“Wonderful… that’s the Flame Emperor―Sword Demise, huh?”
Even after the flames that had illuminated the ground as the sun had gone out, the lingering sensation never faded. The view of the immense power of the flames burned into his retinas and fueled his desire for more.
“I never thought I would see it at a time like this, but I am glad I came this time.”
Rozl Frey von Ingnal.
He was a young man in the service of the Muzuk family, one of the five great noble families of the Grantz Empire. He gave a somewhat fragile impression. Perhaps it was because he is slender, but what caught the eye, even more, was the fact that his skin was morbidly white―or perhaps it was his pale skin.
Rozl looked around and saw soldiers who had been resting rushing out of the barracks. However, they looked confused, as if they did not know what to do. Some sort of notification would be coming from the command center soon, but until then, the commotion in the encampment would not subside.
“I have a dim understanding of what happened, but she is certainly a boisterous sixth princess.”
Now that they were approaching the critical juncture of recapturing Felzen, they should not cause unnecessary confusion―but from another point of view, the current commotion was not all bad.
It was even an effective way to find out who was capable of dealing with sudden events.
There would be superiors who would needlessly alarm their subordinates. There would be superiors who calmly gave instructions to their subordinates. Some may not be able to contain the chaos and may cause injury to their subordinates.
In order to find them, the best way was to take advantage of the current turmoil.
“It seems I was right to bring only new recruits.”
Opportunities like this didn’t come along very often. It was a chance for soldiers to grow in many ways, both in terms of mental toughness and getting them acclimated to the atmosphere of the battlefield. There was more to be gained from actual combat than from training.
“I can only hope that someone will emerge from this war.”
Otherwise, there was no point in going to the trouble of entering the war. Rozl turned his expectant gaze once in the direction of the command center, then turned on his heel and returned to his barracks.
He sat down at the desk in the room and crossed his arms.
“May I ask the reason for this spectacular intrusion?”
He asked the darkness that dominated the corner where the light of the candlestick did not reach, and curiously enough, a shadow was created and crawled out of the room when its outline was revealed.
“No, I thought it would be better for both of us.”
The hooded figure’s expression was hard to see. The appearance of a person with an air of mystery about him, but Rozl didn’t seem to be in a hurry, and he didn’t seem to be alarmed.
“If it becomes known that I am meeting with you, Nameless-dono, my neck will not remain unscathed, will it?”
“That’s why I made a fuss so that I wouldn’t be ‘seen.'”
Nameless approached the desk and placed a piece of paper on it. Rozl picked up the paper and checked its contents, then looked at Nameless with a confused look on his face.
“…Are you insane? Do you really think I can do something like this?”
“It’s a tightrope walker, but I’m sure it’s not so bad for you, isn’t it, Rozl-sama?”
“…Indeed. But it’s not something I would take for granted.”
“I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether you want to take it or not, Rozl-sama. I’ll leave it to you to decide if you want to grow or shrink.”
After saying these words, Nameless left the desk, entered the darkness, and disappeared with the presence of the others. For a moment, Rozl stared into the darkness with a puzzled look on his face, then broke off his gaze and held up the piece of paper Nameless had been leaving behind to the candle.
“What’s the idea? Does Nameless have a purpose in the first place…?”
Holding the burning paper in his palm, Rozl was lost in thought. The smell of burning skin fills the air, but Rozl closed his eyes and took shallow breaths without moving an eyebrow.
When he eventually opened his eyes,
“Hydra-dono… are you there?”
He called out the person’s name, and a voice echoed out of nowhere.
“What is it?”
“I want you to tell our father that I want what he promised me.”
The voice was never heard again. Rozl clutched the burnt-out paper in his palm. A large amount of ashes escaped through the gaps between his fingers and floated in the air.
“…Vetu-sama, it is all for the prosperity of the House of Muzuk.”
He spat out an apology to the lord who was not here and bowed deeply as he stared at his burnt palm.
September 23, 1026th year of the imperial calendar.
There were several small cities in the vicinity of the new royal capital ruled by Anguis. In one of these cities, the surrounding area residents were evacuated to the city, fearing an attack by the Grantz.
However, the city could not simply accept the situation. It was possible that Grantz’s counterintelligence may be mixed in with the people.
A checkpoint had been set up at the entrance to the city, and soldiers were inspecting luggage, but there were so many evacuees that there was not enough manpower to handle the situation.
That was why many refugees were sleeping around the city.
Some had pitched tents, others slept on the streets using their luggage as pillows, and merchants were unable to stop by the city, leaving the economy on the west side of Felzen in a state of stagnation.
Many other problems existed.
The security situation had begun to deteriorate, with farmers raiding fields, robbers, and kidnappers also appearing.
It was not that the Six Kingdoms did not take any measures. They were taking measures such as opening up food supplies and distributing them to refugees, providing campsites for them to temporarily live in, and patrolling the area with security forces.
However, the city’s reserves were dwindling due to the daily increase in the number of refugees, and disputes had been arising with the former residents. Some soldiers even cooperated in kidnapping people.
“The sun has set, and that’s all for today. Come back tomorrow.”
An Anguis soldier with a weary look on his face said
“Hey, just one more! Just me!”
The villagers clung to the soldier with grim expressions on their faces. But no one who was moved by emotion will be assigned to the checkpoint.
“No. The higher-ups will get angry if we don’t close the gate on time.”
“If you’re going to let us in tomorrow, why not today!”
