Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 05 Chapter 5 - MTL
|This text is a machine translation (MTL).
Be warned that the degree of translation error may be higher than usual.
This page was created before the updated (July 19, 2015) MTL guidelines and has not been reviewed.
Chapter 5 - Decisive Battle
Four of those who had entered the temple of the Goddess Mosha remained. They were Ellen, Regin, Rurick, and a soldier from Zhcted.
Though Ellen had the impulse to destroy the upper part of the passage with her VedaDragonic Skill on multiple occasions, she persuaded herself to endure. Burying it even further was not going to help Tigre in any way.
There were two reasons that helped Ellen remain somewhat calm.
One was Regin's existence. She was far more troubled than Ellen.
She had not stopped crying as she ran, and she could not speak words to blame herself. She had fallen hard once, and, after that, the Princess of Brune was carried on the back of one of the soldiers. Seeing her in that way beside her, Ellen regained her composure, little by little.
The other reason was Rurick. While she ran through the passage, the bald Knight shouted at Ellen.
“Vanadis-sama. Lord Tigrevurmud will be safe! He is skilled with the bow, his skill is superior to death, and that is why he will survive! He won't die in a place like this!”
Rather than encouraging Ellen, he was persuading himself. Still, Rurick's words had saved Ellen. Rurick was a good archer, but not as excellent as Tigre. What he said held weight, or so she thought.
“We'll go to Artishem.”
After they returned to the temple, Ellen looked back at Regin whose breath was still not regulated, and she reported in a dignified voice.
“That cave-in was very localized. It did not seem to go any further than the passage we returned from. Though I don't know how, it only affected the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace].”
“You mean to dig up the area around the cave-in... how will we do that?”
Rurick had an uneasy expression. Even the Zhcted soldiers were weakly objecting.
“However, Lord Tigrevurmud...”
Ellen glared at the two intensely, however, she shook her head immediately.
“... Though I don't think this is the case, it is still an emergency. We need to collect the corpse. There is the possibility they are also searching.”
These words startled Regin, finally stopping her tears. Tigre's death would lead to the collapse of the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army]. Even if the possibilities were slim, Thenardier might return with dozens of soldiers.
“--- Yes. If there are corpses, we cannot let them have it. No matter what.”
This is no time to cry. I am sorry. I cannot do this now. I must move my feet, move my hands.
Regin found courage at last and nodded to Ellen with her blue eyes. Her eyes showed her belief in Tigre's safety, but she could not hide her anxiety.
“I understand. Then let's move.”
Rurick pulled himself together and responded to Ellen with a clear tone. The Vanadis with silver-white hair gave a command to Rurick and the Zhcted soldiers in a loud voice.
“Return to the main unit immediately and explain the details only to Earl Rodant and Limlisha. Have them dispatch two thousand men to Artishem.”
After that, she turned to the soldiers of Brune.
“All of you, we will head to Artishem immediately. We will explain the details as we ride.”
Her voice was strong and demanded presence, even to soldiers of another country. Without worrying about the dirt covering her, Ellen took actions. They had originally come riding two people per horse. They had been reduced to six people now; it was an ironic form of luck.
After leaving the temple, they divided into two groups. Ellen and the others ran to Artishem across the meadow.
The sky was blue and the sun had risen high. It was already well into the day. Though Ellen and Regin were exhausted, neither desired a break.
It did not take even a quarter koku to reach Artishem from the temple of Mosha. The ramparts surrounding the city had become visible immediately.
“What will you do when you go into Artishem?”
Regin pulled her horse next to Ellen's.
“We'll head to the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace]. I'll think of something when I get there.”
It was a violent answer, but Regin understood. The two gazed ahead as the walls of Artishem gradually approached.
--- The two opened their mouths wide at the same time.
A black light streaked perpendicular to the ramparts on the other side of the wall from the center of the city. A Black Dragon crossed the thoughts of the two girls the moment they saw the light.
The black light blew through the clouds, like a pillar connecting Heaven and Earth. The clouds above vanished. It was as if the Black Dragon had flown to the heavens.
A moment later, the air shook, reminiscent of a distant thunderstorm.
The black light grew thin and disappeared soundlessly.
“What was that...?”
They were far too surprised and could only think of those words. In contrast to Regin who could not hide her unease and tension, Ellen's mouth smiled hopefully. The image of the black bow the boy with red hair held floated to her mind.
“I don't know! But we're going!”
Kicking the horse's belly, Ellen quickly ran to the eastern gate.
Looking up at the rampart, a part of the walls surrounding Artishem had burned and collapsed.
Despite the tragic sight spreading before their eyes as they passed through the gate, Ellen and the others did not stop moving.
Soot and debris clung to the sides of the streets and the buildings. Everything was buried in rubble. Columns that still remained were colored black. Whoever saw it would only feel their heart go cold.
There were people who walked up and down the streets who looked terribly dirty, but compared to those sitting or lying down in the rubble, they looked much better. There were those searching for something to get them through the day, and there were those who walked unintentionally down the road with blank faces.
The entire city was shrouded in pain and despair.
Regin could think of nothing to say as she looked at the roads covered in rubble. The two soldiers of Brune who followed afterward trembled.
The Vanadis lightly tapped the frozen Princess.
“There is nothing we can do today. Let's go.”
Regin nodded helplessly. She had said it to herself before. She had no room to worry about others. There were few travelers in the city. The four stood out, but Ellen did not bother to stop.
“... The heart of the city is ahead of us.”
Regin spoke as she turned the corner. Before them was where the light had expanded.
The ground just a few steps before them was lost.
To be precise, there was a giant bowl-shaped crater.
The hole was the size of a small house, and it was focused at the point where the main streets intersected. All the pavement slabs had been destroyed; all that remained was soil and stone.
