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October 20th, 1026th year of the imperial calendar.
In the suburbs of Licht, in the territory of Azel, one of the Six Kingdoms.
The sun had set, and moonlight illuminated the land.
The howling of wild dogs echoed in the distance, yet there was a place that was strangely bright.
It was larger than a village. However, it wasn’t so much of a town.
There was a huge bonfire burning, and strong men wearing heavy armor patrolled the perimeter.
Compared to the town, the atmosphere was bleak.
Above all, no one was dressed like a villager.
They were regular soldiers of the Great Grantz Empire, who had fought many battles and were tense, and there was not the slightest hint of the cheerful atmosphere that existed in the past.
Security was also tighter than before, with soldiers keeping such a close watch that even small animals were not allowed to enter.
The main camp of the “Raven Army” was located near the encampment of the Great Grantz Empire.
Inside the tent in the center, Hiro had gathered his entourage and was discussing the future.
“I want you to listen carefully to what I am going to tell you.”
When Hiro began his speech, Hugin and Munin, perhaps sensing an unusual presence, nodded their heads with a tense look.
A little away from them, Luca, who was sitting on the floor, was muttering to herself as she stared up at the ceiling.
Leaving Luca alone, Hiro turned his attention to Hugin and Munin.
“I’m going to leave here under cover of darkness.”
“Where are you going?”
The one who reacted well was, surprisingly, Luca.
She had been mumbling to herself and looking up, but before long, she was standing next to Hiro.
“If you suddenly told me, I wouldn’t be ready for the trip. Geez, you are hopeless, aren’t you?”
Was Luca going to follow him, or had she begun to think alone about what she was going to take with her?
Hiro was sorry to get her hopes up, but as expected, he could not take her with him.
After all, the person that Hiro would meet after leaving the “Raven Army” was Lucia, who could be called her natural enemy.
But even if he told her that, Luca would still insist on going with him.
“Luca, I want you to stay behind.”
“…..Do you want to die?”
She looked at him with eyes filled with hatred, but Hiro looked back at her strongly without a second thought.
It’s expected that she’ll be angry. Since she had never left his side before, there was much cause for concern, but Hiro had prepared some persuasive material for that purpose.
“If you leave, who will protect Hugin?”
“…..Are the rest of the people in danger?”
Sure enough, Luca was biting it. If it were Ghada or Munin, she would not bother with them, but she believed that Hugin was the reincarnation of her brother―Eagle. Perhaps because of this, Luca tended to listen to Hugin’s wishes.
That’s why Hiro let Hugin stay in the “Raven Army” for this occasion.
“It’s just a possibility. You don’t want to regret following me. If something happens, it will all be over by then.”
Until today, the march of the Great Grantz Empire had been smooth.
They had managed to capture most of the forts in various locations, and most of the city lords have also accepted the invitation to surrender and have shown their reverence.
However, Hiro anticipated that a tough battle would continue from here. That was why he believed that the “Raven Army” he was leaving behind would likely be in danger.
If Hugin were to die as a result of Luca’s following Hiro, she would again be covered in deep sorrow.
When Hiro looked at Luca’s face, he could see the conflict in her heart and the shaking in her eyes.
Hiro was convinced that he had one more push left.
“Luca, I’m counting on you. This is the time when I need your help. I need you to protect Hugin.”
After spending time with Luca up to this point, he had learned one thing.
She was surprisingly weak in the face of pressure.
Perhaps it’s her upbringing, but she had a personality that made it hard for her to say no when she was pushed too hard when she was in doubt. Still, he had to watch her carefully and choose his words carefully. If he pushed her too hard, she would become confused and have a tendency to run out of control.
“As soon as I finish what I have to do, I’m going to join Luca and the others.”
Having been assured by Hiro, Luca let out a deep sigh and gave a small nod.
After watching this, Hiro turned his attention to Munin.
“Then, until I join you, I’m going to leave the pretending to be me to Munin so that the others won’t get suspicious.”
Munin, who had been listening with a puzzled look on his face, gradually began to understand what was being said, and his face grew pale.
“No, our height is different… Anyone would easily recognize it, you know?”
Munin’s point is quite obvious, and to add to it, their hair and eye color are also different.
“It’s not necessarily all the time. I haven’t been to a single military meeting since we entered Felzen, and I haven’t been out much, either. So it wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t show up for a few days. But I would like you to pretend to be me once in a while to show that I am here.”
