——The old freedom knight, Vashiri Nova, hugs the young man!!
That red haired brat has grown up.
I am so glad…so glad that you have survived, Dragon Knight!
——Vashiri Nova had tears flow and raises a roar!!
Wing Commander-dono, your son is standing before me!!
Trying to protect Zakuroa, coming under the olden oath!!
The reunion of the dragon knight and the freedom knight, everyone, celebrate with a song!!
…I was secretly expecting to be slightly welcomed, but to think I would get such a heated welcome.
The leader of the Freedom Knights, Vashiri Nova, had been notified of our visit to the fortress and, even though he still had his white steel armor, he ran to my side at full-throttle. Shouted just like that and hugged me.
I am not a fan of being hugged by old men, but I can’t reject this good will, right?
There’s no way I would be able to hate this old man that is talking about my father’s memories as if they happened yesterday.
The knights in the fortress all gathered and welcomed Loroka and I. It went past moving and instead made me feel bad for having them do this much.
They are the same as me. They already resolved themselves to offer their lives to the fight against the Empire.
Speaking with warriors sharing the same values made me forget about the passing of time. Even though I came here first thing in the morning, it was already noon by the time I noticed. They welcomed us with a grandiose meal.
Several knights were saying ‘thanks’ to us.
The fact that the Banjar Mercenaries and I brought the letter of the Ludo Kingdom and their will to form an alliance apparently was a big ray of hope for the Iron Blood Alliance.
Half of their Zakuroan brethren were not supporting their fight against the Imperial army. The fact that the Ludo Queen knew this situation of theirs made them really happy.
That’s right, the suffering of an unsung pain, and challenging a battle with no honor in sight would feel empty.
There was no end to our conversations. I managed to get along with a variety of knights. No, the young and old, men and women here are already comrades!!
Rodoni, Mariel, Woodhead, Nyukam, Rasselback, Judo, Elizabeth, Rafa, Shido…Many knights cheered and celebrated these great new connections!!
Exchanging drinks, singing loudly, and for the end, having Zephyr stand at the crown of the fortress while spitting out fire to the sky!!
The Iron Blood Alliance really is the best!!
It is the second best organization after the Banjar Mercenaries!! Gahahahaha!!
“Staying in a high class hot spring inn, peeping at the female bath and had a drink, doing a grand feast that would shock even the knights of the fortress and the residents… That’s quite the social status you got there, Solje Strauss.”
3 hours after that grand feast, we quickly began to head north. Riel, Mia, and I were riding Zephyr and flying north.
On the ground there’s Loroka riding Byakuya, and Jean in wolf form was following after her. It is the same pattern as the previous journey.
So in the end we only rested for one night, huh. Well, Jean and I received more damage outside of battle though.
Because of that hellish precipice separating the baths… Or more like, it is the fault of Riel Harveld who has been attacking me with words for a while now.
Using magic landmines to blow away a young one and her boyfriend?
Tomboyish amounts of wildness.
That Riel was hugging my back while preaching. She is angry that we used half a day in a drinking bout even though we only have 1 week. Riel is strict with time as always.
But you know, I am the leader.
Drinking together with people that can serve in work is also a part of the business, you know?
“…Onii-chan, you reek of alcohol.” (Mia)
Mia, who is in my arm, was pushing my chin with her cat eared head. I fought back and went *rub rub* with my chin as well.
The fun skinship between siblings was there.
“Haah, but we did have a good harvest.” (Riel)
“Your love?” (Solje)
“N-Not about that!! I am talking about the work!!” (Riel)
“…Aah, we gave the letter to both of them. I managed to talk with Julian Laichi with stomach bare, and we are completely friends with Vashiri Nova and the Iron Blood Alliance!!” (Solje)
“You really like them, huh.” (Riel)
“Yeah, they really are knights to the like of the Strauss. Seriously Strauss!! I could feel their burning passion and their bravery that doesn’t fear death!!” (Solje)
“They really were a sweltering group.” (Riel)
“Well, I can’t deny that. They were seriously noisy. But that’s what’s nice!!” (Solje)
“Haah. But if that allowed for an easy negotiation, I suppose I will forgive it.” (Riel)
“You will, huh. Thanks, Maje.” (Solje)
“You’re welcome, Doje.” (Riel)
Hmm, I did tell Riel-chan that Maje and Doje meant brother and sister in dragon language, but…it is actually mother and father…
If she learns that I lied, I feel like I might get punched, so I won’t ask if she actually knows. I actually love when she uses those words.
