Lyase was one of the Scarlet Phoenix’s members, and she brought her younger brother, the youngest member in the group, to the army’s headquarters in order to deliver a secret message about the battle tactics to take place in just a few days.
“Grey is really amazing,” Roche said in excitement.
“Yep, he’s ended up controlling the entire war,” Lyase agreed.
The two of them were siblings, and as far back as they could remember, they were with the Scarlet Phoenix. This naturally meant they were thrown into this cruel world from a young age. They didn’t remember either of their parents’ faces, and to the two of them, Aquido was like a father and the rest of the members were their family.
So the Scarlet Phoenix, who had earned various triumphs and honors throughout various battlefields, was Roche’s and Lyase’s pride and joy.
That’s exactly why, after the attack on the mountain tribes seven years prior, they felt saddened and even mortified at the fact that everyone’s opinion on the Scarlet Phoenix had flipped on its head as they were derided as fools and cowards.
It was during these trying times that Grey’s employment suddenly turned everything around.
He had employed the Scarlet Phoenix at a high price and granted each and every member a holy magic grimoire, rumored to be the most supreme magic to exist. And he’s even apparently taken the helm during the empire’s biggest crisis yet.
So it was probably because people’s opinion of Grey had shot up. Before, the two of them would be scorned just by walking around, but even if they walked around sporting a Scarlet Phoenix armband now, nobody from the expeditionary force jeered at them.
However, many still directed disapproving glances at them, and many more looked away in displeasure. Still, the Scarlet Phoenix was moving forward, little by little. They could feel the change, and it made them inexplicably happy.
The army consisted mainly of the court nobles’ personal troops, and the headquarters were located in the high-class residential area in the northeast.
Currently, Lyase and Roche were located in a higher-class area, which they could tell just based on the store signs around them.
The bricks were neatly lined up in the buildings, there weren’t any pieces of trash lying about, and several high-class shops lined the streets.
Here was the prominent commercial city of Sutherland. It would normally have been a paradise for the merchants who value ability over all else, but only in this high-class residential area in the northeast do the court nobles extend their influence. Satella-chan had taught Lyase of this fact.
“Keep focused,” Lyase said.
“You don’t have to tell me that,” Roche grunted.
From here on out was so-called enemy territory. This wasn’t just a simple errand, but rather an important delivery of the battle tactics. As novices, Lyase and Roche normally wouldn’t carry out such an important task, but they had implored Aquido to be some help to the group.
“We should be more than enough to hand over some documents,” Roche complained.
“No,” Lyase chided. “Have you already forgotten the leader’s condition?”
His condition was to wait for vice-leader Zem’s arrival before entering the area where the army resided.
“I know okay!”
Seriously, what a child. Lyase really wanted him to learn a bit of Grey’s composure.
Suddenly, a black-haired woman tumbled out of a nearby shop as a hoarse voice that grated on the ears yelled, “Why have these savage insects spilled water on my watch!!”
Then, a plump noble with gold hair wearing gaudy clothes that were curled up followed outside, his face boiling like a kettle.
“H-he’s!!?” Lyase thought.
There was no way she could forget; he was the enemy of all Scarlet Phoenix members.
“That bastard!!” Roche cursed.
“Hold yourself!!” Lyase said, grabbing Roche’s arm to hold him back.
“Do you even know how much this watch costs!? It’s an amount you bugs have never even set sight on, you know!?” the noble yelled.
“I’m so sorry! Please, have mercy!!” the woman pleaded.
She was curled up on the floor like a turtle, desperately asking for his forgiveness, but the plump noble just jeered and kicked her.
The noble was Viscount Dolt Magotta. He was a piece of trash who used to be the servant in a master-servant relationship with Margrave McBurn but was harshly punished for abandoning his people to save his own ass.
The black-haired couple, who were still trembling, didn’t look to be Archivian citizens. They were the mountain people, the Radorus, who were probably forced to assimilate into the empire after losing in battle during the incident where the Scarlet Phoenix were coerced into that mortifying job.
“Nee-chan!” Roche called out.
