Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 03 Chapter 5 - 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 5 - Tir na Fa
The rain ended at dawn. Though it was a refreshing winter day with a cloudless sky, the ground was muddy enough to get even the knees messy.
Against the river, the Silver Meteor Army looked to the south. They had sent out many scouts to monitor the movements of Navarre, but otherwise, they were resting. Forty-three hundred troops remained; the injured had already been moved away.
After ending her break, Ellen took command and started acting.
On the other side were the Knights of Navarre numbering nearly five thousand. Due to their victory in battle the day before, their morale was much higher.
However, their actions would be slow due to the mud on the ground.
Not to mention, they were moving on horses.
However, Roland did not panic nor rush. From his experience, the ground would be more stable during the day.
“Earl Vorn's army seems to have fewer than five thousand.”
Olivier reported the information he received from a scout to Roland.
“More fell than expected.”
It was Roland's impression. The fact they were still fighting meant they had a plan.
“Though they have their back to the river, they moved away and headed south.”
Olivier continued in a prudent tone.
“Also... It seems they left their wounded on the other side of the river. It seems Tigrevurmud Vorn is also there.”
Roland's eyebrow moved slightly. He was certain there was a faint response when they crossed paths; however, since it involved the morale of the army, they should have desperately hidden the injury of their General. It was doubtful they would let everyone know the next day.
“... Is it a trap?”
Since the enemy was injured, furthermore, if it was the General, it would be foolish not to aim for him.
However, if he advanced that way, Roland would expose his back to the enemy to the south. Much like the battle yesterday, it had shaken his troops. Though the Knights of Navarre were powerful, he wanted to avoid a repeat situation.
“The chance exists; we can't say it is an impossibility. The Knights here also caught sight of Earl Vorn's injury. It seems they're thinking along the same lines as us and wish to challenge us before mid day... In other words, while the ground is still soft.”
They would not run away from the challenge. Furthermore, the enemy had decreased significantly due to their injuries. After thinking for a short moment, Roland made his decision.
“Leave the injured. We will fight the main force.”
--- Earl Vorn is a noble of a small region with few soldiers. If we annihilate the Zhcted Army, he will surrender.
“I understand. By the way, Roland. In today's battle... Shall we use [Crescent Moon]?”
[Crescent Moon], like [Spear], was a formation. Roland quickly realized why Olivier proposed it; it was because the earth was softened by the rain.
While [Spear] had a great destructive force, it had a weakness since it was primarily a rush. Massas exploited them from behind because of this.
That risk would disappear with [Crescent Moon].
Olivier had sent out many scouts to check the geographical features of the surroundings. He confirmed there was no large lake of mud; even so, he was still acting cautiously.
“Very well. I leave the formation to you.”
When Tigre awoke, the sun had risen considerably. Though it was late in the morning, it was too early to call afternoon.
He tried to sit up and groaned due to the pain running down his chest and flank.
--- Ah, I see. I was cut...
Though he had tilted his body as much as possible to avoid being injured, the sharpness and speed of Roland's blade surpassed his expectations. However, because his body was still in one piece, it seems he made the correct decision. His fate was also good.
--- I wonder what the situation is...
He had not fully woken up and stared in a daze at the ceiling. He noticed someone sitting nearby.
The old man and the maid of petite stature and chestnut-brown hair were sleeping where they sat. Teita was covered in a blanket and was looking at him, the noise of her breathing quietly sounded.
Though he attempted to speak, his throat was parched.
He sat up so as to not awake the two. Tigre quietly slipped out of the tent.
Outside his tent, there were few soldiers present. The only ones present were the injured.
The sky was clear, as if the violence of the past few days had not happened.
Still, it was an empty winter sky. The air was cold and the sun was bright. It helped comfort the pain in his body.
They were in a meadow near the wilderness. If he strained his ears, he could hear the sound of water; there was a river close by.
A hoarse voice with a faint surprise was heard behind him.
He turned around and saw Teita standing there. She stood stunned before running up to Tigre with a tearful face. Though she clung to him, she avoided his wounds.
Tigre gently stroked the head of the maid who looked up at him with large tears in her eyes. Tigre tapped the shoulders of his old friend, Batran, who had followed after Teita and was choking back tears. He thanked them for their care.
After drinking water and eating the porridge Teita heated, Tigre asked for a briefing of what had happened while he was out.
“... So we lost. The main unit is in Orange Plains while the injured are on this side of the river.”
“Yes. It would be terrible for the injured if the battle is lost.”
“Honestly. Still, it's a good thing Lord Massas arrived.”
Teita nodded cheerfully hearing Tigre's words. She seemed happy to report this, and Tigre let out an involuntary smile when thinking about it. They were safe, giving him a sense of relief.
Tigre tilted his head when he heard Sophie remained behind, however.
--- True, Sophie would not likely abandon Ellen...
However, he was unsure whether Ellen would accept her help. Sophie had come as a messenger, and Ellen would likely keep her from the battlefield.
“Ah, that's right. I have a letter addressed to Tigre-sama from Sophia-sama.”
Teita stood up as soon as she remembered and ran away at a brisk pace.
Batran watched her move away happily. He stood up and bowed to Tigre before leaving to check on the other soldiers.
Having heard the general situation, Tigre felt impatient.
Ellen, Lim, Massas, and Augre, and now Sophie as well.
Certainly, I was seriously injured, but should I remain here?
Teita returned with letter in hand. Tigre opened the seal with a knife.
The contents of the letter was spelled out in flowing brush strokes. The contents recorded astonished him.
--- Her VedaDragonic Skill was negated...?
It was written in her letter. When she faced the enemy Commander, Roland, the Black Sword, Durandal, had destroyed her barriers. The letter finished with saying she and Ellen would challenge him together.
Tigre was filled with horror. He was a natural enemy for the Vanadis.
His impatience grew. As he put power into his body, his mouth let out a sound as his wound sharply pained him. Teita looked at him with concern and supported Tigre as he endured.
“No... I'm fine.”
After answering her, he put the letter in his clothes. Supporting him, Teita took Tigre to have his bandages changed.
“Does your wound still hurt?”
“No. I've had plenty of rest; there is almost no pain.”
Actually, it still hurt quite a bit, but he did not want to scare his maid who was like a younger sister.
Teita began to remove the bandages from Tigre's body and carefully brought her hand to his body.
“I'll start now.”
With those words, he clenched his teeth and held his breath. The cloth was pulled aside; the scabs were peeled. Tigre bore with the pain as Teita gazed at the deep red fluid coming from his wound.
“... It does not look infected.”
After taking a breath in relief, the two looked at each other and smiled.
She wiped the blood away from the wound, and bandaged it with clean cloth soaked in medicine. She began re-rolling the cloth over his body.
“That is all.”
Teita spoke with a smile. Tigre gave his thanks.
“It's your turn now.”
After saying that, Tigre pulled the medicine case from her.
The maid with chestnut-brown hair looked at him doubtfully as she brought her hands forward.
Teita's fingers were swollen and red; the back of her hand was rough. It looked as if she had blood all over her fingers.
Teita looked down in embarrassment, her face dyed red.
“To think your fingers would become like this. You must have been caring for me for so long. I don't wish for you to be hurt.”
“That's... It is natural.”
Her voice seemed to disappear, though she managed to respond. Tigre pulled out an ointment from the case and rubbed it over the wounds on Teita's fingers.
“I was able to recover early because of you. Thanks, Teita.”
Tigre gave his thanks again and bowed his head. In this winter season, she had squeezed the water from the cloth and wiped his body. It was not even in the comfort of their house in Alsace but on the field after losing a battle.
When he finished with her right hand, he continued to apply ointment to her left. Once the medicine dried on her right hand, he rolled the bandages over it.
“Tigre-sama, though this house is small, it is still good.”
Teita smiled to resolve the tension; Tigre returned her smile as he finished applying the ointment and rolling the bandages. He was able to do this efficiently since his body remembered in his times of hunting.
Before long, the treatment had finished.
“It should be fine like this. You need to get some rest, now.”
“Thank you, Tigre-sama.”
Having endured as he rolled the bandages about her hand, she uttered her thanks in a small voice. Tigre stroked her head gently and quietly said good night.
“Tigre-sama, are you not going to rest?”
“I wish to maintain my bow.”
