Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 04 Chapter 3 - 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 3 - Laziris[Rainbow Eyes]
A light snow began falling, and the cold was made worse due to the dry wind, further numbing the people walking in the midst of winter. The gray sky mirrored the chilled earth.
Ellen and her troops had finally left the Vosyes Mountains and were crossing LeitMeritz toward Legnica.
Lim's hand extended along with her voice to brush snow out of Ellen's hair, her eyes clearly showing concern. Ellen smiled in reassurance. After letting out a deep breath, she looked to the cloudy sky.
“Thank you, Lim. I'm fine.”
The Vanadis with silver-white hair changed her expression to a serious one immediately.
“--- There are some missing.”
“Not a small number either, since they're going on a forced march through LeitMeritz.”
“I don't care if we lose another one thousand, we're maintaining speed.”
Crossing the Vosyes mountains was a difficult task. Since they had entered her territory of LeitMeritz, she could ask some of the nearby towns and villages for housing for her troops that left as a Vanadis.
What Ellen required now was speed.
Ellen suddenly glanced back at the gray scenery, as if searching for something. A wry smile floated to her face as she shook her head.
“... Were you thinking of Lord Tigrevurmud?”
Lim's question seemed to be her guess based on Ellen's gesture. Ellen, unable to deny it, flushed red for a moment. Lim sighed in amazement.
“We have parted from him long ago. How many days do you think have passed? We are already in Zhcted.”
Candid advice came from her long-time adjutant. Far from reflecting on it, an ill-natured smile flashed on Ellen's face.
“You as well, Lim. Do you care to explain your shameful behavior in the war council last night? Despite it being only a quarter koku, twice you almost said [Lord Tigrevurmud]. You're lucky it was just the two of us.”
Lim's blue eyes opened widely, having been hit in a sore point. She began to fluster, trying to find an excuse, but eventually she looked down while blushing.
Ellen, now satisfied, stopped her teasing and smiled sentimentally.
“Honestly... We met him in the autumn. Not even half a year has passed.”
In the first place, their meeting on the battlefield was not exactly friendly.
Even so, Tigre's presence had become a big thing within Ellen and Lim.
“Lim, I think that's another one of his faults.”
Lim looked curiously toward Ellen while she nodded, her ruby pupils shining brightly.
“It's always like that. He doesn't get up in the morning, when we try to teach him how to use a sword or spear, he finds reasons to run away, and when he is being lectured on strategy, his concentration breaks after a quarter koku.”
Ellen stopped speaking here. Lim was counting on her fingers as Ellen gave reasons before and was continuing on in her head. Ellen stopped as she smiled at Lim, who seemed happy.
“... Is there something on my face?”
“No, but you seem a bit happy when I mentioned his faults.”
Lim's face look dissatisfied upon hearing Ellen's evaluation. Her golden hair tied on the left of her hood shook.
“It is hardly a good thing. I wish he could become more solid like you. If he put the effort into the other military arts, he could do them properly. If I am not firm with him here, he'll simply sit on his backside all day...”
“Speaking of backside, he still hasn't seen your chest, has he?”
“... What are you talking about?”
“Yeah, should I say he's unlucky, or should I say his fate is good? You could say he's absent-minded, or maybe he's unexpectedly shrewd. I think you're the only one he hasn't seen bathing. Even Sophie and Ludmira were seen.”
Although Ellen said she did not particularly care, when Lim heard this, her face was flush with embarrassment, then went red with rage before finally settling on a pale complexion.
“... I see. When I return, it seems I must have a chat with Lord Tigrevurmud. Depending on the situation, he will require education rather than a lecture – No, it will be necessary to teach him properly...”
Lim assembled a schedule in her head for the future.
“Eleanora-sama, though you have seen all his faults, what do you think of him?”
Ellen put her thoughts together, her eyes gazing on the gray sky above.
“I think he's pretty good. Though he has plenty of faults, depending on how you look at him, you can think of them as his virtues.”
Though Lim had misgivings as to whether or not this would become a conversation on love affairs, it did not. The talk ended there.
The amount of snow falling into their view had increased significantly.
“... Lim, should we speed up a little more?”
Immediately changing her train of thought, Ellen asked Lim with an earnest expression. Lim quickly thought about it in her mind. Until now, Ellen had restrained herself and settled on the pace they traveled at currently.
If they increased their speed and distance today, they would require rest and may not be able to travel the next day. They feared the horses would collapse in the worst case.
However, they were quite near Legnica, and they were afraid they may be buried beneath the snow, so doing something slightly irrational may be called for.
“From here, we will reach Legnica within a half koku, but the men and the horses have accumulated a lot of fatigue, and we have more leaving...”
“I don't care. It won't be possible to stop by any towns or villages once we enter Legnica.”
Ellen made a prompt decision. She pulled her horse to a stop and sternly instructed her men.
“Since it's snowing heavily now, we're aiming to hit Legnica a koku early. Those who don't want to follow can stay here, got it?”
Though the soldiers responded with a cry loud enough not to be drowned out by the wind, the fatigue ran deep in their faces.
Brushing away the snow, the LeitMeritz Army led by Ellen ran quickly through the wilderness.
--- Sasha is sick, I can't let her down...
Amongst the seven Vanadis, Sasha always won against Ellen when the two competed. She was so much more powerful – simply put, she was strong.
If Sasha were healthy, even if the other Vanadis attacked Legnica, Ellen would worry about her body and would come running to help.
However, Sasha was currently inflicted with a terrible illness. She spends nearly half the day in bed, so it was unreasonable to think she could stand on the battlefield as the General.
---It doesn't matter how many enemies there are... I will help her!
Her fury was visible in her ruby eyes. Ellen rushed ahead on her horse.
By the time they reached Legnica, her troops had fallen to little more than one thousand. Ellen took a break with her troops, but after a quarter koku, they took to horse once again.
By the time they reached Sasha's official residence, the sun had already fallen. The number of soldiers following Ellen was only five hundred.
It was Sophie's role to arbitrate whenever Ellen and Ludmira had an argument; however, two years before, it was Sasha's job. Since her health deteriorated, it became impossible for her to leave Legnica.
The way Sasha ended their quarrels was to pull the two apart and listen to their complaints separately. The next day, the three would gather and the two would reconcile.
She had used force only once.
In an empty square just outside of the Royal Palace in the King's Capital Silesia, Ludmira and Ellen had taken out their ViraltDragonic Tool and were fighting for some reason neither could remember.
Ellen's Arifal had controlled the wind while Ludmira's Lavias froze the atmosphere. The two exchanged a violent glance. At that time, a harsh voice interrupted their duel.
“... What are you two doing?”
At that time, Ellen and Ludmira were 14 while Sasha was 19, and the two had not yet been Vanadis for more than a year. Sasha had been chosen by her Dragonic Tool when she was 15.
The two could not resist against her dignity and strength.
Ellen and Ludmira both pointed at one another. Sasha simply sighed in amazement.
“I got it. I will be your opponent, then.”
Sasha's Dragonic Tool was a pair of swords sheathed on either side of her waist. They shined gold and vermillion respectively, making no sound as they were unsheathed.
Sasha was known as the Falpram[Hidden Princess of the Luminous Flame] and the Cortisa[Princess of the Dancing Blades]. The first impression one would have of her is calm and gentle.
Her short cut black hair which rested on her shoulders and her narrow face gave her a neutral presence. Her skin was pale and she was more on the lean side.
Her tone was also mild, but not the sort that would coerce others.
Nevertheless, both Ludmira and Ellen flinched when she took up her Twin Swords.
“What's wrong? If you've gone so far as to pull out your sword and spear, surely you want a fight, right?”
“It, it is unrelated to you.”
Ludmira sharply pointed that out. Ellen vigorously nodded in agreement.
“This is between me and her. You can act as judge.”
However, Sasha showed no signs of backing down.
“If children do not wish to listen, then I will not remain quiet. Since you two don't seem to want to talk to each other, I will make you understand with force.”
Her golden blade was turned to Ellen while the vermillion blade was turned to Ludmira. Sasha continued speaking quietly.
“Since it's troublesome, you two can come at me together. If either of you injures me, I will acknowledge my defeat. I will never stick my nose in your business again, and I will listen to anything you two have to say today.”
She was being generous.
A fire burned violently within Ellen and Ludmira's eyes.
The two had obtained their ViraltDragonic Tool when they were 14 and were confident in their skill. Sasha's words strongly stimulated their pride. In short, she provoked them.
The two who were involved in a cat fight just a moment ago exchanged a quick look and kicked off the ground. They pounced simultaneously from the left and right, yet Sasha remained stationary.
In a single moment, two sounds, without a single gap between them, rang out in succession.
Sasha coldly looked down at Ellen and Ludmira who were lying on the ground. She had struck them a powerful blow and broken their posture, forcing them to fall to their knees.
Her Dragonic Tool remained in both hands. Even at their best, they could not force her to drop either of them.
“... Are you done?”
Ellen and Ludmira feebly nodded. They were given an attack which knocked the energy out of their bodies. They could not see it but the wall was too high since the difference in their skill was overwhelming.
Sasha quietly sheathed her Twin Swords and turned to Ellen and Ludmira after wiping the dust off her body.
“Since you two are young, it can't be helped that you will fight, but it is unforgivable to turn your weapons to one another. This is even more true of Dragonic Tools...”
The two did not consider the words of the 19 year old who looked down at them prudently. She had fought two of them and moved in an instant as if she were a phantom. Furthermore, the numbness in their right hands had still not disappeared.
When Ellen described this story to Sophie later, she narrowed her eyes and smiled as if she were suppressing her laughter.
“Incidentally, I never told you or Mira. One year ago, Sasha had a practice against three Vanadis at once. It was a complete victory for her.”
One was me. Sophie's golden hair waved as she pointed to herself.
“Considering your age, you were strong enough, but Sasha has been on top for a long time. It would definitely be difficult to win against that Vanadis one on one.”
Sasha's imperial palace was lined with white marble and sandstone. It gave off a strange sense of taste and yet was still strange. Though no one had changed its design, no one bothered to worry, since it was a design meant to calm people down.
Ellen passed through immediately.
Because of the heavy snows, she borrowed a building just outside the public courtyard for her soldiers to rest in while the horses remained in the courtyard. Lim and Ellen followed the servant down a corridor where fires were lit at intervals and stood before Sasha's door.
“Sasha, how is her condition?”
“I can't say it is very good.”
The aged servant who worked in the palace longer than Sasha had a hoarse voice, but his words were clear.
“I believe Alexandra-sama would be delighted to speak to you, but please stop after a half koku. Allow her to rest and you may speak to her again after dinner.”
Ellen nodded. The servant entered Sasha's room first and bowed before confirming the two could enter.
“Should I leave my sword with you?”
Though Ellen called it to attention, the servant refused.
“We recognize that a ViraltDragonic Tool is with a Vanadis at all time. Above all, you are Alexandra-sama's precious friend, and you have a strong faith in Limlisha.”
His words held weight. The old man was three, four times older than Ellen. He had also served the previous Vanadis whom Sasha succeeded. After bowing, Ellen pushed open the door.
It was a simple room with the minimal amount of furniture and a simple decorated window showing the winter. There was also a brick fireplace with a flame burning brightly within.
