“Don’t panic, don’t run, move in line!”
Back in the imperial capital, the evacuation was coming to the end.
Thanks to Philine’s speech there were relatively few people who panicked and the evacuation operation seemed to go smoothly.
“Ah, Claire, Rei, welcome back. How’s my mother?”
“She’s fighting in the rearguard. I’m worried that she hasn’t returned yet, but she’s surely safe.”
“True, she’s promised me.”
Philine smiled like she wasn’t worried about anything.
She might have sincerely trusted Dorothea, but above all, she couldn’t afford to show anxiety in front of the imperial citizens who continue to evacuate.
“Her Majesty the Empress is on the spot in person… I’m grateful.”
“Truly… If the former empress Her Majesty Dorothea was the brain, then Philine is the heart.”
I thought it was a good analogy.
The empire before was a top-down organization in which Dorothea stood on top and was in charge of everything.
But now, the entire empire was organized around Filine.
She was indeed its heart.
“Claire, Rei, could you go ahead and join up with the front soldiers? Their numbers are a little short.”
“Can the rearguards hold out?”
“About that… According to the report from our scouts, it seems our pursuers have weakened considerably. I wonder what happened…?”
We didn’t know at that time, but in exchange for their lives, rearguard soldiers led by Dorothea had slain thousands of enemies.
Included among them was Arist, one of the Three Great Archdukes.
The name of the Naa Empire’s 16th emperor, Dorothea Naa, will go down in history, not only of the empire but of the world, as a great man.
“I understand. We’ll go ahead then. Take care, Philine.”
Having parted from Philine, Claire-sama and I rode horses and joined up with the evacuation vanguard.
“It’s good to see you, Rei, Claire.”
“… It’s good to see you.”
Hilda and Adelina were in charge of the vanguard.
Just as a reminder, Adelina was Otto’s older sister who tried to cause a coup d’etat.
She wasn’t a general yet, but her ability made her suitable to be in charge of this vanguard.
She still seemed to hold complicated feelings towards us, and compared to Hilda’s, her greeting was a little awkward.
The formation was heading west for the time being.
There was a plan to evacuate directly from the imperial capital to the surrounding cities, but first of all, the priority was to join the reinforcements from Bauer coming from the west.
“Evacuation seems to be going well, Hilda.”
“For now it is, fortunately. However, there’s still a long way to go to the provisional capital that is the first site of evacuation. We can’t let our guard down.”
The provisional capital played an ancillary role in the abandonment of the imperial capital Raum, and was one of the evacuation sites.
It would be difficult to accept all the people of the imperial capital in the provisional capital, so the priority would be given to people with urgent needs, such as the sick and wounded.
The evacuation force would continue to visit other cities to find shelter for everyone.
“Have monsters or demons attacked?”
“For now there haven’t been any large movements. We’ve been attacked several times by wild monsters living on the highway, but there’s been only a few of them. However…”
Hilda cut his words and frowned to express concern.
“Are you worried about something?”
“There are too few. Normally, there should be more monsters at this time of the year. Taking that into account, there’s too little of them.”
“Isn’t that the effect of the extermination at the time of the pope’s visit?”
“Even considering that, there’s still too little. It might be a trap.”
What Hilda said with a tense look on her face soon became the reality.
“Haha! You’ve got some good instincts!”
I looked up at the sky at the grating but familiar voice and saw a winged shadow floating in the sky.
“I’m honored that you remember me, Claire François. Well, it won’t matter to you soon.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Having said that, Plato slowly descended to the ground.
“You sure are audacious. But Plato, you’ve done something incredibly reckless, haven’t you?”
“Huh? What have I done?”
“The forces of humanity are concentrated in this unit. No matter how powerful you are, isn’t it thoughtless to attack us alone?”
“Hah! Have you forgotten that I could decimate your unit alone?”
Plato cracked his neck and spun his club around.
“But well, you have a point. You together with Rei Taylor, Manaria Sousa and the saintess pose a challenge. Even I could be in danger if I were careless.”
“Then withdraw from here. We don’t have time to spare either. We’ll turn a blind eye to you for now, is that fine?”
“Hahaha! What a bad joke! If I left, I’d get killed.”
“…? By who?”
In response to Claire-sama’s question, Plato continued.
“You humans shouldn’t even be allowed in her presence. Behold, the queen.”
— ‘That’ had no shadow or shape at first.
Right next to Plato, who respectfully dropped on his knees out of a sudden, darkness appeared.
As a magician I’d often seen various lights, but the sight of substantial darkness in the air only felt uncomfortable.
It looked like a sphere was cut out of space.
The darkness gradually began to take the form of a human being.
Unlike Plato with his huge build, it couldn’t be called large.
However, as the details gradually appeared, those who witnessed it one by one fell to their knees.
An overwhelming killing intent.
No, it wasn’t something so simple.
It was emptiness.
It was exactly the opposite of humanity.
A denial of life.
What reminded me of contradictory words, existence of non-existence, appeared in front of humanity.
“The demon queen has arrived. Despair, humans. Then die.”
Together with Plato’s words, that thing lowered its feet to the ground.
She was surprisingly small for the being called the demon queen.
When it came to height, she was probably the same height as me or a little taller than Claire-sama.
However, what was with that dense magical power?
She wasn’t using any magic, and yet just by being there I was more scared than by Claire-sama’s serious Magical Ray.
The demon queen’s whole body was covered with black cloth.
It was excessively decorated, reminded me of the pope’s vestment, and looked difficult to me in.
But I was certain.
To that being, that was insignificant.
The demon queen slowly looked around.
Her face was covered with a veil, and I couldn’t perceive her expression.
However, some of the people evacuating from the imperial capital fainted just from being exposed to her gaze.
It was probably to even face her without having high magical power.
Suddenly, the demon queen casually lifted her hand to her side.
The instant we braced ourselves for the attack――.
A thundering roar resounded.
“… My goodness…”
Claire-sama muttered in a shock.
She was looking at the nothingness in the direction the demon queen was pointing her hand.
“There’s a limit to nonsense.”
The words that I spontaneously muttered to myself sounded like a stranger said them.
The ground and plants to the right of the demon king, the hill, and even the mountain in the distance had been hollowed out cleanly as if a cylinder had been tipped over.
“What… are we supposed to do against that…”
Claire-sama incoherently muttered.
I could tell her spirit was breaking.
If you want to know why, it was because my state of mind was the same.
The Three Great Archdukes were strong.
They were strong, but they were still within our grasp.
The demon queen was impossible.
I understood what Dorothea had said.
That wasn’t something people could handle.
“… This is the end.”
As the demon queen calmly said that in a strange voice that sounded like she was both a little girl and an old man at the same time, most of the people fell to their knees.