Here is chapter one of volumes 3!
Cerberus is so cute ❤ I wish I had a pet like him ^^
Chapter 3, Episode 1: Start
Imperial Year 1023, September 11th— Fort Belk.
The light of the sun shining into the study awakens its master.
He has black hair and black eyes and a reasonably toned body. Though he is neat in appearance, he doesn’t seem very energetic, perhaps because he just woke up. But in contrast to this, half his face was covered by an eyepatch which was brimming with an air of intimidation, enough to turn heads.
Until he came to Aletia, this young boy was known as Hiro Ouguro.
Currently, he is the adopted Fourth Imperial Prince of the Imperial family and goes by the name of Hiro Schwartz von Grantz.
He yawns, and at the same time, the chirping of birds beat against a window and hit his ears.
As he sits himself up, a pile of books slide down from his body while making rustling noises. At that moment, mountains of books stacked around him collapsed like an avalanche.
「I fell asleep here again…? Liz is going to be mad.」
After staring at the disastrous state of the room, Hiro looked like he was preparing himself for some severe punishment as he scratched his head.
This is the study, a place crammed with the history of Fort Belk.
It is currently occupied by Hiro, and it is slowly becoming a daily routine for him to eat and sleep here.
Of course, it’s not that he doesn’t have a room. Hiro has a room prepared for him on the second floor. However, the study is on the third floor, and it’s become a hassle to go back and forth. For this self-indulgent reason, he spends his days in the study.
「… Well, there’s a lot to research.」
As he voiced his excuse outloud, a mountain of books at his feet collapsed.
From there appeared Cerberus, a wolf with a coat of white fur.
He’s a rare creature not of the central continent, but Liz found him drifted in from an eastern archipelago and he’s been with her ever since.
「So you were sleeping here too, Cerberus.」
For the most part, the third floor has become a playground for Cerberus, so it’s not strange for him to be here. In fact, you could say he’s slowly becoming its master. The soldiers can’t even step foot here without permission from Cerberus, after all.
「Did you keep me warm so I wouldn’t freeze to death?」
He assumes out loud. Cerberus simply replied by shaking his tail from side to side.
He looks at him for a while, but unable to get an answer, Hiro shrugs his shoulders and gets up.
He decided to leave the study before Liz found him.
The entrance is a massive wooden door.
Hiro put his ear to the door and checked to see if anyone was in the hallway.
「Cerberus, I’m begging you, be quiet.」
Hiro turns around and puts a finger to his lips.
Behind him, Cerberus opens his mouth wide and lets out a yawn.
It seemed like he was telling Hiro to give it up because it was pointless.
「It’s breakfast time right now. Liz should be eating in the dining hall. It’s okay. This is going to work.」
Hiro pats Cerberus on the head once and smiles.
The proud white wolf looked up and stared doubtfully at Hiro, but then his nose twitched and he let out a loud sigh.
Hiro doesn’t understand the meaning behind this gesture.
But, he soon found out why.
「Hi~ro~! You fell asleep in the study again, didn’t you? How many times do I have to tell you, you’ll catch a cold!」
Motherly scolding can be heard as the sound of hurried footsteps spread across the third floor hallway.
Hiro moved away from the door in a panic.
「… What do I do?」
He looked to Cerberus for advice, but the white wolf was on the floor with his ears flipped closed.
Having been betrayed by his friend, Hiro looks to the window. It’s possible to cut it open and escape.
But should he really go that far to escape?
As he hesitated over this question, the fatal moment arrived.
The door burst open with a loud noise. A morning chill enters the study.
Standing imposingly in the hallway, is a beautiful young girl with both hands on her hips and an ill-tempered expression.
Her hair is crimson red like flames, and her crimson eyes give off a brilliant light like gems. Her figure is perfectly arranged as if a master craftsman had carved her out of stone, and her smooth, white skin is enough to bewitch anyone.
She is the Sixth Imperial Princess of the Grantz Grand Empire and the commanding officer of Fort Belk, Celiya Estreya Elizabeth von Grantz. Those close to her call her Liz.
Hiro smiles at her in an attempt to gloss things over.
「G-Good morning… D-Do you need something?」
「Yeah, good morning.」
Liz replied with her own greeting and a refreshing smile, but then it changed completely into a solemn face as her wrath swelled.
