Zero no Tsukaima:Volume8 Chapter5 ~Preview~
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Chapter Five: The Disappearing Gandálfr
After that, ten days passed.
After Tiffania’s ring's intensive healing magic treatment, Saito’s fatal wounds, after two weeks of sleeping and three weeks all together, were almost completely healed…
Yet he was not heading back.
Leaning upon his elbows, Saito let out a lonely sigh.
What a painful thing to hear, those sighs.
Saito was sitting on the firewood pile behind Tiffania’s house. Tiffania’s house was made from logs and some mortar.
Around it, sun-lit, beautiful trees grew.
Here, next to Saxe-Gotha, Westwood Village was located. The village was near the highway connecting Saxe-Gotha and the port city of Rosais.
Based on Tiffania’s words, the hill where Saito held off the Albion army was not too far away either.
Indeed, it was a tiny, forgotten village. Even if you looked at it, through the small cracks within the forest, you could see the ten small houses only if you were right next to it.
Derflinger, who was leaning against the woodpile, said in a calm voice.
“Weeell, seems like Albion’s army missed the Allied Forces in Rosais. Because you bought some time, the allies were able to retreat successfully. Partner, your life-threatening clash with the enemy was not in vain.”
They learned this from a merchant that came to peddle in the village the other day.
He himself had seen that merchant who came to sell cloth and chatted about the reverse defeat of the Holy Republic of Albion's army. He said - "We’ll survive through this and it will be a little bit easier," with a happy face. Albion’s nobles were not popular among the country people.
“Besides, the war ended as well. Goes without saying.”
They also learned that Gallia suddenly entered the war, forcing the Albion army to surrender.
“Even if we escaped, we won anyway.”
However, Saito still looked gloomy.
“…so it is.”
Louise and others should have been able to escape safely as well. Yet, even though he should be joyous…
He kept on staring absent-minded at his left hand, and muttered:
"Blank, is it?”
So, the runes that disappeared did not come back.
Apparently, the contract was completely broken.
“I, I am not even a Gandálfr anymore.”
“Hmm. No, I was thinking, why would a familiar contract completely wear off…”
“For one moment, your heart stopped. So partner, the familiar's runes died as well. Magical spell-based objects can make assumptions too. Like flies escape the door that seems to be dead – the runes may have left as well.”
Trying to comfort the glum Saito, Derflinger said,
“Hey hey, isn’t it good? This way you won’t have to deal with that fussy noble girl’s complaints. You will be counted as dead in her eyes.”
“Indeed, yet still…”
Bitterly, he was not able to give up. Saito looked up at Derflinger and asked.
“...Can Louise make a contract again?”
“Indeed. You heard me.”
“Sort of like double using.”
“First of all, 'Summon Servant' is not only about passing. It all depends if that noble girl will open the gate in front of you or not.“
“In fact, it is still unknown why a person is chosen to be a familiar. Based on the four element system, only a beast or a spirit that represents the element of the user can pass the gates… Anyhow, that girl’s element is Void. According to what principle the familiar is chosen, I don’t know. Yet…”
“This is so called ‘fate’.”
“Hmm, if I and Louise are related by ‘fate’ then could the gate open again?”
“I don’t know. But, it was fated to bid farewell here. That’s one of the problems.”
“Hmm… well, and secondly?”
Saito recalled how he was summoned to this world and kissed by Louise. If you think about it - everything started from that.
“Aah, that kiss.”
“That is right. ‘Summons’ and ‘Contract’. It’s because of the combination of these two, one becomes a familiar for the first time.”
“So it is not just a kiss?”
“It seems it was the ‘type’. Actually, the runes were carved into your body after that right?”
Saito remembered the sensation of burning pain.
“…so that’s everything left to do.”
“I would not recommend it.”
“Weeell, that, whether it is or not, if a familiar dies, the mage can summon another familiar… It’s different for familiars. For familiars, the ‘contract’ is a lifelong one. For familiars that live after the contract breaks, it becomes unpalatable.”
“So, to put it this way, for a familiar to break a contract with the mage twice, one can only guess what would happen to the body…”
Derflinger said in an inarticulate voice.
“So, it’s bad I say. After getting life back with much trouble and putting it back under risk again… And, if the contract fails, Partner would not only embarrass himself. That girl also, would not want to see such a thing. It would be depressing.“
…It is so.
