Prologue: The End of “War-Torn”
The days had been continuing on normally…and then everything had ended.
Maybe the writing had been on the wall since long ago. But the girl was much too young to know of the circumstances surrounding the kingdom, the neighboring countries, or anything like that. Everything had begun and ended in places she was not familiar with. The only thing she could do was stand there in a daze at this sudden turn of events.
Someone was yelling somewhere.
Someone was crying somewhere.
Someone was shrieking somewhere.
The countless layers of unending cries of agony melded together to create a cacophonous tune. The tragedy, the bellowing, the screaming—the overwhelming number of voices met with the roar of the flames and the howling of the wind that formed a twisted symphony of destruction. It was impossible to tell whose voice was whose.
And so it was then an empire fell to its knees and moaned in agony for the final time.
Outside the window, she could see something strange.
In the sky, far away, an enormous thing was floating.
She didn’t know exactly how far away it was, but she instantly understood that the sheer size of it was incredible. In comparison with the dragon knights who had also flown into view, it looked like it was as large as a castle—no, perhaps even a mountain.
But it was floating.
There were no supports to hold it up. There was nothing suspending it in the air. It behaved just like a cloud. The only way this could be possible was with magic, but even then, this was far too extraordinary a feat.
At first glance, she thought it looked like a cylinder standing upright, but further inspection would reveal that it more closely resembled a certain type of statue. It looked like a maiden with both arms to her chest, mimicking the act of prayer.
To sum up, it was a gigantic statue flying in the sky.
It was the enemy coming to attack, but it would take her a while to realize that.
I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m scared out of my mind.
The girl looked downward, in an attempt to avert her eyes.
But it was too late. The scenery of Hell was already spread out before her.
An enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. Another enemy soldier. There were enemy soldiers—everywhere.
The enemy soldiers were already overflowing before her eyes.
An incalculable number of soldiers were rushing towards their opponents with great force.
She watched the soldiers overwhelm, crush, kill, and exhaust their enemies, brandishing their weapons and putting up their shields as they rushed in. She saw it all.
“Your Highness! Your Highness, where are you?!”
She was too young to understand strategy or tactics or the like, but even so, she was convinced.
There was no hope of winning.
With enough force to break down a door, a lady-in-waiting who looked to be in her forties tumbled into the room.
“Ah, Highness, you were here!” she shouted, as her face contorted into the very image of panic. She looked absolutely wretched; her hair and clothes had become a mess. Her usual insistence that “ladies of the court must be prim and proper, first and foremost” now seemed like a farce. She had more than likely tripped and fallen somewhere. Blood trickled down from a cut on her cheek.
“Please! Come with me, and quickly!”
The lady of the court grabbed the girl’s hand, and they continued to make their way through the castle. She expected to see the familiar castle scenery—but it had changed completely.
Just about everything was red.
It was all the color of blazing flames, the color of spattered blood—the scenery with which she was acquainted to the point of being sick of it had been completely crushed and dyed in the color of death and destruction. The flags that had been hoisted proudly were burning, or maybe it was the decorative paintings burning and scattering embers everywhere. The carpeting was one of the only things that hadn’t gone up in flames, thanks to the blood soaking it.
The bloodstained carpet was covered with numerous corpses of both enemy and ally. Counting them would have been truly impossible, as some of the pieces no longer resembled anything human. Many of the bodies had been cut down with swords, but there were also corpses that had been burnt black, and others that looked like they had been roasted from head-to-toe until they were golden-brown. How on earth these people had died could only be left to the imagination.
There were corpses of men, there were corpses of women, there were corpses of children, and there were even corpses of the elderly. The deaths of each and every one of them were truly all laid out right there.
Walking through all that—
“It’s all right, Highness. It’ll be all right.”
The lady-in-waiting muttered this as she weaved through the dead bodies, occasionally stepping over corpses as she continued onward. She sounded as though she was trying to reassure herself rather than the girl.