「Wait, what do you mean, do I need something? Why won’t you sleep in your own room? There isn’t even a bed in the study so you have no choice but to sleep on the floor. It’s going to hurt your back, and you’ll catch a cold.」
After going on and on, Liz looked sad as she lowered her eyes.
「I worry that you might catch a cold and suffer, Hiro.」
「B-But, it’s warmer than you’d think when you’re covered in books.」
「What did you say…?」
Liz squints her eyes. Then, her hands reached out to Hiro’s cheeks.
Hiro braced himself for a sharp pain, but…
「I won’t hear any excuses. Be sure to sleep in your room from now on.」
She simply pulled on his cheeks gently.
A sense of guilt fills his chest. He would have preferred to be hit.
If he’s reprimanded so gently like this, he has no urge to object or defy her.
「Very good. Be careful from now on.」
Liz rubs Hiro’s cheeks a few times.
「Now, let’s go get some breakfast!」
With her usual smile, she began to walk ahead of him with light steps.
After forcing a smile, Hiro left with Liz, leaving the study behind.
Fort Belk’s dining hall is on the first floor. It was currently packed with soldiers of the Fourth Imperial Army who had finished their morning training.
Hiro takes Cerberus and heads for the officers’ seating area.
Tris was seated there looking woefully at his cold food.
He noticed Hiro and glared at him with bitter eyes.
「My food’s gone cold.」
「It’s nothing to concern yourself over.」
It was Second grade enlisted officer Doryx who said this.
「It is Sir Tris’s fault for not anticipating this.」
With a tray of food in one hand, Doryx sits next to Tris.
Then, he looks at Hiro.
「Good morning, your Highness Hiro.」
「Yeah, good morning.」
Doryx looks at Hiro’s hands.
「Where is your food…? If you’d like, should I get some for you?」
「It’s okay. Liz is bringing me some.」
「Boy, are you mistaking the princess for a server or something?」
While he looks at his cold food, Tris expresses his anger through the shaking of his body.
Doryx pat his shoulders and tried to calm him down.
「Normally, those who have the right of succession in the Imperial family squabble with one another. Isn’t it nice that they get along instead?」
「Mm… Well, that is true…」
Despite having known each other for only a short time, Doryx knows well how to deal with Tris.
While surprised, Hiro sits across from them. As he did, Liz returned with trays in both hands.
「Hiro, I brought yours. All right, now eat up.」
Placed before him was a mountain of meat piled onto a tray.
This is rough first thing in the morning. He feels full just looking at it.
「I really think this is too much.」
「You usually get your food stolen by Cerberus, so I got enough for that, too.」
「Ahh, I see.」
It’s true, Cerberus steals his food every day.
With this much food, even Cerberus wouldn’t be able to eat all of it.
To think she would anticipate this. Could this be a result of her daily studies in the art of war?
Hiro was moved by Liz’s growth.
「All right, thank you for the food.」
As Hiro puts his hands together, Tris and Doryx begin to eat as well.
After a while, Doryx stops eating and begins to chat with Hiro.
「Your Highness Hiro, Your Highness Celiya Estreya, regarding the former slaves…」
The former slaves— He refers to the slaves who fought in the slave liberation army.
They are currently staying in temporary housing outside of Fort Belk while Liz and the others provide them with food.
However, it’s impossible to support them forever. They need the slaves to become self reliant as soon as possible.
Doryx was entrusted with undertaking this project.
「Along with all the documents, I have sent Margrave Grinda the note from your Highness Celiya Estreya.」
「Thank you. If it’s Uncle, I’m sure he won’t do anything bad.」
「I’m not too worried about Margrave Grinda, either.」
Doryx replied to Liz’s words, then turned his gaze to Hiro.
「However, I believe it is dangerous to assume that a portion of the territory we seized from the Lichtein Dukedom will be distributed to Margrave Grinda. 」
Doryx grabs a goblet filled with water.
He quenched his thirst and wet his lips with one gulp and continued.
「You can’t say for certain that it won’t be distributed to the other southern nobles.」
「I understand your concern, but he’ll definitely get the land he wants.」
Hiro laughed at Doryx’s concern and told him why.