I'm not the only one who is in danger. It's possible that Louise would be jeopardized as well.
Still, Saito was not able to give it up.
It feels like a hole in my heart. The bond that Louise and I had, is broken. It‘s like my body is split in two, painfully.
“Therefore, don’t look so gloomy. This way you can travel to the east without holding back. We'll go together.”
“I am not a Gandálfr anymore, would it still be alright?”
“It’s good. For six thousand years, I've been alive. For me, partner‘s time feels like one second.“
Saito sighed and said.
“But what about Louise?"
“Oh dear. That girl is very prideful, it will be all right.”
In a not careworn voice, Derflinger said. Saito nodded in a persuaded way.
“Yeah. There is no purpose for her to admit me… I, who can’t use magic and am just a simple human, am a nuisance…”
Feeling depressed, he heard the voice from the back.
When he turned around, Tiffania was standing there with an embarrassed face.
Seems like Saito was asked to collect the firewood that he sat on.
She was wearing a large hat to hide her pointed ears.
Saito stood up. Tiffania, avoiding Saito’s eyes, looked down and reached for the firewood. I have been careless, he thought. What if they learn that I am from a different world? I guess one cannot keep a secret who and from where he is forever. Even though she rescued me... and went through the trouble to look after me when I was recovering.
“Sorry. I am greatly indebted to you. I... it’s time for me to leave. So don’t worry. Yeah, because the war is over, a kind of awkward guy like me is not needed in the village.“
Tiffania opened her eyes wide.
“Ah, it’s different! Different! It is not so! I… umm, because you are a boy of the same age as me, I could not speak properly… I was slightly tensed… But it is not because I am afraid. So, until the wound heals properly, you should stay here awhile. I am the one who should be sorry.”
Hesitantly, Tiffania bowed embarrassed.
Seeing this girl, Saito brightened up for a moment. Besides, he was impressed. She was extremely shy toward strangers. Yet, she helped him despite herself.
“I see, you are not only cute, but gentle too.”
“I-I’m not cute!”
“You are cute. And I think you are gentle too.”
When Saito said so, Tiffania pulled the hat further down. She was feeling shy.
“I may be kind… But because of my mother's words.”
Saito asked. The word had a nostalgic sound to it.
“Yes. My… dead elf-mother. She said giving the ring to me. ‘Help when you find a person in need.’ My mother was like that. Without reflecting in it myself, I carried out the words of the person that I loved. Therefore, I…”
Derflinger nosed in.
“Somehow, I think that there were complicated circumstances to it.”
Tiffania looked down.
“This Westwood Village. If you look at it, only children are here.”
“That’s right.” Saito nodded. Though his head was full with thoughts about the runes disappearing up till now... He never saw an adult here.
“This village is an orphanage. Children who lost their parents live here.“
“Do you look after them?”
“Because I am the oldest, I take care of things, as for food however…”
“You don’t have money?” Derflinger asked.
“An old acquaintance sends the money. It’s enough to cover our basic needs,”
Tiffania said hesitatingly.
“What is a half-elf, with the ‘Ancient Magic’ ring, doing in a orphan’s village?
Saito warned Derflinger.
“It is alright if you do not want to tell us the circumstances behind the ring. But is there something you can say?”
Tiffania became silent.
“Sorry, we shouldn’t force you to speak about something you don’t want to speak about. Derf, act properly. That’s this sword's habit, to pry about things…”
When Saito said so… Chink! A dry sound came.
When looking up, he saw one arrow stuck in one of the firewood that he sat upon.
“Dangerous. Is there a hunter?”
The arrows flew one after another, sinking into the ground next to Saito and the others.
When he shouted, the group looking like mercenaries emerged from the forest.
“Hey you! Is there a village chief? Call him here!”
A lot of people came out. All members were carrying weapons - bows with arrows, spears and so on.
Tiffania muttered in a frightened voice.
“My, what a beauty. Here, in the middle of the forest, isolated from the world.”
One said and came closer. He was a small, sly looking man with a small cut on his forehead. Apparently, he was the leader of the group.
“And who are you? Mercenaries?”
“Ex-mercenaries. Since the war ended, we returned to our original profession.”
One said, then the others started to laugh.
"Really, the easy wartime was over once we suddenly surrendered to Gallia. You see, we need compensation. So we're going back to basic business, to earn food."
