Chapter 2, Episode 18: Stratagem
As soon as the war council ends and Hiro steps out, he’s struck by bright rays of sunlight.
Hiro puts his hand up to shade his squinted eye and looks around the area.
Outside, a large number of soldiers are moving about in a hurry. With people stepping all over the ground, dust is carried about by the wind and mixed into the air.
The wind toys with the hem of Hiro’s black clothes as it shakes it about. The flag in the standard bearer’s hands also dances gracefully in the air as if spreading its wings.
That’s when Hiro noticed the new coat of arms.
「They sure work fast.」
All of General Kielo’s coat of arms which were raised in headquarters were taken down, and in their place were ones of red soil and lilies— the crest of the Sixth Imperial Princess.
In other words, it means Liz had taken the right of command from General Kielo. However, even if she has snatched that right from him, it has no meaning unless she wins this war.
First, she has to establish her command— but…
「It doesn’t seem like that’ll be a problem.」
Hiro looked at the young girl with crimson hair. Liz is working alongside the soldiers. Though confused, Milieu is also next to her helping out. The girls were filling bags with sand.
「I’m sure you’re all tired, but let’s work hard just a little longer!」
「Princess, we can handle these odd jobs on our own…」
「It’s fine. I’m doing this because I want to. Don’t worry and just continue your work.」
The unit leader was so moved, his body shook as he let out a loud voice.
「All right boys, don’t cause the princess anymore trouble! We’re going to hurry up and finish this work!」
All the soldiers around him replied with an enthusiastic, vigorous shout. At the same time, a panicked voice could be heard from the tent behind them.
「General, comport yourself!」
「How did this happen…? Hurry and take him to the medic!」
General Kielo is carried off on the shoulders of two staff officers. Hiro glanced at him through the corner of his eye and smiled wryly. He’ll probably return to his old self after some time passes. He didn’t think he would be stunned to the point of passing out, but he shouldn’t be completely broken.
「But maybe it would be best to think of what to do in case I can’t use him anymore…」
There’s a reason Hiro let General Kielo live, but Hiro sighed at the fact that things don’t always go as planned. Then, he approached the last man to come out from the tent and called out to him.
「Do you have a second?」
「D-Do you mean me?!」
The man whose back straightened up, was the man who protested against General Kielo and was chased out. He ended up being saved by the appearance of Liz just as he was about to leave.
It looked like he was nervous, being called out to by an Imperial family member— or rather, because he got to meet a descendant of the the Second Emperor. Hiro smiled brightly, patted him on the back, and approached him in a relaxed manner.
「Aside from what I just talked about earlier, there’s something I want you to do for me.」
「What might that be?」
Just earlier at the war council, Hiro gave instructions to quickly retreat. That was what Liz and the others were preparing for. They decided to retreat after preparing a few strategies for the possibility of an enemy attack.
There are strategies where they could win without retreating, but at the very least, there will be some casualties on their end. What Hiro wants is a complete victory— He wants to make the enemy surrender with no hope of winning, as this will tie into future plans.
「It’s fine if it’s just the latest one, but can you bring me any recent reports addressed only to General Kielo?」
Maybe it was because the staff officer sensed what Hiro was trying to say, but his expression became tense. After pretending to think about it for a while, the staff officer nodded quietly.
「… Understood. I shall bring it right away.」
After watching the staff officer go off, Hiro started walking. He was thinking of helping Liz and the others with their work. Not only the commander, but all those in high positions must set an example. People will not follow those who simply give out orders. When you advance deep into enemy territory like they have now, this is very important. They must eat after the soldiers, and quietly perform their duties without a word of complaint.
Although these are simple acts, it is a serious matter which will affect morale. Though it isn’t something you can see with your eyes, it will show its results in a dramatic way later on.
「Liz, I’ll help out, too.」
Liz stopped working and turned around. After she wipes the sweat forming on her forehead, she tilts her head.
