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Chapter 4

Zoltan’s Pitiful Heroes

Five days after the harbor district incident, in the working-class neighborhood of Zoltan, I was walking along, carrying a basket full of oranges on my back.

“Big Bro, why’d you get so many oranges? Are you making jam?”

Tanta, who must have been out getting lunch, was in a good mood when I ran into him.

“No. You know how there is going to be a party for Prince Salius and all the important people in Zoltan?”

“Mhm. That’s tonight, right? Miss Mistorm, Ms. Ruti, and the others really managed to solve the problem!”

The problem of Prince Salius’s standing in Veronia still existed, but from Zoltan’s perspective, the trouble was over. The matters of the harbor, the church records, and Mistorm’s assassination were all resolved.

Prince Salius had paid the promised reparations for the harbor attack and withdrew his demands.

To preserve the dignity of a prince of such a large country, Zoltan permitted the Veronian sailors to use the harbor and procure supplies. The official signing ceremony was happening this afternoon with a celebration afterward.

“There’s also going to be a buffet for the regular sailors at a different location, and that’s what these oranges are for.”

“Why are you delivering them?”

“Well…the truth is, I got roped into making a couple of things for the event.”


I cocked my head while grimacing. I was only an apothecary, not a cook.

“Your food is really good. So I’m sure they’ll all like it!”

“I hope so.”

Tanta’s innocent smile lightened the burden a bit, yet I couldn’t hide my unease at having to prepare food for so many people. It was totally new for me.

My stomach ached from nervousness.

To explain how things ended up like this, I’ll need to go back a bit…

It was the day we returned Lilinrala and her subordinates to Prince Salius.

While we left Mistorm, Prince Salius, and Lilinrala to discuss in private, the rest of us went down to the hallway where the Veronian sailors were staying.

They seemed to be taking turns getting food, eating soup and bread.

“Oh, right, I haven’t eaten.”

It was already dark out.

I had left to deliver medicine to Dr. Newman’s clinic before noon, fought Lilinrala on the way, taken her to Ruti’s mansion, Mistorm and Lilinrala had come over, Prince Salius attacked the harbor, and we had brought Lilinrala and the others here. With how busy the day had been, I hoped to take things easy tomorrow.

“Hey. You hungry?”

The soldier, seemingly a man with high elf ancestry, called out to me. His ears were only slightly pointed. The rest of his physical traits were mostly human, too.

His high elf ancestor had to be a great-grandparent.

Rough, tanned skin made it obvious he was a crewman on a ship, but there was no hair on his face, and I spied a trace of elf in his clear eyes.

He and his fellows had been hostile to us when we entered the hall because we’d captured Lilinrala. Fortunately, those high elves we’d taken with Lilinrala had explained the situation. Now the sailors were downright amiable.

“If you don’t mind, you can have some.”

He pointed to the soup table.

Veronian navy food, huh?

As a former soldier, I was curious about how the meal was seasoned.

“Sure, could we have a bite?”

“No problem.”

The man had to be a junior officer, because he barked an order, and a bunch of other crewmen with stubble carried over bread and bowls of soup for everyone.

The broth was a cloudy white but transparent enough to see to the bottom of the bowl.

As for the scent…well, there wasn’t really any.

There was pork and unevenly cut green onions and carrots floating in it.

The pork was thick and was still red.


Is this…?

I took a small spoonful of soup to my mouth and discovered it was salt water.

The meat and vegetables hadn’t been cooked through—still either hard, cold, or both. In other words…

“Disgusting,” Ruti, who was eating next to me, declared.

There wasn’t an expression on her face, but her eyebrows furrowed ever so slightly. She truly appeared to dislike it. Instead of getting angry, though, the junior officer just laughed.

“See, Kurt?! It really does taste awful!”

“Sorry, I don’t have a Cooking skill.”

The sailor named Kurt laughed.

If you asked me, it wasn’t because of any skill. This was a plain lack of food preparation knowledge.

Kurt was bashful as he explained, “Truthfully, I make all the meals on the ship…”

Come on, now, that’s a little too much.

“Out of curiosity, what experience do you have with the culinary arts?” I asked.

“The first time I ever did it was after I joined up.”

“Did no one teach you?”

“Not how to make food, but I was instructed on how to manage the stock of supplies and how to stop the crew from stealing from the pantry.”

“Yeah, he’s an awful chef, but Kurt’s a Sniper, so he’s a perfect watchdog.”

“Thank you.”

I couldn’t deny that was important, but…

“All right.” I stood up. “I should do a bit of cooking.”


“No proper resident of Zoltan would accept food like this made from Zoltan ingredients.”


In all honesty, the main reason was that my empty stomach wouldn’t be able to take such nasty food.

Without giving the sailors time to argue, I entered the kitchen, and without concern for Kurt, who’d followed me in with a troubled look on his face, I quickly made some preparations.

Anything that took a long time to prepare was out because I wanted to eat as soon as possible.

“Guess that leaves pork-and-vegetable soup.”

I cut the carrots finely without peeling them. Root vegetables were the tastiest closest to the skin. Then I cut the green onions diagonally for the white parts and finely for the green portions.

Next, I sliced off a big chunk of butter and melted it in the pot. Using that, I fried the vegetables. Frying them kept them from falling apart while cooking and helped prevent the flavor and nutrients from escaping.

I gave the pork a light spicing and then set it on top.

With that done, I added enough water to cover half the vegetables, taking care not to submerge them entirely. I would make the soup later. Once the water was boiling, I put the lid on to steam everything for seven minutes. That way, the heat would spread faster, and the vegetables wouldn’t lose their taste.

After a little more water and salt, I left it all to simmer. I added salt and pepper to taste, and then just a little fish meal from a small jar to give the soup some kick. My final touch was a sprinkling of chopped parsley.


The broth gave off a nice vegetable smell when poured into a bowl.

“G-give me some.”

“Help yourself. I made about twenty servings’ worth.”

Kurt took the bowl from me and sampled my handiwork.

“So good!”

Life on a warship was harsh, and most people couldn’t take it.

When ships docked and let off all their crew, there were often a few who disappeared.

Should that become too rampant, officers would limit the number of people going ashore to a manageable amount and take leave in turns. Most of the crew’s downtime would still be on the ship.

For crews with particularly strict captains, it might be years before they could step onshore again. Even in port, they could be dining on the ship for the most part…eating that terrible food.

“It’s been a long time since I had something that good. Do you have a Cook blessing?”

“No, I’ve taken the first level of the common Cooking skill, but that’s all.”

“It can be this good with only one level?!”

“The skill helps, but the more important thing is just learning the basics on your own.”