“Leave. There is nothing for you in here.”
Tiffania answered back and looked courageously at them. The men laughed.
“There is some.”
“Even if the village looks poor, there are still some valuable things, I think. For me, a great treat would be a beautiful woman like you.”
“I think you would be worth two thousand gold coins, right?”
These robbers seemed to do kidnapping too.
One approached and the moment he tried to touch Tiffania…
Saito stepped in.
“What? Kid, don’t you value your life? Except for a few exceptions, there is no interest in the market for the likes of you.”
“Don’t touch Tiffa.”
“Myyy, such a serious fellow. Want more wounds? Move.”
Contemptuously evaluating him, the robber gave a vulgar smile.
Saito reached for Derflinger. Derflinger whispered in a worried voice.
“…Partner, stop. The way Partner is today, there is no chance of winning.”
”Hey, youngster. Do you want us to murder you? Let us work in peace.”
One robber said while lowering a spear. Saito clenched his fist. I cannot use Gandálfr's power and am just a high school student.
Saito gripped Derflinger.
“I won’t abandon someone to whom I owe my life.”
“Naa, little boy. Do you know something?” said a man holding the spear.
“To attack the Tristain and Germania Allied Forces, we headed toward Rosais. However, we were stopped by only a single person. I don’t know much as I stayed behind... Yet you remind me the courage of that person. I praise it.”
“It was me.”
Saito, who gripped the sword, said in a shaky voice. Men began to laugh.
“Hey hey! You say you stopped the Albion army when your hand trembles just from holding a sword?”
“At least lie better if you are lying! It was 70,000! 70,000!”
Saito raised Derflinger and sprang at a man who laughed. Then the opponent made a serious face and received Saito's sword with the spear.
Derflinger was blocked without any effort. The man turned the spear skillfully, hitting Saito's feet with it. Disappointingly, Saito fell on the ground.
Pointing a spear at his face, the man said in a cruel voice,
“When you’re reborn in your next life, consider your words before boasting.”
The moment when Saito was giving up, he shut his eyes…
Naudiz Isaz Ehwaz...
Voice came from the back. Gradually, it turned into song. A spell was being cast behind him.
Hagalaz Yr Beorc...
…It was similar to Louise.
Nyd Is Algiz…
When turning around, he saw Tiffania grasping the small wand that she took out some time ago. It was a small and a thin wand, like a pencil.
“What? Nee-chan is a noble? Naah, it must be another bluff…”
Berkanan Man Laguz...
The moment when a single man closed in...
In a confident attitude, like a conductor lowering a rejected baton, Tiffania lowered her wand.
The air stirred like mayflies.
The air, surrounding men, distorted.
Like a fog clearing up, the distorted air returned back to normal… Men looked at the air dumbfoundedly.
“That? What just happened here?”
“This? Why we are in this place?”
Tiffania informed the men in a perfectly composed voice.
“You got lost in the forest.”
“The army is that way. Go forth to the highway after leaving the forest and then head straight to the north.”
Step by step, the men left without reliance.
In a blank surprise, Saito watched their backs.
After the last one disappeared in the forest, Tiffania relaxed.
Then Tiffania said in an embarrassed tone.
“…I have erased their memory. Their memory stops at ‘entering the forest’. When they reach the highway, they will forget about us completely.”
Tiffania nodded. Then Saito realized something.
“Then, the dragon knights that were helped, have lost their memory as well…”
“So. You know those people.”
Magic that erases one’s memory…
Wind, Water, Fire, Earth…
Whichever element he thought of, none could do that.
But isn’t it a legendary element?!
While trembling, Saito asked.
“…just now, what magic was it?”
Instead of Tiffania, Derflinger answered.
“Void. It was Void.”
Confused, Tiffania looked at Derflinger.
“… what, this is its true identity.”
Saito, with a widely opened mouth, stared at Tiffania. This girl who had an impossible chest… secretly had an impossible power as well.
“Anyway… Why are you able to use that power? Please, tell me.”
That night, to hear Tiffania's childhood story, Saito came to the living room.
In Tiffania's house, there were three rooms. The room where Saito was resting, her bedroom, and this living room. The children lived in groups of three, but though they lived separately, they ate in Tiffania's house. After finishing the dinner and seeing off children to their houses, Tiffania took some wine out of the barn and placed it with glasses on the table.
