Here’s the chapter, enjoy~
Felzen Region―near Sandinal.
The night was deepening, and the moon was peeking through the clouds, bringing a small amount of light to the land.
On the rough land, there was a plain that stretched out only a little bit.
Wild birds slept in trees as tall as a man’s waist, insects lurked in the shadows singing loudly, and beasts searched for their prey with bright eyes.
Time passed slowly, moment by moment, hour by hour, as nature flowed and underwent small changes.
Such quiet nights used to be the natural routine around here.
Now, however, there is a sense of uneasiness in the air.
An unusual scene blended into the everyday―one of the reasons for this may be the presence of encampments spread out across the plains.
Fences had been built in a circular pattern. Within these fences, numerous tents were erected at regular intervals.
The flag of the “lion” flying at the zenith of the fence waved in the night wind, and a large number of bonfires were lit, illuminating the surrounding area as brightly as if it were daytime. Shadows were cast by soldiers on guard, their boots clattering and their sharp, wary eyes looking in all directions.
This was the encampment of the Great Grantz Empire.
Among them, there was a place that was different―a place that was strangely silent, as if blending into the darkness.
There were only a few soldiers on guard, clad in all-black armor, and no troops patrolling.
At the top of the only heavily guarded tent was a banner with a dragon in silver and white on a black background.
Inside the tent, Hiro, the “Black Dragon King,” king of the small country of Baum, was resting.
In front of him, a brown-skinned woman repeatedly bowed her head.
“I am so sorry!”
The woman apologized once again in a loud voice and put her forehead on the ground.
“Because of me being taken hostage… you have decided to join forces with Anguis!”
Her name was Hugin. She’s a close aide of Hiro, and until about a month ago, she was held captive by Lucia, the queen of Anguis, a country of the Six Kingdoms.
It was good that she recovered after all the twists and turns, but it was difficult to judge whether it was due to fatigue or Lucia’s ability, but in any case, she had been asleep until a few moments ago.
And as soon as she woke up, all she did was apologize with tearful eyes, and that’s what she’s doing now.
Hiro looked at Hugin’s head as she continued to apologize frantically.
“It’s not Hugin’s fault.”
He smiled bitterly, sat back in his chair, and grabbed a silver cup on a nearby desk.
“I was just thinking that I wanted an insider from the beginning.”
His gaze wandered around in search of a water bottle, but a woman swinging one sleeve grabbed the desired object and poured water into Hiro’s silver cup. He raised one hand to thank her, and she glared at him.
Luca Mammon de Urpeth. She was a former general of the country of Urpeth, which was also one of the Six Kingdoms.
She was looking for an opportunity to take revenge on Hiro for killing her brother, and Hiro was always on the lookout against her. She was also a little less stingy than she was at first. Even so, she still bit at Hiro whenever she saw an opening, so there was no time to relax.
In other words, dealing with them would be a waste of time, so Hiro moistened his throat and then opened his mouth to Hugin again.
“I didn’t expect one of the leaders of the Six Kingdoms to be an insider, though.”
Seeing Hugin shrinking more and more, perhaps hearing the sarcasm, Hiro shrugged his shoulders and chuckled.
“It’s a fortuitous thing. It was definitely you who connected me with her, and I have to give you credit for that.”
What if―there’s no such thing.
Without Hugin, and because of his presence, such fictitious stories would not produce a single useful piece of information. What Hiro should do now is to find a way to reward Hugin’s achievements.
“What would you like as a reward?”
“N-no, if I was able to be of service to my wise brother, then――”
Hugin was about to say no but then closed her mouth without finishing her words.
She must have remembered something that had been saying before.
The reward was what made people work hard. Those like Hugin, who were loyal to Hiro personally and were content with the status quo without any ambition to rise in the ranks, were lacking in this area.
But that was no way to show the other soldiers. If they were not rewarded for risking their lives, it would affect the morale of the soldiers.
Moreover, it was a test of a king’s mettle, so he must reward her generously and make the soldiers aware that they would be rewarded for their achievements, just as she had done.
“Now then… I would like to receive a new assignment.”
Hugin raised his lowered head when her request was rejected bluntly.
Hiro sighed deeply as he gazed at her clinging eyes.
“Just to put your mind at ease, it’s not that I can’t give you an assignment because of this incident. I want you to rest for the time being. You’ve been in captivity for a long time. You need rest.”