“--- It's been a while.”
Sasha, the Falpram[Hidden Princess of the Luminous Flame], sat up in bed and received Ellen with a smile. Her Twin Swords lay atop her knee, glittering gold and vermillion.
The Bright Flame Bargren. The name of her ViraltDragonic Tool was the Toki no Sojin[Twin Blades of Demonic Force].
“Sorry. You had to come all this way.”
Ellen did not respond at once. She walked to the bed and stood before Sasha.
“It's natural that I come help you.”
Her desires and nostalgia as she reminisced changed to joy and relief. Ellen obediently smiled.
--- She's gotten worse.
When they met last summer, her black hair was cut to an even length down to her shoulders. It was a little disordered, now, and her skin seemed more pale.
The flesh on her hand which extended from her white clothes were thinner. After hesitating for a moment, Ellen grasped it with both hands as if it were precious.
“So you still dress like that.”
Sasha's favorite clothes were either black or white. She would wear solid black on her upper or lower body which let out a glimpse of white clothing beneath it. Ellen had seen it a few times. Though it depended on the mood of the person in question, Ellen had only seen her wear black on the battlefield, and she typically wore white outside.
“When I go to sleep, my subordinates prepare white. I make sure to wear my clothing thankfully.”
Sasha recommended a chair for Lim to sit at. So as not to obstruct the two Vanadis, Lim bowed down before taking a seat.
“Though there are a lot of things to talk about, let's start with the important ones. It might be a bit rude, but please tell me about your land...”
Ellen's eyes exuded a powerful fearlessness and the will to fight. She would not forgive those who would harm her best friend. It was necessary she hear the circumstances in detail from Sasha.
Sasha did not answer immediately. Rather, she waited until Ellen settled down, even if just a little.
The moment she heard the name, Ellen's calm expression became angry. Lim pressed down on her hand quietly from the side to keep her from standing up abruptly.
“Eleanora-sama. Your conversation with Alexandra-sama has not yet ended.”
A detached voice sounded to appease her Lord who was on the verge of exploding. Ellen sat in the chair, her silver-white hair swaying about.
“So it really is her.”
“Did you know?”
Sasha looked lightly at Ellen, who let out a deep breath full of heavy emotions.
“The territory held by a Vanadis nearest Legnica would be my LeitMeritz and Lebus that she governs. The rest is simply a process of elimination. Sophie returned to Zhcted with me, and Ludmira would have to pass through my territory to get here.”
Ellen counted the Vanadis on her fingers as she named them.
“I heard Olga left her territory and has not contacted anyone. Valentina's territory is far away, so I thought it may have been Elizavetta.”
Ellen smiled proudly.
Though she did not say it, there was another reason Ellen thought it was her.
--- It seems Elizavetta is on good terms with Thenardier and Ganelon...
For instance, Elizavetta may have acted to force Ellen to return to Zhcted.
If she made her move, it would be Ellen's obligation as a Vanadis to move in turn.
--- However, Elizavetta... That Laziris[Rainbow Eyes], she wouldn't do this just to attack me. What kind of reasons could she have.
What she thought did not appear on her face at all. Rather, Ellen asked about Sasha.
“What's with her. What reason is she giving for moving her soldiers?”
Sasha smiled wryly and turned her gaze to Lim. Lim nodded apologetically in return; though there may have been no other possibility, Sasha had guessed what Ellen was thinking. She had already labeled Elizavetta as evil.
“Ellen. I want you to listen calmly.”
After her introductory remark, Sasha began explaining while looking at the fireplace.
“--- In the middle of summer, Elizavetta and I cooperated to subdue some pirates off the coast.”
Sasha, who governed Legnica, and Elizavetta, who governed Lebus, were both in charge of territories in northwest Zhcted.
The two cooperated in important situations. Any pirates that escaped their attacks would run away and hide and then return when they had the chance, so it was natural the two cooperated for the clean up.
“The extermination was done quite easily. She and I were considerably superior, though I was unable to go personally with my body...”
The problems happened after the event.
“She complained that my army directed the pirates toward her own, and she was forced with the majority of the burden.”
“Is that true?”
“My subordinates naturally said they did not, however, I could not tell what happened with just the report.”
Sasha moved her fingers though the air as she drew a rough map of the terrain and troop movements. Lim and Ellen looked on with difficult expressions. They had no experience with subjugating pirates, but they understood the flow of battle and the soldier's movements well.
That is why they could understand Sasha's claims and felt Elizavetta was intent on accusing her.
“Regarding the pirate subjugation, I got her to come here in advance so we could discuss the plan and draw up a contract, but neither of us assumed this would happen.”
“But there is no clear proof of malicious intent here. Such flows on the battlefield are not unusual.”
“Yes. I said it was unintentional, but she was not convinced.”
“Were there any other problems? Such as distribution of the spoils...”
Lim asked since one army may have taken a significant amount more, but Sasha shook her head.
“Although I re-investigated things, I could find nothing. She did not point it out, either. We were communicating via letters, but that broke off in mid-autumn.”
It was then Elizavetta commanded her troops.
“She's an impatient one.”
Ellen's arms were folded as she scowled, implying she did not like her.
“Under these circumstances, I can't say I don't understand what she is saying, but I wanted to clear this up peaceably.”
Ellen looked pensive when Sasha responded. She placed her hands on the Twin Swords over her knees.
“If only I could move---”
A shadow of a smile appeared as she stroked the handle of her weapons.
“These children have judged that no one else is qualified to be Vanadis and have not separated. If they did, I would not need to rely on you, but they won't leave...”
She spoke as if she were talking to children who required a lot of care. Though their appearance did not change, they generated heat in response to their master's words. Ellen understood that much.
“They like you. Isn't that a good thing?”
As she gave those words of encouragement, the Silver Flash at her waist ran a light breeze through Ellen's silver-white hair, as if telling her it would not lose to those feelings. Ellen thanked her ViraltDragonic Tool by tapping its sheathe lightly.
“Where is Elizavetta right now?”
“The latest report said she was in Vasaro. After capturing one of the fortresses near the northeastern border, she retreated without barricading herself inside. So far, there have been no reports of villages or towns being attacked.”
Ellen and Lim exchanged a suspicious glance hearing Sasha's explanation.
“... What is she thinking?”
The soldiers of Legnica couldn't push Elizavetta back. There was no force which could push back a Vanadis without overwhelming strength.
“Normally speaking, she would take the fortress and use it as a bargaining chip.”
“However, from Sasha's story, she did nothing after the fortress fell. It's like a child who started acting out in revenge.”
Ellen crossed her arms in doubt hearing Lim's opinion. Sasha smiled bitterly and spoke gently, admonishing her best friend with silver-white hair.
“I understand why you may think that, Ellen, but Elizavetta is still 17. The two of you are still children, so your evaluation is a little weak.”
“In other words, you think she has other aims?”
“Though I don't know, it is possible.”
Seeing her anxiety, Ellen began to laugh, full of ambition and the desire to fight.
“Relax, Sasha. It'll be fine since I came here. I'll beat that idiot a bit and then we can have a nice chat.”
When one investigated thoroughly, there were many possible causes for war. It could be because someone stepped beyond their borders or because a landslide in the mountain caused problems, or even because a river froze over.
Though scholars were amazed and lamented these reasons, for the people who lived in those regions, it was a matter of life and death. Ellen knew from personal experience that fights could erupt over a single grain of wheat or a drop of water.
Whatever the reasons Elizavetta may have had, she led her soldiers on an attack against others.
“Sorry. I'll leave it to you.”
Sasha said that likely to ease Ellen's anxieties. After nodding, the two talked about a separate issue.
“By the way, I heard you were with some interesting guy these days. Sophie sent me a letter. You were in Brune, right?”
“Yeah. I'm lending a bit of my soldiers to an unreliable man. I'm sure he'd cry if I abandoned him.”
“Though it feels like he's helped us from time to time.”
Lim promptly interrupted. Ellen pouted like a sulky child.
“Even though you say that like it's not your business, he helped you as well – like sucking on your chest.”
Hearing those words, Lim pressed on her chest on reflex and blushed as she looked at her silver-white haired Lord.
“Wha... What are you saying so suddenly!”
She used all of her self control so she would not shout before an ill person.
“Isn't it true? Your attitude toward Tigre softened quite a bit after that.”
“That... I have only been evaluating his effort.”
“It's quite an odd amount of affection, then. Whenever you have free time, you're quite enthusiastic to teach him.”
“...Eleanora-sama, I could only wish you had the same enthusiasm to listen to my lectures. The moment I take my eyes off you, you leave the castle incognito.”
A relentless counterattack left Ellen speechless for a moment. Sasha smiled wryly.
“I see Ellen's habit of cutting classes has not changed.”
“It is important to inspect the affairs of my country.”
Ellen answered promptly in a dignified manner, though her face was clearly bashful.
“Is the meat you can buy from the stands delicious? How about the strawberry and grape jams on the honeyed bread? Isn't it important to investigate these things?”
“I like honey. Tigre – Ah, the person I'm helping said the strawberry was good. We covered the bread with honey when we entered the mountains as well. It helps mellow the acidity...”
“You two seem to have gone off track.”
Sasha looked at Ellen who spoke with interest and Lim who looked amazed. Though Ellen seemed dissatisfied, they did not have much time to speak, so the silver-white haired girl spoke of things from when she met Tigre.
However, she refrained from speaking of the black bow. She did not want to worry her friend who was in ill health.
“... Ellen, I didn't think you'd lend him your soldiers for so long.”
Sasha looked at her in amazement at first.
“I had intended to drive away Duke Thenardier's Army and learn of the situation in Brune, but things have become like this for a number of reasons.”
“Learning the status of Brune aside... Do you really like the boy that much?”
“He's an interesting guy. You'll understand if you meet him. I'm sure if you two talked, you'd like him too.”
Ellen spoke happily and proudly. Lim also nodded, despite her indifferent expression.
“He has quite a number of faults, rather, I am amazed there are so many. However, we have still lent him our aid. Rather, it seems somewhat unavoidable.”
“Is that so. He seems interesting. I would like to meet him.”
Sasha grew an interest in Tigre, hearing Ellen and Lim's evaluation.
“The fight in Brune should also end by spring. If so, I'll be happy to lend him to you.”
Ellen stretched her chest forward as if boasting about a toy she owned. Her words were wishing for her best friend's complete recovery as well as offered encouragement.
“That's right... I'll do my best to hold out a little longer.”
A knock was heard on the door; their time limit had ended. The next time Ellen would meet the black haired Vanadis would likely be before she left the imperial palace to fight Elizavetta.
“... It's already that time. It was far too short.”
Ellen gently squeezed Sasha's hand. Due to them being on her blades, there was a faint heat emitted. Despite the thinness of her fingers, Ellen's anxieties were relieved after feeling some sign of life from them.
“It was good to spend time with you again. Thank you Ellen, Lim.”
“It's good if you say that. Now get a good rest.”
Ellen slowly separated her hands. Lim also bowed politely.
The two left Sasha's room.
After Ellen and Lim left the room, Sasha gave thanks to her ViraltDragonic Tool which heated in response.
“... You really don't like giving up.”
