The scant few minutes in a war in which two opposing armies faced the other and postured out of nationalism, fervor, or simple pride should have left the air rife with tension. However, something wasn't quite right, and it wasn't sitting well with many soldiers in Re-Estize's army.

The blowing of the wind echoed the billowing of the Baharuth Empire's imperial standard held aloft by their silent flag bearers. Their gallant figures wearing gold padded mail armor to stand out amid the sea of silver and bronze legion plates made them distinct. Their backs were ramrod straight, and their grips were unusually tense.

"They're not jeering?" A soldier of Re-Estize squinted his eyes and murmured absently.

Where was the proud Empire bursting with raucous courage and order? Now it all looked like they were standing solely for a funeral pyre…

"They're silent." Another soldier elbowed his nearest comrade.

It was truly odd as these things go. Even the dignitaries that formally meet, spew profanities at each other, and then declare war were late to act on the Baharuth Empire's side.

Re-Estize's representatives were genuinely bewildered and whispered among each other, not sure whether to follow tradition as the Empire didn't seem to be strictly complying to them.

"Could it be a new ploy?" Renner mused, glancing towards Climb beside her with worry.

She was supposed to be with Shirou, and she technically was just a few moments prior, but she'd excused herself for a moment in lieu for a lady restroom matters.

An excuse, truly, granted she moved in the direction of the standing army where her appointed bodyguard was arming himself with armor and steel.

She was the Golden Princess, famed for her foresight, wit, and capability that outshone her fellow peers and siblings.

And she was feeling ominously uneasy.

Part of Renner still doubted whether it was the right choice to bring Climb into the war as her guard, but it was still safer with her than with others intent on doing him harm in the palace. Still, Renner was meant to remain in the safest place in Re-Estize's army which meant Climb would be too.

Such consolations were enough to abate the ill foreboding building inside her, but not enough to completely dispel them.

"It's dangerous Princess. If you would please return the smith's place in the rear. You are the hope of the Royal Family." A guard leaned into Renner's ear and insisted she return.

Renner understood, but she wouldn't go alone.

"Climb," she called out, watching Climb perk up in a set of oversized armor, tomfoolery of his jealous peers no doubt.

"P-Princess!" Climb saluted, his armor clanking.

"Let us return. A protector should stay by the side of the protected, yes?" Renner said, keeping watch of the others who had intentionally stalled Climb.

"Apologies," Climb hastily shook his head and strode towards Renner who finally smiled lightly under her breath. "Don't push yourself more than you're able," she advised.

However, Climb made no promises and skirted away from Renner's gaze. It was the best she was going to get out of him.

Returning to the rear of the army, Renner and Climb paused to see Shirou squinting out in the direction of the Baharuth Empire. Sir Momon and Lady Nabe were also nearby, but there was this feeling of tension in the air that refused to dissipate.

Momon had his arms crossed, and his demeanor appeared guarded while Nabe was constantly scowling.

"Will the representatives be meeting with the officials of the Empire soon?" Shirou asked Renner. He was to be part of the delegation to see if he could somehow work out a peace agreement before any violence could start.

"Hard to say." Renner admitted. "Given the Empire's lack of initiative to reciprocate traditional war custom, it's looking unlikely. Can't you tell? If not, look closely. Count Bolbarrow looks on the verge of taking offense, and the other nobles appear no different. At most, the Empire has a few more minutes before they order the army's vanguard to march forward for an opening bout."

Renner moved her attention away from Climb and knit her brows while regarding Shirou. "What will you do now?"

Her father had asked her to observe and make her judgements based on her observations. Direct interference at the cost of her own life or that of Climbs were not in her consideration.

If Shirou blindly insisted on going on his own at this point, she wouldn't hesitate to decline following him.

She would not partake in a fool's errand.

Shirou frowned and again surveyed the Baharuth Empire's side. His own experiences in life had helped him determine that something was entirely off with the opposing army. Their silence was not out of confidence or disinterest, but something much more primal.

Through Shirou's reinforced eyes, he could see beads of sweat on the brows of the Empire's soldiers, many of whom were even shaking in their armor.

Something just wasn't right.

What was it that they were acting so scared about?

"The count's gotten impatient," Renner said, the action of the nobles captured within her eyes. "The vanguard is marching to test the waters, to provoke and goad."

Just as Renner said, a contingency of Re-Estize's foot soldiers began to march while the calvary remained in position to react to any signs of aggression from the Empire's army.

Along with the vanguard, magic casters were dispersed between the approaching groups to cast magic defense in case artillery-level spells began raining down from the Empire's side.

Rightfully approaching with an air of caution, the vanguard kept their focus heightened.

The Baharuth Empire was a formidable enemy of Re-Estize, and ever since the Bloody Emperor's revolution, word was that the Empire's might only grew stronger under his policies. Numerous decades of constant annual warring had left hardened veterans accustomed to the other side's tactics.

