Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 02 Chapter 2 - MTL
|This text is a machine translation (MTL).
Be warned that the degree of translation error may be higher than usual.
This page was created before the updated (July 19, 2015) MTL guidelines and has not been reviewed.
Chapter 2 - The Two Vanadis
Tigre brought a chair from another room specifically to sit next to Massas. He hesitated to sit next to Lim.
“The seat next to mine is vacant.”
Lim turned her gaze coldly toward him. She was sitting on a sofa spacious enough for two adults to be seated. Of course, her remark was not one made from good will.
Leaning on the couch with his arms folded, Massas glared at Lim.
“I'm quite glad you're safe. There's been quite a lot piling up that I've wanted to talk to you about since Dinant, but I've been quite anxious since I met this little Miss... I thought something bad may have happened to you.”
Tigre wanted to bury his hands in his head. In the future, their help would be indispensable. He had been worrying about what to say even before this moment.
While thinking about what to say first, light footsteps mixed with humming approached. Teita opened the door and looked inside.
“Massas-sama! You came!”
“Oh, Teita. It seems you're safe.”
Massas smiled from ear to ear upon seeing the maid with chestnut-brown hair. If Tigre was something like a son to the old Knight, Teita would be like his daughter. Though he had his own children, he still felt a strong affection for the two.
“Everyone, let's have some tea.”
Without forgetting about Lim, Teita held the edge of her skirt and bowed before politely leaving the room. The intense atmosphere had finally calmed down, granting Tigre some time to relax.
“Lord Massas, allow me to explain the situation first. Lim... Limlisha, if you feel the need to give more information, please do so.”
Tigre described what happened to him after he met Ellen in Dinant. Massas listened silently and nodded, while Lim occasionally looked to Tigre without saying anything.
When he finished speaking, Teita arrived with tea for three.
Tigre took a drink to quench his parched throat and thanked Teita.
For a while, Massas gazed at the tea in his cup. When Teita left the room, he looked up toward Lim.
He placed his hands on his knees and bowed deeply.
“Limlisha, First, I apologize for doubting your words.”
“It could not be helped. I will apologize as well for not greeting you properly.”
“Before I got back, what on earth happened?”
Tigre was finally able to ask about what happened between the two.
“Lord Massas arrived while I was inspecting the documents in this room.”
“I will admit, I was lacking in composure. I saw the ZirnitraBlack Dragon Flag of Zhcted waving in the town. I came to your mansion to visit you, and instead, I found the commander of the Zhcted Army. I didn't see Teita here, either.”
“... I apologize for the trouble.”
Tigre could do nothing but apologize.
He had not forgotten Massas, but he did not think he would come to visit.
“By the way, Limlisha, there was something I wanted to ask you.”
While stroking his gray beard, Massas turned his dark eyes toward Lim.
“Why did you... no, why did the Lord you serve, the Vanadis Eleanora Viltaria, decide to help Tigre?”
“Eleanora-sama respects his righteousness, and she is a soft-hearted person.”
Tigre mentally inclined his head, though he remained silent because he could not deny her words.
“However, is that really enough to make a move?”
“She also respects the contract under the name of Radegast.”
Radegast was a God of Contract common to the faith of Zhcted and Brune. A promise bearing his name was a very heavy thing.
“Though Lord Tigrevurmud had become Eleanora-sama's captive, he is also Earl Vorn, Lord of Alsace. In accordance to the contract, he will have our cooperation and will repay us with this territory.”
“I see. However, the land of Alsace is primarily under Tigre's charge, but it was not his originally. The King of Brune granted his family the territory under the contract that they would protect the citizens of Brune; however, he has no rights to business. I believe the Vanadis understands this.”
Massas was implicitly asking if she was going to make a deal with Brune as a whole.
“If that is the case, then we will simply negotiate with the King of Brune.”
“... So, until that time, you will help Tigre... Earl Vorn?”
Massas asked to confirm their intent, and Lim simply nodded while giving it some thought in her mind.
--- I should see how committed he is.
“That is our intention.”
Lim had thought he would be unwilling to fight. She wanted to hear Tigre's thoughts while Massas was present.
“Of course, that depends on Lord Tigrevurmud's behavior. Should Eleanora-sama deem his justice unworthy... we will simply move back across the Vosyes Mountains.”
“I'll do my best.”
Hearing Tigre's short response and seeing him shrug his shoulders, Lim scrutinized him carefully.
Though she did not know what caused such a rapid change, she saw an adamant will within his eyes.
--- I don't know what happened in these past two days...
Lim was relieved. Her role was to assist Tigre, but if Tigre did not move forward on his own, she would be useless.
“By the way, Lord Massas. I would like to hear, no, please, teach me. What has become of Duke Ganelon's soldiers? How did you stop them?”
Duke Ganelon had also moved his soldiers, but he did not attack Alsace.
In the letter Massas gave to Batran, which alerted them of the attack by Duke Thenardier, Massas said he would deal with Duke Ganelon's men.