A bitter smile with many emotions floated to her face. Sasha gripped the hilts of her Twin Swords and held them out. Her muscle strength had declined and they had become heavy.
She had once wielded the Toki no Sojin[Twin Blades of Demonic Force] freely. Even now, when she could no longer use them, it still seemed energetic.
However, she could not even last for a quarter koku.
“If you abandon me now...”
She complained silently. Ellen did not come to help because Legnica was attacked but because she was unable to move.
The Dragonic Tool had not taken notice of her words and transmitted heat to Sasha's hands. She would not be burned, the Dragonic Tool would not heat her hands up to that level, it was simply giving Sasha encouragement.
“I know. I won't die so young. I'll rest so I can move about a bit more.”
She placed her swords on top of her left and right knees again. As if to cheer on its black haired Lord, it emitted a faint heat once again.
In the southeast of Brune in Agnes, the situation with the Muozinel Army had become strange for the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army].
Four thousand cavalry from Zhcted had joined the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army], forcing the Muozinel Army to temporarily retreat.
The thirty thousand strong Muozinel Army had added in the remaining ten thousand stragglers, resulting in a total of forty thousand troops. The General of all the troops, Kreshu Shaheen Baramir, was the younger brother of the King of Muozinel and was known as Barbaros[Red Beard].
“... The Zhcted Army?”
In a luxurious tent decorated in gold and silver, the 37 year old brother of the king received a report.
His medium build and toned physique was wrapped in silk clothing with flashy colors. A silk cloth wrapped around his head was decorated with iridescent feathers. His eyes were sunken and his nose and ears were long. His face was covered in a beard which extended down to his chest.
Though he did not look bad, given the clothes he wore, he looked more like a clown than a member of the royal family.
Still, he was not simply a [Figurehead] of the royal family. From the soldiers, he commanded respect, awe, and fear.
“I had heard a small noble from Brune had allied with the Zhcted Army... This is unexpected.”
Kreshu considered this new force. He thought they would claim to be allies and then turn around and loot the villages and towns. Kreshu wanted to avoid a troublesome battle, since it meant he would not earn as much from the spoils of war.
When the Muozinel Army attacks, they plunder the region as a matter of course. They had intended to run through Brune Kingdom so they could build funds as they made their way to Zhcted.
--- Kashim was defeated by an army with Brune and Zhcted soldiers, and now they have an additional four thousand cavalry from Zhcted. I don't know whether they are reinforcements or not, they look like they're trying to block our invasion into Agnes.
“There are several thousand soldiers. What could be their reason? Maybe they want to monopolize the wealth they get from Brune.”
Even if he thought about it some more, a clear answer would not appear. Kreshu stopped marching for the time being and sent a messenger to the Zhcted Army.
“Our target is south Brune, and we will attack until we reach Nemetacum. If you are aiming for other regions, we should refrain from interfering with one another. If we wish for the same game, let us talk over some alcohol.”
Kreshu patted his red beard as he gave the messenger his letter.
“If the Vanadis proposes cooperation, should her beauty match the rumors, I may come back empty handed. Ha ha ha.”
He laughed happily and seriously near his close attendants. It would be no joke if a member of the royal family died from a direct meeting. Kreshu was known for his generous character, but he was not careless.
At any rate, the messenger headed to the Zhcted Army.
The Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] escaped a desperate situation thanks to the Zhcted Army. Everyone understood it was temporary.
Currently, in a tent installed between the two camps, Tigre and Ludmira sat opposite one another across a table.
The tent was prepared by Ludmira and was made of two thick layers of fleece. The atmosphere of winter filling Agnes did not enter it at all. The carpet, too, was of fine quality, and did not allow the cold of the earth to pass through.
Tigre, more than warmth, felt itchy.
In the tent, only the sound of tea being brewed by Ludmira echoed.
She handed him a cup made of white porcelain, wisps of steam rising from it. Before touching it, Tigre bowed deeply to Ludmira.
“First of all, thank you for your help.”
“--- Minus one.”
Ludmira's aloof voice poured over Tigre's head. Tigre looked curiously at the blue haired Vanadis with blue eyes who threw cold words at him with a disappointed face.
“We are not so intimate that I would simply come to help you... Since I have not given you a reason, your words of thanks are simply jumping to conclusions. There are times when the person will require collateral immediately.”
“We might not be that close... But you did brew this tea.”
“In the face of negotiation, I may brew this tea, even before parties I do not like. Should the negotiations fail, I may throw the contents on their face. I wonder what I shall do with you, Lord Tigrevurmud. Ah, your title was taken, so I suppose you are Tigrevurmud Vorn?”
While speaking, Ludmira continued pouring tea into the cup placed before him. She let off an inhuman smile as she tilted her cup. Though Tigre returned a smile of his own, it was stiff due to his misunderstanding.
“... Thank you for the lesson.”
“I did not prepare this place simply to lecture you.”
Even his words of thanks were rejected. Tigre ruffled his dull red hair, unable to hide his embarrassment.
“Then... May I ask why you appeared here? Furthermore, with four thousand cavalry.”
“Why do you think?”
She evaded the question. Ludmira was clearly enjoying the situation. Tigre folded his arms and tilted his head, desperately in thought.
--- Agnes lies on the border between Brune, Muozinel, and Zhcted.
Because a large Muozinel force appeared, it would be appropriate to think she came to keep an eye on the situation.
However, Ludmira appeared with such a small number. She should have continued monitoring the Brune and Muozinel Armies from a distance.
On the contrary, by showing up with four thousand troops and coming in to contact with Tigre in such an obvious manner would make the Muozinel Army suspect her of hostility.
In the end, no answer other than coming to help him appeared in his mind.
--- But this is too convenient...
Ludmira cast an upward glance at Tigre while sipping her tea, watching as he still had not answered.
“--- Do you want me?”
Hearing such an abrupt and confusing question, Tigre's body became hot and his face dyed red. After wickedly enjoying his reaction, Ludmira slowly added more.
“Do you want me and the four thousand troops I have brought? Please, tell me.”
Seeing him answer promptly without caring about his appearance, she immediately pointed out his fault.
“I understand your situation, but you should not bow so easily. You will easily be taken advantage of. By the way, I do not wish to partner up with such a foolish person.”
Tigre was sweating, and it was not just from the hot tea or warm air.
He had two demerits. In other words, if Tigre made another mistake, Ludmira would leave in disgust and move her troops to the other side of the cliffs.
The Muozinel Army would resume its march toward the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] which also had two thousand people and carts along with it.
They would be crushed.
Tigre is a man who has lived his life in the frontiers. He was not skillful with language.
In the end, he could think of no other action than lowering his head. He bowed once more then sat upright.
“Please help me.”
After that, he told her the Muozinel Army was attacking, and that Ellen was currently not present. He explained his situation at present.
“Though I have no means of compensating you today, I will be able to reward you after my fight with Duke Thenardier has ended.”
“... My properties and my possessions belong to Ellen.”
Though he hesitated, Tigre lowered his head once again, his sweat falling to the table. He could find no words that might satisfy her. A bitter taste ran down his tongue and he could feel a headache. His entire body was filled with remorse.
“--- Look up.”
The voice from above was slightly flat. At first, Tigre did not think the words were directed at him, but since he was the only one present, he slowly looked up to see Ludmira smiling down at him bitterly as if she could not help it.
“You are honest and foolish to a fault. I wonder which way is better to say? Though I cannot say you have grown up much, you have not grown in a bad direction. Your sincerity has always been a strong point, so I'll give you a passing mark.”
“... So you will lend me a hand?”
Tigre had yet to swallow the situation and asked; Ludmira smiled and nodded in affirmation.
“Actually, I did not need to hear anything. I already had a rough understanding of your situation. Still, seeing your poor negotiation skills, I considered leaving.”
Again, sweat ran down Tigre's back. Though the woman who said such words had a happy and attractive smile, he could not possibly look straight at her.
“Do not relax so easily. The negotiations have not yet finished. I have only said I will consider what you say.”
While pouring tea into her now empty cup, Ludmira quietly spoke. Tigre wiped his sweat away with his arm and waited for her next words.
“Do you remember the Tatra Mountains?”
Tigre nodded. To deal with Ludmira, who was limiting Ellen's movements, he and Ellen fought her in those lands. At the top of the mountain was the fortress where Ludmira resided. It was a difficult fight for Tigre and Ellen.
“Back at the fort, do you remember when you destroyed the castle gate?”
He was startled. Tigre felt he had understood what Ludmira was demanding of him. He could only nod.
Ludmira smiled after seeing Tigre's gaze. Her mysterious smile suited her childish face; it did not give off her typical tension.
“Although the gate was made of hollowed out wood with three iron plates, and separated by oak boards inside, you easily made a hole large enough to allow people to pass through.”
He was surely a rat cornered by the cat. He was unable to escape from the cat called Ludmira.
“At that time, I was in a rush. It was only after you left that I noticed it. After the gate was restored, I returned to my castle and examined it. It was something that could not be done simply by a Vanadis. The previous Vanadis, my mother, also fought with Eleanora's predecessor many times. There was more than enough material there. There were also the stories I heard from the soldiers.”
Tigre was not aware his knees were trembling.
Every word Ludmira spoke had a strong impact. Tigre could not help but feel an invisible rope tying around him.
In his mind, Ellen's angry face floated. She would hate it if she knew he had spoken about his bow to another person, much more so if that person was Ludmira.
“You wish to remain quiet? Did Eleanora forbid you from speaking about it?”
“Certainly, you did see the hole we made in your castle gate...”
Though he did not think it an excuse, Tigre desperately continued his resistance.
“That is about half the reason. I believe I have told you I am an aristocrat on the fringe of Brune, and I am somewhat proud of my archery skills.”
After drinking the remaining tea in his cup, Tigre responded in a poised demeanor and tone. He shrugged his shoulder as if it were a joke.
Ludmira poured more tea into his cup as she smiled. Cold air was released from Lavias – the spear made of ice – beside her. It drifted past Tigre's ear.
It was different from the wind Ellen made with Arifal. It was of a threatening nature. If Tigre were a bit more sensitive, he may have noticed there was jealousy in the air since its master had become interested in a man.
Ludmira tilted her head cutely and continued smiling.
“I have believed in your sincerity before. I hope to believe your sincerity this time as well... Do you understand?”
It was clearly Tigre's defeat.
He called Rurick and had him bring his black bow.
“I am warning you, Lord Tigrevurmud. If you wish to borrow the strength of Olmutz, there is no point in lowering your head. If you wish to cooperate with them, you must throw your head back proudly.”
“If I ever do so, you're welcome to throw tea in my face.”
Rurick was baffled, not understanding the meaning of Tigre's words. Tigre received his black bow without saying another word.
He could understand Rurick's feelings. The confrontation between LeitMeritz and Olmutz was not one just between Ellen and Ludmira. It had existed with their predecessors as well.
Being in a situation where they needed to borrow power to break the status quo must have been irritating to a Knight of LeitMeritz like Rurick.
After thanking him for the bow, Tigre returned to the tent and showed his bow to Ludmira.
“A completely unrefined bow.”
That was the first opinion of the Vanadis with blue eyes and hair.