「Don’t you have other things to do, Hiro?」
「Each unit leader’s been informed of the change in commanding officers, and they’ve been given instructions moving forward, too. And as far as I can “see”, there isn’t any confusion. Now I just have to wait for the scout to return.」
Based on what he’s heard, it seems Liz was in contact with each unit leader in secret. He doesn’t know what they’re thinking on the inside— but for now, there were none who protested openly. He can confirm if they’re acting as ordered starting now. All that’s left is to wait for the scout to return. Until then, Hiro has nothing but time on his hands.
But perhaps Liz was still not convinced as she seemed dissatisfied as she spoke.
「We have to rely on you moving forward. I want you to save at least a little bit of your strength… You’ve been fighting really hard, after all. Aren’t you a little tired?」
「I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tired, but I’d feel weird being the only one not doing anything.」
Liz looks troubled as she watches Hiro shrug his shoulders.
「Hmm~… It seems like you’d go work somewhere even if I forced you to rest, so I guess I’d feel better keeping you within sight.」
「Haha, it’s not like I’m a kid…」
「Really? But you disappear as soon as I take my eyes off you, Hiro.」
「… Alright, let’s just work quietly now.」
He’s not sure what else might come up if he keeps stirring up the hornet’s nest. Hiro mixed in with the soldiers and got to work to move away from the situation.
After a while, the scout returns.
「Your Highness, Hiro. I’ve gone and checked on the enemy’s situation as ordered.」
Hiro handed him a water pouch and waited for the scout to catch his breath.
「As your Highness Hiro expected, the slaves of the enemy army are gradually losing their will to fight.」
「Did it look like they wouldn’t be able to mobilize for a while?」
「No, the slaves are in the rear guard and the camel cavalry is positioned in the front. It looked like they were prepared to charge at any moment.」
「So if we show them an opening, they’ll attack.」
「It seems so.」
「But it doesn’t seem like they have a firm plan. We’ll shake them up as we finish our preparations.」
Hiro raises his hand. It was a signal to the soldiers with the drums. They beat their drums loudly. The sound of the drums shakes the air and spreads to each unit.
The first to move was the cavalry of the right flank. They began their advance towards the east. The cavalry of the left flank, which took a detour behind them, follows on the same path.
Hiro placed the item he was working on earlier on his back. Then, he calls the 「shiryu」 and gets on its back.
「Liz, just do as we discussed in the war council now.」
「Got it. Be careful.」
「Yeah. I’ll leave the rest to you.」
「Everyone, we’re beginning the operation! Move quickly!」
Hiro raced off to the east on the 「shiryu」 as if Liz’s voice pushed him from behind.
「Yeah. The wind is blowing nicely, too.」
Hiro muttered to himself as he looked up at the sky.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Hearing the ringing of drums, the Lichtein Dukedom’s camp falls into a panic.
「Enemy attack! The enemy’s cavalry is coming!」
「Let’s send out the camel cavalry!」
「Send the slaves out front and use them as a wall! And send the archery unit out front too! Have them fire their arrows!」
After looking at the panicked nobles in disgust, General Ranquil grit his teeth annoyed.
「They took the initiative…」
They were aware about the change in commanding officers for the Fourth Imperial Army, but they became aware of that only a moment ago. So in order to learn more about the enemy general, General Ranquil sent the camel cavalry to the front to wait and see what the other side would do. Next, after learning his opponent was not on alert, he was just about to send out a small unit to gain information regarding the enemy’s position— That’s when the enemy cavalry began their advance.
「So the tides are on their side.」
They took the initiative with superb timing.
If this was the doing of the Sixth Imperial Princess, the future looks grim. Even if it wasn’t, it’s certain she has someone clever with her on her side.
As expected of the Grantz Grand Empire, which reigns supreme in this world. They have an abundance of talented people.
But this isn’t the time to be standing around impressed.
「Don’t panic! Deploy the camel cavalrymen to the sides!」
No matter what their intent, the one thing he wants to avoid is being surrounded.
