Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 05 Chapter 4 - MTL
|This text is a machine translation (MTL).
Be warned that the degree of translation error may be higher than usual.
This page was created before the updated (July 19, 2015) MTL guidelines and has not been reviewed.
Chapter 4 - SangroelSacred Caverns of the Palace
When Tigre and the rest visited the Temple of Mosha, the sky was still the blue of early morning. Tigre, Ellen, Regin, Rurick, Batran, and five soldiers from Brune whom Massas chose were present. In addition, there were two soldiers from Zhcted Lim chose; twelve people were present in total.
The vineyards spread as far as the eye could see. At the end of winter, it was a lonely scene. It would take several months before the land was covered in greenery.
“It certainly is a small shrine.”
Ellen muttered as she looked at the temple from her horse.
The temple was made of gray stones with Mosha's name carved above the door.
The building was small, and Tigre felt it appropriate that Regin had called it a hut. The walls were decorated with ornaments and pillars that were several hundred years old, and fine cracks could be seen here and there.
The horses were tethered at the entrance and the twelve people passed into the temple. It was not very wide, but it was still surprising how clean it was.
There was an altar in the back. On top of a plinth was the image of a beautiful woman; it was a statue of the Goddess Mosha. A crown of mistletoe was planted on its head as a decoration – a dedication from the people from the nearby towns and villages who visited the shrine.
“We should pray as we move on. Let's have a good harvest this spring.”
Ellen laughed lightly as she looked at the crown of mistletoe. The Gods worshipped by Brune and Zhcted were mostly the same.
“You should pray to the TriglavGod of War that we don't lose.”
“Right. Let's not have any trouble, then.”
Ellen and Tigre bantered with each other while Regin stood behind the statue of the Goddess.
“I need two or three people. Can you help support this statue of the Goddess Mosha?”
Hearing her words, Tigre, Ellen, and Batran walked over to Regin, followed by the Brune soldiers. They grasped the waist of the statue while Rurick and the Zhcted soldiers warned the people of the temple. Regin walked as they worked.
Regin pulled a dagger from her waist and stabbed it into a slot just beneath the plinth and twisted it. A part of the floor moved away, revealing a small cavity. She placed her hand into the cavity without hesitation. A moment later, a hard sound was heard.
Regin stood up and let out a small breath of relief. She placed her hand on the statue of the Goddess.
“Next we need to push this statue over.”
The soldiers supporting it carefully tilted it. Tigre and Batran helped so as not to destroy the statue. Soon enough, the statue was removed with the pedestal.
There was a large hole beneath the base of the statue. A stone stairwell extended deep beneath the ground. Everyone stood tense as they let out a deep breath.
Hearing Regin's calm voice, the soldiers managed to calm themselves. With a torch, three Brune soldiers descended first. After a short time, they reported that there were no dangers for the time being.
“We'll go as well. Regin should remain between Tigre and me.”
Without waiting for an answer, Ellen jumped into the stairwell. The stairs were tight, and Regin's body was tense with anxiety. Tigre patted her shoulder to ease her mind.
“Your Highness. It is as Ellen said. She and I are here.”
When he said this, Regin's tight expression relaxed. They walked down the stairs with torch in hand.
Tigre looked back at the two Brune soldiers following him and checked the condition of his bow.
“You should remain as a lookout. Use the horses and turn away anyone who comes by. If the enemy comes, run away.”
Tigre placed his foot into the darkness. Batran, Rurick, and the soldiers from Zhcted followed shortly afterward.
At the base of the stairs was a straight passageway.
Rurick frowned and placed his hand to his bald head. The air was cold and dry, as if it had dozens of years to precipitate. Regin faintly trembled.
“... It's firmly built.”
Ellen looked at the surroundings in admiration. The earth was firm and flat, and the walls were lined with gray stones without a single space. The ceiling was not high, but they were supported solidly with thick wooden beams at regular intervals to prevent it from collapsing.
