Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 03 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 - Sword of Invincibility
That afternoon, the Silver Meteor Army and the Knights of Navarre confronted each other at five hundred alsin (approximately five hundred meters).
As if following the gray clouds from the day before, an unspeakable sensation of anxiety ran through the soldiers. Between the armies, slight rays of sunlight passed through small gaps in the cloud cover.
“It looks like they wish to fight.”
While watching the enemy line up in waves, Roland muttered to himself. Though there were different colors amongst the army due to the two nobles involved, the predominant color followed the ZirnitraBlack Dragon Flag.
“So they're lining up there.”
Vice-Commander Olivier received a report. The Knights from Brune Kingdom fought using more than one formation. The one they took up now was called the [Spear] and it was one shaped in a triangle, much like a spear's tip.
“Think yourself a spear, you and your steed are creatures of iron. Run quickly, pierce deeply, and crush the enemy.”
Roland would take the lead. Normally the leader took the rear, but the man took the role himself so he could penetrate the enemy camp first. He had always done so.
“I wonder if we should fight now. Perhaps we should wait until the information gathering is complete?”
Before coming here, Roland sent a messenger to the surroundings. His goal was to receive information on the geography and the number of troops available. Based on the circumstances, he would request reinforcements.
He had sent Tigre's messenger away because he did not want to be misled by extraneous information. His sin was more than obvious, since he was with soldiers of Zhcted.
“The sun will work against us. We have one koku at most; we can't waste any time.”
Olivier shrugged his shoulders as he heard the Black Knight. Roland's decision was correct. It was the job of the Knights to follow his directions.
He pulled out the sacred sword Durandal from his waist and held it to the sky.
“Gods of the land, watch us from the skies of Brune. Perkunas, King of all Gods, Trigraf, God of War, Radegast, God of Honor, all Gods, bear witness to our righteous battle!”
Hearing his shout, the Knights began chanting. Roland lowered the tip of his sword toward the enemy and inhaled deeply.
“Follow my blade!”
Five thousand horse-bound Knights kicked off the ground in unison. The earth felt as though it would collapse from the thunderous roar.
The members of the Silver Meteor Army consisted of one thousand Brune soldiers following Tigre and Augre with the Zhcted Army numbering four thousand directly behind them. The remaining forces were positioned behind them.
The Brune soldiers, though few in number, stood at the front, both here and with their battle of Greast. Though few in number, the Zhcted Army were their allies in the end.
However, seeing the Knights rush toward them, shouting for battle, caused them visible unrest.
The Brune soldiers clashed with the Navarre cavalry.
The Navarre Knights' destructive power exceeded the wall of Brune soldiers. The sight which developed surprised Ellen, Tigre, and Lim.
The man who led the spearhead, Roland with his sword in hand, was not stopped by anyone.
He killed all who abandoned sword and spear to run away, he cut through shields, and he crushed all who stood in his way using overwhelming force.
The horse Roland rode let out a violent neigh, as if reflecting its rider's mind. Its mane was disheveled as it crushed the ground and stepped upon corpses. It simply charged forward.
As if they had heard their leader's thoughts, the Knights fought off the Brune soldiers and thrust through them, following Roland's power in waves of rage.
--- He's strong. He's too fast, too.
Ellen and Lim did not have a lack in plans; they had thought of a number of countermeasures, but they had no room to fully develop them all. Though, despite their young age, they had large amounts of experience in war, but it was their first time seeing such power and speed.
“--- Lim. I leave command to you.”
Without waiting for her unsociable aide to speak, Ellen kicked the stomach of her horse and jumped out, making her way through the soldiers as she pulled out the longsword at her waist. She ran to Roland nonstop like a savage beast.
Seeing him close at hand, Ellen instinctively took a deep breath. Roland stood there, large enough to be a giant. He was the only one in black armor which doubled, tripled the size of his frame. His very presence overwhelmed all else.
An unprecedented chill ran down the back of the Vanadis of the Silver Flash.
They were within attacking distance.
It was as if a light exploded between them. Their clash made those in the surroundings flinch. Ellen's beautiful face was dyed in astonishment.
--- My Veda...
They had struck each other once, yet Ellen's right arm had become numb. She could only pray her arm would not be blown away.
Ellen's horse staggered; it was exhausted, falling back step by step, regardless of the instructions of its rider.
--- Arifal did no damage...
Their swords could easily cleave a soldier; this was unusual
“--- It's been a long time since someone has received my sword.”
The Black Knight finally stopped moving as he looked at Ellen without hiding his surprise.
“Neither in Sachstein nor in Asvarre. You are no hero or Knight of this country. How could a delicate girl like you...”
Roland brandished his sword before her. Ellen released her hands from the reins and clutched her longsword with both hands. Again, an intense clash occurred, but it was not just once. Many attacks in quick succession occurred, tearing through the air. Sparks scattered with every meeting of their weapons, the soldiers held their breath.
Ellen clenched her teeth. The man of black had both power and technique. Furthermore, he wielded his large sword as if he were sweeping a spear, despite its massive weight.
Though he could cut through the earth, Ellen managed to somehow hold her ground. With every blow Roland gave, she struck a blow in turn.
One slice flew through the neck of Ellen's horse. Without slowing down, it approached her. Ellen immediately removed her feet and jumped away to the ground to ward off his attack. The headless horse fell to the earth.
Unexpectedly, the Silver Flash in her hand let off a dull blue light for a moment, and a faint wind blew over its owner.
Arifal's intent was transmitted with the wind. It was telling her to [Be Wary of that Sword]. Though Ellen was confused, she recovered immediately.
Her ViraltDragonic Tool never lied to her.
Ellen looked up at the Black Knight and carefully took her distance.
“That blade... What is it made of?”
“That's a strange thing to worry about in the middle of a fight... isn't it?”
Roland gazed sharply at Arifal.
“That is the first sword which has not broken with a succession of attacks from Durandal. What exactly is your blade made of?”
“I don't know. I inherited it from someone whose face I don't know.”
Ellen answered honestly. Though Roland's face was incredulous, he did not pursue any further.
“I also do not know what this blade is made of. I received this blade from His Majesty to defend the land of Brune. That is enough for me.”
--- Not good, that blade is the same.
Ellen spoke bitterly in her mind. Roland's Herculean strength which could cleave through the enemy's armor was demonstrated in full with his sword. An ordinary weapon would simply shatter.
To protect Ellen, ten of Zhcted's cavalry rushed Roland, with their spears.
Along with Ellen's shout, Roland's sword cleaved through them all at once. The soldiers of Zhcted were torn like blades of grass, their flesh, blood, and bones scattered about the ground. Not a single spear reached Roland.
Is this man human?
His overwhelming strength brought this doubt to her mind. It was like watching a nightmare.
--- VedaMy Dragonic Skill...
It was the last resort and the strongest attack of the Vanadis. The thought grazed the corner of her mind.
However, the other person was human, even if his weapon was abnormal.
“So you're the noble Vanadis, the Commander of Zhcted?”
When he asked those words, Ellen noticed he had not declared his name. Her red eyes looked strongly at Roland.
“Eleanora Viltaria. I am one of the seven Vanadis.”
“I am Roland, Knight of Navarre. Vanadis---”
Roland looked down with a will to fight in his black pupils.
“Though I do not know your reasons, I cannot allow you to set a single foot in His Majesty's land of Brune.”
Ellen looked in his eyes. Roland ignored her gaze and lifted his sword... But his movements stopped.
The soldiers of Zhcted had divided, a man with dull red hair and black bow in hand rode in on a horse as he nocked his arrow.
Ellen involuntarily called out his name. Tigre stared harshly at Roland, completely unaffected by the raging battle beside him. He remained still like a statue.
Roland frowned as he stared at Tigre. He aimed his sword toward Tigre's neck as he ran by on his horse.
Tigre drew his bowstring to its limit, though he did not release it. The two men's distance narrowed. Immediately before entering the sword's range, Tigre bent his body, almost horizontally, as he hung off the horse.
Roland's swing shook the wind; the response was shallow.
