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Licht, the capital of Azel, one of the Six Kingdoms, was left in ruins not long after the war started.
The reason for this was obvious.
Due to the battle with the Grantz in the Felzen region, many soldiers were killed in the war, resulting in a shortage of human resources, and in the past, the trade of the Six Kingdoms switched from overland to sea trade, resulting in the elimination of the threat of foreign enemies to Azel, and if any, they were only bandits and other small-scale enemies. Therefore, reinforcement and repair of the castle walls tended to be put off until later, and this series of negligence had not been resolved until the present day, and the walls had become very fragile due to age-related deterioration.
In fact, a part of the wall surrounded by the main force of Grantz collapsed, sending up a cloud of smoke, and the city gates were burning down and spewing fire. Furthermore, the low morale of the Azel forces on the defensive also led to such a disastrous end. It was no longer clear, at this point, which side was the victor.
Still, the battle was not over.
Despite being cornered to this point, the upper echelon of the Azel still showed no intention of surrendering.
The hearts of the Azel soldiers, who were still forced to fight even though victory or defeat had already been decided, were completely broken. Their faces were painted with despair, yet they continued to fight, not wanting to die.
This was no longer a war but a one-sided slaughter. However, even the Grantz soldiers were not killing just because they liked it. Their expressions told the story. But if they cut corners, if they showed mercy, not only would their allies die, they would also be putting their own lives at risk. That was why they were fighting so hard, hoping for a quick surrender.
Away from Licht, whose emotions were swirling, Aura watched the battle situation in the main camp of the Grantz.
“…Instruct the first army to advance and the second army to provide covering fire.”
Aura was calmly assessing the battle situation and giving orders to her staff.
Aura understood that the victory had already been decided. However, she could not understand why Azel still refused to surrender. If things continued as they were, there would be heavy casualties on both sides. She would like to avoid letting her soldiers die in vain, but as long as the enemy did not surrender, she would have no choice but to continue the fight.
They were facing a very difficult situation: Should they withdraw their entire force, or should they fight until they had killed all the Azel soldiers? In the midst of all this, Aura, getting a strange feeling, looked around the battlefield and discovered a strange blank space in a part near the city gate.
“…What is that?”
She couldn’t help but mutter.
She stared through her eyes and once again could not believe what she was seeing before her eyes.
One person―a single person―was indiscriminately killing soldiers.
It didn’t matter if it was Azel or Grantz. The attacker was repeating the attack at random. The monster rampaging on the front line attacked the Grantz soldiers who had gathered in front of the burned-out city gate. This frustrated the first army, which had been eagerly trying to get into the enemy territory. Not only that, the Azel soldiers who were trying to escape into the city were also attacked from behind. In the midst of the confusion between friend and foe, confusion spread to the front lines in the face of the unidentified monster that appeared.
“I want you to send a message to the rear, create a gap, and create a way for the three-nation coalition to escape.”
The staff officer next to her looked at Aura with a dubious expression as she said this without looking away from the front line.
“Are you sure? If we continue like this, we can annihilate the three-nation coalition…”
“I have a bad feeling about this. Contact the Supreme Chancellor Skadi and the commander of the Raven Army immediately; we may need their help.”
She had seen a similar scene about four years ago.
It was the day she first met Hiro.
During the battle against the Principality of Lichtine, which had suddenly invaded the Grantz, a monster had appeared, emitting the same eerie presence as now. The only difference was that the monster rampaging on the front line was not a complete monster.
It would be a misnomer to call it a human being, but at least it is certainly in the shape of a human being.
“It would be very bad if the best possible elite from each unit were to head for the main camp―oh, it’s coming!”
While giving instructions, Aura’s fears were realized. The monster was running straight toward the main camp while kicking away the Grantz soldiers. The monster, which broke through the first line of Grantz with a tremendous speed that is so fast it is hard to follow with the eyes―a rushing force that far exceeds that of a cavalry horse―kicked up the ground while slaughtering numerous soldiers.
“W-what the hell was that…?”
The staff finally noticed the monster, and their faces turned pale at the sight of it.
The monster was on the verge of breaking through the second line, and Aura finally succeeded in getting a clear view of its dimly seen shape. The monster was in the shape of a woman. In the first place, it is doubtful that it even has a gender. It was impossible for an ordinary woman to blow away three strong soldiers with a single swing of her arm.
“General Staff Chief, evacuate to the rear. At this rate, that thing will reach this point.”
“…..It’s too late.”
As Aura muttered, there was a loud explosion ahead of them.
A few sand particles were pouring down from overhead. The bodies of the soldiers guarding the main camp were also blown like arrows to where Aura and the others were.
The monster had certainly arrived, slaughtering hundreds of strong men and catching thousands of arrows.