In that sense, she didn’t think she needed rest. She had been asleep for more than a month.
But her body was weakening.
Even if a new assignment was given to her, it was unlikely she would be able to handle it as well as she had before.
“I understand your concern. I don’t think you’ll be able to complete the mission properly with your current state of mind. You’ll be overwhelmed. The smallest mistake is likely to bring about your death.”
As if to gently admonish her, Hiro looked firmly at Hugin and spoke his words.
“I still need Hugin’s strength for the future. At the appropriate time, I will give you a new mission. Until then, you will be working with me.”
Unacceptable. Hugin’s expression told him so, but he had to convince her.
Hugin’s crisis was directly related to Luca’s state of mind. He needed her to work with him to prevent the “Raven Army” from losing its strength.
“Is that clear?”
He strongly emphasized at the end, and Hugin’s shoulders slumped as she made no attempt to hide her disappointment.
“I’ll decide on the reward later and give it to you.”
When Hiro said this, Hugin nodded her head. Luca, who had been silently watching the proceedings, approached Hugin, patted her gently on the shoulder, and smiled.
“Hugin, that man has a point. You should honestly rest your body here.”
“You will stay with me for a while. Is that clear? Never leave. During the time I haven’t heard from you, I’ve felt really torn apart.”
“Ah… Eagle, your sister was really worried about you. How many sleepless days have I spent without you? How will I live without you?”
“Um….. I’ve been telling you for a while now, I-I’m not Eagle…”
Hugin was bewildered by the hug, but Luca ignored her and cuddled her.
“No, you are Eagle. The winning eyes, the sassy mouth, the slender body, and above all, this light brown skin! That part of you that arouses sadism is definitely Eagle. You are Hugin, but you are also Eagle. This is reincarnation. You are born to me again. It must be so. Is that clear? Is that good?”
“Uh, huh? Even if you say that…”
Is that good? You’re Eagle, Eagle, Eagle, Eagle.”
“B-but I have a brother named Munin… though I don’t like to admit it.”
With a devilish look on her face, Luca approached Hugin right up to the tip of her nose.
“There is no such man!”
Hugin was completely frightened and stiffened in the face of this unusual power.
Hiro, who was staring at the two jostling with an air of disquiet, remembered the time when he took off Eagle’s head, but even if heaven and earth were turned upside down, he would still be able to say that Hugin and Eagle were two different people.
If he had survived, if Luca had met Hugin on the battlefield, she would have beheaded her without hesitation. They would not have been in close contact as they are now.
Is there something they have in common? Hiro was looking at Hugin, but Luca interrupted his gaze.
“So, what did you have to talk about with that unpleasant woman?”
“Luca was there too, wasn’t she…?”
“I was taking care of Hugin, so I didn’t hear anything.”
It’s typical of her… but even so, she’s still a member of the inner circle, so he wished she had at least listened to what he had to say. When Hiro sighed in distress, Hugin seemed to notice something and raised her voice.
“Oh, should I leave?”
Luca opened her mouth first, smiling at her strange concern and saying, “No, I don’t mind.”
“It’s fine. It’s okay for Hugin to be here. If there is any insolent person who disturbs you, I will crush them with my own hands and turn them into a piece of meat.”
“Well, since that’s what seems to be the case… Luca was right; there’s no harm in Hugin listening to what I have to say.”
Hiro decided to explain to them what the secret agreement with Lucia was all about.
Hiro put his hand on his forehead and closed his eyelids as if to draw out his memories, and slowly began to speak.
After the battle, Lucia asked Hiro to fight with her.
“In exchange for surrendering Sandinal, the new royal capital of Felzen, I want you to help me in my efforts to usurp the unified kingship of the Six Kingdoms.”
Lucia began as if making small talk, brushing the dust from her kimono.
However, there were various obstacles to accepting her proposal. It was not a condition that could be easily accepted.
In this battle to recapture Felzen, Hiro was not in a position to interfere with Grantz’s side.
No, it would be possible if he used his position, but doing so would create discord on the Grantz side.
Considering the various events, asking Grantz to cooperate was impossible.
If that were to happen, the only force that could cooperate with the usurpation of the unified king by Lucia would be the “Raven Army,” but it was undeniable that they lacked the strength to do so.
As one would expect, taking on the Six Kingdoms with only 2,000 men would be tough.