“This is a heirloom of my household. Please refrain from saying such things for my sake.”
Having said those words, thoughts of Tir na Fa crossed his mind. He wondered why his ancestors made this a heirloom.
Ignoring Tigre's words, Ludmira observed the black bow. She brought her ViraltDragonic Tool close to it.
“Although it feels a little eerie... It seems to be a featureless bow.”
“I also thought that.”
That is, until fall, when he shot down the flying Dragon with the power of Ellen's Silver Flash.
Tigre carefully explained, one at a time, what happened when he used his bow. Ludmira listened with an eager expression, though at times she seemed anxious.
His guilt only grew heavier as he thought of Ellen, but it was too late now. He could do nothing but prepare himself.
Ludmira laughed, having guessed what Tigre was thinking from his expression.
“If Eleanora deserts you, I'll let you stay with me for a bit, though I doubt that will happen.”
“... Is that so?”
Tigre looked curiously at Ludmira. Certainly, Ellen would likely forgive him, but he did not think this Vanadis would say that.
“If I assume what you say to be true, then it is as if one more Vanadis exists. It would be possible to overwhelmingly dominate over the other six. I would make sure to secure such a person before the other Vanadis. At least, if it were me.”
She spoke with frightening nonchalance. Tigre stared bitterly at his black bow.
However, he also had a sense of resignation, having seen the spectacle at the temple of Tir na Fa. He could not help but feel that way.
After clearing the mood, Tigre and Ludmira returned to the topic on hand.
“That is all I can offer. Will you help?”
“It is not enough. Leave Eleanora and come to me. If you do so, I will cooperate.”
“--- Do you intend to shoulder the debt I owe to Ellen as well?”
He tried to speak in a provocative manner, but Ludmira simply laughed in amusement.
“If that is all it would take, then certainly. I would have you pledge your loyalty to me.”
She calmly returned a response without hearing the amount he owed. Tigre's mouth remained slightly opened. Ludmira looked at him with amusement like a sister would look at her clumsy little brother.
“Whether you command one hundred soldiers or ten thousand, when you take command of a large army, you require a corresponding sense of sensibility. The same thing goes for power. If you wish to continue using your precious heirloom, make sure you think of its value at the time.”
--- The value of this bow...
Tigre understood immediately as he stared as his black bow. Ludmira taught him as if he were another Vanadis. It seems he had not yet understood it himself.
“I apologize. Please allow me to retract my previous statement.”
Ludmira nodded and calmly rose from her chair.
“Regarding this matter, both wages and expenditures will be carried by you. Should you die, it will be considered a breach of contract. Do your best to live.”
--- That's a pretty unreasonable demand given this battle.
That thought floated through his head, though he agreed it would be best not to die. Though it would be difficult, he deemed it better compared to the other challenges he was facing.
“Let me say this again... thank you for your help.”
Tigre stood up and stretched his hand to Ludmira. Having shared a firm handshake, the two began speaking of battle immediately.
After the war council between the two had finished, Tigre left the tent.
Though he had not noticed it, they had spoken for a considerable amount of time. The sun had sunk beneath the cliff, and night was drifting heavily in the sky. Bonfires had been lit in both camps.
He felt excessively cold since he had just been in the warmth of the tent. He looked up at the white moon as it gradually shined argent.
Tigre walked from the tent and eventually released the tension in his shoulders. He sighed and felt pain in his stomach as he thought about what would happen when he next met Ellen.
However, he had completed the contract when he shook Ludmira's hand. There was nothing for him to do but to comfort himself.
When he reached the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] camp, Gerard ran up to him.
“How did it go?”
He did not bother with greetings. His expression showed he was very anxious.
“For now, we have their cooperation.”
Gerard let out a sigh of relief after hearing that. Afterward, he looked at Tigre as though he were a queer animal.
“Really, who on earth are you?”
“What do you mean... who am I?”
Gerard sighed in amazement seeing as Tigre did not understand his words.
“Even I know the Vanadis are an existence within Zhcted second only to the King. First Eleanora Viltaria, now the Vanadis with blue hair. What kind of power do you have to be able to obtain their cooperation?”
“It's a natural virtue.”
Tigre shrugged his shoulders impudently. Gerard looked at him as if it were simply a boring joke, but he knew it would be useless to pursue the matter any further. Instead, his face returned to its normal sarcastic expression.
“By the way, did anything happen while I was away?”
“Yes, that's right.”
Gerard nodded, as if waiting for Tigre to ask that question.
“It's about that girl you found before we fought with the Muozinel Army.”
“Ah, that girl. How is she? Did she look better?”
She was attacked by Muozinel and was dressed as a traveler. She had been resting for a few days due to severe fatigue.
However, because they had constantly moved camps as well as the fear that Muozinel would defeat the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] being constantly present, she could not rest well.
Though he was busy, Tigre had gone to see her once a day, but she was always asleep. Even now, her name was not known.
“Yes. It happened a while ago, but I would like to ask. What kind of situation was it when you helped the girl? She is quite wary of us and seems unusually afraid...”
“Currently one soup bowl is damaged and my finger and index finger are burnt.”
Tigre tilted his head in thought.
“I'd rather hope not, but the soldiers may have done something. Did that have anything to do with it?”
He did not want to think of it, but the army is a group of men, and they had strained themselves constantly over the past few days. If even a single person causes a problem, it would not be amusing.
Thankfully, Gerard shook his head.
“The person nursing her is trustworthy. Furthermore, the soldiers are kind and occasionally approach to see how she is doing, but she does nothing then. There is no possibility of that.”
If he saw her, Tigre may come to understand something. Tigre began to walk with Gerard one step behind.
First, Tigre visited the supply line to gather some wine, cheese, bread, and fruit into a small basket.
“Do we have any soup?”
“There is some that has cooled down. We can warm it at the bonfire.”
“I'm sorry for asking so much of you in a situation like this.”
“Well, it's fine. We can be a bit generous since we gathered some food from the Muozinel Army.”
Tigre thanked the soldier in charge of cooking and requested Gerard bring soup for two later on.
“For the time being, allow me to meet the girl alone.”
“Thank you for your consideration. In all aspects, she looks like a traveler. Though she does not speak, it is always good to be able to have a bowl of soup. Still, even if we obtained supplies from the Muozinel Army, every grain is important on the battlefield.”
After Gerard spoke those words with a straight face and shrugged his shoulders, Tigre entered the tent with his basket full of food alone.
One soldier standing in front of the tent in the cold allowed Tigre entry after seeing his face. He seemed impatient, so he was likely the soldier who nursed her.
“How does the girl look? Can she get up?”
“Yes. She seems quite cautious of us, so I am standing outside so as to not agitate her.”
The man was in his mid 40s. His belly shook as he laughed.
“Don't worry about it. Since I will be with her, take a short rest.”
After telling him the supply line had warmed a bowl of soup for him, the soldier walked away happily. Tigre passed through the entrance after seeing him off.
The girl with golden hair sat upright. Although her face stiffened for a moment and she glared at Tigre, her expression loosened upon seeing him.
--- I wonder if she remembers when we helped her.
Under the bright lamp, only he and the girl sat. There were bags packed with medical herbs and tubs with water and towels in them.
The girl slept on straw covered with fur under a thick blanket. Though it was not particularly good, it was better than to be expected on the battlefield.
“I've brought some food. Do you want to eat?”
The girl nodded deeply after seeing him ask with a smile.
Tigre walked near her while watching and sat down. He took out a pomegranate, divided it in two, and handed it to the girl. She received it and looked at it curiously.
--- Is she not going to bite into it?
“You can bite into it. The red things inside are seeds, and its juices will fly out, so be careful.”
After receiving an explanation, she bit into it, carrying it to her mouth timidly. She frowned from the acidity but continued nibbling it like a small animal.
Though there was still fatigue on her face, she seemed to have recovered considerably compared to when they first met. Even though dim, there was a fire of life in her azure eyes.
“There's bread and cheese, too. I also have some wine, but don't work too hard. Eat it little by little."
After pushing the basket before the girl, she nodded quietly and continued gnawing at the pomegranate. Tigre tilted his head while comparing this straightforward reaction to Gerard's story.
--- I thought so before as well, but where have I seen this girl?
No matter how desperately he searched his memory, no clear image appeared.
“May I have your name?”
Although it was an innocent question, the girl stopped eating the pomegranate and stared at Tigre with her blue eyes. After a while, she responded in a dazzlingly small voice.
“Regin, is it? It's surprisingly suitable. Nice to meet you.”
“--- Tigrevurmud Vorn.”
Regin said it before he spoke his name. Having heard it, Tigre nodded with admiration.
“That's right. It's a bit long, so Tigre is fine.”
Her reactions still seemed slow. After moving her mouth a few times, Regin finally spoke Tigre's name. Tigre felt her physical condition must not have been back to normal.
“Thank you, Tigre.”
Regin lowered her head, her disordered hair shaking in the process. Tigre was relieved he could have a proper conversation and smiled at her.
“At the very least, while I am here, I will try and defend you, so please try and relax.”
After nodding again, Regin began nibbling the pomegranate again. She did not ask questions or let Tigre out of sight. While her facial expressions were not particularly vast, her eyes looked innocently at him like a child relying on her mother, which confused Tigre.
--- Certainly, I did help this girl...
But is that enough to become so emotionally attached? There were small scratches and cuts on Tigre's face and arms, and he was covered in grime and dirt. Blood was stuck to his clothes; he seemed no different from the other soldiers. He decided to ask other questions instead of worrying about it, though.
“Regin. Where did you come from? Are you from this area?”
“... I came from far away.”
Though she did not lie, it was clear she had carefully chosen her words given her facial expression.
“So why did you come here from such a long distance?”
Regin fell silent. Tigre waited calmly; eventually, he shook his head apologetically.
“No. If you do not wish to speak about it, then it is not necessary. You have your circumstances.”
When he spoke words of comfort, Regin looked upward at Tigre.
“You. Why are you here?”
Tigre understood she was wondering why his military forces were in Agnes. He spoke as if to explain it to a small child.
“Muozinel – the country to the southeast, has led its army here. We have come to drive them back.”
“Are you not the lord of Alsace?”
A moment of silence ran between the two. Regin's slip of the tongue surprised Tigre for a moment.
Though he considered cross examining her regarding how she knew this, he did not think she would obediently respond. She seemed like the type to be unnecessarily stubborn.
“.... Have we met before? Perhaps you traveled to Alsace before.”
With some effort, Tigre smiled and spoke to Regin. Regin looked at him with wide eyes before smiling.
“We met elsewhere. Even then, you were gentle.”
It seems they had met, but Tigre could not recall.
“Earl Vorn. I have brought the soup.”
Gerard's voice was heard from outside. Tigre stood up as he tried to smile at Regin.
“Is there anything else you want? I can't say we have much, though.”
When asked, Regin hesitated for a time before shyly speaking.
“Then... Some a pail with hot water, and a towel, please.”
Thinking she wanted to wipe her body, Tigre consented. Though calm, she was a girl, so he could understand her feelings. When he put his face and hands outside the tent to grab the two bowls of soup from Gerard, who spoke with a straight face.
“How is it? Did she bite or scratch you?”
