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In Azel, one of the Six Kingdoms, and its capital, Licht, the main army of the Grantz continued to stay.
Although the encampment was on high alert, there was no atmosphere of desperation, and the soldiers seemed to have lost some of their tension. This was because the battle in the Six Kingdoms had come to an end in the form of a truce.
Queen Lucia of Anguis, the new representative of the Six Kingdoms, brought the heads of the commanders of the three allied nations―Urpeth, Tigris, and Scorpius―as a sign of trust. It also seemed that a large number of the long-eared race soldiers were executed, and their bodies were still being burned at the site of the Three Allies’ encampment due to the sheer number of corpses.
From the main camp of the main army of the Grantz, there was a person staring at the lights.
It was Celia Estrella Elizabeth von Grantz, the sixth princess of the Great Grantz Empire and the next empress of the empire. Behind her, a petite shadow looms; it was Aura, the silver-haired woman who served as the chief of staff of the main army.
“Liz, we’re ready to go.”
“Two thousand was the limit.”
“We’ll just have to be patient with that for now.”
“I’ve told them to start with the first ready unit.”
“There’ll be no need to worry.”
“Unless Queen Lucia breaks the truce.”
Aura stared at the lights shining in the distance. This was where the Anguis army was burning the long-eared people. Aura didn’t know how much resentment she must have had to be able to do such a thing.
Aura’s feelings were not lost on Liz, who patted her on the shoulder in a comforting manner.
“It’s the Six Kingdoms’ problem. Besides, there is nothing we can do now.”
“Yeah. Someday… we will get our comeuppance.”
Liz agreed with Aura, who nodded her head and turned her attention to the woman who continued to radiate an interesting atmosphere even in the darkness.
“Skaaha… are you sure you’re okay with your injury or something?”
“No problem. Thanks to the return of the Ice Emperor, I guess.”
The “Ice Emperor” should have been in Hiro’s possession. Why did it come back to Skaaha? The holder and the spirit sword are bound by a “covenant.” It was supposed to have been separated from Skaaha once.
That was why she was so severely wounded. As she stared at her, Skaaha noticed her gaze and shrugged her shoulders.
“Perhaps… the “covenant” was not completely broken.”
It seemed that Skaaha had sensed what Liz was thinking, and she answered her question.
“The “Stobel’s Curse” had taken its toll on my body. The Ice Emperor’s power was unable to exorcise it. Because of this, I was also subjected to the curse of the spirits.”
Skaaha was forcing the “Ice Emperor” to obey her. The Ice Emperor’s will to follow Skaaha, but the “restrictions” set by the absolute existence of the “Spirit King” was a different matter.
“Realizing the danger to my life, the Ice Emperor must have temporarily gone to Hiro-dono.”
“So you think Hiro healed Skaaha and returned the Ice Emperor to you?”
“I think so. Because Hiro-dono is a kind man.”
Skaaha answered immediately. She seemed to have no hesitation in her own words. She must have a lot of trust in Hiro. However, Liz was unsure.
“I don’t know what he’s thinking… so I thought I’d keep him at hand, but things happened, and he escaped.”
It would have been safer if she had captured him, but she failed. Lucia’s intervention had made it a mess. Then, while Lucia and Lizia were formally signing the truce agreement, Hiro joined the “Raven Army” and disappeared. Even the “eye” could no longer track his whereabouts.
Liz was worried, and Skaaha was looking at her with an anxious face.
“Liz-dono… you don’t believe in Hiro-dono?”
“…It’s because I believe in him that I’m frustrated that he won’t say anything.”
Hiro continued to walk with everything on his shoulders. He kept walking in a straight line toward the goal he had set for himself. It was a painful way of life. It was a way of life that destroys oneself. There was no happiness beyond that.
“Hiro must be stopped.”
She still didn’t have a full picture of what he was trying to achieve, but he was saying that the “Flame Emperor” was essential for him to reach God. In other words, there was no doubt that there would be another opportunity to talk with him. Then, she would finish what she had to do and get Hiro to confess everything to her.