Tigre looked at the black bow to the side. He could see dry blood blotting it.
After he was cut by Roland, he had continued to shoot at the Knights following after them. His wounds had opened, and his blood had scattered. His blood had run down his arm and reached the bow.
--- I managed to survive this time.
He recalled the battle. A cold shiver ran down his backbone when he thought of Roland's blade pointing down at Ellen.
An ominous thought floated to his head. Tigre denied it in a panic. It could not be possible. Ellen was a Vanadis. Her dazzling smile would not be lost.
--- However, to think Durandal has the power to deny her VedaDragonic Skill...
Tigre stared at his jet black bow, deep in thought.
--- If I could use this bow's power, could I fight Roland?
If he could draw out the power of his bow, would he be able to help Ellen?
It happened before.
Tigre's hand gripped the bow. A strange feeling ran through his body.
--- This again? No, it's different. That time, it was not trembling. Perhaps... is this a pulse?
He felt a pulse in the bow. It was as if it had transmitted its pulse to his hand, as if their thoughts were in harmony. His body was cold; rather, it was like a rod of ice was pushed down his spine.
The bow told him with its pulse. Tigre looked at the black bow grasped in his hand with a serious expression.
--- That's right. There is a will in this bow. It can also speak.
It was not just a beat. It was difficult to understand; as if its intent had flowed into Tigre's consciousness in accordance to that pulse.
In Dinant, he could shoot the VyfalWyvern as the bow had advised. In the Tatra Mountains, it lent him his strength to destroy the castle gate.
It was probably no accident this time as well.
--- It's like it's trying to lead me somewhere.
He did not know if the bow understood his thoughts, but he could feel it tremble in his hands. He felt he must go.
Teita spoke quietly, wondering why he was gripping his bow in excitement. Tigre did not respond. He stood up and put on a thick mantle.
“I'll be stepping out for a moment.”
“W, what are you saying!? You need to rest!”
Teita was confused. Tigre was wounded and was asleep until just a moment ago. In order to stabilize his body, he needed to rest more. He could find no reason to give her.
Even so, Tigre was serious and shook his head stubbornly.
“Sorry, Teita. But I need to go.”
He understood Teita's thoughts, and he did not wish to throw aside her good will, but he felt the need to follow the will of his weapon.
“I don't know when I'll be back. Make sure you warm your body and get some good rest.”
Teita heard Tigre speak unexpected words.
“I will come with you as well---”
“What are you saying now?”
“That is what I should say. Where are you going, Tigre-sama?”
Tigre did not answer. The bow had only given him a vague direction; it had not specified a location or a concrete distance.
He could not think of any words to persuade Teita, but he could not yield, either. Tigre simply shrugged his shoulders and surrendered.
“I got it. You can follow after me, but you will follow my instructions. If it's dangerous, you will run away. Understand?”
Tigre and Teita left the tent after greeting the guard, saying they would walk a little because he could not fall asleep.
--- In a certain sense, I can avoid others with Teita here.
After leaving the area, Tigre looked at Teita who walked next to him. She looked back at him in bewilderment.
“Ah, never mind. Let's go.”
Under the clear skies, Tigre gripped the bow in his left hand and walked with arrows in his right. Though they were still in a safe area, they may be attacked by wild animals.
In contrast to Tigre, who remained silent to feel the intent of the bow, Teita began to speak about what had been happening. He was surprised to hear she was on good terms with Ellen.
“Really, she does not hold back at all. It is useless telling her to do anything.”
“Well, that's just how Ellen is toward others.”
Her lack of reserve, her broad mindedness, and her generosity were her strong points. It was bad that she had trouble being business -like, but Tigre felt that part of her was lovable.
Furthermore, he heard Ellen came to visit him while he was resting. Tigre smiled, which made Teita look on in disappointment, but he persuaded her that he was simply glad to have visitors.
Teita also spoke of the Brune soldiers and Zhcted soldiers visiting him. This was unexpected and made Tigre glad.
--- How far should I walk...?
A half koku had already passed and they were on a vast stretch of grass. Tigre had continued on with a sense of unease, but he would worry Teita if he began to complain.
The wind blew, and the surroundings darkened suddenly.
Tigre looked to the sky, then looked behind him.
Teita looked at him dubiously. Surprise then floated to her hazelnut eyes.
A deep, black, stone building rose up before the two. It was an old shrine, ruins from centuries past. It had blocked the sunlight.
Tigre and Teita stared at it blankly.
They had walked here in a prairie during the daytime. They should not have missed it, yet it appeared suddenly.
Teita firmly gripped Tigre's sleeves, her small hands trembling in fear. Tigre took her hand gently in his to ease her tension.
--- The bow is showing me the way.
The temple wall was dirty with soot, long cracks ran here and there. It had long since been abandoned.
“Wha, what kind of deity is worshiped in this shrine...”
Though Teita's voice trembled, Tigre noticed some interest in it. Since she trained as a shrine maiden, she knew it was a temple at a glance; she was looking about in curiosity.
Tigre also looked at the temple. The two found an entrance at the same time.
--- Could there be people here?
“... Do you intend to enter, Tigre-sama?”
Teita's voice was clearly trembling. It was such a mysterious temple after all. Tigre hesitated before turning around.
“I will go, Teita.”
Though there might be danger, it was best to leave her here for the moment, yet she was worried for Tigre. She drew close to Tigre, as if saying she could protect herself.
They entered the building into a dark passage which stretched onward. They moved step by step along the dimly illuminated hall. Various murals were reflected on the walls.
While encouraged by the light, the two walked down the passage in silence. There was only a single path.
When she looked up at the wall, Teita took a deep breath, having understood something from the paintings.
On the wall were carvings of a Goddess. Tigre was only familiar with the Goddess of Storms, Eris. That was the limit of his knowledge.
Teita spoke with a trembling voice.
“Tir na Fa.”
In both Brune and Zhcted, including Perkunas, the King of Gods, there was a Pantheon of ten Gods worshiped. If one went to the frontier, it would be possible to find natives who worshiped more deities.
For those who took an active role in religion, it was clear the altar that lay deeper inside was used to worship these ten Gods.
Amongst them was the Goddess Tir na Fa. As King Perkunas was the God of the sun and light, Tir na Fa was the Goddess of the night, darkness, and death.
She was the wife of Perkunas, his older sister, his younger sister, and his arch-nemesis in the cycle of life.
As the only deity hostile toward Perkunas, why was she included amongst the pantheon of Ten Gods? This discussion had been exchanged between shamans and priests hundreds, thousands of times.
However, by their very natures, she was one of the few Goddesses.
--- So this is a temple for Tir na Fa...
He could not hide his surprise as he looked at the black bow in his left hand.
He had heard a voice during that battle; perhaps it was the Goddess' voice which gave him power rivaling Ellen's VedaDragonic Skill.
The black bow, a symbol of the night and darkness.
--- But I've never heard a story of Tir na Fa from Father.
When he succeeded his father's position, he looked through the records of his grandfather and great grandfather, yet he had not heard anything about the Goddess.
Tigre looked up at the Goddess carved into the wall. There were many designs, such as wings.
He touched Teita's shoulder to settle her fright. Tigre put his arrow away and held his bow in both hands, as if dedicating it to the Goddess.
In that moment, the area became dim. Tigre looked back toward Teita and took a deep breath.
Teita, who walked gingerly and had timid expressions looked at Tigre with an ecstatic smile; her eyes were unfocused.
[--- It is useless, even if you call out to her.]
While Teita's mouth was moving, the voice did not come from her. The voice was heard directly in Tigre's mind.
Tigre shook his head and looked intently at Teita. There was no one else around.
--- I remember this feeling. It's the same as when I shot down the VyfalWyvern...
It was different from the noise of the battlefield at the time; the words sounded directly in his head, but there was something much more important than that at the moment.
“... I do not know who you are, but leave Teita's body.”
[It is difficult to speak otherwise. I shall... remain here.]
Though he could not read it entirely, he felt a somewhat friendly tone in the [Voice]. After glaring at Teita, Tigre released the tension in his body and sighed deeply. He did not know what to do.
“Teita... is safe?”
[Yes. I am using her to speak now, but she will not remember.]
There was neither hostility nor malice from her voice. He would believe her for the time being.
“Are you Tir na Fa?”
