Got into my homework so much that I almost forgot to release >_<
Here is chapter 4 of vol 3!
Chapter 3, Episode 4: Stars
The snow storm which was raging across the land has passed.
The plants and flowers which were buried in snow began to poke their faces toward the sun.
But as if to replace the snow storm, a new menace was devastating the surface.
— The winds of war.
The hooves of over a thousand horses trample over flesh and blood as they race toward their opposition.
The knights atop their horses all brandish the tips of their spears. The outstretched spears easily slid through the armor of their enemies and sliced their flesh, causing blood to fly out and paint the sky red.
With just one charge— with that alone, hundreds of soldiers were covered in blood and smashed to pieces.
There are some who managed to survive, but it’s not worth finding them to finish them off.
This is because they will be tragically crushed to death by the following cavalry.
Imperial Year 1023, September 31.
Revering Kingdom, southwestern border, Variyas Plains.
Like a rising river, a muddy stream of countless troops were swallowing an opposing army.
At the start of the war— The Grantz Grand Empire had over 20,000 troops, but they have less than 5,000 now and are surrounded on all sides. On the other hand, the ones surrounding them, the Revering Kingdom’s army is a massive force of 30,000.
At this point, there is an overwhelming difference which cannot be overturned, no matter how much they struggle.
Atop a small hill overlooking the decided battle was the headquarters of the Revering Kingdom.
The soldiers wear tense expressions as they watch their surroundings, not willing to let their guard down until the battle is over.
This is because the closer they are to victory, the higher the chance of them making a mistake or being attacked.
And so, the soldiers stay on alert without slackening.
「So that’s one victory for now… But I don’t understand the Grantz soldiers. They choose death over surrender.」
Crown Prince Fraus turned his gaze away from the battlefield and looked up at a questionable, hooded man next to him. Even though he peers up from below, his expression is shrouded in a dark shadow, and he can only see his mouth. But even that is just a straight line, and as always, it’s impossible to tell what this man is thinking.
「Those who valiantly meet their end on the battlefield without fear of death can go to the Twelve Great Gods of Grantz. The Grantz soldiers believe this.」
His name is Bahl van Bitenia.
He is the wise general who led the Revering Kingdom to victory, and one of the three Asuras.
「Well, I’m sure there will be some who beg for their lives, but most of the Grantz soldiers believe that fighting until the bitter end is honorable.」
「Isn’t that just a meaningless death in the end? To begin with, it’s insolent for humans to claim to be gods while they put us to the side.」
「A thousand years ago, the weakest race challenged and won against the strongest race. You could say their exploits merit deification.」
「Hmph, it’s vexing, but I suppose I have to acknowledge that. But it seems the humans have forgotten. That if it weren’t for 「Zeltius」 and 「Mars」, they would be slaves right now.」
「Which is why there is a need to make them remember. In order to rebuild the world of the zorostas, we must plant the seed of fear into the humans once more.」
「I’m sure that would be quite a thrill, but isn’t that only if we can continue to win even after this?」
They were able to attain victory this time around because they launched their attack before their opponent had time to ready themselves. However, it’s not likely things will go so smoothly for them next time.
Once the surviving enemy soldiers report back to their country, there’s a chance the invincible First Imperial Army might show up. Or maybe the Fifth Imperial Army led by the Second Imperial Prince will come.
Furthermore, the Third Imperial Army is on standby in the eastern region of the Grantz Grand Empire.
No matter how you look at it, it’s a checkmate. But having said that, they can’t possible turn back now.
As Crown Prince Fraus was racking his brain, Bahl spoke to him.
「Are you feeling anxious? It’s not that I don’t understand how you feel, but they say haste makes waste. For now, we should just be grateful for our victory.」
It is indeed as Bahl says.
They won against the Grantz Grand Empire, so they should be grateful right now.
(There’s nothing to be anxious about.)
Because more so than anything, Bahl, who led them to victory in this battle, is by his side.
「But well, I didn’t think it would be such an overwhelming victory.」
「This was an obvious outcome. We have thoroughly prepared for this moment. I don’t know about them though. They were confused with the unexpected raid, and though they had the numbers… they made the error of allowing a pincer attack, and now they are surrounded. With this, their chance of victory becomes nonexistent.」
After taking in Bahl’s words, Crown Prince Fraus looks back to the battlefield.