At that time, Tigre shot his arrow, but with his unreasonable posture, it flew toward the sky, directly above Roland.
The two ran about on horseback. As Tigre approached Ellen, he reached his arm out. Ellen jumped lightly on the horse after grabbing his hand.
On the other hand, Roland, who had kept a fixed distance from Tigre, began to follow him more closely.
--- I won't let you escape.
If it was a horse with two people on it, he would easily catch up.
At that time, the sound of the wind being cut ran by the Black Knight's ears. Before he was aware of it, an arrow was driven deep into the head of Roland's horse.
The arrow drove through the horse's jaw. The horse's legs folded as it collapsed. Roland's face was dyed in astonishment.
The arrow Tigre shot was aimed toward the sky. It drew an arc and fell, depriving Roland of his mobility.
With him standing on the ground, the cavalry of Zhcted rushed Roland thinking he was vulnerable, their spears coming from many directions. The dark haired Knight should have been skewered, but he jumped up and, like an argent whirlwind, cleaved both men and horse together.
Roland stood like a large tree, taking root in his place as he twirled his sword. The surroundings were filled with blood and screams. His black armor was dyed red.
Many Knights of Navarre followed Tigre and Ellen on horseback, but they could not catch up.
Tigre had turned around and fired arrows in quick succession. With the sound of the arrows and the bowstring being pulled back, he had shot multiple arrows at a time, all of them successfully hitting their target.
He had pierced their face and belly. Knights, one after another, fell down as their horses collapsed. Some of them were directly hit by arrows, flipping about as they fell off their steed.
“You saved me, Tigre. You're amazing as usual.”
Ellen tried to smile at Tigre but stopped speaking as her eyes were dyed in red.
From his left shoulder to his right flank, Tigre had a large, straight wound. His black leather armor and clothes were dyed red, his skin wet with sweat, his face pallid, his breathing rough.
Although it seemed like Tigre had dodged Durandal when he and Roland crossed paths, he had not been able to avoid it completely. Firing his bow toward the Knights only served to open it further.
Tigre's body began to fall. Ellen stretched her hands out and gripped the reins from behind him as she supported him with her right hand which held her Silver Flash. Her arm was dyed red immediately.
The soldiers of Zhcted were pushed aside. The Knights of Navarre held up heavy shields to block the rain of arrows, accepted the challenge of all who took sword or spear to them, or rushed forward and pushed them aside.
They followed closely after Ellen and Tigre. Realizing they had pulled out javelins, Tigre nocked another arrow, yet he did not have the strength to draw his bowstring.
Ellen clenched her teeth. If she took her blade, Tigre would lose his support and would surely fall from the horse.
To make matters worse, the horse's legs broke and it fell forward. The two were thrown to the ground. Though Ellen endured the pain and pulled her body up immediately, Tigre, who had not released his bow, could not stand.
Ellen ran to Tigre and lifted him in her arms. A dozen javelins were thrown at them all at once.
“--- FalvarnaBrilliant Waves, Gather Before Me.”
A voice called out between Ellen and the javelins.
Her golden hair symbolized her gentle nature; her beryl eyes expressed her dignity. She stood before them in a pale green dress, unsuitable to the battlefield. Not a fragment of her smile existed on her face.
Sophia Obertas stood there, as if to protect Ellen and the others.
A golden light fell from the tip of her Light Flower and turned lightly in her hand. Without melting into the air, it flowed through the space before Sophie, drawing a perfect circle.
The circle of light glittered, releasing a silver-white spiral. The spiral formed a broad barrier, surrounding a golden ring inside. The wall of transparent light completely encompassed Sophie.
The spears thrown by the Knights of Navarre hit the wall of light and fell to the ground. The Knights opened their eyes widely and let out a sound of astonishment.
A curtain of mysterious light appeared when the woman in a dress showed up. The event was beyond their understanding.
She looked back at the silver-white haired Vanadis. Her beryl eyes prompted her to move to a horse standing nearby. Ellen managed to stand up while supporting Tigre, placing the bloody man on the horse before mounting it herself.
“Say your thanks later.”
“Yes. We'll meet again.”
After they exchanged a quick word, the Knights of Navarre promptly recovered and took up their swords. They charged; however, their horses stopped as if they had run into an invisible wall.
The Knights flinched. Though they may have been able to chase after Ellen if they avoided Sophie's wall of light, no one could make such a calm judgment.
A large number of Knights were held back by a single woman.
From behind, a low voice called out. It was a voice of salvation for the Knights.
Roland lowered his large sword and had finally caught up on a new horse.
“Woman, dressed like that, your clothes are hardly suitable for a place of war, isn't it? What's more... What is this wall of light?”
“I wonder. What will you do?”
A shiver ran through Sophie's body. In her hands, the Light Flower warned her with a small glow of golden light from the tip of her bishop staff. It warned her of danger, just like Ellen's Silver Flash.
The jet black Knight did not flinch even after seeing the wall of light.
“... It would take only a single swipe to sever this enchantment.”
With his sacred sword in hand, Roland continued tensing all the muscles in his body, its sound clearly audible.
“Though I don't know what manner of witchcraft or magic this is, it is nothing before Durandal.”
It was not a false show of power. The Black Knight spoke seriously. Sophie said “Oh my” out of habit, but there was no strength in her voice.
“Very well. I welcome you.”
The bishop staff glowed as Sophie smiled brilliantly.
Roland's horse kicked off the ground as he thrust straight toward the wall of light.
The moment Durandal hit the wall, the light became iridescent, the sound of shattering glass hit her eardrums. The circle of glittering gold stopped shining immediately. It was cut in two, and the particles of light dispersed through the air.
Though Sophie's eyes showed her surprise, her hands continued to manipulate her bishop staff.
Roland's swing tore through the domain of light Sophie had built. Sophie's bishop staff caught the heavy blow; she was forced to retreat by the frightening blade.
“--- MirashemParticles of Light, Come to My Side.”
Roland rode forward to cut her down, but he pulled his hand aside as he saw countless grains of light engulf Sophie's body.
The lights were the size of a nail and began blinking before Sophie's body. Without a sound, both Sophie and the light disappeared.
The Knights were astonished once again. They turned to their leader.
--- I can't see her, but... little by little, she's escaping.
Roland did not understand what Sophie had done, but he noticed she had run away.
--- It's troublesome, but it looks like she's another one of them.
After making that judgment, Roland looked at the soldiers surrounding him.
“Don't worry. It's just another enemy.”
Hearing his words with no sign of a lack of will to fight, the Knights regained their energy. No matter what, they believed they would find no greater Knight on the continent, let alone in Brune.
When word of Tigre, the General, being injured spread, the Silver Meteor Army collapsed and was routed. They threw aside their arms and turned away. The Knights of Navarre swung their swords and thrust their spears without mercy.
The confusion only accelerated with the passage of time. It took all Ellen and Lim could to to prevent the army from collapsing. Though they had managed to pull the soldiers away, the soldiers of Brune led by Viscount Augre were small in number.
Though Roland took lead in the battle and chased after the enemy with his sacred sword, he stopped when he heard a sudden noise.
A Knight appeared without breath to give him a report.
“A cavalry of three hundred has appeared behind our troops...”
The cavalry behind the Navarre Knights wielded sword and spear, catching the Knights, who felt they had won the battle, completely off guard.
--- Was this their plan? No, it feels too late.
Regardless, Roland was forced to end the chase and took measures to reorganize his troops. He looked up to the sky.
The gray clouds had broken, the darkness before the battle now gone. Roland felt like the darkness had followed the Silver Meteor Army, given the timing.
“We'll end here.”
--- Summer... No, Autumn.
Against the early sunset of an approaching winter, chasing the enemy any further would only serve to scatter his troops.
“No, this is unrelated to the season.”
Shaking his thick neck to the right and left, Roland reconsidered. If he were in a position where he did not need to worry about the King's Capital or the western borders, he may have continued pursuit.
Roland decided to place his trust in Dukes Thenardier and Ganelon who ordered him to battle.