“First, let’s go to Vanir Three Kingdoms… and then we’ll get Hiro.”
“I suppose we won’t have to go easy on him. At that time, I will help you in a very small way. I’ll give it my all.”
Smiling at Skaaha’s reassuring words, Liz flipped her cloak and turned her hand to Aura.
“Aura! We’re leaving.”
Aura raised her hand in response to the instruction, and their beloved horses were brought out by the soldiers.
Liz, astride her beloved horse, said,
“Aura, I’m sorry to bother you at this difficult time, but do you know the approximate number of the Vanir Three Kingdoms?”
Aura was struggling to ride because of her height. Usually, there should be a foundation placed, but this time it didn’t seem to be prepared. After having Skaaha push her buttocks, Aura was finally able to straddle the horse, and while her face turned bright red with shame, she pretended to be normal.
“The Vanir Three Kingdoms are currently marching on the Grand Duchy of Drall, divided into several parts. According to a spy report, the exact number is not known, but it is believed to be more than 80,000.”
“Let’s hurry to Sandinal. We’ll join up with Sir Rozl and try to crush the Vanir Three Kingdoms’ advance.”
“Yes. I have sent word to Sandinal. Also, we have received reports from the north that the Bromell family and the second prince Selene have clashed.”
“From the south, the Vanir Three Kingdoms and the free peoples…”
The situation was serious. However, impatience would lead to failure. Above all, a commander’s anxiety was easily conveyed to the soldiers. Therefore, soldiers must try to act as if the situation was bright.
The Great Grantz Empire was on the verge of an unprecedented crisis. A single error in judgment could lead to irreversible consequences. “But we will win”, was the belief they held.
The battle for survival begins. But no one could really feel it.
For a thousand years, they reigned as the dominant power on the central continent.
Tomorrow, the country may disappear. The soldiers must be accepting such unrealistic talk as if it were a fantasy. In recent years, the Great Grantz Empire had never experienced an event of such gravity that it could be said to be in danger of extinction. Because of its vast territory, it accepts reality as if it were someone else’s problem. It was not pride. It was not that they were careless. It was simply a lack of understanding.
“On the contrary, perhaps they are happy to be able to focus on what is in front of them, one thing at a time.”
Without the burden of a national crisis on their shoulders, they could take on the next battle with a moderate sense of urgency. The morale of the soldiers would determine the future now that they were fatigued. It was complicated, but in this respect, it was probably a good thing that they held a vast territory.
Aura, too, had a complicated expression on her face, as if she had come to the same conclusion as Liz.
“There are many problems, such as the tyranny of the local nobility. It might be a good thing that I am not injured at all right now.”
“I agree. Anyway, let’s hurry ahead.”
The top brass―Liz and the others―were afraid of the scythe of the God of death creeping up from behind, regardless of the feelings of the soldiers at the end of the line.
Someone was watching the Grantz army pushing forward on the road covered in darkness.
She was smiling, with her back to the blazing flames, and using a fan to wipe away the foul smell that clung to her. It was Lucia, Queen of Anguis. She was the woman who, using all her tricks, has taken advantage of all the people and has laid her hands on the unified king, the pinnacle of the Six Kingdoms. One shadow approached her―a close associate called Seleucus.
“Lucia-sama, are you sure you want to let them go?”
“I don’t mind. We have reached a truce, and I don’t want any further consequences.”
“I think this is a good opportunity. They are completely caught off guard. If we attack from the rear, victory is assured. If we can take advantage of the confusion and cut down Felzen, we can make up for this loss.”
“I am not interested in the meager results of the war. Above all, why should I help the Vanir Three Kingdoms? I want the Grantz Empire to defeat the Vanir Three Kingdoms. For that purpose, I am willing to cooperate. I will not send troops, though.”
That was the reason for the truce agreement. Lucia was even relieved that she was able to minimize the damage to Grantz’s army. Because if the Grantz army was not victorious, all of Lucia’s plans would come to an end. The girls must do their best as pawns for that.