“…Fuuh, anyways, it has gotten pretty cold.” (Riel)
“Zephyr, Maje is saying she is cold. Fly as low as possible.” (Solje)
“Okay, I will fly low!!” (Zephyr)
“Thanks, Zephyr.” (Riel)
“…Hey, Onii-chan.” (Mia)
“What, Mia?” (Solje)
“What kind of place is the place we are going to?” (Mia)
The innocent curiosity of the girl were questioning the location of this journey.
I was a bit troubled.
I do know that the Diaros are at the ends of the north, but I didn’t know that there was a metropolis or sacred grounds.
“Hmm, it would be pretty difficult to explain.” (Solje)
“Oi, properly face the curiosity of a child. More so when Mia is your little sister.” (Riel)
Riel truly is a real good woman. There are times when I don’t notice that Mia wants me to give her attention. She is my important little sister…
I hug Mia.
I asked her if she was cold, and she answered ‘No, it is warm’.
My eyes narrow in kindness. I really do need to treasure her more.
If she asks about something, I should try to do my best to answer her. If she heads to battle, I will protect her with my life. I will protect her, that’s the duty of ‘Onii-sama’.
“I actually don’t know much about it either.” (Solje)
“Yeah. That’s also one reason I am looking forward to it. Going to a place you don’t know of is exciting, don’t you think?” (Solje)
“Yeah, really exciting!” (Mia)
“Right? What kind of place would be interesting I wonder.” (Solje)
“Hmm, first, it is important whether their hotpots are delicious or not!!” (Mia)
“Ooh, yeah, if they tasted bad even when they are in a cold region, it would be the worst.” (Solje)
“Yeah, that would be unbelievable!” (Mia)
We both shouted into the night sky, and after that we sing while laughing. We were still heading north despite it being an incredibly cold place, and yet…it doesn’t feel rough at all. Is it strange? No, the reason is clear at a single glance.
It is because Riel, Mia, and Zephyr are here too. Of course, Loroka and Jean as well.
Hear this well, Zephyr. This is your family.
The Banjar Mercenaries are our important family.
We will protect them with our lives. They are a treasure I would use my life for in a heartbeat. Our family has enough worth that I would be able to do so with a smile on my face.
Remember this, Zephyr.
Even if a hundred years pass and the people here disappear from your side due to the passing of time…it will still be okay.
We will still love you regardless.
It is a reality that won’t ever change, and you don’t have to doubt it.
If you ever miss the Strauss, you can look up the sky.
Riel, Mia, Loroka, Jean, and everyone else will be somewhere within those stars.
You won’t ever be alone.
How’s that, Zephyr? Ain’t family great?
“…Hey, Mia, Riel.” (Solje)
“What is it?” (Riel)
“Won’t you sing together with Zephyr?” (Solje)
“As in, shout?” (Riel)
“Okay! Let’s sing!! It’s okay right, Riel?!” (Mia)
“Geez, can’t be helped. I will play along.” (Riel)
“Alright, Maje says she will sing, too! Zephyr, SIIIING!!” (Mia)
“Hahahaha!! Aah, so fun. This is the best right, Zephyr?!” (Solje)
“Yeah! The best!!” (Zephyr)
“Riel might have lacked a biit in her voice though.” (Solje)
“Y-Yeah, sorry. My embarrassment showed a bit there…” (Riel)
“Don’t be embarrassed. Haven’t we already shown each other every nook and cranny of our bodies?” (Solje)
“D-Don’t say it in a way that invites misunderstandings…!” (Riel)
I don’t think there’s lies mixed in that would go as far as to invite misunderstandings. Well, it was practically her one-sidedly showing me. So, in that sense, you wouldn’t call it ‘showing each other’s bodies’.
I gotta show her mine in return next time.