He’s too far away to get a grasp of the small details.
But he could tell the Grantz Grand Empire’s army was steadily dwindling in numbers.
Many officers were defeated, so the chain of command was likely in disarray.
But rather than their morale dying down, it was actually increasing.
It’s possible they have some sort of plan. Crown Prince Fraus asked Bahl about it.
「They say a cornered rat will bite the cat. I wouldn’t know what to do if they managed to turn the tables on us.」
「Rest assured, that will not happen.」
「Is that true? The commander for the Grantz Grand Empire is a general. The Grantz Grand Empire only has twelve generals, and he’s one of them.」
It’s been quite some time since the frontlines confirmed the presence of the Grantz Grand Empire’s general, but they have yet to receive word of his defeat.
— It’s doubtful that he escaped.
Then the safest place— he thought maybe he was holed up in the center, but he immediately shook his head and drove that thought into the corner of his mind.
If the general were a coward, the soldiers would probably have turned tail and run away from the battlefield.
If neither are correct, then it’s the most fearsome possibility: the frontline— he is still fighting in that place which is closest to the next world.
That’s probably inspiring the soldiers and lighting a fire under them.
That’s why the Grantz Grand Empire’s army is managing to continue fighting.
「There are still ten more like him. The Grantz Grand Empire is blessed with talent.」
「Compared to a High General, it is a position that can be bought with money. One was defeated by the likes of Lichtein after all. Well, you could say the general there is at least slightly better than that one… but the way he lets his soldiers die helpless, I wouldn’t call it efficient.」
「I don’t get it. He did allow his soldiers to die, but their morale is so high. They even have a possibility of withdrawing from here. If they can manage to survive, they would have a chance to recover.」
「That won’t happen.」
「How are you so sure?」
「Please take a look.」
Bahl points his hand toward the battlefield.
「For example, a High General would not show such an unsightly state, because they do not fight a battle they cannot win. A great general fights once he creates a situation in which he can win.」
「But in this specific case, it couldn’t helped, no? Anyone would end up like them if they were attacked before they were able to ready themselves.」
「That is the difference between them and a general. A great general wouldn’t make the mistake of being attacked while unprepared.」
For the usually monotonous Bahl, there is a rare fire in his voice.
While Crown Prince Fraus was surprised at this curiosity, Bahl added to his statement.
「If a great general knows he can’t win, he’ll immediately withdraw. If we were able to chase him down, he would respond with an intense offensive while withdrawing, and we would end up in a predicament. No matter the disadvantage he falls to, a great general finds a means of escape.」
He speaks as if he had confronted one firsthand.
Crown Prince Fraus furrows his brows and thinks.
It was about thirty years ago that Bahl came into the former king’s favor and became an Asura.
It’s not clear what he was doing before that. There have been times when he asked Bahl about his past, but the questions were deftly evaded and he wasn’t able to get any answers.
The nobles and citizens say that Bahl, who they know nothing about, is loyal man.
(Is that really the case?)
It’s true that Bahl works hard for the country.
But does that merit trust? Crown Prince Fraus can’t help but shake his head.
Because this plan so far— including the murder of the king, was suggesting by him.
(It seems it could be dangerous for me if I don’t cut my ties with him at some point.)
There’s a chance Bahl’s objective is the throne. Or maybe he plans to make of puppet of him and hold the real power from the shadows. Either way, with him holding the initiative like this, one of those will come to be in the near future.
「What is the matter? Was there something that caught your attention?」
Bahl might have felt suspicious of Crown Prince Fraus’s silence, as he called out to him.
It seems he spent too much time on his thoughts.
Crown Prince Fraus chose his words carefully as he opened his mouth so as not to let on to his inner thoughts.
「… If great generals are as you say, Sir Bitenia, how are we supposed to win against such monsters? I heard one was under house arrest, but there are still four others left.」
「Though the great generals are feared by the neighboring countries, they are but mere children of man. If they stand in our way, we will be sure to slaughter them.」
「Sir Bitenia, it’s not that I doubt your wisdom and courage, but can we truly win? We cannot retreat from this point on.」
「You worry too much, Crown Prince Fraus. Please leave everything to me. I will see to it that the plan succeeds without delay.」
— Everything, he says…
Once you start doubting someone, every single word seems suspicious.