The Knights of Navarre took orders only from the capital. They had received a royal command from the King's Capital. However, King Faron was ill and was unable to grant an audience to Roland.
The command was to kill Earl Vorn and the Zhcted Army. It was received from Dukes Ganelon and Thenardier. The written instructions were, without a doubt, written by the King, as it was marked with the royal seal. Roland had to simply follow his duties as a Knight.
“Lord Roland. His Majesty is pained by the Zhcted Army trampling about in the lands of Brune. Earl Vorn has invited them into our country.”
“We will send negotiators to Sachstein and Asvarre. We wish for you to wipe away Earl Vorn and the Zhcted Army as quickly as possible. We will buy you as much time as we can.”
--- I have heard their orders directly, and His Majesty is ill in bed. Though I do not wish to suspect them...
Still, soldiers can never move on their own. If he asked any more of Thenardier who had summoned him from the west, Roland would only feel he was being nosy.
--- Earl Vorn gave priority to rescuing the Vanadis of the Zhcted Army. It is doubtless now, they have a close relationship. Still---
Rather than the battle before him, Roland watched the movements of the allies who appeared to his rear from the King's Capital.
--- His Majesty's enemies are my enemy. Even if one person remains, I will cut them down with my blade.
Roland was an orphan. He was abandoned at the foot of the Ruberon Mountains near the royal capital Nice.
A shrine maiden working in the temple at the summit of the mountains found the pitiful baby as she made her way from the market at the foot of the castle walls.
She had lost her parents; her birthplace had collapsed. Rather than leaving the child, she decided to convince those of the temple to raise it.
Though he was raised surrounded by God, the boy grew up with an interest in the founder, King Charles, who revived Brune Kingdom.
The temple contained his coffin as well as many other relics.
Furthermore, Roland's body had a higher aptitude as a fighter than a priest. Though there was nothing noteworthy about his reading and writing, his body, compared to children of the same age, was strong, and he was good with anything that involved movement.
Though he was determined to become a Knight, there was one encounter he remembered.
On a certain day at a certain time, Faron, who was still Prince at the time, visited the temple for business. Roland did not know what the business was, he just remembered that Faron called out to the large boy.
The prince asked the boy his name. The boy said “Roland.” Faron smiled from ear to ear.
“Beside King Charles, there was a man named Roland. Though his origin as a warrior is unknown, he held the honor and supremacy to wield his sword in the defense of the King. He was a Knight amongst Knights.”
“A Knight amongst Knights...”
“Correct. Among the Knights today, there are many who believe in Roland. Many believe he came from this very temple.”
Roland was deeply moved. He had thought he was better suited to wielding a sword than praying to God. Furthermore, these were words from the Prince of a country. He felt so much joy that he wished to run about.
“I, I will become a Knight!”
In fact, Roland's name was not so rare in Brune, and Faron, who was learning to be King, could recite the name of all soldiers serving under King Charles from memory.
Though no one could call it a particularly miraculous coincidence, Roland did not know that. Even if he did, he was unlikely to worry.
The next day, Roland dedicated his life to becoming a Knight. He begged a Knight to teach him the sword, spear, and the art of horse riding.
It did not take him much time to surpass the other Knights.
He took the trial at the age of 13. He remembered the pleasure when he became a Knight. Though he was glad to become a Knight, Roland would hear Faron, who had just become King, speak at his conferment ceremony.
“To think that boy would grow up this much.”
Even if he had himself forgotten much of the meeting the next day, the King remembered him.
At this time, Roland had almost complete loyalty to Faron. Eight years later, he received the sacred sword of the Kingdom, Durandal. All Knights likened him to the warrior of legend, the [Knight of Knights].
That is why Roland fought. He fought for the King, fought for the Kingdom. He would not listen to the words of the enemy. It was not a problem until now. He was not supposed to have reached such an obstacle.
So long as he lived his life as a Knight, he would continue down this path.
Olivier appeared, having reorganized the ranks. Roland asked him a question.
“The one who shot my horse, the archer. His name was Tigre, was it?”
Olivier, who was in the immediate vicinity when Roland suppressed Ellen, had prepared a horse for Roland immediately. Sure enough, he had caught sight of Tigre.
“That man is Tigrevurmud Vorn. I saw him once long ago. He said he was good with a bow and was ridiculed as a person with no merit.”
Roland groaned. Olivier looked curiously at him from the side.
“Why do you worry? Though he shot at you, his arrow hit your horse by chance. It was simply bad luck for you...”
Finally, Roland looked back at Olivier, the smile on his face exuding a strong will to fight.
“That's not right. It's different, Olivier. He did that on purpose.”
Olivier's face showed he did not understand. Roland explained while laughing merrily.
“If he shot me from the front, I would strike it down. That man made an accurate judgment.”
“If that is the case, then he was aiming at the horse rather than you.”
“I knew it as soon as he was coming at me. He was aiming at my horse. What's more, he had the confidence to kill it with a single arrow.”
If he killed the horse, it was possible to deprive Roland of his mobility. Above all, Tigre had aimed at him simply to help the silver-white haired Vanadis.
“It was a brilliant skill. It is the first time I have felt admiration for the bow.”
“... If what you say is true, then Earl Vorn is a monster.”
“I have also been called a monster by those of Sachstein and Asvarre.” He cut down the enemy and their horses casually, as if it was nothing. He showed no sign of fatigue. He took command and simply moved on.
Towards his enemies, he was nothing but a monster.
“When I talk about you, I can only think I'm a mediocre Knight...”
Olivier sighed while the Black Knight laughed and told him not to worry.
About seven belsta from the battlefield (approximately seven kilometers), the Silver Meteor Army had barely reorganized their formation.
The soldiers lost numbered eight hundred, the number injured nearly double that. For an army six thousand strong, it was a crushing defeat.
Hearing the damage report, neither Ellen, Lim, nor Augre could speak.
The situation itself was distressing, but Tigre's injury only made it more serious. The young General was carried in on a stretcher and was tended to by Teita. He had yet to awaken.
The only good news was the appearance of reinforcements.
The three hundred cavalry had disrupted the Knights of Navarre who chased after them. They passed through the battlefield and joined the Silver Meteor Army.
A request for an audience came from the person leading them. Though Ellen was exhausted, she approved of the meeting at once.
Before long, an old Knight with a gray beard, his stocky body wrapped in armor, visited Ellen's tent and courteously bowed.
“I am Massas Rodant.”
“It has been a while, Lord Massas.”
Before Ellen could speak, Lim returned his bow and greeted him.
“You are Lord Massas? I have heard of you from Lim and Tigre.”
Ellen took the old Knight's hand with a smile and sincerely thanked him for his help. Massas began to frown.
“With all due respect, Lord Vanadis. Tigre... Earl Vorn, where might he be?”
Though he did not intend to look down on Ellen, Massas had come here for Tigre's sake. After a moment of hesitation, she reported that Tigre was injured.
“--- His condition?”
His short beard trembled as he spoke those words, an intense shock and sense of regret was clearly visible on his face. Incidentally, Massas had lived for more than five decades and had seen the death of many close acquaintances.
“It is a serious injury. He is still feverish, but it is not to the extent that he will die.”
Ellen's response did not conceal her overflowing sense of shame. Beside her, Lim's azure eyes were pensive as she maintained her silence like a statue.
Augre and Sophie appeared, blowing away the heavy atmosphere. Massas mood changed upon seeing their faces, glad by their reunion. Though fatigue was clearly in his face, his sense of defeat was considerably eased.
Though Augre and Sophie were worried about Tigre, they acted as calmly as usual, bringing a sense of calm to the surroundings.
“Massas. Though it may be abrupt, may we speak? How is it that you met the Vanadis of Zhcted in the King's Capital?”
“That's right. I would also like to hear this.”
Ellen agreed with Augre's words. Lim also nodded.
“What, I thought Miss Sophie would have told you.”
“I was unsure how to explain it, nor was I sure if I should say so.”
Sophie bowed gratefully to the old Knight.
“No, you were acting as a messenger. I don't mind.”
After the comment from Sophie, the three looked at Massas who stroked his beard, lost in thought.
