The thick black smoke rose in clouds. Anguished cries and angry yelling from all directions.
A soldier was lying down in the fountain square, which was a place of relaxation for the people. Citizens of the capital ran around in panic with nothing in their hands.
The morning that should have been the start of another normal day changed into a scene of carnage unimaginable from yesterday.
With one hand carrying a baby, another pulling along a young child, a young mother was running in order to escape from something.
The next moment, the young child tripped and fell on the ground.
「Stand up! Quickly! 」
The child was teary in his eyes, as the mother was pulling him back up with a desperate look.
Even the mother who would gently embrace her own child and console him did not have the room to do so when in a situation of life and death.
「They’re here too! 」
A man chased after the mother with a strangely excited tone. With leather armor and a small shield on him, it was a soldier that had a short spear in his hand.
However, it was not the appearance of a Kingdom soldier that normally protects the safety of the capital.
It was the insignia of the Kingdom’s nemesis, Elmenia Empire carved on his shield.
「Quickly! Run! 」
The mother started running while pulling her child along forcefully but, it is already too late.
The Imperial soldier is already few steps within reach. As the approaching spear was about to stab into the back of the young child, another sword prevented that from the side swiftly.
The spear was flung up along with a ringing sound. Because of the sudden interruption, the soldier stumbled few steps with his stance broken.
「Run away now! 」
The owner of the sword protected the back of the mother.
「T-Thank you very much! 」
As the mother thanked her, she pulled her child by the hand and quickly ran away.
「Now then, it looks like you are being awfully unrestrained……」
Without turning back once, the sword owner was facing against the soldier.
「Female knight? 」
The imperial soldier scoffed. The owner of the sword that deflected the soldier’s spear, it was a young girl looked so young that she can be said on his daughter’s level.
An age of late teens, a glimpse of feminine gracefulness can be seen along with the youthful liveliness.
The well-proportioned body is wrapped in expensive equipment, and the sword in her hand also shines differently from the mass-produced goods given to ordinary soldiers.
It’s natural why the soldier thought she was a knight.
「Haaanggh, a little miss of some noble huh. Do you think you’re strong because you won against some commoner in a training ground? Let me show you what a real fight is! 」
He probably misjudged his opponent. The Imperial soldier thrusted his spear convinced on his victory.
「You are half correct. 」
While replying with composure, the young girl’s sword entwined with the tip of the approaching spear.
With the sword in her hand as the center, as the sword turned half a circle from underhand to above, and the soldier’s spear followed along the path.
Not giving any room to the soldier that was surprised at the sudden happening, the young girl’s sword ran along the spear, heading for the handle.
Like that, the sword hit the hand holding the spear, and the soldier lost few of his fingers.
「M-My fingersssss! 」
Seeing the soldier that could no longer hold a spear losing his fingers, the young girl lowered his sword judging that he’s no longer a threat.
「Minerva-sama! Are you alright!? 」
And at that moment, several armed men came running. Their equipment was not uniform, at the very least, they’re not soldiers of the Kingdom army or any nobles’ army.
Few of them remained around the young girl to protect her, while the other spread out, looking out for the surroundings.
「Jumping out like that just when I took my eyes off for a second……, when did Ojou-sama become a kite with a broken string, I wonder? 」
The man that arrived late while walking sighed and grumbled.
「Sorry for the trouble, Captain Greystar. However, it was barely in time. 」
Minerva replied apologetically while closing her eyes, hiding her pupils.
「I mean, from what it seems, only Ojou-sama could’ve made it in time but. If something happened to Ojou-sama, our head would literally and physically be detached. ……Though, it was also my fault for looking away just a moment thinking that it would be fine. 」
「No, Captain Greystar is not in fault. 」
「If only His Excellency or Young Master would say so. Please be more aware of your position of getting protected. 」
「Yes, of course. 」
Minerva hasn’t apologized. However, considering the status, it’s inevitable.
Did he read the reflection on her expression, Moore did not pursue any more than that. Just as the two’s conversation ended, one of the guards that was on the lookout interjected.
「Captain, what should we do about that Imperial soldier. 」
「Ah――, hmm………. Just tie him up and leave him around there. 」
「Is that fine? 」
「Not like there’s any choice right……」
Receiving the instructions, three men restrained the imperial soldier with a rope. Seeing so, Minerva muttered seemingly a little regretful.
「To think that an Imperial soldier is lurking alone……」
「That just shows how bad the situation is. 」
Looking away from Minerva who seemed gloomy because of the graveness of the situation, Moore gave out orders to his subordinates in a loud voice.
「Oi, we’re retreating! 」
Following Moore’s instructions, the group formed a circle around Minerva and moved. And naturally, beside Minerva was Moore.
「Will the Kingdom…… lose? 」
While looking around, Minerva asked Moore.
