to mess with Ishtalika… and come to think of it, I don’t think it was planned that the first prince of Heim would be disposed either.”
“Hmm, what makes you say that?”
“I’ve never seen anyone who doesn’t seem to breathe any kind of miasma. Even if you look for miasma that doesn’t bother our equipment, it usually doesn’t occur unless you go to a deep, deep miasma cave. ──The first prince was the only one who emitted that thick miasma in the assumptions, wasn’t he?”
Both Ain and Dill listened attentively to Majolica’s words as he dexterously twirled his body on the horse.
“It must be difficult to mass produce a miasma emitting entity. If it were possible to mass-produce them, they could have modified two or three of them from the beginning. If it were possible, the Marshal and the others wouldn’t be alive today.”
It was hard to imagine why it had to be the first prince Layfon. He had never been known to have any special talents.
“It’s all because of the unexpected presence of Your Highness. Surely they must have lost most of their half-monsters.”
It was still fresh in everyone’s memory that a great number of half-monsters died in the vicinity of Birdland.
“It would be a relief if those troublesome half-monsters didn’t appear.”
“However, we can’t rule out the possibility that some of the surviving half-monsters will attack. Even if they do come out, there won’t be that many of them, and they probably won’t be as energetic as they were the other day.”
“I know. I will always be vigilant.”
But there were some things they were not fully sure about.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I’m not sure what the red fox’s purpose is anymore.”
“Right… it’s vague.”
“Ain-sama. As I say, I am not sure even at the time of the Demon Lord’s War. I am left wondering what they wanted to do by manipulating the Demon Lord and causing a ruckus and whether it can be put away as mere hedonism.”
“…..Yeah, that’s right.”
Ain then exhaled heavily and said.
“I only know one thing, will they cause harm to Ishtalika?”
“Maybe that’s all we need to know. If they harm our country, we will not tolerate it. It’s that simple to understand.”
After confirming their common understanding, the three men turned their attention to marching toward Heim.