He glanced at the Goddess carved in the wall. Tigre asked carefully thinking it could be otherwise. He did not feel a majestic dignity that he would expect from a God.
The [Voice] seemed to have laughed, like she was having fun. It was a kind voice.
[I wonder. I did lead you here, after all.]
Tigre frowned. He was led by his bow because it desired something... But there was much he did not know.
If he assumed this voice was Tir na Fa, then why did it lend its power to him? Why did this bow resonate with the VifaltDragonic Tool? Who amongst his ancestors wielded this weapon?
Many doubts floated to his head. Tigre was almost confused, but he knew his thoughts were straying. The voice laughed, as if amused.
[You're interesting, just like that child.]
[The child to whom I gave this bow.]
Though a hunter, Tigre's ancestor had distinguished military services and received the title of Earl. She said he was similar to that person; it gave Tigre a strange feeling.
[Do you desire power?]
It was asked abruptly. It was a voice unlike any other. A sweet sound crowded Tigre's ear, giving him a stimulation as if his clothes were melting.
[You wanted power, so you came here. Am I right?]
His heart jumped. He grasped his chest with his fingers, his breathing was painful, his articulation poor.
--- That's right... I wanted it and the bow reacted.
To fight Roland. To help Ellen.
“... If I asked for power, would you grant me that knowledge?”
Tigre asked carefully, but the response exceeded his expectations.
[You want it.]
She spoke both into his mind and with Teita's voice whose body was now wrapped in a blue light.
[Shoot this child.]
“... What was that?”
[Do not move away. Draw your bow and shoot this child.]
It was not a question.
[Show it to me. Your desire, your resolution, your capability. Master the bow, accept it. Once you have done that, I will grant you the power you desire.]
It spoke lightly, as if singing. If he began shouting, his wound would hurt. Tigre spoke other words first.
“... If I were to shoot, what of Teita? Can you return her to me?”
The voice was clearly enjoying the situation. He clenched his teeth. Sweat ran down his face. His eyes hurt. If it would come to this, he should have left.
She was telling him to move the hands he would use to protect.
Teita stood unchanged, her expression remained vacant.
--- … Calm down. Think. What can I do?
[What will you do? You wanted power, correct? So you could protect what was important to you.]
His mind was read. After he entered the temple, he had not spoken his reason for desiring power.
Tigre suppressed his irritation as he thought. Teita had been taken hostage; he could not run away.
--- A while ago, she said to master the bow, to show my desire, resolution, and capability.
Could he sacrifice something important to him for power? Tigre questioned himself.
Suddenly, Tigre remembered his conversation with the voice a while ago.
“... For a while now, you've been pretty talkative.”
[Is there something wrong with that?]
“That time before, why did you not say anything?”
In his fight with Ludmira, he had destroyed the castle gate.
The [Voice] had not answered him. Tigre found some confidence with this knowledge.
The [Voice] was not from his bow.
--- Very well. I will show you.
Tigre nocked his bow.
[Will you do it?]
He drew his bowstring to its limit in response. The wounds of his body screamed in pain, but he endured and ignored it. He prayed to the bow like he did in the snow covered mountain.
In that moment, a cold sensation ran through his hand gripping the bow; his body was attacked by a languid feeling, as if his life, his arms, his legs, as if all were withering.
Tigre firmly stepped on the floor; he did not relax his grip on the bowstring. He continued to send his will to his black bow.
The arrow in his right hand was tinged with a black light.
--- More. I want more.
His body was coated in sweat, his eyesight was blurry, and his aim was shaky. Still, Tigre continued to call to his bow, Give me more power.
In accordance to his wish, the jet black light engulfed his arrow, pressing upon him to shoot. His arm trembled, Not yet. It's still not enough.
The [Voice] was apparently aware of Tigre's intent.
[Can you do this? If your adjustment is even a little off, this girl will be blown to pieces. Not even a fragment of her bones will remain.]
You're noisy. Stay quiet.
[And what of your body?]
I know. My injury hurts. I know my body is covered in both sweat and blood now.
--- Teita. I will shoot you.
But I will not let you die. I won't let something this strange take you away.
To defend, to save. While aware of the contradiction, he shot.
Letting out a yell, he released his right hand.
A torrent of power was released toward the girl. Tigre opened his eyes widely to look at the arrow he himself had shot.
It was a force equivalent to the life he poured into it. It was an arrow clad in it.
The arrow entered Teita's chest. It stuck there. The sound of air exploded as a gale raged through the narrow hall. The black light, the [Power] blew Teita's clothes to pieces.
Tigre's heart stopped after seeing this.
However, the black light did not injure her and disappeared. Tigre was completely worn out and sat down, his physical strength now drained. Even in battle, he had never felt this tired. He wanted to fall to the floor and sleep.
[You're immature – but your desire for everything, your feelings, barely pass.]
Tigre put enough energy into his shot but was unable to bear it. He had used his life as compensation. However, the shot did not reach Teita.
Until the moment it reached her, he maintained its shape.
--- I don't think I could do that again...
He had managed to measure the flow of [Power] going from his body to the bow and arrow. He could think of no other way. It was a reckless bet for Teita's life.
Teita had not changed. She was clad in a blue light. As if she had lost all strength, her body fell like a puppet with its strings cut. Though Tigre could not stand up, his body moved automatically.
Immediately before Teita hit the floor, he caught her in his arms. The pale light engulfing her disappeared.
Tigre was finally conscious that Teita was now topless. Though he intended to place his mantle on her, he was at the limit of his strength.
--- Thank goodness, really...
Teita's weight and warmth were normal. When he let his tension go, he heard the voice again.
[Now, about this power---]
Compared to before, the voice had a cold tranquility.
[Take care. If you make a mistake, things worse than this may happen.]
The moment the voice finished speaking, an image floated in Tigre's mind.
It was scenery he had never seen before, in a large city that even the King's Capital Nice could not approach. One man shot an arrow from far away. He used a black bow.
The next moment, it was wrapped in a white light, blown away without a trace.
For a while, he did not understand what had happened because the scene unfolded too quickly. The face of the man, his clothes, he did not catch anything.
[It happened long ago. You, too, may be able to do something, should you be so inclined. The archer lost his life the moment he shot the arrow.]
“... What the hell is this bow?”
No answer was returned, only a joyful laughter.
[Investigate it if you wish to know. Though many things were lost to time, there are still many clues left in this world.]
It seems it was not willing to tell him. Though Tigre started voicing his questions, before he could speak, the surroundings collapsed. No, perhaps it would be more appropriate to say it disappeared. The walls of stone turned to sand and dust and disappeared in the air.
[You should choose a more appropriate time and place. Yes, for example, deep in the darkness of night atop a mountain of corpses. I look forward to the day you make this bow yours.]
Tigre held Teita tightly to defend her. He understood the voice had disappeared.
Suddenly, a feeble ray of sunlight poured down on them.
Tigre held his bow in one hand and tightly embraced Teita in the other. He sat down in the center of the desolate prairie.
He looked around at his surroundings. The temple was nowhere to be found. The temple of darkness, its shadow and shape, disappeared before he could even count to ten.
“... What was that?”
It was a situation far beyond his imagination. Tigre collapsed, feeling as though he had seen a dream.
--- Was that really the Goddess?
He had imagined a God would have a solemn atmosphere, and he had not felt what he perceived as divinity. A God's voice is gracious; would he not be forced to prostrate in that occasion?
It was like a ghost or a fairy, just out of a childrens story.
Tigre looked to the sky while thinking. His attention was focused nowhere.
It said to [Make the bow his].
If he took those words at face value, he had yet to master his weapon.
Nothing ran to him from his black bow. Speaking frankly, it had become silent.
“Looking forward to it, is it...”
He paraphrased the Goddess' words. He could look at it objectively, but he could not understand it with his emotions.
“I guess I just need to do it.”
He was confident he would find more about his bow. Though it was strange, he had grasped an important clue.
--- Really... Who was the ancestor that used this?
He wondered what kind of blood flowed through him. He was told he was similar to his ancestor. He was anxious.
Suddenly, Teita stirred. She woke up and had a panicked expression. Tigre gently called her name.
“Tigre-sama? Um... Eh?”
She had a sense of incompatibility above her waist. Although Tigre had placed his mantle on her, he decided to apologize and explain what had happened. He bowed with his head to the ground.
