Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 02 Chapter 4 - 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 4 - MicheliaSnow Princess of the Frozen Wave
Tigre felt nostalgic when he saw the town of Celesta.
“I wonder if Ellen has returned.”
While recalling her bright smile, Tigre spoke to Lim who rode her horse alongside him.
“She is likely to have returned, since we took more time than expected.”
At that time, Teita and Batran, who were behind them, hastened their pace and approached Tigre.
“Tigre-sama, may I go ahead to make preparations?”
“I'm sure you're tired from the long journey. Don't worry about it today.”
Though Teita's eyes were as full of life as always, they were slightly puffy and sunken. Her fatigue had accumulated as well.
“Teita. It's good that you have offered, but you don't need to do anything unreasonable.”
Teita frowned in embarrassment as Tigre put in his own good word.
“But what will we do about supper tonight, Tigre-sama?”
“I'll finish off what I have.”
“... You're going to eat only fruits and vegetables again?”
Tigre's response was blocked as she gazed at him with her hazel eyes. She hit the bull's-eye.
“Teita, it's natural to do these things when you're hunting in the mountains and forests---”
“We are at a village.”
Teita's words were quick and blunt. Batran smiled wryly to help Tigre.
“Teita, you must return to the temple tonight for prayer. I'll worry about you if you're out too late.”
Teita was weak to her shrine duties. Her momentum quickly disappeared as she looked down in thought. Tigre stroked her chestnut-hair as if soothing a child.
“It will be a while before we can relax. Tomorrow will be busy, so I'll need your help. Make sure to get some rest today.”
“... I understand. I apologize for being unreasonable, Tigre-sama.”
Teita and Batran moved back. Tigre let out a breath of relief.
“Teita is a good girl.”
Lim expressed her thoughts.
“But she can be troublesome from time to time.”
Tigre remembered when Celesta was attacked. Teita, in order to welcome him home, had not left the house.
“Though I'm glad she thinks of me, it's a bit troublesome that she would put herself in such danger.”
“I suppose it is persuasive coming from someone who tried to run away for the sake of his people.”
Tigre frowned upon hearing Lim's cold words.
“I have a duty as their Lord...”
“For her, she has her pride as a maid and her affection for you. Even if it is dangerous, even if it is foolish to others, it is still her obligation.”
Tigre looked up at the sky and let out a sigh.
Contrary to Tigre's expectations, Ellen still had not returned.
However, a courier was sent from Ellen and awaited him at the mansion. Her message was short.
[I'll meet you at Kikimora Mansion.]
Lim answered Tigre's question.
“It is one of Eleanora-sama's villas in the Vosyes Mountains.”
Tigre was surprised to hear it, but it would not be unfounded if she were to have ten or twenty villas, given Ellen's position.
The aristocrats of Brune typically had two or more villas in addition to their own mansions within their territory. Several years ago, Massas invited Tigre and his father over to his own.
The next morning, Tigre and Lim left Celesta on horseback under the glow of the early morning sky.
Though Teita likely wanted to go with them, she may have thought it a nuisance on her part, so she saw the two off with a smile.
Rurick remained on standby with the one hundred soldiers from Zhcted in Celesta.
There was a purpose in this. If aristocrats close to Duke Thenardier noticed the Zhcted Army, they would not move immediately.
Though the Knights were still worrisome, for now, he could only worry about Massas who had headed toward the Royal Capital.
--- Zaien called me a traitor. If you consider the current situation in which the Zhcted Army is remaining in Alsace, others will think so as well, however, if we give him an explanation, His Majesty should understand.
Tigre could do nothing but believe.
After crossing the Vosyes Mountains and entering LeitMeritz, Lim took the lead. They took a road separate from the highway and moved through a prairie.
“Autumn has already ended.”
The cold wind blew the leaves off the trees. Lim muttered to herself as she returned a hempen bag to the saddle of her horse.
The meadow soon changed to a wilderness, and then into an area full of gravel and pebbles, in which weeds could hardly grow. A large black building stood at the top of a hill.
“This is Kikimora Mansion.”
“Incidentally, is Kikimora the name of something?”
“It is said to be a fairy from ancient times that grants households safety and protection. Unless an elaborate title is given intentionally, most villas are crowned with this name.”
As they climbed up the small incline, the shape of the villa became clear to see.
From top to bottom, the walls were plastered and dyed black. The roof was red, and it was about the size of Tigre's mansion in Celesta.
When they arrived at the front of the house, Lim pulled her horse to the stable to the side. Tigre quietly followed after her.
In the stable, there was already a horse tethered. The horse glanced at Tigre with large, round eyes. As its interest quickly disappeared, it turned away and snorted.
“This is Eleanora-sama's horse.”
Lim let out a breath of relief and looked back to Tigre.
“Lord Tigrevurmud, please go ahead. If you call Eleanora-sama's name, I believe she will come to you.”
“It's fine. We won't start the conversation until you're there anyway, so we should take care of this quickly.”
After unloading his luggage, he pulled off the harness and saddle. He wiped its body and gave the horse salt to lick and water to drink. It was work the two were accustomed to, so it ended quickly.
Tigre carried Lim's bag over his shoulder; it was quite a considerable weight. After Tigre left the stable, Lim quickly followed after him in confusion.
“Since it belongs to me, I should take it.”
“I have my things as well, and we'll be there in a moment, anyway.”
Tigre laughed and told her not to worry. Lim sighed with complicated emotions showing in her blue eyes.
Standing before the front door, Lim lightly knocked. Footsteps were soon heard and the door opened. Ellen appeared wearing her blue colored clothes and the Silver Flash Arifal at her waist.
“Oh, you came.”
Her dazzling smile reminiscent of the sun beyond a cloudless sky invited Tigre and Lim. The light of a lamp could be seen high on the wall, illuminating the three people.
“Looks pretty heavy.”
Ellen voiced her admiration having seen the bag over Tigre's shoulder.
“Though I would not call it a souvenir, it is something I want you to see by all means.”
“It will be my pleasure.”
Ellen's bright red pupils shined curiously as she listened to Lim's words. At that time, the air shook buoyantly, and the wind passed through Tigre and Lim's hair.
“It seems this fellow wants to say hello to you as well.”
Ellen lightly and fondly tapped the longsword at her waist. It was as if the Silver Flash was laughing.
Her silver-white hair which extended to her waist shook. Ellen looked at Tigre's face in interest.
“Is there something on my face?”
“No, it's the opposite.”
Ellen smiled in satisfaction and extended her slender arm to Tigre's head. She brought his face close enough that they could feel each others' breath.
Feeling her soft chest press against his own, Tigre's face faintly turned crimson. Ellen continued speaking without noticing his reaction.
“When I left Alsace, it felt like you were possessed. I don't know what happened, but it's not there now.”
Tigre understood that his expression was poor at the time. When Ellen left, he had been obsessed with his fear of Duke Thenardier.
Tigre looked back at Ellen and returned a bold smile.
“Everything's fine because it's me.”
“Right. Also, doesn't it seem like you and Lim have become quite friendly?”
This time, Ellen's smile had a bit of an edge to it.
“You two were alone from Alsace to here. Did something happen?”
