Facing the enormous group of monsters attacking at daybreak, the supreme commander, Third Prince Wilhart Tristan Spada, gives orders that echo out to the three hundred academy students that he leads.
「Everyone, to your battle stations!」
Wilhart is suffering from sleep deprivation due to the previous repetitive, intermittent attacks. His eyes are slightly bloodshot, with subtle shadows beneath them.
But with the great danger closing in on them in front of his eyes, he raises his voice with all his strength and his shouts show no signs of his fatigue.
Since he does not possess strength like that of Wing Road, he knows that all he can do is take command and ensure that the morale does not drop, so he desperately encourages those he is in charge of.
「If we can weather this attack, surely the Knights' Order of Spada, my father, the great King Leonhart, will come here and rescue us!」
Even with their bodies trembling in fear, the academy students take up their weapons and begin to move.
The Archers and Mages as well as the Swordsmen and Warriors take up their positions, anticipating the monsters climbing onto the ramparts.
「Don't be hasty! The enemy is still far off, make sure they draw closer before you attack!」
The endless rows of enemy silhouettes are slowly climbing upward from the foot of the hill towards the fortress. Like ants swarming around a cake, they close in from every direction.
Are the monsters taunting them or just moving at a slower pace for the less mobile monsters? Either way, it is clear that within the next half hour, all of the different kinds of monsters are going to surge in at once to disrupt the students' ranks.
「You've even brought some fighting power in the air... Greed-Gore, does this mean that you've finally decided to go all-out?」
The outlines of flying monsters like Pegasuses and Harpies can be seen dotting the gray, cloud-filled sky.
The conspicuously large one is the Salamander, perhaps?
「This is a critical situation...」
Since commands are sent to the subordinates as electromagnetic waves via the airborne monsters, it is not simply that the flying monsters have joined the fray; the larger problem at hand is that the general of the army has stepped in to take direct command over it.
The sporadic attacks over the past few days have caused fatigue for the academy students, including Wilhart, but haven't caused any casualties.
The Greed-Gore probably left just enough monsters positioned around the fortress so that nobody could escape, but didn't give them any direct orders after that.
That is why there were lapses in its control over the monsters and some of them approached the fortress carelessly only to be shot down.
Seeing the monster army well-organized under its general's command once more, Wilhart is confident that this is the case.
Therefore, he imagines that the coming attack is going to be harsh.
The phrases "worst case scenario" and "annihilation" pass through his mind.
「No, it will be fine. I'll believe in Father, in Kurono. And we have Wing Road here as well.」
Telling himself that, he desperately tries to make his brain think.
Wing Road is the important core of their combat strength; they are equivalent to a hundred soldiers. He must not be careless in giving them instructions.
「Firstly, Nero and Kai are the vanguard. So I'll put them at the main gate.」
He would have them defend the fortress's front gate, where the attack would be the most concentrated.
Not only are they strong, but simply having those two fight on the front lines will improve the rest of the students’ morale.
「I'll have Safiel cover the back and the whole outer circumference of the fortress.」
Her strength lies in the number of servants that she controls.
Since the attack is coming from all directions, it would be impossible to tell where the line of defense might suddenly break.
It would be too risky to use Nero and Kai in such an emergency, since they are the strongest among the students. Relying on her Undead Soldiers would better allow them to maintain their battle formations.
「My dear sister Sharl, I shall rely on thee for our anti-air attacks.」
For some reason, he refers to only his younger sister in a pompous tone during his inner monologue, but the role he assigns to her is appropriate.
Her signature move is her lightning attack magic, but its wide area of effect makes it dangerous as it could hit her allies. However, if aimed at targets in the air, there would be no need to worry about friendly fire and so she could fire away to her heart's content.
Also, firing sporadic magical attacks and arrows at the enemies coming at them from the sky wouldn't be effective.
Unless the arrows were fired all at once and area-of-effect magic was used, they wouldn't deal any meaningful damage to the airborne threats.
「Alright, this is the perfect arrangement!」
Just as Wilhart finishes gathering his thoughts, he spots Nero among the sea of students who are walking back and forth.
「Oi, Will! You haven't seen Sharl, have you?!」
In that very moment that Wilhart heard Nero call out to him first, an unpleasant feeling spreads throughout his entire body -
As the enormous army of monsters closes in, the students are gathered around the fortress's main gate, causing a commotion.
「H-h-how can this be...」
In the center of them is Wilhart with all the color drained from his face, cold sweat dripping off his chin like a waterfall.
「It seems that it's true.」
Standing with him is Nero, a rare look of impatience set on his handsome face.
「Sharl has... left the fortress to defeat the Greed-Gore...」
At first, Wilhart wanted to think that this was some kind of joke.
But it has now been confirmed that Charlotte cannot be found anywhere in the fortress.
「I apologize. I told Sharl that I found the Greed-Gore. I didn't think that she would go out recklessly by herself.」
Safiel Maya Hydra is lowering her head with a pained expression.
Sharl, who obstinately advocated for the Greed-Gore's extermination, discovered its location.
And right now, she is nowhere to be seen in Iskia Fortress.
Any fool could have foreseen that she would act like this, though the most foolish one is Charlotte herself.
「I'll go and bring her back right now.」
Nero speaks not a single word of blame towards Charlotte, the cause of this problem, or Safiel who helped make these events happen. He simply steps forward with a swish of his red cape.
