DK – Chapter 65-66: In the darkness of Zakuroa III

——The song of Strauss is spreading. 

The invincible devilish swordsman that is together with a dragon.

The nostalgic song shook the hearts of the people. 

Should they fight together with the dragon, or become its enemies?

——The Zakuroa people were at a loss.

Fight the enemies with pride and die.

Or seek life, offering your heart and body to the enemy. 

Both are paths…that will lead to pain and suffering. 

——Even so, the drinks that night were delicious. 

Saving others from a horde of skeletons, and tonight defeating Reis who were out of season. 

Everyone was enjoying the songs of the past as if it were about themselves!

Singing about the red haired devilish swordsman and shaking their drinks!

——-

…The northern birds singing goes piyo, kyo, pikiki, huh.

While thinking that, I wake up inside a big bed. Even though it is spring, it is damn cold. I should have added a large amount of firewood in the fireplace before sleeping. My body that has completely sobered up is quite cold.

But, to monopolize such a big bed like this, I feel like I might get punished for it. Aah, because of the intrusion of the Reis, I am using this royal suite wrongly. 

Normally, a handsome man like me shouldn’t be sleeping in such an elegant bed alone. 

After one night of cooling down, I regret such a wasteful thing. Why did I lose consciousness? I know it is because I climbed that 30m cliff and immediately got mana exhaustion though. That loss really hit hard. 

I don’t know the accurate amount of time I was out, but if I didn’t have that lost time, there’s no doubt I would have woken up with Riel-chan in this king size bed while enjoying the singing of the northern birds. 

Aah, if only all I didn’t lose consciousness or the undead didn’t appear…

Seriously, complaining so early in the morning ain’t good.

“…There’s no point in complaining, so I should get up already. Ah, right, a morning bath sounds nice.” (Solje)

I wonder if Riel or Loroka are there? Mia would be fine too. Having company is what matters. I want to take away this feeling of loss by having a bit of skinship.

Cause you know, a pretty tough job is waiting for me today.

I will be meeting with the two representatives of this place. 

One side is Vashiri Nova who seems like he would participate in the anti-imperialism alliance of Ludo and I think we would get along, but…the problem is Julian Laichi who is against fighting the Empire making them pro-imperialism.

I will be presenting them the letter of Queen Claris. 

That’s fine and all, but that’s not the only job. The true job is to make a military alliance with the Ludo Kingdom and Zakuroa.

Now then, what to do? …Queen Claris didn’t say it straight out, but we might have to do a deed that she didn’t deny either.

If we are to achieve the alliance…we can eliminate the people that are against the alliance. That way, things will run more smoothly.

Meaning, I will have to cut down Julian Laichi…

Damn it, this is the first time I have been so troubled about killing someone. 

A necessary sacrifice to win war? …True. I understand that.

But…

If I really do that, would I be able to happily listen to songs about me? Would I be able to live my life happily? …Would I be able to laugh in the day I die on the battlefield? 

What is ‘the knight’s code’?

The feeling of wanting to protect the Ludo Kingdom is no lie, and I do plan on doing whatever dirty job needs to be done, you know?

But, am I going to assassinate Laichi? …His little brother, Victor, called my father’s name and hugged me as if he had met a relative of his.

…Hahaha.

Just now, I thought it is a relief that Riel is not here.

If she were here, I would want her to comfort me. I understand that, even if I get comforted, it won’t allow me to get anything.

Deceiving pain with pleasure.

Using Riel to do such a loser’s deed might have actually happened.

Utilizing her love…

I am pathetic.

It truly is a relief that I am alone listening to the singing of the birds. 

Now then, what to do… First would be representative Nova. The leader of the West Zakuroa Iron Blood Alliance, the freedom knight, Vashiri Nova. I want to establish a political foundation to convince the East Zakuroa. If things get resolved with just a talk, it would be great.

Nova, Laichi, Ludo, Zakuroa; everyone holding hands and waging war against the Imperial army.

No matter how despairing that future fighting the Empire’s fifth division will be, I will charge the enemy and break through their lines while laughing!! Aah, if only this world were more simple and people like me who are crude and simplistic could be able to live in it…

“…Haah, Queen Claris really gave me one difficult job.” (Solje)

What is she expecting from me? 