The passage was wide enough to allow two adults to stand side by side. Regin walked beside Ellen, and Batran walked beside Tigre. The Zhcted soldiers were in the back, and the three Brune soldiers led the way with torches in hand.
For a while, only the sound of the burning torches and echoing footsteps could be heard.
“I wonder why this passage was built. With its support and size, it feels like a passage for escape.”
“Perhaps it was a road. A powerful clan governing the region lived in Artishem before the Brune Kingdom was established.”
Regin responded with a wry smile. Ellen remained confused.
“You understand? I suppose knowing the use of the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace] really does prove you're royalty.”
“Until Charles founded our country, the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace] were simply underground passageways. It seems Charles made use of them.”
Regin did not feign ignorance. This passage might have been built with the purpose of escape, but, as Ellen had said, it could be used to invade the city.
“I doubt the passage will collapse with just a little noise.”
She spoke brightly to reassure everyone. Ellen began to tease her.
“But there might be traps to stop any pursuers.”
“It should be fine. It required routine maintenance, so those things would just get in the way. Of course, we should still remain cautious.”
Regin responded decisively. Ellen looked at her with admiration. She was a girl brought up with the dignity of royalty, but it seemed she had some strength independent of that.
Though it was not possible to judge from her reaction alone, they were working to obtain proof of her royalty now, so it was an attitude she welcomed.
The passage was not a straight road, as it split off to the right and left. There were also stairways which led deeper underground. The road tapered off so that it was difficult to walk side by side, and eventually it became difficult to walk through without supporting one another.
Furthermore, there were holes in the ceiling in which arrows, spears, or stones could come flying from.
However, like Regin had said, nothing triggered them. They continued down the passage until, eventually, they found a place to rest.
Ellen was the first to notice.
“There's something carved on the wall.”
Hearing those words, all members came to a halt. The Brune soldiers who were ahead did not notice because they were focused on scouting ahead in the darkness.
“... An ancient mural.”
Regin looked at the wall next to Ellen. Tigre turned his gaze there as well.
Though he could not easily understand it from a glance, he used his imagination. There was a monster with three heads standing opposite a human.
“If you don't mind... please tell us about this painting.”
Ellen asked as she glanced at Regin from the side. Certainly, Tigre was interested in the mural as well. In all actuality, Rurick, Batran, and all the soldiers were also interested.
“... This depicts the battle between the Gods and the Dragon.”
After some hesitation, Regin spoke carefully.
“It is an ancient story about the confrontation between the Gods and the Dragon. Though I do not understand the reason, the Dragons attacked the Pantheon of Gods. The earth, the heavens, the netherworld... In all the worlds, only the Dragon existed. It was an existence which could harm the Gods, so they were feared.”
“It's a story which brings up complicated feelings as someone from Zhcted.”
Ellen looked at the mural with a bewildered face. It was not just her but Rurick and the Zhcted soldiers who wore complex expressions. Tigre simply looked at the mural in admiration.
--- So this monster is a three headed Dragon.
“The Dragon's strength was frightening. Rather than continuing to fight, which might have led to the Gods being overthrown, three Goddesses decided to try and control the Dragon.”
Regin advanced a few steps as she continued to explain. On the wall was a picture of three goddesses with their hands on the scruff of each neck of the Dragon. Tigre visualized the Gods worshipped in Brune within his mind.
--- Amongst the Pantheon of Gods, there are four Goddesses. Elis, the Goddess of Storms, Mosha, the Goddess of Mother Earth, and Iarilo, the Goddess of harvest, and then... The Goddess of Night, Darkness, and Death, Tir na Fa.
The Goddesses were likely Elis, Mosha, and perhaps Iarilo. Tir na Fa was often depicted as something dangerous or dirty amongst the Pantheon of Gods.
With that in mind, he noticed one of the three Goddesses which calmed the Dragon down had a bow on her back and a quiver at her waist.