Knowing why and how to do certain preparations, the fundamentals of seasoning, and just actually thinking about the flavor that would result from what you were doing were all key.

That’s really all there was. However, plenty of people believed that all abilities began and ended with Divine Blessings, creating a tendency to ignore the basics.

The fact that, even without the fundamentals, you could just sort of make things happen if you increased your level contributed to that sort of misconception.

I suppose that’s one way to get by.

My opinion was that this caused a problem. People quit on something before even trying because they didn’t have a relevant skill.

“I see. If you think about cooking that way, it changes things, huh?”

I offered to teach Kurt the basics and how to use seasoning. He repeatedly nodded while he listened and seemed profoundly moved. Somewhere along the way, he slipped into a polite and respectful tone.

“All right, help me out with serving the food.”

Ultimately, I wound up playing chef all night, showing him several dishes that he would be able to do even while out at sea: a bread porridge and fried preserved fish, salty mashed potatoes that would go well with beer, and more.

As a result of all the food discussion, I got hungry again.

I had Kurt assist me in making the extra food, since they were all pretty simple dishes.

“Aye, sir!”

He saluted and carried out the dishes of food briskly.

There was no way it would feed everyone present, but it was enough that most people would be able to eat.

Just as I realized that I had no obligation to do this, there were cheers from the other room. I couldn’t help but grin.

Sounds like the food was a hit.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything this great!”

The Veronian sailors who had been our enemies just hours ago crowded around and heaped praise on my cooking.

“And the most amazing thing is that Kurt actually made this side that tastes good!”

Anyone can make mashed potatoes, I mused. However, I could only think that because I understood the basics of meal preparation. It was no different than handing someone a sword for the first time—they wouldn’t be able to cut anything. Giving a person a pot and telling them to fry some meat when they were entirely new to the concept wouldn’t turn out well.

The bigger problem was if they accepted that the failure resulted from them lacking a helpful skill and assuming that anything edible was the limit for someone without a beneficial Divine Blessing.

“This truly is delicious.”

“Right? My Red’s amazing.”

“Mhm, mhm. My brother’s amazing.”

At some point, Prince Salius, Mistorm, and Lilinrala had come down to the hall, and for some reason, Rit and Ruti were standing proudly side by side and bragging about me.

“Hmm, I thought we needed to do something to improve the food situation. Lilinrala never really cared much about things like that.”

Prince Salius nodded to himself as he spoke.

Since hearing his words, I’d been on edge, sensing that danger was brewing.

Back to the present, at the banquet hall where the sailors’ party was being held.

After the trouble had concluded, both Mistorm and Mayor Tornado had made a point of stopping by my shop to say that there was a request for me to hold a feast for the sailors in addition to the formal one, and this was the result.

“Sir! I look forward to working with you today!”

Kurt greeted me with glimmering eyes.

I had tried to insist that a person with a proper Chef blessing was the better choice, yet Prince Salius and Lilinrala had been adamant about me providing the meals.

Apparently, the goal was also to teach Kurt more about cooking.

At least the pay for the work was fair, good enough to totally outweigh the shop’s normal sales.

“To serve oden in a place like this… It’s an honor!”

Oparara, master of the oden cart, was rolling up her sleeves next to me.

“I’m really glad to have your help.”

I’d been fretting over the idea of serving so many, so I’d requested her aid.

“You’re top chef tonight. I’m just here for support. Gotta tend on things properly.”

She had a big grin on her face as she started prepping the beef tendon.

What was that? Was that an oden joke?

“Well, I suppose I should at least earn what they paid me.”

I took out my trusty kitchen knife and put on an apron.

“Huh, your knife isn’t bronze.”


“What do you mean, ‘obviously’? Wouldn’t a better sword be more important?” Oparara grinned at the disconnect.

When she pointed it out like that, it was a bit strange that the weapon I trusted my life to was a bronze sword, but the cooking knife was steel.


Turning around, I saw Rit and Ruti.

“Ready and reporting for service.”

“I’ll do my best.”

Rit was wearing a red apron, and Ruti was wearing an apron with a round kitten face drawn on it. Curiously, they both had ladles hanging on their right hips.

“It felt more chef-like this way.”

Rit covered her mouth with her bandana as she giggled.

It was cute, but neither of them was particularly good at making food.

Thinking about how superhuman abilities and spirit magic were powerless in meal preparation made me appreciate how deep cooking was.

Now then, time to get down to work.

I lined up the ingredients I had brought on the table.

“I’ll be doing mostly my usual oden fare. What are you planning, boss?”

Since Oparara pulled her cart around and handled customers one after the other all night, facing a banquet with over a hundred soldiers didn’t seem to faze her.

She went about her job easily and precisely while still talking to me. That natural ease was really reassuring.

“I’ll be making an onion soup, two types of salad, garlic steak, fried potatoes, and a berry tart and custard trifle for dessert.”

“That’s a lot of dishes. Are you going to be okay handling all that yourself?”

“I’m not alone, so I’ll be fine.”

Rit and Ruti were taking care of the prep. They were currently peeling the vegetables and cutting the beef into steaks.

“But neither of them has a Cooking skill, right?”

It was not a simple thing to have multiple people preparing food together in this world, because the result was impacted by the skills from the Cook blessing. As such, the work was typically split up, with each person handling one whole dish on their own. Anything else and the consistency of one’s skills from their Divine Blessing of the Cook couldn’t be maintained.

“It’s okay. They’re both reliable support.”

I’d already figured out the timing for when and how to use my Cooking skill for tonight’s dishes. As long as you had a grasp of what parts could be left to others and what parts you had to do yourself, entrusting others with things like prep work wasn’t an issue.

“Red! I’m done peeling the vegetables!”

“I’m done cutting up the steak.”

Although the girls lacked relevant skills, their physical abilities were far beyond normal. If they understood what needed to be done, their speed with simple tasks surely rivaled a first-rate culinarian’s.

“Okay, next is…”

Oparara was clearly surprised as she watched me give instructions and Ruti and Rit prepped one dish after another.

I grinned back at her.

“See, pretty dependable, huh?”

“You’re all crazy.”

She raised her hands in joking surrender and returned to her own work.

The food was lined up neatly on large plates.

Oparara and some other chefs would be handling later rounds of food, so my responsibilities ended once the party began. All that remained for me was to snack on some of Oparara’s oden while watching the Veronian sailors’ reactions.

“This steak’s great. Way different from the meat we get on the ship.”

“The sauce is different. And the little garlic chips really add to the flavor.”

“The onion soup goes wonderfully with it.”