…Expectations? 

Eh? Now that I think about it, Loroka was about to tell me something yesterday, right? Right before Jean smelled the horde of skeletons. She didn’t say anything to me after that, so I forgot about it…

‘Obtain the power to fight against the Empire in this northern lands’…this method that I can’t think of any possibilities for, she seemed like she had something in her mind about it.

…It is still 7 o’clock.

But Loroka-sensei should be up already. 

Right, let’s have a meeting. If she knows something, I should ask about it. 

I got up from bed and got dressed. 

By the time I finished passing my arms in through the coat, someone knocked on the door.

“…Captain Solje, it is Loroka. Uhm…” 

So this is what it means ‘Speaking of the devil’! I ran in the room with a gleeful expression like that of a child. It is easy to run in a royal suite. I arrived at the door quickly and open the door grandly.

“Loroka!! Just the person I was looking for! Actually, I was going to—?!” (Solje)

At the other side of the door, there was Loroka-sensei with a grim expression…and a man with the same face as Victor. Different from Victor who seemed to have weakness inside of him, this man had strong will in his eyes.

There’s no doubt. 

This guy is the source of my recent pains. That’s right, Julian Laichi.

“Hey there. Good morning, Solje Strauss-dono. I am a representative, Julian Laichi.” (Julian)

As if pushing aside Loroka-sensei, Julian Laichi approaches me, stretched out his hand while I was shocked, and said that.

His brown eyes were staring straight at me. This is bad, the type I am bad at dealing with. As I thought, this guy is the intelligent type…

Those eyes overflowing with intelligence were observing me. He is using the same gaze as I have in the battlefield to analyze me. 

He’s got me there. I just make a bitter laugh while shaking his hand.

“Nice to meet you, I am Solje Strauss. I have come to meet you under the orders of the Ludo Kingdom’s queen, her Majesty Claris.” (Solje)

“Well now, thanks for travelling so far for this. Did you enjoy the inn of our family?” (Julian)

“Yeah, a whole lot!” (Solje)

“I see, I am glad to hear that. Hahaha.” (Julian)

“Hahaha…” (Solje)

This is not good. I am outpowered here. I feel like I might blow a fuse. What should I do? 

…Even though I was planning on meeting you when I was completely prepared, to think that you would be the one coming to us. Thanks to receiving a surprise attack, I am currently agitated. 

This isn’t fair. You have a better head on your shoulders, so don’t go attacking by surprise!! 

“…C-Captain!! Standing here chatting isn’t suitable, s-so how about entering the room?” (Loroka)

“Eh?” 

It is the follow-up of Loroka-sensei. Right, adults talking in the entrance of a room would be weird. The hall is cold too. Ah, I am not insulting your inn here, okay?

“T-Then, uhm…Laichi-dono, come in.” (Solje)

“Thanks for the invitation, Strauss-dono.” (Julian)

He is all smiles and feels like he is completely composed. Damn it, you great merchant of a thousand battles. In terms of battle power, I think I am several hundred times higher than him, but I don’t feel like I can beat him in terms of negotiating ability. 

Loroka, Representative Laichi, and I sit around the round table of the royal suite. 

This is the most stressing table I have had in memory. Loroka-sensei is supposed to be my ally, but she is also nervous. Of course she would be, even if she is intelligent, she is still a normal person.

You wouldn’t know at all what to talk about with an important person like him, right? Moreover, she knows I might assassinate him… Being nervous is natural.

…Damn it.

Do your best, me. I have to do something… 

First of all, compose yourself. 

I breathe deeply and forcefully calm down my heart. That’s right, this is fine. 

this-is-fine.0.jpg

Now then, battle start. 