“I was worried when I went in, but she's as calm as a dog one's kept for years. Were you suddenly asking her personal questions?”
Tigre showed a nasty smile. Gerard simply tilted his neck curiously.
“Though I can't really say for sure, perhaps it really is your talent.”
“A talent of debauchery in which beautiful women flock to you. Though it is a valuable natural virtue, please avoid causing trouble. It is not unusual for a hero to fall to ruins because of a woman.”
“... Our visitor wants a pail, a towel, and some hot water. Please get it.”
Tigre countered the man with brown hair who had turned away. Gerard shook his right hand with his back turned, showing his understanding. Tigre returned to Regin and placed the bowl of soup before her.
“Careful, it's hot.”
As he said so, he sipped his soup. Thankfully, though there were few ingredients, it was made better in this cold weather. The vegetables and meat melted into the soup, and the flavor was enhanced by the fat. The salty taste spread a moderate heat throughout the body.
As he was about to take his second spoon, Tigre noticed Regin was gazing at his soup.
“May I have that soup?”
She asked in a small but clear voice, completely confusing Tigre.
He thought there may have been some problems with her soup, but Regin had not even picked it up in the first place.
“Even though I've already had some to drink?”
Regin nodded without a care. Though reluctant, Tigre exchanged bowls with her. Regin drank her soup without hesitation.
As if condensing her loveliness, Regin smiled shyly and let out a satisfied sigh. She quickly worked her spoon, finishing her soup before Tigre.
“I wonder how many years its been since I had anything this warm.”
Tigre almost dropped his spoon. He thought through this girl's strange speech and behavior.
The soup was not special. It was simply pork, potato, onions, and salt thrown into a pan of boiling water. It was an ordinary ration for the army and a popular meal for the common people.
--- Was she that poor? No, it's something different...
Even if her voice was small, she was very polite. Oblivious to Tigre's astonishment, Regin continued smiling at him.
“Thank you. I remembered the old times.”
Tigre was forced to respond with a smile. The two ate bread and cheese without talking, then they drunk some wine.
Tigre did not know what to ask her, though he had looked at Regin's azure eyes several times. The two finished eating their meal with satisfied expressions.
“I have brought the hot water.”
A blunt voice was heard from outside. It was Gerard.
Tigre showed his hands and face outside the tent and took the towel and pail. Having been forced to carry the items twice, he seemed dissatisfied.
Tigre shook his head. Shocked by her words and attitude, he had not made any progress.
“Please tell her to remain obedient, at least.”
After expressing his understanding to Gerard, Tigre placed the wooden tub and towel before Regin. When he was about to leave, she called out to Tigre.
Though hesitant, after taking a deep breath, Regin looked up at Tigre as if she had made a decision.
“Thank you for everything you've done, but could you help wipe my body?”
Tigre thought he misheard for a moment, but Regin's face was colored with shame. She repeated her words in a voice smaller than before.
“Um... I am not asking you to wipe my entire body. Just the places I cannot reach. For example... My back.”
“Surely there is someone else...”
He had started to say that, but Tigre realized the current Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] was a large group of men with the current purpose of fighting the Muozinel Army.
It would take them several days of marching to reach Territoire from Agnes, and he had made Teita stay behind. With the cliffs and stones, she would easily be injured. Tigre wanted to avoid that as much as possible.
It is possible he could take her to Ludmira's Army, but to have to go there for such a trivial thing was frightening.
--- That's right, there are two thousand men and women who lived in Agnes...
When that idea finally arrived in his head, Regin spoke with a surprisingly strong tone.
“If, if it is not you... I cannot do it.”
She blushed further, but her eyes were filled with a strong emotion as she looked up at Tigre.
Regin would not answer, even if he asked. Tigre had another thought in the corner of his mind.
--- This girl does not seem that shy at all...
She knew Tigre, which is why she asked, despite her embarrassment. Perhaps she did not trust the soup until she saw Tigre drink it.
Before long, Tigre sighed and turned his back on her.
“Take your clothes off. When your back is turned, call me.”
I'm sorry, a small voice was heard from behind Tigre.
He could hear the sounds of her clothes rustling. Tigre could not contain the stress of being in a situation where a beautiful girl near his age was taking off her clothes behind his back. The surroundings were very quiet, making all other sounds seem louder.
Her trembling voice full of shyness called out to him. Tigre turned about.
Illuminated by the light of the lamp, her white back which lacked flesh was present. He had the same impression when he lifted her in his arms; she had a delicate physique. Both her shoulders and hips were small.
He involuntarily let out a breath upon seeing her beauty. Regin, hearing the sound, turned red and tensed her muscles. She cowered slightly. Tigre carefully walked up to her and sat down.
Lately, he had seen nude females up close several times. No matter how many times he looked, he still could not remain calm. Ellen's nude body crossed his mind; Tigre shook it off in a panic.
--- No strange thoughts. Concentrate on Regin for now.
Even so, he wanted her to cover below her waist at least, but it would be embarrassing for both of them if he pointed that out, so he took care not to see as much as possible.
Wringing the hot water out of the towel, he brought the towel to her shoulder. Regin's body trembled strongly, but she weakly told him to continue.
Without using excessive force, Tigre carefully rubbed Regin's back so as to remove all the dirt.
Though Tigre had a strange face, he considered it to be trivial. His face was hot, and a strange amount of tension was present in his muscles near his nose. It was a face he did not want to see at all.
His heart raged, feeling the softness of her skin through the towel. He struggled hard with his reason to force his excitement down. Though Tigre grasped his left hand and endured the impulse desperately, he made a mistake and a painful sigh leaked from Regin's mouth.
Tigre stopped what he was doing and turned his face away for a count of five. He needed to build up the energy to force down his desire. He had already given up and let his lower body have an excessive reaction, but it would go down to normal once he went out in the cold.
At the end of all his suffering, Tigre had managed to finish wiping Regin's back.
“... Something like this.”
It was a man's honor to say something like this.
“Um... Just a little lower, please.”
It really was only a moment of vanity. Regin's words showed that Tigre had been trying not to look at her waist as much as possible.
While his self control still remained, Tigre moved his left hand. Despite Regin letting out two soft moans, he had managed to complete his work.
Though her back was thin, it still had a female-specific elasticity, and her waist only felt softer to Tigre's left hand.
“... Can you do the rest yourself?”
Tigre hung the towel on a wooden hook as he turned his back to her. Fatigue weighed his entire body; he wanted to escape to cool his body as soon as possible
“Yes. Thank you very much.”
Hearing her words of gratitude, Tigre was wrapped in a sense of relief. He was finally done.
As he was trying to exit the tent, Regin's voice called out to him once again.
Though Tigre was about to look back on reflex, he panicked after seeing her look over her shoulder and quickly left. He realized he had left the basket behind, but decided to leave it.
--- What does she mean...?
He thought about the words Regin had said as he left. It was not an apology for having him wipe her body, but he was not sure of the reason why.
--- Well, it's fine. She'll tell me eventually.
Tigre concluded quickly. There were too many things to think about. His contract with Ludmira, the forty thousand strong Muozinel Army, he did not have the time.
Before he searches for a new problem, it's necessary to solve the ones before him.
Ellen and Lim were given a room in the Legnica imperial palace. After speaking with Sasha and finishing their meal, they went to sleep early.
The two woke before dawn and went to the building at the edge of the palace, telling their men to wake up. They also checked the numbers present.
Lim received the report.
“The people who have reached the temple by last night is approximately thirteen hundred.”
“So we still don't have everyone...”
While preparing their armor, Ellen wore a difficult face. According to Sasha's story, Elizavetta commanded an army of about four thousand.
“Sasha said she would lend us three thousand soldiers...”
Ellen had hoped for more soldiers so she could settle the matter quickly.
“If you include the people who arrived at midnight, it comes to approximately seventeen hundred.”
“They need rest or they will simply die on the battlefield. If we need them, they can be used as scouts.”
“Certainly. We will do that.”
As Lim responded with a smile, a knock came from the door. Opening the door, the old servant and three senior aids stood before them.
“Is something wrong?”
When Lim asked with her expressionless face, the servants, without destroying the solemn atmosphere, bowed.
“We apologize, but there are many who work here who wish to see Limlisha-sama by all means. I understand you are busy, but could you spare us some time?”
Lim was baffled by the servant's words. It was not the first time she had visited the palace. She had visited numerous times before alongside Ellen.
In any case, as she had come with Ellen to help numerous times, the unit Commander and grand chamberlain had begged her to teach them affairs pertaining to the military and the state. As such, Lim had many acquaintances.
--- But why would they contact me in such a situation?
Surely they understood she was busy helping with the situation in Legnica in place of Sasha who was ill of health.
Ellen pushed Lim's back with a dubious face and a bright voice.
“This is Sasha's imperial palace. I don't know what kind of business they have, but it shouldn't be a problem for us to deal with. Still, we're busy, so keep it brief.”
There was no shadow on Ellen's face at all; her bright eyes were shining. She had faith in Lim. Understanding that, Lim turned back to the servants.
“Then please guide me.”
Lim was guided away from the guest room by the servants and walked down the corridor lined with torches. She noticed she had turned a corner several times.
--- This is the place we were at yesterday.
Her expectations soon became reality. Lim was guided before Sasha's room.
“... Isn't this Alexandra-sama's room?”
The servant confirmed Lim's words with a brief response. He opened the door and urged her in.
“I apologize for having you come all this way.”
It was definitely the room she had visited yesterday. Like before, Sasha sat up as soon as she saw her guest. Lim stepped inside, bowed, and stood before her.
“Alexandra-sama. What business might you have with me?”
Since she was called alone, she must not have wanted Ellen to hear her words.
--- Though Eleanora-sama may have guessed this would happen.
Sasha nodded and looked up at Lim with a serious expression.
“Please, protect Ellen for me.”
Lim looked at the black haired Vanadis in surprise. Such a thing was unnecessary to say. Before Ellen had become a Vanadis, Lim had stood beside her and defended her. Sasha knew that as well.
Though Lim did not show her feelings, Sasha seemed to have read them and quietly continued.
“I know there is no need to tell you, but even so, I wished to say it. Her opponent is Elizavetta.”
Ellen and Elizavetta had a connection.
Autumn one year ago, in a certain village in Zhcted Kingdom, an epidemic broke out. Although the village was under the direct control of the royal family, it was adjacent to Lebus which Elizavetta governed.
To prevent the epidemic from expanding, she burned the village and every person who likely had the illness. She took a stance of isolation while Ellen offered to look after those quarantined.
“Before I became a Vanadis, I lived in that village for a period of time. I also wished to help them, but I could not. I ended up causing you trouble.”
However, Elizavetta ignored Ellen's request.
“I understand that this village is under control of the royal family. However, there is no need for two Vanadis to intervene; there is still an epidemic here. It would not concern me if not for the possibility that the damage would reach Lebus. Even if this does not involve me, as a Vanadis, that matter has nothing to do with you.”
There was no mistake in Elizavetta's words which lacked any flexibility. Still, Ellen could do nothing but withdraw.
However, the majority of the isolated people were unable to last through the winter.
Many families and acquaintances were lost, and the village where she was born and grew up in was tossed aside. Though it was possible to escape from the epidemic, they had been dealt a severe mental and physical blow from the outside world. There were many disputes over what should be done amongst the villagers.