“Unfortunately, it was nothing like you imagine.”
While shrugging his shoulders, Tigre gently removed Ellen's arms. After they parted, he regretted the loss of the good feeling he had, but he also felt it unpleasant and different from his true intent. He still had a lump in his throat from the nostalgia of their reunion, but after some time, it seemed to reflect poorly on his behavior.
“You two seem quite intimate now.”
Though Ellen's words showed her suspicion, she did not pursue the subject any further.
Ellen then walked over to Lim and hugged her closely. Lim also smiled naturally as she patted Ellen's back.
“You've worked hard.”
“We have not done much. I am glad you are well, Eleanora-sama.”
“That's natural. I just went to the King's Capital, had a chat, and came here. Let's relax and have a chat.”
Ellen cheerfully responded as she guided the two through the hallway to the living room.
“This is quite clean. Do you use it often?”
Tigre gave his impression as he passed through the corridor. Ellen turned around and looked at him.
“About a half koku on horseback, there is a small town called Rodnick. The residents there clean this mansion regularly. Tonight, we'll be staying here.”
The living room was spacious and had a large fireplace along the wall.
The carpet from Muozinel had geometric patterns sewn into it, giving it a warm appearance. On top of a walnut table in the center, there was a bottle of wine and a fruit basket.
Suddenly, Tigre recalled a story Ellen had once told him. Everyone drew together, huddling over the fireplace, singing songs, and eating warm potatoes. Like that, people could overcome the severe winter snowfall.
“First, a toast to celebrate our reunion.”
The three sat around the table. Ellen opened the wine and poured it into three prepared glasses. They brought their glasses together and gave toasts in both the language of Brune and Zhcted.
“Why did you choose this place as a meeting spot?”
Tigre asked as he admired the scenery outside the window. There was a garden, and the field spread away from the mansion, giving it an idyllic atmosphere.
“Honestly, I wasn't sure what was going on anywhere. If there was an issue in Alsace, I could head there, and if there were a problem in LeitMeritz, I could travel there immediately as well. This place is roughly the midpoint between the two.”
After answering with a bright smile, Ellen looked at the two seriously.
“I'll say this now, I managed to obtain the King's permission for the time being, but there are two troublesome issues. When I obtain any territory, I must offer it to the Kingdom.”
“How does that differ from now?”
Tigre tilted his head, unable to understand Ellen's words.
“Alsace will be under the direct control of Zhcted Kingdom, not Eleanora-sama. Alsace will be under His Majesty's control.”
Lim answered his question. Tigre simply put his hand to his chin in thought.
“... Does the King of Zhcted not want Ellen's territory to increase?”
“It is not just territory, even our popularity, authority, and influence... The old man is afraid whenever any of these things increase. He is a King that fears the Vanadis. Well, it's happened with all the previous Kings.”
Lim continued to speak for Ellen, who had let out a large sigh.
“Lord Tigrevurmud. Assume you are the King of a country... There are seven people with power and authority second only to yourself. Would you want them to obtain more land to control? Furthermore, these seven are popular and excellent in domestic affairs.”
“I would leave the work to them and take a nap or go hunt.”
Lim hit Tigre without hesitation.
“I am telling a very serious story, so please answer seriously.”
Ellen was lying on the table suppressing her laughter.
“... Well, aren't they reliable?”
“Would you not fear the seven would turn their blade against you? They wield a strength greater than one thousand soldiers. No matter what, it would be impossible for you to win.”
“I would think it best to have an excellent subordinate, even if they were stronger than me, for a long time.”
Hearing Tigre's ridiculous answer, Ellen looked up happily.
“Honestly, even I would say you were a bit too carefree. I said this before, but the King is not like that. He is a timid man who fears us, even when we have small military services. He gets angry and attempts to confiscate any extra territory we receive.”
“--- So that's why he's seizing Alsace.”
Tigre groaned. The future of Alsace had become more uncertain.
Though Tigre did not know how Ellen governed her lands in detail, he had strolled about the town beneath the castle with her.
The town was lively, the peace was not bad, and the people seemed happy. He could feel at ease leaving his land to her or Lim.
“That is a separate issue for now, though.”
Ellen began laughing in encouragement after seeing Tigre's serious expression.
“The fight has just begun, and the situation can change drastically. Just make sure you keep that in mind.”
Tigre pulled himself together and bowed in thanks.
“The second issue is a bit troublesome... The King said, [First and foremost, act in Zhcted's national interests and refrain from taking rash actions].”
“Isn't that normal?”
Tigre did not understand why it was troublesome.
“It's a bit difficult to explain since you're honest to a fault.”
Ellen laughed as she teased Tigre.
“I do not believe this could be avoidable, since Lord Tigrevurmud has not become as perverse as Eleanora-sama.”
Lim talked down to her Lord with a straight face; Ellen's mouth sharpened in response.
“... What kind of wind is blowing now? You're protecting Tigre.”
“I am simply admonishing my superior.”
After silencing Ellen with her prompt response, Lim turned to Tigre.
“The problem comes from His Majesty's words. When thinking of national interests, any noble, for instance, those with connections to Duke Thenardier who might benefit should the Duke reign victorious, could rush into action.”
“... So it's left open to interpretation?”
Tigre began to make the connection.
“He said that specifically because it was open to interpretation.”
Ellen spoke ill words of the King of her country in a bad mood.
“However, aristocrats have little significance. Below the King, there are the seven Vanadis. The aristocrats are even further below, followed by the normal citizens.”
“So you mean there will be problems with the other Vanadis?”
Tigre's words held tension. Ellen nodded earnestly.
“There are Vanadis with connections to Thenardier and Ganelon. Usually fights between Vanadis are forbidden, but they will be tolerated under these circumstances.”
“Can you move in a situation like that?”
It was different from the time she helped him in Alsace. Ellen had attracted attention and could no longer vacate her territory recklessly.
“Though not all Vanadis are allies, they are not necessarily enemies, either. For now, we need watch only one. If possible, I would like to get rid of her beforehand. I would rather not worry about having my movements cut off in the future.”
“This sounds serious.”
Tigre smiled as he shrugged his shoulders.
It was a serious situation, and it would be difficult to take care of the matter. Ellen called Tigre to the mansion and told him the story to confirm his determination.
Tigre decided he would remain calm and respond to the situation. If he showed fear at this point in time, he had no qualification to be standing by her side.
The Vanadis of silver-white hair gently manipulated the wind and smiled joyfully.
“I've told you my story. It's about time you tell me yours.”
Tigre nodded and told her he obtained Massas Rodant and Viscount Augre's cooperation, as well as the subjugation of the bandits.
“I believe in Lord Massas. He is my father's best friend, and when I was held captive, he ran about trying to help me. I also believe Viscount Augre is trustworthy.”
“Lim, what do you think?”
Ellen turned her bright red pupils to her expressionless adjutant.
“I believe we can trust Earl Rodant. As for Viscount Augre, so long as there is no discord between him and Lord Tigrevurmud, there will be no problems. By the way, there is something I wish for you to see, Eleanora-sama.”
When Lim said this, the sound of a bell could be heard from the door. Someone was standing there.
“... Nobody should know I'm here.”