“It would be difficult to ask for cooperation from the Grantz. I am the king of another country. Besides, we’re working secretly with you, which means that even if there is cooperation, it will ostensibly be on the side of the Six Kingdoms, right?”
“Yes, that’s right. You are my enemy and it must never come to light. I don’t care if it is after I have usurped the unified king, but if it is exposed before that, there is no way for it to get back to the way things were.”
It was hard to say whether she was referring to “Nameless” or worried that the people would not understand her.
“This is how you approached me. I understand that you are about to cross a dangerous bridge.”
While dealing with the Grantz in the Felzen region, she also took advantage of the intentions of the various countries and used Hugin as bait to invite Hiro to create a strange meeting.
In light of this, Hiro’s opinion of her was that she was stronger than expected, but at the same time, she also had the scent of an accomplished villain.
The possibility of betrayal―it was too risky to place trust in her.
She was a snake. She would finish off her prey without hesitation and then swallow it whole in a single gulp.
But if he could predict her future movements, he would say that she was more like a spider than a snake.
She confuses and exhausts her prey and then chews it up while listening to its gasps of pain.
Which she was―her personality was not worthy of trust, but her abilities could be trusted. It was too much to let go and too much to accept.
Although he was torn between the two, Hiro decided to listen to her for the time being.
“Even if I could lead the Grantz to attack Greif, they would probably be “seen” by the Nameless, and your plan would fail.”
“Yes, that’s why I’m asking for your cooperation.”
She looked at him provocatively, and Hiro had a question mark on his face, but after a moment, he nodded his head as if he understood.
“You want me to help you usurp the unified king without the Grantz knowing about it?”
It was a difficult demand. There was no way he could move Grantz’s army as he wished while concealing his intentions.
No, there was only one way to do it.
If he used the “lion’s eye” left to him by his brother-in-law, he would be able to move them as he wished. However, this was still in the process of adjustment, and this was not the place to use it. Above all, the conditions for use are too strict. It was too risky to use it now that Liz’s “eye” was present.
Hiro was pondering if there was any other way.
“What, isn’t Grantz’s strategy not limited to Sandinal?”
Hearing Lucia’s words, Hiro muttered, “I see.”
“You mean we should bring down the country of Azel… No, from what you think, it seems to me that even if we don’t bring down Azel, the chaos will not be a problem.”
“I’m glad you’re so perceptive. There is no need for Grantz’s army to attack Greif.”
Lucia, smiling with charm, pointed her fan at Hiro.
“In exchange for surrendering Sandinal, I want Grantz to invade the country of Azel without fail, and I will take advantage of the chaos and lead my army to Greif. In order to defeat the ‘rebel’ “Nameless.”
Lucia’s eyes narrowed like a snake as she fanned herself with an open fan.
“At that time, I will ask you to stay by my side.”
Using Azel as a cover, Anguis probably intended to take control of Greif. When the other countries realized this intention, the only way to save Greif was to go through either Azel or Anguis.
In the former, it was not easy to cross to Greif because of the presence of the Grantz. If Anguis was blockaded, no other country could send reinforcements.
“I understand the general reason. But I don’t understand why I should accompany you.”
“You will be dealing with the Nameless. He will surely stand in my way. In the meantime, I will take the unified king into custody.”
“But I’ll only be the one who loses out under those conditions.”
“Even if Sandinal falls, control will go to the Grantz. There is no profit for me even if I throw Azel into confusion. It will only bring you closer to the throne of the unified king. The same goes for accompanying you. I’m sorry, but I’m not human enough to act only with good intentions.”
When Hiro smiled provocatively, Lucia moistened her lips and approached him.
“If you cooperate, I’ll give you some good information.”
She put her hand on Hiro’s shoulder and brought her face up to his ear.
“First of all――”
When Lucia finished, a look of delight came over Hiro’s face.
“Fine. I will cooperate with you. But you know what’ll happen if you break your promise, don’t you?”
“Umu. Do as you please.”
Lucia, unafraid of Hiro’s words, which included a murderous intent, fanned herself with her iron fan with a satisfied look on her face.
“Then, I’ll just pretend that I’m wounded and go back home as soon as I can.”
True to her word, Lucia left the battlefield, and the Grantz were victorious.
Lucia, who had since been confined to Sandinal, had not moved.
In contrast, the Grantz were in the process of regrouping to lay siege to Sandinal and would soon launch an all-out assault.