“Hm, about that...”
Massas stroked his gray beard.
“If I were to say anything, I would say I was lucky. I was barely able to buy time.”
Duke Ganelon had amassed two thousand troops in his territory, Lutetia, three days before Duke Thenardier did.
The distance to Alsace was not very different between the two. If the Ganelon Army began marching, they would have invaded Alsace before Thenardier's Army, and everything would have gone smoothly.
The first thing Massas did to stop Ganelon's Army was to appeal to the neighboring aristocrats. Though they were similar weak aristocrats who desired neutrality above all else, he would not give up. To prevent the movements of the army, he had to call on such people.
He continued running to various places, summoning the nobles, since he knew it would help Tigre.
He had managed to gather four people. Massas wished to gather more, but he could not with the limited time. The five people, including himself, came in contact with the Ganelon Army.
They prepared alcohol and meals for two thousand soldiers and entertained them. They did all this so they could request a meeting with the commander as a neutral party.
“The Ganelon Army will stop marching, and we will relay your message. Though, as you may expect, we will likely only delay our movements.”
Tigre felt suspicious upon seeing Massas' gloomy expression.
“Did something bad happen?”
“They were searching for information on the nearby aristocrats and released many scouts... I think the Ganelon Army used us as an excuse when they had intended to stop already.”
Massas shook his head as his stout body cringed.
“You think they had a reason not to attack Alsace?”
“I'm not exactly sure. They stopped moving after hearing Thenardier had prepared three thousand men and two Dragons.”
After finishing his words, Massas looked at Tigre and Lim skeptically.
“Tigre. Is it true the Zhcted Army killed the two Dragons? Even living for more than fifty years, and I have never seen a Dragon. No, I did see a young Dragon when I was training in a rural village.”
“It is true.”
Tigre confirmed it after exchanging a glance with Lim.
“The Vanadis, Eleanora-sama slayed both.”
Massas frowned and groaned several times. He let out a large breath soon enough.
“If it is as you say, then I will not ask any further. As soon as the Ganelon Army learned of the existence of the Dragons, they made preparations to withdraw. They left before Duke Thenardier's defeat was made public. Perhaps they simply postponed their attack.”
Massas quickly drank the rest of the tea after he finished speaking.
“Now, Tigre. What will you be doing from now on?”
“I will fight Duke Thenardier.”
Massas had asked in a solemn tone, but Tigre answered immediately without any sign of doubt in his eyes.
“Do you mean to join Duke Ganelon?”
“No. I do not intend to.”
Ganelon was no different, since he was attempting to attack Alsace as well.
It would be impossible for him to work with either.
“... So this is the conclusion you have reached after giving it thought?”
Massas gazed at Tigre, leaning his entire body forward. Tigre looked him straight on without flinching and nodded.
“Honestly speaking, it's frightening and I'd rather run away. After all, they're the top two aristocrats, and I'm just a small noble at the borders of the country. What can I do? Even so---”
Tigre put strength in his voice and continued.
“I have succeeded Alsace from my Father, and I have an obligation to defend the people who live in this land. Even if I had no obligation, I would still desire to defend them. To protect them in moments of peril is my duty as Lord.”
Massas silently watched the youth with red hair. He watched the son of his best friend.
“This road will be steep, more so than you might think. Duke Thenardier will not let you go for killing his son, and you brought the troops of Zhcted into our lands. There will be many who criticize you and very few who will approve of your actions.”
It was not a threat but a fact.
“Though I hesitate to say this before Limlisha, but the Zhcted Army is also fighting for their own convenience. Even then, will you ally yourself with Zhcted and fight?”
“You really aren't being optimistic at all.”
Tigre smiled and answered frankly.
“Well, I'll manage somehow.”
Massas nearly cried out indignantly hearing Tigre's bad habit of saying those words.
However, he noticed Tigre's eyes were full of sincerity. Instead, the old man swallowed his words and let out a sigh.
“You need to say it more firmly.”
The sun had fallen.
Teita brought more tea as they took a break before resuming their conversation. The setting sun shined through the window, forming a delicate shadow in the room.
“There are two possibilities I can think of at the moment. One is to send a letter to His Majesty, the King.”
He would write that Alsace was unlawfully attacked by Duke Thenardier. In order to stop them, he borrowed the strength of the Zhcted Army.
“Since it might be effective, should we do it?”
Lim's blue eyes looked doubtful.
“I am unsure of how effective this would be. He might not do anything to protect the status quo. Also, if he did something about Duke Thenardier, Duke Ganelon might use the opportunity to attack. What is the other option?”
“Search for allies.”
Though Ellen and the Zhcted Army were strong, they would still push away many potential allies as Lim stated before.
“For now, we're a bit light.”
Though Massas smiled bitterly, and Tigre spoke seriously.
“Lord Massas. How is the situation in Brune now? What of the fight between Dukes Thenardier and Ganelon?”
