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The central part of the Great Grantz Empire tended to have fewer forts than other parts of the country.
The reason for this was simple.
The central area was surrounded on all four sides by a thick wall, so to speak, that has protected it from the threat of outside enemies for many years. If the “monsters” and bandits were excluded, the central area was relatively more peaceful than the other areas due to the absence of external enemies.
The cost of maintaining the fort then emerged. The cost of stationing soldiers, providing them with food, wages, and periodic improvements to the fort would be enormous.
It was only natural that the central nobles, who had been enjoying peace, began to think about abandoning the fort. They considered leaving it as it was in case of emergency, but since it might become a stronghold of bandits and “monsters” and worsen public security, they destroyed it one after another.
That was why there were fewer forts in the central part of Grantz compared to other areas. Even if there were, they were hardly solid, with low walls, thin gates, and small in scale.
It was November 29, 1026th year of the imperial calendar.
After the disappearance of the Faceless King, Hiro gathered his troops and came to the nearby Fort Caputo with the wounded Second Prince Selene. Hiro was about to hold a military meeting at that time, but Selene told him that he had something to say, and now they were alone in a room.
The room was simple, with a cobblestone floor, no decorations on the walls, and only a desk and chairs lined up for the ages. It was Selene who was the first to open his mouth in the room, which was dominated by such a sense of quietness.
“I guess I should be the first to explain.”
His expression is dark, with a bitter smile on his face.
“You want to know about this body, don’t you?”
Placing a hand on the chest, he―or rather, she―had a bulge in her chest.
Perhaps because of her originally neutral appearance, there was no discomfort in the rest of her body, but if anyone who knows her looks at her slightly swollen bosom, their gaze would be riveted with surprise.
“The secret, though, lies in these swords.”
Selene was about to explain with her hands on the two swords at her waist when Hiro interrupted her and said.
“I knew about it.”
As Selene’s eyes widened in surprise, Hiro smiled at her.
From the moment he met Selene―when he saw the two swords at her waist―he knew that they were one of the five most precious swords in the world. However, because he had never seen two treasure swords before, he had not been able to identify the type.
“There’s a hint of something out of the ordinary in the air. I was dimly aware that it must be one of the world’s five great treasure swords.”
“…Was that so? No, it certainly could be.”
Perhaps embarrassed by the serious expression on her face as she tried to convey the message, Selene touched her bangs to hide her embarrassment and stroked her sword with her remaining hand.
Selene was about to say, but her gaze shifted alternately to the two swords.
“No, these children are the “Kanshou and Bakuya,” one of the Five Emperors of the Demon Swords.”
“…Five Emperors of the Demon Swords?”
With a bit of surprise, Hiro looked at the two swords.
He knew that they were the world’s five great treasure swords. But he had never thought of them as the Five Emperors of the Demon Swords. The reason was that it was too inappropriate for a “human race” to possess.
“The Five Emperors of the Demon Swords should be cursed if it is in the hands of someone other than a demon.”
“Yes, that’s right. So I could pretend to be a man. Or, to be more precise, my brother. I used to have a sickly but brilliant brother…”
Selene reminisced as she said this.
The Scharm family was in a weaker position than the Munster family, the birth family of the third prince of Blutar, because the second prince, Selene’s older brother, was sickly and weak. However, the Scharm family was barely able to compete with the other five great nobles with the help of Selene’s uncle, Prime Minister Gils, and Emperor Greyheit, who planned to take down Stobel.
Above all, Selene’s brother, who was sickly but intelligent, began to distinguish himself as the years went by.
He had a charm that other princes did not have.
He was intelligent, good-looking, soft-spoken, and trusted by the small and medium-sized nobility.
In contrast, First Prince Stobel, who was supported by the Krone family, grew more arrogant as he got older, and his unmanageable behavior made him look inferior to Selene’s brother.
The people of the time evaluated them as the first prince of military prowess, the second prince of wisdom, and the third prince of mediocrity.
Unfortunately, however, Selene’s brother, who was an outstanding man, suddenly passed away.
“My brother collapsed in front of me, coughing up blood. At the time, being very young, I thought he was sick or something, but… now I’m convinced he was poisoned.”
Selene screamed when she saw her brother fall. Hearing her screams, the prime minister Gils, her mother, and the soldiers on patrol came to the room. A doctor was immediately summoned, but before he could administer treatment, her brother passed away. The mother, delirious and unconscious, left the room, leaving only her uncle Gils, her cold brother, and the young Selene.
“The Krone family was then in full swing, and in order to keep the power of the northern nobility from waning, we could not afford to lose my brother, who was second in line to the throne. My uncle immediately told me that he wanted to become my brother. We were very much alike, you know.”
There was no way the young Selene could refuse to listen to her uncle, Gils’ words. As soon as Selene agreed, Gils immediately took action. For starters, he killed those who knew of her brother’s death. Doctors and soldiers on guard duty, all innocent people, were assassinated without mercy by her uncle, Gils. Then he cremated Selene’s brother’s body for fear of disease so that the grave would not be discovered.
“It was easy to replace him. My brother was sickly, to begin with. No one suspected that my brother had fallen ill because he was grieving over his sister’s death. After that, I was strictly trained by my uncle, pretending to be my brother.”
“And your mother didn’t say anything?”
“She was confused. After she woke up, she accepted the fact that it was the sister who had actually died, partly because her memory had become muddled. But that didn’t ease her grief. My father decided it would be better for her to be away, so she was moved to the rear palace.”