His serious expression is full of determination to rescue his party member, companion and childhood friend.
Its intensity naturally parts the crowd, opening up a path for Nero to walk through, but -
「Stop right there! I will not allow you to go after Sharl!」
Wilhart stands in front of him with both arms raised, blocking his path.
「Out of my way, Will.」
Nero speaks with a cold, almost murderous tone.
Its intensity causes Wilhart to falter for a moment, but he raises his voice to respond.
「Nero, you know what's going to happen if you leave the fortress as well, don't you? Look! The entirety of the enemy army is closing in on us!」
「Are you saying that you will abandon us, all three hundred students here?!」
「So then, are you telling me that we should abandon Sharl?」
In response to this retort, Wilhart's voice falters once more. No, even his breathing falters.
After several seconds of silence, he finally comes to an answer.
「... Give up on Sharl.」
「And you call yourself her aniki, you bastard?!」
As Nero roars in anger, his tightly-clenched right fist strikes a heavy blow into Wilhart's cheek.
With a pitiful groan, Wilhart's body flies briefly through the air before he falls in an unsightly way onto his hands and knees.
Among the students who are just standing and watching the events unfold, only one of them rushes over to Wilhart's side.
「S... Stay back... Simon.」
Though he is still on the ground, Wilhart holds up his right hand to stop his friend from coming any closer.
「It's fine... Please... step back.」
Simon is holding his rifle in his hands.
In the worst case scenario, he might point its barrel at Nero out of anger.
Wilhart wants to avoid that at all costs. The only one who has to be knocked down into this humiliating state is him, who bears the pathetic title of「delusional prince.」
But thanks to the loyalty of his small friend, Wilhart finds the strength to raise his body up from the ground.
The punch from the Rank 5 adventurer was certainly devastating, but even so, he unsteadily gets onto his feet.
「I won't say it again, Will.」
「Sharl is my precious younger sister... But Sharl, Charlotte Tristan Spada, is a member of the royal family. By acting on her own, she has exposed everyone else to danger. Are you saying that the cost of her actions should be the lives of the three hundred students here?! There is no way that I can accept that!」
「... Is that all you wanted to say?」
The rage that burned in Nero's eyes when he punched Wilhart is gone, and now a much colder gaze pierces through Wilhart.
Ignoring the person standing in his way, Nero simply walks past him - or so it appears, but as his shoulder line up with Wilhart's, he opens his mouth and lets out a huge sigh.
「I'll save Sharl, and I'll save everyone here. That'll be fine, right?」
He slowly speaks these words to Wilhart.
「If I defeat the Greed-Gore, everything will be resolved, right?」
Still looking down at the ground, Wilhart nods his head.
「Sorry, but you'll have to hold out for a little while without us.」
Nero continues speaking as he heads towards the main gate that is opening.
In front of him is Kai Est Galbraith atop his Bicorn mount with a greatsword on his back, holding the reins of the prince's Unicorn in his hand.
Waiting beside him is Safiel, who has mounted her false Sleipnir and prepared for departure.
「Well then, we'll be back.」
Thus, the fortress's front gate opens.
Just before Nero mounts his dazzling Unicorn and departs in the direction of the monster army -
「I beg you, Nero! Please save Sharl, please save my sisteeeer!」
Wilhart kneels down on the ground and screams this request to him.
With his forehead touching the dirty stone pavement, in an unsightly way that no member of royalty should do, he begs for the rescue of his family member.
「Yeah, leave it to me.」
Nero turns around briefly to make this declaration before making a spirited departure through the gate with his two companions.
A great cheer rises from the students remaining in the fortress.
Princess Charlotte will be rescued. The Greed-Gore will be defeated. The party of heroes,『Wing Road』, will be able to accomplish these goals - seeing Nero depart to save his companion with no hesitation, the students believe this from the bottom of their hearts.
「This is... fine...」
Wilhart whispers this to himself as the fatigue that has accumulated over the past few days, and even the fear of facing the enemies closing in on them is blown away by the sound of the students' cheering voices.
With his forehead still touching the ground, so that nobody can see - he is crying bitter tears.
「This is... all I can do.」
It would have been impossible for him to stop Nero. That much is certain. He had given up on that from the start - no, he had taken it into account.
Will had to think about the unrest and plummeting morale of the remaining students that would be caused by Wing Road's departure.
In such a state, with this army of students whose main force is now gone, the fortress would fall in less than half an hour and they would head straight down the path leading to annihilation.
So he had to at least preserve their morale.
Yes, no matter how unsightly, miserable and foolish he looks.
He had the pitiful role of making the heroes that are leaving to stand up against the enemies that endanger his companions look brave and honorable.
However, he had to do it. Nobody but him could have done it.
If he didn’t make the greatest performance out of Wing Road's departure, the students would have simply lost all hope without understanding why Wing Road were leaving.
He even stopped Simon from stepping in to prevent Nero from appearing to be a villain, even for a moment.
And so his plan succeeded.
Rather than decreasing, the students' morale has increased.
In this situation, Nero acted as a shining beacon of hope for the students.
That is why this was for the best, all of it.
「This is... This is...」
But tears do not stop flowing from Wilhart's golden eyes.
How unsightly. How ridiculous. Has there ever been any royal family member of Spada to display such disgraceful behavior?
On this day, Wilhart has taken his own pride as royalty and smashed it to pieces with his own hands.