Massas cast his gaze to Lim.
“Should I wait outside until you have finished your business?”
She did not particularly show any dissatisfaction as she began to stand.
“No, you need to be here.”
Tigre shook his head and turned his gaze to Massas.
“Lord Massas, she is my ally. If you are willing to speak to me, then she may stay as well.”
Lim raised her own concern at that time.
“I am not Eleanora-sama. You have no reason to trust me.”
“Ellen trusts you. Isn't that why she left you here? If so, then I trust you as well. Also, there are many things I don't know that you do.”
A small smile appeared on Tigre's face as he gave her an answer. Lim, whose expression remained unfriendly, felt a mixture of guilt and embarrassment.
“... If you are willing to go that far, then I shall remain as Eleanora-sama's representative.”
With a sigh, Lim sat back on the sofa. After looking at Tigre and Lim, Massas placed a thick finger on the table and resumed the conversation.
“Tigre. Like I said before, everyone in Brune is waiting for the upcoming civil war. There are also those afraid of what might be happening in the neighboring countries... Zhcted, Muozinel, Sachstein, and Asvarre. They are also paying close attention.”
“So there are no powers other than Thenardier and Ganelon in the country? In other words, there are some who are still unaffiliated...”
This was the information Tigre wanted more than anything else.
Massas brought his hand to his chest as he nodded. He pulled out several coins of silver and copper.
“When it comes to the power in this country... Let's say it amounts to one hundred in total. Dukes Thenardier and Ganelon would amount to forty... no, thirty each. You belong to the remaining forty.”
He placed two large silver coins on the table.
“If that's the case, there's room for opposition.”
Lim looked doubtful as she spoke. Massas simply shook his head.
“Within that forty, thirty would be taken by the various Knighthoods in the country. They unite to defend the borders and the capitals. The remaining nobles would only represent the remaining ten.”
Massas stacked numerous copper coins on the table.
Though numerous, they looked weak in comparison to the silver coins which brilliantly reflected the sunlight coming in from the window.
“However, Tigre, your situation is different from the other nobles.”
The atmosphere became serious as Massas placed a small silver coin on the table.
“You have the Vanadis of Zhcted as an ally. Though you shouldn't rely on them too much, if you do things well, you can bring the remaining aristocrats to your side. If you ignore the Knights who will remain neutral, you could become a third force.”
“That's... somewhat amazing.”
Seeing the many silver and copper coins on the table, Tigre swallowed his saliva. If he could manage to do this, he might be able to fight evenly with Duke Thenardier.
“In the end, that is only if you can do this.”
Lim pierced through him with cold words.
“In the first place, Lord Tigrevurmud is a rebel who sold his territory to our country. It is only a matter of time before a punitive force is organized to subjugate him.”
“It will not come immediately.”
Massas denied her words. Lim gazed at him expecting an explanation.
“Limlisha, what would you do against a force that defeated three thousand soldiers and two Dragons?”
Lim had a tendency to look downward while she thought about something. After asking, Massas continued to speak.
“If they brought the same number, they may lose again. They would need to prepare at least six thousand men, and that would take time. Even if they recruited soldiers from the neighboring aristocrats, there are not many who would want to join.”
“... Also, Lord Tigrevurmud is not their only opponent. So that is what you meant.”
Lim nodded in consent. Duke Thenardier and Duke Ganelon recognized each other as their largest enemy.
“However, we do not have the time to relax.”
After staring at the silver coins on the table, Tigre collected his thoughts.
Their resources were vastly different. In the time Tigre could organize three hundred soldiers, Thenardier would gather ten thousand.
“Tigre. You mentioned it before, but who will you send to bring your letter to His Majesty?”
“I have not made the decision yet.”
Thinking about the current situation, it would be dangerous to head to the King's Capital. There was the possibility Duke Thenardier would obstruct his actions, as well, and it was a task he did not intend to leave to others.
“I will take it.”
Massas spoke with a light-hearted tone, surprising Tigre.
“Wa, wait. I can't ask you to do this, Lord Massas...”
“What now? You're leading the army of another country. Besides, unlike you, I have several acquaintances working in the Royal Palace. It should be much easier for me to gain an audience with His Majesty.”
Though Tigre hesitated, Massas was, without a doubt, the most qualified person. After worrying for a while, he bowed deeply.
“... In that case, thank you very much. I will prepare the letter by tomorrow morning.”
Massas nodded, his thick body swaying.
“By the way, Tigre. Do you know Viscount Hugues Augre?”
Tigre searched through his memories having abruptly heard the name. He recalled hearing it long ago.
“If I remember... He governs Territoire. Father brought me to greet him when I was small.”
“Augre is currently neutral, and he has many acquaintances. I'll write a letter of introduction, so you should go meet him.”
Tigre could not hold back his emotions. He leaned forward and grasped Massas' hands tightly.
“... Thank you, Lord Massas!”