Ellen frowned suspiciously.
“I will look.”
When Lim stood quietly and left her seat, Tigre restarted the conversation. He placed the contents of the hempen bag on the floor.
It was metallic armor. Though there were various scratches, it was still like new. It would be possible to sell it if carefully polished.
“The band of thieves in the Vosyes Mountains had a lot of this, though their helmets and gauntlets were similar to those used in Alsace.”
Ellen stood and walked around the table while observing the armor.
“--- These are made in Olmutz.”
“Lim thought the possibility of that is high. So it really is from there?”
Ellen snorted and pointed to an inconspicuous place inside the armor, along the flank. There was a strange pattern stamped there.
“This is an imitation to the God of War, Triglav. No mistakes about it.”
Ellen released the armor and smiled sarcastically while folding her arms.
“It's some expensive stuff from Olmutz.”
The surface of the armor reflected the light shining through the window.
“Though I hate to say it, she's in our country as well. The manufacturing method is unique, and the armor is hard and light. Even if it was worn out and full of scratches, those thieves would be penniless.”
“Where is Olmutz in Zhcted?”
Tigre had only heard its name from Lim. He knew nothing else about it.
“It is the Dukedom to the south of LeitMeritz.”
Tigre was surprised to hear her ill-tempered voice as Ellen responded. She immediately drank the wine in her glass and hit the table vigorously.
Though Tigre thought the conversation would be unsavory, he knew it was unavoidable.
“The territory is governed by a Vanadis?”
“Her name is Ludmira Lurie... She's completely different from me.”
Ellen distorted her beautiful face with her hatred.
“She's a noisy person who always talks about character and courtesy, and she always carries tea and jam at her waist. That girl's like a young potato.”
Though Tigre could not possibly understand her words, he knew she was insulting the other person.
“--- I cannot possibly stay silent, now. Who exactly is a potato!”
Suddenly, the door was flung open and a girl's angry voice echoed throughout the room. Tigre looked back and saw two girls standing there.
One was Lim, who appeared tired. The other was a strange, diminutive girl.
She was breathtaking and was a beauty different from Ellen.
Her blue hair was trimmed around her shoulder, and she wore a large, white ribbon. Her blue silk clothes wrapped about her delicate body, giving her a lovely appearance.
However, rather than her beauty, it was her strength that appeared most. Her powerful gaze remained firm in his memory.
Tigre's gaze moved from her charming eyes to the short spear in her hand.
The tip looked to be made of the highest purity of ice; it created an illusion of coldness.
Ellen's voice was tinged with a violent rage that reverberated within Tigre's ear.
“Why did you permit this woman to step inside this building?”
“She is a Vanadis. I cannot possibly turn her away.”
Like a lifeless doll, Lim responded indifferently.
The girl with blue hair shifted her gaze to Tigre as he squeezed words out of his mouth. Her smile was the height of arrogance, and she stretched her chest forward and spoke haughtily.
“I am one of the proud Vanadis of Zhcted, the Master of the Hajya no Zankaku[Spear of Evil Death], Ludmira Lurie.”
Ellen's voice was cold and held no forgiveness. The atmosphere of the peaceful living room had become dangerous in an instant. The two Vanadis clearly aimed their hostility toward each other, like fierce animals confronting their natural enemy.
Ludmira glared at Ellen, her blue eyes full of contempt.
“You are being quite rude to your guest, Eleanora.”
Ellen lifted the corner of her eye as she responded with undisguised hostility.
“I will take the appropriate attitude toward a guest I invite. At the very least, you could bring a gift, though I doubt I would be of mind to accept you as a visitor.”
“You should apologize for insulting all humans and potatoes.”
“You should prostrate before me for having eavesdropped on our conversation.”
Tigre stood quietly from his seat and carefully stepped away so as not to attract attention. He walked to the doorway near Lim.
“Eavesdropping? Your voice is foolishly loud.”
“If you think that was loud, then you live in quite a small world. How pitiful.”
“Even if I live in a small world, I have many things, unlike you.”
“Rather than having many things, you should hurry up and gain some height and bigger breasts.”
“I am 16. There is still room enough to grow. How about you, Eleanora? Are you working hard to maintain the minimum dignity and courtesy? You should do your best from now until you grow old and die.”
The sound of grinding teeth could be heard, though it was unclear from which Vanadis the sound originated.
Though Tigre looked to ask Lim for help, Lim appeared to be asking him the same thing.
“... Are these two always like this?”
“It has been this way since they first met. They exchanged many insults and pointed their Viralt[Dragonic Tool] at one another. You would not think they belong to the same country.”
“I see. So how do we stop this?”
“Though I have an idea of who can stop it, she is too far away. We can only leave these two until they finish.”
Lim's expression clearly showed resignation and an unusual fatigue.
Tigre stirred his dull red hair and steeled his resolve.
--- I'm not sure how easy it will be to get along with this girl.
However, he still had something to ask Ludmira.
Tigre pulled out a chair close to him, purposely making a loud noise.
Seizing the moment, while their verbal war was interrupted, Tigre stood between Ludmira and Ellen.
“I do not believe I have introduced myself yet. My name is Tigrevurmud Vorn.”
Though he smiled awkwardly, he presented his hand to Ludmira.
Ludmira glanced at his hand and then looked up, as if appraising Tigre.
“Tigre. This woman is not a guest. There's no need to receive her.”
Ellen spoke defiantly behind him. Tigre was troubled as his hand still remained before him.
“--- I suppose so. I am certainly not a guest.”
She muttered in a voice so small, even Tigre could not hear it. Ludmira turned away and spoke over her shoulder.
“Please come with me, Earl Tigrevurmud Vorn.”
Though Tigre and Lim were surprised by her words, Ellen was the one to react most strongly. She stood up angrily from her chair and pushed it over.
“Wha... You, what do you want!?”
Ludmira responded calmly after seeing Ellen's unexpectedly red face.
“I have come here to meet this man. Though I was going to Alsace, I remembered your villa and dropped by.”
“What business do you have with me?”
The caution in Tigre's voice was muffled as he asked.
“It is nothing spectacular. I simply wish to speak a little. Is that a problem?”
It was not Tigre but Ellen who responded. She stood next to Tigre and stomped on the floor before glaring at Ludmira.
“This guy's mine. I decide what he does.”
“Oh? Were you not employed by Earl Vorn?”
Ellen found herself at a loss for words. The edge of her mouth had cramped up as she desperately thought of what to say. Tigre decided to help her.
“Our relationship is closer to that of equals. I am showing my respect as her employer.”
Ludmira accepted the answer for the time being. She then turned toward Ellen and smiled aggressively.
“Though you said you wished to talk, is it not possible to do so here?”
“As Eleanora has said, I am not a guest. Also, I would like to speak without others hearing our conversation, if possible.”
Tigre looked at Ellen. After seeing Tigre and Ludmira with a sour face, Ellen sighed.
“Let's move then. It's a bit before schedule, but let's go to Rodnick.”
They left the household and rode their horses down a slope. Beneath the empty sky was a vast, flat meadow.
Ellen and Lim led the way with Tigre and Ludmira following afterward. It was done this way because Ellen and Ludmira clearly did not want to be near each other.