Many curious onlookers looked. They stared down at the hole, unable to hide their emotions.
Someone lay in the center of the crater.
Seeing the boy with red hair and a black bow in his left hand lying in the crater, Ellen, without hesitation, rushed to the center.
Both his clothes and leather armor were in tatters, and his red hair was completely disordered. At first, she was confused seeing the black bow in his left hand, but she saw Tigre had carried someone on his back. Seeing this, Ellen understood.
“You're safe, Tigre!”
She ran up and held him in her arms. The face full of soot moved faintly and a voice called out.
Though he looked weak, Ellen smiled in relief. However, Tigre's body suddenly lost strength at that moment. Ellen reached out to support him, her face full of anxiety until she saw that Tigre had fainted.
“Honestly... Making me worry like that.”
Tears blotted the edge of Ellen's eyes, blurring her vision. However, having confirmed his safety, the Vanadis with silver-white hair forced them back.
After that, Ellen saw the elderly man's corpse on Tigre's shoulders. His clothes were stained with blood, and his face and body was more battered than Tigre's. He was dead. There was a large wound across his body which had taken his life away.
--- So it's Batran.
He was the elderly man who had served by Tigre's side. Ever since they entered the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace], he had remained by Tigre's side.
--- Even in that violent tremor, you sacrificed yourself to save Tigre.
Ellen closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she prayed to the Pantheon of the Gods for the peace and safety of his soul. He had far surpassed the border of life. It all began when he visited Tigre when he was still a prisoner of war.
Batran had done what she herself could not.
Suddenly, a rope was thrown to her feet. She looked up and saw Regin and the Brune soldiers grasping it tightly. They had secured it as she ran down the crater.
Ellen lay Tigre on the ground and took over the task of carrying Batran. She stood up after supporting Tigre once again and grabbed the rope. Regin and the others slowly pulled them up.
Looking at the surroundings, the people were gradually beginning to gather. Many had run away after seeing the light of the Black Dragon as it flew up to the sky. Because nothing else happened afterward, they came to see what had occurred.
Those who had been at the crater at the beginning and saw Ellen and the others arrive looked at the Vanadis and the Princess suspiciously.
However, no one called out to them. Perhaps they judged it would be bad to interfere, or perhaps they lacked the energy to act due to the fire.
In fact, the people remaining in the capital were simply too tired. They had lost their livelihoods to the fire, and the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] and Thenardier Army were approaching the city. They had no means of escape. At any rate, Ellen and the others could only appreciate the lack of interference.
The sun fell to the west, causing a subtle change to the blue sky.
The Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] was camped in a field thirty belsta away from Artishem.
In the General's tent, Ellen, Regin, Lim, Mira, Massas, Rurick, and Gerard sat in a circle.
After Ellen and Regin explained what happened in the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace], there were a variety of reactions from those present.
“First of all... You are safe, Lord Eleanora. Your safety is a blessing.”
Said Massas as he bowed deeply, nearly to the ground.
Rurick and the others who left the passage headed to the base of the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] and immediately explained the circumstances to Massas. Massas quickly ordered the troops to prepare to withdraw and gathered one thousand men to head to Artishem at once.
“However, that was not our fate. The army would have collapsed immediately.”
Ellen sighed knowing his life was not in danger.
“Fate, is it...?”
Regin placed her hand to her mouth and was lost in thought after hearing Ellen's casual language.
“The moment we entered the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace], the area above us began to collapse... I wonder how likely that is.”
“Even if you ask, it just happened. Even if Thenardier was there, it was not something he did. To begin with, that is something impossible to do artificially.”
Ellen said those words with some darkness in her voice. At that moment, Teita entered with a number of cups on a tray.
Her face was dark and she had lost her voice. Massas knew the energy that was once in her smile and wanted to turn away in apology. She had endured her sorrows well.
The maid with chestnut-colored hair politely, but somewhat mechanically, placed porcelain cups before them one by one. Steam rose from the hot tea within.
After some slight hesitation, Ellen called out to her as a representative for everyone.
“Tigre... Um, how is he?”
“He is currently resting in another tent. He has a few bruises, and he seems weak, but he has no large injuries that could become a problem.”
Teita responded in a detached voice that was more indifferent than even Lim's usual tone.
“I understand. I know it is unnecessary to say this, but please stay with Tigre.”
Thank you very much. Teita bowed and left the tent after giving her gratitude in a small voice. They all looked down at the tea cups before turning to one another.
“Earl Rodant. You know Lord Tigrevurmud best, so I will ask you frankly. Will he recover by tonight?”
Gerard asked a question without any hint of reserve. Lim and Mira held their breath, and Rurick openly frowned, but none criticized him. It was an important question.
“--- I honestly don't know.”
Massas responded with a pensive expression, making the atmosphere even heavier.
“Tigre is the kind of person to bounce back quickly, but...”
In the battles until today, many soldiers from Alsace had been lost; however no one had a relation with Tigre as long or as deeply as Batran had. The small, brave man had served Tigre's father, Urz.
The sense of sorrow and loss was also clear in Teita's attitude.
“Tigre... only spoke about Batran?”
Regin nodded to Massas' question.
Tigre woke up just before they left Artishem. Even when Ellen asked about his injuries, he had remained silent. He only spoke when they mentioned burying Batran.
“Encase him in wax and place him in a coffin. In this season, he will last a month. Have Batran buried in Alsace.”
Immediately after saying those words in a strong tone, Tigre lost consciousness and remained asleep ever since.
“However, Lord Tigrevurmud clearly stated his intentions regarding Batran.”
“It may have come out of his desire to properly take care of Bartran. Since then, he has become like this.”
