──While the meeting between Thor and Sophia was taking place ──

 

 

 

 

 

“…… Where is this place?”

“Have you awakened, Mariella-sama?”

 

Mariella woke up on a hard bed.

 

Surrounding her bed were her direct subordinates, their bodies littered with wounds.

Some had bandages covering both their hands and feet.

The men stared at Mariella, who had just woken up, their expressions grim.

 

“This is a town to the south of the border.
We’ve rented a farmhouse.”

 

One of the soldiers explained.

 

“You have been asleep for nearly ten days.”

“I…… slept for that long?”

“Do you recall what happened?”

“…… I believe I went to investigate a dormant monster.”

 

Mariella slowly retraced her memories.

Following the instructions of Zagran, they went to the cave where the monster was located.
Then…

 

“Uaahhhhhhhh!

“Mariella-sama!”

“A centipede is attacking us, a giant centipede! Help! Help me!”

“Please calm down! That magical beast has already been defeated!”

 

A soldier shouted to Mariella, who was tightly gripping her head.

 

“…… That giant centipede has been defeated?”

 

Shivering, Mariella looked up.

 

“A-amazing! To defeat that gigantic magical beast! As expected of the people Zagran-sama selected.
I will report this achievement to His Excellency! You will all be captains of a hundred, no, a thousand soldiers!

“Mariella…”

“I’ll contact him immediately! I’m certain that Zagran-sama will be extremely pleased.”

“We did not eliminate that giant centipede!”

 

Mariella’s body trembled at the sound of his voice.

The soldiers stared at Mariella with cold eyes.

 

“According to those who went to gather information, the ones who defeated the giant centipede were the Demon Lord and Isaac Mueller’s unit.”

“The Demon Lord and Isaac were fighting together?”

“Yes.
Also, Her Imperial Highness Princess Sophia’s light attack magic erased the monster’s existence.”

“N-no way!”

 

 

Mariella immediately raised her body upward, a sharp pain quickly assaulting her legs as a result.

The two legs were wrapped in bandages.
She had escaped a monster, fallen from her horse, and fallen straight into the river.
There was no way she was unscathed.
She was probably lucky to even survive with only such an injury.

Mariella calmed her breathing and asked.

 

“I can’t believe it.
It’s not possible that the sickly Sophia-sama would be able to participate in the battle…”

“”

“I heard that Her Highness held a meeting with the Demon Lord and apologised for the military exercises that the Imperial soldiers conducted near the road.
After that, the two sides fought alongside each other.”

“…… I-I see.”

“The objective was achieved.
We conveyed to the Demon Territory that ‘the Empire is powerful.’ The only drawback is that the Demon Territory also demonstrated that they are powerful as well.
The people of the border territory are pleased that peace has been restored.”

 

The representative of the soldiers cut the conversation there.

 

Mariella was shivering, clutching her blanket.

 

The purpose of the military exercises at the border was to exhibit the strength of the Empire to the Demon Territory.

That was why they conducted them near the road; they sought to pressure the Demon Territory.

To convey the message, ‘The Empire is powerful and can contain you in the north at any time.’

 

Even if the Demon Territory protested, Zagran intended on ignoring them.

As it was, at least while Zagran was the Minister of Military Affairs, he planned on containing and weakening the Demon Territory.

 

If the Demon Territory attacked, it would be seen as a challenge to the humans.

It would be possible to establish an allied force with the neighboring nations.

By doing so, they would make the human world aware of the horror of the demons and demi-humans once again.
Naturally, the Empire is the only one capable of opposing the Demon Territory.

As a result, the authority of the Empire would have been elevated.

 

Zagran had thought this far ahead while planning this operation, but…

 

“However, neither Her Imperial Highness nor Isaac can understand Zagran-sama’s wishes, can they? What a pity.”

 

Mariella murmured, her voice trembling.

She couldn’t suppress her anger.

 

The plan that Zagran was promoting was an excellent plan, the plan of the century.

Princess Sophia and Isaac had ruined it.

 

“Isaac Mueller is incapable of understanding a plan of a national level, after all.”

“He calls himself Isaac Omawarisan Mueller now.”

“That doesn’t matter!”

 

Mariella tried to stand up, holding her injured leg.

However, a soldier stopped her.

 

“You are severely injured.
According to the doctor, you shouldn’t move for a while.”

“I don’t care! I have to report to His Excellency Zagran immediately.”