“That's right... Where should I begin.”
It happened approximately twenty days before the defeat of the Silver Meteor Army.
It is said that, in the Kingdom of Brune, King Charles received the sacred blade Durandal at Ruberon.
King Charles traveled about many battlefields, wielding Durandal all the meanwhile. His victories revived many towns about Brune Kingdom.
Charles dedicated his gratitude to the Gods and established a shrine in the mountains of Ruberon, and he built his Royal Palace halfway up so he could meet with the spirits. The town at the foot of the mountain prospered; before long, the castle was moved down to the city.
And so, the Royal Capital of Nice was established. It acted as an important way point in Brune which connected the east and west sides of the continent.
All people passing from Zhcted or Muozinel to Sachstein or Asvarre, save for those with extenuating circumstances, would pass through the city.
With a river flowing from the top of the mountain through the city and the highway in the vicinity, many goods from various countries flooded through the city, bringing a heat and energy to the capital.
In the luxurious Royal Palace at the foot of the mountain, there was a garden where many flowers bloomed in the small hills, decorated by cleverly carved fountains.
It was a piece of artwork with a crystalline beauty, a garden nonexistent in either Zhcted or Muozinel. It was a symbol of Brune's prosperity.
Massas Rodant passed through the garden quickly.
There was a rampart surrounding the area, so ordinary citizens could not make it so far into the Royal Palace.
“Please inform His Majesty the King. Massas Rodant, in charge of the territory to the north, requests an audience.”
With a sonorous voice, he presented a medal indicating his title to the soldiers who defended the castle gate. After confirming his identity, the soldiers opened the castle gate.
His stocky body shook as he headed up the flight of steps. The second rampart entered his view. He showed his medal once again and entrusted his weapons to the guard as the gate was opened.
Having been exposed to the cold air of winter in the mountains, Massas was soaked in sweat. It was not from the fatigue of running up the stairs at a brisk pace but his tension.
The Palace was filled with white marble and decorated with gold. Many of the imperial guards wore a white mantle and walked about to defend the area.
Unlike an average soldier, they did not even flinch seeing an aristocrat; rather, they looked at Massas with a severe glance and spoke sternly.
--- It's no different here.
“My name is Massas Rodant; I am in charge of the lands of Aude granted to me by His Majesty. I have come to see Prime Minister Bodwin.”
He waited for some time. Though he remained quiet, he felt a heavy weight in the pit of his stomach.
Though he was an acquaintance of the Prime Minister, he had not scheduled a meeting. He was somewhat intimate with him since childhood, and it could serve as a way to have his audience more easily, but, should any sign of deception be found, he would be captured immediately and sent to prison without being given an opportunity to explain.
After the confirmation was complete, the Imperial Guard bowed to Massas.
“--- I apologize for having kept you waiting, Earl Rodant. Please pass.”
Massas stroked his gray beard as he passed through the doors to the royal palace.
After the aristocrat and Imperial Guards walked along the polished marble floor, the King's chambers finally came into view.
--- I doubt I will have an audience, nor did I receive a response. I will simply have to speak directly and have him listen to my words.
Massas had arrived at the Royal Capital more than ten days prior. Rather than recovering from the fatigue of travel, Massas moved aggressively and requested a meeting with the King the day he arrived.
However, Massas was forced to give up immediately. The Royal Palace affairs had been made private by Dukes Thenardier and Ganelon. He would not be able to meet the King any time soon.
“How is His Majesty?”
“After the battle in Dinant, he has been struck with sadness over Prince Regnas' death. It seems he has yet to recover.”
He walked about and visited his friends. Every person answered his question in that manner, though a few spoke even further.
“If you wish for a petition, it must be brought before Dukes Ganelon and Thenardier.”
He could not possibly do that. Both were enemies.
Massas was outraged. After thinking about it anxiously, he decided he would try to directly meet and speak to the King.
Before the King's private chambers, the Imperial Guards naturally stood. The room next to it was a private room where the Imperial Guards relaxed. Should anyone call, they could respond immediately.
While stroking his gray beard, Massas looked around at the guards and the passage.
--- It is impossible to go any further than this unless I am a powerful noble. No, his maid can also enter his chambers.
It was impossible to meet the King. Massas gently touched something enshrouded in his clothes. It was a letter to the King with information regarding the conduct of Duke Thenardier toward Tigre's lands written, including why he invited the Zhcted Army into his lands.
--- Like I thought, I can do nothing but ask his maid or attendant.
The maid and attendant worked in the vicinity. Since they received a large salary, they could not be bribed with money, nor could Massas lie about his status to get in contact with their relatives.
However, Massas had information.
Though light, there was gossip about a scandal.
Those who wish to know of such talks could be found anywhere, including the deepest part of the Palace.
--- He was once absorbed in divination... Though there is no concrete evidence, it is something held in derision.
Massas was immersed in a bittersweet emotion when a voice called to him from the side.
“What business do you have with me, Earl Rodant?”
Turning around in surprise, he saw a man standing before him, wrapped in a gray uniform. He had a round outline, but if one were to describe his features, they would say they were most akin to a cat. He also had a long gray beard and mustache.
Massas groaned. He was the Prime Minister of Brune who assisted in the King's affairs. The cat-faced man was the pinnacle of all officials.
--- Did he find out already? It's too early...
Seeing the Imperial Guards glare at Massas who remained silent on the spot, Bodwin spoke with a quiet tone, though his eyes were sharp.
“Since there are others here, let us speak elsewhere.”
If he complained, the Imperial Guards might make a move. Letting out a sigh, Massas simply followed after Bodwin.
Massas and Bodwin had known each other before Bodwin became Prime Minister, and they remained on good terms, even with their change in position; however, he could not depend too strongly on that friendship given his rank.
Massas was led to one of the rooms used for official conferences. It was a small room without a window in which a large desk and chair were placed.
“Shall I serve you some wine?”
“So long as it is not grape vinegar.”
Massas had a bitter face as he responded to Bodwin. Grape wine which had fermented for too long became grape vinegar.
“Earl Rodant, you would not come to the Royal Palace to speak of past matters... For what reason did you come?”
“Alsace. Tigrevurmud Vorn.”
Massas responded promptly to Bodwin's straight forward question. Though it should have been clear with those two phrases, Bodwin looked at him calmly. He waited for more.
“Why did you ignore formal procedure? You did not even bother with a petition, nor did you apply for a meeting.”
“I arrived at the King's Capital more than ten days ago, and I have applied for an audience many times.”
Massas sat up straight and glared at Bodwin across the desk.
“How exactly it did not reach you, I do not know; however, this is likely an inconvenience for Dukes Thenardier and Ganelon. Should I still act in accordance to ceremony?”
“Given my position, I can only say you have no choice but to follow protocol.”
Bodwin was the Prime Minister. He assisted the King and aided with affairs of the state. Though he could understand Massas' position, he could not help but argue.
“How long will Alsace have to wait? It is winter now. When will the petition reach you? Spring? Alsace may very well fall before the snow melts. Even then, should I wait?”
Bodwin closed his eyes and withstood the words. He sat in his chair and waited for Massas to take a breath before opening his eyes.
“--- Massas. You must not speak of what you will hear needlessly.”
Bodwin called him Massas, rather than Earl Rodant.
--- He is not answering as Prime Minister.
After Massas consented with a nod, Bodwin stood up. The two left the room and walked down a corridor. They passed the King's private chambers and returned to the place where Massas met Bodwin. Massas could not help but be wary of what was happening.
“What is your intention?”
Bodwin did not answer, he simply continued to walk down the corridor in silence. Massas reluctantly followed after. The Imperial Guards allowed the two to pass in silence.
Before a set of double doors, Bodwin stopped walking. On the surface of the door, a magnificent carving of the founder, King Charles, was engraved. It was the King's private room.
After confirming it with the Imperial Guards who stood at the door side, Bodwin turned around and faced Massas.
“You are not to speak a single word. You will only listen.”
He was saying Massas could listen into the King's room. Though he hesitated, the man's complexion did not change. He faced the cat-eyed man as if possessed.