Regin's words were simply her clinging to hope. The Princess with hair of gold glanced at Ellen in hope, who simply clenched her fist atop her knee, enduring her helplessness.
“More than anything, all of you have returned safely. Regarding Duke Thenardier... have you seen any signs of him?”
To restore the atmosphere, Mira brought up the problem at hand. Massas responded quickly.
“At present, there are no noticeable movements. From what I heard from Her Highness and Lord Eleanora, the Duke himself was in the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace]. He will have returned to his army by now and is likely taking measures.”
“... Do you mean to say he will accuse Lord Tigrevurmud of acting toward his own goals, and he is ordering an attack?”
Hearing those words, Lim had a tense expression. Her thoughts were quickly stopped.
It was not strange to think he would turn his anger toward Thenardier who interfered and caused Batran's death. The problem was that he would fight recklessly. If they were defeated here, there was a risk that the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] would collapse.
“Don't worry, Lim.”
Ellen answered her adjutant with gold hair tied to the left side of her head.
“If that happens, I'll stop him, even if I have to knock him out.”
“--- At any rate.”
Massas looked about to conclude the meeting.
“No matter the reason, Thenardier's Army has begun to move, and we cannot neglect our own preparations. For now, we should leave Tigre – Lord Vorn alone for the night.”
The conference ended with that. Ellen, Lim, Mira and Gerard left the tent. Only Rurick and Massas remained.
“... Is something wrong?”
Massas spoke with a questioning gaze. Even though the sun had fallen, the bald Knight did not have much of a chance to speak until now. Massas knew he looked up to Tigre and nothing more. Rurick finished the tea in his cup and stood up before speaking.
“Earl Rodant, will you not rest for a while?”
“Though I am grateful for your consideration...”
To Massas, he was only a member of a foreign army. The old Earl looked at Rurick curiously. Rurick simply responded with a shrug.
“I have been fighting for Lord Tigrevurmud, and I have spoken many times to Batran. We have played chess and various card games with one another.”
Batran, though Teita was also one reason, had become estranged from Ellen. However, Rurick, though a simple soldier, seemed to get along well with him. Massas continued evaluating the man before him.
“I have heard that you are also quite intimate with Batran, a friendship which surpasses rank. Even if it is only for a koku, you should also rest.”
Massas would be unable to bear it for more than one koku due to his sense of responsibility. Massas stroked his gray beard in silence while thinking about Rurick's proposal. Rather than asking a question, he simply gave his gratitude.
Rurick bowed to Massas as he stepped out of the tent. He stopped his legs immediately.
“Eavesdropping is a poor hobby.”
“No, no, I simply did not think you were so considerate.”
Gerard walked out from the shade of the tent with an unusual sign of admiration. Rurick did not show any signs of anger, though.
“Well, whatever. Help me. It's only one koku, so let's try and avoid having the Brune soldiers see anything.”
“Why should I help?”
“It would create problems if I ordered those from Brune directly.”
Rurick responded in a tone as if it were natural. Gerard looked at the bald Knight before letting out a large sigh.
“And here I thought you would beg me for help. I've been had... As expected from a man of Zhcted. You're neither easy nor naïve.”
“I will give orders and you can relay them. I will say this now, but I am only cooperating with you to help Lord Massas.”
“I suppose it can't be helped. It will only be more troublesome if I have to clean up your mess later... We'll need a barrel of Zhcted alcohol for this.”
Gerard consented easily. He had planned to do nothing for Massas. It is only because his father, Augre, and Massas were close friends that he accepted.
While hurling insults at one another, the man from Zhcted and the man from Brune walked between the tents housing the soldiers.
In the center of his own tent, Tigre sat silently. He had been treated and was wearing fresh clothing.
He grasped his black bow tightly in his left hand and remained as still as a stone statue.
Teita quietly sat beside him. The tent was completely dark with not even a single candle lit. It was silent and the air was heavily stagnant.
It was a sight which directly represented Tigre's mindset.
[--- You did it.]
Unexpectedly, a voice shook the air. Though it was a voice, it did not emit through the ears; it was a voice which only Tigre could hear.
[You finally used the power of the bow without using my help or the help of others.]
He shot through the rocks in an instant.
Though the voice reached Tigre, he did not show a single reaction. Tigre simply stared into the nothingness before him. After a half koku, the [Voice] gave up and left.
[It must be serious if you aren't talking to me. I'll return when your mood is better.]
Tigre still did not show any particular change, as if he had never heard the voice at all. Rage, regret, helplessness, loss, swirling emotions rampaged about his mind. It was as if his heart itself was dyed jet black.
Batran was killed by Steid, and Steid was Thenardier's subordinate.
However, he was already dead.
Revenge and remorse, two fierce animals struggled like violent dogs in his mind.
It had repeated constantly in his mind.
If Thenardier wasn't there. No, if I didn't take Batran to the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace]. No, if I had managed to get rid of Steid. No, if that tremor had not happened. No, no, no...
This is all meaningless, Batran is dead and he will not return, Whether I am angry or whether I have and regrets, I can't change that any longer.
He knew it was not the time to stop, that he must move forward.
Though he understood, his mind ran idle. Except for his hand which grasped the bow, he had no energy. His lower body was heavy, as if it were trying bind him to the ground, keeping them from moving.
Batran could no longer feel happiness, anger, or sadness.
The sky was bathed in the ultramarine of twilight. Soldiers could be heard outside cooking, and smoke could be seen rising. Even so, Tigre showed no reaction.
As if mimicking him, Teita remained silent. She drew close to Tigre, thankful he was still there.
The soldiers finished their meals. Even when the stars and moon shined high in the sky, they did not move.
There was a change, and occasional questions were heard outside.
“I'll be bothering you.”