Aah, but having being able to drink, ride a dragon, and be together with my family; it really is great. We are heading to the metropolis of madness where the feared culture of the Diaros is prevalent, Barrow Gawick, but I am not scared at all.
When the alcohol runs out, more fear might come out though.
But right now it is easy-peasy.
“Seriously, you are grinning all over the place and look like you are enjoying yourself there, Solje Strauss.” (Riel)
“Yeah, because I am together with you guys.” (Solje)
“Onii-chan, yay!!” (Mia)
“Ahaha, Doje is so popular!!” (Zephyr)
“Yeah, I will make you a little brother soon, okay?” (Solje)
“D-Don’t say weird things, Solje Strauss!!” (Riel)
The Tsundere Elf wrapped her slender arms around my neck and tightened the hold. She really is one shy girl. And easy. With a hella embarrassed voice, she whispers in my ear, ‘dummy’.
It might not be a bad idea to seriously do so once this war is over.
Half elves are famous for being strong. If it is the child of a dragon knight with an elf royalty, it sounds like it would be the strongest in the world. The Strauss house would get even stronger than it already is.
Yeah, the night wind is way too cold. If we continue flying like this, we will be exposed to the northern night winds.
Okay, good job enduring without complaining even though it is so cold, Mia! We are done for the day.
“Zephyr, we are going down! You can see that level ground there, right?!” (Solje)
“Yeah, we can go down there!!” (Zephyr)
“Riel, use a whistling arrow to send a signal to Loroka and Jean!” (Solje)
Riel makes rustling sounds at my back, and shoots a whistling arrow at the night sky.
That kind of long and terrible sounding bird noise resounded in the sky. Instead of an arrowhead, there’s a ceramic flute of sorts. By eating up wind, it makes a sound.
This is an original creation of our crew. The sound resonates pretty far. Of course, the one who made this was the half elf, Gindo Irving.
I think flying machines will take around 400 years more to be created, but the things that Gindo creates with his existing abilities are seriously highly efficient.
Us Banjar Mercenaries, who are far from being considered profitable, seriously feel like we could profit a hella lot from Gindo aside from wars.
The whistling arrow of Gindo cried really well tonight as well.
Thanks to that, we soon saw a reaction.
A wolf’s -or more like, Jean- howl was returned soon after.
I don’t understand at all dog language, but it is most likely a ‘roger’. While I was deepening my understanding of my subordinates, Zephyr’s stomach rumbled!
…It may be insistent of me, but this is important, so I should warn him.
“Zephyr, Jean is…?” (Solje)
“…Not meat. Can’t eat family!” (Zephyr)
“Yeah, nicely said. Seriously, you really must not.” (Solje)
Even though Zephyr has a better brain than humans, why is it that it doesn’t work no matter how many times I warn him? Is he doing this because he wants me to pay him attention? …No, you can’t make your stomach ring with acting…
Are wolves seriously that delicious?
…This is bad. I might one day get influenced by this and challenge a wolf hotpot. That’s not good, be prudent. I will at least try it out when Jean isn’t there.
- Chapter 67
That night, Jean achieved the unbelievable. This might be something that can only be done once in a hundred days kind of chance.
He managed to hunt a game that surpassed Riel. A big bear. It looks around 40kg.
It was a moving moment.
I thought the budding talent had finally woken up his competitiveness. Cause you know, winning against Riel in hunting requires quite the effort. Needs resolve too. He made a prideful girl like her taste defeat? …I feel like she might one day get revenge on him in some way or another.
Having the desire to improve is still good nonetheless.
That’s right, that’s what I thought, but…the place the wolf dragged the bear to was…where Zephyr is.
He places the giant bear in front of the hungry Zephyr.
“Zephyr, this is meat.” (Jean)
“Yeah, it is meat.” (Zephyr)
“And I am?” (Jean)
“That’s right. Your friend and family, Jean Redwood.” (Jean)
Watching this, I felt like crying. He was desperate about not getting eaten by Zephyr!!
…Sorry for my dragon. It is probably…no, definitely okay, you know? He definitely won’t eat you…probably…
I stir the special stew in the pot, and swore to give the biggest share of potato to my subordinate that has had little luck in his life.