It was Lim's job to calm Ellen down, leaving Tigre next to the blue-haired Vanadis.
“What is it you wish to ask of me?”
Having been asked bluntly, Ludmira was lost in thought for a moment before turning to Tigre.
“I wish to know the reason why you are fighting Duke Thenardier.”
Tigre was taken aback. He looked intently at Ludmira's face involuntarily; he did not know why he was asked.
As they moved forward, Tigre explained how Duke Thenardier's army attacked Alsace. When Tigre pushed them back, Zaien had been killed.
“I think it a natural thing that I protected Alsace, but I don't think Duke Thenardier will withdraw.”
“Do you have a chance of winning?”
“That... I don't know.”
Tigre was unsure. Even with Ellen, Massas, and Augre by his side, he could not be certain.
“I do not think it is possible for you to win against Duke Thenardier.”
The plains were interrupted by the wilderness as they moved away from the residence. Ludmira continued as she watched Ellen's back.
“Duke Thenardier has many allies both inside and outside the country. I am one of them.”
“... Will you bring your army into Brune like Ellen?”
“If I judge it to be necessary.”
However, Ludmira's white ribbon moved as she shook her head.
“Simply leading an army is not the only form of cooperation. Money, food, armor, information... I can help simply by sending those. Even public statements may influence public opinions. Do you have such allies?”
Tigre could not answer. Though he was not without allies, the difference in numbers was too large.
Ludmira sighed ostentatiously while Tigre remained silent. She looked up at him with contempt in her eyes.
--- Those eyes.
They were the reason Tigre could not get a good impression of the Vanadis with blue hair as she quarreled with Ellen.
“Do you look at everyone like that?”
Though Tigre tried to suppress his feelings as much as possible, they still leaked from his voice. Ludmira's eyes narrowed quickly, tinged with a cold hostility.
“... Though informal, this is the first time a man has insulted me on our first meeting.”
“I have also never met a person who has neglected her self-introduction for such a long time.”
Tigre responded with a joke as he feigned ignorance.
He felt as if a sword or spear was pointed to his chest. Tigre looked back at Ludmira as a cold sweat wet his palm.
After a time, Ludmira looked downward quietly.
“--- I suppose so. It is as you say.”
Ludmira bowed in apology, surprising Tigre.
This girl had shown a coercive attitude since she first appeared in the residence.
She was aggressive and looked and spoke to others in contempt. He would never think she would apologize.
“I will say this. You should not call me so poorly. Call me Lurie-sama.”
Ludmira smiled lightly as if it were a natural thing.
“... Is it good to speak so formally to someone who might become an enemy?”
“You should correct how you speak.”
The Vanadis with blue hair made that declaration to Tigre with a strong tone. Tigre felt a strong pressure which made speaking difficult as she stared at him with her pupils of frozen jasper.
“You are an Earl of this country, and I am a Vanadis. Under normal circumstances, you would not be permitted to ride your horse next to me.”
Tigre could not conceal his embarrassment. He tilted his head and ran his hand through his red hair.
Though he did not think she was angry, after thinking about it, he knew she was correct.
--- The Vanadis kneel only to the King, according to that story.
Applying this to Brune Kingdom, the Vanadis would correspond to the powerful aristocrats like Thenardier and Ganelon, and individuals in positions such as Prime Minister, Grand Chamberlain, and Generals.
She was certainly far above a country aristocrat like Tigre.
--- I guess I'm too used to Ellen.
Ellen was special. He needed to remember that.
Tigre, seeing Ludmira's sincere expression, bowed obediently.
“I apologize; however, would you pardon me if I call you Ludmira-sama? For someone from Brune, it is much easier to say.”
It was true. Ludmira did not answer Tigre immediately and looked at Ellen's back. For an instant, there was a hint of envy and loneliness in her profile.
“... So you call Eleanora, Ellen?”
Rather than asking him a question, she was muttering to herself.
“I will allow it since our association will be short. Also, what is it you wished to say about my eyes?”
Tigre spoke informally as he normally did but corrected himself in a panic.
“You look down on others.”
It was not an assumption. He could say that with certainty.
Tigre had been the recipient of such eyes on countless occasions. The powerful aristocrats and their sons, Zaien included, the women of the court, and the Knights all made light of the bow.
“Can you simply smile and look favorably on poorly made meals or terribly drawn paintings?”
Ludmira spoke as if she were amused.
“So you think it natural to despise and humiliate people of poor character?”
“... I do. At least, for those of high standing.”
Ludmira looked away as she gave him an answer. The Vanadis with the spear continued to speak.
“Earl Vorn. I have heard of you before. You are a person with little skill with weaponry. Before, you presented your hand to me. It was clearly not of someone who wields the spirit of either the sword or the spear. Though your bow arm may be good, the sword and spear are what is valued. Your skill has no meaning in Brune.”
Tigre scratched his head in silence. It is true he lived a life unrelated to fame or military services.
“You have nothing worth mentioning. Dignity, charm, respect, even something odd, I have felt nothing from you. Though Eleanora has become your ally... I cannot understand why. What on earth did you say to her?”
Tigre finally understood. This Vanadis was interested in him.
“I want you to lend me your strength. That is all I said.”
Because it was not a lie, Tigre was able to answer naturally. Also, since he had been insulted, he decided to go on the counter-offensive a little.
“Even if there were something else, do you think I would tell someone who might become my enemy? This is even more true for a childish girl who can barely tolerate a small insult and starts an argument in someone else's house.”
“You can assume that it is.”
“... You are quite skillful with your words.”
Ludmira smiled. It was approximately 10% praise, with the remainder being contempt. She looked up at Tigre with eyes as if she were absolutely superior.
“By the way, I also had a question I wished to ask.”
Tigre spoke of the band of thieves they had subjugated in the Vosyes Mountains and mentioned they wore armor from Olmutz.
“According to Ellen, you are the one governing Olmutz.”
“Do you wish to say that I organized the thieves and sent them?”
She looked at him differently from before. An intense anger emitted from her petite body.
--- She's unexpectedly temperamental.
“No, that's not quite right. I thought you might know who sold it, since the armor was so new.”
“That is impossible.”
Ludmira answered in a fit of anger, throwing him off.
“Though it takes time and effort, we make a large quantity of them. Both aristocrats and merchants purchase them, as well as people from other countries such as Brune and Muozinel, and even the distant lands like Sachstein and Asvarre. You should not think we are on the same scale as Alsace.”
Her words were effective, completely silencing Tigre.
Soon afterward, Tigre and the others reached Rodnick.
Rodnick, rather than a town, gave the impression of a large village.
There was nothing around the town but wilderness, and it was far from the main roads.
Though a large river flowed through the center of the town, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The wall surrounding the village was made of stones piled up to waist height, and the fence simply consisted of logs of wood.
The soil was hardened, and the weeds were removed. Small pebbles lay scattered about the street like any other road. The houses were simple with walls made of wood covered in plaster and thatched roofs.
Though there were a few stalls along the main street, they could easily be counted.
“This place has nothing.”
“If you think so, then leave. I will gladly send you off.”