With a natural tone and gait, one girl with a lit candle in her hand entered the tent. She was dressed in blue and had silver-white hair and bright red pupils. A longsword was at her waist – it was Ellen.
Though Tigre looked up at her, he did not speak. Ellen placed the candlestick near the entrance and sat down.
“I will not hear anything vague. What do you want to do?”
“... Leave it for tomorrow.”
Tigre's response was tired. Teita glared at Ellen with a tearful face; she would cry soon. She grasped Tigre tightly and appealed strongly with her hazelnut eyes.
However, the Vanadis with silver-white hair did not flinch and continued quietly.
“You will decide now. If we wait until tomorrow, we will be pressed for time. That is why I will ask you now. What do you want to do?”
When Tigre remained silent, Ellen continued.
“You can't abandon the war now. Duke Thenardier has suffered a significant setback from the fight today, and he may negotiate depending on the conditions. You can defend Alsace.”
“... But what of your purpose, then?”
“I will manage it on my own. That's natural.”
He answered in a husky voice, and Ellen responded quickly. She was bluntly telling him she would take care of her own business; Tigre had no words to respond.
In the dead silence, Ellen looked at Tigre seriously and continued speaking.
“I have absolute pride that I can fight, that is what I have long since decided.”
It was a normal word, but it had surprisingly latched onto Tigre's mind. Tigre muttered the word again. Ellen simply nodded.
“That's right. Before I became a Vanadis... I was a mercenary, I had pride as a soldier.”
Ellen reached toward the longsword at her waist without separating her gaze from Tigre.
“To a mercenary, we have nothing to depend on, nothing to stand for. We only fight for money. We have no home to return to, only the battlefields we roam. Honor is an empty dream if you want to make a fortune in one go. Those who didn't understand would die. There was nothing – that is why I learned to have pride. Pride in myself, pride as a soldier.”
She spoke again with pride. Tigre muttered to himself again. He had heard it recently somewhere, and not from Ellen.
--- That's right.
It was when he was with Mira during his battle with Muozinel. At that time, she spoke of her pride that she had inherited from the generations before her, she had pride in her inheritance of the Frozen Wave that made her a Vanadis.
How did he respond?
He found the feelings he had lost sight of.
It was an important emotion. Without thought, he was dead.
Whatever he looked like, he would have been dead at heart.
Hearing her name called unexpectedly, the maid with chestnut-brown hair that had remained still as a statue until then looked up to see Tigre's apologetic eyes.
He did not notice she had drawn close to him; he was pitying only himself, trapped in his sorrow. He could not possibly let Batran see him like that.
“Thank you... and sorry for worrying you.”
It was the calm voice of the Tigre she was familiar with. When she heard his voice and saw Tigre's gentle smile, she had lost all tension.
Tears poured down Teita's eyes as she clung to Tigre. She buried her face in his chest and continued to cry.
Tigre quietly embraced Teita and stroked her head and pat her back.
“We will return to Alsace once this war ends... When we finish the burial, tell me more about Batran. Tell me about the Batran you knew.”
While crying, Teita nodded many times.
Later in the night, when the moon, which lacked a clear shape, was high in the sky, Teita finally became exhausted from crying and fell asleep. After placing the woman who was deep in sleep on the carpet, he quietly placed a blanket over her and turned to Ellen.
He bowed deeply with those short words.
“What's that for?”
“For helping me. I haven't thanked you yet.”
Ellen looked at him curiously as Tigre gave his answer.
“If that's the case, then I should apologize for being too naïve. And it was not just me, Regin and Rurick were also there.
“Of course, I wish to express my gratitude to Her Highness and Rurick as well, and I will say so later. But... when I was unable to move, you were the one to give me support. I'm happy about that... and there's something else.”
Tigre turned back to the sleeping Teita and spun his words like a soliloquy while stroking her soft hair.
“Father... My father and Batran were worried for me, that I did not turn my eyes away from Alsace.
Tigre recalled Batran's words as he was approaching death. He had not noticed at all. More than anything, he was satisfied with Alsace.
“In his last moments, Batran was at ease. He no longer had to worry, since I can now see more than just Alsace”
“Doing so is your own accomplishment. I did nothing.”
Though forcible, she had given him a chance. She had taken him to LeitMeritz as a captive and let him roam about; she had given him freedom.
“... Well, since you went to the trouble of saying it, I'll accept your gratitude.”
Ellen smiled shyly as she continued.
“Now then, we should go meet with everyone. It's a bit troublesome now.”
Tigre quietly stood up so as not to awake Teita. Ellen also returned her sword back to her waist and lined up next to the young man.
“I'll go with you. It's better than being scolded alone, right?”
There would be no difference, either way. After exchanging a bitter smile, the two left the tent.
The two looked on with wide eyes at the same time. Lim and Mira stood there. Regin, Rurick, and Gerard, further into the tent, did as well.
“... How long have you been there?”
Ellen asked with an amazed face. Tigre had the same feeling, though he did not voice it.
“This man from Brune couldn't concentrate on his work.”
“This guy from Zhcted was so nervous, it was bothersome.”
Rurick and Gerard pointed to each other with sulky faces.
“There were matters which required your confirmation, Eleanora-sama; however, you were busy, so I waited for you to finish.”
Lim answered indifferently. Regin shrunk down with an apologetic face.
“Ah, um, it was an important talk, so I thought I should wait..”
“I wished to hear Tigre's opinion, so I thought it best to come here.”
Mira stood with her Frozen Wave and laughed mischievously. Tigre looked at everyone and played with his dull red hair before thanking every one of them.
The next day, Tigre and the others had gathered in the General's tent.
“There are two important reports.”
The meeting began with the old Earl's words. Massas was unable to see what happened the night before, but he was relieved to see Tigre's face at the meeting and let out a sigh of relief.