“White cheese, red tomatoes, and green basil. It’s a feast for the eyes, and the taste’s mind-blowing, too.”

The reviews were positive, and all the sailors had cheerful grins.

“Unwilted vegetables! Holy shit!”

“Meat that isn’t half-cooked!”

Evidently, a lot of their happiness might only have been because their standards were so low. If they said it was delicious, however, that should mean I’d done a good job.

“Hot damn!!! There’s actual flavor!!!”

Some of these exclamations had me scratching my head.

“Ha-ha, sorry about that. But he didn’t mean it in a bad way.”

“Oh, Prince Salius.”

The prince grinned when I turned to him. He held a plate with steak and fried potatoes.

“Weren’t you attending the formal reception?”

“Lilinrala is taking care of things there. Everyone was asking her about stories from her time as the captain of the legendary Elven Corsairs. They even got the band to play backing music while she regaled them. It was a sight to behold. After a while, she grew embarrassed and started begging Mistorm for help.”

“Sounds nice.”

“I slipped out to check on how things were getting along here. Though honestly, with how much everyone was talking it up, I wanted to try your cooking, too.”

“It’s nothing fit for the tongue of a prince.”

“So humble. I seem to recall a certain Loggervian princess mentioning how exceptional your dishes were.”

That certain princess happened to help with making this meal, but there was no way you would guess that.

Something about that thought was funny to me, and I chuckled a bit.

“Then please help yourself,” I said.

“Don’t mind if I do.”

Prince Salius took one bite of steak. Shock colored his face, and he swiftly cleared his plate.

It was quite the sight, but there was still a feeling of refined elegance to it. I couldn’t say whether that was because of his royal upbringing or his high elf blood.

“That’s excellent. I’d love to have you as a cook on my ship.”

“I’m honored, but I’m afraid I’ll have to decline your kind offer.”

Prince Salius guffawed at that. He was wearing a tuxedo, but casually, instead of all buttoned down. It was a cool look, yet stuffy nobles would have undoubtedly pursed their lips at the sight.

“Hm? What, this?” Noticing my gaze, Prince Salius tugged at his lapel a bit. “These sorts of suits are too stuffy. I just can’t stand them.”

“Don’t you have to wear them fairly often at court?”

“Even as a kid, I always preferred clothes I could move around in. Lilinrala… Mom always scolded me about it.”

He flashed a bashful smile.

“I’m a bit like Father in that regard, probably. He was always doing things that troubled his retainers.”

“Your father?”

The pirate Geizeric, who bore the blessing of Emperor, was both a hero and a man who’d ruined many lives.

“You all are good people,” the prince stated.


“When my father came up, your expression changed slightly. Do you worry for us?”

“Well, I do have some thoughts.”

“Father’s blessing is inordinately strong. It couldn’t be helped.”

My sister, Ruti, bore the blessing of the Hero. She’d been bound by impulses, yet still labored to remain herself. Thus, I was a little irked at excusing a man’s actions because of his blessing.

Prince Salius’s eyes narrowed.

“I suspect we’ve caused you all quite a lot of trouble.”

“It certainly was an unprecedented uproar for Zoltan.”

“And yet you went to such effort to cook for us, and the other Zoltanis have been accommodating as well. No other place would let this slide with merely an apology. I’d expected a few people to hurl stones at us.”

“I’m sure it wouldn’t have been this peaceful if actual fighting had occurred.”

“Having been raised in the swirling machinations of the Veronian court, it’s a dazzling level of simplicity… Is it true that Zoltan’s powerful stations are chosen based on seniority?”

“It is.”

“Wow. If Veronia were like that, we wouldn’t have to worry about all these succession problems.”

“If a country as large as Veronia were to operate as Zoltan did, it would quickly collapse,” I replied.

“Really? You never know. Maybe it would work out well? The person at the top can just be a figurehead. It’s the people who move a country forward.”

“Should the son of an Emperor really say that?”

“I can. My blessing isn’t Emperor. I’m only a plain old Archer. What sense does it make for a simple Archer to be king?”

“Didn’t you just answer that question?”


“It’s the people that move a country forward, not Divine Blessings.”

Prince Salius was stunned for a moment before breaking into an obviously wry smile.

“This is problematic. I seriously want to bring you on with me now.”

“Sorry, but the answer’s no.”

“Just who are you? No, forgive me. It’s rude to dwell on that.”

Prince Salius called to one of the waiters who was passing by and handed him the empty plate and cutlery.

“I should be heading back. The last of the negotiations will be finished in no more than a couple of weeks. We’ll send a messenger to Veronia, but we’ll likely end up heading to another country.”

“Will you fight?”

“I’d considered abandoning everything and heading to the east, but I don’t think I’d be able to stand my country becoming the demon lord’s vassal state after Father’s death. As long as his blood flows in my veins, I’ll hoist my flag for the freedom of Veronia.”

I smiled and shook Prince Salius’s hand.

“Best of luck to you.”

“Thank you. It’s nice to hear words of encouragement without any ulterior motives every once in a while.”

It would be a painful battle fighting against his homeland, but he had an invigorated look to him.

Approximately 1,500 kilometers west of Zoltan.

A steel warship belching black smoke coursed along the sea.

In one cabin, there was a girl in a dress who looked to be in her teens. She lounged on a sofa.

She was Leonor of Veronia, queen consort. With Geizeric on his deathbed, she had become the most powerful figure in Veronia.

“Well? Has Salius made a move?”

Hearing her melodious voice, the two princes who sat cross-legged in meditation opened their eyes.

Each of them were almost two meters tall and quite handsome.

Yuzuk and Silverio slowly opened their eyes and smiled broadly at their mother.

“Mother, Salius has attacked Zoltan at last.”

“I see. Well done.”

Leonor hid her mouth with her fan as she let out an elegant laugh.

She was well over sixty and should have looked it, for she wasn’t an elf. Medicines and magic had preserved her youth, however. The cost of creating and maintaining that appearance was far more than her weight in gold. Yet, for all her efforts, the effects were only skin deep. Leonor was still aging. Even with the power of alchemy and magic, there was no known way to extend one’s life. If there had been, the question of succession would never have arisen in the first place.

“This is the end for Lilinrala and Salius, and for Sister as well.”

At last, Leonor now possessed justification to take out Lilinrala and her faction.

She had both the ship she was riding—the demon lord’s Vendidad—and eight top-of-the-line galleons appropriated in Lilinrala’s absence. Those Veronian sailors who refused to obey Leonor were removed. Presently, the ships were crewed by mercenaries.

It was a fleet that could easily destroy the likes of Zoltan.

“But why did you come personally, Mother?”

