—At the northern battlefront.
Nagakura Shinpachi’s cavalry had gone north after breaking through the center of the Ashtaroth army, but they soon detected that the enemy was following them.
Nagakura had the princess riding behind him on his horse, but he then left her to his men so that he could turn around and face the enemy.
As for who was chasing him, it was his old comrade, Toshizou Hijikata.
He rode his horse silently and then unsheathed his sword. And without any hesitation, he tried to cut off Nagakura’s head.
“To try and cut off an old friend’s head without a word. That’s why they call you the demon vice-captain.”
He said jokingly.
“It’s because you are an old friend that I do it. We have no need for words.”
“Indeed. And we drank so much the other day. We will have no regrets now.”
And so Nagakura attacked with his own sword.
Toshizou blocked it.
They exchanged blows for a while, and eventually, they both got off of their horse and fought on the ground.
Both of them disliked horses. They had not been trained to fight on horseback.
As soon as their feet were on the ground, their swords clashed.
The strike between the two masters may have looked like a dancing string to those around them.
However, even the slightest touch of the thread would cut off a part of the body. That’s how amazing their swordsmanship was.
“We parted ways during the Boshin War, but I believe you improved your swordsmanship in Hakodate.”
“Nonsense. And you’re stronger than you were in Kyoto.”
“I’ve lived a lot longer than you. And I’ve trained a lot more.”
“Then you’ve lived long enough. Die.”
Toshizou slashed to the side. Nagakura blocked it and unleashed a slash to the shoulders.
In this way, the back-and-forth battle went on and on.
The surrounding people gasped at such a high-level battle.
However, even if their abilities were the same, the equilibrium would surely collapse as time went by.
Although Toshizou and Nagakura were almost equal in strength, there was only one problem; Nagakura was old.
He had lived for decades after the fall of the Shogunate, and was now 75 years old.
On the other hand, Hijikata Toshizo died in Hakodate at the age of 34.
Heroes are summoned by spirit summoning, but Toshizo was summoned when he died in Hakodate. Nagakura was summoned in his later years.
This difference was huge.
There was a difference in physical strength between a 34-year-old swordsman and a 75-year-old swordsman, even though their skills were the same.
After an hour or so of combat, this really showed.
Nagakura began to breathe with his whole body, not just his shoulders. Toshizou, on the other hand, still looked composed.
While he was able to land ten blows, Nagakura was only able to land six.
Nagakura’s god-like swordsmanship began to fade, and he began to be overpowered.
At the moment when everyone thought that this was the end of the fight, Nagakura made a surprise move.
Ignoring the words of Toshizo, who urged him to surrender, Nagakura raised his sword and let out a strange noise.’
And then he unleashed a final blow with all his might, as if to say, ‘This is the last blow.’
Toshizou must have thought, ‘I’ll have to chop off his arm to finish him off.’ And so he cut off Nagakura’s right arm without mercy.
However, that was Nagakura’s aim. At the moment when his right arm was cut off, Nagakura pulled out a short sword from his belt with his left hand, and thrust it into Toshizo’s neck.
Toshizou’s throat was cut open, and he…
–Did not die. Nagakura stopped the blade before it went in too deep. And then he said,
“So I guess I win this round. Any objections?”
Toshizou answered as Nagakura laughed.
“You are quite the man. After seeing you make such a move, I have nothing to say. Very well. I will withdraw my men from this place.”
As soon as Toshizou admitted defeat, Nagakura stopped the bleeding on his right arm and headed straight for Princess Alesha.
However, Nagakura would then fall into a state of shock. He saw an unbelievable sight.
There was the beautiful princess, surrounded by hive workers.
And while the ants were not shedding tears, they expressed their grief with their entire bodies.
The princess was asleep in the center of it all. It was as if she was sleeping as if dead.
He looked at the beautiful face of the princess. She was pure, just like an angel.
Nagakura realized it.
It seems that his reinforcements were not able to reach her in time.
He realized that Alioshe had been defeated by the subordinates of Demon King Ashtaroth.
Alesha was the daughter of Queen Alioshe, and her life was on the line. If Alioshe died, all the daughters she had given birth to would die as well.
What was how Alesha had died, but it was not a great surprise.
He had been prepared for this from the beginning.
Alioshe’s stronghold had been thinly defended, and the separate force of Ashtaroth’s army that went to defeat it was strong.
Jeanne d’Arc, the saint of Orleans, Fuma Kotaro, the most powerful ninja of the Sengoku period, and Robin Hood, the archer of the wind.
It was no wonder that they were defeated when such famous Heroes were involved. It made sense.
However, he felt ashamed that he could not make use of the bloody path that Hannibal had given his life to open.
Damn it. Growing old could be a terrible thing.
As Nagakura thought this, he was tempted to slash his stomach open, but decided against it and picked up the princess to whom the great general had sworn his allegiance.
Her silent body was still as light as ever, but it was hard to pick her up with only his left arm. And so his men assisted him.
Nagakura thanked them, turned his back on Toshizou, and headed south along the road he had taken.
At the very least, he wanted to give Hannibal back his beloved Alesha.
–No, Hannibal would no longer be a man who lived in this world.
Then at least they should be buried in the same grave.
With this thought in mind, Nagakura ran down the south road, not caring about the blood dripping down his right arm.
The final act begins.
Alioshe, the queen of the ants, had been defeated, but the battle was not yet over.
The army ant hive workers were Alioshe’s thralls, and if Alioshe died, they would not be able to nourish themselves and would die out.
But even so, they would not die out immediately. They had a few days to live.
The ants did not spend that time quietly, but used it to bloom in death.
They used it to save their beloved commander.
It was the same for the human mercenaries.
The outcome of the war had already been decided, but Hannibal’s body was not going to go to Ashtaroth if they had any say.
In order to retrieve Hannibal’s body from Ashtaroth’s army, Nagakura led the remaining soldiers in order to break through the enemy.
The army split like the Ten Commandments of Moses.
Ashtaroth’s army could not withstand Nagakura’s assault, so they cleared the way, allowing the enemy to go straight into the center. And like that, they headed to the place where Hannibal had died.
There, they drove away the soldiers who were trying to retrieve the body, and they put Hannibal’s body onto their horse.
As they were about to leave, one of Nagakura’s men asked him, ‘Sir Nagakura, where are we headed?’
Indeed. Nagakura touched his beard and then said,
“To the future.”
“Yes, the future. Hannibal lived in the past. He rampaged through the Mediterranean, was betrayed by his friends, and met a princess in this world. He lived with a girl who was like a grandchild to him. The princess lived desperately in the present. For the sake of her mother and her men, she lived in danger for her whole life. The only destination for such two people is the future.”
Hearing these words, his subordinate broke into a smile and said, ‘Indeed, that is true,’ and he took the lead in driving away Ashtaroth’s army.
As for what happened to Nagakura and his men after that, no one knows.
According to the reports of the last of his men who saw him, it would have been impossible for him to survive, seeing as his clothes were so stained with blood that they covered even his horse.
Even Toshizou was convinced that his former comrade in arms was dead.
“Nagakura was a fool…”
He did not express his grief any further, and he never spoke about Shinpachi Nagakura again.
Thus ended the series of battles, later known as the Ant War.
Count Ismalia was dead, his territory was taken, Alioshe, the ant queen who had brought so much misery to the surrounding countries, was dead, and the general and swordsmen who were far more fearsome than her were also dead.
Ashtaroth’s army was also severely damaged, but he brought the war to an end without harming a single one of his people.
It is said that his fame reverberated throughout the surrounding countries.
The people praised him as a pragmatic Demon King who could defeat any disaster.