After seeing Kuroumaru and the others off, Shinji returned to the altar room where Lila and the others were waiting. Then, using the <World Gate> to return to their original world, they returned to Miko Arian's room where she was waiting.
From her perspective, who has a different time flow from theirs, it seems as if they have immediately crossed over to the other world, and it would be understandable that they might have some kind of trouble. However, she immediately regained her composure after listening to Shinji's explanation.
「Shinji, why did we come back so soon? Does it have something to do with Freri's absence?」
Emily asked as they sat around a round table and took a break. This question was on everyone's mind except for Freri who was not present.
「Yes. But let me explain because it's quite different from what we had originally planned. As Emily said, it has something to do with the fact that Freri is not here. You all know that a powerful spirit can travel between worlds by itself as long as they have a marker, right?」
What Shinji says is basic knowledge about spirits, and everyone nods in agreement. For example, in the case of Shinji and Freri, Freri can move to the place where Shinji, the contractor, is located. This is because she has the contractor (Shinji) as her marker, and they are connected by their magic power.
「...Senpai, you are very clever. When did you give her these instructions?」
「While we're talking, just for a moment. I asked Freri to put a plant on their horses to serve as a marker.」
「Ah, I see! So you asked Freri to keep an eye on them. They said they were going back to the castle.」
「...Yeah, but when they get close to the castle, she'll set up a marker outside of the town. Then we can use the <World Gate> to get to the altar, and from the altar to the castle in one go.」
Lila and the others hear the conversation between Iris and Shinji, who quickly guessed what was going on, and they understand what they are trying to do. Shinji nods his head and smiles wryly, hoping that things will turn out just as Iris had said.
「I'm also concerned about the existence of the reapers. Traveling on foot is a bit risky. I thought it would be irresponsible to put everyone in more danger than necessary. I feel bad for Lila and the others.」
「If you know the risks, you should avoid them. Right, Lili?」
「That's right. We can't enjoy the trip if we're on our guard all the time. After what we saw...」
Not only Lili and Lilu but also Lila nodded in agreement. Even for adventurers who are accustomed to rough times, the sight of innocent people dead was unbearable. Even though they are from different worlds, adventurers are willing to fight to protect the powerless from monsters. Thinking back on it, they cannot help but feel resentment toward Tenshou Country, which created that tragedy, and their hearts ache.
「We should try to stay away from Tenshou Country... Well, I'll let you know when I'll open the next <World Gate>. Thank you for your time today. See you later.」
With Shinji's words of thanks, their first visit to the "World of Conflict" comes to an end.
* * *
As the name implies, there is a castle where the lord of the country lives in the valley between the mountains. Under the castle, which was suitable for the lord of the country to live in, a town spread out, and there was a corresponding bustle.
Then, from a room in the castle, there is a man who looks at the town. He is a middle-aged man with a stern face. His well-trained body and the sword scars on his face indicate that he was a warrior of many battles. His name is Iwao. He is the lord of Soukai Country. As he traced the wounds he received before he became the Lord of Soukai Country, he was thinking about the hostile neighboring country, Tenshou Country.
He sent Kuroumaru and his men to check, but he knew that the village would have already been destroyed. He also knew that it was a murderous act by the reaper corps. However, even if it was too late, he had to act as the lord of the land. If there are any survivors, he must protect them.
（They can do whatever they want... because of the defeat... I am not good enough...）
About half a year ago. Soukai Country had a big battle with Tenshou Country. The result was defeat. They suffered heavy losses. Not only did they lose a part of their border, but the lord also lost his only son and heir.
The invasion was stopped because of the damage to Tenshou Country. It is because of his son who fought hard until he died in battle. And from that time, he could regain the country's strength and is now preparing for another invasion of Tenshou Country, but the attacks of their reaper corps and others from Tenshou Country have caused no end of troubles.
Nevertheless, Iwao does not become desperate. Because there is no way that a samurai could do such a shameful thing as to destroy the hope that his son had built for the country. Therefore, Iwao took various measures. One of them was a big one.
「Father. Excuse me.」
「Tsubaki... What brings you here?」
The sliding door opened, and standing in front of it was a woman wearing a brightly colored kimono. She had lustrous black hair that reached her back. Her face was cute with a hint of youth, and her silver hairpin made her look grown-up. Although her kimono, which does not show the lines of her body, does not show her femininity at a glance, she is a lovely girl who has grown up enough to be a woman.
She is Princess Tsubaki. Iwao's only surviving child.
「I heard the reaper corps were out again...」
「...Yeah, Kuroumaru and his men are on their way to check. But the village will probably be wiped out.」
「...Father... is there anything I can do? If we don't do something, the people will...」
「...we can't save all the people... After all, it's impossible to have soldiers in every village. And in the first place, the reaper corps are elite soldiers. Placing soldiers who don't know their stuff will only cause more damage.」
Tsubaki's face drops as her father looks frustrated. Tsubaki felt ashamed of herself for blaming her father. Iwao, too, feels sorry for himself for not being able to relieve his daughter's sorrow. He was even more ashamed of himself for using the strategy with his beloved daughter.
「...I'm sorry, Tsubaki. I'm a pathetic father who can't even allow you to marry the man of your choice. I don't ask you to forgive me.」
Iwao's plan was to take advantage of the adversity of losing his successor. His plan was to marry Tsubakihime, who would soon come of age, and the child who succeeded would be the next king. But the father of the king must be the one who has made the greatest achievement, regardless of his origin, a condition that is unthinkable in this world.
Even a former peasant could become a king's father. These stories greatly boosted the morale of many soldiers and warriors who dreamed of success. Not only that, but the dark, backward-looking stories of the loss of the heir to the throne disappeared, and they turned their eyes to the future. Thanks to this, under the leadership of Iwao, the current head of the country, Soukai Country has come together and is now able to fight against Tenshou Country.
「Since I was born as a princess, I am ready to devote myself to my country. I have lost the possibility of marrying into another country. Perhaps it's better that I won't have to leave this country.」
「...Thank you. I'm sorry you're going through this.」
Tsubaki has already accepted Iwao's plan as fate. The brave girl who thinks of her country of birth is adorable and dazzling. She reminds herself that she must defeat Tenshou Country and protect her country at all costs. But...
（The reality is harsh... if things continue as they are, eventually...）
Iwao saw the defeat of Soukai Country. Therefore, he always continues to think of a way to overcome difficulties.
As he thought so, a cold wind blowing between the mountains brushed against Iwao and Tsubaki's bodies. Their bodies trembled because of the coldness of the wind, or perhaps because of their anxiety about the future. Not even they knew.
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