Silverio’s question was entirely reasonable.

Unlike Misphia, Leonor had no combat skill, nor any for leading troops, sailing ships, or reading the weather. The woman’s presence served no role. However, she still shook her head in reply to her son.

“I am monitoring my health, since I want to live longer than Sister. I never killed her because I wished for her to live out a life of disappointment. The longer, the better. Meanwhile, I have enjoyed a blessed existence.”

Leonor touched her side.

“I’m managing the liver disease with medicine, but I will surely die not long after Geizeric.”


Humans, elves, and demons all eventually perished. It was an experience foreign to the immortal Asura demons.

“But if I must die, it will only be after I see Sister suffering and meeting her end with my own eyes.”

Hatred for her elder sibling still burned in Leonor. Even knowing her time was near, she still brimmed with vitality.

“Humans are truly fascinating.”


Humans were fascinating.

That was the reason the two Asura demons had remained in Veronia for so long, choosing such a circuitous path to take over the kingdom.

Geizeric, with his rare Emperor blessing, became king as his blessing pushed him to be.

Lilinrala, a high elf with a Pirate blessing who’d given up her ideal life running the Elven Corsairs to become an admiral for Geizeric.

Misphia, the powerful Archmage, was forced to flee her homeland.

And Leonor, despite bearing the utterly generic Divine Blessing of the Warrior, had made a mockery of all three of those champions with her strategic ploys. After many years, she was set to claim her final victory.

“I can’t be satisfied until I see how it ends.”

“Yes, I’m looking forward to seeing how Mother will die.”

The Asura demons spoke as if they were watching a performance, laughing at the lives of all four players.

After two weeks, Zoltan’s harbor was back to normal.

The port was small, connecting to a river instead of directly to the sea.

Lesser trade ships could enter all the way up to the wharves, but larger vessels, including military ones designed to carry hundreds of troops, could not enter the river and had no choice but to anchor on the sea.

Dozens of rowboats filled with supplies exited the mouth of the river and bobbed into the sea, headed toward Lilinrala’s galley floating in the harbor.

“Looks like a lot of work.”

“It’s a backbreaking effort. And it’s always like this. Observing from a distance leaves me amazed that we manage it at all.”

The galley had sailed straight from Veronia to Zoltan. It needed to stock up and resupply before departing.

“So wouldn’t you normally be helping out Prince Salius while he directs the crew? Why are you taking it easy fishing in a place like this?”

While the Veronian sailors were busy, Lilinrala was on an isolated pier at the corner of the harbor with a fishing line, absentmindedly angling.

“I’ve beaten all I know about running a ship into Salius. Even with a late start, he could become a big enough pirate to leave a mark on history. He won’t have any problems during the loading.”

“A prince becoming a pirate, huh? So the reverse of Geizeric, then.”

“Ha-ha. Yeah, I suppose so.”

“So back to my question—what are you doing acting so listless here?”

With her black eye patch and the scar across the side of her face, Lilinrala ordinarily looked intense, but her present expression was flat, almost dejected. There was more intensity to Oparara when she made oden than to Lilinrala now.

“Did you come out here just to ask me that?”


“You sure like sticking your nose into things.” I flashed an obviously annoyed look, and Lilinrala continued.

“Are you really one to be lecturing people about acting listless, Red?”

“That’s rude.”

“How can a man of your caliber keep such a tranquil face? Aren’t heroes supposed to have a strained expression, always chasing after some unending dream?”

“I’m not sure how I’m supposed to respond to that. Lend me some spare line and a hook.”

“Sure, but I don’t have a spare pole.”

I sat down next to Lilinrala, took my bronze sword—sheath and all—off my belt, and tied the line through the little hole at the end of the sheath.

“Pretty convenient, right?”

“Looks pretty terrible if you ask me.”

“It’s not too suited for catching fish, but it’s perfect for sitting by the river and taking it easy for a while.”

“For having such brief lives, humans do the oddest things.”

Lilinrala shrugged at my response, but I just laughed wryly and pointed to her line.

“Can you really say that when you’ve just left your line hanging without any bait this whole time?”


Lilinrala reeled in and was greeted by a dangling empty hook. She grimaced and affixed a fresh worm.

“A legendary pirate letting a fish steal her bait…”

“Don’t assume all pirates are good at angling.”

The high elf dropped her line back into the river with a splash. It bobbed gently.

For a while, the two of us aimlessly gazed at the water, holding poles that wouldn’t catch a fish.

Finally, she started talking.

“If I’d only been honest about it all back then, I wonder if this all could’ve been avoided.”

“You mean before Mistorm left Veronia?”

“If I’d told her everything, would she have accepted Salius, and would Leonor’s scheming have failed? It’s too late now, but I can’t help wonder if things might have worked out better that way.”

“Are you worried whether going back with the prince to fight Veronia is the right choice now?”

“Something like that. There’s no point dwelling on it, though, and I’m not going to suggest we run… Still, the thought that I’ll end up regretting my choice again makes me want to forget about the future.”

“Mistorm accepts things now, but there’s hardly a guarantee Misphia would’ve done the same fifty years ago.”

Mistorm was well removed from her old despair. She’d changed her name, left her past behind her, and spent a long time surrounded by friends.

Back then, cornered as she was, would she really have been able to accept the reality of it? Raising Lilinrala and Geizeric’s child as her own may have proven too much.

“If you ask me, I think there’s a good chance it would have caused a total split between the two of you.”


“And more than the two of you, King Geizeric would have been a problem,” I added.


“Geizeric is an Emperor. There’s not much information on that blessing because of how rare it is, but he likely wouldn’t have accepted Prince Salius forty years ago.”

“You’ve never even met him. How can you be so confident?” Lilinrala questioned.

“What he needed then was an heir with the blood of the royal family, not one who carried his blood. If Geizeric knew about Prince Salius’s mother, he would absolutely still have placed Leonor’s children over yours in the line of succession.”

Lilinrala furrowed her brow and glared at me.

“If he could have controlled the impulses of his blessing, he would never have had relations with Leonor in the first place.”

The high elf looked indignant, but she didn’t argue the point. Letting out a little sigh, I continued as gently as I could.

“Anyway, the point is, there’s nothing to be gained from regret. It would be one thing if you held back at the time, but you were always doing what you thought was best at the moment, right? If so, then that’s just life.”

“So just or wrong, Demis only knows…I suppose so.”

Lilinrala quickly pulled in her line. The carp she caught was squirming around frantically.

“Looks like I was first.”

“If you can tease me, then you must be feeling better,” I remarked with a little grin.


Lilinrala stared into my face closely.


