Here’s the chapter, enjoy~
Two days had passed since they left Birdland. They were already in the suburbs of the royal capital of Heim.
Once the group crossed the hills that loomed in front of them, they could see the city of Heim, which had reached the height of its glory on this continent.
Ain began to feel a sense of déjà vu in the surrounding scenery, and several memories flashed through his mind.
“Ain-sama, I understand that you are in a complicated state of mind. Please don’t take it too hard and let Lloyd here take care of it for you──”
“Don’t worry. I was quiet because I remembered the old days.”
Still, Lloyd’s eye patch was imposing. He looked like an old general who had fought in many battles, and he even liked it because it suited him so well.
He was so enthusiastic that he would order a custom-made one when he returned to Ishtalika.
“When you say old days, do you mean before you went to Ishtalika?”
“Yes, that’s what I meant. …Lloyd-san, you know what I was like in the old days, don’t you?”
“The old Ain-sama, you might say…”
“I mean when I lived in the port town of Roundheart.”
Then Lloyd pondered as if choosing his words. But Ain smiled as if to say don’t worry about it.
“I have it in my ear that you were not treated well since you could not leave the territory. At that time, I well remember that His Majesty was happy or sad every time he read a letter that came from Olivia-sama.”
“Yes, yes. On the contrary, my brother Grint used to go out a lot. Especially after my father──Logas started taking care of him, he used to take him on outings.”
Lloyd nodded with a mysterious look on his face.
“But you know, there was one day when I even got to go away for the first time and guess what day it was?”
“M-mmm… your first outing? I’m sorry, I have no idea…”
As Ain recollected, he had never told this kind of story before. Lloyd responded with a tone of interest in Ain’s past, which he was hearing about for the first time.
“The first time I went away was on the day of the unveiling party.”
“Oh! The day you went to the mansion of Archduke Auguste in the royal capital.”
“Yes. Well, when I went to the Auguste mansion, I was set up and couldn’t attend the party, and to top it off, I couldn’t even get into the venue, so I was wondering what to do.”
For Ain’s subjects, including Lloyd, it was a gut-wrenching event, but Ain smiled happily. Next to him, Lloyd was grimly clutching the reins, and Dill, who was listening to the conversation right behind him, had his cheeks twisted.
But Ain smiled and said as if loving the memory.
“So I, who couldn’t attend, decided to watch the flowers.”
That’s how Ain was able to meet Krone.
“The Blue Fire Rose, isn’t it?”
“Yes. That’s how I made the star crystal. I didn’t know what it meant to give it to Krone at the time, so I was very surprised when I heard what it meant.”
After that, Olivia, who had been left behind by Logas, who was headed to the evening party, finally made up her mind and contacted Ishtalika using a message bird.
Then, after receiving the call, Chris came to the port town of Roundheart aboard Princess Olivia.
“It’s a long story, but this road is very similar to the one I’m on. It is similar to the day when I rode with my mother in the carriage to the royal capital.”
Ain’s profile looked even more mature than usual when he finished.
Aside from the fact that his body and face grew when he became a demon king, the expression he showed now had a certain dignity and nobility that befitted a man who would eventually succeed Sylvird as king.
“Please don’t push yourself too hard.”
“Yes, I will. Thank you.”
Smiling in response to Lloyd’s concern, Ain turned his attention to the hills spreading out before him.
The knight who had been acting as a scout soon arrived at the scene in a great hurry.
“Pardon me for reporting from horseback, sir!”
“It doesn’t matter, continue!”
The knight replied, taking a few seconds to catch his breath.
“──After a short distance over the hills, the royal capital of Heim will come into view. In addition to the great army of Heim, the great general Logas was seen there.”
He told them that the decisive battle was just around the corner.
Indeed, the tension and the presence of people in the air were different from before.
The knights who had served as scouts returned to their ranks, and after watching them, Lloyd spoke up.
“Ain-sama. If push comes to shove, please give priority to Ishtalika’s long-cherished wish even if you have to abandon us.”
“They will certainly use the miasma. If so, we may not be able to set foot there. But we can be a shield. When we have defeated the red fox──Shannon and Edward, Ain-sama should only think about your own survival.”
“There is no way I could abandon you.”
“No, you must. It is our duty to shield you, Ain-sama, and it is your duty to accept it as the crown prince.”
Lloyd cuts off Ain’s hesitation as he insists most strongly.
“Dill! Come here!”
“You don’t have to work as a commander. No matter what happens, don’t leave Ain-sama’s side. Do not make a mistake in your priorities.”
“Leave it to me. I will protect him with everything I have.”
Satisfied with Dill’s reply, Lloyd put his hand on Dill’s head and stroked it with a powerful motion, paying no attention to the eyes of those around him.
“Mm, how dare you call me father in public?”
“No, no, Lloyd-san… it’s a little late for that now. Dill already called you father in Birdland.”
“Hahaha! I guess I forgot about that a long time ago!”
“And it was Lloyd-san who started the parent-child exchange… W-well, whatever.”
Lloyd’s laughter echoed far and wide, and the slightly nervous knights of Ishtalika smiled at the merry laughter. He laughed for a moment and then corrected the looseness of his mouth.
“Then, I will deal with Edward.”
“You may still remember my pathetic appearance, but rest assured. I don’t expect Edward to be easy to deal with either. Therefore, I have a secret plan… Well, unwillingly, I have an idea.”
The idea was so meaningful that Ain and Dill, who had never heard of it before, were taken aback.
He nodded and said, “I see,” about the secret plan he was told, and then changed his mind.
◇ ◇ ◇
The royal capital of Heim was just a stone’s throw from the port city of Roundheart. The distance was only a few hours by horse-drawn carriage, but it was only a few minutes by a warhorse.