“We have already reported the situation to the capital.”

 

The soldier said.

 

“I have sent a swift horse to the capital.
They should have received the news by now.”

“I-I see.”

“Our request to be transferred has also been accepted.”

 

The soldiers nodded in agreement.

Mariella was about to agree when she stiffened.

Mariella’s eyes widened in surprise when she realized the meaning of the soldiers’ words, and she asked.

 

“What did you say…… just now? A request to be transferred?”

“It is our consensus.”

“Why!?”

 

Mariella exclaimed.

 

“You all became my direct subordinates in order to carry out Zagran-sama’s plans! Abandoning your mission in the middle…”

“Yes, but there is no reason for me to continue to serve you after you have failed.”

“Failed? You mean I failed?

“His Excellency Zagran ordered you to defeat the dormant monster.
However, he didn’t order you to act based on your own arbitrary decision.
Wasn’t the order given under the assumption that you would consult Isaac Mueller and ask for Her Highness Sophia’s assistance?”

 

The soldiers’ representative replied quietly.

His tone was one filled with pity for Mariella.

 

“His Excellency Zagran told us to seek the help of our allies.
However, you were afraid that Isaac Mueller would learn of it, so you only asked your ally about the whereabouts of the monster.”

“That’s it! It was a result of the intentions of His Excellency Zagran! His Excellency desired that I produce results!”

“This is the result.
The soldiers were wounded, and some will no longer be able to bear arms.
You know how those who can no longer fight are treated in an empire that values strength!”

“…… Uu.”

“Also, we cannot inform anyone that we were seriously wounded by a giant centipede.
If we inform them, they will know that we provoked the monster.
We cannot be proud of the wounds inflicted on us by the monster either! All of this is the result of your underestimation of the situation, Mariella!”

“M-my…”

“We assisted you so that you could take responsibility for your failure.
That is all.
Besides…”

 

The soldier said, in a quiet voice.

 

“… The era of His Excellency Zagran will soon come to an end.
There are rumors among my fellow soldiers that the next Minister of Military Affairs will be the favourite of the Imperial family.
That person might be able to aid us…”

“…… Failure.
I, myself, have failed…….”

 

Mariella’s mind didn’t register the soldier’s words.

With a nod of her head, Mariella continued to mumble quietly.

 

Watching her, the soldier sighed and said.

“As soon as we are given permission, we will return to the Imperial capital.
We will leave a female soldier behind to take care of you.
You will stay here and remain silent until they come for you.”

“I am………… a failure.”

“…… Excuse us.”

 

With that, the soldiers left the barn.

Mariella had no way of knowing what exchange they had with the capital.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few days later, the soldiers left the village, and after a few days after that, a carriage arrived at Mariella’s doorstep.

 

“I am here by order of Zagran-sama.”

 

The soldier acting as the coachman said.

The soldier, who was in charge of the guard, encouraged Mariella, who looked pale.

 

“I have a message for you.
“I am sorry for the trouble I have put you through, Mariella.
I understand.
To protect you, I have prepared a new assignment for you.
You may rest there until your body is healed”.”

“…… Ah, Zagran-sama.”

 

Mariella’s dim eyes lit up once more.

As expected, he wouldn’t abandon his subordinate.

He knew that Mariella was simply following his instructions.

On top of that, he was thinking of Mariella’s future.

 

Mariella rose from her bed with these thoughts in mind.

She walked to the carriage, the sole remaining soldier supporting her.

 

“…… It’s quite a magnificent carriage, isn’t it?”

“Yes.
This carriage also carried the son of a duke.”

“To give me such a thing…”

“Please hurry, Mariella-sama.”

 

Mariella entered the carriage.

With a clunk, the carriage doors closed.

Mariella breathed a sigh of relief and rested her body on the seat.

 

I feel safe now.

All she had to do was follow his instructions.
With this thought, Mariella closed her eyes.

 

 

After waking up, she would soon realise the peculiarities of the carriage.

 

 

The door could not be opened from the inside.

The windows were boarded up so that she could not gaze outside.

The coachman would ignore her.

 

And that the carriage would not stop at the Imperial capital – it was instead headed straight for the southern front.

After arriving at her destination, she would not be able to contact Zagran at all.

 

 

“Mm, I will clear my name for Zagran-sama’s sake.”

 

 

Mariella, still unaware of this, mumbled in her peaceful sleep.

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