── A dozen days later, in the capital ──

“Here is the report from Isaac Mueller, the commander of the Northern Army.”

A meeting between high-ranking officials had begun in the Imperial court of the Imperial capital.

The topics under discussion were the appearance of a new monster species at the border of the Empire and how to deal with the Demon Territory.

The high officials of the Dolgarian Empire, as well as the Emperor and the Crown Prince, attended the meeting.

“The document was originally addressed to the military department.
However, it was sent to the Prime Minister’s office under Her Highness Sophia’s name due to an unknown reason.”

The facilitator, a civil official, was tasked with reading the document aloud.

“We have also received a report from Mariella, Isaac Mueller’s second-in-command, and her subordinates.
That report was delivered to the military, and we have obtained a copy of it by order of the Prime Minister.
Which of the two should I read out loud?”

After finishing his speech, the facilitator examined the dignitaries in attendance.

The Prime Minister, the generals, and the ministers all looked toward the throne.

“…… Read the report belonging to the commander of the army.”

The Emperor said from his throne, elevated one step over the others.

He was a middle-aged man and possessed a muscular build, but his hair and beard were a striking snow-white, like an old man’s.

Gesturing with his bulky arms, the Emperor continued.

“The other report has been reviewed by the Prime Minister and the Crown Prince.
You may read out the commander’s report here.”

“However, as this is a report written by a military officer, the writing style is slightly stiff…”

“It is of no consequence.”

“I understand.
Then, with all due respect, I will read it aloud.”

The civil facilitator began reading out Isaac Mueller’s report.

──────────────────

I hereby report that a new species of monster has appeared in the territory of our mighty Empire.

The new species was a giant centipede.

Its size exceeds ten meters in the measurement system of the heroes’ world.

The monster was ferocious, and had it been left unchecked, there is no doubt that it would have caused great damage to the town.

In order to protect the people, our unit decided to defeat the monster.

The battle progressed smoothly, but the monster possessed the ability to burrow in the ground and avoid our detection.

Before we knew it, the monster appeared in front of Her Highness Sophia, the daughter of the Emperor.

I was afraid that it was about to harm Her Highness.

Just as she was about to be attacked, a voice rang out, “Omawarisan!”

At the sound of that voice, the monster stopped moving.

This officer remembered the words that the heroes had left behind.

“I will call Omawarisan! I will tell the Omawarisan!”

It seems that these were the words used by the heroes to refer to the guardian spirit of the other world.

The spirit from the heroes’ world restrained the movements of the monster.

In the meantime, Her Highness Sophia unleashed light attribute attack magic, killing the monster.

The materials obtained from the monster were sent to the Imperial capital alongside this report.

Further investigation revealed that the giant centipede had emerged from the dwelling of a dormant monster.

Some Imperial soldiers trespassed in the monster’s territory and lured it to the town.

A search is currently underway for those who provoked the beast.

Their names are listed below.
We hope for a fair investigation.

This is the end of my report on the appearance and subjugation of the giant centipede.

Commander of the Northern Army,
Isaac Omawarisan Mueller

──────────────────

“”…… Oh.””

The Prime Minister, the Chief General, and the other ministers looked at one another.

New monster species had been a topic of discussion many times prior.

“I wasn’t aware that another new species had appeared after the monster Gargarossa…”

“This time we’ve obtained the remains.
Examine them immediately!”

“Anyway, it’s great that we were able to defeat it.”

The dignitaries breathed a sigh of relief.

They continued to express their opinions.

“I had heard that Her Highness Sophia was sickly and weak, but she managed to defeat a new species of monster?”

“Shouldn’t Her Highness be recalled to the capital and offered a new post?”

“No, since she is this powerful, we should keep her stationed at the borders of the Demon Territory.”

“The Demon Territory must have been terrified by the light attribute magic.
Reassigning Her Highness would be problematic…”

Tap.

“”────””

Hearing the unexpected sound, all the dignitaries fell silent at once.

It was the sound of the Emperor tapping on the armrest of his throne.

Everyone in the room knew that this was the signal for the Emperor to express his opinion.

“It is not a matter of great importance, as she is not part of the line of succession.
If she is my daughter, it is only natural that she should display such power.
She should return to her post and fulfill her responsibility.”

The Emperor stated.

The young man standing next to him nodded.

He was Crown Prince Diaz, the only prince permitted to attend this meeting between high-ranking officials.

“Imperial officials.
Listen to Diaz regarding this matter.”

“”──Hah hah!””

The dignitaries bowed their heads in unison in response to the Emperor’s order.

“Then, this Diaz will speak to the Minister of Military Affairs, Zagran.”

From beside the throne, Crown Prince Diaz raised his voice.

In response, the white-haired Minister of Military Affairs, Zagran, stepped forward.

“…… By the order of the great Emperor and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, Zagran is present.”