“Honestly. You're before a woman. Can't you act more gallantly?”
Massas smiled wryly and looked at Tigre calmly. He gently tapped the young man's shoulder.
“Don't worry about me, Tigre. I'm glad to be of use.”
When Tigre had become a captive in Zhcted, Massas could not do anything, no matter what efforts he made. He felt how powerless he was and regretted it deeply. He had continued to apologize to Tigre's deceased father, Urz.
“Limlisha, do you have any questions?”
With Massas' question, Lim turned her blue eyes to Tigre.
“Lord Tigrevurmud, I wish to know the reason you are fighting Duke Thenardier. I want something concrete. For example, do you wish to destroy the entire household?”
Massas stared wide-eyed at this radical question, while Tigre simply shook his head in denial.
“My purpose is the peace of Alsace. It is fine if Duke Thenardier would swear never to lay a hand on it... is what I would like to say.”
Tigre played with his dull red hair after saying those words.
However, even if he was embarrassed, he was not troubled. He had made his decision and had the resolution to follow through with it.
“I can't really ask people to work for me without pay, so I will likely end up demanding money or territory.”
After the conversation had finished, and Lim left the room. The sun had almost sunk below the horizon.
She was glad that Tigre had made his resolve.
--- Perhaps it's his character. Though lacking in some areas, I just have to assist him.
Still, she was relieved. When Lim noticed her feelings, she understood she was happy because it would be more convenient for Ellen.
Though Lim intended to leave the house, she headed to the dining room while deep in thought. Teita was bustling about the kitchen in preparation for dinner, setting the tableware down.
“... Did you need something?”
Teita noticed Lim and walked over cautiously.
“I have a favor to ask of you.”
Lim abruptly lifted her arm and pointed to a small doll hung along the wall. It was small enough to fit in the palm of her hand; it was a bear doll.
“If you do not mind, may I have that? Um... I have a friend who loves them.”
As Lim had said to Teita before, she had not set foot in any room other than Tigre's room and the study; however, when she passed by the dining room, she noticed the doll and had been anxious since then.
The latter half of Lim's words were spoken in an unnatural tone, though Teita had not noticed. Her lovely face frowned as she looked up at Lim.
“But isn't it quite dirty?”
“I do not mind.”
Teita looked at Lim and the doll with a perplexed expression.
It was a doll Teita made a year ago to decorate the empty wall.
“If you want, I can make you the same thing by the end of tomorrow.”
Lim leaned forward swiftly while remaining impassive before Teita could finish speaking. Teita nearly let out a cry in surprise.
“Is it really okay?”
“Please, by all means.”
Though Lim had an expressionless face, she was desperately suppressing her joy which clearly showed in her eyes. For Teita, it was something she could make normally, but it was a rare item for Lim.
After saying she would return the next day to pick it up, Lim left the house in good spirits.
The Royal Capital of Silesia was located near the center of Zhcted Kingdom.
More than one million people lived in the capital. To the north was the large Valta River which passed into the sea. Products from various countries also passed through the numerous roads entering the city.
Carriages held items full of bamboo from the east, furs and and oils from nomadic peoples, and spices, pottery, tea, and silver ornaments from Muozinel to the south.
The caravans from the west held wheat, wine, and minerals from Brune and Sachstein. Fleets which moved along the Valta River brought fish and pearls caught in the seas near Asvarre. There were even fishes larger than an adult.
There were also domestic goods, such as wool, jewels, and spices from the seven Dukedoms. In return for defending Zhcted, the local farmers also brought fresh fruits, vegetables, and egg products to be sold.
In select taverns throughout the city, Zhcted minstrels could be heard strumming their shamisen harps. Jesters from Brune and dancers from Zhcted could also be found entertaining the people, and beautiful women served guests alcohol.
Befitting the Royal Capital, Silesia, even at night, was full of light and energy.
“It's lively as usual.”
Ellen walked through on her horse happily as she looked about. She was dressed in a natural leather armor and a hempen cloak like a humble traveler.
Because Arifal stood out, it was wrapped in cloth and set on her waist. The ViraltDragonic Tool was dissatisfied, and, occasionally, the cloth could be seen swelling as it wrapped itself in wind.
“Goodness. I'd like to buy some fruit and look at some of the entertainment.”
Still, she had not gone to the capital for such a reason. There was no telling who was watching her or from where. Eventually, she arrived at the Palace and took the appropriate posture. When the soldiers saw her, they bowed reverently.
“Eleanora Viltaria-sama. Please allow us to see your Dragonic Tool.”
“You knew it was me immediately.”
“We are working hard to keep the Palace safe.”
Ellen removed the cloth wrapped about Arifal as they looked at her in admiration. The longsword, happy to be freed, let out a wind that tickled her argent hair.
“Are there other Vanadis here?”
“Ludmira Lurie-sama and Sophia Obertas-sama have arrived.”
Ellen returned the Silver Flash to her waist and passed beneath the gate to the Royal Palace. Her expression was subtle.