Ludmira muttered her impression in a boring manner as she walked along with her horse. Ellen responded, clearly showing her displeasure.
--- It certainly does seem like Ludmira says, but it doesn't feel poor or deserted.
“Is there something in this town?”
Leaving the two Vanadis, Tigre spoke to Lim.
“Why do you think so?”
“I don't understand how the people have enough to eat. There are few fields in the surroundings, and the roads are far away, so they shouldn't have much business.”
The housewives amused themselves by gathering at the stalls and chatting, and the smiles of the children running between houses were bright and carefree.
Men amused themselves with chess in the gardens, and, though antiquated, there were many children sitting on their knees, listening to the elderly tell a story.
Though it was not flashy or loud, everyone seemed happy. It was an atmosphere Tigre enjoyed.
“It looks like you did a good job of noticing, Tigre. As expected of my partner who differs from a certain small Vanadis.”
Hearing Tigre's words, Ellen turned around and laughed joyfully.
“There is a hot spring here. That's why I brought you here.”
“Aren't hot springs in the heart of the mountain? Don't you often see deer and monkeys...”
Lim looked at Tigre with amazement and corrected him.
“They are not necessarily limited to the heart of the mountains.”
“For this town, they were digging for a well but found a hot spring instead. It's over there.”
Ellen pointed to a distant building made of stone. Its size was the same as Ellen's villa, though it likely extended twice as far. The roof was flat and was particularly conspicuous for the town.
“It's a public bath. There are three areas, each with a hot water pipe to allow the water to flow in. Also...”
At that time, Ellen's words were interrupted as she turned her gaze to a nearby stall. The smell drifted to Tigre's nose; it was a stall which sold wheat porridge.
--- That's right, we haven't eaten anything since this morning, and it's pretty late.
“Should we get a bite to eat?”
Ellen seemed to have trouble making the proposal, so Tigre spoke up for her. Tigre was also hungry.
“Yeah, you're right. Let's do that.”
Though Ellen nodded and grinned widely like a child, Ludmira spoke shrilly as she looked at Ellen in astonishment.
“There is no need. As a Vanadis, I will not eat at a street stall... Even so, I am not hungry.”
As she said that, Ludmira's stomach gave off a sound. Though it was quiet, neither Tigre, Ellen, nor Lim missed it.
Lim looked away as if she had not heard it; however, Ellen's shoulders shook as she held in her laughter. She looked down at Ludmira with an unbearably happy face.
“I see. The great Vanadis Ludmira-sama could not possibly eat wheat porridge from a stall.”
Turning about, Ellen briskly walked to the stall and paid several copper coins. She returned calmly with a wooden bowl full of porridge.
Due to the fresh herbs, the porridge had a refreshing scent which stimulated Tigre's nose. Ellen purposely stood in front of Ludmira and slowly brought the porridge to her mouth with her wooden spoon.
--- So, So childish...
Tigre's impression was for both Ellen and Ludmira.
While he thought about whether he should separate the two, Ludmira narrowed her eyes and frowned. Her face was pale with anger. Without moving, she tightly grasped her fist and glared at Ellen.
Though Lim frowned and admonished Ellen, Ellen did not bother to listen.
He remembered their conversation in the mansion. Though he understood Ellen disliked Ludmira, it seemed a bit over the top.
“... My stomach's a bit empty. May I buy some more?”
When he asked Lim, Ellen nodded in confirmation. Tigre walked to the stand and ordered two portions for Lim and himself.
“I'm pretty hungry. Do you mind giving me some more?”
Tigre asked the man as he passed him a few copper coins.
The porridge included bird meat, nuts, and many sweet herbs, which greatly stimulated the appetite. Due to how it was seasoned, along with his hunger, he thought he would be able to eat a lot.
Tigre took the bowl and walked back to Ellen and the others. Fortunately, a fight had not yet occurred. Tigre presented the wooden bowl full of porridge to Ludmira.
“If you'd like, would you have some? Maybe it's because I'm male, but he gave me a bit too much.”
If he did not ask this way, the girl probably would not eat.
Though he had no obligation to do so, Tigre wanted to avoid a dangerous atmosphere. Though he was amazed by Ludmira's childish obstinacy, he thought it a little pleasing.
“... If that is the case, I will accept.”
Ludmira timidly extended her hand and took the wooden bowl. She blew on the porridge to cool it down.
“... It is not bad.”
“I will remember this, Earl Vorn.”
There was neither mockery nor ridicule. Ludmira looked up at Tigre with a small, but innocent smile.
“Next time, I will treat you to tea.”
Immediately after she thanked him, he breathed in relief in his mind. Ellen suddenly gripped Tigre's collar and dragged him away after handing her porridge to Lim.
“Why did you do that?”
“That's my line.”
Ellen glared at Tigre sullenly. He gave her an aggressive gaze in return.
“It's one thing if you're friends, but you two clearly aren't. How could I possibly watch that?”
“You belong to me. Even so---”
Ellen was raising her voice when she noticed a passing mother and child. She could hear the people talk about the two as if they were blindly having a passionate lovers' quarrel.
Ellen's face flushed red, and she looked downward in silence. Though Tigre also heard the people, he recited the name of the Pantheon of Gods in his mind and desperately calmed himself.
“... Hey, Ellen.”
Because Tigre spoke in a subdued voice, Ellen became calm.
“I know there are people you can't like; it's the same for me. But if you keep up with this, you'll only get tired and force yourself into a corner.”
Ellen looked at Tigre with up-turned eyes.
“... Are you telling me to grow up?”
“Just relax a little bit. It's better to spend your time laughing than being angry. If you keep this up, you'll go bald early.”
Ellen did not respond to his poor joke. Though she looked at Tigre in frustration, the irritation radiating from her body slowly subsided.
“... I got it.”
Before long, Ellen said those words with a sigh. She eventually smiled brightly in the manner Tigre was accustomed to seeing.
“You're right. I think it's best to spend my time smiling. I'd rather not bother with Ludmira, and it's not good to give you and Lim unnecessary anxiety. Still...”
Ellen reached out and lightly pinched Tigre's nose, though it was light enough that he did not feel pain. Tigre blinked in confusion, since he did not understand Ellen's intent. Ellen glared at him with a mixture of embarrassment and emotional dependence; it was a difficult expression.
“... Like I thought, I can't be happy that you gave that woman some porridge. At least let me do this much.”
Tigre was surprised as they passed through the entrance of the bathhouse.
It was not simply a bathhouse; there was a tavern and inn inside as well.
The guests amused themselves with cards and chess in the spacious rooms, and there are others who chatted at the bar after leaving the hot water.
There were stalls with skewers of meat, mushrooms, and herbs, and others that sold mineral water in small bottles.
It was overflowing with vigor, heat, and excitement. Tigre looked about in blank surprise; Ellen stood proudly as she spoke.
“It seems a Vanadis many generations ago liked the hot springs here. She exempted them from taxes so long as they maintained the bathhouse, though the taxes weren't that high to begin with.”
“Is it possible she built the villa there so she could easily reach this town?”
Ludmira asked Ellen, unable to hide her amazement.
“Since the Vanadis built it there, I would think so. Well, that would not be reason enough. She likely used it to inspect the area around the Vosyes Mountains as well.”