But then, a terrible incident occurred in the palace. It was a frenzy by the first queen―the massacre at the rear palace in which Liz’s mother was killed. Selene’s mother was among the victims. When Hiro wondered what to say to her, Selene shrugged her shoulders and began to continue her story.
“I’m a woman, so as I grew up, some parts of me would come out. Just when I was wondering how to hide it, these children appeared.”
One day, Kanshou and Bakuya suddenly appeared in front of her.
She was surprised but not terrified because she was awestruck by the majestic appearance of the two swords.
Above all, she felt as if her brother had come to her rescue, unable to bear the sight of Selene, who was in trouble. She reached for Kanshou and Bakuya without question.
“I thought the “Five Great Treasured Swords of the World” was a fairy tale. At first, I thought it was a gift from my uncle or someone. Besides, Stobel didn’t have the Thunder Emperor at that time, and my father wasn’t the kind of person who would show off the Wind Emperor to others.”
After picking up Kanshou and Bakuya, she felt a strange sensation, but she didn’t realize it was a curse and accepted it without questioning it. After a while, as her understanding of the Kanshou and Bakuya deepened, she realized that the two swords were the “Five Emperors of the Demon Swords.” Normally, she would not have noticed this, but because she was a “woman,” she realized that she was under a “curse.”
“I had no regrets. It was a very convenient curse for me. I still have my doubts about whether it was the Five Emperor of the Demon Swords because it was not the “curse” as described in the literature she checked later.”
“…I’ve certainly never heard of it.”
Hiro put his hand on his chin and snarled.
Changing one’s gender may be the biggest turning point in one’s life, but it is a trivial change for a person who possesses the world’s five most precious swords. And if such a “curse” is the exchange for great power… everyone will want the “Five Emperors of the Demon Swords” more than anything in the world.
However, in reality, the price is not low.
For some, “death” came suddenly. For some, their “life span” is taken away, and they grow old. Some are deprived of all knowledge. Some lost their “body. Some were no longer “human.”
Most of them lost their lives to the curse, even if they only remember it.
It is a miracle that Selene was only able to change her gender.
“It feels like an artifact.”
When Hiro said this, Selene nodded her head in agreement.
The “Five Emperor of the Demon Swords,” created from the remains of the demon tribe, was created by the “father,” the “Faceless King.”
Above all, when he created it, he must not have given it a will like the “Five Emperors of the Spirit Sword.” However, if you look at Selene’s Kanshou and Bakuya, you could read some kind of emotion in them.
Whether a thousand years had given them a will or whether someone had modified them was not clear, but it was clear that the Kanshou and Bakuya were different from the other “Five Emperors of the Demon Swords.”
Therefore, the power of the “curse” was not enough to threaten Selene’s life… the interest was endless, but the important thing now was whether or not she could be an asset to the war effort.
“Can you fight with that? The fact that you’ve returned to that form also means that the “curse” is gone… and that’s the same as losing your power.”
The “Five Emperor of the Demon Swords” spell can be removed in three ways.
There are only three things that can happen: abandonment, death, or destruction.
However, looking at Selene now, the “curse” is gone.
The fact that she still had Kanshou and Bakuya in her hand did not mean that she had been abandoned. Judging from the presence that can be sensed, it did not seem to be broken either.
Then the last one was the case of Selene’s death.
It was hard to believe at first glance, but she almost died once in a battle with the Faceless King. It was thought that some kind of anomaly had occurred because of that. The contract with the world’s five most treasured swords can kill the owner, but it can also keep them alive. A contract made up of ambiguous boundaries was a very dangerous thing, but it also meant that it was easy for the interests of the parties to coincide.
Thinking about this, Hiro suddenly realized.
As for Selene, one example of this is that she was able to become a man. She didn’t know what the “Five Emperors of the Demon Swords” wanted from her, but the fact that they had helped her and still haven’t left her means that they were satisfied with her.
“To be honest, it’s hard for me to even stand up. Even if I use the Kanshou and Bakuya now, it won’t be of much help. Still, the situation is as it is. If you want me to fight, I’ll fight, and it won’t be enough to slow me down.”
Selene, who had been standing, pulled up a chair and sat down. After a deep slump of her shoulders, she smiled and closed one eye as if to say don’t worry about it.
“If I wrap a cloth around my chest, it will hide it from the eyes of the soldiers. It would be tough for someone as big as Liz, but mine are small. Above all, my face hasn’t changed that much either. Only my close associates would be able to notice such a small change.”
“If that’s the case, I’ll ask you to lead the unit as a commander. We’re so short on manpower right now that we could use all the help we can get.”
“You’re welcome to use me as much as you like.”
“I’ll call in Ghada and the others to start the war council. The report is that the “monsters” are gathering one after another.”
When Hiro said this in a serious tone, Selene let out a deep, deep sigh.
“There are wars everywhere; win or lose, you’ll never be safe.”
“But if we don’t win, we lose everything.”
If you win, you can take measures. If you lose, it’s all over. The name of the Great Grantz Empire would literally disappear from the map. That must be avoided.
“There is something I need your help with.”
Hiro took out a large number of parchments and put them on the desk. There was nothing written on the parchments, and Selene, who was peering at them, tilted her head.
“What are you going to do? If there is anything I can do to help, I will do my best.”
“We’re going to take out all the pus from the Grantz.”
Hiro smiled and called for Ghada, who was waiting in the corridor.