Tigre, in the meanwhile, was worried about Regin's poor complexion.
“Though several people here know, a messenger from the Zhcted Kingdom came. To be more accurate, it came from Lebus Territory.”
Hearing the name, Ellen frowned. It was the land governed by the Vanadis Elizavetta Fomina she had recently fought.
“We assume she wishes to make a connection of friendship with Tigre. She has sent five hundred barrels of pickled fish oil and three hundred barrels of alcohol. They are currently in the northern port of Crotoy. If you wish to receive it, we can have it brought here immediately.”
Tigre cocked his head in bewilderment.
“Friendship...? I'm not particularly famous.”
Tigre looked to Ellen, Mira, and Lim for help. Ellen frowned and looked resentful, while Mira simply shrugged at him.
“Indeed. Your activities should not have yet reached Lebas. She may have interest in you since Eleanora is cooperating with you. She is trying to have a connection with you in case you should win the battle.”
After saying that, an ill-natured smile floated to Mira's mouth.
“However, her relationship with Eleanora is very bad.”
Tigre looked at Ellen after hearing the Snow Princess' words. Ellen looked away from Tigre and responded with a snappy tone.
“I returned from Zhcted just the other day. She was the reason I had to leave. Also, she has connections to both Dukes Thenardier and Ganelon.”
“Then it would be better to refuse.”
“If it was sent to me, I would naturally turn it down, but---”
Ellen shook away her enmity before continuing to speak.
“But this is addressed to you. Well, she sent it over for free. I doubt it's poisoned.”
Ellen smiled dangerously as she spoke her dangerous assumption. Lim, perhaps out of her loyalty to Ellen, remained in silence without a change in her complexion.
Tigre reluctantly turned to Massas.
“What do you think, Lord Massas?”
“It would be a problem if we create bitter feelings by rejecting this. Given the amount they sent, it's well preserved. If they make some demand should we accept this, we may not be able to handle it. To be on the safe side, you may wish to send a reply.”
Tigre nodded and ordered Gerard to inspect the goods and ensure the proper quantity was received. He also told him to carry a generous amount to Artishem.
He was a man better with such things than the battlefield, so he would do his best.
“Now for the next report.”
Massas paused there and took a deep breath. Tigre was lightly surprised. From the attitude of the old Earl, the following conversation would be troublesome.
“A message from the Royal Palace, from Bodwin.”
Massas spoke with a serious expression. Tigre had heard the name somewhere. While exploring his memory, Massas smiled bitterly.
“He is the Prime Minister of our country. Pierre Bodwin.”
Tigre let out a sound involuntarily.
“Prime Minister, why...?”
“He said His Majesty has awoken.”
The Prime Minister of Brune Kingdom walked into the tent after Gerard. He was an elderly man with normal height and build, and he wore a gray uniform. His face was round and his eyes were small, and a gray beard and mustache extended from his face, making his overall appearance look like a cat.
Since it was their first meeting, Tigre bowed his head, but Bodwin softly shook his own.
“Long ago, I met you when you came with your father to the palace in the summer. It has indeed been a long time, Lord Tigrevurmud.”
He had the sense that he had just been smacked in the head. Tigre ruffled his dull red hair in confusion.
“... I heard His Majesty awoke from Earl Rodant. Please tell us, is there a specific reason you came here in person?”
Tigre thought there must be something other than business if this old man came out himself. Bodwin continued on.
“I wished to meet you. I wish to know your intent.”
Bodwin watched Tigre and spoke sonorously.
“You became a prisoner of Zhcted Kingdom in the battle at Dinant. Afterward, when Duke Thenardier's men invaded Alsace, you pushed them back with the soldiers of Zhcted Kingdom.”
“Territoire led by Viscount Augre and Aude governed by Earl Rodant became your companions. Even with your title revoked and your territory taken away, your army did not dissolve; rather, you were able to repel the private army of Duke Ganelon and the Navarre Knights. Shall I continue?”
“He seems like a great criminal when you put it like that.”
Lim quietly rebuked Ellen as she made a joke from the side.
“Concerning my actions, that is correct.”
Tigre confirmed it with a serious expression. Bodwin shook his head and narrowed his eyes quickly in a manner reminiscent of a cat.
“After this, what do you plan to do?”
“At present, I will fight Duke Thenardier. I will defeat him.”
Tigre spoke in a natural tone. The Prime Minister's cat-like face became increasingly grim.
“Then will you attack Duke Ganelon's territory as well?”
“No. Once I have secured Alsace's safety, I will return to Zhcted as a prisoner of war.”
Hearing Tigre's response, Bodwin half-opened his mouth and looked with round eyes.
“Of course. I'll make sure to treat you well.”
“I will welcome you as a guest if you wish to come with me.”
Ellen and Mira began quarreling behind Bodwin.
“... You will leave Brune?”
The old Prime Minister looked at him with a troubled face and voice. Tigre nodded quickly to wipe away his suspicions.
“Regarding my future, there are many things I must still discuss. However, for the time being, that is what I will do.”
“... What will you do with Durandal which Lord Roland entrusted you with?”
“I will return it.”
Hearing such a prompt answer, Bodwin's expression and profuse sweating showed he could not possibly understand. After that, he looked back at Massas. Massas had an unusually nasty smile.
“It is as you have heard, Bodwin. Tigre has no ambition. He is not the type to take advantage of this war.”
Tigre was satisfied as things were. Bodwin was afraid Tigre would use this war to become a major force.
The cat-faced Prime Minister turned to Tigre with a perplexed face.
“Then, you really are only defending Alsace...?”
“Correct, however, I wish to remind you, that to defend the peace of Alsace... I will have to relinquish my rights to Zhcted.”