“Though it's difficult to explain... I shot an arrow at you.”
Teita looked down and noticed her chest was covered by Tigre's mantle. The skin below her chest was exposed.
“You can hit me if you're angry. Though I did my best, it still came to that.”
“Please look up.”
She spoke calmly. Tigre sat up. Teita was not angry; she somehow understood the situation and faced him with a smile with her eyes shut.
“I am remembering it, little by little... We saw the Goddess Tir na Fa carved into the walls of the temple. When I looked at it, something strange ran through my body... My memories stop here, but---”
She opened her eyes and smiled brightly.
“Tigre-sama, do not apologize. You did your best, so you do not need to apologize. No, please, allow me to thank you.”
Rather than speaking those words, she conveyed her thoughts by hugging Tigre and stroking his head gently.
She eventually released her grip and the two naturally separated.
Tigre grasped his black bow and stood up.
“I have a place I need to go to. Please help me, Teita.”
While there was still distance from the Silver Meteor Army, the Navarre Knights divided into three. The first group consisted of two thousand troops. The remaining had approximately fifteen hundred each.
The first force marched toward the Silver Meteor Army to the south. The second and third made a large detour.
Olivier stood at the head of the first force with a long spear held high. Even against the presence of Roland, he was a distinct person who could lead several thousand Knights with style and dignity.
He raised a battle cry. The Knights raised their weapons aloft and ran forward in a horseshoe formation, the earth trembled from their charge.
The Knights of Brune developed [Crescent Moon] several decades ago.
First, the force would divide into three. The first unit would face the enemy while the remaining two would move about the battlefield.
The first force charged forward without arcing to the left or right.
The second force would charge in from the side without pause to prevent any enemies from escaping; however, the enemy still had one side exposed.
Being attacked from two fronts, the enemy would show its back. They would begin their final attack there.
The third force had made a large detour and met them from behind.
The bewildered enemy would change tactics being attacked from behind.
Sandwiched from both sides, the first unit would apply more pressure to the enemy. Being attacked from three fronts, they would collapse. This was [Crescent Moon].
When their cooperation was successful, each unit supported the other and acted as a diversion. Its destructive force was surprising.
Every Knight of Brune had won many battles using this formation.
In the case of the Navarre Knights, the strong presence known as Roland merely added to their victories.
On the other side, the Silver Meteor Army had forty-three hundred troops. Three thousand were in the center with five hundred on each side. Three hundred remained in the rear as reserve. It was a typical lineup. The Brune soldiers were placed in center, encased by soldiers of Zhcted.
Ellen and Sophie stood in preparation for their clash with Roland.
Lim held the command of the troops, with Massas as her Vice-Commander. Viscount Augre remained off the battlefield, tending to the injured and non-combatants.
Lim led all the troops. Everyone thought it was out of consideration of Brune that she had Massas as her adjutant. That is, save for the people concerned.
“Lord Massas. The enemy is advancing.”
Massas nodded and stroked his beard, despite his frown.
“So they're not going after Tigre and the others.”
Ellen had released information that Tigre was injured to direct Roland's attention to herself.
“Their weapons, their lineup. As expected, it's [Crescent Moon]...”
A horn sounded, a bell was struck.
The Navarre Knights ran forward with their spears at the ready toward the Silver Meteor Army; however, the Knights were fewer than expected.
The vanguard of the Silver Meteor Army held large shields and spear in hand in preparation for the powerful offense. They were made of thick wood strengthened by an iron plate. Though heavy, it was sturdy and would endure the Knights' charge.
However, the clash did not occur. The Navarre Knights approached Tigre's army without changing direction. The units to the flank held their spears out horizontally.
They were not heavy javelins like those held by the Navarre Knights. Rather than throwing them, the soldiers held them straight out, forming a fence of spears. Still, the Navarre Knights did not halt and charged straight.
Do not let the enemy take your sides or your back, and do not pursue those that run to the side. Lim had given them strict orders.
Her instructions were proven useful very quickly. If they had chased after the enemy, the main force would easily have their defenses pierced, and they would be crushed as they fell to disorder.
The main enemy unit took its stance. They threw their javelins toward Tigre's army while turning to the right.
Looking at the enemy from behind, Lim gave the order to the entire army.
The enemy had shown its back and would take time to change directions. Though it was a golden opportunity, they chose to retreat.
Though there was dissatisfaction and doubt, their trust was superior. The Zhcted soldiers simply observed orders and retreated in an orderly manner. Lim and Massas had gone over many previous battles which utilized [Crescent Moon].
“Next is the second force...”
They changed how they would attack seeing their enemy retreat following the [Crescent Moon] formation.
The third force would attack from the right, and the first unit would charge in from the front according to the formation. The second group would crowd in around the left; all three units would surround them.
The Silver Meteor Army backed away, as if it did not have the will to fight until, finally, they had their back to the river.
Olivier, who commanded the Navarre Knights, noticed the unnatural movements of his enemy.
“They can no longer move backward. Could they have a counter-measure against [Crescent Moon]...?”
However, after a quick thought, Olivier decided to continue the formation.
--- Earl Vorn is injured, that must be a fact. The enemy couldn't have recovered from yesterday's defeat, and their will to fight is still low.
Furthermore, the ground was stable from the movements of the first two forces. Even if they had some plan, he could simply overturn it by having the Knights charge.
Above all, [Crescent Moon] had never been broken.
Olivier ordered an attack.
Massas and Lim received a report regarding the Navarre Knights in a calm manner.
“About fifteen hundred... The river is to our back, and the Black Knight is their leader.”
The tension and fear strongly showed in the messenger's face and the face of all who heard the report. Everyone was imprinted with a fear of Roland from yesterday's battle.
“--- He came.”
However, the person who blew their fears away with a single phrase, the silver-white haired Vanadis with a longsword, appeared calm. The surrounding soldiers regained their normal tension.
“Lord Eleanora. Lord Sophia.”
Massas saluted Ellen and Sophie as dictated by propriety.
“Though I feel terrible for doing this, I will entrust that task to you.”
“Leave it to us.”
The difficult task of defeating Roland – Ellen took it with a light tone in her voice. Sophie also nodded and smiled gently in a manner unbecoming of war.
Soon, another report of the enemy was delivered.
“... So it's time. They're provoking us by keeping with [Crescent Moon].”
Massas muttered to himself bitterly.
The surface of the river reflected the winter sun. The Navarre Knights approached the Silver Meteor Army. The sky was covered in a rain of arrows and javelins from the Zhcted Army. The atmosphere was torn, soldiers and Knights fell to arrow and spear. Despite the damage, neither side crumbled.
Then, from the right, the Knights of Navarre attacked the Silver Meteor Army.
The third force attacked from the right. Roland wielding Durandal took the lead and tore through the Zhcted soldiers, mowing them down as he rushed forward. The Zhcted soldiers could offer no resistance and were knocked down like dolls into the mud.
The Navarre Knights broke through the right wing of the Silver Meteor Army.
However, their movements dulled as they approached the central force. The same happened to the troops at the front.
The horses neighed, and their movements stopped.
The Knights finally noticed. The mud beneath their feet was substantial.
Hundreds of arrows from the right and left headed toward the Knights. Humans and horses collapsed, one after another, thrown to the mud. Though they blocked with their shields, they could not advance or retreat unless they dismounted.
“What is the meaning of this? I heard nothing of this from the scouts.”
Olivier bit his lip. It was not that his scouts brought back insufficient information. They had confirmed the ground's stability with their prior movements.
So why was it muddy only in this area?
“... It's going to plan so far.”
Within the Silver Meteor Army, Ellen muttered to herself.
What they did was not too difficult. Viscount Augre had dammed up the river with sandbags during their fight with Marquis Greast. With the sand bags in hand, it was easy enough to think of the plan.
The water would not overflow in winter under normal circumstances.
But with the rain from yesterday, the water levels were higher, changing the surrounding earth to mud in a very short time. It was unreasonable for the Navarre Knights to discover this information since the land was flooded just prior to battle.
In contrast to yesterday, the Zhcted soldiers attacked the Navarre Knights in a one-sided manner. The blood mixed with the muddy water. Human and horse corpses sunk to the ground and piled up.