If the stew of tonight is a bit on the salty side, it must be because of my tears.
“Tonight’s stew was slightly saltier than usual.” (Jean)
The only ones who would notice something like that would be owners of such sharp taste buds like those of Zephyr and Jean. I multiply by 6 depending on the amount of people, but…to think that he seriously would be able to differentiate with a few drops of tears.
His physical specs are seriously way too damn high… Truly a pity. Why did he grow up with such low confidence? Maybe it was bad that the people around him are way too strong?
“…Didn’t like it?” (Solje)
“No, it was actually more tasty than usual.” (Jean)
Well, it had my feelings of pity for you in it after all. Watching that obsequious action of his towards my dragon.
After that meal, Jean and I were now inside the tent. I still have alcohol in my system, so I thought I would sleep immediately, but…I surprisingly couldn’t. Was it because of the saddening relationship between Jean and Zephyr?
…No, that’s not it.
I was thinking about our new comrades.
The Freedom Knights. No territory, their pay questionable; even in that destitute standing, they are trying to confront the Empire in order to protect their homeland.
What will be…of their future?
They are not strangers anymore. They are my comrades.
They are in a painful position. Half of the Zakuroans approve of Laichi’s opinion. Rather than dying, they prefer throwing away their freedom and obey the Faris Empire.
Even so…a battle where your people reject you, huh… How painful must that be.
I was happy 9 years ago. Even at the time when I was about to head to the war with the resolve of dying, the people of the whole country were cheering for me and I didn’t question that.
But that isn’t the case for the Iron Blood Alliance. They must have their doubts too. Whether their justice is actually the correct one.
Justice that you will stand for even in death, or the justice of lying to yourself to survive.
Which one is correct?
Something like this must differ between people. That’s why the Iron Blood Alliance are suffering from this. The world isn’t made in a simple way like the heart of a Strauss.
It must be painful to have opposing justices; to have their countries divided…
…My perspective of things will definitely widen again in this war. The values of a Strauss will thin, and Riel will get angry at me again. She is a girl that treasures her family’s values and rules after all.
But the world isn’t made up of only Strauss and forest elves. And…I am trying to protect a world where it is fine for a variety of different people to be together.
That will be damn difficult. There will always be people with different ways of thinking and conflicts will be born from it.
The world is overflowing with discrimination.
Just look at the left arm of Gindo… He didn’t do anything. Just because he was born from a human father and elf mother, his arm was cut off, you know?
That’s just madness. But that’s the reality of the world.
And…this will ring true for the child that will be born between Riel and I. With Riel and I by their side, we could protect them.
But Riel and I are mercenaries. There’s no knowing when we will die.
And when that happens…where’s the country that this young child will be able to live in without having their arm cut off? From what I know, the only places like that were the past Garuna and the current Ludo Kingdom.
Queen Claris and King Verius are seriously incredible. They made countries where humans and demi-humans could live together…
I am not intelligent, so I don’t think I can make a country. I suck at negotiations too. In the end, the exchange with Julian Laichi was more threatening him than actual negotiation.
That’s right, a Strauss can’t make a country.
There’s no choice but to use my only specialty which is violence to kill all the enemies till it is a world where many different people can be together.
And then, protect it, a world where children like Gindo don’t have to fear having their arm cut off. A world where my child with Riel doesn’t have to fear humans or elves…
Hey, comrades of this cold country.
That is my justice, but…just how different is it from your justice?
…Aah, I am getting tired.
My brain is not made to think for long. But that’s fine. I can finally sleep…
Tomorrow will be pretty rough as well. Snow might blow violently.
If that happens, it will be tough for Zephyr to fly. We would have to walk on the ground. We have to maintain our stamina. Gotta sleep already for that…
…Hm? Something moved…and is slowly approaching me.
An enemy? …Hoh, attacking this Solje Strauss in his sleep? You got some guts there…Jean!!
When it is to protect my own body, I make sure not to hold back too much.
Jean, you have finally shown your true colors, you gay bastard.
I was worried that you might attack me in my sleep some day, but it looks like today is the day.