The Magic Caster, Fluder on the Empire's side was of considerable danger when his magics were cast alongside his unit of magic users. Further ground troops armed with Empire legion-quality armor were also considered walking tanks on the battlefield.

The arrows of bowmen could seek out even the tiniest gap in the joints, so the vanguard unit of Re-Estize focused on magic defense as the Empire had revolutionized the use of Magic Casters in war.

Used to the other side, the vanguard already painted a picture of how the Empire's forces would respond by sending their own infantry after commencing a magic bombardment. Even if the magic was blocked, a toll on Re-Estize would be inevitable after deploying precious magic scrolls to intercept. However, perseverance, armor, and will could help mitigate the loss and fatigue. That and vitality potions.

It was with this assumption that Re-Estize's vanguard unit were already holding potion bottles while aiming their scrolls to the sky. Meanwhile, the ground infantry marched faster to ease the pressure on the back row who they had to defend.

The response was…unexpected.

No bombardment commenced, and neither were the Empire's first knights deployed. Rather, with an ear-grating noise, the Empire vanguard parted stiffly at the middle to reveal the source of the sound.

"W-What is that?"

Climb's expression contorted with anxiety in the distance, Renner's face growing blank.

A stifling pressure filled the air with an ominous chill. The heaviness pertained to a layer of darkness that exuded from the beings that strode through the gaps of the Baharuth army towards Re-Estize's vanguard.

A Winged Demon walked forward in the gap the Baharuth Empire soldiers provided. Wearing plate armour, and a skull bone mask, a towering giant of a monster walked with a black halberd in hand. The eye sockets gleamed a dull red, and each breath released a vapour of mist through the white bone.

It was known as Abyss Demon, a summon of the Floor Guardian, Demiurge.

On either side of Abyss Demon were entities known as Evil Lord Wrath and Greed, both also subordinate to Demiurge.

Abyss Demon stood as the central focus as his appearance most closely fit with the image of an evil demon in the eyes of the humans. Wrath may have been even better with its bulky body and rippling muscled flesh, but Abyss Demon was more of a better balance between terror and finesse. On the other hand, Greed resembled a human with bat wings wearing plate armour. He too could have served Abyss Demon's role, but there really wasn't a need to bicker about who played which part.

The end goal was what mattered.

Behind Abyss Demon and Evil Lord Wrath and Greed, a dark magic aura shimmered before dispersing into the ground.

The earth cracked and crumbled as hands with pieces of decaying flesh then sprouted from the ground. Finding purchase, the hands gripped and hauled up numerous undead waiting underground up onto the battlefield.

Rattled by the sudden introduction of a third party, the vanguard unit of Re-Estize froze as a dreadful silence was ushered over the war zone.


No one knew which commander had issued the order first, but what was clear was the immediate effect it had on morale when Abyss Demon directed the undead forward.

"Cursed bastards, the Empire has sided with Demons! They don't even have the courage to deny it!"

The undead immediately reached Re-Estize's vanguard caught in a trap.

Lifting their weapons, the foremost knights of the vanguard wielding tower shields, formed a wall.

"Brace!" They desperately called as the undead smashed into their steel.

The initial power of the strike was way beyond what any of the knights of Re-Estize could have excepted, the force of the undead great enough to rival that of a charging beast.


Curses and screams echoed as larger undead swatted and butted the tower shields away like a charging bull.

"..." The Empire's forces glanced away with clenched fists and sweaty palms.

It was going to be a massacre.

With the fall of the tower knights, the innermost sections of the vanguard became vulnerable. Panicked soldiers began using their magic scrolls while ranged units began to ready their bows and arrows to no avail.

An artillery class magic was quickly fired, but despair coloured the eyes of the vanguard as the Abyss Demon lifted its halberd and neutralized the strike with just the wind produced from its swing.

That cutting wind continued forward and cut into the flesh of the enchanted armored and ranged infantry corps.

A female knight saw her life flash before her eyes as the cutting wind came to strike at her neck, but a sudden force pulled her down out of range at the last second.

The female knight glanced up to see Brain Unglaus panting for breath, and utterly terrified as he'd tackled her down.

Getting up on shaky legs, Brain and the female knight had just enough time to glance upward at several sword streaks that dared to intercept the enemy's strikes. Brain had chosen to avoid them and save the magic caster because he lacked confidence in blocking, but the other two were different.

"Y-You three…" The female knight stammered as various reports about the heroes of the capital came to her mind.

A regal man in a purple yukata gracefully flicked the filth off of his two-meter-long sword before resting it over his shoulder.

Sasaki Kojiro, an unrivaled swordsman genius wielding a sword of infinity.

"Most unpleasant." Sasaki said while taking a stance and rapidly bisecting a wave of undead.