When spring arrived, the number of people had decreased by more than half. They gave up on rejuvenating the village and scattered. Though there were some who were able to accept living in other villages, many turned to thievery. They would have been unable to live otherwise.
Ellen blamed Elizavetta for this. Her proposal was refused, resulting in this unavoidable occurrence. Ellen's thoughts ended at that resentment, and she could not consider Elizavetta's feelings. Though she was hurt as a result of this, so was Elizavetta.
Elizavetta was not necessarily crossing her arms and letting things be. Despite not being her territory, she brought food and materials to them throughout the winter, arranged for more doctors, and offered to help with reconstructing the village.
An invisible crack which ran deep formed between Ellen and Elizavetta because of this affair.
At that time, an aristocrat named Rojion near the LeitMeritz began to cause problems.
He pocketed a certain amount of the taxes he collected and falsified his reports to the Kingdom. Furthermore, when his territory had become penniless, he attacked the neighboring territories.
The aristocrats who suffered appealed to the King. He ordered a Vanadis, Sophie, to investigate the matter regarding Rojion, who found proof after several days.
Though the King ordered Ellen to subjugate his territory, the one who appeared was Elizavetta.
“Rojion is my father. I will persuade him. He will receive an appropriate punishment to atone for his crimes.”
“--- Now that you have become a Vanadis, whether he is your father or not has no relation.”
Though Ellen spoke sarcastically, Elizavetta pulled back.
However, instead of responding to the negotiations with Zhcted, Rojion escaped. Ellen led her army to chase after him, which led to his death.
Rojion had caused a problem though; Ellen was given orders by the King, and she had done what was needed to be done. Though Elizavetta understood that, she could not suppress the intense emotions within her.
At that point, Elizavetta challenged Ellen and was defeated.
“Regarding those two events, you cannot say either was right or wrong. They simply did what needed to be done.”
“Alexandra-sama, I thought you would side with Eleanora-sama.”
Needless to say, Lim herself was Ellen's ally, and she had also stayed in that village. Like the silver-white haired girl, she also blamed Elizavetta.
“Even if I believed Ellen wasn't correct, I would remain her ally. Unfortunately, as I am now, that is difficult.”
Sasha placed her hand on her chest with a sad smile. She then looked up at Lim with a serious expression.
“Only a Vanadis can stop a Vanadis. However, I believe Ellen will head straight for Elizavetta. Though her intense feelings can be good, they may dull her movements.”
Lim nodded. Though there was deep discord running between Ellen and Elizavetta, she had two reasons for her to be angry.
The first would be the attack on Sasha's territory, the land of her best friend.
The other reason was because she had left Brune to help Sasha – she had been forced to part from Tigre.
It was while Lim was deciding whether to mention this.
“There is also the issue with Tigrevurmud Vorn.”
Sasha continued quietly after seeing Lim's suspicious face.
“From your stories, I can understand Ellen cherishes him. Whether it is friendship or love, I cannot tell... Even so, he is a man from another country whom she had met on the battlefield just a few months ago.”
“I can understand your thoughts, Alexandra-sama. When he was a captive in LeitMeritz, I too felt he should not have been left alive.”
It was different now. She had served as his assistant and exchanged words. She had continued watching his actions. Those who met the man named Tigre were charmed.
However, Lim continued speaking with conviction.
“However, Lord Tigrevurmud has shown to be of a suitable caliber to earn Eleanora-sama's trust. He has continued to show it, even within such a short span of time.”
When Lim closed her mouth, silence filled the room. But Sasha's expression of regret from not being able to do anything did not disappear.
“Is Ellen okay? Is there a need for her to rush herself?”
Lim could not answer Sasha's question in an instant. Even if they had retreated from Nemetacum which Thenardier governed, they had traveled several days after repulsing both Marquis Greast and the Knights of Navarre in succession. Anything could happen.
At this time, neither Lim nor Ellen knew of the invasion by the Muozinel Army; however, they had considered the possibility of an invasion from another country. Thinking of that, they wished to return as quickly as possible.
“One year ago, Ellen defeated her. However, if she has both anger and impatience, I cannot say what the result will be. That is why I wished to speak to you who has remained by her side since she was a mercenary.”
Please protect Ellen.
Sasha said it once again as she bowed before Lim.
“I will protect her to the best of my ability, even if it means using my body.”
Though she said that, she would do her best to prevent it. She recalled the time when she was poisoned by an assassin. Ellen would grieve if she died, so she wanted to avoid it at all possible costs.
“This is farewell for now.”
As if she were waiting for Lim to return, Ellen went to visit Sasha.
“Though I told you before, I have a guy I need to help. Once I knock Elizavetta to the ground, I'll be heading there.”
Behind Ellen, Lim remained expressionless, acting as if the two had not met a moment ago. Sasha grasped the hand Ellen presented to her.
“Ellen, I have a request.”
When Ellen looked curious with her friend's hand between hers, Sasha spoke quietly.
“If you are hesitating, do not stick around for Legnica or me. I want you to give priority to what you must. I am glad that you even took the time to come here.”
Ellen thought of Tigre and laughed energetically.
“You just rest and wait for the good news. I'll definitely beat Elizavetta.”
Almost exactly at dawn, against the white sunlight illuminating the eastern sky, Ellen and Lim led four thousand troops and left the imperial palace. The sky was dark, their breath was white, and the air was still cold.
Thankfully, as it was not snowing, they could easily advance without removing the snow, except near the grounds of Vasaro.
“Lim, our fight will be at Vasaro.”
Ellen spoke sternly to the adjutant next to her.
“I'll take two thousand of the troops Sasha lent and those from LeitMeritz to attack from the front. You hit Elizavetta from the side or the rear.”
Lim shook her head and raised her voice. She had just promised to defend Ellen, yet it would be impossible if she were not nearby.
Ellen looked curiously, seeing Lim show signs of anger.
“Is it strange? The river flowing near Vasaro is frozen, and there are hills and plains in the vicinity. Sasha's soldiers have high morale as well.”
Looking over their shoulder, the soldiers of Legnica had a will to fight as they advanced which could not be hidden. It was not unusual.
Their land was attacked, and their Lord was sickly. It was clear they intended to entirely crush Lebus. The power of their silent cry was clear to hear.
“They're looking for a fight, so leave Elizavetta to me. You take charge of the flying column. It's a reasonable plan.”
Lim could not find any words to say. Attacking from the flank while the enemy was preoccupied with a fight at the front was the correct plan.
Lim wavered yet again, but her Lord's gaze would not permit anymore time. She spoke hesitantly.
”Eleanora-sama... you are both angry and impatient.”
Sasha spoke of her worries while looking down, though Lim was reluctant to say that out of consideration of the woman who asked her this favor. Despite her surprise, Ellen smiled gently at once.
“Certainly I am angry, as are the soldiers behind us, and I am worried about Tigre. But my mind is not clouded, nor are my movements dull.”
Lim still did not think it permissible to leave Ellen out of her sights. Ellen reluctantly asked her a question.
“Then what should I do?”
“Devote your troops to defense until I make the surprise attack. Though I cannot say this too loudly... there is meaning in remaining in position; it is so that Alexandra-sama's forces do not act recklessly.
Soldiers with a high morale disregard their Commander's instructions and go mad with rage. There are numerous examples of a calm enemy striking such forces down.”
“You're being paranoid, Lim.”
Ellen laughed with her ruby pupils glittering, seeing Lim worry so much.
“However, you have a point. We'll do it this way so you don't have to worry so much. However---”
Her joking smile became serious.
“Can you hurry up? It would be troublesome if they noticed our detached forces.”
Originally, Ellen would take the offensive so Elizavetta would not realize it, which is why Ellen took lead of both troops from LeitMeritz and Legnica.
“I shall do my best. You must take care as well, Eleanora-sama.”
Lim spoke these words as best she could.
The snow gradually became deep, and the sky looked suspicious as powdery snow danced to the ground.
They arrived at Vasaro before midday the following day.
A girl was lying down, entrusting her back to the mane of her horse.
In one hand was a black short whip used for horses. While holding it in the air, she watched as the snow melted and disappeared. Though the horse was well accustomed to the rider, she had an excellent sense of balance.
The sun approached its peak; the sky was covered in a veil of snow clouds.
Suddenly, she shut her left eye and looked at the sky with her golden right eye. Then she closed her other eye and looked up with her azure left eye.
It was something of a habit to look at things with a single eye.
--- Even if the color of my pupils are different, the scenery doesn't change.
She had been doing this since a young age, yet she still held an expectation in the back of her mind that something would change.
Laziris[Rainbow Eyes]. This girl – Elizavetta Fomina – had eyes of different colors.
That is what she was called in Zhcted, but the interpretation of her alias was different from region to region. In the land she was born in, she was considered evil, but those of Lebus, the people of the land she governed, considered it to be a good omen.
Elizavetta was 17 years old. She had vivid red hair down to her waist and wore purple clothing; her dress was full of lace and ruffles. Her well-developed bosom and thin waist were emphasized, making her appear flashy but never vulgar.
However, her peculiar eyes were always looked at first. Even her bright red hair and gorgeous dress paled in comparison to her pupils.
The sound of horseshoes approached, calling for Elizavetta to return. She sat up and saw a Knight, her aid, approach.
He was in his mid-thirties and had served as a Knight in Lebus before Elizavetta became a Vanadis. His face looked young without a beard, but fatigue was clearly carved into it.
“Vanadis-sama. Our scouts say a force three thousand strong is approaching from the south.”
Elizavetta played with her bright red hair. As if expecting the question, the Knight responded promptly.
“There are two. One with blades of vermillion and gold crossing diagonally on a yellow background, and one with a sword of silver on a black background.”
The moment she heard the report, both ends of Elizavetta's charming lips raised in a violent smile. The first was Sasha's, but that did not matter. Only the second flag was important.
--- You came, Ellen...!
“You've worked hard. Tell the troops to retreat when they see the Vanadis. I will fight her on my own.”
“But... there are two armies, and there is the possibility Alexandra-sama will appear, despite her poor health.”
“A pointless worry. Even if Alexandra wished to join, Eleanora would not allow it.”
The Vanadis with bright red hair made that declaration. After dismounting her horse, she picked up the saddle at her feet and brushed the snow off it.
Vasaro was surrounded by endless plains with gently rolling hills and valleys. It was covered in snow. Though not deep, the ground was only exposed when walking through it. There was no wind, but that was a welcome for her four thousand troops.
“You've worked hard from the pirate subjugation until now.”
As she put the saddle on her horse, Elizavetta gave words of appreciation to her soldiers. The men present simply shook their head.
“We know, that in the three years since you have become a Vanadis, you have devoted your strength to the people of Lebus.”
There was no need to thank them. Elizavetta mounted her horse. Due to a variety of modifications in her dress, she could ride her horse with a skirt on without riding side-saddle.
With two horses at the front, the troops proceeded toward their stronghold.
The afternoon when Ellen lead the Legnica and LeitMeritz allied forces to confront Elizavetta and the Lebus Army she commanded.
Both armies totaled seven thousand in number. The men behind each Vanadis looked at each other with intense gazes.