But he can’t point that out. He can’t possible offend Bahl.
Without him, even the small chance of victory they have right now will turn to nothing.
Crown Prince Fraus was forced to nod.
(I have no choice but to endure it for now…)
Until they finish the first stage of their conflict with the Grantz Grand Empire, he’ll let Bahl have his way.
Once he reaches the throne, he’ll relegate him to a fitting post.
He’ll probably receive considerable animosity from the lords, but as long as he can get his hands on the throne, none of that will matter.
After coming to that conclusion, Crown Prince Fraus decided to change the subject.
「I’ll leave that to you, but… how is the matter with Claudia going?」
Annoyingly, Claudia ran away with 「Krone」, the mark of the king.
Unless he’s able to retrieve 「Krone」, he can’t having his coronation ceremony, and Crown Prince Fraus will remain a regent.
He has to secure Claudia as soon as possible.
「I have already taken measures for that.」
「What sort of measures?」
「There is no need for you to worry. Please just wait for the results, Crown Prince Fraus. If you do, you will obtain all that you wish for.」
「… Are you saying there is no need to tell me?」
「For now, I would like you to focus on the battle against the Grantz Grand Empire.」
「But you know—」
Crown Prince Fraus tried to press the matter further, but he was drowned out by shouting.
Crown Prince Fraus turns his eyes to the source.
The Revering Kingdom’s army had torn into the Grantz Grand army’s center.
「Hmm, it seems we’ve defeated the general.」
Muttered Bahl in a monotonous voice.
There is no joy in Crown Prince Fraus’s face. Rather, a somber feeling occupies his chest.
「The Grantz Grand Empire will likely get serious.」
He has no idea what it will be like to receive the ire of the large nation which reigns supreme over this world, or how large an army will be dispatched.
Not too long ago, the Lichtein Dukedom lost their duke and his heirs, one after another. Furthermore, they had to yield to the Grantz Grand Empire, losing their land and paying reparations.
「I believe the one who drove them to defeat was the one eyed dragon— the descendent of Mars.」
How ironic, Crown Prince Fraus snorts.
Even if he is a descendant— now, that land has been devastated a second time by 「Mars」.
It’s likely they hold a considerable grudge against the great empire.
So just in case, they sent a letter to the Lichtein Dukedom hoping for sympathy.
But they’re not expecting a favorable response.
According to spy reports, the 「Wild Eagle of Change」 had fallen to the ground.
If true, a flightless eagle can’t be relied upon. Even if not for that, not only did they lose many of their nobles in the previous war, he heard that there were suspicious movements from the Schteizen Republic after they saw this opportunity. The Lichtein Dukedom probably won’t be able to take any reckless actions in their current situation.
(Well, even if the south can’t act, the west has.)
Crown Prince Fraus sent the same letter to Ferzen’s remnant army.
He’s not sure if they guessed at their intentions, but it seems the remnant army launched a large scale attack against the occupying army. They’re likely planning to take back their land in one shot.
Thanks to that, the Grantz Grand Empire had to split their forces to the north and west.
(All that’s left—)
Crown Prince Fraus looked up overhead.
The clear blue sky made the snow storm from the other day seem like a lie, and the schnee vogels* spread their wings gracefully.
(TL note: German for snow bird.)
As he looks around the cloudless sky, his eyes stop in a certain direction.
(— is how the east will act.)
In that direction— was the small nation of Baum.
＊＊＊＊＊ ＊＊＊＊＊ ＊＊＊＊＊
Imperial Year 1023, October 3.
Claudia, whom Crown Prince Fraus was desperately searching for, was in the central region of the Grantz Grand Empire’s territory— She was walking a desolate road connecting to the Imperial capital.
She wore a dress when she made her getaway from the Royal capital, but now her body was covered in a mud covered hooded cloth. There was the fact that she wore this to hide her identity, but she also sold her dress to procure funds.
Claudia looks atop a withered horse walking beside her.