I stand up and I crack my knuckles.
Jean had been punched straight in the face, so he was rolling left and right on the ground. But right now I have no mercy in me. I am going to be disciplining you.
“…You bastard, I have no intentions of reproaching your sexual preferences, but those kinds of things should be done with the consent of the other party.” (Solje)
“W-What are you talking about…?” (Jean)
‘I already told you though?’, is what I was about to say, but…
My left eye, the dragon eye of Ares, detected an abnormality. It is from outside. Moreover, it is quite far away. In that groaning snowstorm outside the tent…there’s something.
“…Jean, you noticed this presence?” (Solje)
“Y-Yeah. T-That’s why I was trying to wake you up.” (Jean)
“I see. I am really sorry, Jean.” (Solje)
Incredible. He surpasses my dragon eye? And surpassed the senses of Zephyr too? I am seriously looking forward to the future, to the point that it makes me slightly jealous.
…No, even if he is a beastkin, his specs are way too high.
Does that mean his abilities elevate higher than normal? What is happening? The strength of a beastkin comes from the mana that resides in their cursed blood, right?
The curse is getting thicker?
Just like the forest where the skeletons came out from?
What is it. This journey is strange. The undead and the curse of the beastkin?
There really might be a Zeruaga involved in this.
Well, right now that’s not the issue. The enemy’s presence was slowly approaching. This is not the time to be worrying about the beastkin’s average constitution.
“Riel, Loroka, Mia!! Wake up!!” (Solje)
I called the three women that were sleeping at the neighboring tent. An answer comes back soon after.
That’s my crew members for ya. They must have noticed the approach of the enemy…or they woke up at the scream of Jean.
“…Yeah, we know. Everyone is up.” (Riel)
“They have numbers, and one of them is absurd.” (Solje)
“Looks like it.” (Riel)
“Zephyr and I will deal with the absurd one. You guys divide the work on the other ones. The sub-leader will be Loroka.” (Solje)
“Yes, leave it to me! I will use low risk tactics that concentrate on preventing injuries.” (Loroka)
Right, I am a berserker. I’ve got no brakes. It would be troubling for me if there’s not at least one rational person on our side.
Loroka is suited for defensive battles. If she isn’t riding Byakuya, her movement speed is low, but her battle power is master level. Moreover, the biggest reason is that it looks like she is used to this intense cold region.
It means that she excels over anyone here in terms of experience inside a snowstorm.
Experience… In that front, Mia is the one I am most worried about.
“Oi, Mia, you haven’t trained much in snowy fields. Be careful. Concentrate on providing support to Riel. Don’t take this as an insult.” (Solje)
“Roger. I know what I can’t do and what I should do!” (Mia)
As expected of the profesional Garf and I raised. She properly knows her limits. Ah, next time, I will train her a whole lot in snowy fields. That way, we can use you in our tactics in the next battle, so endure it for tonight okay, Mia? Promise.
“Riel, I count on you to support Mia. It is okay to keep the check at a minimum. Protect everyone except Zephyr and I, got it?” (Solje)
“Got it, Captain.” (Riel)
She really is completely obedient when it is in battle, this Tsundere Princess.
Okay, I have relayed most of the strategy…wait, Jean was looking straight at me. Oops, he doesn’t have much presence, so I almost forgot about him.
Really sorry. It was only for a moment, okay?
“…Jean, you will support everyone and crush all in sight. In other words, you will be an attacker. We are just beginning the journey here, so can’t allow ourselves to get injured. Coordinate and don’t be reckless.” (Solje)
“U-Understood! I will definitely show my usefulness!!” (Jean)
“No, you can just see how things develop. The enemy might retreat if they see our strength.” (Solje)
We still don’t know who this ‘enemy’ is after all. We have no intentions of overstepping. Tonight is special, if they retreat, we won’t chase them to dead.
Well, the story is different if they want to see through this till the end though…
Also, there’s one especially strong presence in that group. A bonafit monster among monsters.
…Kukuku, good grief, this is one great day. Drink, make a ruckus, sing, and fly; and this time, there’s even enemies aiming for our lives.
Truly the best day.