When the monster reached the main camp, it opened its arms and roared to the sky as if to boast of its valor.
The monster’s appearance was so gruesome that the staff could not help but mutter to themselves. More than half of its face was burned off, and part of its abdomen had melted to the ground as if it were rotting. Even so, from the faint human-like parts that remained, it appeared to be a woman.
A strange smell carried by the wind hit her nose. Aura frowned while the monster looked around as if searching for something.
As if lured by something with unsteady steps, the monster ignored Aura and the others and began to walk.
“General Staff Chief! Please run away!”
Aura’s subordinates tried to get Aura to flee, but Aura’s face turned pale when she noticed something in the monster’s path of movement.
Aura pulled out the spirit weapon at her waist, kicked the ground, and stabbed the monster in the back.
It was able to make it stop. But it was not a fatal wound. The monster, struck by the special weapon, let out a scream and twisted its upper body several times as if it were a horse shaking off a man. The centrifugal force of the attack dislodged the spirit weapon from the monster and blew away Aura as well. Rolling into one tent, bumping her body repeatedly on the ground, Aura was finally able to stop moving.
With her face contorted in intense pain, Aura stood up with her hands on the bed. Then, realizing where she was now, she turned around, forgetting the pain.
There was a woman sleeping on the bed, breathing quietly. The bed had been shifted due to Aura’s collision with it, but Skaaha herself did not seem to be injured. At the same time as she patted her chest, she noticed the presence that had appeared behind her.
Whether it was crying or angry, she couldn’t even tell the emotion because of the voice that sounded like a throat being crushed. The monster approached Aura with its large mouth open and drooling. Aura saw its right arm move in a snatch, and she quickly raised her spirit weapon in front of her. The powerful arm flew at her with a growl. Aura was lucky to catch it but was unable to withstand it and flew like a bullet. It went over Skaaha’s bed and hit the soft fabric of the tent, cushioning the impact but bouncing off and hitting the ground.
Aura got up with her hands on the ground, but blood dripped from her nose as she was hit hard in the face. Aura looked up with tear-stained eyes at the red droplets falling to the ground and splashing. The monster was still shaking its head as if searching for something. She did not know what it was looking for, but she had to get it out of this place somehow. Aura gripped the hilt of her spirit weapon tightly and pointed the tip of her sword threateningly at the monster. However, it had no effect at all. The monster, which looked down at Aura from overhead with interest, roared at close range as it brought its face close to hers. When Aura covered her ears from the eardrum-piercing scream, the monster thrust its right arm out with great force as if to finish her off.
Death―that was her intuition.
As she closed her eyes, she was struck by a powerful floating sensation. Next, Aura’s body was hit by a shock that shook her entire body. However, strangely, there was no pain, and Aura was deeply moved by the thought that this was what death was like. However, as time passed, Aura noticed that her body shifted at the same time, and she involuntarily tilted her head.
“I can’t sleep peacefully. What are you thinking, fighting a battle in a place where people are sleeping?”
It was a familiar voice. The voice that she had wished to hear over and over again.
Is it a dream or an illusion, or is it because she is dead――,
――When she fearfully opened her eyes, she was there.
“That’s right. I’m sorry, Aura-dono.”
She smiled, and although her hair was short and her impression was not the same as it used to be, she was still right in front of Aura, and she nodded her head firmly with a gentle voice.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost… or what… is there something on my face?”
“I know. We’ll talk later――”
Skaaha gave a small laugh and then lowered Aura, who she was holding, to the ground. The sound and feel of stepping on gravel, whereupon Aura looked around and realized that before she knew it, she was outside the tent. The soldiers and staff looked at Aura and Skaaha with stunned faces.
“First, we have to do something about that thing―will you lend me that spear?”
Skaaha muttered and took the spear from a nearby soldier without waiting for a reply.
After shaking it once, twice, and three times to feel it, she positioned her right leg wide in advance and put the tip of the blade on the ground, getting into a fighting stance. Aura, however, tried to reach out to Skaaha’s back to stop her reckless action. She no longer had the blessing of the Five Emperors of the Spirit Sword. There was absolutely no way she could win.
“Aura-dono, you can stay behind me. I will not let any harm come to you.”
Her back was filled with confidence. Even though these words were baseless, they somehow struck a chord with her.
“I lost my country. I lost my home. I thought I had nothing left. I thought there was no reason for me to live.”
With a distant look in her eyes, Skaaha gripped her weapon tightly as she held the monster in her sight.
“But I was wrong. When I woke up, Aura-dono was there―in danger. I didn’t understand what was going on, but more than that, I felt terrible anxiety. That’s when I understood. I knew I still had something left in me.”