She didn’t even try to figure out which corpse was an ally or an enemy; they didn’t have the time for that.
“If we could just reach His Majesty’s quarters and be by his side…”
Picking their way slowly through the corpses, the girl and the lady-in-waiting walked through the interior of the castle.
The fact that they didn’t encounter any enemies here was a stroke of luck that could be considered a miracle.
“Your Majesty! The princess has returned!”
The lady-in-waiting shouted this as she burst into the audience chamber.
She froze in place, stricken with terror.
Normally, an overabundance of retainers would be in the reception hall. This enormous room ought to have been called a symbol of the emperor’s authority, but now, it had been completely abandoned. The dim light from the sunset shone through the windows, dyeing the entire room a languid color.
And then–there, in the center.
The throne, upon which the emperor’s figure should have been sitting, was empty.
The lady-in-waiting couldn’t help but gasp.
A short distance away from the throne, a man had collapsed on the floor and was lying on his stomach. She couldn’t see his face, but with that build, and with that lavish gold and silver thread woven through his clothing, there was no mistaking who he was.
Furthermore, there was no doubt that this incredible man had already died.
The evidence: a pool of blood, gradually expanding across the marble floor.
After muttering, the lady-in-waiting stared out over the emperor’s body with bloodshot eyes. There, standing in a semicircle, were the figures of eight people. All of them were armed: knights with their swords and wizards with their Gundo. A demi-human with beast-like ears and a tail also seemed to be in the mix. Each one of them wore a different uniform, and their personal features and skin color were also all different. Most likely, this melting pot of troops had been gathered from all kinds of countries.
“Your Majesty, Your Majesty…Your Majesty!?”
The lady-in-waiting continued to scream as she rushed over to the corpse and fell to her knees.
But in that next instant–
“Your Majesty, Your–”
A dull sound rang through the reception hall.
One of the eight people had moved. Using the longsword in their right hand, they had sliced off the lady-in-waiting’s head.
The girl didn’t actually see it happen, but she saw that the swordsman was now standing in a different position, and she saw the lady’s head which continued to show a surprised expression as it whirled through the air. There could only be one conclusion.
“Are you…the demon’s daughter?”
One of the eight spoke.
The eight collectively focused their line of sight on her.
The lady-in-waiting’s earlier shouts of “I have brought the princess!” had truly been careless.
Even if she had denied it or played dumb, they wouldn’t have considered mercy. No, even a situation in which the lady had kept silent wouldn’t have turned out any differently.
In this castle infested with death, it wasn’t like anyone would bat an eye if the body count went up by one or two. And if they let someone like the blood relative of the “Taboo Emperor” get away, they would merely look like a pack of vicious murderers who had massacred everyone.
“Then, guess there’s no way around it.”
“Even if she’s just a child, there can be no exceptions.”
The eight began to approach with an air of composure.
“I won’t ask for forgiveness.”
The swordsman that had decapitated the lady could be seen raising his longsword.
“Now then, you can curse and scream all you want.”
* * *
Year of the Continent, 1604.
On the continent of Verbist, the 300-year era of vicious conflict had come to an end with the collapse of the Gaz Empire in the north.
Its military force had consisted of bona fide knights as well as soldiers, wizards, saboteurs and mercenaries. There were about six hundred and twenty thousand total in the force, with a number of magic-based weapons, three sky fortresses, an army of Feyra, and all the dragon knights that were able to be scrounged up. Even so, the Gaz Empire, “the root of all evil”, was completely and utterly wiped from the face of the earth.
After the destruction of the Empire, six nations had come together to form an alliance and had mutually agreed to a peace treaty from then on, which was in truth a declaration that the war had ended.
The Gaz Empire was then divided, as were the staggering amount of resources and wealth the Taboo Emperor had amassed. The six nations distributed amongst themselves the great riches of the Gaz Empire, using these effectively for post-war recovery, and the magic technology that the empire prided itself on was also distributed in the same way.
The era of peace that everyone had hoped for in their hearts had finally arrived.