The Knights desperately defended or took measures to escape from the mud as the Zhcted Army charged with their spears forward. The soldiers took revenge for their defeat and attacked to their heart's content.
The Knights of Navarre were pushed back, cut down, and seemed to fall in defeat, but there was one corner of the Zhcted Army which was being pressured.
Roland had thrown his horse aside and ran through the mud, cutting through soldiers along the way.
That space was a reproduction of yesterday's atrocity.
Whenever the Black Knight swung his sword, screams and blood flew, and the lives of one or two soldiers were lost. For every step they took forward, they were forced to take two back. He crushed their armor and reaped their lives mercilessly.
On a path made of blood and dirt, Roland rushed forward with an unexpected speed as he wielded his sword. He reaped the lives of horse and human, as if he were brandishing a large scythe.
Countless corpses littered the grass, blood and mud mixed and flowed like sewage. The one to stop Roland's rush was the same as yesterday.
With sword in hand and her silver-white hair fluttering in the wind, she struck out at the sacred blade in Roland's hand.
“We meet again.”
A fearless smile was on Ellen's mouth as she stood before him. Sophie soon appeared behind her.
“So it's you... Where is Earl Vorn?”
“He's a bit busy. The Silvfrau[Wind Princess of the Silver Flash] will be your opponent.”
With a movement of Sophie's hand, Ellen rushed forward. The sunlight reflected her sword as she collided with the sacred blade. Roland let out a strong desire to kill, but Ellen simply returned it without showing any signs of pressure.
Blue sparks were thrown about, the wind swirled, and mud splashed about.
Roland took a deep breath from her combination attack, a light appearing in his two eyes.
--- She's stronger than yesterday...!
Her determination and resolution was transmitted through their swords, and her ability had clearly increased along with her spirit. Roland could not foresee an easy fight.
Just from the wind stroking his skin, he knew he would meet his death if he let up even slightly.
They collided as they fought. Even in the confusion of the battle, a small circle surrounded them.
The subordinates separated from the mortal battle in fear.
There were some brave Knights from Navarre who entered the space, but they were immediately knocked away by Sophie. The Zhcted soldiers who approached were also repelled.
While Ellen and Roland clashed, the vortex of battle grew, little by little.
Roland separated himself from the battlefield, knowing full well he should not turn his back to the Vanadis, so he entrusted the war front to Olivier.
Leaving the world where iron, blood, and dirt reigned, the Black Knight and the Vanadis sped along a prairie to an area two belsta (approximately two kilometers) from the battlefield. Sophie followed shortly after Ellen on horseback.
“Black Knight. I would be pleased if you would allow me to be your opponent as well.”
Ellen quickly glanced at her to ask if it was fine. The Vanadis of the Light Flower softly returned a nod.
Ellen chose to fight in this location alone for two reasons.
The first was to show her determination to Roland.
The second was out of consideration for Sophie's physical strength. Though Sophie had strength, her endurance lacked in comparison to Ellen or Ludmira. It was clear since she was not fighting Roland from the start.
Roland's answer was short. The three shadows shortened their distance.
The longsword and bishop staff drew a large arc. Even with the two of them, even when Ellen and Sophie fought together, they were only evenly matched against Roland. They received attacks, dodged them, and attacked in return.
Ellen and the others could not possibly imitate Roland's actions. If she took the attacks head on, her arms would be broken.
However, Roland did not have luxury when fighting the two warriors at the same time. He could not blink in the slightest, nor could he allow disturbances in his breathing.
In a frightful exchange, Roland's large sword caught Ellen's horse. She lost her horse once again.
However, the following action was different from yesterday.
--- Black Knight. I will show you why I am a Vanadis.
“--- VerniShadow Wind.”
As she moved her legs from the horse, Ellen kicked off the saddle as if dancing in the air. Her silver-white hair fluttered in the wind as she cut down at Roland from above. Roland turned his entire body to meet her blade.
However, Ellen was not thrown to the ground. Her posture straightened in the air. At the speed of a bird gliding in to attack its prey, she cut down at Roland with motions impossible for a human.
“Yet another petty trick!”
The atmosphere visibly swirled. The sound of steel, tones of high and low, mixed into the air. Ellen used the wind to jump about and attacked Roland from his blind spot.
Gusts of wind stirred the ground with every blow. While Ellen attacked as she danced about in the air, Roland was forced into a defensive battle. Though Ellen cut Roland's horse down, the Black Knight landed without a single opening.
Ellen's vigorous attack continued. Her speed was good, and it was impossible to read her movements which were like the wind. If he were a normal man, he would have died long ago.
However, Roland had caught sight of Ellen's movements. He followed her in the air with his eyes by reading the flow of air against his skin. He used his reflexes to wield his blade.
He let loose a roar. As if cutting through a storm, his blade met Arifal. Ellen was blown away.
Though Ellen took her stance to meet Roland's attack, Sophie made her move there, the sound of her bishop staff echoing through the air.
Ellen had used Verni[Shadow Wind] in battle. Sophie watched the two fight as she quietly waited for a chance.
“MuteirasvLustrous Flow, Rush Before Me.”
Particles of light were emitted toward Roland from her bishop staff. It did not emit heat, nor did it cause pain, but it was enough to create an opening.
Ellen brandished her sword high in the air. Arifal responded to her call. It tinged with a pale blue light; a blood-colored wind wrapped about the blade, shaking the very air.
--- This man is a human, but he has a power and technique beyond human. Even so, he is not a Vanadis.
He was not a normal human; his strength and skill were abnormal. Roland's weapon had the ability to negate her VedaDragonic Skill, so it was fine.
She was still conflicted, but seeing Tigre's face as he slept, and with Sophie supporting her, Ellen's resolution was hardened.
--- Sasha, you might be angry. Even before such an enemy who could overwhelm you like this man could, you would fight and die bravely.
However, Ellen was determined. She would use this power for her desire. Her feelings were not lacking in this attack at all.
--- I will destroy that sword!
“Ley AdmosCleave the Wind!”
She swung her longsword downward. A condensed storm raged from the tip of her blade, unleashing a roar similar to a beast's. The invisible fangs of wind pierced the ground, scattering earth and sand. She used her Dragonic Skill against Roland – to be precise, she was forced to. She had no room for error.
Roland raised his eyebrow slightly, though no sign of agitation was present. He attacked the wind with Durandal, staring at it with the eyes of a beast.
Letting loose a cry, he cut it down.
The atmosphere shook with the sound of an explosion. The wind mercilessly blew the earth away as Durandal pushed the supernatural wind away. Roland was forced to retreat, his jet-black armor rattling as it took the force of the violent shock wave.
Once the wind calmed down, Roland stood proudly. His black hair was disordered, and his hands and feet were numb. Even so, he stood gazing at Ellen who had finally landed.
“What a frightening power. No... more than that, it was stunning.”
He gripped the sacred sword in hand once again and took his stance.
“But – you cannot defeat me.”
Though the two Vanadis glared at Roland, they could no longer hide their VedaDragonic Skill.
The three suddenly heard the sound of the wind being torn as something flew to them.
It was an arrow. Roland casually hit it down and looked in admiration toward the one who fired it.
“--- To think he could fire from that distance.”
One shadow approached them.
He had dull red hair and wore hempen clothes, a black bow and quiver lay at his waist.
It was Tigrevurmud Vorn.
Ellen stared in blank surprise as the young man approached. She was happy because he was alive rather than because he had come to help. He had woken up and somehow made it to their side; however, words of abuse came gushing forth.
“Why did you come here, idiot!”
“I'm not an idiot, Ellen.”
Though Sophie also scolded him, she looked at Tigre with a sense of relief drifting through the anger.
Roland spoke with a heavy voice.
“Allow us some time. I have business with the Earl.”
After they had returned, Teita brought a horse for Tigre and made preparations for him to go to battle.
Of course, she begged Tigre desperately, but she knew it was useless.
In the end, Teita gave way.
His wound had little time to heal, and it would barely stay clothed, even if he wore heavier clothes, more bandages, and his leather armor.
“Tigre-sama. Please return safely.”
“Yeah. I'm off.”
After reading the letter from Sophie, he learned how she and Ellen would fight against Roland. After that, Tigre single-mindedly aimed for the battlefield.
Though both enemy and ally were surprised to see a lone horseman with a bow, Lim understood immediately that it was Tigre that approached.