--- Sophia aside, Ludmira's here...
She did not get along well with Ludmira. To be more precise, they had a poor relationship.
“Well, that's fine. I'll take care of the troublesome business first.”
Ellen walked between the people of the Royal Palace. Her argent hair was decorated, and she was wrapped in a silver-white dress.
Her shoulders were out in the open, boldly exposing her back and her bosom. Her sleeves and the hem of her dress were finely decorated. Though bright, it left a clean impression.
Though Silver Flash Arifal was conspicuously held in her left hand, it did not ruin the beauty of the Vanadis; rather, it gave her a strength to offset her appearance.
The court officials sitting in the rows sighed, overwhelmed by her beautiful face and gallant behavior.
Usually, when having an audience with the King, it is not permissible to carry a weapon. The only exception was a Vanadis and her Dragonic Tool.
Ellen quietly walked down the crimson carpet to the throne before stopping her feet and kneeling. She placed Arifal on the floor before her and hung her head.
“You may raise your face.”
A dry voice, like a withered tree, came from the throne above. It was the voice of the King of Zhcted, Victor.
According to Ellen's memory, the King was 60 this year. His gray hair and beard were carefully maintained, his skin was darkening, and his blue eyes were lacking in vitality. Though he sat with his spine upright, the hands extending from his clothing, which were nothing but skin and bones, were relaxed.
“... Master of the Koma no Zanki[Brilliant Beheader of the Fallen Spirit], Eleanora Viltaria. I have heard you have moved your army into Brune without receiving prior permission.”
“It is as His Majesty says.”
“For what reason have you done this? You may receive a suitable punishment for thoughtless behavior.”
“I have come to obtain His Majesty's pardon.”
--- I'll definitely get your permission.
Though she thought that in her mind, Ellen responded meekly. Before leaving Tigre's mansion, she had consulted with Lim about a proper excuse.
“I was hired.”
The audience was silent. King Victor was at a loss for words. His body trembled as he stared at Ellen. Ellen's solemn attitude remained.
“Employed... by whom?”
“Earl Tigrevurmud Vorn. He is an aristocrat of Brune and lord of Alsace. He is hiring one thousand of my men and me as their commander.”
“The Vanadis of Zhcted is acting like a mercenary...”
A groan, mixed with the grinding of teeth, came from between Victor's thin lips.
Ellen ignored the reaction and began explaining the situation in Brune. She spoke of the clash that would inevitably occur between Dukes Thenardier and Ganelon in the near future.
“The territory I govern, LeitMeritz, is along the border with Brune. If a civil war occurs, it may spark trouble here. When Earl Vorn decided to employ my services, I thought to use Alsace as a shield to prevent any problems occurring here.”
“To think a spark may occur here is simply speculation.”
King Victor frowned maliciously.
“Though it may be speculation, I believe it will occur, Your Majesty. Duke Thenardier lawlessly violated his territory. In the confusion, he could easily expand his influence. For that reason, Earl Vorn---”
King Victor interrupted Ellen's words with a wave of his hand.
“This is still an invasion of Brune. This is not a problem of just LeitMeritz alone; it will lead to a war between Zhcted and Brune. I have no intention of doing such a thing.”
When Ellen began to object, a woman willingly advanced.
“With all due respect, I wish to speak, Your Majesty.”
Her pale golden hair gently undulated, and her irises were the color of beryl. She was around 20 years old.
Her gentle smile gave her a graceful atmosphere. She was a tall, beautiful woman with a charm differing from Ellen's. Her well-developed bosom and thin waist were wrapped in a pale green dress which extended down to her feet, and she had splendid curves which could enchant both man and woman alike.
Within her hand was a staff which let off a mysterious glow.
“... Sophia Obertas?”
King Victor sighed in annoyance. The beauty called Sophia bowed gracefully and placed her staff on the ground.
“Throughout history, there are numerous examples of a foreign power being employed to handle a domestic struggle for supremacy. There are far too many that I do not have the time to list them all. Eleanora has responded to Earl Vorn's request after judging its effects on LeitMeritz. Though there is an issue regarding the time it took her to report to Your Majesty, the beast known as war has always valued speed above all else since ancient times. I believe she had no other choice.”
Sophia spoke softly and modestly. Her words quietly sunk into his ears tinged with an atmosphere that was hard to reject.
King Victor nodded silently, prompting her to continue.
“The situation in Brune is exactly as she has said. I feel it unlikely that her actions will make new enemies. Should others come to learn of our intent, we need only explain the situation. If it should come to an attack, I believe we should welcome them.”
Noise erupted between the courtiers.
Sophia was also a Vanadis. The weight of her words was different from those of others.
“... You wish to say I should allow Eleanora to do as she pleases?”
“Unlike the surrounding countries, we have an excuse to intervene in the civil war that will occur in Brune. If you punish Eleanora here, we will throw away our right of domination to other countries.”