--- Elis has a horn, Mosha is decorated with flowers, and Iarilo is wearing thin fabric.
He could roughly determine the deities based on their garb.
Tigre did not know of any Goddesses with a bow.
--- I wonder if anyone knows.
Perhaps, in Brune Kingdom, where the bow is not recognized, all statues with bows that existed until now might have been destroyed. Tigre had no way of knowing.
“It is said the Founder, Charles, had his revelation to become King here in Artishem. It is said he received Durandal and the blessings of Bayard from the Pantheon of Gods in the Ruberon Mountains.”
“Yes. If it's that sword, he could definitely fight against a Dragon.”
While Regin's voice was tense, Ellen commented as if it was not her concern. Though surprised Regin had explained this far, the Vanadis with silver-white hair simply expressed her gratitude.
Of course, those from Zhcted would also run away if they were attacked by a wild Dragon; however, they have an affinity with them. It was not pleasant for them to hear stories of fighting Dragons. Many of them may have even felt angry.
That is why Ellen spoke with an attitude telling Regin to not worry. It was to clear away the awkward atmosphere.
Regin gazed into the heart of darkness, deeper into the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace].
They walked into an open area which was dimly lit.
High above was a dim light shining upon the room.
The area could have contained the entirety of the shrine worshipping the Goddess Mosha. On one side was a large door, as if it were created for a giant to walk through. It was made of metal and had a height and width of about five alsin (about five meters). There were also two cavities opposite the passage they had just walked through.
However, Tigre became tense by something more astonishing.
“... So you came.”
Close to twenty men stood before the door, all armed with swords and clad in armor. At the center was a man in his 40s. He had a dignified and intimidating presence.
Regin let out a shocked voice. Ellen frowned upon seeing Thenardier. It was her first time meeting him.
“The real thing? He seems fairly lightly guarded for the General.”
Ellen placed her hand on the sword at her waist as she cracked a joke. Those with torches moved to protect Regin and Tigre. Batran readied his spear next to Tigre, and Rurick moved toward Ellen.
“You will understand if I am the genuine article simply by killing me.”
Thenardier spoke arrogantly in response to Ellen's words. Afterward, the black-haired Duke faced Regin.
“I see. So you really were alive.”
“... How were you able to come here?”
Violent emotions rampaged within Regin. She clenched her teeth in anger, seeing the man who tried to kill her. It was difficult for her to remain calm, yet the Duke simply responded curtly.
“It would be meaningless to tell someone who will die.”
Thenardier pulled out the sword at his waist. As if it were a signal, the soldiers, excluding one man, began to move. The man had short golden hair and blue eyes. His sword was in his hand as he stood guarding Thenardier.
There were several reasons Duke Thenardier appeared here.
To begin with, he had been Duke Ganelon's enemy for several years. He had considered how to attack Artishem, and he had scouts enter it repeatedly so he could form a plan. He did not know of the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace] beforehand.
However, Thenardier thought of it as a means of escape in an emergency. For a man who was not a member of the Royal Family, this place had no other value.
When he heard rumors of Regin being alive, Thenardier recalled the existence of this passageway. He thought Tigre would place priority to visiting this location over fighting him.
Thenardier made this judgment when he received a report that the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] began moving toward Artishem. He himself came personally after having been disgraced with the failure of killing Regin once already.
Though he wanted to leave Steid, his aid, to manage the army, the faithful man requested he accompany Thenardier with an unusually stubborn attitude.
I cannot afford to let Your Excellency go alone. If you still insist, then cut me down right here. His aide with fair hair went so far as to say that.
Due to Steid's expression, Thenardier was accompanied by Steid and twenty soldiers from his army.
Rather than saying he had predicted this, he was simply lucky.
--- The distance is short...!
Tigre quickly stepped back to create a space and pulled out his bow. He nocked an arrow, pulled his bowstring, and quickly fired toward Thenardier.
The next moment, the sound of an arrow being broken was heard. Steid had protected Thenardier.