「The southern nobles will be busy from here on out. Reason being, they’re eager to determine how to get their hands on the territory of the Nickel house or the oasis city.」
The Nickel house is the name of house of the now deceased General Kielo.
While his territory is located in the south, its climate is similar to that of the central lands. But perhaps because there is a strong influence from the south, the area is dry with little precipitation. As a result, the land hardly has any tall trees, and is a suitable grassland for grazing. For the southern nobles who have limited resources and make a living from stagecoaches and warhorses, this is a land which they would do anything to get their hands on.
「So we draw the attention of the southern nobles there…」
Hiro placed the blame of all the misconduct during the previous war on General Kielo. Unable to avoid an investigation, and the head of their house gone, they pretty much have their hands tied.
The southern nobles will likely take a whip to the helpless Nickel house and take advantage of their weakened state.
If they’re lucky, they’ll lose a potion of their territory. If not, it’ll be seized completely. Either way, it’s certain that they won’t come out of this unscathed.
「Besides, most of the northern territories are troublesome. If they want a reliable source of profit, they’ll look to the Nickel house or the oasis city.」
The Lichtein Dukedom did not lay a hand on the northern territories, partly because it bordered the Grantz Grand Empire and they wanted to avoid any pointless disputes.
Although it is a wasteland, if only the irrigation is improved, the land can likely be revived. They’ll draw water from Margrave Grinda’s territory, distribute a portion of the land to the liberated slaves, and have them cultivate it. They could also have them dig wells, or mine for minerals.
「We can hire the liberated slaves as workers, and Uncle’s territory will flourish. It’s two birds with one stone.」
Liz voiced Hiro’s thoughts, but that wasn’t all. If Margrave Grinda pulls his weight, his status among the southern nobles will improve. Eventually, that will become a source of support for Liz and bring her closer to the throne.
But there was one thing that bothered him.
「It’ll take time, though.」
Without voicing his concern out loud, Hiro simply ended the conversation by nodding.
「Then with that as the premise, I will secretly contact Margrave Grinda and begin preparations.」
After saying this, Doryx bowed and returned to his meal.
Hiro also went back to silently filling his mouth with meat, but then he noticed someone’s gaze on him and his hand stopped.
Liz is staring at him, making him feel extremely uncomfortable.
He swallowed what was in his mouth, turned to Liz, and opened his mouth to speak.
「Umm—… You want some?」
「Yeah. I sort of got the feeling that’s what you wanted.」
「I was just thinking how good you make it look, the way you eat it.」
「I see. Here, have some.」
As he holds out some meat for Liz…
The meat disappears into a mouth with beautiful rows of teeth.
After watching her, Hiro noticed the stares from around him.
Tris was gripping so hard at his chest it made you think he could be hyperventilating.
Doryx shook his head exasperated, and the officers sitting around the table were whistling.
「Hiro, Hiro, one more!」
Liz clung to his arm like a little bird begging for food.
But Hiro doesn’t have the courage to give her more meat while he’s exposed to all these stares.
It’s unclear whether or not Liz noticed them, but she urges him to give her more.
This is a time to deliberate. If he uses a poor tactic, Liz will see through it.
But if he’s blunt with her, lightning will pierce through Hiro from Tris sitting across from him.
(I’ve been cornered.)
But the man once known as 「Mars」 arrives at an ingenious plan.
The proud white beast, Cerberus, appeared before his feet.
(I’ll leave the rest to you.)
They exchange glances. There’s no need for any words. This was enough for them to understand each other.
Cerberus jumps onto the long table and begins to devour Hiro’s meal.
Upset at this, Liz stood up.
「H-Hey! That’s bad manners, Cerberus!」
「Now, now, Cerberus is hungry, too. Forgive him.」
He succeeds in stuffing the last piece into her mouth and keeping her quiet.
In that time, Cerberus, who consumed the mountain of meat, had dropped to the floor and dashed away.
「Geez, I guess there’s no helping it… I should eat my food, too.」
She can’t do anything now that he’s run away. Liz let it go and sat down to resume eating her meal.
Hiro wasn’t able to eat much of his breakfast, but he was relieved that he was able to overcome a crisis.
But Hiro shuddered at Liz’s next move.
「Hiro, here’s some meat for you now. Ahh~」
His trial was not yet over.