“But there will be conversations with the troop commanders… our voices are totally different, too…”
“That’s okay. Until this point, I had left the command of the “Raven Army” in Hugin’s hands. If anything happened, they would come to her for instructions.”
“I-if that’s the case… I think I can do it.”
“Wise brother, I have nothing but anxiety. My brother is a terrible actor.”
Smiling at the exchange between Hugin and Munin, Hiro took out three letters and, after a brief hesitation, offered only two to Munin and put the remaining one away in his pocket.
“Also, if Ghada contacts me while I’m gone, I’d like you to deliver these to him.”
Blinking a few times, Munin accepted the letters, albeit with an unexplained look on his face.
“Heh… sure. Um, you want me to deliver it to brother Ghada, right?”
It was understandable that he wondered. Normally, letters were written only after the recipient’s letter arrived. It was natural for him to be suspicious when he heard that Hiro had written a reply first.
“Yes, I want you to deliver it to Ghada.”
“Leave it to me.”
“Also, I’d like you to keep some men with me.”
He didn’t mean escort. They were the messengers in case something goes wrong, in case he was forced to contact the “Raven Army.”
“I understand. I’ll send some trustworthy people after you.”
Taking his eyes off Munin, who nodded vigorously in reply, Hiro turned to his sister, Hugin.
Hugin’s expression showed both anxiety and anticipation as her brother was entrusted with a major role.
“You will be in charge of the Raven Army. I will appoint Luca as your assistant, so you can do as you please.”
Originally, the predecessor of the “Raven Army” was the Slave Liberation Army that rebelled in the Principality of Lichtine.
Even with Hugin as the commander, no dissatisfaction would erupt. Munin was also there, although he would pretend to be Hiro. The number of soldiers was as small as 2,000. With that level of numbers, there should be no problem with Hugin’s command ability. If any problems should arise, Luca, who had been assigned to assist Hugin, would be able to solve them.
“Luca, you support Hugin, too. Is that clear?”
“I understand, even if you don’t tell me. Don’t worry about Hugin. I’ll take care of it.”
Luca’s dismissive tone left Hiro with no choice but to laugh.
However, Luca would certainly support Hugin. The seeds of anxiety are endless, but even so, he can focus on the joint fight with Lucia without being distracted by this.
“Then I’ll leave the rest to you. I’ll be leaving soon.”
Hiro stood up, stopped near the entrance, and turned around.
“Oh yes, take care of the swift dragon, too, okay?”
“Why don’t you ride it?”
“As expected, it is very conspicuous. There should be a pickup on the way.”
“I understand. Take care, Wise brother.”
“Yes, I’ll be going. I’ll meet up with you later.”
With Hugin and Munin bowing low and Luca keeping her back to him, Hiro waved his hand behind him as he stepped out of the tent.
A strong, cold wind blew, causing the bonfire at the entrance of the tent to erupt with great force. The darkness that had been rushing in was driven away at once, and the mask covering Hiro’s face was greatly illuminated.
When the flames subsided, golden eyes floated in the dark night, and the light of the moonlight that poured down stretched Hiro’s shadow on the earth.
“Who is it?”
A soldier of the “Raven Army” noticed Hiro’s presence and approached him, perhaps thinking he was suspicious.
“You are… Your Majesty the Black Dragon King, are you going somewhere?”
When he told the soldier that he was going for a walk, the soldier was worried about him and sent an escort to protect him. Hiro’s position was such that he could not forcefully refuse, even if he said he did not need it.
Now―what should I do? Hiro hesitated a little and put his index finger to his mouth.
The soldier tilted his head to look at Hiro’s face, caught by the finger.
His gaze went straight up. When their gazes crossed, it was Hiro who opened his mouth first.
“I’m going for a short walk. So don’t worry and go back to your patrol.”
“Yes! Please be careful; it will be cold tonight, so please return to your tent as soon as possible.”
The soldier turned his back and returned to his patrol without feeling any discomfort from Hiro’s words. After watching his back, Hiro covered his right eye with his hand and began to walk.
“There are a few things that are bothering me, but I hope the adjustments went well.”
Hiro lowered his right hand and patted himself gently on the chest as he strode majestically around the encampment.
“Black Princess Camellia, it is almost time for you to wake up. Perhaps we’ll have to go all out from the start.”
Looking up at the night sky, Hiro smiled a chilly smile.
“It’s all one――”
He clenched his hands as if to wrap them around the full moon floating in the dark night.
“It’s the beginning of chaos.”