Lim finished checking in at the hotel. To avoid useless quarrels, she reserved three rooms for Tigre, Ellen and Lim, and Ludmira.
Though the rooms were small and had a small window on the wall and a single bed, the floors were cleaned, and the linens were laundered.
As soon as he settled down, Tigre postponed his meal and his trip to the baths. Tigre first maintained his bow, though, since it was ready to be used at once, he did nothing spectacular. He wiped the dust off with a coarse cloth and rubbed honey into it with his skin.
Afterward, he carefully examined his leather armor and shoes.
Ellen knocked on the door as he finished his work.
“You still haven't gone to the baths yet?”
Ellen's face was strangely flushed as she asked. She was a little large for the robe she wore. Since it was sleeveless, it was easy to see her ample bosom. Her silver-white hair was still wet, and a mysterious smell drifted from her thin arms extending from her clothes.
He was troubled by where to look.
“I'll show you where to go. Though there are three baths, one of them has been reserved for the Vanadis. It's so we can use it at any time.”
Tigre looked away while pretending to concentrate on his bow; however, she had completely seen through him.
“You clearly saw me at the Imperial Palace. There's no need to feel shy now.”
Ellen chuckled as she played with the hem of her robe.
Tigre let out a small breath and collected himself before leaving the room. He headed toward the bathhouse based on Ellen's directions, so he arrived rather quickly.
There was a dimly lit dressing room as soon as he opened the door. The baths were further in.
--- I wonder if the structure is the same for the other baths.
He took his clothes off and placed them in a rattan basket. Tigre pushed the door open.
He involuntarily let out a groan. The bath was splendidly made.
A thick steam shrouded the bath, which was lined with marble tiles of different colors. Stones paved the area without a single gap between, like a cobblestone street. Along one wall was an image of a pitch-black giant dragon. It seemed to represent a Vanadis.
However, Tigre could hardly see them.
One girl stood in the bath.
It was Ludmira. She was not wearing a stitch of clothing. Her fair skin was faintly dyed red, and the hot water dripped from the tip of her blue hair.
Tigre was unable to look away from her body due to his shock and astonishment.
While Ludmira also stood, as if she were made of stone, she recovered first and picked up her spear on the floor. Shortening the distance in a moment, she had thrust the spear before Tigre's face.
“... I didn't think people brought weapons into the bath.”
Those were the words that finally left Tigre's mouth. Though he tried to turn his face away from Ludmira's naked body, her spear moved quickly, preventing him from doing so.
Though he shut his eyes, the scene he saw a moment before was burnt on the back of his eyelids.
“Um, you should cover yourself. Isn't it embarrassing?”
“Is it embarrassing to be seen by a cat or a dog?”
It was a prompt answer. Her quiet voice was tinged with anger. Tigre could not object; if he opened his eyes at this time, though, he would see that her eyes trembled with anger, and her spear shook out of embarrassment.
--- That's right, Ellen had the Silver Flash nearby when she bathed.
The Vanadis always had the ViraltDragonic Tool within grasp.
“... Given how you look, it seems you did not come to humiliate me.”
“It was an accident. It was my fault for not checking to see if someone was in here, though.”
Shortly after, the air shook and a hard object struck Tigre's head. He held his head in response to the pain. Because Tigre's eyes were closed, he was defenseless; he fell to the floor in agony.
Ludmira gave a snort and briskly walked away.
Tigre finally opened his eyes once he heard the door swiftly close behind him. Tears blotted his eyes and he held his head as he stood up. He looked down at his body which was not covered by a cloth.
“Seen by a cat or a dog, is it...”
It was very difficult for Tigre to consider it in that manner.
Incidentally, it later became clear that this encounter was set up by Ellen.
It was her little bit of mischief, since it required Tigre to head to the bath immediately.
The next morning, Tigre and the others left Rodnick and headed to the main road. They would reach the road to the Imperial Palace before midday.
The sky was dark, and thick gray clouds covered the sky, heralding the arrival of rain.
As Tigre and the others advanced on their horses, the atmosphere remained quiet.
Ludmira remained silent as she coldly stared at Tigre, who could do nothing but endure; meanwhile, Ellen simply smiled wryly as she watched the two. Though Lim looked at Tigre in sympathy, she could not erase the signs of shock and contempt in her eyes.
Incidentally, the four knew it was a situation planned by Ellen.
The wilderness ended as the meadow spread out before them. They followed a small road which would be sure to meet the main highways.
When they had entered the woods, Ellen spoke to Ludmira.
“You said you came to see what kind of man Tigre was. Did you manage to achieve your goal?”
The forest grew thick, and the needles of the cypress trees remained throughout the winter.
The weather was poor as well, making the forest seem even darker. The road was narrow and bumpy, which further fueled any sense of unease.
“--- Yes. I understand him quite well.”
Ludmira answered curtly with an unfriendly tone.
“He is a worthless man who is somewhat good with words. I do not know why you are with such a man... but I suppose a dog will go with a dog, and a cat will go with a cat. In that way, he suits you quite well.”
Ludmira glanced over her shoulder toward Tigre, as if staring at a piece of dirt. Tigre caught her glance, but refrained from forming a rebuttal. Though it was according to Ellen's plan, it was his fault that she had been seen.
“--- I see. I got it.”
Ellen shook her shoulders in laughter. Seeing this, Ludmira frowned.
“I do not recall saying anything worth laughing at.”
“No, you said something funny just now. It seems your eyes aren't good enough if you can't see Tigre's merits.”
“I did not think the day would come when I pitied you.”
Ludmira could no longer find any words to say as she shook her head in fatigue. Her words were partly sarcastic, with the rest being her true feelings of amazement.
On the other hand, while Ellen tried to return to her previous attitude, her smile disappeared and she spoke. Her expression became serious as she pulled on the reins. It was difficult to tell whether her instinct or Arifal's warning was faster.
Ludmira also noticed it, shortly after Ellen. Tigre and Lim, behind the two, had also felt it.
To the left and right were trees, and there were no shadows in the vicinity. Though the road was straight and they could look far ahead, they could not find peddlers, travelers, or even a single hunter.
However, there were signs. They had carefully approached like beasts that had found their prey, hiding in the trees under the cover of darkness.
“--- We're surrounded.”
Ellen muttered to herself leisurely while Lim's face tightened.
While Tigre and Lim could not conceal their tension, Ellen and Ludmira calmly prepared their weapons. Perhaps they were accustomed to it as Vanadis.
“It's a bit late for thieves to be out here. I wonder who they are aiming for.”
“It would be either you or me, correct?”
Ludmira spoke as if it were natural. Ellen simply smiled as she shook her head.
“Tigre's a worthwhile target now, as well. If Tigre dies, Duke Thenardier would jump for joy, since I would leave Brune.”
“I'd rather you not say that so easily.”
Tigre expressed his disgust as he nocked an arrow to his bow. Though he did not want to believe it, he thought it possible for Duke Thenardier.
--- What should I do? The enemy can attack while concealing their identity. I may have no choice but to use the horses as a shield.
“Shall we turn back, Eleanora-sama?”
“On this narrow and rough road? They'll definitely come out, however...”