Ignoring his worries, Massas brought his face close to the door.
--- I can hear something. A faint noise. It's hard to hear, but it sounds like stone or wood hitting against one another.
After about ten seconds, Massas separated from the doorway. He spoke to Bodwin.
“What is His Majesty doing...?”
“He is playing with blocks.”
Massas face tightened. He nearly shouted.
Bodwin bowed to the Imperial Guards and moved down the corridor. Massas followed after him; the two returned to their previous room.
Massas sat in the chair in disbelief having heard the true nature of those sounds. Sweat floated to his face and hands; his heart throbbed violently enough that he could feel pain.
King Faron of Brune was a 41 year old man. He was excellent in both domestic affairs and diplomacy before he took to the throne. He had not changed at all once he became King, which led to an increase in the prosperity of the people. He brought peace to the nation.
Massas had seen King Faron's reign as a local aristocrat. The shock was great.
“Who knows about this...?”
“Including me, not many. There are few people who have been reported to regarding the King's illness. Dukes Thenardier, Ganelon, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs understand his condition.”
Massas looked at Bodwin suspiciously. He would not show him this much or explain this far just because they were acquaintances.
The cat-faced Prime Minister read Massas' questioning gaze and continued to feign ignorance.
“The affairs of the state have stagnated in the Royal Palace. There have been many debates as to how we should deal with this.”
--- So that's why my petition was ignored.
Massas considered it, but the words Bodwin spoke next were beyond his expectation.
“Political affairs were divided in two. The issues regarding the aristocracy was left to Dukes Ganelon and Thenardier while we handle the rest. Even if we had not, we did not have the power to intervene with their matters purely out of suspicion.”
A voice leaked from Massas mouth, his face now strong with anger. The old Earl spoke in a gentle tone, despite his rage.
“Then... We must wait until either Thenardier or Ganelon fall? No matter what, we must simply watch from the side?”
It had to do with the alignment of the aristocracy's interests. It may be necessary to have nobles with wide connections take action. Normally, the King would take care of this matter, but powerful nobles who were loyal to the King could cope with such tasks fairly well.
“We do not have a way to fight Dukes Thenardier and Ganelon.”
“You cannot move the Knights?”
“If we civil servants join a third force, domestic turmoil would only grow. This would increase the number of attacks coming from the neighboring countries.”
Should the defenders of the country be moved for domestic affairs, the borders would be undermanned, so it was rare that they were moved for such reasons.
“What happens to those families associated with Thenardier and Ganelon? They can easily arbitrate things in their own interests. Will such high-handed actions be overlooked?”
Bodwin clearly understood.
Though Massas was frustrated already, he threw out another question in a quiet voice.
“Tigre... Tigrevurmud Vorn, in order to defend his lands, he employed the Zhcted Army. Even so, will the judgment be any different?”
“You believe he will not rebel against the Kingdom of Brune?”
Bodwin responded clearly as Massas let out a heavy breath.
“--- He asked for help from the very people who assaulted Dinant.”
“Even when Alsace was under attack by Duke Thenardier, the Kingdom did not send a single Knight; He judged his family, his land, and his people to be abandoned by His Majesty! How can the Kingdom claim treason when it feigns such ignorance!”
Massas stood with passion and struck his palm against the desk. Bodwin also stood up, knocking his chair over in the process, and tightly grasped the table.
“Do you truly believe the Zhcted Army is doing this out of a sense of judgment and benevolence?”
“You were told before hand! They were employed! They are acting as mercenaries!”
“Sophistry! Even if they do not act in the name of their country, even if he employed them as mercenaries, when they bare fangs of aggression, can Earl Vorn truly stop their violence!?”
“What is done is done! You are simply ignoring his tragic plight! Are you so afraid of what may happen that you are not reflecting on what has come to pass!?”
An intense atmosphere ran inside the room. The elderly man and the Prime Minister faced each other in anger.
Both Massas and Bodwin took deep breaths to expel their anger.
In a quiet voice, Bodwin called to Massas who had turned away.
“I cannot change what I say. No matter how you petition, no matter what arguments you may have, no matter the reason, he drew the army from a foreign nation into our lands. He must be judged a rebel.”
Massas gave thought to raise his voice, but he chose to wait. The cat-faced Prime Minister continued.
“From this point forward, I will be speaking to myself... In this country, there is only one person who cannot be charged with the sin of rebellion when bringing the army of another country into our lands.”
Massas looked doubtful. Was there such a person? It would be impossible to avoid being disgraced as a rebel should one do that, even for Dukes Ganelon and Thenardier.
“The only way this is possible is to obtain permission from His Majesty. For example, if you were to convince the wife of Duke Thenardier who is His Majesty's niece, or perhaps Duke Ganelon's brother; either way, you need to convince someone with a place near the throne. Given their position, something large must happen for this to occur.”
“... In other words, for Tigre to assert his own justification, he must further accelerate the confusion.”
Massas frowned as he stroked his gray beard wildly.
“You may interpret it as you wish. I wish to support Brune. My only wish is for its survival. Now then, I must be off, Earl.”
Once he finished speaking, Bodwin left the room. Massas turned around and let out a deep breath as he stared at the door.
“... How troublesome.”
It was clear. He would obtain no help, but it was good that he had received an answer.
--- Anyway, we need to get rid of Duke Thenardier.
At a brisk pace, slow enough not to disregard manners, Massas left the palace. The sun had gone down, and the white marble was dyed vermillion.
The sword he entrusted to the guards at the second rampart was returned. Massas passed through the popular garden and stopped his feet.
He perceived a glance with murderous intent.
--- An assassin?
He did not think it strange. Both Thenardier and Ganelon would feel Massas a hindrance. They would find it necessary to punish him for his meeting in the Royal Palace.
--- It's good I won't involve others.
Placing his hand on the hilt of his sword, Massas looked at the surroundings.
In this vast garden, many skillfully made sculptures dotted the land. The thick foliage and flower beds were elaborate, and gave a vivid color to the surroundings. There was no shortage of places to hide, so it was simple for an assassin to move about.
While searching for the position of the blood thirst, Massas walked forward and stopped before a certain sculpture.
--- Not good. He's behind me.
He was covered in a cold sweat. It was dangerous to move any further. Against the backdrop of sculptures, Massas pulled out his sword. A shadow appeared, a bright light reflecting off a drawn blade.
Massas countered with a side blow while escaping from the enemy's attack by rolling on the ground.
--- There are too many...!
His movements stopped when Massas looked up. There, he saw a woman jump into his field of view.
She wore a pale green dress, and her golden hair was tinged red by the evening sun. In her delicate hands was a bishop staff which surpassed the sculptures about the flower bed.
The assassins also noticed the woman. One began to run toward her.
“Not good, Run!”
While avoiding a sword approaching him, Massas shouted out. Though the assassins continued to attack him, he was able to keep an eye on her.
The assassin raised his sword to the woman.
A clear metallic sound was heard as a glittering gold light blew him away. Both Massas and the assassins looked on in surprise.
The woman with gold hair pushed the sword aside with her bishop staff and knocked the assassin down simultaneously. Massas could barely follow her movements.
“... Oh my.”
A light voice, unsuitable to the intense atmosphere, came from her mouth. However, it was not because she did not understand the situation.
Both Massas and the assassins understood based on her nonchalant behavior.
The assassins separated. Three attacked Massas while the remaining attacked the woman.
--- There are so many!
Massas mowed the sword approaching him away. Blood flew through the air, dying the grass and flowers red.
Though inferior in terms of number, the assassins did not expect the emergence of such a formidable enemy. Their fright and impatience dulled their movements, which was not missed by Massas. Quickly moving through the flower bed, he cut the second person down.
By the time Massas had finished the three off, the woman brandishing the bishop staff struck the flower bed.
A smile floated to the golden haired woman's face as the assassins fell behind her.
Though Massas uttered those words, he was looking at her ample bosoms spilling out from her pale green dress. Whether it was tribute to that is unknown.
“Thank you for helping me. I am Massas Rodant, the one in charge of Aude to the north of His Majesty's capital. May I have your name?”