This is how Hiro’s turbulent day began.
＊＊＊＊＊ ＊＊＊＊＊ ＊＊＊＊＊
Having finished his breakfast, Hiro left Liz and started for the courtyard.
As he approached the courtyard, he could hear voices full of vigor.
It wasn’t just a few. It was a chorus of hundreds of voices which shook his ears.
Before long, neatly formed ranks of soldiers swinging their swords came into view.
「Yup, they’re looking pretty good.」
Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw men in mock battles, practicing stick fighting, and operating bows. Some wore heavy armor, some light, and some were even in robes.
But all their equipment was black, and they created a sight that could be called bizarre.
Before a number of small units stood a unit leader on a platform a small distance away— It was their commander who stood there with a stern gaze.
After approaching the platform, Hiro looked up at the person standing there.
「Looks like it’s going well.」
His entire body is wrapped in armor— The man in the black fluted armor looked down at Hiro, then threw his large frame down to the ground and knelt.
「Well, they used to be mercenaries. They have the basics down.」
The soldiers in the courtyard are those formerly of the slave liberation army.
They took in all applicants from those who were brought in as prisoners or war, but more than half of them applied for a discharge soon after training began due to the commander’s strictness.
There are currently 1,500 left.
「But was there a need to match the color of the equipment?」
All the equipment which was given to them was bought with money received from the widow of the Kelheit house. But their equipment does not have the coat of arms which indicates that they are Hiro’s private soldiers.
There are a number of reasons for this.
It would be impossible to make several thousand pieces of armor only a few days after receiving the order, no matter how skilled the craftsman or how large the workshop.
The same would apply even if they just wanted to engrave the coat of arms.
So for now, they bought up the black equipment from neighboring towns.
「If an enemy force saw this uniform equipment, that alone would put them on alert. But it would have the opposite effect if they were an elite force.」
Hiro’s words were sharp.
Without any work, they’re of no use in battle as they are now. It’s surprising that he’s saying this.
The commander neither agreed nor disagreed. But the corners of his lips turned up inside his helmet before he voiced his skepticism.
「Hmph, then I’ll soon make them the elite of the Fourth Imperial— no of the entire Grand Empire.」
「That’s promising. Their equipment from when they were mercenaries are put away in the warehouse. I pray a time comes for them to be put to use.」
「It’ll come soon.」
As the man lifted the face of his helmet, his features became exposed. Light purple— A special trait of the zorostas.
The sharp glint in his eyes would even cause brave, experienced warriors to falter. And though his strong physique is hidden under his armor, there is no hiding the dominating aura emanating from his large frame.
He is a pure blooded zorosta who drifted in from a southern archipelago— he is Gahda Obunano.
Currently, there are no pure bloods on the central continent.
Although the Revering Kingdom north of the Grantz Grand Empire is called the country of zorostas, they’ve had relations with other races throughout their long history, and even the royalty is not of pure blood.
「Putting that aside… if we were to go to war soon, would they be able to mobilize?」
Though he looked puzzled at Hiro’s words, Gahda opened his mouth after a moment.
「It depends how skilled the opponent is… but if they’re to mobilize independently, there’s no problem. If they’re to fight while coordinating with the Fourth Imperial Army however, it’ll probably be difficult.」
「Then I guess it’s fine.」
「… Are there signs of war?」
Hiro let’s Gahda’s question slide by with a cool expression, then looked up at the sky.
White clouds color the clear sky. The sun’s light pours down through the gaps in between and onto the surface.
Though there are still cool winds now, soon they will change to hot, steamy winds.
Hiro gets the feeling it’s going to be another hot day. Then, he returns his gaze to Gahda with a smile on his face.
「It’s standard to be prepared for emergencies.」
「Well, that is true… but my assumption isn’t necessarily wrong, is it?」
「There’s something that’s kind of bothering me.」
「I don’t have proof though… Well, I guess time will tell.」
His words weren’t very clear, but Gahda nodded quite seriously.
「Then I’ll train them as long as time allows.」
Gahda lowered the face of his mask and turned to the soldiers working hard at their training.
The new pieces of armor reflect the sun’s light like mirrors. If anyone unaware of this situation saw them, they would likely feel pressure from them and believe them to be an elite unit the way they yelled enthusiastically while thrusting their spears. But if a seasoned soldier were watching, they wouldn’t miss the rough edges.
