Another explosion happened after a while. This time, it happened several times consecutively, and then the outer wall crumbled along with it.
「It didn’t hold as expected huh. 」
Moore muttered, seeing the reality. Originally, there was only about two hundred soldiers left in the capital as defense.
Although the exact number of the opposing force is unknown, at the very least, it’s expected in the thousands.
On top of that, they were taken by surprise, and allowed their infiltration in the capital. The collapse of the castle was only a matter of time.
「Ojou-sama, it’s about to get worse. I understand what are you thinking but, it will be troubling for us if you disregard your own safety. 」
「His Majesty……, are they safe? 」
「There’re escape routes made for just this purpose right, and the soldiers in the castle had probably already brought enough time for them. What we can do is only pray that they’re safe. 」
Not a noble, nor a soldier belonging to the Royal Army, for Moore, the royalty is just something like 『Would be nice if they are safe, but there’s no need to put myself in danger because of them』.
「In any case, the time is close. If Ojou-sama is still unwilling, then I will do my best to take you. 」
Hearing Moore who was more serious than usual, Minerva understood the graveness of the situation.
「There’s no choice. Let’s escape from the capital. 」
Not knowing where the royalty had gone, while feeling a little itchy in her chest knowing that there will still be some citizens left behind, Minerva chose to listen to Moore’s advice.
「Solte-sama, Milmeus-sama too. 」
Solte and Ellenoa who was called out probably understood the danger of remaining in the capital in this situation as well.
「Yes. Please leave any treatment to me. 」
「Understood. There’s no choice now that it has become like this. 」
The two immediately agreed at Minerva who purposed to leave together.
「Forest in the east, Imperial soldiers in the south, battlefield in the north, there’s only west to go huh. 」
「Yes, first to our territory. 」
As Moore said, there’re limited destinations even if they choose to leave the capital. Escaping from the enemies, a safe place would only be towards the west.
Luckily, the Nyrestia Duchy is just a day away from the west of the capital. In the sense of getting away from the Imperial army and also the Thoria army, there’s no better way.
Minerva and the others exited from the west gate of the capital, and received horses from the people of the Duke’s residency on standby there, heading west together with the refugees.
However, their advance was slow. Unlike Minerva and the others, most of the refugees are only on foot, and they were carrying their baggage from home.
With the elderly and children and many injured, their speed was slow. It’s impossible to shake off any pursuers if they came.
「I would really want to get to the territory right now though. 」
「We can’t. That would mean affirming what the person on the carriage did. 」
Not protecting those they have to but prioritizing themselves. Something like that will never be allowed.
However, it is also a fact that Moore and the other escorts are dragged into her own beliefs, as Minerva’s self loathing didn’t end. Only being protected, all thanks to her weakness.
「I mean, if asked abandoning them or not is correct, I would never say that it is correct. At least in my heart. 」
Moore was in a difficult position. From his words that seemed to hope nobles to be like that, Minerva’s current actions might be the right choice.
However, from his standpoint of an escort appointed to Minerva by the Duke’s son, he must prioritize Minerva’s safety to the territory first.
An hour after they headed west on the highway with a gloomy atmosphere.
「Aa~ah, they’re already here. 」
Moore looked behind while his horse was still heading west, he reported the appearance of the pursuers in a displeased voice. Minerva as well looked backwards, she could see a group of armed men leaving the west gate.
Naturally, they’re not allies.
「Pursuers already? Even though they surely have no reason to be chasing after refugees that are escaping, even more so to split up their force because of that. 」
「Well, if there’re only refugees here, they might’ve left us alone. 」
Moore who said so meaningfully led Minerva to an answer.
「……Could it be, it’s because of me? 」
The Nyrestia house is connected to the royalty, or in a sense, a branch family. Naturally for the Duke himself, but even his daughter, Minerva also has the right to succeed the throne despite unlikely.
Of course, in normal times, the right to the throne wouldn’t ever come to Minerva. But no matter how low her position is, even if it didn’t seem significant, the right to succeed is just as it sounds.
Thinking about extinguishing any chance the Kingdom might have to resist, Minerva’s existence is truly a trouble.
「Being a celebrity sure is tiring, Ojou-sama. 」
「So you wouldn’t deny it. 」
Since he didn’t reply her question even as she asked, in other words, it is just as she said.
「Leaving that aside, it’s kinda bad. We can escape on our own with our horses but. 」
There’re limited choices for Minerva currently. Protecting the citizens as a noble, or lead the enemy away, or try making contact with the enemy, or escaping on their own.
If the Imperial army is aiming for the throne successor, then Minerva leaving would ensure the safety of the refugees.
But if the Imperial army doesn’t notice Minerva leaving, or they were really aiming for the refugees from the beginning, in the end, it would become a scenario of literally unarming themselves in front of enemies.
They would be seen as 『Prioritizing themselves and abandoning the citizens』. Then, will making contact be a better choice?
It will probably buy some time. However, that would only work under the pretense that the enemy came for Minerva.
On top of that, even if the result of negotiation will ensure the refugees’ safety, Minerva will probably be restrained as hostage.
Naturally, the escorts, Moore and the others will not allow that, and Minerva herself, didn’t think it was a self-sacrifice, but only abandoning her responsibilities.
In the first place, there’s no one guaranteeing that the Imperial soldiers will uphold the promise after Minerva is restrained.
Naturally, they will not allow the refugees to escape. Then the last remaining choice is to fight to the bitter end.
「We will first try to negotiate to buy some time, when the negotiation fails, we will try our best to stop them. 」
「Though we as escorts really want Ojou-sama to get to the territory while we hold them back. 」
「While abandoning the refugees? 」
「Even at a glance, they have about a hundred people, you see. 」
Moore looked at the Imperial soldiers with his hand roofing his eyes.