“You are hereby dismissed from your post as Minister of Military Affairs and educator of Liana Dolgaria.
I regret to inform you that we cannot entrust you with any further responsibilities of importance.”

Crown Prince Diaz said.

“I have received a letter from your direct subordinate.
It states, “Mariella’s mistake has drawn a new species of monster to the human village.” Mariella is your subordinate.
It was your order that directed her to the monster’s dwelling, correct?”

“……Yes, Your Highness.”

“Then it is settled.”

“You have committed three mistakes.
Firstly, you provided vague instructions based on outdated information without being aware of the regional situation.
Secondly, you dispatched subordinates who were not suited for the regional mission.
Thirdly, you failed to coordinate with Isaac Mueller, the commander designated by the High Council.”

“As a result, the giant centipede arrived before a human village and attacked Imperial soldiers.
To defeat it, they were required to seek assistance from the Demon Territory.
This is an unprecedented failure.”

“─ For the aforementioned reasons, I have determined that Zagran lacks the ability to lead, and I am relieving him of his duties as Minister of Military Affairs and educator of Imperial Princess Liana.”

Looking around at the dignitaries, Crown Prince Diaz continued.

“From now on, Liana will patrol the Imperial territory as the Princess of the Sacred Sword, eliminating monsters.
Zagran can discuss this with Liana and draw up a plan for her patrol.
Then your job will be completed.”

Diaz paused, observing Zagran’s reaction.

“You may live a quiet life in retirement.
However, a portion of your wealth will be used to compensate your wounded soldiers.
You may also…… find it difficult to remain in the capital after all this time.
I will prepare a villa for you at a reasonable distance from the city──”

“Please wait a moment, Your Highness!”

Zagran said, his voice strained.

Crown Prince Diaz looked at him curiously.

“Are you dissatisfied with anything, Zagran?”

“I have no intention of disobeying the orders of the Emperor… However, I would like to ask a question.”

“I see.
Let us hear it.”

“It is regarding the new species of monster.
I admit that Mariella, under my orders, had acted of her own discretion and made a mistake.
However, even this Zagran was unaware of these new species of monsters, such as the giant centipede.
It was extremely unexpected.”

“The investigation of the new species is the responsibility of the new Minister of Military Affairs.
You needn’t worry about it.”

“Then what about Her Highness Sophia and Isaac Mueller!?”

Zagran exclaimed.

“I have learned that Her Highness and Isaac Mueller have been meeting with those of the Demon Territory.
They are in contact with the abominable demi-humans and demons! Shouldn’t they be punished!?”

“I see.
Then let us hear what His Majesty has to say.”

The Crown Prince turned towards the Emperor sitting on his throne.

The aged emperor waved his hand in an annoyed manner.

“The purpose of the military exercises in the border area was to display the strength of the Empire.
That has been accomplished with my daughter Sophia defeating the monster.
It can also be said that the damage caused by the monster was minimal due to Sophia making good use of those of the Demon Territory.
Am I wrong?”

“…… That is…”

“I will pose another question.
By punishing my daughter Sophia and her army commander, will the border area become more peaceful?”

“…… B-but!”

“I don’t even want to discuss the Demon Territory.
I don’t understand that nation.
I am constantly receiving reports that I do not understand.”

The Emperor leaned back in his throne and exhaled deeply.

“The mysterious chain that restrained and constricted the monster, the ‘Omawarisan’ that halted the monster’s movement, and other matters besides those…… I do not understand them.”

“── Your Majesty-”

“As for how to deal with that nation, I will leave it to the new Minister of Military Affairs.
The selection of that person is the task of Crown Prince Diaz.
That will suffice.”

“His Majesty the Emperor says such, Zagran.”

Continuing after the Emperor’s words, Crown Prince Diaz declared with firm determination.

“It would be out of line for a subject to trouble the Emperor’s mind any further, wouldn’t you agree?”

“…… Gghh.”

Zagran bit his lip.

‘Do not burden the Emperor’s mind’ – that was a slogan for the Emperor’s subjects.

Whoever was told this wouldn’t dare speak much, so as to not bother the Emperor.

The issue of the northern border had already fallen under this category.

‘Her Highness Sophia exhibited the strength of the Empire to the Demon Territory.
By conducting meetings, she had reduced the hostility of the demons and demi-humans toward the Empire.
This is checkmate.’

Zagran had no words of rebuttal.

He had already taken steps to prevent this from happening.

Mariella, who knew what was happening, had been sent to the southern front.

Of course, he had no intention of pushing her to fight.
She was to be sent to the rear line, to be treated along with the other wounded soldiers.

She was loyal to Zagran.
She wouldn’t say anything else.

‘…… I obtained this position through considerable effort and acted with great caution, so as not to make any mistakes.

He believed he had spent a long time developing a successful method of doing things.

That was why he educated Princess Liana, and Mariella, to think as he did.