While apologizing to Lim and Massas, Tigre heard where Ellen and Sophie had run off to and rushed there on horseback.
If this were not a battlefield, the two would likely scold him for a long time. Massas had thought to tie up Tigre until the battle ended, but with the appeal of the young, red-haired man who was his close friend's son and words from Lim, he reluctantly let him go.
When he attacked the Black Knight with his bow, the battle between the Navarre Knights and the Silver Meteor Army approached its conclusion.
Both the first and third units from the Knights were almost driven to annihilation. The second unit rushed to their rescue, but, due to the mud, their mobility could not be utilized.
Their Commander, Olivier, had ordered them to fall back, but he could not move. The corpses of horses lay on the ground. His men protected themselves from the rain of arrows with shields. They slowly struggled as they crawled through the mud. Somehow, they managed to break away.
However, even if they escaped from the enemy, the five thousand Knights had been reduced to three thousand. It was a crushing defeat.
In the headquarters of the Silver Meteor Army, Lim gave a short compliment to Massas.
“Well done. By the way... How did you learn of their formation?”
“I am 55 this year.”
Massas answered Lim's question in that manner.
“If you have lived for that long, many things that you see and hear stay in your head. That is all it was. If anything, you are far more amazing, Limlisha.”
Lim tilted her head slightly within her helmet after hearing the sudden praise.
“You made a plan for victory. You arranged a large army and have a sense of how to move them properly. At the young age of 19, you were able to use them effectively. When I was 19, I was still a boy absorbed in thinking of the future with his father.”
“Divination, was it?”
“So you heard from Tigre. That boy...”
“Though unexpected, you do not seem ashamed of your hobby.”
Massas made a grumpy face and violently pulled on his beard. Lim nodded. The conversation in the room was afforded to the Silver Meteor Army.
“... That Tigre. He better return safely. I have a thing or two to say about his selfishness. I won't stop until he swears not to do it again.”
“Very well. Please allow me to help by all means. He has been unreasonable every day since I have met him.”
The two had only a single wish, that Tigre would return safely.
Tigre got off his horse and stood in the grass distant from the battlefield and faced Roland. Though Ellen, alongside Sophie, stood behind Tigre, she was quietly abusing him in her mind.
“Honestly, what a foolish man... The General is supposed to stay in the back.”
“My, my. Ellen, you seem quite happy.”
She read Ellen's thoughts and spoke in her gentle voice as usual.
“After all, what could you say before his dignified back? I am quite curious as to what Lim would say at this moment.”
Ellen averted her eyes from Sophie and looked at Tigre from behind. From what she saw before, Tigre's complexion was poor, and sweat blotted his face. He should not have been wearing leather, either. It was easy to tell the condition of his body.
Even so, Tigre resolutely confronted the Black Knight.
“You brought the Zhcted Army into our country to defend your territory. Is this true?”
Tigre answered and continued looking at Roland.
“No matter what information you find, you will see no signs that the Zhcted Army has pillaged or looted the land of others. I hired them purely to defend the peace of Alsace.”
“I know, but one day, they will become an invader! They will one day bring war. They will attack the towns and villages. What will you do then?”
Tigre again responded without hesitation.
“To defend the citizens of Brune, I would fight any and all invaders.”
Roland looked at his eyes. Even if he was lying, he had done so before two Vanadis of Zhcted. His words came from neither his desire to protect his people nor his faith in his comrades from Zhcted. The source behind his conviction was unknown.
“If you doubt Tigre's words, why not come with us?”
Ellen smiled and laughed with a haughty attitude.
“Our purpose is Duke Thenardier. We will punish him for his sins. In return, you can have his lands to the northeast. How about it?”
Roland did not show it on his face, but he was smiling. If he could, he would laugh.
“I cannot accept your invitation. Such things will not move us; that is common knowledge to a Knight. We wield our sword for the peace of our country's people. Duke Thenardier does not have the authority to move the Knights of Navarre for his petty revenge. However... we cannot overlook a traitor, either.”
As he said that, he quietly grasped Durandal.
“Before we fight, there is one thing I wish to show you.”
Tigre grasped his black bow and nocked an arrow. An intense pressure attacked his body. His muscles screamed, his wound pained him intensely, his blood seeped through his clothing. At the same time, a black light was emitted from the arrow. It was an unnatural power which disturbed even the atmosphere.
Sophie opened her eyes wide in surprise. Though Ellen was surprised as well, it was different from Sophie's.
He shot his arrow at the ground a few steps to the right of Roland. The earth was tremulous, a cloud of dust was blown away by the wind, an irregular distortion tore through the ground.
Without a doubt, the arrow displayed the same destructive atmosphere as when she had previously called out Ley Admos[Cleave the Wind].
“Even you can use such magic.”
Roland expressed his thoughts. While enduring his pain, Tigre stared at the Black Knight.
“Will you not retreat?”
“Is that a threat?”
“... I understand.”
Roland affixed his left hand to the blade held in his right. He held Durandal high above. At that time, Ellen noticed, whether it was yesterday or today, Roland had never held it with both hands. Even when he blocked her VedaDragonic Skill, he had used one hand alone.
“I will also respond in full force.”
Tigre took a deep breath. When he saw Ellen and Sophie's face, he could see their fatigue. Even the two Vanadis were not a match for Brune's strongest Knight.
If they could not defeat him here, both Tigre and the two Vanadis would die.
Tigre nocked yet another arrow, but he bent over from the pain in his body. A lukewarm mass flowed through his throat. A red liquid leaked from his clenched teeth before he fell to the ground kneeling.
His vision shook, his consciousness wavered. His whole body appealed for rest to avoid the crisis of it failing.
He was wounded and tired. It was unreasonable for him to fight.
--- Even so.
He could not afford to retire here. Roland did not relax his stance. He had to defeat him to move forward and protect his people.
Tigre nocked his arrow again. Suddenly, he felt something against his neck. He turned back to see Ellen and Sophie standing there.
Ellen looked at Tigre angrily. Though her expression was more complex than that, there was clearly anger. Sophie as well looked at him sternly with reproach.
“I've told you many times already. You're mine. Don't go dying without my permission.”
Ellen and Sophie supported Tigre, their hands against his back.
“Please. I feel bad for Ellen. Won't you listen to her?”
In such a state, the two Vanadis readied their weapons, showing their will to fight, as if to show their desire to defend Tigre.
Tigre hesitated for a moment before looking at Roland.
The Black Knight nodded slightly. Still, it was powerful.
Tigre readied his heart and aimed his arrow toward Roland, drawing the bowstring to its limit.
Ellen's Silver Flash and Sophie's Light Flower tinged with a pale light.
Innumerable particles of light spilled from Light Flower, an eddy of wind flowed and gathered at Tigre's arrowhead which shined gold.
The atmosphere raged in response to the massive power; a storm blew the area surrounding the four.
Tigre planted his feet firmly. A light blue wind and particles of light spiraled about his arrow; the ripples quietly expanded.
The shock wave of the power flowing from the bow and arrow shook the ground. The atmosphere distorted around them, forcing Ellen and Sophie to bend backward.
“... I can think of nothing to say.”
Amazement dyed Sophie's beryl eyes as she spoke. Ellen smiled proudly as she pressed her silver-white hair down with her hand.
“He's good, right? But I won't give him to you.”
Roland, at the other end of the arrow, felt an extraordinary force. Compared to the VedaDragonic Skill Ellen and Sophie used – Roland recognized it as some form of witchcraft – the arrow before him was far more powerful; he let out an involuntary groan.
--- No. In the first place, this is fundamentally different from the attack made by the Vanadis.
Roland's intuition felt there was a difference between this attack and the Dragonic Skill, but he knew nothing more than that. He was a Knight, he did not understand such things.
Roland stopped thinking. The bowstring was already bent, and his sword was at the ready. He ground his foot into the ground and took a deep breath.
The arrow was ready; a storm blew against his body. Roland heard a loud voice through the roars of the wind.
“I will defeat you! I will defend my people!”
The arrow was shot and met. The shock caused a numbness in Tigre's right hand, the fierce winds thrashed his entire body, yet he did not break his stance for a moment.
A trail of dazzling blue and gold light followed the arrow as it traveled forward. Even with the violent movement of the sand and the earth beneath it, Roland did not remove his eyes from the arrow.