Firewood was burning in the fireplace. In addition, some bird’s meat was being roasted on it.
“I'm sorry for waiting. Until night, I feel too uneasy to talk.“
“It’s all right,” Saito said.
Tiffania, while watching the roasting poultry on the fireplace, began to talk slowly.
“My mother was the mistress of Albion's King’s younger brother… the Grand Duke who was ruling over this whole land of Saxe-Gotha. My father was a Grand Duke of the royal family treasury, responsible for the management of the treasury. My mother used to call it 'financial supervisors’ attention'.”
“Yes, mistress – a woman other than a wife.”
“Why would an elf be a Grand Duke’s mistress?”
“I do not know that. The reason why my mother, being an elf, came to the White Country to become father’s, is unknown to me. Mother never spoke about it… Nonetheless, in Halkeginia, no one thinks of elves pleasantly, it must have been some really complex circumstance.”
“Because they say they are trying to get back the sacred ground from elves.”
“Aye. In that sort of division, my mother was a truly obscure person. She never talked in public and rarely went out. In the residence, she waited for my father's return for a long, long time, continuing that sort of life. I still recall it. The back of a mother who absent-mindedly watches the door… Since I had the ears of my mother, I was not allowed to go out as well then.”
Saito was quiet and drank one glass of wine. So that’s why Tiffania was not used talking to teenage boys. Not just boys, there must have not been any girl friends either.
“However, that sort of life with mother was not too difficult. Father, who came by occasionally, was gentle and mother told me various stories too. Mother taught me how to play musical instruments and read books.”
“The day when that sort of life ended came. Four years ago. Father, with a changed look, came to us. He said, 'It is too dangerous here' and took us to the house of one of father's vassals.”
“Mother's existence was the royal family’s secret. If it were to be found out some day that a royal family treasury manager, father, had an elf as a mistress, it would cause a huge scandal, if not more. Still, father refused to banish mother and me. The vicious king imprisoned father and did all sorts of tricks to search for our whereabouts. And, at last, we were found.”
Saito held his breath.
“I still remember it well. The day when the Advent Festival started. Many knights and soldiers came to the house in which we hid ourselves. The noble who was father's vassal, however, desperately resisted... but was no match to the king‘s military forces. Once the knights‘ footsteps echoed in the corridor, my mother hid me in the closet and locked it. I was holding the wand given to me by father, and trembled for a long time. When soldiers entered the room, mother said.”
Saito shut his eyes.
“'I will not resist. We elves do not want to fight.’ Yet, magic was the response. I heard a frightening sound when one spell after another hit my mother. Then the chasers tried to open the closet where I hid myself…”
Tiffania drank a glass of wine, with a painful expression on her face.
“And, were you caught?”
She shook her head.
“Then, did someone help?”
“No. The spell, that I used today, saved me.”
“Then how did that magic awake?”
Not able to contain the overflowing curiosity, Saito asked it. With her eyes closed, Tiffania began to speak.
“In my house, there were a lot of valuable items as my father was a royal treasury manager. When I was small, I often played with them. There was an old music box among them.”
“Yes. Treasure given to the royal family… However, it could not be opened without the ring. Yet, one day I noticed. That there was one ring similar to the lock in the treasury, and when I inserted it and opened the box, I heard a tune. It was a beautiful, somewhat nostalgic tune. Mysteriously, no one else but me could hear that tune… Even if the ring still fit.“
Saito held his breath. She looked like she was remembering something.
“Once I heard the tune, in my head… runes started to emerge. However, I did not say that to anyone, because I did not want them to find out I was playing with the treasure.”
“The runes that you used a while ago?”
“It is so. When the closet was opened by the soldiers, those runes came to my head. And I started humming it while waving the wand given by my father.”
The effect of the spell that Tiffania recited was identical to the one earlier today – soldiers forgot what they came to do in the first place, Tiffania said.
“The runes that came with the tune I heard from the opened music box, remained forever in my head. Since then, those runes saved me many times…”
When Tiffania finished talking, she drank up the glass of wine slowly. Then, she muttered to herself.
“So, ‘Void’ you say. I however, thought it to be a mystic force…”
“You should not speak about that to people.”
“Void is a legendary power. There might be guys who try to use that power. It is dangerous.”
