36. Chapter 36
Johanna, a knight of the Craist Kingdom, was frustrated by the futile negotiations that had been going on for a long time.
“My army will be the vangu――”
“No, the mission to recapture the territory is for us, Ferrius army. Please let us lead the attack this time.”
“Given the firepower, Craist, which has the “Three Heroes”, would be appropriate to take the lead.”
It had been a long time since the moon rose in the sky. A magic stone lamp was hung in the room since that was enough to illuminate the map in the center of the room.
Before tomorrow’s major attack, the army should be determined for the last shift, but it wasn’t so easy. For Johanna it was understandable that each country was anxious for the most favorable time. It wasn’t just about the individual, but about the future of the country. Whichever country contributed the most to the defeat of the Highserk Empire would have a significant impact on the influence it would have in the Four-Country Alliance. Therefore, no country knew when to give up. The only exception was the Principality of Myard, which lost its considerable land and power.
In the war council, which was attended by the general, commander, and deputy of each country, Myard was only represented by only Rita Myard, the leader of the Myard. And the composition was such that the power relations of each country could be understood, even if they didn’t like it. Johanna thought that based on the flow of the meeting, it would probably end with Liberitoa Trade Federation or Ferrius Kingdom as the vanguard.
The Craist Kingdom managed to defeat the Liguria Battalion, one of the most elite battalions of the Highserk Empire, by capturing the 3rd layer guarded by this battalion. And even in the capture of the 6th layer, which was the core of the 13 layers, the magics and skills of the “Three Heroes” was particularly prominent, so that now, the Craist Kingdom was by far in the lead.
Johanna had been informed in advance that the Craist Kingdom’s strategist was persistently negotiating to make it look like the Craist Kingdom was giving the Vanguard position as a favor. The war council to decide on the vanguard honestly seemed like a waste of time to Johanna, since the three of them weren’t going to give up so easily.
Johanna wanted to hit at least once against the commander of the Order of Reharzen who passed on the meeting.
“Well, why don’t you decide with a lottery?”
“Are you joking, Johanna-dono?”
“That must be, right? Please refrain from such irresponsible remarks.”
The representatives of each country, who didn’t miss the words that Johanna had leaked about the lack of progress, continued to express rant one after the other.
“I’m sorry. It was a careless remark.”
When Johanna apologized, the discussion returned to its original agenda. The only one who showed sympathy for Johanna was Rita Myard, who was also in the futile war council.
Johanna thought that rather than waste time here, she should train Yuuto and Makoto or cultivate her mind and strength to prepare for tomorrow.
It was the bustle outside and the odd atmosphere that interrupted the debate.
“What is it!?”
“Is it, magic?”
The civilians, who had little combat experience, couldn’t grasp the situation, but Johanna could tell from the sound of the fight that it was some kind of magical attack. In the room, the military attaches and escorts sensed that the fight was going on outside, as did Johanna.
“Maybe a sabotage by the enemy?”
Some nodded when the Brigade Commander of the Liberitoa Trade Federation army said this.
“It’s possible that there’s an assassination attempt aiming at the VIP going on, using the attack as a diversion.”
“Security is tight. It seems better to wait for more information here.”
Johanna also disagreed with evacuating blindly, but she felt a chill run down her spine. She couldn’t help to think that she had ever experienced the drifting mana.
Far from subsiding, the turmoil was spreading.
Johanna grasped that the distance was getting closer.
“It looks like it’s not just a mere sabotage.”
“What do you mean――”
One of the civilians of the Ferrius Kingdom wanted to ask for an explanation in Johanna’s words.
Johanna wanted to answer, but it didn’t happen because a soldier jumped into the room.
“Enemy attack!!! The dead from the third layer!!!”
It was a Liberitoa soldier who was keeping watch on the 6th layer.
“Calm down. Is it undead? How many?”
Asked the Brigade Commander of Liberitoa army, who was participating in the war council on behalf of Hugo, the Foreign Minister of the Liberitoa Trade Federation.
“I-it’s just one man. The user of 《Demon Fire》 that should have been killed is crossing the camp of the Craist Kingdom and going straight to the command post on the 6th layer.”
Johanna was the closest when “that” happened. She confirmed that magical attack poured into the 《Demon Fire》 user at a density that wasn’t enough to be described as a mere “thick”. The earth was scooped out, and the dust soared as tall as a dragon. Even if the man had become undead… no in the first place, it was unlikely that the body would have remained after getting hit by the torrent of destruction.
“I’ll crush “it” alone. Where is it now?!!”
The wind blew, and the map was blown into the room where the wind shouldn’t blow.
Sweat poured from the whole body. Johanna kicked the desk, pushed the strategist into the shade and covered him with a cloak. When the flame entered the room, it immediately filled the room. Those who were late or in a bad position gave a short cry and rolled on the floor.
Johanna hit the void with 《Strike》 and blew away the approaching blue flame. Only seven people were left standing indoors when the blue flames subsided. Johanna, Rita Myard and her escort, the Brigade Commander of the Liberitoa Trade Federation army and 2 Liberitoa soldiers, and a strategist under Johanna’s protection. The Ferrius kingdom’s representatives were in a bad place and everyone was burned to death. The rest were swallowed by the blast and now rolling around on the ground, wrapped in fire.
Johanna tried to help extinguish the fire, but was interrupted by a halberd extending from the entrance as it skewered one of the Liberitoa soldiers.