Massas looked away. Ellen smiled as she always did, Mira smiled at him with both amazement and admiration, Regin looked at him popeyed, and Lim grimaced as if wavering between whether she should scold him or praise him.
Bodwin played with his mustache with his fingers. Though his mind was wavering between his emotions and his duties, the cat-faced Prime Minister showed no signs of it. Since there was no reaction, Tigre changed the subject.
“Regin, Your Highness.”
Tigre saw a shadow somewhere in Regin's expression, perhaps because she was unsure whether it was the time to talk. Bodwin glanced at Regin then returned his gaze to Tigre. He spoke in a prudent tone.
“Do you believe she is Her Highness, Regin?”
“I have no choice but to believe. She has spoken of something known only to His Highness and me. I have never once spoken of it, and I cannot think her appearance a coincidence.”
Tigre looked him in the eyes as he spoke the last part. According to Regin, King Faron, her mother, Thenardier, and Ganelon knew of her true gender. Bodwin spoke with an indifferent reaction.
“I cannot think of anyone else who might know. It is unlikely anyone else found out, however---”
Bodwin frowned like a cat that had just smelled something disagreeable.
“Even if I let it be known that she was the Prince, it would be useless. Who would possibly be convinced she was a member of the Royal Family? Only we would know, and we would have nothing to prove her identity, either.”
“Would it be pointless to return to the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace] again?”
Ellen quickly gave an answer.
“About that, only the upper parts collapsed. We would need to remove all the rubble away.”
“If possible... you could come to Nice. I would like you to meet His Majesty.”
Bodwin gave his proposal as he looked at Regin.
“His Majesty... How is Father's condition?”
“It is not good.”
Bodwin continued with an earnest expression.
“Though it was well hidden from you... His Highness suffered from an illness even before the battle of Dinant. Since then, his health has progressively deteriorated.”
Regin's voice was lost. The King she knew was such an exuberant and healthy man overflowing with vitality compared to a normal 41 year old. Massas recalled what he heard across the door and scowled.
“His weakening body has reached even his mind... The doctors of the court have prescribed a variety of medicines, and the priests and shrine maidens have prayed for his health every day, but his condition has simply become terrible.”
“I understand. Let's go to the Royal Capital.”
Tigre was the one to answer. Everyone inside the tent glanced at him. Tigre continued with a sincere expression.
“If Her Highness can meet His Majesty, his condition may improve. I have no reason to refuse. However – we cannot avoid a battle with Duke Thenardier before that.”
If King Faron regained his sanity and formally accepted Regin as a princess, Duke Thenardier would be accused of being a traitor for attempting to kill the King's child. No matter what he must do, he would act to prevent Regin and the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] from reaching the Royal Capital.
Everyone present had no doubt the decisive battle would occur here.
Bodwin left the camp of the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] before the day ended. The cat-faced man quickly cut the distance and returned to the King's Capital one koku early.
“I am a civil servant. I would be of no help in the realm of battle. Even if it is only one koku early, I wish to report of Her Highness Regin's presence to His Majesty.”
Tigre accepted his wishes and separated with the Prime Minister, allowing him fifty cavalrymen to defend him.
Felix Aaron Thenardier was nearly killed three times before the age of 10. By the time he turned 20, his attacks had increase four or five-fold. Since he inherited his title and territory at the age of 26, he was attacked even more frequently.
“Those who inherit the Thenardier name must be strong. They must be stronger than all others.”
They were the words of his father which the Duke had heard every day from an early age. Contrary to his words, he was a sickly and clumsy man. Though his ability as a ruler was superior, he could not perfectly execute it.
“The weak are eaten by the strong. They will take your place; that is the way of the world. You must also not be content with weak blood. They, too, can be eaten.”
Thenardier had three brothers born from the same mother. Including the children from different mothers, he had five more. He had no sisters by blood.
His father not only spoke his words but acted on them. The terror of Thenardier's father was that he allowed the children of his concubines to try and kill the children of his lawful wife.
Before he knew it, it had become similar to a story he had once heard from a traveling minstrel. Ten snakes were put in a jar, and they killed each other, one by one within the container. Thenardier could not help but remember the story.
Thenardier trained himself. He studied the sword, the speed, horse riding skills, and politics from a young age. Against his half-brothers, born of his father's mistresses, Thenardier mercilessly beheaded those who lost and pleaded for their life.
When Thenardier turned 20, only his younger brother remained. The number of children had decreased to five or less.
At that time, Thenardier had one idea in his head.
“The weak are taken over by the strong. A strong man trains himself to remain strong, and a strong person will eat the weak.”
He was cruel to the weak and incompetent, he was cruel to those who had no value to him. The only exception was his son Zaien. Perhaps it was his last bit of humanity, for better or for worse.
He promoted many people who showed a high capability, including his aide, Steid, who was of a superior standard. Save for him, the world was filled with the weak.
He was tyrannical in Nemetacum, the territory he governed.
This tyranny was the basis of his own existence. He examined the records over the previous fifty years and noticed how the land changed from ruler to ruler. For areas without especially talented individuals, he imposed a heavy tax.
“The weak are not useful and can do nothing but die. If they are gone, if someone capable survives, then the city will change quickly.”
His words were not a lie. There were regions with very low taxes as well. Even so, it was not simply luck or fortune that followed them. The majority of people were treated violently.
He continued to rule with fear.
There were several reasons.
First, no one stopped Thenardier.
Though only King Faron had the ability to stop him, the Duke did not listen to the King's words at all with the excuse of self-autonomy.
Thenardier could boast of the strength of Nemetacum that he governed, but more than that, he was on good terms with many powerful aristocrats.
Should these individuals all revolt when Thenardier ordered them to, All of Brune would be wrapped in the horrors of war. Because of this, though Faron was above Thenardier in rank, Thenardier spoke arrogantly before him.