“My, so you are Earl Rodant.”
She laughed as though she had good luck. The golden haired woman returned her gaze and gave her name.
“I am Sophia Obertas, a Vanadis of the Kingdom of Zhcted.”
“... So that's how it is. Sophia is my benefactor.”
Massas finished with that. Of course, he did not speak of his exchange with Bodwin or mention that the King had reverted to a childhood state.
Augre turned to Sophie and bowed deeply.
“I wish to thank you for aiding Lord Massas, truly.”
“There is no need to worry about it.”
Sophie returned a nod and a smile.
“Afterward, I investigated Tigre's location and sent a messenger to Aude to gather soldiers. Sophie headed here ahead of time while I met up with my army.”
“Thank you for telling us everything. You really came at a critical moment.”
With a pure, straightforward gaze, Ellen thanked Massas.
“Will you tell me what is happening on your end now? Judging from the colors, it seems the Navarre Knights are your enemy...”
“Allow me to explain.”
Lim continued the story while answering Massas' questions along the way since she was the last to meet the old Knight from those present. Ellen and Augre supplemented explanations as needed. When she finished, Massas had a difficult face.
“By the way, about Bodwin. Do you know what measures he is taking against Lord Tigrevurmud?”
Lim asked because she was worried Alsace would eventually be controlled by the government.
“He intends to place all responsibility for this war on Tigre. Alsace will be made into government-controlled area. For the time being, Thenardier and Ganelon will not be able to interfere with his lands.”
“In that case, we are not allowed to enter as well.”
As if in response to Lim's doubts, Augre spoke while rubbing his chin with the palm of his hand.
“For now, they have self autonomy. Earl Vorn... No, I suppose he should be called Lord Tigrevurmud at this time. In short, the Prime Minister is trying to avoid having him enter those lands.”
“It would be a problem if an area under control of the government joins a rebel's cause.”
Massas frowned and let out a deep breath.
“That Bodwin. He was looking pretty smug, so this is what he did. Right now, it's aristocrat against aristocrat... A private battle between Tigre and Thenardier.”
“Since Tigre is a rebel, wouldn't it be more appropriate to say it's Tigre against Brune?”
Ellen asked. Massas nodded regretfully.
“If that were not the case, they could not have made their move. They had their troops from the west cross the country. There must be a large number of Knights from Navarre, though they may call for more if they feel they cannot win against the Zhcted Army.”
Ellen and Sophie looked at each other. It was not possible for them to win. In today's battle, they were severely damaged.
“Though I do not like to say it, this truly is the strength of Duke Thenardier. From what Limlisha was saying, we know he has the strength to move the Knights of Navarre, and he also has ties to Ludmira. He would not be able to do these things if he did not have such power.”
Augre began to complain. Having a large number of connections was not enough. Thenardier had the ability to take proper advantage of them.
“We can't stop here. I'm a bit hesitant to use my trump card... This really is annoying.”
They could not just sit there in admiration. They needed to move with the Navarre Knights present.
“Eleanora-sama, will it be impossible without using that power against Roland?”
“Impossible. He's that strong.”
Ellen shook her head briefly.
“His power and technique are completely abnormal, and he has that sword. Durandal, was it? What on earth is that?”
While patting the sheath of the longsword on her knees, Ellen told the story of how he had broken through Sophie's VedaDragonic Skill. Though it was difficult to believe so suddenly, Sophie confirmed what happened.
Massas and Augre looked at one another. The two only knew the sacred sword Durandal had been passed down the generations amongst the Royal Family of Brune.
“I'm sorry I cannot be of help.”
Massas bowed his head. Ellen waved her hands hastily.
“No, don't worry about it.”
She could not properly explain the ViraltDragonic Tool and Dragonic Skill to them, even if many soldiers had already witnessed it.
“Right now, I'm the only one that can be his opponent. Tigre is injured, as well. Lim, sorry to say this, but I can't let you do this.”
Lim was about to say she would lead the attack against Roland, but she was cut off preemptively. No words of rebuttal came to her mind.
Of the people other than Ellen, even Rurick could not hold Roland off. She had learned that in the disaster of today's battle.
Though it was difficult to imagine, Roland could easily defeat one hundred, or even two hundred, troops, if they had surrounded him. The speed, strength, and sharpness of Durandal was beyond common sense.
“We could set pitfalls beforehand. He will likely take the lead next time as well.”
“I doubt it will work. I have heard Roland has a powerful intuition and can find traps in an instant. Sachstein prepared many of them, but Roland managed to avoid them all.”
Massas words reminded Ellen of a beast.
“He may be delayed by a fence or a moat, but I doubt that... It is not like he is a private soldier from some aristocrat's army.”
Fighting with the Knights was no different from fighting against the Kingdom.
Even in today's battle, before the fight began, morale was low. It had only fallen further after their defeat. If they lost again, the Brune soldiers would collapse.
“Viscount Augre. What of the other nobles?”
“It seems they are weak willed now.”
When the old Viscount replied, Lim nodded lightly.
“Please, try to maintain the situation. Even if they are few in number, they will fight, so long as their leader remains steady.”
Ellen thought about the battle which would continue tomorrow.
Though she wanted to give the soldiers a day or two to rest, the Knights of Navarre would not allow it.
Ellen suddenly stood and placed her longsword at her waist.
“Let's go see how Tigre is doing.”
They entered his tent and saw Tigre, Teita, and Batran.
Tigre was sleeping, breathing deeply. Teita was working hard to nurse him. Batran had come to visit and was helping her work.
“... He's finally asleep.”
While rolling bandages about Tigre's body, Teita let loose a sigh of relief. Her clothes were dirty with sweat and blood, stained clothes were scattered about the vicinity.
When she had seen Tigre being carried on a stretcher, she nearly fainted. There was a large wound across his body, and his clothes were stained even through the leather armor.
His wound was hot, and, even with a cloth applied to his body, it would not close up. She had used alcohol to disinfect his wound and wiped an ointment on the injury before wrapping him in bandages soaked in a medicine prescribed by the doctor.
Teita dried off the sweat on his body with a cloth. Her fingers were wrinkled from the liquid, and were swollen and red.
--- Gods of Brune, King of the Gods, Perkunas, Mother Goddess Mosha...
While reciting the names of nine of the ten Gods Brune believed in, Teita joined her hands in prayer in desparation. Only to the Goddess of Death, Tir na Fa, did she not call out to.
--- Please, Please save Tigre-sama.
At that time, a voice was heard from outside the curtain. Teita stood up alongside Batran.
“Teita. Keep an eye on him.”
Batran left the tent where several men stood. Their ages varied, and not all wore leather armor.
--- I've seen his face somewhere.
Thinking of that, Batran remembered immediately. They were men who disputed with both those from Alsace and Zhcted. They were soldiers and the aristocrat of Territoire whom Augre had brought.
“Hey... Um... Is the General all right?”
Hesitantly, one man asked.
Batran nodded solemnly.
“Though it is a serious injury, his life should be safe.”
When he answered them, an expression of relief floated to their faces. After a quick bow, they left. Having thought the tent would be invaded, Batran looked at them dubiously.
--- How wonderful.
It was not just them. While Teita was caring for Tigre, many other soldiers had appeared.
From another tent, many groans and screams of injured soldiers could be heard. There were some voices of encouragement and shouts as well. In a situation like this, any timid person would wish to run away in the night.
--- Young Lord...
Batran seemed as if he could weep at any moment, further distorting his wrinkled face. The little old man had been with the Vorn family since Tigre's father, Urz, was alive. He had known Tigre from the moment of his birth and loved him like a son.
--- Urz-sama. The Young Lord is still necessary for Alsace. Please, keep him healthy.
A sudden voice called out to Batran. He looked up in surprise to see Ellen standing before him.
“What were you talking about with the people who just left?”
Batran did not like Ellen. Though he felt an obligation to remain kind to her for helping Tigre defend Alsace, he still wanted to keep his distance.
--- I wish the Young Lord and Teita could be happy...