“No. The wind has finally begun blowing in our direction. Everything would be for naught if we were to step out now—we would lose everything.”
A man with a crew cut who looked to be wearing the same employee outfit flushed in anger as he flew out of the store and spread his arms open in front of the woman.
“My wife is pregnant. Please have mercy!”
“That’s not my fucking problem!” the noble yelled, kicking the man who was kneeling in front of his wife.
“I’ll do anything within my ability, so please have mercy!” said the man as rubbed his head on the floor once again, blood dripping out of his mouth.
“Ain’t that something. He said he’ll do anything, Dolt; this sounds like it could become an interesting game,” sneered a golden-haired feminine youth who was leaning against the wall. That youth then took out a gold coin from his pocket.
“Of course, Young Mawlek,” Dolt replied. His face of anger instantly switched to one full of sunshine and smiles as he rubbed his hands together.
“How about it? Would the Hero care for a round?” Mawlek asked.
“I’m the Hero. No way I’d do something so vulgar.”
“Wow, what a meanie~”
Mawlek looked down at the man with the crew cut, and a shudder raced through the man’s spine when he looked at Mawlek’s dark eyes which were smeared in pleasure.
This was bad—they couldn’t stay here any longer. Lyase had an inkling they’d definitely see something unthinkable if they did.
“Let’s go, Roche.”
Seriously, this child—! Roche would have listened before. The reason he won’t any more is definitely because he met Grey.
Their leader, Aquido, had sworn to serve Grey for the rest of his life. And as long as Grey didn’t refuse, the rest of the Scarlet Phoenix would probably follow suit after this war ended.
—He wielded vast fortunes,
—He had numerous legendary grimoires of differing types,
—He spoke on equal footing with Margrave McBurn, and even the emperor, at times.
He was like someone straight out of a fairytale. Still, if Grey were around the same age as their leader—a father-like existence—it would end with just admiration.
But Grey was 12 years old, the same age as Roche. He was much too young to admire. Lyase thought that Roche probably believed Grey would never let this injustice slide.
She would definitely come to regret letting go of his hand here. Lyase was sure of this, so she frantically held him back.
And so this foul play headed towards its worst destination.
“Here we have a single coin,” Mawlek said, twirling a coin around in his hand as he began to approach the couple. “If it’s heads, you win, and I’ll forgive your wife’s slight on Dolt.”
The onlookers’ reactions were split between the noble side and the normal citizens side.
The passerby’s scrunched their faces in disgust and fear, and they ran to hid inside the shops. In contrast, the nobles eagerly looked on from a distance.
“What if it’s tails?”
“I’ll leave that to your imagination. Also, I wouldn’t suggest this, but quitting the game would equal your destruction. That’s fine, right?”
Mawlek clapped his hands and what looked like the nobles’ private soldiers instantly surrounded the couple.
“Here, here, the match begins. Watch this couple’s once-in-a-lifetime gamble!” said Mawlek. “Now, everyone. Place a coin in this had if you think it’ll land heads, and a coin over here if you think tails.”
Soon, the nobles giddily gathered around and began placing bets.
“They’re insane!” Lyase thought.
They think fear is just a game or something. Even while the empire is facing its biggest crisis yet in the undead attack, they’re still looking for schadenfreude? Do these idiots even understand how foolish and impermissible that is?
“Please don’t try any funny tricks,” Mawlek said. “Now, flip the coin.”
The man with the crew cut shakily gripped the coin in his right hand.
“I’m a busy man. Hurry up and toss it would you?” a soldier said as he pointed the tip of his sword at the woman’s neck.
“Ah……” The man’s voice went ragged before he tossed the coin up.
The coin flipped in the air several times before landing on the ground.
“Haa……I did it. It’s heads. I win!!”
Mawlek lightly tapped the man, who was happily crying with relief, on the shoulders and said, “Congratulations~, you’ve won. See ya then.”
He pulled a dagger from his waist and swiftly sliced open the man’s neck.
Blood began spurting out as he toppled lifelessly onto the ground.