“Are you secretly a fey and even older than I am?”

“Obviously not.”

“Heh. Just kidding.”

Lilinrala laughed. Considering that we’d fought each other less than three weeks ago, it was a surprising demeanor for her to take.

But high elves behaved differently around people they trusted. And, apparently, I’d crossed that line in Lilinrala’s book.

“It seems like Salius has taken an interest in you, too… What do you say? Our ship’s about to face down a wild storm, but if we make it through to the other side, all the treasure and fame you could ever desire will be yours. I’m sure a man like you could even win himself the throne of a duchy. Want to join my crew?”

“I’ll have to decline. I like living here in Zoltan.”

“Immediate rejection, huh? A pit… Oh, you caught something.”

“Yeah, feels like something big… Gh, it’s heavy.”

The thread attached to my scabbard was taut.

There was no give at all to the sheath, so it couldn’t dampen the pull of the thread. If the fish went wild, the thread would snap. It would take carefully angling in time with the movements of the fish.

“You really should’ve gone to get a proper rod!”

When I began to think she was right, I spotted a blue shadow in the middle of the river.

Uhh, that’s…

“Wait a second…” I yanked firmly with both arms.


An expressionless girl emerged from the water, holding the line and doing some kind of pose.

“Wh— You’re?!”

Even Lilinrala was genuinely shocked by what I’d landed.

Well, Ruti doesn’t have any skills for controlling boats or dinghies, so it makes sense that swimming would be quicker for her.

“Do you need a towel?”

“I’m okay.”

My little sister shook her head. From what I could discern, she was pleased at Lilinrala’s stunned reaction. After climbing onto the pier, Ruti inhaled and tensed her body.


There was a sound like something popping, and the water evaporated from her in tiny droplets.

“That’ll do.”

Once she’d confirmed she was dry, Ruti turned to Lilinrala, whose brain had seemingly shut down from astonishment.

“Veronian battleships have arrived. Queen Leonor is in command, and they will reach Zoltan in sixteen hours.”

I was fishing by myself on the pier.

Ruti and Lilinrala were undoubtedly at the Zoltan assembly by now.

Out on the river, Lilinrala’s ship was making preparations to set sail at a feverish pitch.

If Veronia’s navy were pursuing them on Leonor’s orders, then the battleships would have no business with Zoltan itself. Lilinrala and Salius had no intention of holing up here to fight, and they didn’t have a chance of winning even if they did.

Thus, the best option was to flee somewhere else.

“Leonor, huh?”

The face of the woman I’d once saved, who’d then confessed her love to me and tried to kill me, surfaced from my memories.

“There we go.”

A small fish had bit my hook, pulling the line attached to my scabbard.

“Even without a proper rod, I can still catch something from time to time… This’ll be good for soup.”

It was almost hard to believe a Veronian fleet was closing in on Zoltan while I was killing time like this.

“If she sees me, she’ll recognize me immediately.”

For Mistorm, Leonor was an enemy from Misphia’s past. It was not too different for me. Leonor was one of Gideon’s old enemies.

It was a little depressing how the past always caught up to you, no matter how many times you tried to make a clean break from it.


Rit had come by holding a steaming cup in both hands.

“Catch anything?”

“Just one small fish.”

She sat next to me and offered out the mug. It was hot cocoa. She had warmed it with her magic, and the heat spread through my body, a welcome change after sitting around fishing in the cool not-yet-spring weather.

“How is it?”


“Right? I’ve been practicing.”


“The cocoa and tea you make are great, but I’m sure you want to drink things someone else has made for you too. I’ve been learning so I can provide that.”

I took another sip. It had a gentle sweetness and an enveloping warmth that eased the cold.

“It’s great.”

It felt like my frozen lips were melting into a grin.

The two of us sat together, staring at Lilinrala’s ship across the water.



“You told me once that our slow life isn’t supposed to limit us.”

“That was back when we fought Shisandan.”

“I’ll say it for you this time. Our slow life together isn’t supposed to be holding us back from what we want. It’s about living at our own pace and doing things without any regret.”

Rit’s shoulder pressed against mine, and she peered at me with her sky-blue eyes. Her beautiful lips curled into a gentle smile.

“We can think about what to do when the time comes. If we have to fight, we can. But if it’s not worth it, we’ll run or ignore the conflict. What matters is that we do what we want, and never harbor bitterness when we’re done.”

“…You’re right.”

I pulled my line out of the water, took the bait off the hook, and tossed it into the river. A fish that hadn’t given the worm a second glance when it was on the hook snapped it up immediately.

That’s a smart fish.

“And also…” Rit stood. “…I’ve had it up to here with what Leonor’s done. I think it’s a shame I didn’t get to kick her ass for trying to seduce my Red! How evil can one person be?!”


I remembered a time when I was in the Hero’s party, staring down at a map by myself, trying to come up with a plan. All the magic items I’d possessed from that part of my life were gone, as was the honor that came with being a member of the Hero’s party.

All I had was a cheap bronze sword on my hip, a lover willing to support me, my beloved little sister, and trustworthy friends.

I’d rather have that any day.

Rit and I walked together to the Zoltan assembly in the middle of the city.

We entered the hall without any guards stopping us. I suppose that much was to be expected since I was with Rit.

“Red, sir. I saw you fighting Albert. Please teach me how to fight someday.”


A young guard saluted me.

“Looks like people are starting to understand just how great you are.”

Rit smiled happily.

A carpet lined the floor of the hall we were walking down.

Most years, the main assembly hall was only used for meetings to determine how much money to allocate for reconstruction after storms, but ever since the winter festival, it had seen continuous activity. That there hadn’t even been time to clean boot prints off the carpet was a testament to the recent chaos.

Noticing us, Tisse called out, “Red, Rit.” She’d been standing near the door, playing with Mister Crawly Wawly, who was riding on the back of her hand. “So you two decided to come as well.”

“Is the meeting in recess?” I inquired.

“Yes. Everyone was glaring at one another, so they took a break to cool their heads.”

“The assembly can’t come to an agreement? Honestly, that’s a bit surprising.”

All Zoltan could do was have Prince Salius’s ship leave the harbor. There was no way anyone believed fighting Leonor here was a wise choice.

Leonor’s fleet would not be able to invade Zoltan from the mouth of the river, but they could easily land troops and subjugate the city that way.

Lilinrala and her crew were masters of naval combat, so they’d be at a disadvantage fighting on the shore. They’d be trapped and overwhelmed if they holed up in Zoltan’s waters. Prince Salius’s only option was to leave as soon as possible or else fight Leonor out on the open sea.