However, because Batran had served by his side for many years, he was knowledgeable of the hierarchical relationship within an army. In terms of position, Ellen was equal or above Tigre, and Tigre would not want him to oppose her.
“The soldiers were anxious about the Young Lord's health.”
He replied obediently. Ellen wore a mysterious expression.
“Are they soldiers from Alsace?”
Batran shook his head.
“They are soldiers brought by Viscount Augre. I have heard many have come to visit him.
Ellen looked wide eyed at Batran in surprise.
“How is Tigre?”
“He is asleep.”
“I wish to see him. May I enter?”
“... If Teita is fine with it.”
Given his position, Batran could not say what he wished to.
Ellen smiled and nodded and entered through the curtain next to the elder man.
Teita looked back when Batran called her name and was surprised to see Ellen. Her face showed her exhaustion, and she looked troubled.
“What business do you have?”
“Just for a while, would you mind letting me see Tigre alone? It's nothing important, just... I have something I wanted to say.”
Teita hesitated for a moment. Tigre had finally fallen asleep, so she did not want others to see him if possible. Besides, she could not think of what she might want to say to someone who was sleeping.
However, seeing her sad expression, she hesitated to refuse. It was her first time seeing Ellen like that.
“... I understand, but please be careful. He has just fallen asleep. If something happens, please call me immediately. I will wait outside.”
Ellen nodded strongly and smiled at Teita.
When she saw the girl with the chestnut-brown hair leave, Ellen removed all sound with the Silver Flash at her waist and kneeled down. She looked at Tigre's body under the light. His upper body was bare, wrapped in layers of bandages.
“--- You really did save me today.”
Having been knocked off her horse, Ellen very well could have been struck down by the Black Knight.
Ellen quietly took Tigre's hand and placed it to her left breast.
“Tigre. My voice may not reach you in your sleep, so please, listen to my heart through your palm. Feel my life. Hear my feelings.”
Tigre did not react. Ellen continued as she was.
“I witnessed your bravery before Roland with my very eyes. With only your bow in hand, you rushed forward. I was amazed. But... more than that, I was happy.”
Ellen's smile turned bitter, and her voice became angry.
“But you were injured this much. You are the General of the army. Who will defend Alsace if you are gone? Who will lead the soldiers?”
Power entered her hands as she pressed Tigre's hand strongly against her chest.
“... I heard the soldiers of Brune have come to look at you. They look terrible, they're relying on you. They're trying to find some pillar of support.”
Roland was a powerful existence.
That man, like a storm, destroyed all things before him, allowing his men to advance. His very existence was the reason the soldiers could not remain brave. As the one who took down his horse, Tigre had become something of an object of reverence amongst them.
“No... Maybe it is not the soldiers who want to rely on you but me.”
Those words inadvertently spilled from Ellen's lips.
He had gone forward with courage. When the soldiers saw him carried off the battlefield in a stretcher, a strong remorse ran through them.
He could not afford to remove his mask of courage until the war ended.
At that time, Tigre's hands moved. Ellen's hands clasped his tightly.
Ellen was surprised, and she smiled. Even if he was unconscious, Tigre was encouraging her in his own way. She thought so.
“... Tigre. I will protect your soldiers. I will protect those you wish to defend. Because you are mine.”
So hurry and wake up.
Ellen muttered those final words and squeezed Tigre's hand strongly once more before standing up and leaving the tent. She stood before Teita and Batran.
“... Are you finished with your business?”
“Yeah. I told him everything I wanted to.”
Ellen responded with an out-of-place smile. Strangely enough, she was feeling refreshed. Suddenly, a strong wind blew; the bonfire near the curtain flickered violently. The guards looked about in a panic as a small wind blew in Ellen's hair from the sword at her waist.
“What's wrong, Arifal?”
Ellen stroked the pommel of her longsword and looked at the sky. The moon and stars were spread throughout the sky; a cold wind blew from above.
--- Incidentally, Tigre said it would rain.
“How is Lord Tigrevurmud?”
A familiar voice. Sophie approached with her bishop staff in hand. Ellen explained with a fearless smile as she saw her fellow Vanadis approach.
“He won't die. Not in a place like this.”
Ellen had seen his hand move. The hand she had grasped was warm. He had a will to live, a clear vitality.
“That's why I'll be fighting Roland until he wakes up.”
“I see. I thought that might be---”
Sophie's bishop staff made a sound as she smiled radiantly.
“Allow me to help, Ellen.”
Ellen looked as if she could not agree.
“You have come as a messenger. It would become a problem if they found out you helped in battle.”
“Then we simply need to keep it a secret.”
Sophie responded with a slightly mischievous voice.
“Rather than fighting the Black Knight alone, would it not be better to face him with two?”
Ellen's mouth distorted as she played with her silver-white hair. Arifal let loose a wind as if in agreement with Sophie. Ellen's hesitation was cut short.
“I suppose that's for the best. I'll gladly borrow your strength.”
“I will do my best – Will I be using my VedaDragonic Skill as well?”
Though her tone and expression were of a joking nature, Ellen responded seriously and bluntly.
“We'll use it.”
Contrary to what one might believe, Sophie simply nodded in confirmation as she brought her finger to her face.
“Ellen, I will give you some advice... though I suppose it will not really matter for you. We are Vanadis. We are not to be human.”
She spoke as if she had read Ellen's mind completely. Sophie smiled and walked away.
After seeing her off, Ellen returned to the others. Lim, Massas, and Augre surrounded a map and were discussing strategy beneath a lamp.
“How is Lord Tigrevurmud?”
Lim asked with her typical unfriendly expression, but Ellen saw the emotion deep in her blue eyes.
“You saw him as well? Since he was asleep, I did not think you would be able to.”
Lim shook her head while Augre looked at Ellen in curiosity.
“In his current state, Earl Vorn should be fine, right?”
“I don't know.”
All they could do was to allow Teita to take care of him. Until his wound was fully healed, he would remain haunted by the shadow of death.
Even so, Ellen spoke with an attitude as if she did not have to worry about him.
One person continued to look at her inquisitively.
“By the way, have you decided what to do in the future?”
Ellen loudly declared her answer to Lim.
“Tonight, we're going to the river up north.”
After Ellen left the tent, Teita continued to nurse him.
“... Teita. You need to rest as well. I will look after the Young Lord.”
Batran spoke to Teita. Though tired, she was still hesitant.
“May I sleep near Tigre-sama?”
“Yes. I'm sure he'll be happy to hold your hand in his rest.”
Teita bowed to Batran and lay next to Tigre, quietly grasping his left hand. Because it was the hand with which he grasped his bow, it was rough.
--- He was bleeding so badly, his hand was covered in blood...
Teita remembered when she saw Tigre.
“I will rest for just a moment. Tigre-sama, please open your eyes.”
Closing her eyes, Teita fell deep into slumber.
Batran looked at Teita. After checking that she had gone to sleep, he quietly cleaned up the bloody bandages around them.
In the General's tent, the three people looked at Ellen in confusion.
“... If possible, please explain this in detail.”
Massas offered a feather cushion for Ellen to sit down on.
“I remembered Tigre said it would rain tonight.”
“It will rain...?”
Lim dropped her eyesight to the map and looked at the river to the north.
“If it rains, the Navarre Knights will have dull movements.”
Augre nodded in consent.
They were covered in heavy armor and helmet and held a heavy shield with a spear or longsword. Though they boasted a formidable power when rushing, their movements would slow down if they were covered in mud.
The Zhcted cavalry had the advantage of mobility.
“Though I feel bad about it, I'll be counting on your hard work again, Viscount Augre.”
When Ellen asked him to work hard, the old Viscount began laughing, little by little.
“I see. Your army does not wear a full set of armor. Once soaked, you will encircle them.”
“But I wonder if we can win tomorrow's battle like this.”
Without moving her eyes from the map, Lim threw out a question.
“We can probably do it.”
Massas muttered as he looked at the map.
“The Navarre Knights are strong, but none are as strong as Roland. They will also collapse if they are attacked from behind.”
“That's right. We'll separate Roland from his Knights somehow and take them on separately.”