「Send the archers to the front! The enemy went to the trouble of coming out. This is a perfect opportunity!」
And then he noticed. The one riding at the head of the cavalry was that man.
「So… he’s come after all.」
The wound left by the man in black is still deep. The slaves are a given, but word may have spread to the regular soldiers as well, as there is fear pasted on their faces. The only way to wipe it away is to give them confidence. General Ranquil worked himself up, convincing himself he would take advantage of this situation the best he could.
「Archery unit, at the ready!」
As Ranquil gave out his order, a mysterious scene unfolded before him.
The enemy cavalrymen spread out to the sides and dispersed. Large clouds of dust kick up and color the sky brown.
「Downwind, is it…」
Wrapped in the clouds of dust, the cavalrymen disappeared. You could only hear thundering hooves and war cries. It’s not at all a situation you would normally be happy about, but it may be in this case as the man in black disappeared from view. Because of this, many of the soldiers didn’t become aware of his presence.
「But are they planning to use the cover of dust to surround us…? If so, I’ve been taken lightly.」
After looking out in all directions, Ranquil shouted.
「Have the left and right flanks advance! First battalion, fall back!」
Ranquil gave out orders to surround them instead.
Then, after a short amount of time passed…
「… Is the enemy not coming?」
He realized something was off.
But the sound of drums, the soldiers’ battle cries, and the thundering hooves still shake the ears.
「No… are they growing distant?」
The sounds grow quieter as time passes. By the time he came to think they were deceived, it was too late. When the clouds of dust cleared, the cavalrymen were nowhere to be seen. General Ranquil tried to consider what possible goal they might have had to do this, but the voice of a soldier caused him to stop mid thought.
「I-It’s the man in black! He’s appeared again!」
This is what it sounded like the voice from the frontline was saying.
Chaos descends upon the soldiers and quickly spreads.
「What did he say…?」
He doesn’t even have time to think. By the time Ranquil lifted his face in surprise, there was an uproar around him and breaks in the ranks of soldiers. And that wasn’t all. The soldiers were completely stopped in their tracks. Ranquil touched his hand to his head, feeling a headache coming on, and looked to the same spot as the soldiers.
There stood a man in black, fluttering clothes.
This brought back the image of the scene of a 1,000 men being buried. He could tell his body was shaking in fear. However, Ranquil wasn’t so foolish as to let his mind go blank. He slapped his own face and regained his composure.
After taking a small breath, he opened his mouth.
「Settle down! Maintain your ranks!」
Ranquil’s rough voice rang out.
「There is only one enemy after all. What is there to fear?!」
「B-But, he took on a 1,000 men by himself!」
「Don’t panic. We’ve made preparations for him.」
As a countermeasure for the man in black, a 100 skilled men were assembled in one unit. Even if they are the elite, against a man who took on a 1,000, a 100 men may not be heartening, but all they need to do is buy some time. While they keep the man from leaving this spot, they’ll rout the exhausted Fourth Imperial Army. Then, they simply have to take their time against him. He is outnumbered after all. There is no way he would be able to chase after a large number of scattered enemies on his own.
「It’s time for retribution.」
Ranquil drew his sword from his waist and pointed it at the standard bearer. The 100 hand chosen camel cavalrymen move out to the vanguard. After they gain some distance, the rest of the army began their advance.
「Once the vanguard engages in battle with the man in black, we assault the Fourth Imperial Army. Until then, we will follow the vanguard so as not to let on to our plan.」
「Yes, I will notify each unit.」
「Mm, I’ll leave it to you.」
Then, Ranquil called over a messenger.
「What would you have me do?」
「Take a message to the vanguard. This will all be for naught if you die. Your objective is to keep him here. Tell them not to forget that.」
However, no matter how much time passed, the battle did not begin. As Ranquil was thinking this to be strange, the messenger returned.
「It was a fake!」
Said the messenger, his face red with mortification.