“You're quite well prepared...”
Ellen said that before the battle.
“You knew we were coming? Looks like you didn't use the chance to escape, Liza.”
“That is a matter of course, since I wished to meet you, Ellen.”
Elizavetta parried Ellen's words with a gentle smile and a sharp voice fraught with animosity. Though she spoke with a foolish tone, the words themselves were not a lie. If not, she would have simply stood up and left.
“... I have no memory of allowing you to call me in such a manner.”
Ellen's cold voice which could freeze even the snow lowered even more.
“Nor do I recall allowing you to call me Liza.”
Elizavetta responded happily while flourishing the short whip in her hand.
--- Forgive me, Lim.
Ellen decided to ride the red haired Vanadis' provocations. After apologizing to Lim in her mind, she decided to further hide the presence of the detached forces. The Legnica soldiers would soon be unable to hold back any longer.
Arifal let off a light wind as Ellen placed a hand on the longsword at her waist, as if to encourage her.
“I will give you one chance. Get off your horse, crawl on the ground, and apologize. Not to me, but to the people of Legnica.”
“Then you will die.”
Pulling out the longsword at her waist, she swung it downward and pointed its tip to the red haired Vanadis.
A battle cry was let loose from seven thousand soldiers, extending across the gray sky. The land shook, and the snow was kicked about and melted from the heat of the men.
In this frontal clash, Elizavetta had the advantage of numbers.
However, the fighting spirit of the soldiers of Legnica was overwhelming. They put their grudge of having their lands attacked into their weapons and threw it at the enemy before them.
The soldiers of Lebus huddled together and brought their shields forward. They fought back desperately, piercing through the spaces between their shields with spears. Immediately after, they were bathed in heat and blood, which shined brightly in the snow.
Arrows flew by, letting out an ominous sound of piercing the flesh. They wielded their battle axes, using their anger to cleave through the enemy's helmets. They thrust their swords forward, scooping out the entrails.
It was a scene from hell, wrapped in the agonized cries of pandemonium. It was impossible to think this was once a fantastic landscape covered in snow and silence.
Leading the attack, Ellen and Elizavetta met.
“Ley AdmosCleave the Wind!”
While her horse cut the distance, Ellen released her VedaDragonic Skill without hesitation. A large wind was released from the longsword, blowing all snow aside as it cut across the frozen earth toward Elizavetta.
Elizavetta sacrificed her horse without hesitation and kicked off the saddle as her horse moved toward the invisible wave. The wind was suddenly filled with blood. The horse's bones shattered, its flesh torn to shreds.
Casually spreading the hem of her dress while in the sky, Elizavetta pulled out a short whip.
In that moment, her black whip tinged with a golden light and wriggled about like a snake playing in the air. When Elizavetta swung it downward toward Ellen, it had become a forty chet (approximately four meters) whip covered in lightning.
Ellen knew it had an abnormal destructive power. It was a spectacle worthy of the Laziris[Rainbow Eyes] Elizavetta, the Isgrifa[Flash Princess of the Thunder Swirl].
It was impossible to deflect it with the wind. Ellen threw her horse aside and jumped to the ground, rolling away as a whip tore through the atmosphere, nearly at the speed of sound.
When she stood up, what came into view was her horse's corpse with its head missing.
“It will hurt if you resist too much, right, Ellen?”
Elizavetta lightly landed on the snow and hit the ground with her whip. As if answering her, the whip discharged innumerable blue sparks into the atmosphere.
“I also won't hold back, Thunder Swirl.”
That was yet another name held by Elizavetta.
Thunder Swirl Valitsaif, the whip of lightning known as the Saika no Sentei[Lightning Flash of Broken Calamity].
“I will return those words right back at you.”
While Ellen retorted boldly, a Legnica soldier let out a shout and attacked Elizavetta from behind. She was the enemy's General and her focus was on Ellen, so her back was defenseless.
However, the spear did not reach Elizavetta. Laziris[Rainbow Eyes] simply rolled her wrists lightly.
The whip of lightning bounced across the ground. Its tip destroyed the spear handle and wrapped around the soldier's wrist, throwing him into the air.
It was a ghastly sight in the snowy field smeared with blood and dirt. Lightning was emitted from the whip and shot toward the soldier. A thin film of atmosphere was split by many layers of heat and light far surpassing human tolerance, burning the soldier without mercy.
His pain was instantaneous, because his death occurred in a single moment.
Without looking at the soldier who fell behind her, Elizavetta carefully measured the distance between her and Ellen. On the other hand, Ellen kicked off the ground, casually shortening the distance.
“--- VerniShadow Wind, is it?”
The wind clung to Ellen's body, her silver-white hair fluttering as she moved. Ellen ran at a furious speed despite the snow. Elizavetta's smile disappeared as her eyes of different colors moved quickly about the battlefield. She moved her whip, but it did not hit Ellen.
It was difficult to say she read the orbit of the whip. Ellen's movements were rough and quite obvious, but she evaded the lightning with her overwhelming speed.
“Using such sloppy movements... KusutariIron Whip!”
Clenching her teeth, Elizavetta's lightning quickly changed. The mass of snake-like lightning decreased by half its length and transformed into a straight rod.
There was a violent clash immediately afterward. A storm of silver-white and gold raged. Particles of ice were whipped about by the wind, evaporated by the heat of thunder in an instant. The snow vanished from their surroundings, the earth was torn away as an aftereffect.
She did not try to fight Ellen through power, but attacked furiously like a storm from various angles. She cut upward, downward, swiped from the side, continuing to attack without blinking an eye.
If she showed any opening, the thunder at Elizavetta's fingertips would turn to fangs. Ellen had been forced to drive her into a state where it was difficult to release her thunder.
At a moment of impact, Ellen's body was blown away by a terrific attack of lightning.
She straightened her posture in the air in an instant and safely landed, grasping her sword with both hands.
--- What was that just now?
She needed more time to understand the attack from the whip of steel. After they clashed, she was bathed in lightning. A red scar ran up Ellen's arm as she was burned by the attack.
Her frilly skirt changed. The thunder once again took the form of a whip as Elizavetta kicked off the ground. Ellen tried to approach the woman, but changed her mind immediately.
Elizavetta's whip moved in an eccentric trajectory which split the earth and divided the wind. Ellen gave up reading its orbit at once.
With just a flick of her wrist, the Vanadis with bright red hair could greatly change the motions of her whip. With attacks coming from every blind spot, Ellen could not read it at all.
She quickly parried Elizavetta's heavy and vigorous attacks.
She could not even approach. The sound of the whip splitting the air pressured Ellen's eyes and ears.
Catching a blow with her sword, Ellen's body softly drifted back through the air, her posture maintained. She landed several steps back. Having been blown back by Elizavetta's whip, the wind put the appropriate distance between them.
Ellen and Elizavetta were sweating and breathless, but while Elizavetta had room to relax, Ellen's face showed a sense of crisis.
If she received a single hit directly, the onslaught would not end. Even if she could endure it, Ellen's attack would only be hit with a barrage of more blows.
--- Arifal's wind can't perfectly defend against her lightning strikes.
The shock would make her body numb; she would be unable to move and would inevitably be defeated.
“Where was that strength you had a moment ago? Your counteroffensive is rather boring.”
“I was simply amazed since your attacks are so coarse.”
The Silvfrau[Wind Princess of the Silver Flash] sarcastically retorted to the Isgrifa[Flash Princess of the Thunder Swirl]. The numbness in Ellen's hand was getting worse as time passed. She jumped back despite the risks because of that.
“Incidentally, I have not asked you yet.”
Hearing Ellen's words, Elizavetta stopped walking. At this time, the two were a considerable distance away from the battlefield.
“Who asked you to play this hand? Thenardier? Ganelon?”
“... What do you mean?”
Elizavetta's attempt to deceive her failed. Her voice was distracted and delayed.
“Legnica was probably attacked to force me to return to Zhcted.”
“I do not understand your words... I follow His Majesty the King. I move only for the national interests of Zhcted.”
Smiling bitterly, Elizavetta shrugged her shoulder, seemingly continuing to feign ignorance. While doing so, she did not loosen her vigilance toward Ellen. If she relaxed for even a moment, the wind from the Vanadis with silver-white hair would cut her immediately.
“Moving at the beck and call of a villain from a foreign country is in the best interests for Zhcted? Don't make me laugh.”
“I do not wish to hear that from you. Rumors say you have put quite a bit of effort into helping your prisoner. I should say those very words to you.”
Elizavetta spoke sarcastically, her hand held up to her mouth. Ellen simply laughed it off.
“Though it's hardly an excuse... Hearing those words from a person who knows nothing is rather pitiable.”
Before Elizavetta could respond, Ellen changed the subject once again.
“There's one more thing I would like to ask.”
Ellen pointed her blade toward Elizavetta once again.
“... What did you do to obtain that strength you have now?”
She had dealt Ellen an intense blow. In their duel the year before, she did not have such a herculean strength.
“Nowhere in particular... It is a result of desperate training.”
Ellen smiled with derision towards Elizavetta's natural smile.
“I've been swinging my sword since the age of 6. Do you really think you can fool me with that nonsense?”
“... I know.”
She spoke in a quiet tone, different from her usual manner. Her eyes of different colors looked nostalgic for a moment, but it was only just. Not noticing, Ellen continued.
“I am well aware of your strength from one year ago. No matter the methods, that is not a strength you can achieve within a year. Training aside, other than the strength of your attacks, nothing has changed, it is not so easy to approach me.”
Elizavetta's hands grasped the lightning whip and trembled. Intense emotion swirled in her gold and azure eyes.
“Still... Even then, you have the strength to overpower me.”
In contrast to Elizavetta, Ellen remained calm. Using the opportunity, she took a half step forward, clad in Arifal's wind, as she looked carefully for an opportunity.
The long whip of thunder wrapped about Elizavetta's wrist. The whip coiled about her in many bright layers, as if to protect her. It was a snake which would attack all that approached with thunder.
“If you wish to triumph – then show it to me.”
Ellen brought up her Silver Flash once again, pulling in the cold snow with her wind. Her body shined brilliantly, reflecting the light from the ice particles. A storm raged at the tip of her blade, much larger than the one emitted before.
The whip about Elizavetta also emitted a dazzling light in response to its master's will. The pulsating thunder screamed throughout the atmosphere as countless electric sparks were discharged.
The moment Ellen raised her blade, nine whips of lightning hit the ground, so bright it would blind the eyes of ordinary people.
“Ley AdmosCleave the Wind!”
“--- Gron LazrigaBurn and Split Heaven and Earth!”
The storm and nine blades of lightning collided with a fierce roar. The bright blades born from the Saika no Sentei[Lightning Flash of Broken Calamity] ate into the vortex of wind created by the Koma no Zanki[Brilliant Beheader of the Fallen Spirit] which moved about like a large hatchet of wind.
A trail of embers followed the two as they clashed with their ViraltDragonic Tool.
Ellen ignored the red burns across her body while Elizavetta ignored the cuts which tore her skin and dress to tatters.
The earth shook, the wind and thunder carved the ground as they ate into one another, dying out at the same time. What was left was a hollow mortar with small whirls of wind and sparks of electricity rolling about the center, like embers of thunder bursting in the air.