“Me, such a failure, a legend? That’s too weird!”
“It is true.”
When Saito said it seriously, Tiffania nodded.
“Understood. If you say so – I won’t tell this to anyone. Or perhaps, I could tell, then just later remove their memory...”
To Tiffania, who has grown up in a separated from people place, it was hard to understand the importance of this thing.
Saito drank wine as well.
While drinking, his eyelids became heavy.
Tiffania was literally shining like moonlight.
Saito ruminated through the story.
Such a beautiful, fairy-like, girl, has such a tragic past.
With his eyes closed, Saito fell into the world of drunken slumber.
The left hand of God is Gandálfr, the ferocious shield of the lord. His left hand wields a large sword and his right hand wields a long spear, protecting me with endless vigilance.
The right hand of God is Vindálfr, the kind-hearted flute of the lord. He dominates all beasts of life, leading me through earth, sky, and water.
The mind of God is Myoznitnirn, the book that carries the crystallization of thought. It carries all knowledge and provides advice whenever I am in need.
There is one more person, but remembering its name gives me trouble…
Taking the four disciples, I came to this land…
Saito was woken up by a singing voice.
It was not daybreak, as the two moons were hanging outside the window.
“…Sorry. Did I wake you up?”
Tiffania sat in front of the fireplace, holding a harp.
“Could you sing that again?”
Tiffania began to sing again.
The way her voice pierced the mind. The way the moonlight shined within her hair. She had a beautiful singing voice.
“Was this the song you heard together with the runes?”
After that, she started to play the tune with the harp. She didn’t sing this time. Saito, while listening to the tune, whisperingly asked Derflinger, who was leaning against the chair.
“…Hey, Derf. You know something?”
“If there are other Void users… there must be other familiars like Gandálfr too.”
“There is a possibility. However, just the possibility. Not necessarily the reality.”
Saito got angry at Derflinger's feigned ignorance.
“Louise’s Void must also have been awaken not by coincidence. There must be some kind of reason, right?”
“I do not know. After all, I am just a sword. I cannot understand some deep things. But, it is not that important to know anyway. Partner, you are not a Gandálfr anymore.”
“I think you are hiding something from me.”
For a moment, Derflinger’s voice became serious.
“Partner, I will say it once.”
“I love you. Strange and honest. Therefore, please remember one thing: no matter what I say or do, I think about what is better for you. I will tell you when the time is right…”
“Is that so?”
“It’s wisdom, I tell you, it’s wisdom.”
Though Saito was about to say something… he shut his mouth.
Tiffania kept on playing. Saito closed his eyes
“What is it now?”
“When I hear this song, I wonder why I am reminded of Earth.”
“Earth?... Is that partner’s hometown?”
“It can’t be the reason for nostalgic feelings. It’s the tune that Brimir played while thinking about his hometown. It’s just homesickness I say.”
“Brimir's hometown was a sacred ground?”
“It is so. Maybe.”
“Maybe? Remember and answer properly!”
“Stop saying foolish things. It’s hard to remember things that happened thousands of years ago. Can you in detail, remember even the most recent things?”
Saito poured wine into the glass.
He drank it and muttered.
“Brimir is a god, I guess. Everyone, in Founder Brimir’s presence… starts saying prayers.”
“Idiot. He is not a god. Brimir was a free person. No, not much… he was God’s spokesman… The nearest entity to it… I think.”
“A great person anyway.”
“That is right.”
“Is this whole mess because this great guys' hometown was taken over by elves?”
“That’s not true.”
Tears were falling from Tiffania’s eyes now as she played the harp.
Due to her bond with her mother… she could recall the homeland where the elves live.
Saito felt a sense of intimacy with Tiffania.
Her hometown was also not here.
She, like me, was a foreigner. That's why she feels so strongly about her pointed ears.
Tiffania's tears, illuminated by moonlight, shone brilliantly.
Various things whirled in Saito’s mind.
The war that finally ended…
The sign of Gandálfr that disappeared…
The meeting of a new Void user…
I, who am not a Gandálfr, do not have the qualification to stay by the pink-haired girls side.
Therefore, I cannot return to Tristain.
I cannot meet Louise.
Because… all that Louise needs is Gandálfr… not this Saito Hiraga.
As he thought, he unknowingly began to cry.
The tears of homesickness and tears of heartache melted together.
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