「Who knows. At the very least, the capital’s collapse is inevitable. The main force of the army is out at the border, and the Thoria army that’s supposed to protect the capital rebelled, and after sending out soldiers to deal with that, now the surprise attack from the sea with the ships. It’s totally done for. It’s unknown how many soldiers the Empire brought with the ships but, you seen the size. There’s probably at least five hundred or a thousand. 」
「Were we not on guard against a possible attack from the sea? 」
「The Kingdom didn’t but, the Empire shouldn’t have the technology to sail along the outer seas. They can probably prepare enough ships to carry a few hundred but, that’s considering sailing nearshore. And it’s common sense that it won’t be a surprise attack if they sail nearshore. 」
「Was it not just naive thinking? 」
「It shouldn’t have been a mistake in the sense of fighting against the Empire. Just that, the problem is that it doesn’t seem like the enemy is just the Empire. The greatest mistake this time is not taking the reason why the Kingdom lost gravely four years ago into consideration. 」
「San Rojuel Monarchy…… was it. 」
「Yes, it’s the army from the southern continent across the ocean. Naturally, their people would have advanced sailing technology that lets them transport people in the outer oceans, making the surprise attack this time possible. If the Kingdom had taken into account of the presence of the San Rojuel Monarchy, then……, no, either way, we still have too few soldiers to put up a proper fight. 」
His last few words were not directed to Minerva but his own monologue.
「In any case, there’s no point thinking about 『What ifs』 now. In the first place, I’m not a soldier either. The moment when the Imperial soldiers managed to enter the capital, it’s already a lost. The only thing the Kingdom can do now is to give up on this place and try to recover from it. 」
「However, that doesn’t mean that nobles like us can selfishly escape first. At the very least, we will try to delay the Imperial soldiers to allow as many citizens to escape. 」
Minerva was saying it as a matter of fact but, Moore explained the reality while scratching his head.
「Well, that’s a really upstanding thought but, even the commoners don’t expect much from the nobles now. They never expected anything from the start. 」
It was a total silence as Minerva walked five steps forward. Looking straight forward, Minerva spoke while her eyes blinked slowly.
「But, being on top of people signifies bearing their responsibility as well. It is exactly that we are bearing the responsibility that they will follow the one above and respect them. Isn’t it the nobles that made it that way? That’s why nobles must take responsibility for the lives of the people. Even if not expected of, it doesn’t mean the obligation disappears. On top of that, we are of the Nyrestia, originally an extension of the royal family. 」
「And that royal family, I wonder how many of them are still in the castle now. 」
Moore’s loose-mouthed mutter was caught by Minerva, with her iris-colored eyes staring at him.
「……That is being disrespectful, Captain Greystar. I will pretend to have not heard it but, be mindful in public places. 」
「I guess so. That was my mistake. However, even not about the royal family, I wonder how many nobles are still in the capital fighting against the Imperial army. 」
「People that holds the noble spirit should not be few…… that’s what I believe. 」
Minerva said so as her wish but, Moore denied it mercilessly.
「I mean, that’s what the nobles should do but. It’s hard for me to say that you are too idealistic but, Ojou-sama. The reality is like that. 」
Seeing a gathering of people ahead of them, Moore had an exhausted face while pointing there.
「Please save us! 」
「Please! Just this child! 」
「The Empire bastards are just around the corner! 」
Three large carriages can be seen on the road. And many people surrounded it.
「Eeeei, these commoners! This carriage is not something you all can touch simply! 」
He’s probably the escort of the carriage. The armed man was pushing the surrounding people away as if they’re a bother.
「What are you doing! Quickly start moving already! 」
It was a middle-aged man, about forty that showed his face out of the front carriage. The noble that signified luxury on his body can be seen wearing countless ornaments and having several layers of bulging fat on his chin.
「Forgive me. These people are blocking the road. 」
「Just chase those commoners away already! 」
It seems like the citizens of the capital were desperately begging the noble who was escaping the capital on a carriage.
Since the Imperial soldiers had already invaded the city, there will not be a good outcome if they stayed in the capital any longer.
However, if escaping now, running on foot would not be feasible. At the very least, getting on a carriage will increase their chances, but there’re probably close to none carriages remaining in the capital.
「Please, please let me up! 」
「Don’t abandon us! 」
That’s why, the citizens were desperately begging. They understand their opponent is a noble as well but, in a situation of life and death, they don’t care much about it.
Catching a ride on a noble’s carriage, they’re normally complaints that they would never make.
「It’s not a carriage for you people! Do not mistake yourself having the value to do so! 」
The begging citizens were shut off by the merciless words. Seeing that, Minerva bit her lips.
「The nobles that should protect the citizens, how shallow. 」
「It’s something like that, for nobles, commoners are just like that. Well, it’s not just about nobles. In an emergency like this, there’re not many that can still uphold a noble spirit. Humans care for their own the most after all.」
「But it’s exactly because it’s an emergency……」
Minerva seemed like she wanted to say something, but disregarding that, Moore asked.
「So, what to do? 」
「I will try to ask that person. There seems to be space in the two carriages at the back. It’s impossible for everyone but, at least the woman and the children can be saved. 」
「Well then, it’s skeptical whether the name of a Duke can work in a situation like this. 」
Moore looked from the side while shrugging as Minerva approached the carriage, but at that time, one of the citizens cried out in panic.
「I-Imperial soldiers! 」
That voice spurred more panic. Imperial soldiers appeared from the end of the street, and the people dispersed like ants on fire.
「Wait! Don’t abandon me! 」
「Mama――! Mamaaaa! 」
It was already a chaotic situation, but the Imperial soldiers started slashing at the people that escaped late. Seeing that, Minerva called out to Moore.
「Captain Greystar! 」
「I know! 」
The next moment, Minerva started running, with a sword in her hand and her iris hair fluttering.
「Cain! Take five people with you and secure a retreat route! 」
The man called Cain received instructions from Moore and retreated, as the remaining allies followed after Minerva and faced the Imperial soldiers.