「No matter what, I don’t think we can win against five times our numbers, even if we try to stop them, we can’t do anything if they went around. How about just honestly escape? 」
Moore asked again seeing Minerva shaking her head despite so.
「Why is it. Is the noble spirit that important? To even involve every escort here? 」
Having basically asked that why should the escorts march to their death because of her selfishness, Minerva felt pain in her chest. Despite so, she couldn’t step down.
「Behind us, there are our Kingdom’s citizens, and I am a noble of the kingdom. In this place, if there’s another person that is ranked higher than me, then surely I’m allowed to escape. But now, there’s only me and Milmeus-sama here. 」
Although it might be different if Ellenoa herself is the head of the house, however, she is only the daughter of the noble, having no peerage of her own. Considering their houses, without even thinking much, Minerva will have the higher rank here.
「If so, my words here will be the Kingdom’s words, my actions here will be the will of the Kingdom. At the very least, the refugees will think so. If I chose to abandon them now, it will mean the Kingdom is abandoning them. Because of that, I cannot escape by myself for my own sake. 」
Minerva had been taught since childhood that it is the role of a noble to be the spear and the shield of the people.
「I will try to negotiate and buy time on my own. Captain Greystar and the refugees should―― 」
「Don’t be stupid. 」
Moore who looked stupefied covered her words.
「Offering out someone that we should protect to the enemy, what kind of escort will allow that. Something like that isn’t even an escort. 」
Sighing deeply, Moore gave another idea, 「How about this」.
「First, negotiate to buy time, when it breaks down, Ojou-sama with a few escorts will head to another direction. If possible, lead as many of them away from the refugees, and escape while buying most time and try not to get surrounded. Majority of the escorts will stay with the refugees to stop the remaining. How about this? If the enemies’ aim is Ojou-sama, then many of them would probably be led away. Without danger to the refugees, and leaving some chance for us to survive, I think it’s the best plan. 」
「Thank you, Captain Greystar. Let’s go with that. 」
「Let me say this first, it’s still very much dangerous. 」
Moore who didn’t try hiding his displeasure instructed the other escorts. As the result, Minerva and Moore would be the decoys, together with three other elites.
Solte and Ellenoa offered themselves too but, Moore stopped them with 「Not enough horses」.
「There’re only these five that are war horses. The other horses will not be useful in a fight. 」
In a battlefield, a horse’s role is not just carrying a person. It is clear that without a trained war horse, they would be scared and go out of control because of the screams of the soldiers, slashes or magic.
In the first place, most of the war horses are already sortied to fight with the Empire or the Thoria army. Despite so, being able to procure five war horses proves the Duke house’s capabilities.
In the end, Solte and Ellenoa will stay wth the other escorts together with the refugees, protecting them. Firstly, the decoys, five riding on horses including Minerva waited there to welcome the Imperial soldiers.
Naturally, the other escorts and refugees headed further west during that time. As the Imperial soldiers gotten closer, their formation became clearer.
「As we thought, there’re not many cavalries. 」
「It seems to be so. Seven or eight, I suppose? 」
Minerva caught the pursuers in her sight. Majority of them are infantries, and several of them rode on horses, probably platoon or squad leaders.
「Since they were riding on a ship, it’s natural to have lesser cavalries. And it’s also a surprise attack on the capital. There’s almost no role for a cavalry here. But they probably still put in a few just in case. Though it’s really troublesome for us. 」
「If we deal with the cavalries, then it will be easy to escape from them I suppose. 」
One of the escort that became decoy together with Minerva said to Moore.
「Yeah, rather, if we finish off their cavalries, then we will have to control our speed to let them pursue us properly. 」
Seeing the lack of horses on the enemy side is beneficial for them. Infantry would never catch up with a seriously running horse, and as long as they are not surrounded, Minerva and the others have high chance to survive.
「However, Ojou-sama. There’s no need for Ojou-sama to be negotiating alone, I think. 」
「No. There’s a need to stand at the same level as them first in a negotiation. For that, I alone will have to stand in front. Moreover, if I reveal myself earlier, it will be more likely for them to chase after me. 」
「Well, I can’t deny that but. There might be arrows flying to you, so don’t lower your guard. 」
Moore who stood beside Minerva warned her, while the distance between the enemy closed. The about a hundred Imperial soldiers that exited the west gate of the Kingdom stopped at about fifty meters before Minerva and the others that waited for them.
The sea breeze carried the scent of the tide and crossed the highway. The footsteps of the Imperial soldiers stopped, and silence visited.
「Who is the commander of the group? 」
Not suiting the battlefield, a dignified voice echoed. The Imperial soldiers started murmuring.
After a while, there was a man’s voice from the Empire side.
「I am the one commanding this unit, who are you? 」
「My name is Minerva ・ Nyrestia. Daughter of Duke Nyrestia. 」
Hearing Minerva’s answer, the Imperial soldiers started murmuring even more. Even for the Empire’s common sense, they couldn’t have thought a high ranking noble lady would appear in a battlefield.
On top of that, Minerva was not wearing a dress but equipment for fighting. Wielding a sword and riding on a horse, her appearance was not very befitting of a noble lady.
「Behind us are non-combatants that have fled the capital. They have no intentions to resist, nor do they have the means to fight. If you―― 」
As she was about to address the Empire’s commander, Minerva caught something glittered within her vision and immediately yelled.
「Something is coming! 」
Moore reflexively gave out orders, and Minerva as well manipulated the horse quickly. Passing by her side, a fireball sucked into the place where Minerva was before.