Moreover, Thenardier showed no mercy to those who bore their fangs toward him.
For instance, three hundred bandits appeared in his territory, and he thoroughly crushed them with three thousand soldiers. Those who were caught stealing from the fields were crucified and left alongside the road. Thenardier himself would wield a spear and lead the troops on occasion. Because of his brutality, the security in his territory was the best in the country.
He also excelled in business and diplomacy. He had exchanges with some of the Vanadis of Zhcted, and the cities facing the sea to the south were well protected and had low taxes, bringing prosperity to his land.
There were also those weaker than Thenardier who rebelled against his tyranny, but they were quickly oppressed within a single night. Due to the examples set, very few happened in the future.
Nemetacum prospered due to fear.
Ten years passed, then fifteen. Thenardier had yet another thought.
There is nothing above the throne.
Just below the throne was the position of Prime Minister, but Thenardier looked further up.
The Duke despised the King. He was not a strong man. Though he may not have been weak, the King was at least below himself.
The weak exist to be eaten by the strong. He would take his position.
At that time, Duke Thenardier had two people he considered rivals. They were Duke Ganelon and Prime Minister Bodwin. He would accept the valor of the Black Knight Roland, but only several years later.
While studying Bodwin and Ganelon, he learned that the Prince was actually a Princess. To deal with this, he joined forces with Duke Ganelon; this happened one year before the battle of Dinant.
The Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] was camped in a field sixty belsta (about sixty kilometers) away from where Thenardier's Army had established its base.
Within the luxurious tent made of a double-weaved silk, Thenardier sat alone. He sat on a chair decorated with many jewels, lost in thought in the silence and darkness. Only his eyes shined white like a starved beast.
--- There are a few reasons this will become a battle.
Earlier, he received a message from Bodwin that the King had awoken and he was to head to the Royal Palace and disband his army.
Thenardier killed the messenger and buried him in secrecy. He decided the messenger never arrived.
--- Regin is probably alive.
If that was so, Thenardier's fate would be no different from his siblings. He would only meet ruin if he headed to the King's Palace. To overcome the situation, he needed to have either King Faron or Regin die before they met.
--- Faron is weak, but he will not die today or tomorrow. I can be more certain if I slaughter Regin and Tigrevurmud Vorn.
It was not without its uncertainties. Even though he still outnumbered the enemy, he did not have his Dragons anymore. Even his right arm, Steid, was gone.
If he returned to Nemetacum, he would be able to recruit more men and bring double what his enemy had.
However, he did not have that room now. He needed to stop Regin before she reached the capital.
There was a plan in which Thenardier could almost absolutely win against Tigre.
He could rush to the Royal City and cause a revolt to kill Tigre and the one who was imitating a member of the Royal Family. He could simply hold the castle gates and bring it to a siege.
He could use that to buy time while a messenger went to Nemetacum to build a new army. He could employ mercenaries from Sachstein to assassinate Tigre for extra measures.
However, while Thenardier was barricading himself in the King's Capital, Tigre and Regin could dig up the ruins of the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Royal Palace] and find proof that she was royalty.
However, even if she could prove her royalty, Regin's influence was still below Thenardier's. Those who doubt the authenticity of her words would hardly be uncommon.
Meanwhile, everyone knew Thenardier's wife was the King's niece. Thenardier himself could continue the bloodline of the royal family.
Ganelon had already left the stage. If Thenardier won this war, all rights would go to him.
If Steid were alive to advise him, Thenardier may have accepted the plan.
However, after thinking that far, Thenardier abandoned the plan. Thenardier recognized there was only one person who could execute his plan perfectly.
In addition, his heart burned intensely to recover from the humiliation of his defeat in the previous battle. Someone strong without ambition would become weak, and, above all, he had lost both his son and his aide to this man. He was determined to kill Tigrevurmud Vorn with his own hands.
The next morning, the Thenardier Army and the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] took action at the same time. They headed to the south of the King's Capital.
When the day passed, the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] prepared for rest. Massas presented the state of affairs while studying a map.
“We can't rush, but we need to close the distance, so we should not take too much time.”
The distance between the Thenardier Army and the Silver Meteor Army was fifty to sixty belsta. It was a difficult distance to plan an attack.
There was nothing but plains in their surroundings. Since the enemy was sending out their scouts, they could not carelessly approach. If they rushed their soldiers, the enemy could calmly intercept them.
“Aren't our distances to the capital about the same?”
Ellen asked as she looked at the map. Changing the viewpoint, the distance to either the Thenardier Army or the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] was not so different. Before they arrived at the capital, they would certainly come into contact somewhere.
“That's right. Duke Thenardier will likely meet us here.”
Massas pointed to the map with his finger to Mereville Fields near the King's Capital of Nice approximately forty belsta of their current location.
The grounds were smooth, and there were neither hills nor forests. The rivers were distant, and the terrain was difficult to use. The battle would be in favor of those with superior numbers. Furthermore, the woods and hills to the south were conspicuous.
Three days later, the Thenardier Army arrived at Mereville Fields. One step later, the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] set foot there.
Both armies set their camps up within a day and rested in preparation for the decisive battle to come.
Dawn arrived. A cold, fine rain poured down over the Mereville Fields under the cover of thick gray clouds. Though it was not enough to block visibility, the water only served to increase the anxiety of both armies.
However, the General and the Princess could not show such emotions. Both sides promptly completed their formations and faced each other at several hundred alsin apart. The Thenardier Army of sixteen thousand confronted the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] which had fewer than fifteen thousand.
Both armies had a main force and two wings. The Thenardier Army was strongest in the central unit like a spear, the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] was spread out and stronger in the flank, giving it a concave shape.
“So they really are coming in with the Four Spears Formation.”