「Haniel… hang in there a little longer. We’ll be at the Imperial capital tomorrow.」
Claudia’s expression was thick with fatigue, and her thin voice was shaking.
The one who apologized was a person atop the horse— one of the three Asuras, Haniel van Wentzell.
As a result of continuously protecting her from thieves and pursuers, his armor is full of cracks and covered in blood and mud. From the gaps, you can see bandages with blood seeping through. It’s quite a painful sight.
It may have been that he has lost the strength to hold anything in his right hand due to extreme exhaustion, as the handle of his demon sword is tied on with bandages.
Said Haniel, as his wound riddled body stirred and looked as if it was about to slide off the horse. Noticing this, Claudia rushes over and pushes his body back.
As she does, she’s unable to control her strength and causes Haniel to groan from the pain.
Claudia removes her hand in a panic.
「I-I’m sorry. Are you okay?」
As she takes a look at Haniel’s face, he flashed a frail smile and nodded.
「I’m okay. Also, your Highness… I don’t mind if you ride instead of me.」
「What are you saying? I can still walk, so it’s okay.」
There’s fatigue seeping from her voice, but she deliberately spoke cheerfully.
Haniel wears a painful smile.
「Because I’ve forced your Highness to walk, the citizens of the Revering Kingdom are going to stone me.」
「Then I will be sure to explain it to them and make them understand.」
「But, in this state… if bandits appeared, I wouldn’t be able to do anything.」
Indeed, all of Haniel’s limbs are limp, and his body is entrusted to the horse.
If bandits saw this state of his, they would probably attack gleefully without any hesitation.
But Claudia made a fist and announced meekly.
「If they do, I will fight.」
「You’re going to fight, your Highness…?」
Claudia launched a few punches into an empty space.
「I learned self defense from Garius, and right now, I’m more capable of fighting than you, Haniel.」
In terms of Claudia’s abilities, it’s uncertain whether she can win against an average man. But although she’s considered strong for a woman, she would be unreliable against a group of bandits.
But still, Haniel didn’t point out her shortcoming, and just smiled with his pale face.
「Then I will take you up on your offer and rest for a little while.」
「Yes, please rest until the Imperial capital.」
Claudia felt relieved watching Haniel close his eyes.
Then, she decided to continue walking while only leaning slightly on the withered horse.
Honestly, it’s hard for her to even walk. She hasn’t eaten anything these past few days, even though it couldn’t be helped.
But she’s not allowed to complain in front of Haniel, who is covered in wounds from protecting her.
It’s hard to say if it’s fortunate or not, but the nights in the central region are warmer than that of the Revering Kingdom.
At this rate, if they keeps walking all night, they’ll probably arrive at the Imperial capital by noon tomorrow.
She’s constantly praying they won’t come across any bandits until then, but that’s not the only problem.
(I wonder if they’ll believe I’m the princess…)
Claudia looks down at herself and sighs.
Her muddied linen robe has small holes here and there eaten out by bugs.
Her appearance is too shabby for her to be considered the princess of a country.
If she told them she was a princess, they might laugh at her, but they probably wouldn’t believe her.
If she presented 「Krone」 and they said it’s just an ordinary jewel… she would no longer have anything to prove her identity.
(If I could just meet his Majesty the Emperor… or someone related to him.)
Someone related to the emperor— the first person to come to mind would probably be the First Imperial Prince, the man who also happens to be her fiancé. She’s never met him before, but she’s heard about his temperament. If the rumors are true, he isn’t a person to count on in a time like this.
(I have too many weaknesses right now. I have no idea what will be demanded of me.)
If it happens to be a personal request, she’s prepared to accept it, but if it involves her country, she won’t be able to agree to it. She’ll likely have to carefully determine who she can and cannot trust.
(Even though I didn’t realized my brother’s true nature…)
With a self deprecating smile, Claudia looked up overhead.
She wonders what is happening in her country right now, and she earnestly prays that the people are not suffering under her rampant brother.
(Father, please protect the people.)
She grieves not for herself. She has a disposition to wish for the happiness of others.
This may be why she receives tremendous support from the citizens.
The stars in the night sky glittered as if in response to her virtuous prayer.