Her hair of silver-white drifted as the Vanadis laughed.
“Thanks to Lord Massas, we roughly understand the situation in the Royal Capital. For now, we will send two messengers to establish contact with Roland. Even if he does not see them, we will be able to buy a little more time, and we will get a better idea of the situation.”
“What do you mean?”
Massas inclined his head and stroked his beard since he could not understand what she meant. Ellen crossed her arms across her chest and answered in a serious tone.
“To see if he knows or is interested in why the Zhcted Army is stationed here. We do not know if he is acting as a leader or a soldier.”
“... True, we do not know much about the situation.”
Lim placed her hand to her mouth and began to think.
The reasons soldiers fight could be for food, a salary, or for exploits. In general, soldiers fight for realistic things. It was rare they would trust their Commander for his popularity and bravery. Still, while that was true, there were exceptions.
However, a leader was different. In the first place, they were the type to gather soldiers to fight their battle.
If he had a firm reason to fight, they could think about it and increase their potential options.
“Lim. Tell me why Tigre fights.”
“He is prioritizing the safety of his people. Also, he wishes to punish Duke Thenardier for his cruel actions. He wishes to have him pay reparations, and he also wishes to remain neutral in the future civil war. Those are his four goals.”
Lim answered smoothly without hesitation. Ellen smiled satisfactorily.
“That's right. Although his strength is much weaker than Thenardier's, he has a reason to fight. Even then, I believe the Knight's leader, even when commanding so many Knights, does not know of it.”
“... Speaking frankly, I do not believe he would believe the words of his enemy.”
Lim's blue eyes narrowed in thought. Ellen continued to nod.
“It is possible Roland's reason to fight is only because the ZirnitraBlack Dragon Flag is flying within Brune.”
“If your thoughts are correct, then he is likely sending Earl Vorn's messengers away so as not to confuse his Knights with excess information.”
Augre's wrinkled face distorted even further.
“Roland is fighting us. He is likely looking for detailed information on us that he can trust. If he understands that Tigre's actions were unavoidable, we may be able to open negotiations.”
As Ellen had said, it soon began to rain.
The Silver Meteor Army began their march. The cold drained their physical strength, and the rain dampened their spirits. Their clothes grew heavier with the rain while their shoes only became more mud-covered as they walked.
“You can use double the wood to keep warm. You're also allowed to drink a little alcohol.”
It would be necessary to fight the Navarre Knights in the morning. There was a need to cheer up the troops.
There were some who felt the desperation in their situation. There were those who knew it would be hopeless to run away in the dark of night. There were others who feared Roland's bravery and thought of the doom of defeat.
There were many who were deeply impressed by Tigre's bravery when he fought, but there were also those whose will to fight decreased due to his injury. No, if anything, that was most predominant.
When the night grew old, they arrived at their destination. Viscount Augre visited Ellen's tent.
“I am off to make preparations, Lord Vanadis.”
After a short rest, Augre and his soldiers were to move out. Accompanied by Tigre and the injured and non-combatants, they numbered approximately one thousand.
Whether they would be fine or not, Ellen did not know. She understood it was a difficult situation; still, it was best for those who could not fight to be away from the battlefield. Knowing this, she sent them with Augre on his task.
“Is everything necessary prepared? It's best to be more ready.”
The old Viscount struck his chest.
“This is Territoire. It is my land. There is no need to worry.”
Ellen stood up and shook Augre's hand, promising to reunite tomorrow.
The Navarre Knights were located twenty belsta (approximately twenty kilometers) southwest of the Silver Meteor Army.
Though most were resting in preparation for the fight the next day, Roland was not yet tired. Roland was drinking a glass of wine as he sat with his Vice-Commander, Olivier.
“Did you find anything out about Earl Vorn?”
Hearing Olivier's report, a strong light shined in Roland's eyes. More information had arrived.
“Yes. Do you know of Dinant? Where Prince Regnas was killed?”
Hearing Olivier's words, Roland closed his eyes and nodded. He offered a silent prayer on the day he heard the story. He had not forgotten.
“In the battle, Earl Vorn became a prisoner of war. Until then, Zhcted had not known he was in charge of the lands bordering their country.”
“He did not seem like a person with ambition. Was it Zhcted?”
“About that... It seems there were many movements amongst Duke Thenardier and Duke Ganelon's armies during his absence from Alsace.”
“--- For what reason?”
Roland frowned. He was thinking Alsace must have been a good land for both to take action. Olivier simply laughed sarcastically.
“If I must speak honestly, that territory is insufficient, no matter how you look at it. Perhaps they had some use for it, but I don't understand for what reason they might have. All I know is, based on the testimonies, their armies took action.”
Roland made a bitter face as he looked at the sword leaning against the table by his side. He felt it unpleasant that they would move their armies for their personal greed.
“... And His Majesty?”
It was the King's duty to place pressure on nobles who act recklessly. If Thenardier and Ganelon moved their soldiers indiscriminately, that was the first thing he should do.
“You refer to any movements in the vicinity? Wasn't His Majesty in no condition to give orders at the time?”
“His command... That's right, he was in his sickbed, so he would not have been able to issue them.”
Olivier's response which was speculative in nature worried Roland.
Basically, the Knights could not move without the orders of the King. Arbitrary actions necessitated punishment.
That much was natural. They were stationed near the mountains for a reason. Any unnecessary movement may invite trouble.
Olivier continued to speak with a look of sympathy having seen Roland tightly grasp his fist.
“Alsace was attacked by Thenardier's soldiers, but the Zhcted Army crossed the border and defeated them. Ganelon's troops turned back on the way to Alsace.”
“Then Earl Vorn invited the Zhcted Army into the country to defend his lands?”
Olivier shrugged his shoulders.
“If you're worried, why not ask Vorn? However, the Zhcted Army seems to be moving a bit suspiciously.”
“What of Earl Vorn's reputation?”
“I have received some information regarding that. If you ignore his skill in the military arts, his reputation is not particularly poor. I found a long letter from Auguste of the Calvados cavalry. Much of his achievements were dismissed because he was a man of Alsace.”
“Please show me the letter.”
Three pieces of paper from a larger bundle were pulled out and given to Roland. Roland took it in hand and looked over it silently.
Roland knew Auguste was a direct and trustworthy man. They had worked together many times before he was assigned to the Navarre Knights, so he was interested in his opinion.
His letter spoke indifferently of Tigre and his father, Urz.
--- Though his bow technique is superior, his skill otherwise is ordinary. If there is fault in him, it is that he thinks of his people just as much as his father. For that, he does not fear the stigma of disgrace and will borrow the power of others.
Those were his exact feelings toward Tigrevurmud Vorn.
--- If His Majesty ordered it...
The Knight is the sword and the shield of the Kingdom. Roland had a sworn duty to protect the people and subjugate the enemy.
Standing on the border, he had warded off many enemies. It was a worthwhile task.
Suddenly, Roland recalled the legend of his name.
It was the story Prince Faron had spoken of. Roland, the [Knight of Knights], was the greatest defense.
Roland took his eyes off the letter and looked up to his trusted aide.
“What do you think of this battle?”
Roland asked him as a Knight of Navarre.
This fight was not for King Faron. It was an order passed down from Duke Thenardier and Ganelon.
His loyalty as a Knight was to the King. It was only this loyalty he felt pride in. For this reason alone, he fought to protect his land, but he could not remove the sense that he was simply being used by powerful aristocrats.
Olivier's response was roundabout.
“We are proud of being Knights. We place our faith in you.”
They had a mission to protect Brune, and they believed Roland's command would help them accomplish it. That was what he meant.
Roland looked at Olivier who shook his hand, showing his understanding.
“We will move according to schedule. I will handle the Vanadis. I will leave command to you to do as you see fit.”
They had experience fighting off the Sachstein army along the western border. Olivier nodded without any sign of nervousness because he was accustomed to it.
“But what of the issue with Earl Vorn?”
“It is certain he has brought the Zhcted Army into our lands. That is enough.”
It was dangerous for the Navarre Knights if their Commander faltered here. Roland was fully aware of it.
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