The villagers desperately begged, but the soldiers only waved one hand and refused to listen to them.
“You’ve been waiting in line for days, haven’t you? Then, please be patient for at least one more day.”
“What if the Grantz come while we’re waiting? They will take everything! The east side of the country is a complete shambles!”
The villagers, looking desperate and out of their depth, continued to press the soldiers.
“Don’t worry. The Grantz Army hasn’t come this far. You can rest at the campsite outside today and come back tomorrow.”
“Don’t be ridiculous! We’ve already waited in line, and now you want us to wait in line again tomorrow?”
“It can’t be helped. The sun has set. We don’t know where the enemy spies are hiding. We can’t take any risks.”
The soldiers were at their wits’ end, and their irritation was evident.
Other soldiers and anxious people gathered around the villagers to push and shove.
“Hey, move out of the way, human. We’re done with the checkpoint today. You can come back tomorrow.”
A soldier from the country of Tigris, a long-eared man, pointed an arrow at the protesting villagers.
This startled not only the villagers but the Anguis soldiers as well.
“Hey, you, what are you doing? Put down the arrow. If Lucia-sama finds out about this, she will punish you.”
“I don’t care. We are soldiers of Tigris. We do not take orders from the Queen of Anguis. And moreover, we are not of the human race.”
The sound of derision could be heard in every word. The Anguis soldier’s eyes were lifted in anger.
“You dare to taunt Lucia-sama?”
“Is that what you think it sounds like? The humans always think the worst of things.”
The soldier’s body tilted as he said this.
The long-eared soldier immediately adjusted his position and turned his angry gaze to the side.
“Who was that? Who pushed me?”
He looked around, but there was no one in sight. The soldiers around him were looking elsewhere. The strange silence made them wonder where the long-eared soldier was looking, and they turned their heads to the same spot.
“Gaahh…! Goddamn it, what have you done!”
There was a villager with an arrow through his shoulder. He was in extreme pain and was staring hatefully at the long-eared man. The long-eared man looked on in dismay with wide eyes, but an Anguis soldier grabbed him by the shoulder and took his bow.
“What are you doing?”
The long-eared man finally came to his senses at the sound of the reproachful voice and shook his head hurriedly with a blood-curdling look on his face.
“N-no, someone pushed me.”
“Nonsense, call a doctor at once!”
Seeing the blood flowing from the villagers, the people gathered at the gate begin to panic.
Other soldiers shouted to calm them down, but they could not reach them.
“The encampment is on fire! The Grantz are attacking!”
More fuel was dropped, and for a moment, the area fell silent.
Then, seeing the black smoke rising from the direction of the encampment, the people came to their senses and rushed to the gate, which was about to close.
“Calm down; it’s just a smoke! If they are really attacking, it won’t be like that! Don’t be fooled by words!”
Had they really been attacking, there would have been no way it would have ended in such a small puff of smoke.
However, the fear that had been building up until now exploded all at once, and the crowd surged forward in an unstoppable avalanche. Once in a state of panic, no one’s voice could reach them anymore.
The soldiers had no choice but to use force.
But that would be counterproductive.
Threats would not stop the panicked people but would only fuel their anger. All at once, there was a commotion in front of the gate. And as confused people broke into the city, the original inhabitants, whose daily lives had been disrupted, also fell into chaos. Hundreds and thousands of people rushed into the city, their faces filled with fear. There was no way they could stay sane.
“Smoke started rising everywhere.”
“Oh… it’s the work of someone who infiltrated. When people are cornered, they lose the ability to make normal judgments. Even a small smoke can be seen as a huge flame in the eyes of those who are tormented by fear.”
Hiro adjusted his mask and quietly looked out over the bustling city.
“…It’s a signal that we’ve succeeded, one way or the other.”
Once it broke, there was no stopping it. The muddy waters would engulf everything.
“There are six cities that have been set up with countermeasures. It would be good if we succeeded in two of them, and the effect would be great.”
Hiro shifted his gaze from the noisy city to the sky.
The sun was setting. Darkness was gathering in the area. There was not a cloud in the sky today―a beautiful night sky.
There was no sign of rain, and the damp world was sticky.
In normal times, it would be a starry night. In normal times, it would be a night of silence.
But on this particular day, the usual night never arrived.
The stars were mercilessly obscured by the black smoke rising from the ground.
In stark contrast to the sky, the ground was red, red, red, and enveloped in unrelenting flames.
Angry shouts and screams. Anger, sorrow, and cries for help pierced the night air endlessly.
A storm of sword fights erupts, and the smell of blood permeates the air. An unstoppable malevolence is ravaging the city and its people.
“Hope comes only to those who know despair.”
Hiro muttered with an inorganic expression as he gazed at the red-hot city.
His voice was cold and ruthless for a witness to the horrific scene unfolding before him.
There was no inflection in his words. There was no emotion there.
Was it because of the mask that made it difficult to grasp the subtleties of emotion?
“…I won’t ask you to forgive me. You can hate me to your heart’s content.”
He stroked the mask with his right hand and burned the burning city into his eyes.
The night wind shook his cloak and, at the same time, snatched away the air around Hiro’s body.
“…This ends the long, drawn-out stalemate.”
Hiro tried to reach out to the people who were calling for help――,
――He stopped the hand of salvation.
Then, abandoning all emotion, he turned himself around and opened his arms.
“Come on―let the war begin.”