「The man in black is a fake!」
「Huh…? What do you mean a fake?」
「It was just sandbags and lumber put together and covered in a black cloth.」
There was a loud thud. It was the sound of the object the messenger dropped from his back. As the messenger stated, it was some lumber covered in black cloth.
「… Ah, what is this?」
It was such a shock that he couldn’t speak. Were they so wrapped in fear that they were fooled by such a childish trick and mistake this for the actual person?
The messenger spoke to the dumbfounded Ranquil.
「And there are more of these same objects ahead.」
「… What was that?」
This was the location where the Fourth Imperial Army fought the rebel army. It had become a large cavity, and you could look down on it from all directions. Mixed with the corpses were pieces of lumber covered in black cloth— A large number of these scarecrows stood like grave markers.
「It looks like we’re being made fools of.」
But it was truly an effective strategy. As far as anyone knows of the man in black’s abilities, it’s not impossible that he is hiding in the shadows of one of the scarecrows. And there’s also the possibility that one of them is actually him. It’s likely many of the men are analyzing the situation in such a way, which is why they hesitate.
「This is all for the objective of retreating, or they have soldiers waiting in ambush in all directions. Either way, to think he would outwit us so well.」
Taking his gaze away from the graveyard and looking to the other side, he could see the Fourth Imperial Army’s rear as they were retreating. This bait is so tempting he almost wants to chase after them thoughtlessly. But it he wants to attack them, he would have to cut straight across. If this happened to be a trap, not only would they lose their advantageous position, they’d be walking into a deadly situation.
And he doesn’t even want to think of what would happen if the man in black were in hiding. Without a doubt, it would turn into a losing battle.
「Even if we make a large detour and pursue them…」
Not only would the enemy be ready to meet them in battle, there’s a chance their ranks of soldiers would still be in disarray when they engaged them. A truly well thought out plan, and a tactic to learn from.
「To control the battle so freely while in enemy territory… It seems the enemy has a monster like 「Mars」.」
After quietly laughing at himself, Ranquil looked up at the sky. A veil of darkness is getting ready to bring down its curtain. If he fails to time his actions well on top of everything else, the only thing waiting for them is ruin. Mobilizing an army on emotions alone indicates failure as a leader.
「The sun will set soon. It seems it would be best to return to camp for now.」
There was a shadow on Ranquil’s expression. This was because his path to victory was completely closed off. The army’s will to fight is declining and morale continues to drop. They’ll end up losing if he doesn’t figure out a strategy to break through this.
He realized there was a large, invisible wall standing in his way.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
The sun sets. The wind, which carried enough heat with it to burn the skin, began to cool.
There are many campfires burning in the area. Surrounding them were over a hundred tents which were assembled like a town. If you had an aerial view, you would see that they were set up in a circular formation.
This is the campground of the Fourth Imperial Army.
In the center, was a noticeably large tent flying a crest of red soil and lilies.
There is no one inside. This is because the one who sleeps here— Liz, the Sixth Imperial Princess, is currently running about and making efforts to raise the morale of the soldiers.
A short distance away from that tent, another tent was set up for a war council. Normally, the Sixth Imperial Princess who is the acting commanding officer, should be here… But rather than her, the one sitting at the head of the long table inside, is Fourth Imperial Prince Hiro.
Also sitting around the table were General Kielo and the staff officers who were aiding him.
Hiro was the first to open his mouth.
「Regarding why I gathered you all… I think you might have a vague idea.」
Hiro struck a bundle of reports placed on the table and spoke in a lofty manner, to which the faces of the staff officers began to turn pale. No one dares to lift their face. They know what is to happen now.
It may have been that he wasn’t expecting his name to be called, as General Kielo looked at Hiro with a surprised expression.
「Have I done something?」
「It’s written in these reports that you instructed a number of units to pillage provisions from nearby villages.」
「Is it not a fundamental war tactic to supply provisions from an enemy nation?」
「That’s true. But that’s under the assumption that there’s payment. Pillaging is untactful.」
「How idealistic… This is something every country does.」
「The Grantz Grand Empire respects military regulations. Someone with the rank of general in particular needs to keep that in mind. Having gone against that, your actions are by no means forgivable.」
Hiro continued indifferently.