Snow and mud soared in the sky, falling soundlessly by the two. Ellen showed a fearless smile as she held up her sword. Though her body was full of welts and burns, she did not let out a single sound of pain.
Elizavetta, too, gripped her whip, ignoring the lacerations on her body.
Elizavetta was about to say they were even, but she swallowed her words. While Ellen had not moved a single step from the clash of their VedaDragonic Skill, she had been forced back.
At this time, the battlefield changed. Lim's force appeared to the Lebus soldier's left flank. It was a strong, violent attack. Cries were called as the colors of both friend and foe mingled.
“... This is my defeat.”
Seeing the sight from a distance, Elizavetta had a distorted smile. It was a false sense of strength. While she did not know she had revealed her emotions to Ellen, she knew she did not wish to reveal her weakness to herself.
“I have not taken your neck yet.”
Ellen stepped forward, her Silver Flash in hand. Elizavetta smiled brightly without preparing her whip. She spoke words which seemed as if they were prepared beforehand.
“Don't you have more pressing business, Ellen?”
Ellen's feet stopped there, her eyes opened wide as the face of a young man crossed her mind. With her longsword held at the ready, conflict and aggression were visible in her ruby eyes as she glared at Elizavetta. Seeing this reaction, the Vanadis of Laziris[Rainbow Eyes] smiled gloatingly.
“Both Dukes Thenardier and Ganelon have prepared their soldiers long ago. Until now, they have been restraining each other, but, at the very least, Duke Ganelon has decided to make a move, though I do not who he might be making it against.”
Ellen stood silent, unable to move. She could understand Duke Ganelon moving against Tigre, and Thenardier's son has been killed by Tigre. They may very well have formed a temporary truce, forming a force strong enough to suppress Tigre.
“One more thing. It seems Muozinel has invaded Brune.”
Ellen stopped breathing for a moment.
--- Muozinel did?
Her heart beat intensely. She did not understand how Tigre would move, but she was sure he would be involved. Thinking of his position, it was far beyond the worst case of fighting both Thenardier and Ganelon with Muozinel coming into play.
“We have been fighting for over one koku. If you want my neck, we can continue by all means, but... my soldiers will last at least another one or two koku if I do not stop them.
--- Such nonsense...!
Ellen clenched her teeth. Though she tried to conjure the will to fight, it did not go so well. Her will that was as strong as steel was torn between her distant allies and the enemies before her.
If the difference between the two remained from a year ago, Ellen would have chosen to kill her without hesitation, but now the red haired Vanadis had skill on par with Ellen. Seeing Elizavetta smile, she shook her head and cleared her idle thoughts.
“I will end it here. However, I have no way of knowing you won't attack again.”
“Will you accept a written oath?”
“The restoration of Alexandra's fortress... though that will not be free. I require that we restart negotiations regarding the matter of the pirate subjugation, and a non-aggression pact for a year – something like that?”
Elizavetta smiled cheerfully and transformed her lightning into a short whip, showing no intention to fight. She swung it around a few times.
Ellen stared at the Vanadis, the Laziris[Rainbow Eyes] in confusion.
“You... What is your purpose?”
“Though I cannot tell you, I have achieved it.”
For a while, the two remained motionless. Elizavetta stood there calmly with her arms lowered. She had no will to fight. If she continued, she knew she would eventually lose.
On the other hand, Ellen clearly was conflicted.
If she killed Elizavetta here, the situation would only become more cumbersome. She would need to go to the capital to explain her reasons to the King, and the new wielder of the whip of lightning would need to be found. A civil war may break out, involving Legnica and LeitMeritz. There were many such examples in the history of Zhcted.
“... I wish to add one more condition.”
Before long, Ellen lowered her sword and stared at Elizavetta with her red eyes.
“What could it be?”
It was a concise, frank demand which held enormous emotions. Elizavetta understood things perfectly given the sharp sound she let out.
“I am not saying you need to crawl on the ground. I just want a sincere, earnest apology.”
“... I agree.”
“If you ever do this again... I will crush you.”
Upon hearing Elizavetta's proposal, Ellen recalled Sasha's words. She did not want Ellen to remain behind for her and Legnica. It was not as if she had anticipated what would happen, but if she continued further, both Ellen and Sasha would feel heartache.
“Then I will go.”
Ellen sheathed her longsword and turned her back away. She proceeded to the battlefield, unaware that Elizavetta stared at her back in silence.
The allied forces of Legnica and LeitMeritz had fought a battle swinging between offense and defense, advance, and retreat. When the two Vanadis returned to command, the distance gradually spread.
While the army under Ellen's command came to a halt in accordance to her demands, the Lebus Army led by Elizavetta reorganized their lines to accommodate for the scattered soldiers who had fled.
Vasaro was about ten belsta (approximately ten kilometers) away. Once they reached it, the Lebus Army finally stopped retreating.
Elizavetta ordered her soldiers to take a rest and made allowances for the injured. She also sent scouts to recover the corpses of her army and bury them after collecting relics to send to the bereaved families of the departed.
Every unit Commander reported their situation. The number who died was over six hundred. A shadow fell over her different colored eyes as she heard the number.
“You have worked hard. Thank you. I was able to achieve my purpose.”
Elizavetta had two purposes. One reason was to lure Ellen there to test out her ability. The other was as Ellen pointed out earlier. She had received a reward from Ganelon and Thenardier for moving her troops.
If it was not Ellen, she may not have moved her army.
Furthermore, she was grateful she could take advantage of Sasha.
During the pirate subjugation, some of Sasha's subordinates committed some failures. Though Elizavetta was generous enough to forgive them, she realized it was a golden opportunity. She was also able to earn something for the small villages in her territory.
She also wanted to know if she could fight Ellen as she was.
--- Considering I could not touch her a year ago, it was worth the effort.
An existence whose name she could not even begin to fathom had contacted Elizavetta and given her a power which transcended humanity. Though she could not yet utilize even 10% of its power, she was able to overwhelm Ellen.
--- As expected of you, Eleanora...
Though Elizavetta was moving her body in a careless manner, she had been accurately seen through. Though it was mortifying, she was forced to recognize she had not yet reached Ellen's level. If she did not become stronger, she would not be able to master her power.
--- I will need to cut down on my useless movements from now on.
After giving instructions to her unit Commanders, Elizavetta looked up at the white sky. The snow which stopped earlier began to fall once again.
--- It was also snowing the first time I met Eleanora.
White petals scattered and danced in the sky as nostalgic memories floated through her mind.
Seven years ago, Elizavetta did not know she was the illegitimate child of an aristocrat. She spent every day in a poor village. Ellen was a mercenary who stayed in the village at the time.
As usual, the children in the village bullied Elizavetta for her heterochromia. It was Ellen who helped her.
It seems Ellen did not realize it. She did not notice the girl at the time was Elizavetta. When they met two years ago as Vanadis, Ellen spoke as if they had met for the first time.
It could not be helped. The time they had spoken was short, and Elizavetta had hidden her right eye at the time.
As the governor of Lebus and a Vanadis, she no longer needed to keep it hidden. However – Elizavetta had never forgotten the brightness of Ellen's ruby eyes when she reached her hand out seven years before.
“I will not lose...”
Elizavetta, entrenched in her memories of distant times, returned to reality hearing people call her name.
“Vanadis-sama. We can delay our movements by a quarter koku if you are tired...”
“No. I am fine.”
Elizavetta shook her bright red hair in refusal. She received the report and issued more instructions. Before the sun fell, she was able to bury all those killed in battle.
Suddenly, Elizavetta thought of something.
“If I remember, his name is Tigrevurmud Vorn.”
From her fight with Ellen, she did not think the two were cooperating for convenience and strategy alone.
“For the time being, I will watch how they move.”
Though Lebus, the territory Elizavetta governed, was on friendly terms with Duke Thenardier and Ganelon, it was due to the policies of the former Vanadis. Elizavetta, because it was not disadvantageous, succeeded it for that reason.
--- Dukes Thenardier and Ganelon might not necessarily win...
Considering Tigre may win, it was not a bad idea to establish a connection now.
“That is right. I will not lose.”
Elizavetta spoke with a strong tone as she stared at the sky with her eyes of different hue. For her sake, and for the sake of the people of Lebus who support her, Elizavetta began thinking of a new plan.
Amongst the allied forces of LeitMeritz and Legnica.
Elizavetta's opponent, Ellen , required many things to be done.
Though she wished to hurry to Brune even one koku earlier, the duties of a Vanadis would not permit her to, nor did Ellen intend to throw them aside. She had earned the soldier's loyalty and popularity with the people due to her actions in battle.
Thankfully, the Legnica Army undertook the majority of the procedures.
“Eleanora-sama, we cannot apologize enough. We have received a scolding from Vanadis-sama. Please, feel at ease and return to Brune in safety.”
The General of the Legnica Army also knew of the circumstances and bowed to Ellen.
“I will gratefully receive your aid. Please tell Sasha that for me.”
Those killed in action were buried, and those with large injuries were ordered to return to LeitMeritz. The next morning, Ellen and Lim left Vasaro with one thousand troops.
The snow had continued since then; the plains were covered in white. The frozen river had become a new, makeshift road. The conifer forest seemed distant, and the distant mountains were dyed with snow.
“What will you do now, Eleanora-sama?”
Lim protected herself against the cold in two layers of fur and rode the horse next to Ellen. As she gazed forward, Ellen replied with a stern look.
“We need to take a rest. Also, I want information. Let's hurry to LeitMeritz and try and grasp the movements of Muozinel.”
Though Elizavetta had not lied, she was doubtful it was the complete truth.
“If Muozinel really attacked, Tigre wouldn't stay quiet. Honestly, he can be so unreasonable...”
Lim nodded in assent.
“That man really should learn to cherish himself a little more...”
“But isn't that what you like about him?”
Ellen's ruby eyes turned to the side as she laughed and teased Lim. Lim's face was dyed red, and, despite the cold, her skin was hot.
She refused to admit it and turned away.
“That is something different... No, right, if I were to evaluate it, I would say it is more of a merit of his, though it's also a fault...”
“I get it, I get it. I'll use today to think of what to say to Tigre.”
She laughed after seeing Lim pouting as she spoke once again.
“Surely Eleanora-sama has given thought about what to say already.”
“I haven't given it any thought at all.”
Lim looked coldly at Ellen who thrust her chest forward in a boastful manner.
“... I have enough to talk about for one hundred days, but I should think about something that would sound good.”
Ellen responded with an awkward face; she had not yet been able to get rid of her mischievous expression.
--- But I wonder what I should say, what feels right?
She looked up at the snowy sky. The first words that came to her mind were [We're back], but she quickly denied it.
--- Yeah, that's strange.
She was going to greet Tigre, not waiting for him to come back.
--- I've returned? I'm back? No, that's not that different. I wonder what Tigre's reaction would be...
“I'm back” would be too casual. It is something she would say with a smile toward the people who work in her palace.
She understood her words and her attitude must maintain her dignity as a Vanadis. Even within the palace, she maintained this for the public order of LeitMeritz.
However, it is for this reason that Ellen considered the words she would speak to Tigre to be precious.
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