“Tigre, Regin, Fall back!”
Ellen shouted. Tigre pulled back while guarding Regin. They were outnumbered by Thenardier's subordinates two to one. After regaining his balance, they retreated through the passage. Even if slight, it would reduce the advantage held by the enemies.
A dull sound echoed as the passage was bathed in blood. A Thenardier soldier who had charged straight forward was quickly cut away by Ellen's sword. When the soldier fell to the floor, the remaining soldiers of the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] and the soldiers of the Thenardier Army clashed intensely.
Though they were skilled soldiers chosen by Massas and Lim, the Thenardier soldiers were similar. Blood was scattered about the floor.
Ellen's longsword gave off a sound as two more enemies were felled. Three soldiers closed in on her. She parried and dodged their incoming attacks as she and the other men pulled back. She wiped her sweat away and regulated her breathing.
--- There may be more enemies, but they aren't as good as us. We should be able to escape.
Even for Ellen, if she showed a chance, she would not be able to escape unscathed. Even with fewer enemies, the three were focused on running down the passage to escape.
“--- Steid. Go.”
After looking at Thenardier and hesitating for a moment, Steid followed after them.
“... Rurick, can I leave this to you?”
“If it is your command, Vanadis-sama.”
She smiled fearlessly as she asked the bald headed Knight, her eyes still on the enemy.
Gradually, the Thenardier soldiers closed the distance while being careful not to fall into disarray. If they came rushing in, they would lose, even if the enemy was inferior in number.
Rurick answered as a Knight of Zhcted.
“I leave it to you.”
Ellen's response was short. Having said that, she kicked off the floor and flew into the air to the ceiling beyond the reach of the enemy, quickly passing them by.
The Thenardier soldiers were stunned having seen something they had never seen before.
Rurick and the Zhcted soldiers let out a cry and jumped forward. Their swords shined brilliantly in the darkness and cut through the enemy's throats. The smell of blood mixed with the air.
Rurick quickly stepped back as the Thenardier soldiers began fighting back. Tigre shot an arrow as cover, the arrowhead burrowing itself in the head of a soldier.
A faint noise was born amongst the Thenardier soldiers. The arrow seemed to have flown out of nowhere from the darkness.
Because of the bulk of the soldiers from the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army], Tigre and Regin, who were behind them, were completely hidden.
Taking advantage of the enemy's anxiety, Rurick quickly moved in and attacked.
At that time, Steid jumped out before the soldiers and blocked the Knight's attack. A sharp metallic sound rang through the corridor. Due to Steid's strength, Rurick was forced to step back.
Steid did not stop and moved forward to finish Rurick off, only to be stopped as Tigre shot another arrow.
Though surprised, the swordsman did not show a change in his expression. He casually placed his left hand before his face. The arrow moved away, as if attracted to the dark gray gauntlet.
Though Steid was distracted for only a moment, Rurick was able to recover his posture. He knew he had no room to relax with the enemy before him.
“... A wonderful skill.”
Steid muttered those words as he cut the distance once again.
“With large allies blocking your path in a dark and narrow passageway at such a short distance from your enemy, you can shoot both quickly and accurately. It seems your Silvrash[Star Shooter] name is not for show.”
Tigre was shocked that his arrow which was shot at such a close proximity was caught. He had grabbed an arrow an enemy shot himself in Alsace, but the speed of his own arrow was far different, and the enemy was not directly before him.
Even if Steid praised Tigre, he spoke indifferently to Rurick.
“Leave, soldier. Earl Vorn and Princess Regin. Only two lives are necessary here.”
Toward the demand from someone clearly superior in strength, Rurick snorted.
“What kind of Knight would I be if I stood back just because I was told to.”
Ellen, who had landed behind the Thenardier soldiers, ran straight toward Duke Thenardier. Though she thought there would be a number of soldiers on the way, there were not.
--- Like I thought, he's a fake. If not...