“I’m just making a suggestion. I thought it would be easier in the future if we could eliminate the sixth princess Celia Estrella, who is considered to be the next empress of the Grantz, while we still have the chance.”
“It would be better to keep her alive for the future. The only people who would be happy to see her dead right now are those who are hostile to her.”
Lucia turned around and pointed her fan at Seleucus.
“What about the reorganization?”
“No problem. Shall we leave now?”
“Of course, the whole point of the truce was to bring the Six Kingdoms under my complete control. Or, what is it, some kind of advanced information warfare that you are not prepared for?”
“No way, I would never make such a blunder.”
Seleucus raised his hand, and the carriage came to Lucia. He opened the door and urged Lucia to get in, and he got in too. The carriage began to move, and Seleucus took out a stack of papers.
“There are still a few thousand of the long-eared people who have been captured.”
“Cut off all the heads of the thousand or more long-eared men. Put the rest on a cargo ship and send them back to their home country.”
“Then, please give those instructions… As a follow-up, we still do not know the whereabouts of Her Majesty Queen Gilbe, nor do we know if she is still alive and well. We also know that the castle is in a deplorable state and that her ministers and other officials have been murdered.”
“It would be useless to search for Gilbe. When we signed the truce agreement, the sixth princess Celia Estrella told me about it.”
Gilbe had become “fallen” and attacked the Grantz main camp, but it seemed that she was killed by the former princess Skaaha of Felsen, Skadi of Steichen, and the traitor Luca. Regardless of what she had in mind when she chose the path of the “fallen,” even if she had lived, it would have ended unhappily for Gilbe. In today’s harsh world, incompetent lords are surely doomed to be killed. It was a good thing that she was able to finally blossom in death against the Grantz.
“I’ll leave some civil servants in Licht. I’ll leave the selection to you. Do as you please.”
“But more importantly, have there been any reports from the spies you’ve sent into other countries?”
“Regarding Urpeth and Scorpius, we have taken complete control of the government. We have captured several members of the royal family. What do you intend to do with them?”
“The royal family has no authority now that the long-eared people have taken over. Behead them all and hang them on the street. That should be enough of an example.”
“I will do so. Next is Tigris. The situation in Tigris is not good due to the strong influence of the Vanir Three Kingdoms and their fierce resistance.”
“Well, strictly order them to refrain from any unauthorized actions until I arrive.”
“I will send word immediately.”
Seleucus wrote a letter. He then opened the window, summoned a soldier, and handed it to him. After seeing the letter, Lucia broached the next topic of conversation.
“How is the matter going?”
“According to reports, they are leaving Anguis and should be there by the time we reach Tigris.”
“Everything seems to be going well.”
“Yes, everything is going according to Lucia-sama’s plan.”
“I hope so. We have prepared for this moment with great care.”
“One wrong move, and the Six Kingdoms would have been destroyed.”
When Seleucus lifted his shoulders in exasperation, Lucia laughed.
“Seleucus, you’re absolutely right. But to tell you the truth, it wasn’t that difficult. I knew the movements of the Vanir Three Kingdoms as if I could see them in my hand.”
“I suppose this is the result of the Vanir Three Kingdoms―Nameless―taking too much advantage of the Six Kingdoms.”
“Yes, for them, I am just a pawn to be disposed of.”
Lucia spoke with a distant look in her eyes but suddenly made a fist in the empty space and drew a smile.
“I have endured for a long time. The dignity of the humans has been trampled on, and we have endured the humiliating treatment of the long-eared people and even the abuse of our own people to come this far.”
Shaking her clenched hands, Lucia gnashed her teeth as she recalled the bitterness she had endured.
“I will get it. I will show the world what true freedom is and what the Six Kingdoms exist for.”
She vents her vindictiveness, quells her anger, and reveals the ambitions she holds in her heart.
“The last to laugh will not be the Grantz, the Vanir Three Kingdoms, or even Nameless.”
Lucia, with her fan open, hides her mouth and narrows her eyes.
“It will be me.”