King Victor closed his eyes and pressed against them with his fingers in irritation as he let out a sigh. As King of a country, he could not easily overlook this. He looked to Ellen in dissatisfaction.
“Eleanora. What is Earl Vorn's purpose? Will he deprive Duke Thenardier of all his territories after killing him? Is his ultimate goal the throne?”
Ellen looked downward. It was necessary to suppress her laughter.
--- Of course the King would think so... But it's difficult to imagine Tigre on the throne.
“According to his words, his goal is the peace of Alsace; however, he will not be able to achieve that until Duke Thenardier dies. He will likely gain some territory, though.”
“What is the compensation for your services?”
“The reward corresponds to the quality of our service. He will pay our men, compensate for the cost of war, and reward soldiers as appropriate.”
“And what of the territory you receive?”
--- So it's come down to this, after all.
The King was only afraid that Ellen may gain power.
“If he yields any land, I will not take a single bit of it. I will present it to Your Majesty. All people in this place are witnesses.”
“... Very well. I will leave the affairs of Earl Vorn to you.”
Ellen let out a soft breath hearing those words; she was finally freed.
“I have no intent in intervening in Brune's civil war. First and foremost, act in Zhcted's national interests and refrain from taking rash actions.”
Ellen walked away from the audience and stopped moving once she had taken some distance.
Though the long corridor was not decorated, the sunshine entered between the columns at equal intervals, giving it a warm atmosphere. Ellen let out a breath of relief immediately after escaping the heavy air during the audience.
The members of the audience would definitely pass by this corridor. Ellen leaned against a pillar with her arms folded, waiting for Sophia.
Ellen looked blankly at the bureaucrats passing by but frowned suddenly when one girl appeared and walked straight toward her.
“--- As disgraceful as ever, Eleanora.”
The girl spoke in a thorny tone and looked at her with contempt.
She was of small stature and had blue hair trimmed at her shoulders. Matching her hair were clothes made of blue silk luxuriously decorated with red and gold. In her hand was a short spear.
The spear had a mysterious atmosphere and silently released cold air. As if reacting to it, Arifal began wrapping itself in wind.
“... It seems you haven't grown at all, either, Ludmira.”
Catching the girl's condescending gaze, Ellen smiled poorly toward the girl named Ludmira and placed her hand on her head in a familiar manner.
“Hm? Far from growing up, it seems you've shrunk. Perhaps your constant bowing and modest attitude are the reason. I should teach you how to stand upright so you can look taller. Incidentally, it'll make your breasts look larger.”
“... It seems you can speak better. I am surprised the embodiment of rudeness and uncouth behavior, even if clad in human skin, can teach anything. I wonder if a star will fall tomorrow.”
Even if she was angry, Ludmira did not follow Ellen's provocations. She calmly brushed off the hand stroking her head with a coercive attitude.
“I will have to refrain. Before you think of teaching me anything, you should look at yourself, first. Even a quick tempered and wild Dragon looks elegant compared to you.”
“... Returning an offer of good will with an insult. Isn't that quite a classy response?”
“Your courtesy is to insult a person's physical characteristics. It would be good to learn propriety, Eleanora.”
“Unfortunately, before I became a Vanadis, my life was unrelated to courtesy.”
Ellen laughed and shrugged in a hostile manner while Ludmira looked up and ridiculed her with her eyes.
“Courtesy and character are some of the few things possible to acquire with intent and effort. From your audience a moment ago, I could not feel any intellect or dignity as a Vanadis of Zhcted.”
“I'm not sure a woman who carries a bottle of tea and jam at her waist can speak of dignity.”
Ellen's words finally touched a sore spot. Ludmira retorted angrily.
“I do not have it today. Unlike you, I understand there are appropriate times and places.”
“To begin with, this is the first I've heard of dignity being a requirement for a Vanadis. Though it's your freedom to embrace such delusions, don't talk as if it were common sense.”
With intense anger in their eyes, the two girls glared at one another. Language was no longer necessary. Ellen had her hand on her longsword, and Ludmira had grasped her short spear.
There was a hair-trigger atmosphere floating in the surroundings. Unfortunately, all the government officials had to pass by; they simply walked away, pretending they saw nothing.
“--- Take that.”
A cute voice suddenly sounded between the two, as Ellen and Ludmira were hit with a hard thing.
Ellen turned in anger, but swallowed the rest of her words.
Sophia Obertas smiled softly as she gazed at Ellen and Ludmira.
“Really. Fighting is bad, you two.”
There was nothing powerful in her words. She simply smiled and spoke as if scolding two mischievous children.
However, Ellen and Ludmira stood in silence with an awkward and annoyed expression respectively. They noticed, through the thin shield that was Sophia's beautiful face, that she was slightly angry. Though those used to seeing her would easily miss the faint change in her expression, they could easily tell she was mad. The two knew firsthand not to further offend Sophia.
“Honestly... Why is it that you two only quarrel when you see one another?”