The scent of the sea breeze coming from the port town of Roundheart made Ain feel a nostalgia that he didn’t want to feel.
──After all, even if it was also a port town, it was completely different from Magna.
The same sea breeze can make the difference between heaven and earth in terms of the mood.
“…It’s a big army.”
Heim’s army deployed in the suburbs of the royal capital was so numerous that one naturally let out a voice.
The long horizontal and deep vertical formation was a sight so full of strength that one wondered where in the world they could have hidden such a large force.
Looking further into Heim’s army, Ain saw the nostalgic royal capital of Heim and the castle of Heim. Despite the fine weather today, it was not his imagination that only the sky of the royal capital looks gloomy and dark.
There was no trace of the once prosperous kingdom left, and it looks like an exiled country ruled by evil.
Where were the civilians? According to reports, many of them have already evacuated the city after learning that war is about to break out.
Lloyd came from the direction of the left flank, galloping on his horse.
“Pardon me on horseback, sir! In the direction of the left-wing, or rather, in the port town of Roundheart, the army led by Edward has been confirmed! I will ride there after the battle starts!”
The man thought highly of himself, and Ain also recognized that he was a formidable opponent. The reason why he left the royal capital and set up in the port town of Roundheart is…
“It could be a trap. There’s no reason why he wouldn’t protect the royal capital.”
“No, he probably intends to hold back our forces coming from the port city.”
“──Father. I have a different opinion.”
Dill, who had been standing by Ain’s side, stepped forward and joined the conversation with a wry smile on his face.
“We should assume that he has avoided Ain-sama. That should boost our morale.”
“I don’t know how I could be taught by my son. But you may be right. It would be good for morale if we told everyone that!”
Lloyd smiled, much like Dill. Or perhaps it was the other way around since they were father and son. Maybe Dill looked a lot like Lloyd, but their bullish expressions were very similar.
“Well then, Ain-sama. I will return to the left wing.”
“Mmm, okay. But don’t overdo it.”
“Hahaha! That is an unreasonable order!”
The eye patch made Lloyd’s high smile even more suitable for him, and he continued to laugh without any discomfort, bringing a smile to the knight’s face as well.
Hearing his high laugh, Majolica came riding up on his horse.
“You seem to be in a good mood, Your Excellency Marshal. So, here it is, my parting gift to you.”
Majolica took a burlap sack from his chest and tossed it to Lloyd.
“What’s this, Majolica-dono?”
“The green balls inside are restraining devices, and the blue ones are healbirds processed magic stones.”
“What a wonderful gift! Good heavens, these magic tools are so difficult to refine that only someone like Majolica-dono can prepare them… I am very grateful for your kindness! Then, Ain-sama, for the sake of our Ishtalika!”
Haa! Lloyd rode galloping away with a shout.
The three people who saw him off all laughed in unison.
At the same time, they were encouraged by his usual appearance in the royal capital of Ishtalika.
“I am sorry for my father’s strange energy at a time like this.”
“Rather, it is just right that he should be like that. I don’t want him to get too depressed.”
“That’s right. The knights who are accompanying him also feel better when the commander is in good spirits. Well then, I’m going to go and get ready.”
Saying that, Majolica turned away just like Lloyd, and his fingers gripping the reins had a suspiciously glowing knuckle attached to them, foreshadowing the battle that was to follow.
“Your Highness. I look forward to the pre-war speech.”
It was half expected, but Ain’s expression became tense when he was told again.
“…I guess it’s going to happen after all?”
“Of course, it’s going to happen. That’s the gem before the war starts. …Of course, the opponent must be a general with whom Your Highness has a greater connection than anyone else.”
──Bitter smile. It was also the most bitter laugh of his life, and Ain was proud of it, scratching his temples with such a fed-up look on his face.
Pre-war speech is common everywhere, but he never thought he would be the one to do it.
“You’re putting a lot of pressure on me.”
“I understand how you feel. The pre-war speech is a spectacular event, as Majolica-dono said, and it greatly affects the morale of our knights.”
“Oh, even Dill.”
“Please forgive me. The higher the morale, the closer we are to victory, and the less likely it is that Ain-sama will be injured.”
Dill, who was not backing down any more than usual, laughed.
Also, despite complaining with his mouth, Ain seems to be enjoying himself to a great extent.
“By the way, Ain-sama. The other day, I heard some interesting information in Birdland.”
“Eeh… what’s that? It can’t be dangerous now that you mention it, can it?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
Dill answered with enthusiasm and took a breath before opening his mouth.
“I heard that the great general of Heim, Logas, has never won a single victory against Edward.”
At the same time as the words were spoken, the two men were thinking back to the recent battle between Ain and Edward and the result of that battle.
“In other words, Ain-sama, who defeated Edward, is already higher than Logas, the great general of Heim, isn’t he?”
“Haha… it’s still a strange feeling when you put it into words.”
“Strange, is it?”
“Yes. It’s very strange. In the past, I thought he was the strongest man in the world, the strongest warrior of all. However, I think my feelings have changed since I moved to Ishtalika and met a lot of people. But I think I still have a sense of bitterness about him. To be honest, I never thought that I was stronger than him until just now.”
Dill quietly listened to Ain’s feelings. Ain may have been too sentimental before the battle, but he couldn’t stop the emotions from leaking out.
But even amidst it all, he peeked out a certain confidence.
The strength in his lord’s eyes never ceased to remind Dill of the size of his capacity, which he had felt during his speech the other day.
He had already made up his mind.
The hatred that remained in his heart was suppressed, and Ain made up his mind.
“The situation may change. But I can’t allow myself to avoid this decision.”
“──I will deal with General Logas.”
The opponent who taught him the sword as a child. Having determined to deal with Logas, Ain turned his attention once more to Heim’s army.