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The Six Kingdoms, located in the west of the central continent―among them, Azel used to be one of the richest countries, but that was a long time ago, and now it was one of the least populated countries.
As it connected Felzen and the Six Kingdoms, it had a role similar to that of a satellite city.
Thanks to that, Azel had been developing for a long time, but now it had fallen to the point where it was talked about as a memory of the old days.
The reason for this was that there were no notable specialties.
Azel had no particular strengths. Although it sounded good to say that it was the gateway to the Six Kingdoms, merchants from other countries do not often stop by Azel.
For example, merchants from Felzen do not go to the country of Azel but rather to the Great Grantz Empire in the east or the Grand Duchy of Drall in the south. The merchants who go through the Grand Duchy of Drall come to the Six Kingdoms by the sea. The merchants traveled from one country to another, but they never came to Azel, which was located in the middle of the region with no special products, and returned home by ship.
In other words, with the development of shipbuilding technology, Azel lost its advantage of being the gateway to the Six Kingdoms.
However, a turning point came to them. Felzen’s decision to settle in Sandinal as the new royal capital stimulated overland trade.
However, this happiness did not last long. Sandinal was taken over by the Great Grantz Empire, which turned its massive army toward the Six Kingdoms and pushed it toward Azel.
The people who now lived in this land were all old, and the young ones had gone to war and lost their lives in great defeat. The Flev Road, which many merchants once used, was now being used by the Grantz Army to reduce the life expectancy of Azel.
On such a Flev Road, an unusual army in all black was marching with the Grantz army.
A flag indicating the country to which it belongs was displayed on a luxurious carriage running on the center of the road.
The two flags were the “flag of the balance” and the “flag of the black dragon,” indicating the small country of Baum.
Under the flags waving in the wind, Hiro, the king of the small country of Baum, was looking out of the window with a bored look on his face.
“This is a situation that would make Skadi angry.”
Since the Grantz forces began their invasion, the nearby villages and towns had shown no resistance whatsoever.
Only a fort built at a strategic point showed resistance, but it fell easily due to low morale. At any rate, compared to the Grantz, the Azel’s military strength was overwhelmingly small.
With more than 80,000 troops, there was no way that the Grantz could have missed the opportunity, and they attacked the scattered forts with overwhelming force, taking no measure at all.
The fact that most of the forts fell in less than a night made the strength of the Grantz army known, and the lords of the towns in various regions accepted the surrender offer and bowed their knees before the Great Grantz Empire.
The situation was such that they could afford to do so. The “Raven Army” and the Steichen Army, reinforcements from other countries, were not taking part in the battle but simply watching from the rear as fortresses fell.
“But it is certainly boring. There is no real battle going on.”
Luca, too, was passing the time by looking out the window, her cloudy eyes reflecting nothing.
The carriage was swaying and just going on, it would be a matter of life and death for Azel, who would not be able to take it easy, but on this side, they were able to march with enough leeway to have some free time.
Hiro sat deep in his chair with his arms around his head, biting back a sigh.
“I guess this is what they call the time before the storm. I hope everything will end without incident.”
Azel would not just collapse without a fight. They must be taking some kind of measures, which was why the margin created by the current string of victories was so frightening. All of them were created from trivial failures, and a haughty heart drunk with victory generates a negative chain of events.
“Whether it is safe or not….. Isn’t that something you know better than anyone else?”
“I don’t know either. I can’t see the future, after all.”
“You may not be able to see it, but you can still draw it.”
“Sure, anyone can imagine.”
After a conversation that seemed to mesh but didn’t, their gazes exchanged. Neither of them changed their facial expressions, and their emotions were unreadable.
When silence fell between the two, the carriage window tapped loudly.
“Hiro-sama―or should I say, His Majesty the Black Dragon King, may I come in?”
It was a familiar voice. You could even say it was nostalgic.
When Hiro opened the window, he saw a stern, disfigured face―Munin, the man he had entrusted with gathering information on the Spirit Wall.
“It’s been a long time. How was the Spirit Wall?”
“It was more serious than I thought. And I have this for you.”
Munin presented a letter.
“It is from General Hermes.”
Hiro opened the letter and looked it over quickly, nodding his head slightly. It contained exactly what he had expected.
He was convinced that he was not mistaken and smiled inwardly.
“Munin, you will be accompanying us from now on.”
“Hugin is nearby. She was worried about you, so you should go and see her.”
“No way! How could Hugin be worried about me?”
Certainly, she never once showed any sign of concern for him.
“Naturally. Why would Hugin be worried about him?”
Luca agreed with Munin, though not with the content of the conversation. Munin’s mouth twitched, and he backed away from the window, albeit slightly as if he’s about to be snapped at.
But they were still brother and sister. Even if she didn’t say anything with her mouth, she must have been worrying about him in her heart.
So it would be better to let her know, even if it was just at a glance, that he was safe and sound.
See you tomorrow―sometimes, a casually uttered line was the last thing you say.
After that, it would already be too late to regret why you didn’t tell the person more.
Once something was broken, it could never be restored. One cannot go back to the past. And what remains after loss, people carry on their feelings through various interpretations.
Hiro was born on “Earth” and summoned to “another world,” where he was an ‘ordinary’ person a thousand years ago, but now he was revered as the God of War and led a life as a king.
It was an unimaginable image of the person he once was.
Hiro let out a self-mocking smile as he looked at his hands―hands that had been stained red from killing so many people.
(Where did I go astray…? Or have I always gone astray?)
The dreams entrusted to him, the promises made, the beautiful memories, all of them were blacked out.
Hiro turned his eyes once again to Munin and spoke to him as if to gently admonish him.
“Even a simple word can earn 10,000 words. You must not forget to exchange words. Above all, Hugin is your only sister. You should talk to her about all kinds of things while you can spare the time.”
The air had changed, and Munin nodded, his face tightening under the strange pressure.
“I understand. Then I’ll go pat Hugin’s head for a minute.”
Hiro chuckled at Munin’s typical reply, not forgetting to make a joke at the end.
“Oh, you may do that. Thank you for your hard work.”
“No, it was a valuable experience. Please call on me anytime.”
While Hiro was putting away the letter, Munin went away from the window.
“Somehow… you managed to get here…”
After closing the window, Hiro leaned back in his chair and let out a sigh of relief as he relaxed his entire body.
Everything is going according to plan. There were times when he was forced to revise his plans, but it was tolerable.
(But it seems that the situation will still continue to be a bit unpredictable.)
As Hiro began to think about the future, Luca spoke to him suspiciously.
“What are you going to do now?”
“We’ll talk again this evening. There are too many ‘eyes’ here.”
He couldn’t let his guard down, not even for a moment. A single mistake could be fatal.
He was in no hurry. He still needed more tricks to make steady progress, step by step.
(Altius… Ray… your dreams will soon come true)
Hiro looked out the window again.
Beyond that, the “lion” and “lily” emblem flags were swimming gracefully in the air.