But that which fills in those holes is the skill of the commander— whether they live or die depends on the direction of their commander.
「I have high hopes. I want them to be as close as possible to being able to answer any request, no matter how reckless.」
「If we want to make them stronger in a short period of time… actual combat is the only way.」
「That’s true. It’s in life or death battles that people are able to realize their own potential.」
Hiro’s lips crack into a crescent shape, like a child who just thought of a sinister plan.
「While we’re on that, though they’re not the optimal opponents, we’ve received word that thieves and bandits— deserters of the Lichtein Dukedom are putting together a faction in the vicinity.」
「Is the location nearby?」
「It seems they took advantage of the chaos during the war the other day and made their stronghold in caves and narrow pathways in a wasteland.」
Hiro presented two pieces of parchment to Gahda.
「I want you to choose one of these. It seems the Fourth Imperial Army will be in charge of the other.」
Gahda takes them in his hands and begins to read them. Hiro continued to speak.
「The first is a cave a day’s journey east of here. There are 50. The other is near the village where Milieu lives— the pathways of a wasteland a day’s journey south of here. There are 300 there. It seems there are deserters included in the numbers here. There’s a constant stream of newcomers joining them even now apparently… There may be over 300 by the time you face them. What will you do?」
「We’ll suppress the enemies in the pathways. Is there a time limit or any conditions?」
「You’ll be taking 800. You’ll return by the second day. You have to include rest time for the horses too, so you’ll have about three hours to fight at the most.」
「That’s rather unreasonable.」
「Well, it won’t build any experience unless there are a number restrictions.」
After groaning for a bit, Gahda threw out a question for Hiro.
「How would you suppress them if it were you, One-Eyed Dragon?」
「There are only 300 opponents. I’d go in alone and—」
Annihilate them… is what he held back before actually saying it. This was because Gahda started glaring at him.
Hiro got the feeling Gahda was trying to tell him that that was only possible for him.
But he pretended not to notice and revised his words.
「Jokes aside— the enemy is holed up. Even if we outnumber them, it’s pointless if we don’t take advantage of that.」
Hiro acted like he was in thought as he continued to speak.
「That’s also the place of their stronghold. They probably have a grasp of the terrain too, so it’s best to assume they have the advantage of the land. You may end up with unexpected casualties if you let your guard down, so I would drag the enemy out and turn the tables on them.」
After finishing, Hiro stretches his hand out to Gahda.
「I can give you a number of plans if you’re feeling uneasy.」
Rather than nodding to accept his offer, Gahda flashed a bold and daring smile.
「No need. I just wanted to confirm. Confirm whether or not the One-Eyed Dragon was forcing something on me that he couldn’t handle himself.」
Arrogant— This is an unreserved manner of speech towards a member of the Imperial family.
If one who had sworn allegiance to the Grantz Imperial family had heard this, no doubt their sword would have been drawn and pointed at Gahda. If Doryx, who’s redeeming feature is his perpetual composure, had heard this, he probably would have fainted.
「Haha, I’m glad to hear that.」
But even so, the man himself doesn’t think anything of it, so it doesn’t matter how others feel. Above all, you can say it’s because of this openness and friendliness that his popularity with the Fourth Imperial Army, which second only to Liz, is set in stone.
But having said that, if he showed this attitude in front of the soldiers, it would certainly set a bad example. It might be that Gahda knows this too, as he approaches him with a cringeworthy level of courtesy if there is anyone listening nearby.
That in itself is a comical scene to watch, but when they really want to speak their true thoughts, it is only limited to times like this when there is no one to intrude on their conversation.
「Then I’ll leave it to you.」
「Yeah, we’ll leave after about an hour of rest.」
Hiro was about to leave, but he suddenly remembered something and turned to Gahda.
「Ahh, right… You can use the equipment in the warehouse freely.」
It looked like Gahda was probing for the meaning behind those words, but it seemed he understood after a little while as he nodded slightly.
「All right. We’ll be using them freely.」
「Then, I’ll be awaiting good news.」
As Hiro waves behind him and starts to walk towards the study, he could hear Gahda’s loud voices telling the soldiers to rest.