On reflex, Ellen and Ludmira pointed to each other and answered in harmony.
Because they began glaring at each other, Sophia hit their heads once again.
“By the way, Ellen. Why are you here? I thought you would have left the Royal Palace by now.”
Although questioned by Sophia, Ellen mumbled for a moment, obediently expressing her gratitude.
“Thank you, Sophie. Your good word saved me. Though I didn't intend to give up obediently, it would have taken a lot longer.”
“I believe if it were to go on any longer, your faults would be exposed.”
“Look, it would not have been amusing at all if the dignity of all Vanadis were to be besmirched by your speech and conduct.”
Sophia – Sophie – smiled bitterly as Ludmira huffed with a cold tone.
Ellen, while fiddling with the pearls sewn into her dress to conceal her irritation, spoke in a disgruntled manner.
“I need to talk to Sophie. You should get out of here.”
“For both our sake, I will do that; however, I wish to hear something before I leave.”
Ludmira, with arms folded, stared at Ellen seriously.
“--- This Earl Vorn, though I do not know what kind of country noble he is, but why would you partner with him and intervene in the civil war brewing in Brune?”
“Why should I bother to tell you? This has no relation to you.”
Angered with his being called a country noble, Ellen answered in a voice that did not hide her anger.
“I feel sorry that he met up with a Vanadis like you.”
Ludmira had a smile of pity as she left with her parting remark. She quietly walked down the hall of the Royal Palace.
The next moment, the sound of pearls rolling on the floor could be heard as they fell from Ellen's hands. She had torn them out of her dress without realizing, leaving small holes in her clothes.
“Sophie... Do you have any needle and thread?”
“This will only get worse if an amateur does this. Besides---”
After seeing Ludmira's small back disappear, Sophie lightly sighed. Her usual smile was erased, seeing as Ellen looked at her in embarrassment.
“Ellen. You... Yes. You have turned Ludmira into an enemy.”
Ellen's expression turned to that of a soldier hearing Sophie's words.
“Tell me in detail.”
In a corner of the vast Royal Palace, there was a small garden with a fountain.
Water was pulled from the moat and continued flowing except for during winter when the fountain would freeze. It was shaped like a large fish, and with the sound of the flowing water, it provided cover for both vision and sound. It was frequently used for secret meetings.
After grabbing some fruit juice from the kitchen, Ellen and Sophie visited the garden and sat at the edge of the fountain.
“Why will Ludmira become my enemy if I side with Tigre?”
“It is simple.”
Sophie's pale golden hair rocked as she took a drink.
“Mira – Ludmira has a long association with Duke Thenardier.”
“That girl and Thenardier?”
Ellen looked in disbelief.
“I don't understand. I investigated Duke Thenardier, and he's not the kind of person I would want to have ties with. He's the type she would hate. No, I don't know what she thinks...”
“Are you worried?”
“The area she governs, Olmutz, is near LeitMeritz.”
Ellen's response had become somewhat perverse. She quietly sipped her juice as she stared at Sophie.
The Vanadis' Dukedoms were scattered about Zhcted. Due to the various territories governed by the King, their lands were never adjacent.
There were two Dukedoms near LeitMeritz which belonged to other Vanadis, one of which was Olmutz. Ellen was not worried about the other Dukedom ruled by a Vanadis because she was, like Sophie, close with its ruler.
“It is not just her, either. Many aristocrats in this country have connections to Duke Thenardier or Duke Ganelon in some way.”
Ellen frowned. Sophie looked about and eventually set her eyes on the fountain as she watched the water flow.
“Ellen. Have you heard of the story [The Merchant of Muenz]?”
“I haven't. Who's that?”
“It was a story from before we were born. A man named Muenz and his wife had a son and daughter. Every day, he was violent towards the three. There was not a single day they did not have a swollen face, they had bruises all over their body, and they cried in pain at night.”
“... This is the kind of story that makes the juice taste bad.”
Ellen clearly looked displeased.
“A certain day, Muenz was stabbed by his son and died. There were many people who lamented his death.”
Ellen looked at Sophie, hearing such unexpected words. Sophie smiled with mixed feelings.
“As a merchant, Muenz was more honest and competent than anyone else. He never broke a promise, he was never late, and his goods were always of high quality.”
“... So Thenardier is the same.”
“Yes. Duke Ganelon, who is hostile toward him, is as well. Aside from domestic affairs, they do everything to represent Brune in such a manner that they do not bring shame to their country. They are from reliable and distinguished families who govern vast, rich lands, and they are widely adaptable... Even you trade with people you do not get along with, correct?”
Ellen could not object; rather, she pouted like a sulking child. Sophie continued speaking as she looked at Ellen with care.
“Duke Thenardier is now the enemy of both Earl Vorn and you. There are benefits if he wins, and it will be problematic for many if he loses.”
Ellen placed the ceramic glass with juice down and looked at it in disgust.