“It feels like from Zoltan’s perspective and Prince Salius’s, the clear strategy is for them to flee,” I remarked.

“Yes, that was where things settled at first, but…”

Tisse pursed her lips slightly and shrugged. Rit and I glanced at each other, wondering what was up.

“Was there some problem?” Rit asked.

“I suppose you could say that.” Tisse sighed. “The meeting proceeded without issue initially. Prince Salius was to leave Zoltan, and Zoltan would do its best to help with the remaining restocking effort. After that, Zoltan would be unable to cover for Prince Salius and would not be able to refuse the Veronian fleet’s requests for information and supplies. That was the general understanding.”

“That’s all reasonable.”

“I agree. However, the problem arose after, when Mistorm arrived late.”

“When Mistorm arrived? She didn’t try to suggest that Zoltan should fight to protect them, did she? No, that would make no sense given her character.”

“You’re right, of course. After she reviewed the secretary’s record, she voiced her agreement.”

“So it was following that then?”

“The trouble began when Mistorm declared she would leave Zoltan with Prince Salius.”

“I see…”

I could see Mistorm saying something like that.

“What was Zoltan’s reaction? She’s beloved by all of Zoltan as the country’s hero. Were they against her leaving?”

“There was resistance at first, but she revealed her identity to the assembly members.”

“So she told them she was the Veronian queen.”

“And Zoltan’s side had no choice but to accept her leaving with Prince Salius.”

“That’s everything resolved, then, isn’t it?”


A metallic noise sounded from the stairs at the far end of the hall.

“What was that?”

“I don’t know.”

Tisse peered down the corridor after the source. The clanking was accompanied by heavy footsteps as it drew nearer, clearing the stairs and finally appearing in the doorway.

“Ohh, if it isn’t Red and Hero Rit! So you came as well!”

It was Mayor Tornado, and all the members of Zoltan’s leadership were gathered behind him. He was wearing an outfit that neither Rit nor I had seen him in before.

“We’ll give those dastardly Veronians what for! Now’s the moment to show Zoltan’s pride!” a chubby aristocrat bellowed as he raised his fist.

There was another clatter as he did.

Everyone gathered was middle-aged at least, and there were even a few over seventy, but they were sporting full plate armor and had hot-blooded expressions on their faces as they marched down the hall.

Gleaming new swords dangled at their hips.

“What’s going on, Mayor Tornado?” I couldn’t hide the shock in my voice.

The mayor’s round face split in a dauntless grin.

“Zoltan has decided to join the battle against the treacherous Queen Consort Leonor!”

That settled what the arguments were about. Still, I’d never have guessed that the cautious Mayor Tornado would end up saying such a thing.

“What is this all about?!”

It was Mistorm, having been drawn out by the commotion. Behind her stood Prince Salius and Lilinrala, who looked just as shocked as we did.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Lord William answered in Tornado’s stead. With his slightly tubby, middle-aged physique hidden by the armor and all the effort he’d put into training over the years, he carried a certain presence. “We’re going to fight to protect our beloved and fellow Zoltan citizen!”

Mistorm froze. Faced with Lord William’s earnest gaze, she must have felt unable to respond.

Rit and I had joined the discussion in the assembly hall.

“Huh? Where are Ruti and Yarandrala?”

“When conversation broke down after Mistorm arrived, they left to take care of preparations in the event that the decision to fight was made.”


“They entrusted things here to me and said they were headed to Mistorm’s hidden village.”

Ruti had elected to act, preferring to use her limited time more efficiently instead of wasting time with a fruitless meeting.

“Still, this is surprising.”

“Yes, to think Zoltan would go to war with a large country like Veronia for a single person.”

Lazy Zoltan.

The city was blocked off to the east and north by the Wall at the End of the World. It was hammered by storms every year and was surrounded by sprawling marshland that made it difficult to start new settlements.

There was an abundance of water, and there was fertile soil that would support plenty of crops without too much effort. However, things were still occasionally ruined by hurricanes, and a preference not to work too hard had naturally become one of Zoltan’s defining characteristics.

Why do today what could be put off until tomorrow? That was Zoltan in a nutshell.

“You’d risk all of Zoltan for one person?! Where’s your duty toward the populace?!” Mistorm exclaimed.

“We can ask them, too. We won’t stop anyone who wants to run away. But Zoltan’s army has the resolve to protect the citizens.”

“The Mages Guild owes you greatly. It’s time to test the true worth of all our studies.”

“As far as the Adventurers Guild is concerned, you are a hero. When we told our members that you intended to fight Veronia with Prince Salius, we were overwhelmed with volunteers willing to aid you.”

“The Thieves Guild didn’t get along great with you, Mistorm, but even we denizens of the underworld still respect you. We intend to throw our weight behind quelling the panic in the city.”

Mayor Tornado nodded.

“Every individual citizen has a right to make their own choice. We carry our own reasons, but we all want to protect you. If our homes are burned, we can build them again. Zoltan is used to such losses. But we also know that there are some things you can never get back once they’re taken from you.”

There was no doubt in his words.

Lazy Zoltan, huh? I mused.

“That’s true.”


Rit and I nodded.

We lived here. And as slothful as our neighbors could be, there were also countless times we’d seen the lengths they would go to for their friends.

After the incident with Bighawk, the populace hadn’t grown wary of Southmarsh. Everyone got along as they always had.

“That’s the sort of place Zoltan is,” I said.

Rit smiled and nodded. “The princess of Loggervia might call it foolish to pick a fight with no hope of winning, but Zoltan’s Rit is proud of how everyone comes through for their friends in a pinch.”

Seeing the two of us whispering to each other, Lilinrala rushed over.

“What are you doing muttering?! Stop them already! We can’t let them get caught up in a hopeless fight!”

“After all the trouble you’ve caused? Pirates really just do as they please,” I replied.

“This isn’t the time for jokes!”

“Sorry. No, really, I am sorry. Rit and I happen to agree with them.”

I looked at Rit, and her expression tightened. She approached the conference table, brimming with confidence.

“Our opponent is the powerful nation of Veronia, led by Queen Consort Leonor, a woman so evil that her story will surely still be told in history books centuries from now. Their fleet consists of eight top-of-the-line galleons and the demon lord’s ironclad vessel, Vendidad, which Geizeric brought back from the dark continent. Meanwhile, we have Prince Salius’s older warship and Zoltan’s three caravels. Zoltan’s walls are easily toppled, there is nothing stopping an invasion via the river, and we have no time to prepare. Does that about sum it up?”

Lord William and the rest looked troubled, but Rit grinned dauntlessly.

“Then all that’s left to do is to win.”