Mariella was akin to a prototype of Liana.

More than a decade ago, when it was decided that Zagran would be Liana’s educator, as a preliminary measure, Zagran began acting as Mariella’s educator.

He decided to experiment with Mariella to ensure that he would not fail in educating Princess Liana.

Therefore, Zagran raised Mariella in a way that he thought was optimal, wondering about how to influence Liana into thinking like himself.

In this way, Mariella had become like Zagran, at times even anticipating his ideas before he thought of them.

He had never imagined that Mariella would fail.

Moreover, the other soldiers had betrayed Zagran.

That was why they wrote their report and placed blame on Zagran and Mariella.

Due to a lack of information, they were attacked by a giant centipede and they were wounded.
For Zagran, it was a failure for which he could offer no excuse.

“Please at least provide me a chance to clear my name!”

Zagran couldn’t help but shout.

“Please permit me to investigate the monster! I, Zagran, will risk my life to uncover the identity of the new species that is terrorising Imperial territory!”

“That is the job of the next Minister of Military Affairs.
He will be chosen by the high council and I.”

Crown Prince Diaz cut him off.

“It is best for you to think of your future before you speak up.
This is the advice of Crown Prince Diaz in recognition of your many years of service.”

“…… Ahh.”

Zagran nodded dejectedly.

Still, he was not allowed to leave the room.

He had no choice but to remain in his chair and listen to discussions about his successor.

‘…… Where did I go wrong?’

He didn’t know.

He started making mistake after mistake after he got involved with the Demon Territory.

When one became involved with that place, unpredictable situations occurred.

Zagran was caught off guard by them.

It was the same with Liana.

After he sent her sister Sophia to the Demon Territory’s border, Liana changed.

Even when Zagran spoke to her, she was somewhat absent-minded, no longer exerting any effort in her swordsmanship training.

Instead, she repeatedly read letters from her sister Sophia.

This was an unexpected situation for Zagran.

Liana had been brought up with the same educational policy as Mariella.

The only difference was that Liana had an older sister, Sophia.

Sophia was sickly and weak, a useless older sister who collapsed after casting magic once.

Sophia Dolgaria, despite being a member of the royal family, was someone no one would have cared about if she died.

It had never occurred to him that Sophia had become an important emotional pillar for Liana.

Why does a strong sister require the presence of a weak sister?

Why had Liana changed just because her insignificant sister had left?

Zagran couldn’t understand it at all.

‘Where did I go wrong! Was it when I dispatched Princess Sophia! Was it when I ordered Mariella to investigate the dormant monster!? Where! Where did I go wrong!?’

‘What was the cause of my failure? Was it due to the changes in the Demon Territory? Did that “wandering alchemist”, no, Thor Regus, change the Demon Territory!? To the point that they could eliminate the monster Gargarossa in the blink of an eye?’

‘Impossible.
How can a single alchemist have the power to impact the Demon Territory?’

‘Then, why am I being driven into a corner…’

His thoughts fell into a loop.

The Minister of Military Affairs, Zagran, just sat there with his head in his hands.

When he regained his senses, the meeting had concluded.

However, Zagran still had work to complete.

He had to entrust his job to the next Minister of Military Affairs.

After that, he had to speak with Princess Liana and establish a route for patrolling the Imperial territory.

‘─ Why did that short meeting feel so depressing?’

Zagran staggered his way to his office.

── In a certain place in the palace ──

“Diaz, do not forget.
There are no heroes in the Empire.”

Sitting on his throne, the Emperor said.

“There is no trump card with which the Empire can overwhelm other nations or the Demon Territory.”

“I am aware, Father.”

“The Empire has lost its trump card of summoning the heroes.
That is why we attempted to raise successors to the heroes, as the Empire must be the strongest.”

“Yes, Father.”

“It was fortunate that Liana was recognised by the Holy Sword.
However, even so, it is still not even comparable as a trump card to a hero.
Yet, a new species of monster has appeared.”

“The next Minister of Military Affairs will investigate it.”

Murmured Crown Prince Diaz, leaning close to the old emperor.

“The investigation team will be assigned top-notch soldiers.
Even so, it may be difficult to identify the new monster species and the cause of the outbreak……”

“We require power.
The Empire needs to be strong.”

“We may require a change of mindset, father.”

“A change of… mindset?”

“A hero from another world once said, “The skills you thought were weak may be strong.” In accordance with that teaching, we should change the threat of the monster.”

Crown Prince Diaz’s lips twisted into a grin while his father wasn’t looking.

“If we can turn these new species of magical beasts into familiars, they can become the ‘trump card’ father wishes to possess.”

“…… Diaz.”

“The Empire is the strongest.
As the successor to the heroes, we must remain the strongest.
That policy will be carried on by the emperor.
Forever.
Please rest assured, Your Majesty.”

In the dimly lit room, Crown Prince Diaz murmured indifferently.

 

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