「And so, I will strip you of your rank of general.」
「E-Even if you are an Imperial family member, you shouldn’t have such authority! What gives you the right to do that?!」
「That is true. But if I send a report to the military department, I think the result would be the same.」
「If you don’t want that to happen, I guess you have no choice but to poison me or attack me in the dark and kill me.」
「I wish you wouldn’t speak such nonsense.」
General Kielo’s face tensed up. His reaction made it seem like Hiro had looked into his inner thoughts and hit the mark. While thinking how easy this man was to read, Hiro held back a sneer and nodded.
「I did go a bit overboard there. I apologize. Please forget it happened.」
「You really did. I wish you wouldn’t think so little of me. There’s no way I would do something so insolent.」
「Yes, that’s true. You are a noble and distinguished person.」
Hiro stretched out both arms.
「Which is why you should have realized— That the only ones here are the staff officers who obeyed your instructions.」
He might have noticed this for the first time, as General Kielo opened his eyes wide and looked around at the faces of the staff officers.
「Then, you know what I want to say, yes?」
「… O-Of course.」
It looks like he doesn’t know. His eyes are darting about and he’s confused. While shocked at General Kielo’s ignorance on the inside, Hiro decided to throw out a lifeline to continue the conversation.
「You probably won’t believe it unless you hear it from my mouth.」
He smiles, lifts his hand, and extends his pointer finger.
「If you obey my instructions from here on out, I’ll pretend this never happened.」
「I don’t think it’s a bad deal. It depends on your achievements hereafter, but I can try to push for you to be called to the capital. I mean, it might even be possible for me to nominate you as commander in chief.」
「… Do you mean that?」
「It’s a waste to have a distinguished general such as yourself secluded in this remote region.」
After a forced sigh, Hiro shook his head.
「However… I can’t cover up all the violations of military regulations you’ve committed here. It seems word has spread from the units you gave instructions to.」
「So, I’m sorry to say this, but I’d like you to lead the vanguard for tomorrow’s decisive battle, General Kielo.」
General Kielo was clearly dismayed. The casualty rate of the vanguard unit is high. And if he became their commander, he would be targeted by many of the enemy soldiers. There’s no way he can simply agree to that. Which is why Hiro decided to give him a little push on the back.
「We outnumber them. There’s no need to worry. It’s not like I want to send you to the vanguard unit without a plan. I want you to build your merits.」
「I’m sure tomorrow’s decisive battle will be a guaranteed victory. But if you’re in the safety of the rear, you can’t achieve any merits. Then you wouldn’t be called to the capital.」
「That is true.」
「Please understand. I’d like for a distinguished person such as yourself to become commander in chief.」
「… Please be sure his Majesty hears well of me.」
「I promise. I’ll be sure to send a report.」
After holding back the part that it would be a report of his death in battle, Hiro put on a fake smile and extended his right hand.
General Kielo grasped it in delight.
「Then, I will give it my all.」
「I’m glad you understand. Let’s say everything until now is water under the bridge.」
After sitting back in his seat, Hiro spoke to the silent staff officers.
「I’ll have all of you join the vanguard unit as well. That isn’t a problem, right?」
General Kielo is leading the vanguard unit. There’s no way they’ll say no.
「In a month or two, I’m sure everyone here will be welcomed as heroes in the Imperial capital.」
This was the clincher. After hesitating, the staff officers nod.
Hiro tried to resist, but he couldn’t help but smile a little. After stroking his eyepatch to hide it…
「Then, everyone, please rest in preparation for tomorrow.」
「Yes. We will be sure to achieve great deeds for your Highness Hiro!」
General Kielo said in lively voice before leaving the tent. The staff officers also followed suit. In the now empty space, Hiro turned towards a corner where darkness was lurking.