Ellen looked forward and then looked back at Tigre.
“Give me an arrow.”
Unable to read her intent, Tigre passed her an arrow from the quiver in his saddle. Ellen casually tossed it in the air.
The arrow rotated as it flew through the air. Suddenly, it split in two and fell to the ground, making a dry sound.
“... I thought so.”
“What was that?”
Tigre could not understand the spectacle before his eyes. Ellen responded with an unpleasant expression.
“Steel wire. If it's low, it will cut your feet. If it's high, it will cut your neck. There's definitely more than one.”
Ludmira nodded in admiration.
“This group moved ahead of us and waited for us to approach.”
“They likely set it up ahead of time and would take advantage of it while we ran ahead to get rid of them. They must have explored this area quite a bit.”
Ellen gazed at the thin road along which multiple steel wires were spread.
“Eleanora. Use your Veda[Dragonic Skill] and blow them away.”
“If the ground is destroyed, our horses will be unable to move forward, and the surrounding trees will get caught up in it.”
Tigre turned to Lim, hearing a word he was unaccustomed to hearing.
“Lord Tigrevurmud, do you remember when Eleanora-sama killed the SuroEarth Dragon? Though I did not see it, Eleanora-sama did not use normal means to defeat the Dragon.”
“Ah, it's true, she had done it when she called out Ley Admos[Cleave the Wind]...”
“That is the name of her [Dragonic Skill]”
Tigre thanked Lim and was called by Ellen.
“Tigre. Any ideas? This foolish woman doesn't seem to want to do anything troublesome herself.”
“Do not tell lies. I simply said you should use your power first.”
Tigre felt admiration seeing the two Vanadis glare at each other while ignoring the assassins in the vicinity. He could not understand how they could remain so calm.
--- They're that used to it?
Tigre looked down the road where the presence felt rough as he thought it all pointless. He looked up at the sky clad in gray clouds and pulled out a small flask from his saddle.
When he opened the lid of the flask, he threw the water inside before him. A small sound of water splashing on the ground accompanied the black stain of where the water fell to.
In the air, countless drops of water floated, drawing a straight line as the water clung to the steel wire. Ellen and Lim looked at him in admiration, and even Ludmira could not hide her surprise.
“If there's light, it becomes easier to see this way... By the way, would there be a trap if we were to cut these?”
“I doubt they could afford the time for that. We left Rodnick today, but they would need to know exactly which path we were heading down.”
When Ellen finished speaking, a nearby leaf swayed; it was not done by the wind. Tigre noticed it, threw away his flask, and promptly grabbed his bow and arrows.
However, he did not nock his arrow in time. His instinct, or perhaps something akin to intuition, told Tigre of a silent danger. He removed his foot from the bridle, forcibly took a defensive position, and jumped off his horse.
Immediately afterward, an arrow was released from the depths of the forest at a tremendous speed, piercing the trunk of a tree just beyond Tigre. If he was a moment late in jumping off or did not crouch to the ground, it would have gone through his chest.
--- There's more to come...
In the branches and leaves Tigre aimed at before, a small figure jumped out. Though his stature was short like a child's, the face belonged to an adult male.
The man held a cylinder in his thin fingers and turned its tip to Tigre.
A needle spouted from the cylinder. Tigre could not avoid it, since his body had not yet been ready to move.
That moment, as if it slid along the ground, a gust rushed by. The needle tip pointed upward and fell to the ground.
When the man took out a new needle, Tigre nocked his arrow and shot at a distance a needle would reach him. The arrow pierced deeply through the man's head and stuck into the tree behind him.
Ellen smiled to Tigre on the ground from atop her horse with her long sword, the Silver Flash, in her hand. She had diverted the needle he was unable to avoid.
“Relax. You don't need to worry about arrows or needles hitting us as long as we're here.”
“You saved me. Save the jokes for later.”
Ludmira looked down on the assassin's corpse with cold indifference and nodded with conviction.
“These men are the SerasyuSeven Chains.”
Lim asked in a parrot-like fashion. Ludmira responded as if it were a trivial matter.
“They are a notorious, seven man assassination group. It is my first time encountering them.”
Ludmira moved the tip of the spear in her hand toward the corpse. She pointed to a tattoo in the shape of a chain along the body's left arm.
“This tattoo is their proof of identity.”
“You know quite a bit.”
Both Tigre and Ellen looked at Ludmira in admiration. Rather than boasting, Ludmira responded as if disheartened.
“That is natural. I have knowledge accumulated from generation to generation of the Lurie family. I am different from a Vanadis who is fresh off the farm.”
Though Ellen was clearly offended, she did not retort. She took a step or two back on her horse in order to protect Tigre who had finally risen.
Lim moved her horse accordingly to protect Ellen.
The air wiggled again as movement occurred in the branches and leaves. Tigre and the others established their arms and took caution.
Suddenly, a black shadow fell from the branches of the trees stretched over Lim. It was the upper body of a man hanging upside down, hanging off a branch by his feet. He had lurked there and awaited his chance.
The assassin approached Lim at a furious speed and tried to stab her with a dagger; it was a poisonous fang that would easily take her life with only a graze.
Lim remained calm and cut through the man's neck with her sword. Fresh blood spouted from his wound and the assassin fell to the ground. Lim looked down to confirm his death.
In that moment, her reaction was delayed.
A snake fell from above and pounced on Lim. It was a two-step attack.
Lim failed to avoid the snake.
Ellen cried out; her face was pale. She moved out of instinct and cut through the snake with the Silver Flash. A blade of wind was released from her argent sword and the snake's head was cleanly bisected.
“How are you!?”
Tigre and Ellen ran up to Lim. Though she opened her mouth to speak, no words came out.
Tigre caught her in his arms as she fell off her horse.
There was no answer. Lim's face was red with a fever, and sweat blotted her forehead.
--- Is this poison?
Tigre looked at the corpse of the snake and confirmed its identity through the scales. He turned back and looked at Lim, but he could find no injury on her face or neck.
Two small holes were lined up neatly on her right breast.
“Tigre! What happened!? What's wrong with Lim!?”
Ellen's expression and her tone showed she was nearly on the verge of tears, but Tigre did not look at her; he could not afford to.
He quietly lay Lim on the ground and tore her clothes off. Her rich, twin hills bounced from the momentum. He put his mouth to the wound on her right chest and began sucking strongly. He spat out the blood which had accumulated on the surface of her wound.
A heated groan came from Lim's mouth as she was unable to bear the sensation.
--- It's good I knew what kind of snake that was.
Many years ago, he had been taught how to treat such injuries from Batran while he hunted in the mountains.
--- If we quickly return to Rodnick, we can give her better care.
While he thought this, two more sounds hit Tigre's ear.
A chill ran down his backbone. Four shadows danced through the air above him. The hidden assassins had moved in unison.
It was impossible for Lim or him to move, and though Ellen reacted, she was slower than usual.
--- In a place like this...!
At that time, small legs landed near Tigre.
It was Ludmira. The assassins did not come to attack her, and the Vanadis with blue hair was not even the slightest bit upset.
It was the name of her spear.
When she spun the spear in her hand, it grew to Ludmira's height.