“A-And so, Laichi-dono, what brings you here this morning?” (Solje)

“I came here to thank you for yesterday.” (Julian)

“Thank me?” (Solje)

“Yeah. I heard that you saved my little brother, Victor.” (Julian)

“Ah, so it is about that. I simply did what a dragon knight should have done.” (Solje)

“I am truly grateful. He is my last family. I don’t want him dying.” (Julian)

“…Yeah, I am also really glad I managed to save him.” (Solje)

“I heard that, not only did you people defeat a horde of skeletons, but also an Agarm.” (Julian)

“Yeah, it was thanks to the cooperation of Loroka there as well.” (Solje)

“I see. Thanks, Miss Sharnel.” (Julian)

“N-No need. We simply followed the Captain’s orders after all!” (Loroka)

Looks like Loroka can’t get that nervousness off. This situation is pretty problematic after all. But you really do need to get used to it already…

As for myself…it seems I have managed to calm down to a decent extent. 

Yeah, idle chatter is a waste of time. I am gonna ask straight. 

“Laichi-dono, you of course noticed the reason of our visit, right?” (Solje)

Chapter 66

“C-Captain?!” (Loroka)

“It’s okay, Loroka. He is composed. He understands everything.” (Solje)

Isn’t that right, Julian Laichi? Great merchant.

“…It helps that you go for the bone.” (Julian)

The atmosphere of Julian changes slightly. He stopped his outgoing face and returned to the true great merchant, Julian Laichi.

“Yeah, of course I understand. Queen Claris wants to form a military alliance with Zakuroa, right?” (Julian)

If you are going to talk with your true self, I will do the same, Representative-san.

“…Yeah, Claris and I plan on crushing the Faris Empire. We want to form an alliance with Zakuroa.” (Solje)

“I see, and I am a hindrance in that plan, right?” (Julian)

“To be honest, yes.” (Solje)

“Hoh, so you admit it outright.” (Julian)

“I just thought it best not to waste time. And so, how is it? You seem to be standing at the side of the Empire, but do you have any intentions of rethinking it?” (Solje)

“…The difference in power between us and the Empire army isn’t something that can be filled.” (Julian)

“Are you belittling Ludo Kingdom? They are the ones who defeated the seventh division, you know?” (Solje)

“…It is not as if you were fighting their whole army, right? Isn’t their country and ours way too far apart?” (Julian)

“…Her Majesty won’t break a promise. They will support Zakuroa with all the power that they can provide.” (Solje)

“What they can provide? That won’t be enough then.” (Julian)

“Yeah, I won’t say it is enough.” (Solje)

“Then there’s no point in forming an allian—” (Julian)

“There is.” (Solje)

“…What is it?” (Julian)

“You can stay as a true Zakuroan till the very end.” (Solje)

Looks like my words didn’t rub Julian the right way. He is showing disgust, and returned it with a question.

“And, are you telling me to sacrifice all of my people for the sake of pride?” (Julian)

“That would be the result of our ability.” (Solje)

“?!” 

“Losing in a war is the fault of the commander. If the commander is good, you can win.” (Solje)

“I am amazed you can say such things with this overwhelming difference in military power…!” (Julian)

“If we can win this war, do you have any intentions of cooperating with Ludo?” (Solje)

“…Of course. It is not as if I am obeying the Faris Empire because I want to.” (Julian)

“So you have that pride remaining, huh. Then, that’s fine.” (Solje)

“…Are you saying you have a plan?” (Julian)

“Do you think I came here without one?” (Solje)

“…I would like to hear it.” (Julian)

“I can’t. To a man that might become an enemy? Do you think I will do that? If you pledge to share our fate, I will tell you. How about it, Laichi? Is there anything weird in what I am saying?” (Solje)

Laichi’s face warps. 

So he really was conflicted as well. I can understand you. You must have been scared. You are sweating and your pupils are shaking. You have caught on to the fact that I am an assassin sent by Queen Claris, and that’s why you came here to crush that idea from the very start.

He took a risk.

There’s probabilities for all events, but…you can’t completely deny the possibility of me killing you right here and now, right? That’s why you are scared. You are not a Strauss, just a normal merchant.

A proper person that treasures life. 

There’s no way you wouldn’t be scared of me. 

With only one second, I can change you into whatever shape I want. Do you want to turn into two, maybe three? I can cut you into as many pieces as you want.

Aah, I am slowly understanding the way to deal with you. Flowery words alone won’t work. You would see through them.