Lyase thought processes grounded to a halt. I mean, right? All he did was dirty up a noble’s watch. That’s all it took for someone to die here. Lyase couldn’t wrap her head around this.
“D……dear? Dear!!” the wife cried out as she shook his lifeless corpse. The onlookers barely spared her a second glance as they set out to their original purposes, and those that had won the bet gathered their winnings and happily headed home.
“Dang it. My shirt’s been stained by the savage’s blood. Well now I have to throw this away,” Mawlek said. He then nonchalantly tossed the knife onto the ground and turned back towards the high-class restaurant. “The side show’s over, so let’s have another round of drinks.”
“Yeah,” the so-called hero said as he let out a yawn, nodded, and began heading into the store when the woman yelled out, “How dare you!!”
She unsheathed the dagger from her husbands waist and, with a shaky hand, charged at Mawlek.
One of his soldiers stopped her blade, but Mawlek pitched forward and faceplanted onto the ground.
“Oww, this fucking whore. And after I had forgiven you too!”
He kicked her in the face, and she flew several meters back, not moving anymore.
“Move!” said Mawlek. He angrily glared at any remain onlookers as they and his soldiers all retreated a few steps.
“Ahhh, these mere livestock defying a human!”
Mawlek ambled towards the woman, a dagger in hand.
“Roche!” Lyase shrieked. Well, it was only natural. Roche had broken free from her restraint and rushed towards Mawlek while gripping his dagger’s scabbard.
“Die!” yelled Mawlek as he swung down on the woman, his face full of pure unadulterated hatred, when Roche swung his scabbard with all his might.
Mawlek shrieked in pain, clutching his broken arm as he writhed on the ground while crying.
He finally did it. No matter the reason now, he had wounded a noble; he wouldn’t get off lightly.
“We’re running,” Lyase said to Roche as she neared the woman and began carrying her.
Even if he had witnessed that violent insanity, a court noble was a court noble. That idiot, Roche, had bared his fangs at the worst opponent possible.
“But where should we run to?” Lyase thought.
They couldn’t return to the Scarlet Phoenix. If they did, nine times out of ten both the Scarlet Phoenix and Grey would be destroyed.
Lyase desperately suppressed her urge to burst out in tears and began sprinting away.
“You can’t run away.”
Suddenly, a sharp blow landed on Lyase’s stomach as her vision tumbled.
While carrying the woman, Lyase slowly stood up, her body full of scratches. In front of her stood the Hero.
“You’ve raised a hand against the eldest son of Duke Cyrus. You’ll be lucky to die a painless death.”
The Hero’s black pupils pierced through her as she became aware of her trembling body.
“What are you guys just standing around for? Can you do your job?” the Hero said to the soldiers.
“Yessir!!” they said in unison and suppressed Lyase and Roche in an instant.
Then, the Hero walked over to Mawlek, touched his broken right arm, and began chanting.
After his long chant ended, a magic circle appeared, and a bluish-white light enveloped Mawlek’s body before the wound closed up.
Voices of admiration arose left and right after the onlookers witnessed the Hero’s miraculous power.
However, Lyase and Roche had already received that amazing healing-series grimoire from Grey and thus felt no such emotions.
“That bastard!!” Mawlek wailed.
Once the pain in his arm had subsided, he shamefully wiped his face of tears and snot before approaching Roche and kicking him in the stomach.
“Not even my father hit me!!” said Mawlek.
“Hmph! So that’s why you became so gloomy?” Roche managed to wring out as his face warped in pain.
“I de~~~finitely won’t forgive you fuckers. I won’t let you die so easily. I’ll inflict every last type of pain on your entire family before killing them!!”
“I’m afraid they’re the Scarlet Phoenix,” Dolt declared, kneeling in front of Mawlek. “They’re the treacherous mercenaries!!”
“The Scarlet Phoenix? That disgusting brat’s soldiers?” muttered the Hero as he maliciously grinned.
“Brat!? Yukihiro, do you know him!?”
“Yeah, about that—”
“I’m their guardian!!” a shout cut off the hero, and a bald man walked towards Lyase and roche.