He accurately captured its path and moved his blade.
There was a sound, as if a mountain was blown away; the earth intensely shook. He had impressively met the arrowhead with Durandal; however, the arrow was not cut, rather, it remained in the air, as if trying to pierce through his sword.
It was a strange spectacle. One arrow rivaled Brune's strongest Knight, even when he grasped his blade with two hands. Eventually, the light of the arrow began to fade.
Roland clenched his teeth and devoted the remaining muscles in his body to the task of destroying the arrow. Although his eyes and ears were entirely fixed on the clash, he had felt it with his entire body through the sacred sword. There was no disorder in either the arrow or blade.
--- I... I am the Knight named Roland, I will complete my task as sworn by the blade bestowed upon me by His Majesty!
While those thoughts ran through his mind, Roland recalled the words Tigre shouted a moment ago.
I will defend my people.
Who else would run through the battlefield, shedding his blood and risking his life, to defend his people?
Tigrevurmud Vorn was a traitor. But who made him rebel?
--- This blade... I received this sword from His Majesty to defend our people...!
Roland let out a roar, letting out all that had accumulated within him.
He crushed the arrow and pierced the ground with the sacred sword.
There was a flash of light. The ground shook. Roland's sword stood erect. Cracks appeared, gouging through the earth at a tremendous speed, reaching Tigre's feet. The shock shook Tigre's hair.
The reverberations beneath the two and the Vanadis gradually diminished. The Vanadis gazed at the two.
The arrow was shattered; Roland was still alive.
“... This is my defeat.”
Roland spoke those words before Tigre. As for Tigre, he could not understand.
During the clash, numerous cracks appeared in Roland's black armor. His gauntlet and leg guards shattered and his hair was in disorder. Roland's entire body was covered in sweat. He tightly grasped the sacred sword in both hands as it stood planted in the ground.
When his eyes met Tigre's, Roland spoke hoarsely.
“I can't move my arms. Though, it does not seem as if they are broken.”
It was a first for him. Roland looked puzzled.
It was not a lie that his arms were unable to move. His fingers were stiff and would not separate from the sword. If Roland still had the will to fight, he would have dragged his sword and cut Tigre down.
“Above all, I cannot defeat you at the moment.”
It was Roland himself who felt he had lost the most.
Roland's body had met the demand of its owner. It had summoned a force far beyond its limit, and was exhausted. However, the spirit supporting his body was not something he could let go so easily.
“--- I surrender.”
The moment the Black Knight spoke those words, Tigre staggered and fell.
The cold winter air stroked Tigre's face as he opened his eyes.
Along with a gentle voice, Ellen's face came into view against the backdrop of the blue sky. Tigre noticed his head was on something warm and soft.
While he was out of it, Ellen had let him use her legs as a pillow to sleep. Tigre tried to get up on reflex, but Ellen placed her hands on his chest.
“Rest. Your battle has ended.”
Though he could not tell how the battle was going, Ellen did not believe her army would be defeated. Roland had also acknowledged his defeat.
He was heading to the Knights to end the battle.
Looking to the left and right, he saw Sophie's figure standing with her normal smile as she looked at him. Noticing Tigre's gaze, she spoke joyfully.
“You do not need to think too hard, Lord Tigrevurmud. If you wish for me to take her place, I will do so immediately.”
“Stop saying nonsense, Sophie.”
She threatened her with a menacing expression. Ellen looked at Tigre's face while exuding her crabby mood.
“Really. What should I do with you? I have never met such an idiotic person. If you want, I could take your neck right now. Do you really want to die that much?”
“No words of praise, huh?”
Ellen's hand made to hit Tigre, but she stopped early and pressed it against him.
He could feel her warmth through the palm of her hand and her words. Tigre stopped moving, a mix of the fragrance of grass, his sweat, and another sweet scent tickled his nose.
“... Such a nice scent.”
Though he did not point out what he was talking about, it seems Ellen understood what he meant. Her face was dyed red and she muttered to herself. Tigre as well, though he had not particularly given thought to his comment, became flushed after seeing Ellen's reaction.
As his gaze wandered restlessly, Tigre thought frantically about what happened before he fell into unconsciousness.
“Um, since when...?”
“This? A minute ago.”
Ellen lightly hit her thigh as she looked away. She must have done so right as Tigre woke up.
Her thighs and palms were comfortable, but, above all, Tigre was glad to accept her good will. He stopped trying to sit up and looked to the sky.
“What, don't worry about it. Sophie and I have already forgiven you. As for Lim and Massas, I'm sure we can clear that up.”
Finally regaining her composure, she lightly played with Tigre's hair with her finger as she smiled. Imagining what the two would say and thinking of Tigre bowing his head to the ground, they began to laugh. Sophie, too, laughed as she thought about the scene.
Gently, a quiet breeze blew by the three people.
When Roland reported that he was surrendering, the Knights had trouble believing it.
However, the Silver Meteor Army stopped attacking. When they saw the Knights retreat, they did not pursue. Of course, many were relieved it was finally the end.
“We came with five thousand... Nearly half have been lost.”
With a worn out expression, Olivier muttered so no one could hear him. What surprised him the most, though, was Roland's appearance when he returned.
His black hair was a mess, his face clearly showed his fatigue, and his jet black armor, his very symbol, was in tatters.
Roland said just that. Olivier staggered in shock and was quickly supported by the surrounding Knights. He needed their help to remain upright.
“.... What happened?”
Though it was unbelievable that Roland would be defeated, he could see signs of damage from the staff and sword, but none from the arrow. Strangely, his gauntlets and leg guards were almost on the verge of collapse.
“I fought. I was defeated. That is all.”
Those words alone were not enough. Olivier could not possibly consent.
“What is to happen to us?”
“That has yet to be decided.”
The Knights' reactions were divided cleanly into two. Some had not yet accepted their defeat or Roland's declaration of surrender, and there were those who wished for a continuation of battle.
“We have lost two thousand men, and both our Commander and Vice-Commander are still alive! If we ask for reinforcements from the Knights in the area, we can annihilate those rebels!”
Though a young Knight spoke breathlessly, Roland, their leader, simply told them to accept their defeat and apologized.
On the other hand, it did not necessarily mean the Silver Meteor Army was victorious. Their battle had yet to end.
Lim and Ellen, after thinking hard, placed soldiers who were slightly injured or fatigued to the front while the rest were moved to the back due to their worry of a possible deployment during their rest. They had started with forty-three hundred soldiers, but many were lost in the maelstrom of war.
In a situation like this, after their victory was reported, it was impossible for them to move. They could only sit on the spot and rest, even if they were next to corpses or pools of blood. It was difficult to distinguish who was dead and who was alive.
Tigre and Massas finally settled down once they reunited.
Though Massas wanted to complain for more than one koku, when seeing the three exhausted people, he swallowed his words.
Tigre was supported by Ellen and Sophie, but the two Vanadis were also lacking in energy.
With a sense of relief from their victory in battle and, more than anything else, his joy from their safety, he met them and lightly pat them on the back.
Though his wounds hurt, Tigre was also very happy.
Lim also looked to feel the same way. After closely supporting Ellen, she looked down at Tigre coldly.
“... I have quite a bit to say to you. Do you understand?”
If Tigre were as usual, he would notice joy and shyness in her voice, but he could not hear them at the moment, so he obediently nodded.
“You have only brought this upon yourself. Until this is completely finished, you are forbidden from touching the bow.”
It was punishment. Though he was saddened from the bottom of his heart, he had no intention of opposing her decision.
When day broke, both armies held a meal and began burying the dead. They chose a small hill near the river in Territoire, Augre's territory, to bury both the dead of the Navarre Knights and the Zhcted Army.
Tigre bought large amounts of food from the towns and villages in the vicinity and gave five gold and silver coins to all the soldiers as a reward. Of course, it was ultimately going to be a debt on his part.
“It's quite frightening to think an individual has this much debt.”
Lim approved of Tigre's request, but she did not forget to add it on to what he owed.
She fully understood the necessity. Though they had won, they had sacrificed a lot. To quell the soldier's discontent, such treatment was necessary.
However, they could not procure food as they desired. The villages and towns gave priority to saving food more than money since it was winter.