Even when Ellen ran straight for him, Duke Thenardier did not flinch at all, nor did his arrogance falter. He did not even bother to unsheathe the sword at his waist.
A flash of white light, different from that on the battlefield, lit the room, and the sound of metal followed afterward. Arifal's sharp blade was swung intensely, but it was blocked.
Ellen looked wide-eyed in amazement and increased her will to fight. She attacked with her longsword in all directions, but, though he showed no signs of blocking the attacks, the Silver Flash never once touched Thenardier's body.
Ellen retreated a half step and prepared her breathing. Thenardier went on the offensive, as if waiting for that moment. He drew his sword in a forcible, yet well trained manner. Though his speed was inferior, it was supplemented by his peerless sword technique.
Thenardier's sword technique had a completely different quality compared to Ellen's. He had gripped the sword since he was seven and had clear motions, down to his fingertips, due to his constant effort. It was a skill Ellen could not possibly have obtained at this point in her life.
--- If he's no fake, then he must have been absolutely confident in his skill.
Sparks flew as they exchanged blows, the atmosphere bent with every impact. A whirlwind the color of iron assaulted Ellen. She switched to defense to receive every one of Thenardier's attacks. He was a formidable opponent who far exceeded her expectations.
--- I wouldn't say I can't beat him... but he's a difficult one.
She would be injured if she relaxed for even a moment.
“Even though you have yet to reach 20... you are a prime example of what a woman should be.”
With sweat on his brow, Thenardier gave words of admiration. Ellen responded with a short grunt and sarcasm.
“I should say the same to you. To think you'd come down to this dark cavern yourself at your age.”
“I missed a kill once before. Naturally, I should confirm it with my eyes this time.”
He was clearly referring to Regin.
Again, their swords clashed, followed by a strange sound in the distance. Though the two battle-tested warriors would be unfazed by this, Thenardier and Ellen separated and saw something different from an enemy.
Tigre and the others, in a different place from the two, were in a similar situation. Two soldiers of the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] were cut down by Steid, and Rurick had numerous wounds. Sensitive to the signs of something approaching, Steid began to retreat with the surviving subordinates.
Rurick did not chase after Steid, since the expressionless opponent did not provide an opportunity. The bald headed Knight of Zhcted and Tigre both felt something unpleasant with their skin, and neither felt it was a good premonition.
Small clumps of earth and sand fell from the ceiling, breaking apart on the ground and hitting everyone present.
--- An earthquake? No...
A thunderous sound echoed, and a large crack ran through the ceiling. It was not earth and sand but many small stones which fell from the ceiling. Ellen left Thenardier and quickly ran to Tigre and the others.
Thenardier did not chase after her. The ground had shaken terribly, and the cracks extended from the walls to the ceilings. He prioritized his safety before the enemy and made to escape as quickly as possible.
Thenardier shouted to his subordinates and ran down the passage he had come from.
“All of you, run away with His Excellency.”
As the tremor increased in intensity, Steid quietly ordered his subordinates in their confusion. Other than Thenardier, he was the only one to maintain his calm.
The Thenardier soldiers managed to run along as the ground bounced about intensely. Ellen ran by them, with no room to worry about them.
Tigre and the soldiers had placed their hands on the wall and were desperately trying to escape. Being underground and with stones the size of their head falling, they were becoming increasingly anxious.
“Rurick! Take care of Her Highness!”
Tigre sent Rurick ahead and remained at the tail end. Though it was dangerous, he did not wish to leave Ellen behind. Batran also lowered his waist and refused to abandon Tigre.
Ellen returned. They exchanged glances and continued to run. Tigre let the two lead the way and followed after them.
Feeling danger behind him, Tigre jumped sideways immediately. A argent arc passed by him immediately afterward. Steid had approached him before he was aware, and attacked. If it were not for the intense shaking and falling rocks, Tigre might have been cut.
“Earl Vorn. I will have you die here.”