“Zem, you traitor. What nerve you have to speak before me!!” Dolt shrieked as a large vein popped on his forehead.
“Annoying. Shut up for a sec!”
“I’b borry.” Dolt crouched in pain, having been backhanded by Mawlek.
“And you guys, let go of them,” Zem said.
“Don’t worry. If he makes even a single weird move, I’ll take responsibility and kill them,” the Hero said.
The soldiers nodded once before releasing Roche and Lyase.
“They’re with you in the Scarlet Phoenix, right?” Yukihiro confirmed.
Yukihiro’s originally handsome face had warped in pleasure into a nauseating and unseemly face.
“That brat wounded Duke Cyrus’s next head, Mawlek Cyrus. Don’t you think a little reparation is in order?”
“What do you want?” Zem asked.
“Kill the two of them. If you do so, I’ll negotiate with Duke Cyrus to not put any blame on you.”
“Mawlek, just leave it to me.” Yukihiro said, firmly warding off Mawlek’s protest without even sparing a glance at him. Mawlek simply clicked his tongue and angrily kicked a nearby barrel.
“And if I refuse?” Zem asked.
“I’ll have that impertinent employer of yours arrested under the crime of wounding Mawlek Cyrus. Naturally, the Scarlet Phoenix would be executed too, as they were the perpetrators.”
Zem looked down at Roche and Lyase, his eyes lacking their usual warmth.
“Roche, why didn’t you wait for my arrival?” Zem demanded.
“I didn’t do anything wrong!”
“So I take it that you’ve resolved yourself?”
Roche sat down cross-legged, folded his arms, and closed his eyes.
No number of people could help what Roche did to a court noble, who holds absolute power in the empire. Moreover, that court noble was the next head of Duke Cyrus who had enough power to compete with the other 12 families. No matter the reason, he would definitely face punishment.
If Zem didn’t punish him, the Scarlet Phoenix would face severe repercussions. Not just that, but nine times out of ten, Grey, their benefactor, would also get crushed.
However, Roche’s resolution was certainly not mistaken, so Lyase followed suit and kneeled on the floor.
“Sorry, it’s for the Scarlet Phoenix and for Grey,” Zem said.
He unsheathed his sword and held it over his head, but Lyase could see his arms shaking.
She understood. To them, Zem was a parent figure and an older brother, and Zem felt the same way.
“Zem, we’ll be fine. But if you could, do me first,” Lyase said, and squeezed her eyes shut. It was cowardly, but she didn’t want to see her older brother kill her younger brother.
Zem roared like a beast.
However, she didn’t feel any pain. Lyase timidly opened her eyes to see the tip of the sword stopped right in front of her nose.
“Sorry. Grey, I can’t do it after all,” Zem yelled. He then lowered his sword before pointing it at the Hero and said, “I’m their guardian. I’ll take responsibility for everything they do.”
“Sorry, but that’s not enough.” A thin smile floated onto Yukihiro’s as he shrugged.
“No matter what?”
“No matter what.”
“Then I’ve got no other choice.”
While smiling uncharacteristically, Zem signaled Roche and Lyase.
《Return to the Millard Tent! 》
Instantly, he dashed towards Yukihiro and swung down on his head.
Yukihiro emitted a bluish-white light from his waist and unsheathed his sword, easily parrying Zem’s longsword.
Using their clash as an opportunity, Lyase yelled, “Roche!” She ran towards Roche, who was still sitting in a daze, and slapped him awake. “We’re running.”
She scanned her surroundings.
Many soldiers surrounded the south side of the main street that ran through the center of the, blocking them in. On the other side, while it would be tight, she might be able to make it if she ran with all her might.
“Don’t let them go!!” Mawlek barked at the soldiers. Lyase grabbed the collapsed woman as she and Roche began a mad dash away.
They ran with reckless abandon, but they could feel the presence of several soldiers closing the gap.
In the end, they were simply children, and Lyase was carrying a woman to boot. The soldiers were physically far superior. They were slowly closing in, and it was only a matter of time until Lyase and Roche were captured.