In front of Sasaki's eyes were the Abyss Demon, and Evil Lord's Wrath and Greed.

Sasaki broadened his back under the deafening silence of his own allies. Beside him, another swordsman walked up and drew both her short blade, a tachi, and her long blade, her katana. The swordsman tied her silver hair up and released her nervousness in a single breath.

Miyamoto Musashi, wandering wielder of the void sword.

"I get the stronger one, Kojiro." Musashi said while forcibly dragging Brain beside her, the magic caster thanking him profusely.


"I'd like to decline," the colour left Brain's face as he sized up the figure of the Abyss Demon.

Sasaki chuckled at the finality of Brain's refusal.

"Remember, a swordsman should not balk at the face of adversity," Sasaki said in good faith.

'Yeah, they balk at the face of death.'

Brain could hear his teeth chattering.

"...My sword wouldn't lose to a demon and neither should yours." Musashi also offered her two cents.

Sasaki and Musashi then pushed a weeping Brain forward.

As for the other undead, they had no choice but to trust in Re-Estize's vanguard army to fend them off.

Abyss Demon, and the Evil Lords did not look weak by any standard.

Brain swallowed audibly, but by then, Musashi and Kojiro were already charging towards their opponent, leaving the Abyss Demon as if the two had deemed the 'boss' the weakest.

Brain's knees wobbled as he hastily held onto his sword.


Re-Estize's vanguard unit did not fair well. Not only were the adversaries they were facing not just normal undead, but they were far stronger than anything they'd ever dealt with in the New World.

A knights eyes widened as his armour dented, and his helmet grew torn off by cold prying hands. In the next second, a bite severed his jugular and spurts of blood smeared over the surroundings. A scant few minutes later, and a new armoured undead would rise.

Seeing the state of their vanguard, the order was given to support and rescue before the undead could overtake Re-Estize's defensive line.

Watching all this happen from the rear of the central army, Shirou could not bring himself to stand still.

Shirou knew he shouldn't have been in the back line, hell he'd opposed it, but the commanding Knights had insisted that it just wasn't tactically sound.

Well, tactically sound didn't matter anymore.

He was too far away to simple project weapons and fire them, but that didn't mean he wasn't without options.

Allies were added into the mix, but if there was one fact Shirou was confident in, it was that he never missed his mark.

A black bow taller than he was high appeared in his hands, drawing the attention of those near him.

Momon looked curious, but Nabe appeared the most taken aback. She'd seen why Lord Ainz had considered Shirou an honorary human, but the range from Shirou to the distant battle was far beyond even a ranger's striking field.

Nevertheless, Shirou moved with a conviction of absolute surety.

Worse, Nabe bit her lips as Shirou Traced identical version of Momon's swords and twisted them into 'arrows' that would be sure to inflict damage beyond a certain threshold.

Swallowing dryly, Nabe glanced at Pandora's Actor and gestured with her eyes whether this was okay or not?

Pandora's Actor shrugged, but they had no choice but to not interfere if they wished to maintain Lord Ainz's relationship with Shirou.

They watched in silence.

Shirou raised his bow and aimed, but paused as a storm of red rose petals took to the field in the form of an unforgettable Roman Emperor.

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.

Last Emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

Red roses make hearts bloom with courage amid the darkness.

"Umu what is it that you fear!"

Nero burst into the scene with pent up annoyance and frustration after killing the demon set to watch her.

From the moment Jircniv and the others had been taken hostage by the Demons, cooperation was simply a guise for forced labour.

The head was captured, and the head determined the outcome of the body. Demons, weak and strong then infiltrated the ranks of the Empire until any opposition was snuffed out by clawed hands.

Nero could stand and watch things no longer.

Short as her time may have been in the Baharuth Empire, but it had only made her more and more nostalgic.

The golden laurels, the red tapestry, and the bustling city ruled by the dominion of an Emperor with the opinions of a senate or council of members wearing white togas.

Once there was an age where a republic became an Empire.

Rome. Her Rome. Yes, that was right. There was such a place and time…

Baharuth was the same in its appearance and culture. If all roads lead to Rome, then a road that crossed worlds had led Nero here.

"For the state and the people! For valor and honours to the Gods!" Nero screamed, piercing into the hordes of undead with a sword that ignited in flames.

Jircniv and the others of the Baharuth Empire fell silent at the display, Arche widening her eyes.

Nero swept her sword out, and flames engulfed a wall of decaying flesh and bones.

"Umu, let Venus be my judge! Hold your grips and stand with conviction! If we are to die or be remembered, shall it be as cowards and pissants, or as mighty legionnaires of the Empire?!"



"Whores! Where are the true warriors of the Empire?!"

Jircniv pursed his lips while the other members of the Four Imperial Knights gnashed their teeth at the reverberating words.

Nevertheless, none on the Baharuth Empire's side moved lightly, the Demons mixed between their ranks radiating malice.