A human silhouette slowly revealed itself, and then a man appeared.
It’s one of General Kielo’s former staff officers. He approaches Hiro and kneels.
「Our spy has successfully infiltrated the enemy camp. And as instructed, we have prepared 1,500 camels outside our encampment.」
「So things are going as planned. How is our security doing?」
「Also going as planned. We have them on high alert and we’ve created a few openings.」
「Did any enemy spies sneak in?」
「There are currently four. We’ve received reports confirming their infiltration.」
「Then please give out instructions to have those four captured.」
The staff officer was about to leave, but Hiro called out and stopped him.
「Is there something else?」
「Can you spread the word to the soldiers that General Kielo and his followers have turned in?」
His expression seems to say that he had already done so without being told. No doubt he has a considerable amount of grudge built up.
「Then, I shall excuse myself.」
This time, everyone had truly gone. Hiro lets out a deep sigh and closes his eyes.
The General Kielo ill repute from turning in before the soldiers will likely spread instantly.
In contrast, Liz is caring for the soldiers without rest. With this, the number of those who are dissatisfied with Liz will surely dwindle. It will likely help raise morale as well. In short, it will mean solidarity. Everyone will continue to fight for Liz while willing to give up their lives.
「Now, we have to drop the enemy’s numbers.」
Hiro stood up and went outside. The night breeze brushes against his cheeks as the campfires sway.
He started heading towards the place where Gahda was being held captive.
There are a large number of soldiers placed outside the camp as guards. Hiro expressed his gratitude and entered.
The zorosta— Gahda notices Hiro and lifts his face.
「Are you alone?」
「I am. Because I have something important to discuss with you. If anyone else were here, I wouldn’t be able to be completely open with you, right?」
「Hmph, even if you were completely open, there would probably be a pitch darkness hiding everything inside you.」
「More importantly, Mileu is safe, right?」
「She’s fine. She’s with Liz and pretending to be her attendant.」
「I see… It’s fine if she’s safe. So what did you want to discuss?」
Hiro stared at Gahda’s state for a bit, then cut the ropes which were binding him.
Gahda looks at the ropes on the ground, then looks at Hiro confused.
「What are you playing at?」
「I can’t talk to you comfortably like that.」
「You’re a strange one. There’s a limit to how bold you can be towards a prisoner of war.」
「I’ll take that as a compliment.」
Hiro sat on the ground and took out a bottle of alcohol from inside his black clothes.
「Sleight of hand?」
「I’m good at stowing things away.」
He shrugs and tosses the bottle to Gahda. Gahda tilted his head and mumbled.
「Aren’t you drinking?」
「I’m underaged. Ahh, I’ll say this before you get suspicious, but there isn’t any poison in there.」
「I’m not worried about that. Even without any roundabout methods, I’m sure someone as skilled as yourself would easily be able to take my head.」
Gahda open the lid of the bottle and gulped it down. Then he tilted the bottle and held it out.
「So, are you really not going to drink?」
「I told you I’m underaged. Besides, I still have work to do.」
「Then let’s stop with the idle chit chat and just get to the point. What sort of difficulty are you thinking of forcing on me?」
「If I’m being completely blunt, I’m going to have the slave liberation army participate in tomorrow’s battle.」
Perhaps he had anticipated this, as Gahda voices his objection without showing any agitation.
「We won’t manage any coordination. I think we’d actually get in the way.」
「It won’t be a problem. I’m not thinking of any coordinated efforts.」
「What are you scheming?」
Gahda sent him a sharp gaze. Hiro calmly brushes it aside and opens his mouth.