I will only speak the truth. That’s how a Strauss operates.

Sorry, Queen Claris, I really can’t handle complicated stuff.

That’s why I will go to the meat of things.

Aah, once I resolve myself to something, it really gets more relaxing. 

Too bad, Julian Laichi. I won’t be swallowed by you anymore. 

“And so, how about it, Laichi? Are you an ally of Ludo? Or an enemy?” (Solje)

“…I represent many merchants and citizens. The congress will decide what to do.” (Julian)

“I see. If that’s the way Zakuroa works, I am fine with that. But it would be great if you were to make it quick. You don’t want to lose lives pointlessly, right?” (Solje)

“…Can you give me a week? …With that, we could reach a decision.” (Julian)

“…Got it. We will prepare too. If you guys are enemies, we will have to take appropriate measures after all.” (Solje)

“Are you going to…kill me?” (Julian)

“Her Majesty didn’t order such a thing. Her Majesty, that is.” (Solje)

“…I see.” (Julian)

“The Ludo Kingdom and the Empire are opening hostilities. It is a battle for survival. The battle won’t stop until one side perishes. Queen Claris is a tolerant queen, but she can separate allies from enemies, you know? She won’t look at illusions.” (Solje)

“…Is Ludo going to attack us?” (Julian)

“Her Majesty won’t. I don’t have any interest in helping out in something like that. But if it is to protect Ludo, I don’t mind being dirtied by how many sins is necessary. Also, don’t forget this.” (Solje)

“…What?” (Julian)

“I don’t betray my allies. If you pledge to become our ally, I will protect you and this Zakuroa with my life. Even if the result of that will not be one of happiness. If Zakuroa is in the alliance of Ludo, I will protect this place and die doing so.” (Solje)

“…Is it okay to say something like that with unwavering eyes?” (Julian)

“Yeah, because I am not lying. If you are an enemy, I will kill you; if you are an ally, I will protect you with my life. That’s how I work.” (Solje)

“…That certainly does sounds like a Garuna dragon knight.” (Julian)

“I am proud to hear that.” (Solje)

“Can you give me the letter of her Majesty? I will read that and consult with my comrades.” (Julian)

“Yeah, here you go.” (Solje)

I look in my luggage and take the letter out. I gave it to Julian Laichi.

“You have certainly received it.” (Solje)

“Yes, I have, Solje Strauss-dono.” (Julian)

“…Well then, be careful in your return. There’s snow piled up. Tripping would be bad.” (Solje)

“…Thanks for the concern.” (Julian)

“I will look forward to the answer you will have 1 week from now.” (Solje)

“…Yeah. No matter the answer…I most definitely won’t begrudge you.” (Julian)

“I imagine. You are simply trying to protect this Zakuroa with your life after all.” (Solje)

“Just like how you are trying to protect Ludo.” (Julian)

If you are killed by me, that would simply mean that you saw through your own justice. Even if you join hands with the Empire, it would be proof that you tried to protect your people. I won’t forget that truth.

Being cut by my dragon longsword would be one honorable moment. Because you would be a worthy man to be cut after all…

“Well then, later.” (Julian)

“Yes, let’s meet again, Julian Laichi.” (Solje)

And then, Representative Laichi left this royal suite. 

3 seconds after that. 

Loroka and I were still frozen in place.

The tension had come all at once. Damn it, if it were only about me, it would be one thing, but a conversation with a country on my shoulders is way too stressful.

“…Loroka, are you okay?” (Solje)

“Y-Yes! Somehow… I was so nervous. Sorry, I was of no use.” (Loroka)

“No, just your presence alone was a big help.” (Solje)

“C-Captain…!” (Loroka)

“If I had been alone, I would have been pushed into that old man’s pace.” (Solje)

“N-No way. I was of no use at all. I am truly sorry. Even though I am supposed to be your adjutant.” (Loroka)

“…Don’t cry, you idiot.” (Solje)

I pet her head and ended up rubbing the horn that was poking out of her golden hair. Only after petting her for a while did I notice. This is bad. I am going to be killed…

I hurriedly took my hand away from her horn. And then, tense my body, but nothing happened. Did she not notice? That’s a relief then… She was probably way too out of herself after the representative Laichi left.