“I understand what you're saying. So, Ludmira is one of those people.”
“That is correct. However, Ellen, your evaluation of Ludmira is correct. She does not like Duke Thenardier; rather, you may say she hates him.”
“In that case---”
Her words were stuck in her throat.
“Right. [The Merchant of Muenz].”
Sophie's golden hair swayed as she shook her head.
“Above all, they have had a long relationship. It is something that has existed since long before that girl was born. It is an excellent connection which has lasted many decades. Do you seriously think that child will end it due to her personal emotions?”
She let out a few words. Ellen dimly gazed at the water flowing out of the fountain as her legs dangled.
“--- By the way, Ellen. There is something I would also like to ask you.”
Ellen sat up and glanced at Sophie to her side.
“Earl Vorn. What kind of person is he that you would willingly support him?”
Ellen's reaction was delayed having been taken by surprise. Her words were a mixture of embarrassment and confusion.
“Well, um... How should I say this, he's pretty cute.”
Oh my. Sophie placed her hand to her mouth as she smiled. She was unexpectedly surprised. Though Sophie thought Ellen was helping him for political motives, she could guess a more base reason from Ellen's expression.
She was suddenly interested in the man named Tigre who could make Ellen wear such an expression. Sophie leaned forward slightly and repeated Ellen's words.
“Cute, is it? Can you give me an example?”
Sophie continued to pursue the issue. Ellen moved about in a ticklish manner.
“Right... There are a number of things, but if I were to mention one, maybe it would be his sleeping face.”
“My. You have a relationship where you can see his sleeping face?”
“Do, don't say anything stupid. He's the one that always sleeps.”
While Sophie was clearly becoming more interested, Ellen denied the accusation, her face red from ear to ear.
“On a more serious note, while he has a number of faults, he is a man who thinks of his people and is willing to risk his life for them. Tigre is also very talented with the bow. I've never seen anything like it before.”
“My, Earl Vorn is from Brune, right?”
Sophie's doubt was a natural reaction. It was well known to the neighboring countries that the Kingdom of Brune held the bow in contempt.
“That guy, he dropped a VyfalWyvern in the sky with a single arrow.”
Ellen's crimson eyes shined brightly like a child. She was grinning and laughing in satisfaction.
“Oh my, how amazing.”
Sophie smiled. Given her expression, she thought of it as a joke. Ellen simply shrugged her shoulders, desperately trying to keep from laughing in the back of her mind.
Her disbelief was amusing rather than mortifying.
After praising and belittling Tigre for a while, Ellen concluded the conversation.
“You should meet him and speak to him in person for the rest. You can see Lunie then as well, right?”
Lunie was the name of the infant Dragon kept in the Imperial Palace of LeitMeritz.
Though it was difficult to imagine from her gentle personality, Sophie was an avid lover of Dragons. It was because she wanted to see Lunie that she frequently traveled to LeitMeritz, which is how the two became intimate.
Incidentally, contrary to Sophie's feelings, Lunie would always try to fly away and escape the moment it noticed her presence.
“If you tell me in advance, I'll introduce you to Tigre. I'd like to show you his archery by all means.”
“I look forward to it.”
Sophie nodded with joy dying her beryl eyes.
Ellen did not mention Tigre's black bow to the King. Though she trusted Sophie, she judged it better not to speak.
After finishing their juice, the two left the garden.
“Sophie, I want to ask you something.”
While walking in an unpopulated hallway, Ellen spoke with a serious expression.
“Do you want me to investigate into the Vanadis and powerful nobles with relations with Duke Thenardier and Duke Ganelon?”
Sophie's smile did not break in the slightest as she responded, her finger to her mouth in thought.
“As expected of you, but there's something else I'd like you to check. See if there's anyone with connections to Duke Thenardier who can train Dragons.”
Sophie looked at her with wide eyes. Ellen nodded strongly.
“There was an SuroEarth Dragon and VyfalWyvern.”
Despite what people might think from the elegant dress and gentle atmosphere Sophie wore, she excelled in collecting information.
Though the Vanadis are superior in military arts, Ellen evaluated her abilities above even those.
“Since it is a request from you, then I shall look into it. I am quite anxious hearing this as well.”
“Thanks a lot. I'll let you hug Lunie as much as you want next time. I'll make sure he doesn't run away.”
Ellen mercilessly decided the young Dragon's fate. Sophie smiled joyfully in response.
“Oh my, I will enjoy that.”
“By the way... Just to be on the safe side, do either you or Sasha have a connection with Thenardier or Ganelon?”
“I suppose you should be happy, but neither Sasha nor I have such a connection. We will declare neutrality toward your actions.”
The gate of the Royal Palace had finally come into view. After finishing her business, Ellen said goodbye to Sophie before leaving the Palace. She looked up to the sky, squinting as the sunlight shined down.
--- I wonder how Tigre is.
She had obtained permission from the King. For now, she would quickly join Tigre.
“Now then, let's do this.”
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