「I want to preserve our battle power.」
「Are you planning to have the slave liberation army fight alone? If you did that, not only will there be deserters, there’s the possibility they might actually bare their fangs at all of you.」
「No, I’ll have the Fourth Imperial Army’s vanguard unit fight first. I think there are about a 1,000 men. There shouldn’t be too much complaint with that.」
「And I’ve even prepared a reward. Once the battle’s over, we’ll free the slaves. And the mercenaries, too. We can even provide them a place to live.」
「The conditions are too favorable. I feel like there’s something to this.」
「Exactly. But it’s not difficult.」
「That depends on what it is.」
Gahda placed the bottle on the ground and gave Hiro a serious look, letting him know he wouldn’t be letting even the slightest of movements slip past him.
To respond in kind, Hiro didn’t show any signs of plotting any tricks as he spoke.
「I want you to blend in with the confusion of the melee and kill General Kielo, the leader of the vanguard unit, and his followers.」
「… You’re insane.」
「Though if possible, I’d like the entire vanguard unit to be annihilated. But anyway, at the very least, I want them to die.」
「Can I ask the reason for that?」
「General Kielo has committed too many crimes. That’s the reason.」
「… You mean the burning of the neighboring villages?」
「You knew about it?」
「Despite my current situation, I was in command of the slave liberation army. Such information came to be immediately.」
「Then that makes things simpler. You know—」
His lips formed a smile while his eyes did no such thing. Hiro muttered while wearing an expression frightening enough to send a chill down your spine.
「I never allow those who hurt innocent people to be forgiven.」
In the dead silent space, the sound of teeth grinding rang out.
A moment of silence falls upon them. Gahda, whose eyes were cast down, grabbed the bottle and let out a sigh.
「I think it would be more sound for you to do it yourself rather than leaving it to someone else.」
「I probably would have killed him with my own two hands if I was a fool who didn’t consider the consequences.」
「Because he’s a general, he’s a well known noble.」
「That’s right. By no means is he of low status.」
General Kielo’s Nickel house is a distinguished one which holds a high position among the nobles in the south. If he killed their current head, there’s the danger of the southern nobles becoming his enemies. But if he let him live, there’s the danger that his grudge against Hiro will be a hindrance to future endeavors.
「So whether you punish him and leave him alive or kill him with your own two hands, his existence is a nuisance… So you have him killed on the battlefield and—」
After putting words to Hiro’s thoughts, his smile deepened as if he now understood.
「— Are you planning to shift the blame to the Lichtein Dukedom?」
「That’s right. I supposed I’m thinking of using it as negotiation material.」
Gahda made a troubled face and looked like he was thinking about something. Then, he empties out the bottle in one gulp and tosses it in the air.
「… All right. I’ll be sure to take their heads.」
After voicing his resolve, he pointed at Hiro who now had the bottle.
「Bring some top quality alcohol next time.」
Gahda lied down using his arm as a pillow. This is probably his way of saying the conversation is over.
As Hiro tries to leave the tent, Gahda turned his body and looked at him as if he remembered something.
「I was about to just go to sleep, but are you okay leaving me like this?」
「It’s fine. You can stay like that and keep your spirits up. I need you to work hard for me tomorrow after all.」
「I’ll take you up on that then.」
After going outside, Hiro called out to the soldiers standing guard.
「Please don’t go inside until I come here tomorrow morning.」
「As you wish!」
Afterwards, Hiro headed towards his own tent. Along the way, a light infantryman ran to him.
After saluting and kneeling, he spoke quickly while panting.
「The enemy spies have been captured.」
「Understood. Please bring them to my tent.」
After stopping suddenly, Hiro looked up at the sky.
The stars are glittering in the night sky like scattered gems. The gentle moonlight shining on the surface offers a feeling of warmth despite the cold weather.
「It’s so pretty.」
Hiro lets out a white breath of air and smiles peacefully.
「This is the one thing that doesn’t change, even after a 1,000 years.」
He recalled a woman who once spoke passionately of the night sky.
She was a woman who was just like the crimson haired young girl.
They weren’t exactly alike in appearance, but they were almost identical in nature.
「I wonder what you would say if you saw her.」
Hiro returned to his tent as he looked up towards the night sky.
❤ A super long chapter just in time for the new year ❤