He spoke with a cold tone that sent chills up his spine. The expressionless man wanted his life from the bottom of his heart. He had no attachment to his own.
Steid's second attack came at once. Because of the falling rocks and the intense tremors, Tigre had no choice but to throw himself on the floor, but that was all he could do. While Tigre began to rise, Steid, Thenardier's most trusted aide, raised his right hand, and swung downward.
The dazzling sword dropped overhead, but before it hit Tigre, a small shadow appeared between them.
Batran, Tigre's shout was swallowed by his sudden collapse.
Though Ellen was aware of Steid's attack, she could not run immediately due to the intense shaking.
While grasping Arifal, she rushed to his aide, only to be stopped by a large rock falling before her.
If she had not jumped away, Ellen would have been crushed in an instant. It would have required several adult males to pull it out of the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace].
Ellen brandished Arifal, but someone grabbed her from behind. It was a Zhcted soldier.
“What are you doing!”
“Vanadis-sama! Please, stop here!”
The soldier perceived Ellen trying to use her VedaDragonic Skill. Though the passage was collapsing, he returned to desperately beg her. Though Tigre's existence was important, it was the silver-white haired Vanadis that mattered most to the soldiers of Zhcted.
Her subordinate's shout was like cold water showering over Ellen's burning emotions. She stopped and looked back at the wall behind her as stones fell from the ceiling.
Ellen shouted desperately, but her voice was crushed by the sound of earth and sand pouring down.
When Tigre regained consciousness, the earthquake had already subsided. His vision was hazy, even ignoring the lack of light. His eyes needed more time to adjust.
The pain in his body was dull. Tigre tried to recall what happened before he lost consciousness.
--- That's right, Steid...
Steid's sword swung downward, and Batran flew between them to save him from the killer's blade.
--- No, It can't be...
Perhaps it was a dream or a hallucination he had as he fainted. Though Tigre desperately tried to convince himself, his heart pulsed violently to deny them. His body erupted in a sweat.
--- Please. Be safe, Batran...!
He was impatient and could only pray.
--- How is my body?
He had lost his consciousness during the cave-in. He focused on putting strength into his limbs. First he moved his fingers, then worked his way up. Fortunately, he felt his bow in his left hand.
His eyes were acclimating to the light, little by little. Tigre slowly crawled along the ground, feeling his way with his right hand. He could feel a cold, rugged surface of stones above his head.
--- The ceiling is too low... But it might be big enough to get my body through here.
Apparently the bedrock had fallen and formed a small cavern. His eyes were finally able to see before him.
It was not as though he was in complete darkness. There was a dim light along the ceiling. He ran his finger along the ceiling to touch the luminescent powder. He was thankful for the light, even if it was very minimal.
Tigre was plotting his future course of actions when he quickly moved back in surprise. Tigre saw the face of a man turned upside down.
It was Steid. He remained silent for a moment while he recovered from his surprise. Tigre looked at Thenardier's aide, the Knight with a pale face. Even in death, he remained expressionless. His torso had been crushed by the rocks.
The man who had cornered himself died an unsatisfying death.
After thinking a while, Tigre gently closed Steid's open eyes. Though he understood he was being sentimental, he felt he should still do it out of courtesy.
--- What's become of everyone? It seems like the ceiling collapsed in this area.
Though he was not in a situation to worry about others, he was still uneasy. Still, he thought he would be safe for the time being, since there were no signs of the ceiling collapsing further.
--- Anyway, I need to find some way to escape.
He carefully moved his body about. He would likely die if he moved about unskillfully, since the passage could collapse. He could not stay here forever, so the first step to take was to check the size of the passageway.
However, an anxiety stronger than before attacked Tigre. Even his breathing had stopped.
His voice trembled. His eyes caught something beneath the dim light. It was the shadow of the small old man who had served by his side.