Still, the soldiers were happy with just some honey added to their fish soup and some wine during their meal.
Finally, both armies prepared for discussion.
Tigre, Ellen, and Massas represented the Silver Meteor Army. Roland and Olivier represented the Navarre Knights.
“What will you do from now on?”
Roland asked that at the start.
“We head for Nemetacum.”
Tigre answered bluntly, though with a rueful expression. Nemetacum was Duke Thenardier's territory, and it was several days distance away.
However, the Silver Meteor Army was considerably damaged in their battle with Navarre. If they were to fight Duke Thenardier further in the future, there was no guarantee they would have enough forces. Tigre and Ellen truly were considering hiring mercenaries.
Regardless, there were no other aristocrats who could reliably become their ally, and if news of the Navarre Knights' defeat was spread, other Knights may appear to subjugate them.
As usual, Tigre had no time.
“I see, Perhaps I can buy you some time.”
Both Tigre and Massas frowned upon hearing Roland's words, while Ellen's red pupils showed interest. Olivier, in the back of his mind, still could not consent.
“I will return to the Royal Capital and get an audience with His Majesty for you.”
“That is unreasonable.”
Massas was the first to react.
“His Majesty... has become weak and cannot do such things.”
He could not possibly say he was playing with blocks.
“Above all, you have lost the battle. Do you think Thenardier and Ganelon will remain silent? They will simply place the blame on you.”
“Besides, how much time would that get us? It is unlikely to happen, and there is no knowing when other Knighthoods and aristocrats will make a move against us.”
Ellen folded her arms and asked Roland. Tigre also showed he disagreed.
“You also went to the Royal Palace for me, Lord Massas, and you were almost killed just for trying to arrange a meeting with His Majesty. The capital is far more dangerous than you think.”
“I already knew it would be dangerous.”
Tigre's words of persuasion seemed to make Roland stiffen.
“As a Knight of Brune, I must correct mistakes.”
Roland pulled Durandal out of its sheath and presented it to Tigre.
Tigre did not understand the meaning and simply looked at Roland.
“I entrust this to you. It is proof that Roland has acknowledged your justice. If you show this to a Knight or a noble, so long as they are not a great fool, they will not fight you.”
Though Roland did not speak of it, the thought of the legendary Knight was ablaze in his mind. He thought of him as a person who fought for the people, so it was no mystery he would present this sword. Those were the feelings in his actions.
“Just to make sure, will the Knights of Navarre not fight with us?”
Though Ellen asked, Olivier refused. He was not as open minded as Roland and spoke in a business-like tone.
“We must return to our fortress. We cannot leave the border unguarded indefinitely.”
Tigre received the sacred sword and felt a strange feeling in the heavy blade. It was something special like his bow or a ViraltDragonic Tool.
Tigre gave it some thought and raised his head and responded to Roland.
“I understand. Until you return, I will remain here.”
Tigre did not decide this only out of sentiment. He also wanted time to increase the number under his command.
Roland took a horse and rode day and night until he reached the King's Capital of Nice. It was possible because of Roland's uncommon physical strength; others would become exhausted on the way.
He took a quick rest and straightened his personal appearance. The next day, Roland visited the palace.
Though Massas was influential for a minor aristocrat, Roland was a separate matter entirely. He had been popular since the day he became a Knight and was assigned to lead the Navarre Knights. Since then, he had been called by the King to visit him at the Royal Palace at least once a year. The guards let him pass through immediately.
Roland walked straight through the Palace.
“Oh? Isn't that Lord Roland? What might you be here for?”
Deep in the palace, Roland was called out to by Duke Ganelon.
Ganelon's back was stooped low. His height was close to that of a boy of ten years, his limbs were like a child's, his small body was wrapped in ornate clothes, and, in place of hair, he wore a silk hat.
His eyelids were large, but his eyes were strangely thin. It was difficult to tell if they were empty or not. It was rumored they were seen fully open only once or twice.
Before Roland's tall stature, he was a dwarf of a man. He was like an eerie, ugly child without any semblance of beauty.
“Due to circumstance, I must meet the King by all means.”
Roland spoke in a blunt tone. He disliked this man.
“I see. It must be important, coming from a great Knight like you.”
Ganelon showed exaggerated surprise. He then spoke with a laugh.
“However, His Majesty is resting in his room right now. I will have someone check how he is right now. You should take a rest in this room until then.”
“Very well. I will do that.”
Roland obediently left. Because of his purpose in coming, he did not wish to alert others. He had no intention of obtaining permission from Ganelon from the start.
Roland called one of the chamberlains to a stop and asked to rest in a guestroom. Hearing his name, the chamberlain prepared an available room immediately.
He was guided to a small room deep in the palace with a bed, desk, and chair. There was little furniture inside. Though he was anxious that it was windowless, Roland decided to accept the room, since he would leave shortly afterward.
--- Though it is disrespectful, I will look for a chance to sneak out.
He entered the room and sat on the chair, vaguely thinking about the future.
--- There are signs of life.
There were about ten people beside the door. When Roland stood up, the chair fell over. He rushed to the door and found Ganelon with many soldiers.
He kicked the small door. Despite this, the door remained firm and did not break. It was braced from the outside, likely with an iron plate. At this time, Roland realized he had fallen into a trap.
“How are you feeling, Roland?”
A voice came from above. Roland looked at the ceiling and saw a small hole in the corner.
“What are you doing, Ganelon?”
Roland asked without fear in a dignified manner. He understood his fate.
“You failed to defeat the rebels and shamelessly came to the King's Capital. It is my duty to punish such a small individual.”
As he said that, a jar of yellow, buzzing insects appeared through the small hole, their wings flapping wildly. One after another, they flew into the room. Though they were no larger than an adult thumb, there were dozens, hundreds of them, flying from the ceiling. They covered the wall, filling the room with a humming noise.
“The Bee Prison. It is Marquis Greast's idea.”
Ganelon's voice seemed joyful from beneath the hole.
“Goodbye, Strongest Knight.”
His voice stopped there.
Roland, standing in the center of the room, was crowded by bees from all directions.
The next day, Ganelon poured poisonous smoke into the rooms at daybreak. The bees were wiped out.
Upon his orders, a man opened the door. The man screamed involuntarily, petrified with terror, and fell over. He gazed into the room, tears in his eyes.
Roland stood upright in the center of the room with his eye on the door. His whole body had been stung by bees all over and was red and swollen, giving him a strangely distorted figure.
The man thought it impossible. He had seen many men sentenced to the prison of bees. They all lay crouched on the floor without exception. They died while protecting their face. That action was natural. When attacked by bees, their bodies would bend over as they were stabbed by several hundred needles.
After a time surpassing a count of fifty, the man regained his composure. Though he was still frightened, he stood up and set foot through the door. He crushed many bees as he walked closer to confirm Roland's death.
Roland died standing.
When news of Roland's death reached him, Duke Thenardier became enraged at first. It was the same as when he had lost his son. He quickly walked through the corridor to visit Duke Ganelon.
“What are you thinking?”
Without bothering with a greeting, in the first place, any greeting between the two would only be filled with sarcasm, Thenardier glared at Ganelon.
Though not as much as Roland, Thenardier also had a muscular body. The two staring at each other looked like an adult and child glaring at one another.
“What are you talking about?”
Ganelon fixed his hat and spoke as if he knew nothing.
“Roland is dead. Why did you kill him?”
For Thenardier, it was a gross miscalculation. He had sent Roland and the Navarre Knights out. Once they defeated the Zhcted Army, he intended to have them guard the western border.
There were no signs of truce, and negotiations still had a long way to go. Many of the nobles supporting Thenardier had territories in the west.
“Sachstein and Asvarre will become more bold now.”
In the worst case, Sachstein and Asvarre would cooperate after confirming Roland's death and would send troops.
However, Ganelon's reaction was not what he expected.
“It was unavoidable. Roland did not fulfill his duties.”
“So why did you kill him!”
Thenardier shouted indignantly. He could not understand Ganelon's behavior.
Thenardier also threatened and killed many, but he did so with judgment. At least, he would not give such a severe punishment to people with value.
If it were him, he would still have use for Roland. Even if he had not defeated Tigre, his value had not decreased significantly.
However, Ganelon laughed as if parrying Thenardier's anger.
“Did you want to kill him some other way?”
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