However, Nero could no longer allow that to deter her.

The Warring Fields of YYGDRASIL came to mind, accompanied by Nero's leadership buffs compared to Ceasar, Caligula, and the others.

The Path of the Roses.

Nero's actions were spurring the fortitude of those mired in a bog of doubt and indecision in order to do what they knew was right.

However, it would seem that the constraint was too great.

All eyes turned to the Demons standing behind Jircniv, Fludel, and the Imperial Knights who held the highest command in the war.

Even if the Empire's army rebelled against the Demons, they would be without proper direction without the emperor's calls.

Nero bit down on her lips, glancing in the direction of Jircniv and the others accosted by the demon's allies.

Her flames saved several of Re-Estize's vanguard forces who gawked at her, a member of Baharuth moving to save them.

One thing however, was clear.

Nero was human just as those in the Baharuth Empire and Re-Estize were human.

Against Demons, what did the subtle differences between nationalities matter?

Hearts began to beat wildly, an unseen area of effect buff emanating from the drifting red roses. Guilt of inaction was converted into growing resentment.

It happened then as Nero was hesitating on whether to focus on saving just her allies, and retreating to regroup.

Clang, thwack!

Twisted steel swords skewered the infernal demons holding Jircniv and the others hostage, skewering them through their hearts and driving them into the ground. The protruding steel wedged the demons upright, their expressions growing vacant as life quickly left their eyes.

Nero's pupils dilated before she snapped her head in the direction of the arrows much like everyone else did.

Nero alone could see clearly despite the distance with her enhanced senses.

She knew whose work this was!


Nero's countenance brightened, feeling as if the weight on her shoulders had finally lifted.

Freed from the influence of their demon captors, Jircniv quickly set his mind on overdrive. He swallowed, recalling the letters he'd received pertaining to Roble Holy Kingdom and the warning of the return of the Evil Lords.

Had Roble known of the Demons from the beginning and had been warning of them to other kingdoms?

Now wasn't the time to dwell on such things.

There was something more important to do. More important than the current war, and resentments against Re-Estize.

This was a matter of pride and national honour.

"Soldiers! To Arms!" Jircniv did not waste the opportunity and declared war. "Imperial Knights and legions of the Empire, put aside fear and purge the treachery of the Demons!"

Jircniv gave the orders everyone else was already thinking about after Nero took the initiative to break the shackles of the mind and body weighing the Empire down.

"Rally to the Rose of Olympia!"

A chorus of spirted yells echoed throughout.

A shiver travelled down Nero's back, goosebumps forming over her neck as magic energy eagerly swirled around her.

"Umu," Nero nodded.

On either side of her, troops began to fall in line, forming units led by smaller commanders issuing out orders.

Despite fear welling in their eyes, they chose to stand and fight where others would have run.

That was a symbol of valor.

A breath escaped Nero's mouth, her attention focusing on the demons left to defeat while the three swordsmen distracted the enemy commanders.

Gathered under Nero, the Baharuth Empire army soon formed a cohort reminiscent of the great legions of the early Roman Republic.

The people were watching.

Nero needed no other motivation as a former emperor.

From the sea to the west- from the British Isles to the foreign lands of Egypt and Jerusalem, a mighty empire had once been formed and dominated several eras.

"Men at arms! We need not the power of pampered village girls, but that of a thousand hardy men!"

Nero raised her flaming sword, pointing it callously at the enemy.

"Our swords sever the earth!"

(Distant shouts: "Yes! Yes! Yes!")

"Our spears soar to the heavens!"

(The clamoring of weapons: Clack clink!)

"And our cry echoes in Legeeend!"

Nero swiveled her gaze to the rallied army, magic energy crushing the demons still intermixed in the legion's ranks. Swift death was then brought to them from the bloodshot eyes of her allies affected by an unseen buff enhancing their abilities several fold.

"Sound the horns and tighten the flanks! Let them hear the fervor of our barritus (battle cry)!"

Nero rhythmically thumped the pommel of her sword on a shield she accosted from a nearby knight, and quickly, the others gradually began to clumsily mimic her.

Nero sucked in a breath and began to let out a soft growl through her throat before more and more began to join her.

It began as a low murmur and gradually crescendoed to a loud roar.

Nero's eyes shook as her mouth inexplicably opened in reminiscence to a fading cry never to be forgotten.

"For the glory of the Empire!"

The order to charge then became a rallying shout of unity that resounded both in the past of a distant world and in the present of another.

"Senatus Populusque Romanus!" Nero screamed, leading the charge.


Dedicate this victory to Mars and the Great Founder!

Thanks for reading! And happy new years to everyone!

Free web novel :[The Apostate in Grim Fantasy] (For those that asked, the web novel is available on webnovel and the patron main page, leave a review if you'd like! New goal is 20 reviews)

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