He forgot the situation and shouted, crawling on his hands and knees as he climbed along the wall. He did not notice as rocks fell and hit the back of his head. Perhaps hearing his voice, the old man's body moved.
“... Young Lord.”
It was hoarse. Batran's voice, which was more like a groan, spilled from his mouth. Though Tigre was happy to hear an answer, that feeling disappeared in a moment.
Batran was cut deeply, from his shoulder to his waist. What Tigre saw was not a dream, it was reality. What he thought was a shadow was a pool of the old man's blood, spilling out from beneath him.
“So you're safe... Young Lord.”
“Yeah, I'm safe. You saved me, so I'm not injured at all.”
He grabbed the hand Batran struggled to lift. Tigre replied while frantically nodding. He had hoped to reassure him, but the old man's hand had already become cold.
“... Your hand, it's warm. You're safe... It seems this old body still... had its worth.”
Batran's voice was weak, and his speech was choppy. His life was at an end, yet he was relieved to know Tigre was safe.
Tigre grasped his hand and urged him as strongly as he could, as if to call out to the soul anchoring the old man's life to his body.
“No more, Batran! You can't die here. Didn't you want to return to Alsace? Don't worry about me!”
Batran looked up at Tigre's face. His eyes were hollow; it was unclear whether or not he could see Tigre at all.
“That's right... Spring is... just around the corner. I'm sure... it will be so green.”
“That's right. Spring is coming soon. That's why—-”
Startled by Batran's words, Tigre could no longer speak.
His left hand shook. Tigre strongly grasped his hand. Batran smiled and spoke painfully.
“My son... My son is splendidly doing his best to protect it. In order to protect the Alsace Urz-sama left behind, for the sake of peace... even Zhcted has become your ally. I'm sure they're planning something, or they wouldn't cooperate, but still, my son, I'm happy... I'm proud.”
Tigre remained silent and stared at Batran's face. When Urz was still alive, Batran had called Tigre in that manner.
Perhaps he was delirious in the last moments of his life. The old man was not by Tigre's side. His eyes were hollow, seeing Tigre's father in his place. He spoke, though he was no longer in this world.
“When Urz-sama died, I was unable to do anything... I was anxious, uneasy. Our son was only 14, and he would govern Alsace. Massas-sama had a duty to his territory. I could not let him take care of everything... But my worries were unfounded.”
Tigre remained silent and listened to Batran's words.
He could not possibly tell him not to speak. The old man had served by his father's side long before Tigre was born, but he would live no longer. Even if he did not want it, the thick odor of blood and the cold from the hand he grasped forced reality upon him.
Batran had little life remaining, and Tigre did not want to interrupt him. He could not possibly do it.
“My son... No, Young Lord. I felt wonderful when you relied on me. I was happy to play the role of a parent in place of Urz-sama, if even a little... I was so eager, but... It was embarrassing.”
Batran tried to laugh, but he began choking as blood spilled from the sides of his mouth. Tigre placed his bow on the ground and gently wiped it off Batran with his sleeves.
“Urz-sama's worries and my own... were unnecessary. The Young Lord turned his eyes only to Alsace. But, though you love Alsace, you must look outside...”
He had a fit of coughing once again. Blood spilled out of his mouth as he continued to speak. However, his voice was weaker and more rapid than before.
“That's why... Don't worry...”
His voice had become quieter, and the space between words had increased. Tigre desperately endured his desire to shout out as he clenched his teeth. He drew his ear to Batran's mouth.
“I'm happy. Urz-sama, Young Lord. I have been blessed with good Lords...”
His words broke away. He could not suppress his feelings of rage. Tigre called the man's name. Batran breathed in pain again. A light returned to his vacant eyes as he stared at Tigre. He smiled with joy.
Though the old man tried to utter something, no sound came out. Tigre thought he had called for Teita.
Finally, he quietly closed his eyes.
Clasping the faithful old man's hand, the youth cried without uttering a word.
--- As if reacting to the emotions of its Lord, the black bow trembled.
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