“Shero Zam KafaFreeze the Sky.”
Her clear, cold voice, reminiscent of ice without a hint of impurity, sounded faintly throughout the forest. Ludmira pierced the ground with the tip of her spear. A white light tinged with an icy air emitted from the tip as many crystals drew to Ludmira.
The cold air erupted.
Tigre, who had witnessed the spectacle, could only express it that way.
Large crystals which froze the very atmosphere surrounded Ludmira, as if drawn to protect her.
An uncountable number of ice spears were projected. It was a violent looking power; it looked like a large monster with many fangs lined up along its jaw.
The thorns of ice avoided Tigre and mowed down the surrounding trees or blew upward into the sky.
The assassins were unable to escape. Their faces and bodies were drilled through by sharp icicles, and their pale bodies were dyed red.
One man's head was crushed, killing him immediately, and there was another who reeled in pain as poison he possessed rained over him; however, that was over in an instant as his hand froze and shattered.
After confirming the assassins were no longer breathing, Ludmira removed her spear from the ground thick with ice. She rotated her spear once and struck the ground lightly.
The ice blew away while emitting a sound as if glass were crushed. It melted into the air and sprinkled grains of white ice to the ground.
“--- I am disappointed.”
The shaft of the spear had shortened. Ludmira vomited words as if provoking Ellen, her eyes filled with anger and contempt.
“To lose yourself over a single vassal. Eleanora, you are not qualified to be a Vanadis. You should throw aside Arifal before you bring misfortune to your people.”
After spitting out those words, Ludmira mounted her horse without looking at Ellen. Though Tigre was astonished and had trouble speaking, he finally called out to Ludmira.
Ludmira turned her head slightly to Tigre.
“Thanks. For helping.”
The Vanadis with the spear of ice did not respond. Her glance moved from Tigre past Ellen. The cold atmosphere was blown away and scattered down the road.
Tigre saw her off and looked back at Lim.
Her rich chest shook from her rough breathing. At last, Tigre considered what he had just done. Her skin was faintly covered in sweat, and her right breast was faintly red where Tigre strongly sucked the poison from.
He had torn away all her clothes. After covering her up, he turned back to Ellen to apologize.
The Vanadis with silver-white hair lowered the sword in her hand and silently stared at Tigre.
“Because Lim is sturdy, she should be fine. From what I can remember, only the elderly and sick died from the poison from this snake. If we return to Rodnick, we can treat her and she should survive. The components for the medicine can be found anywhere.”
Tigre spoke to encourage Ellen. Though it was not a lie that the only ones to die were the elderly and the ill, there was no telling whether Lim would live or not. He did not know if the assassins modified the snake, either.
Reassured by Tigre, Ellen's tense face relaxed.
“I got it. Tigre, you head to Rodnick and call a doctor. I'll carry Lim on my horse and catch up.”
By the time Lim woke up, two days had passed.
The sun shined through the window, and the birds were chirping. For a while, she looked at the ceiling blankly. She suddenly felt a weight around her belly and cast her eyes downward.
It was the dull red hair she was accustomed to seeing. He seemed to be sleeping, since his faint breathing could be heard.
Lim tried to push him away on reflex, but stopped herself to confirm the situation. She was in a spacious room with a table and chair and the bed she slept on.
It was too recent to forget. Lim searched her memory. It was cut off after she killed the assassin when she saw the snake.
At that time, the door opened and a girl with argent hair down to her waist smiled brightly at the sight of Lim.
“You're awake, Lim.”
Though Lim began to sit up, Ellen shook her head and stopped her.
“Lim, we are not in the Imperial Palace. It's just the two of us; you can call me Ellen like you did in old times.”
“That is something I cannot do.”
Though she smiled, rejection was clearly visible in her eyes. Lim continued to speak.
“Though I have said this before, I am the person most intimate with you, Eleanora-sama. I cannot simply use your nickname on such occasions.”
“Thanks to that, he's the only one other than the Vanadis who calls me Ellen.”
Ellen smiled bitterly as she turned to Tigre.
“Even if you told him to, to call Eleanora-sama by her nickname as a prisoner of war is truly surprising.”
The two smiled as they looked at each other.
“... How is your body?”
“I am a little tired, but there should be no problem.”
“I see. You should give your thanks to the sleepy head over there. He did some emergency treatment when you fell.”
Ellen explained the circumstances as she looked down at Tigre with folded arms.
After defeating the assassins, Tigre and Ellen quickly returned to Rodnick.
The two carried Lim to the bed and took turns applying the medicine according to the doctor and nurse's directions.
“I thought you would be fine at first, but the doctor said there was a chance you would turn for the worse. I was really worried.”
So as not to awaken Tigre, Ellen quietly sat down before Lim and brought her hand forward kindly. Lim noticed the dark circles under Ellen's eye.
“I'm really glad you're alive.”
“I apologize. Even though I am to be your guard, I fell so easily.”
“What are you talking about? You did what you needed to do.”
Ellen laughed and lightly touched Lim's forehead with her finger. Lim also smiled.
--- Thank goodness.
Lim placed her right hand on her chest and quietly rejoiced that she survived. She could still serve Ellen, she could still help her. She was happy.
“What of the assassins?”
“One escaped. Since the Serasyu[Seven Chains] act in a group of seven, they weren't completely annihilated, so we need to remain vigilant.”
Lim suddenly frowned and stroke the wound. There were herbs ground into it, and it was covered in a clean cloth, but there was something she worried about before that.
“Eleanora-sama. You said Lord Tigrevurmud gave me emergency treatment?”
“Yes. I said that.”
Lim's voice trembled.
“About that... what method did he use?”
“He sucked the poison from the wound.”
Lim noticed the joyful nature in Ellen's voice. Her face quickly became red and hot. Though she had pushed reason aside and instinctively thought to beat Tigre's head, she succeeded in stopping just before doing so.
“I'll say this in his defense. He was desperate to help you at the time; he had no ulterior motives. If anything, I should be the one you hit.”
The hand Lim had stopped in midair was pulled to Ellen's chest.
“When you fell, I could only stand motionless. I could not think or do anything like a child.”
“But you were the one who carried me here, Eleanora-sama.”
Ellen looked wistfully at Lim, as if she had something more to say, but all that left the mouth of the Vanadis with silver-white hair were her thanks.
She quietly grasped Lim's hand and let her heart soak in the warmth of her life. Ellen reluctantly parted and stood up.
“We'll come back again. We need to leave and head to the Palace today.”
Ellen wore her vigorous and fearless face, the face of a Vanadis, once again as she spoke. Lim nodded and looked down at Tigre's head.
“If possible, I would like to let Tigre rest some more, since he's probably tired.”
Ellen smiled wryly; Lim nodded in agreement.
But they did not have the time to spare.
After thinking for a while, Lim decided to wake him as gently as possible. She placed her fingers in Tigre's red hair and tried to shake him awake.
“Lord Tigrevurmud. Please wake up.”
However, Tigre groaned quietly and violently brushed Lim's hand aside.
His hand moved further and grabbed Lim's chest. Though it was unconscious, he was massaging her quite vigorously.
Tigre was then awakened by a violent slap.
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