Suddenly, a sharp pain shot through her right leg as she summersaulted onto the ground. Upon shifting her sight onto her leg, she saw an arrow buried deep into her calf.
“Run!!” she ordered as the soldiers forced her onto the ground.
“Let her go!” Roche screamed.
“This fucking brat!” a soldier said, kicking him away like a ball.
“How annoying. Cut both their arms and their legs off. If they die then they die,” said a bearded soldier who looked to be a commanding officer. Another soldier walked up to Roche, unsheathed his longsword, and prepared to swing.
That brilliant scenery they had seen just tens of minutes ago was now dyed in blood and death.
Why did things end up like this? Because Roche wounded that noble?
No, Roche had only tried to save a woman from that corrupt noble. He didn’t do anything wrong. Even now, Lyase could say that with pride.
“Someone. Anyone. Help us!” she prayed.
By relying on others, Lyase could neither achieve anything nor save anyone. The world had treated Lyase and Roche so cruelly, after all.
However—she really couldn’t forgive someone hurting her brother, who she had been with during the ups and the downs of life, for such an irrational reason.
But as if to spit on her prayers, the soldier swung his sword down—.
A lone boy gripped the sword with a single finger.
“What are you doing to my subordinate?”
A burning fire swelled in his Grey’s eyes as he snapped the sword in two with his thumb and pointer finger.
“M-mons—” the soldier shrieked.
But he never finished his sentence. The soldier was blown back in a straight line, bouncing over and over on the ground.
Like frightened fish, the other soldiers could only open and close their eyes and mouth as they saw the first soldier twitching and spasming far away.
“Y-you bastard. We are Duke Cyrus’s—” one soldier began.
In an instant, Grey appeared before the commanding officer and said, “Clench your teeth if you don’t want to die.”
The officer could only shriek in response before Grey high-kicked him away. He then flew into the wall of a nearby building, showing the whites of his eyes as he slumped over.
As his bloodred eyes surveyed the surroundings, the soldiers let out a yelp and threw their weapons onto the floor while cowering in fear.
“Lyase, Roche, explain yourselves! What is the meaning of this? What happened to Zem?” Aquido, who was next to Grey, impatiently asked.
“Zem’s fighting with a Hero named Yukihiro! He’ll definitely be killed at this rate! Please hurry up and help him!” Lyase explained.
Grey removed the arrow from her calf and healed the wound in an instant. Then, he walked to Roche, who was still crying a little, and grabbed his shoulders, saying, “Don’t worry anymore. Calm down. Explain what happened as concisely as possible.”
“Okay.” Roche nodded several times and, with a little difficulty, began explaining what happened.
Grey had silently listened to Roche’s incoherent ramblings before nodding and saying, “I see……I roughly understand what happened. You did nothing wrong. I’m proud of you—you did well.”
Grey gently patted his head.
The wall he had so desperately build had finally come crashing down as tears began streaming down Roche’s face. After a short while, Grey patted his back and gently rubbed his head before standing up and facing Aquido.
“Aquido, teleport everyone to the Sagami Co. building. Make sure nobody remains in the Millard tent. If you need to use force, then go all out.”
“That’s fine, but what about you, Grey?” Aquido asked.
“I’ll go have a talk at Cyrus’ camp.”
“Dangerous? That depends on them,” Grey replied, his icy words sending a chill down their spines.
He then reached out to Lyase and Roche.
The scenery in front of them distorted, changing to the all-too familiar one of Sagami Co.’s.
“Leader, where’s Grey!? Where’s Zem!?”
He’s probably lost his composure. Roche clung to Aquido while crying as the employees inside frowned and walked towards him.
It was no wonder. Roche’s own actions had almost lost him his precious family and the person he respected most.
“Grey already said it. You did nothing wrong. The bad ones are this insane country and us adults,” Aquido said. “So just sleep now”
Lyase tried to say something, but an intense wave of drowsiness crashed into her and her consciousness faded into whiteness.
↑ Changed Sir Cyrus to Duke Cyrus
↑ Here, Mawlek uses the counter for animals when talking about Roche’s family, implying that he sees them merely as animals and not humans.