Why had Rit earned the nickname “Rit the hero”?

It was undoubtedly because of the confidence she exuded. Her voice and smile had the power to make you believe that she could overcome anything, no matter how hopeless.

“I’m proud of them, too. But I’m more proud of you,” she whispered so that only I would hear.

I followed Rit to the table to help plan.

“This is not a battle to protect Zoltan, so I won’t blame anyone who doesn’t wish to fight. Our fight is one to safeguard the hero who rescued Zoltan.”

Lord William clenched his fist while addressing the troops.

Standing before him were Zoltan’s lightly armored drake knights with their sabers, the guards in chain mail equipped with halberds and crossbows, nobles sporting slender and decorative swords, adventurers with a motley collection of gear, thieves with sharp blades peeking from black cloaks, and citizen volunteers with simple spears and wooden shields.

“Master Mistorm came to Zoltan forty-five years ago, appearing with her shining ship the Regulus when Zoltan was menaced by the remnants of the goblin king’s bands. I was only a small child at the time, but I still recall the cheers of the people Master Mistorm saved.”

Those old enough to remember the time all gulped.

It had been decided at the time to conceal Mistorm’s past, and Zoltan’s top general was breaking that shared secret. The people of Zoltan had realized that their idol’s history was the root of the conflict with Veronia.

Tisse and I inspected the crowd to see how they’d react.

“Khhh! We can finally repay Master Mistorm,” a veteran adventurer shouted.

“An enemy of Master Mistorm is my enemy, too! Bring it on!”

The people roared courageously and grinned happily. Particularly those old enough to remember the trouble forty-five years ago.

They’d hoped to repay the heroes who’d helped them back then, but there was an unspoken arrangement not to record the events to keep word of Mistorm from reaching Veronia.

The gratitude they’d held back for four-and-a-half decades overflowed, and they laughed and grinned in the face of imminent danger.

“This really is a great place.”

“Yes, it is.”

I nodded to Tisse, and she returned the gesture.

Someone hurried over to us.

“Ohh, if it isn’t Ms. Tifa and Red. So this is where you’ve been hiding.”

“Hello, Mayor Tornado.”

He’d doffed the armor he wasn’t used to and switched to a chain mail shirt and a tabard with the Republic of Zoltan’s coat of arms embroidered on the chest.

The full plate must have been too heavy.

“Rit the hero’s really something. I’m sure we can win any plan she devises.”

The mayor was in high spirits.

Rit’s strategy was a sea battle. However, our side would remain in the river delta while attacking. Zoltan’s small ships were no match for the Veronian ones, but the demon lord’s enormous vessel and the Veronian galleons couldn’t enter the shallow river. In order to land, they’d have to resort to smaller rowed crafts, and Zoltan’s ships would have the upper hand against those.

It would be a problem if they landed at the beach, however.

“It’s a bold decision to use the caravels that are our main fighting strength as fire bombs.”

The crux of Rit’s plan was to load up the caravels with alchemic oil and firewood and then ram one into a galleon as an explosive, hopefully forcing the Veronians to be more cautious. A caravel’s storage capacity would give it more than enough firepower to sink a galleon.

If they tried to bypass the river and land from the beach, Rit would use that opening to crash a caravel into one and set it off. As long as the possibility of more explosions like that remained, the Veronians wouldn’t be able to unload troops carelessly.

This was a battle that Veronia was unlikely to lose, owing to their superior force. Thus, they were liable to consider how they would win more than the if. That was especially true because Leonor didn’t have access to Lilinrala’s navy and was relying on mercenaries.

Because of that, Veronia essentially had to win without losing a single warship. If Zoltan was forced to fight under the same restriction, it would be a hopeless effort, but that one difference changed everything.

“It’s a marvelous strategy based on the enemy’s psychology. It really is a waste for Rit the hero to end up as the wife of an apothecary… Whoops, that was rude of me.”

Mayor Tornado quickly took back his remark while I eyed him.

“You know, Mayor, it always seemed that you didn’t like Mistorm very much.”

“I can understand why it might appear that way. I don’t believe her time in power was exceptional. A country ruled by the strength of will of a single hero is fragile. You can’t say the country is standing under its own power like that. I believe it should be the people who protect a country, not just a handful of powerful figures.”

“Blessings are unequal, so it’s only natural for a few outstanding types to dominate. That’s the normal view, anyhow. You’ve got an interesting viewpoint,” I said.

“Even heroes have a right to enjoy normal, everyday happiness, don’t they? Although…” Mayor Tornado trailed off for a moment. “You two seem like you can keep a secret, so perhaps I should just say it.”

“Is there something else?”

“Nothing too dire—it only matters to me, really. But, well, I might just die in the upcoming battle. Leaving behind one embarrassing anecdote will at least give you a funny story to tell later.”

“Is it truly that big a deal?”

“Ha-ha-ha. It’s only something I happened to remember after seeing you and Rit.

“Me and Rit?” I repeated.

“Had Mistorm set aside her burden sooner…perhaps she would’ve accepted my proposal.”

“What? You proposed to her?”

“It’s a story from my younger days. At the time, her prime years were already behind her, but she was a stunning woman nonetheless. She still is, in fact. Though I suppose a hero and a Merchants Guild accountant would not have fit together.”

Mayor Tornado smiled bashfully.

Tiny Zoltan, situated far to the east on the frontier of Avalon. Nothing here would ever end up in the history books, yet there were still many kinds of people living in this corner of the world. Why shouldn’t they fight for what they believed in?

“There’s a catapult in the back of the storage building from forty-five years ago!”

“Will it move?”

Zoltan was readying its defenses.

Soldiers and volunteers with javelins and bows were lining the harbor and the city walls. Zoltan’s three caravels and several lesser merchant ships loaded with soldiers were deployed in the river.

Surprisingly, Lilinrala’s galley had entered the river as well. It was a shallow draft galley, but the only way such an enormous boat maneuvered so skillfully was thanks to Lilinrala’s naval proficiency.

“With this, I believe we have a chance of repelling the Veronian invaders.”

Tisse watched the people of Zoltan hurry about their preparations.

The situation definitely could’ve been worse, and yet…

“Is there something else troubling you, Red? The difference in fighting strength is clear, but I believe it is safe to say this is the best possible situation.” Tisse cocked her head at my long face. Her skepticism was definitely warranted.

“Rit’s strategy takes everything into account, but there’s plenty that could go wrong.”

There was no telling what might happen in a battle, even if it was a random accident and not due to any particular flaw in a strategy.

It had been like this in Loggervia, too. I recalled several times when Rit got a smug look on her face, and she declared that she had devised a great plan. However, on occasion, something about it didn’t work out right, and we’d have to cover the shortfall somehow.