When the fire erupted from the inside of the wound, black smoke and blue flames erupted from the throat. The user of 《Demon Fire》 blew out flames from the inside.
The Brigade Commander flashed the longsword at his hip, but since the halberd was covered in mana, his sword was cut along with his body.
The last Liberitoa soldier had his stomach slashed with the halberd and burned from the inside before he could even pull out the longsword, causing him to die after suffering severe convulsions.
Johanna, who had heard that the user of 《Demon Fire》 was a long-distance soldier, realized that her perception was significantly wrong.
To be clear, Johanna now had only the minimum equipment. When Johanna asked herself how much she could do here, the user of 《Demon Fire》 certainly pointed his twisted left fingers at her. Through the mask, a strong murderous intent could be felt. His broken fingers squeaked, a blue flame was blown from his whole body, and now an enemy who had become an incarnation of fire itself, attacked Johanna.
《Strike》 collided with each other, and Johanna’s hand was severely numb. Just by standing nearby, the magical barrier was scraped off.
All the left fingers of the 《Demon Fire》 user holding the halberd were crushed. Nevertheless, Johanna was being pushed by the pressure. They played with each other’s blades from a close distance, but when she took distance, the blue flames clung to her. The ice wall that Johanna unfolded momentarily sprinkled hot steam and scattered the flames.
Through the mask, the man’s eyes could be seen, Johanna noticed that the 《Demon Fire》 user hadn’t lost his intellect and was in a mad state. And clearly, he was a much more dangerous opponent than when he was operating in a battalion. It was as if the restrictions had been lifted because no friendly forces were within range.
Johanna was spinning the gears in her head. She remembered that the Liguria battalion had been destroyed on the 3rd layer. In short, the man in front of her didn’t have any friends to keep him in control. So, perhaps the man’s madness came from the desire for vengeance, Johanna concluded.
“Useless resistance! The Liguria Battalion has been destroyed!!”
The reply was given in the form of fire. At the moment when 《Demon Fire》 swelled again, Johanna was ready, but was stopped by the blade that suddenly slipped from the side.
It was a sharp blow that had been cultivated for years by an old knight of the Principality of Myard.
Rita Myard, who was participating in the war council, couldn’t keep up with the battle before her. She had gained a lot of experience in the defensive battle of Aidenberg and in the escape to the floating city on Lake Celta. But all that would be of no use to her here.
More than 20 people took part in the war council. But now there were only a few left.
“Rita-sama!! Please stay back!!”
A longsword that entered through a gap in the armor caused bleeding in the abdomen of the 《Demon Fire》 user. It was a nice intervention by Rita’s escort, Lutwidge.
“I know it’s a shameful action. I have no excuses.”
The 《Demon Fire》 user attacked Lutwidge with 《Strike》 and 《Demon Fire》, but Johanna, the knight who belonged to the Order of Reharzen, wrapped around in the blind spot, not allowing a poor execution. Still, the 《Demon Fire》 user didn’t falter. The man dealt the front with 《Strike》, and the sides and blind spot were filled with blue flames. Rita could only step back to the wall so as not to get caught.
Rita cursed her own powerlessness. But in truth, it wasn’t the first time she hated herself.
Then, for a moment, Rita’s eyes met with the eyes of the 《Demon Fire》 user.
The intense breathing and heat were approaching Rita. The user of 《Demon Fire》 tried to change the direction of his halberd momentarily, but Lutwidge forced the man to point the blade at him again.
“I should have, killed you.”
Just this brief conversation alone was enough to remind Rita of “that conversation” and the taste of the food she had eaten during her escape, for that memory was clearly imprinted on her mind. The good-looking smile was gone, and the eyes were burning with a flame of anger and hatred.
Rita bit her cheek as she thought about how the benefactor, who was the intruder but also a man with good roots, had gone so crazy because of the war and also because of her, as one of the leaders of the Four-Country Alliance.
For the people?
For the sake of the country?
It was just such a weak determination to hide her vulnerable self. She was disgusted with herself because she was weighing the good hope of the man who had saved her life and the impact of that action on the man’s future, in the same balance.
The two knights took a defensive stance because of the inflated mana. The 《Demon Fire》 was blasted in the room, but its user was no longer within the field of view by the moment it got subsided.
“Rita-sama, are you injured?”
“I’m fine. More than that, he…”
“Yes, at Aidenberg… but now you should forget it.”
Rita understood that she must not get upset in front of people from other countries. Silently exhaling and calming herself down, she called the Craist’s strategist, who had fallen into the wreckage of the table.
“Are you okay?”
Craist’s strategist got up from the wreckage of the table, glanced at the room, and answered Rita.
“Well, I can move on my own. Apparently, it’s just us now. But, seeing it now, it’s sure a big difference from just listening. We underestimated “that”. The danger of “that” alone is even higher than the “three heroes”.”
“Yeah… let’s join the other soldiers for the time being. We should look for Gran-sama. The surroundings are still dangerous. Myard-dono, let’s evacuate from here.”
“Thank you very much.”
Rita agreed with the proposal of the knight from the Order of Reharzen. She couldn’t be stubborn and take unnecessary risks. The camp was attacked, followed by the command post… and next would be―― somewhere Rita couldn’t figure out.
TN: Now, you know who Rita is…
TN: Join my discord channel if you want.