Exhaling heavily, Skaaha bent low. The monster, perhaps sensing an unusual presence, perhaps wary, did not look away from Skaaha and did not move an inch.
“I have friends. There are those who still need me.”
Taking a few shallow breaths, Skaaha concentrated deeper and deeper.
“There are still people in this world that I want to protect. If I abandon them, my parents and siblings who have gone before me will never forgive me.”
Skaaha’s gaze, which had been downcast, turned upward.
The monster, which seemed to have been pressured by the burning, murderous intent, backed away.
The figure of Skaaha that kicked the ground was like a bullet, and Aura could not catch it.
The monster also seemed to be shaken by the appearance of the unknown enemy, who instantly closed the distance and was unable to respond.
“Know that you deserve to die for the crime of injuring my friend.”
Just before she came within a hair’s breadth of the monster, Skaaha leaped far over the monster’s head and into a much higher place.
In the western part of the Great Grantz Empire, there was a country called Drall.
This country was somewhat unique. Originally part of the Kingdom of Felzen, it became independent with the help of the Republic of Steichen. However, it was a country with a good social life, which disliked the interference of the Republic of Steichen, asked for help from the Vanir Three Kingdoms, and even paid tribute to the Great Grantz Empire. However, as a result of having taken in so many different countries, the cultures of the region had become mixed, and this had been a cause of conflict in some areas. The most prominent example was the religious issue. The northern part of the Grand Duchy of Drall worshipped the Spirit King, the god of the Great Grantz Empire, while the southern part worshipped the Fairy King, the god of the Vanir Three Kingdoms. The fact that the people worshiped the Spirit King was no exception to the rule of the nobles, and the successive Archdukes of Drall were always troubled by the frequent religious problems that arose.
However, it was fair to say that the current Archduke was the most troubled in the history of the country.
The Vanir Three Kingdoms were using their territory to invade the Great Grantz Empire. If they refused, the fairy believers in the south may riot, and if they accepted, the spirit believers in the north may riot. Therefore, he could not make a decision. Even now, he was still confused.
But that was a matter for the Grand Duchy of Drall and had nothing to do with the Vanir Three Kingdoms. They were marching through the territory of the Grand Duchy of Drall as if they owned the place.
Among them, there was a carriage with a very gaudy decoration. It was like a house on the move, and the comfort of the ride could be guessed from its appearance alone. The person riding in the carriage was, of course, the top of the Vanir Three Kingdoms and was known as the Pope of Vanir, to whom everyone paid affectionate tribute.
“…Skaaha-sama has awakened, huh?”
In the carriage with the curtains drawn, the hooded Nameless muttered. Despite the large space, she sits in the corner, holding her legs.
“Hydra-sama has left us a good gift. This will give us enough time. Shall we make use of it…?”
The curtain was drawn down on the window, and Nameless swayed in the darkness.
“In the north, the Faceless King has begun to move…, and the south is also in a flurry of activity, creating many openings for the Great Grantz Empire.”
She continued to talk to herself without saying a word to anyone.
“As for the rest, I’m not sure what fate awaits my pieces… but at the very least, I should paw at them while there’s still time left. Act according to your own instincts, without knowing the meaning of your birth.”
Pieces in the distance, moving as they pleased, out of the hands.
Feeling this presence, Nameless’ mouth was tinged with delight.
A crack appeared in the space that created such a unique atmosphere when a window was tapped.
“Pope-sama, the commanders of the various units wish to meet with you, and they want you to hold a military meeting.”
“What is the reason?”
“It seems that they are not convinced about this matter, and they wish to request a change in the operation as soon as possible.”
“We only have a little time at this moment. Above all, tell them that the oracle of the Fairy King cannot be ignored.”
Nameless grimly bent her mouth as she saw the soldiers’ presence moving away from the window.
“The holy war―a beautiful word engraved in history, but you don’t seem to understand that it is, in fact, nothing more than an ugly revenge war.”
Nameless knew a man who had been passionately appealing to her about this. By exploiting the gap in his heart, she was able to assume this position. Without his cooperation, Nameless would not exist today.
“If you hadn’t been so suspicious of me, you wouldn’t have died.”
Nameless looked at the chair on her opposite side and saw a head on the chair.
His name was Cardinal Snorri. He was the pope’s right-hand man in the Vanir Three Kingdoms. However, he had been transformed into this figure because he discovered the identity of Nameless, who pretended to be the Pope.
“But I will fulfill your dream. You can sit back and watch the moment when the long-eared race will once again gain supremacy, a moment that will end in a brief glimmer of light.”
And the world will become one.
It will come to an end.
“Oh, Liz, are you ‘watching’?”
Intoxicated, she strokes her cheeks with both hands and spits out the words in ecstasy.
“The destruction of the Grantz is near at hand.”