“That isn’t Rit’s fault, though. Surely that won’t happen this time,” Tisse assured.

“Yeah, I’m probably just overthinking it.”

We shared a smile.

Things would go according to plan.

Still, discussing what to do just in case couldn’t hurt.

“What’s going on with Ruti? Should we go check?” I suggested.

“Yes, let’s.”

Tisse and I headed for the hidden village where Mistorm’s old crew was living.

By the next day, the people of Zoltan were resting in shifts. It was just after dusk when Rit got a visitor.

“Rit the hero.”

“What is it, Lord William?”

“I’ve noticed that Ruhr, Tifa, the high elf Yarandrala, Master Mistorm, and the apothecary Red are missing.”

“They will be acting separately.”


“I haven’t heard all the details, but they said they’ll link up with us once the fighting starts.”

“Is that so? I don’t fully understand, but as long as you have an idea of how it works, then it’s fine.”

As the head of Zoltan’s army, Lord William was in position to command this operation, but he’d chosen to entrust Rit with Zoltan’s forces, subordinating himself to her for the battle.

Lord William was a general without any actual fighting experience, but he still wasn’t the sort to casually yield his authority to an adventurer—not with all the considerations of status and responsibilities after the fighting was over.

Rit was secretly surprised and moved by his decisiveness.

It was a courageous thing to do, especially considering how Rit herself had struggled with the same sort of dilemma and quarreled with the Hero about it back in Loggervia.

Lord William was sailing on the explosive-laden caravel together with Rit.

“This ship has Rit the hero and Zoltan’s best drake knights. The remaining two boats have Galatine and his adventurers, and Prince Salius and his marines.”

There were ten more small merchant ships loaded with soldiers that would meet Leonor and her Veronian troops. It was a force of a scale that Zoltan could not begin to imagine. Lord William was in high spirits, looking like a knight setting out to combat the demon lord’s army.

“Lord William, a commander like you mustn’t lose track of the reality before us. The enemy is tens of times stronger than we are. It was only a few weeks ago that we worried about Lilinrala’s single galleon suppressing all of Zoltan. Now, we’re about to face eight superior warships and Veronia’s ultimate trump card, the demon lord’s own vessel.”

“Th-that’s true.”

Lord William looked uncomfortable, as though he’d been doused in cold water.

Not too long ago, Rit had been going around stirring the soldiers’ spirits, telling them how they would surely triumph.

“I can motivate them, but it is up to you to rein them in. If you don’t, the troops will be shaken by the gap in expectations when they face the reality that’s about to hit.”

Lord William gulped as Rit pointed out to sea.

Something huge was visible in the distance. It was far enough yet that the soldiers couldn’t get a proper feel for its scale, but they would understand soon.

“I heard the stories, but still…that’s enormous!”

Rit was already struck by Vendidad’s presence. Mistorm had described the dread ship, but seeing it in person was very different.

One hundred and twenty meters long. It was big enough to make the forty-meter-long galleons accompanying it look small.

Black smoke was pouring from its smokestack, and the ship was sailing closer to Zoltan, powered by a giant paddle wheel. A coal-powered steel paddleboat. It was a vehicle constructed using technology unknown in all of Avalon.

“Wh-whoa, what is that ship? It’s smoking.”

“Is it really a boat? It’s bigger than a noble’s mansion.”

“I bet even Central doesn’t have something that large.”

As the Vendidad approached, a disturbance spread among the Zoltan troops.

“L-Lady Rit!”

Lord William was trembling as he looked to her. The Vendidad and the galleons would soon reach the mouth of the river.

“Lord William, the troops are watching. A superior officer needs to remember their pride no matter how hopeless the situation appears.”

“I—I know it is shameful…but I can’t stop trembling.”

Lord William’s eyes watered. He struck his thighs to steel himself, but his trembling continued.

“Even so…” Rit smiled at Lord William. “…I don’t think you are a coward. You entrusted this battle to me. There is courage in delegating a task you can’t perform to someone else rather than insisting you can do it and failing in the crucial moment.”

Rit raised her right hand.

“I’ll turn this around.”

She focused on the wind.

“Spirit of the wind, guide us to victory! Control Wind!”

The gentle breeze blowing upriver stopped.

“Hold on tight to the halyards!” Rit shouted.

The next moment, a powerful gust pushed the Zoltan ships forward.

“The breeze!”

The sailors steering the ships frantically worked their sails.

Once she’d confirmed that all the ships were prepared, Rit called, “When it comes to fighting on the water, upstream and upwind are both advantageous!”

Her voice boomed, though it was not unpleasant. There was a mysterious resonance to it that made people want to listen.

“Scared of such a big ship? Terrified of a fleet the likes of which you’ve never seen? I can understand. We wouldn’t have a chance on the high seas, but this is Zoltan. You all know there’s no port here that can take a ship that size. None of those vessels can reach our home. We’ll engage their smaller landing crafts. The wind, the river, and Zoltan itself are our allies, barring the enemy at every turn!”

“…Can we win…?”

It was a quiet murmur among the crowd, yet Rit caught it.

“Can we win?”

Rit fell silent, slowly looking around to all the soldiers focused on her. They couldn’t look away, hanging on her every word.

Rit the hero. People in Loggervia had called for her to skip ahead of the crown prince to become the duchy’s next ruler, and it wasn’t because of her powerful Divine Blessing alone.

“Of course we can! I swear it on the name Rit the hero! We aren’t fighting to say we died protecting Mistorm. This battle will be remembered as the one where Zoltan protected its champion and sent Veronia packing with its tail between its legs!”

There was silence, and then a shout.

“To victory!”

Rit loosed an even stronger blast of air with her cry. The wind carried her voice, reaching every soldier.

“To victory!”

It rang in their hearts.

“To victory! To victory! To victory!”

They were shouting, stirring each other’s spirits, raising morale.

Rit’s natural charisma surpassed Divine Blessings.

There was relief, a trust that everything would work out if they followed her.

“To victory!”

Lord William had joined the chanting soldiers, and Rit grimaced. Undoubtedly she would get more requests to return to adventuring once this was over.

I’m happy enough just living in peace with Red.

Because of her charisma, she had been able to stand shoulder to shoulder and fight alongside Red as an equal in Loggervia, and it had also forced her from her home, allowing her to reunite with her beloved.

Thus, Rit couldn’t deny her strengths.

Life is a funny thing, though.

“Now then, let’s get this over with so Red and I can go home.”

Wielding her two trusty shotels, Rit stared out at the Veronian fleet.

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