“I still got a long way to go…” (Solje)

“T-That’s not true!” (Loroka)

“Hm?” (Solje)

“C-Captain was really cool back then!!” (Loroka)

“Really? I am glad for your compliment.” (Solje)

“It is incredible!! So there was a plan!! To think there would be a way to crush the Empire’s 5th division!! Just what plan did you think up?!” (Loroka)

“…Eh? I don’t have one.” (Solje)

“Eh?” 

“There’s no way I could think of something so complicated, right?” (Solje)

“Y-Yeah… E-Eh? Then, that was a bluff? How disappointing.” (Loroka)

Loroka sits back. Yeah, she went so far as to jump from her seat to compliment me and that made me happy.

The beautiful blue eyes below her glasses were now those of a person looking at a swindler. 

“…Don’t be so disappointed.” (Solje)

“Of course I would be. My hopes were high up in the sky, and it was a complete lie.” (Loroka)

“What a terrible way to talk about someone. It wasn’t a lie, you know?” (Solje)

“Eh?” 

“I simply said I couldn’t think of one. But this is an ‘us’.” (Solje)

“Uhm…” (Loroka)

Loroka-sensei tilts her head. Right, Sensei has an airheaded side to her. 

“You were about to tell me yesterday, right? ‘We will form a strong power to fight against the Empire in the northern lands’.” (Solje)

“Ah.” (Loroka)

Loroka Sharnel covers her mouth with both hands. She really forgot it. She may be intelligent, but she truly is airheaded. Has glasses, big boobs, is a spear user, and kills you if you touch her horn. Loroka-sensei is truly filled with charming points.

“That is ‘our’ plan.” (Solje)

“I forgot. Right. There really is a plan!!” (Loroka)

“And so, what’s the plan?” (Solje)

I don’t know that part. Irresponsible? Don’t be stupid. I simply trust Loroka-sensei. There’s no way she would say something wrong. 

That’s why I believed her. 

And my choice was correct right, Loroka?

The blue eyes of Loroka-sensei were looking at me with strength. Her lips slowly open.

“…Yes! That’s a power that can be obtained after travelling a little further to the north.” (Loroka)

“More to the north than here?” (Solje)

“Yeah, Barrow Gawick… The metropolis of us Diaros.” (Loroka)

——The grand plan has been made clear, the objective location is the mysterious race’s metropolis.

Has there been a moment in history where a human has stepped into Barrow Gawick?

Journeying to the world that is closed off by snow, the dragon knight and his group head for the north. 

Aiming for the frozen metropolis of mysterious culture.

——It is time to buy equipment for the adventure! Burn a large sum to buy fur!!

Riel and Mia were in charge of the shopping, because their beauty should be able to invite a price down.

Jean who is scared of the Diaros culture is charged with carrying the luggage. 

His strength is great, but his guts lacking; do your best, star of hope.

——The werewolf heard the songs of the great dragon knight that were floating through the city. 

The historical songs of the red haired devilish swordsmen made the werewolf smile.

He admires this great man, but he knows that admiration alone is not good.

I will become a man just like captain…

——The supreme senses of Jean Redwood smelled an abnormality.

He couldn’t understand it, but there was something.

He looked up at the sky, the blue sky that felt like it could swallow him.

Jean couldn’t hold his uneasiness.

——Birds came out, birds again.

Those ears of theirs pick up ominous rumours. 

Within the songs of heroes, there was a song of parents crying. 

He doesn’t understand, why is it that it bothers him so much?

——His weak heart was trying to forget about it.

In the depths of his sealed memories, he knows of a Zeruaga. 

Don’t you remember that night, the first time your blood awakened?

Were you the only one who had been imprisoned by destiny? 

——Jean Redwood couldn’t understand.

If it is the cursed you, you should be able to notice even the truth of the underworld.

But that’s not the sin of Jean.

The sinful ones are…somewhere else after all.

——The darkness of Zakuroa silently hides. 

It is still not enough, still not enough.

Gather innocent souls. 

Everything for the sake of protecting our motherland.

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