Beside the General, Massas stroked his gray beard.
It was a formation built by the Thenardier House. The soldiers were arranged in long, perpendicular lines and mounted an intense rush, attacking in waves.
In the first place, the attack would come from an unknown direction. When the unit was enclosed, it would quickly retreat and others would move in to crush their opponent.
“--- It is fine, Earl Rodant.”
The General turned around with a quiet smile. It was not Tigre, but Regin who led the Silver Meteor Army.
“I am sure Lord Tigrevurmud will be successful.”
Though her voice was in no way forcible, she still quietly dispelled Massas' anxiety. Though she did not find what she wanted in the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace], she had managed to quietly mature. Massas smiled as he realized this.
“I suppose so. I should move these old bones as best I can, then.”
Tigre was now in the rear reserve forces. Mira was there as well.
“To the very end, I apologize for putting you in such danger.”
After confirming the condition of his black bow, Tigre looked back at Mira. Mira laughed as she held the Frozen Wave over her shoulder.
“There is no need to worry, since this is just a loan. I will make sure you return it slowly in the future.”
“... And what will the payment be?”
“I will leave that to you. If I like it, then I will accept it. The easiest method would simply be to serve me.”
“That's impossible, since Ellen will be angry.”
If she was truly angry, he would not live for that long. Mira simply shrugged her shoulders and responded with a smile.
“You just need to disguise yourself. You can wear a bearskin and call yourself Urz when you're in front of Eleanora.”
She hit a nerve. Tigre stirred his dull red hair to hide his feelings.
The horn marking the start of battle sounded. It blew across the earth wet with rain.
The BayardRed Horse Flag flew on both sides, and the banner of numerous aristocrats colored the hill. The most conspicuous amongst these colors was the ZirnitraBlack Dragon Flag which did not belong to the country.
The Zhcted Army continued to serve as the right wing of the Silver Meteor Army. The left wing from the Thenardier Army which would confront them already seemed intimidated.
Because it was a battle between two armies of Brune, there was no prelude of arrows. Both armies quickly approached each other on horseback with spear and shield in hand.
The intense sound of their own armor increased their excitement and fear. Though they were driven by the impulse to run away, the existence of their companions surrounding them gave them the courage to endure.
The Thenardier Army raised their voices and spears. The atmosphere expanded quickly. Kicking off the damp grass, the infantry rushed forward, and the moist earth began to tremor.
Some from the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] established a defense with shields while others threw their spears. A shower of spears poured over the Thenardier soldiers, killing many. Many of those who managed to defend with their shields lost balance and fell off their horses, only to be crushed by their companions.
Though the assault from the Thenardier Army weakened, the spears did not stop their advance.
The Thenardier soldiers pierced through the enemy not bearing a shield, while others thrust through the gap between shields to crush the skulls of their opponent. Broken spears, cracked shields, and blood fell to the ground, and many screams rang through the air.
The rain was not enough to wash the blood away.
As blood spread in the battle between the main forces, the right wing of the Thenardier Army and the left wing of the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] clashed.
The force composed primarily of Knights steadily closed in with sword and spear while the enemy devoted themselves to defense. They raised their shields, resisting spears and stones thrown from the rear.
On the other side, the Zhcted Army which made the right wing had not advanced too far against Thenardier's left wing, since they had made contact with the enemy later.
Ellen spearheaded the attack as usual, cleaving her way through the enemy with Arifal, her silver-white hair fluttering through the air. The enemy shivered seeing the Vanadis as she advanced in a wake of bloodshed followed by her subordinates brimming with morale.
“Our Lord, our Vanadis is the Silvfrau[Wind Princess of the Silver Flash], the Meltis[Danseuse of the Sword]! You will never win!”
Even so, the Thenardier soldiers resisted their fears in desperation. From two sides, from three, with swords, shields, and spears, they tried to stop Ellen's advancement as she rushed through on her horse. Even then, Ellen cut through them.
--- What is it with these guys?
While her Silver Flash flew to the right and the left, Ellen gave thought. If they were buying time, there were two purposes. Either they were waiting for reinforcements, or they were waiting for the other troops to complete their maneuver.
--- Are they waiting for the center to win? If it will take too long, I may want to retreat.
If they retreated here, the main unit's flank would be open, which could easily be attacked, causing their collapse. While pondering on whether or not she should pull back, a soldier came with a report.
“Vanadis-sama, a new enemy has appeared!”
To the right of the Zhcted Army, a new group of infantry suddenly appeared. They charged intensely toward their flank. Though surprised, Ellen collected herself instantly.
--- Damn Thenardier. He must have planned this beforehand.
He had likely pulled them away from his main forces the previous night and had them leave the battlefield. He had his main force launch a focused attack against the enemy while a small unit split away to draw her attention and launched a counterattack with his detached unit while his left wing protected the flank.
Even the Zhcted Army could not withstand a violent attack from three directions. Ellen fought bravely as her troops slowly retreated. Even so, more and more troops from Zhcted began to fall.
The Thenardier soldiers, who had built momentum, flocked to Ellen and attacked her. She was a girl who stood out on the battlefield, and she was an enemy Commander. Whether she was captured or her head was taken, there was sure to be a large reward.
Of course, Ellen had no reason to fulfill their desires. She brandished her longsword in all directions, cleaving the enemy's head in two, helmet and all. She cut through spears and sword alike. For every flash of silver, a gust of wind which carried death followed, depriving her enemy of life without mercy.
However, even with their allies' corpses piling up, the Thenardier soldiers showed no fear and continued to charge.
Duke Thenardier promised an enormous reward to whoever took Tigre or Ellen's head. They would be given a title and territory, whether they were a noble or a commoner, and they would have enough money to live their life without working. They would be lavishly entertained and have all the women they could hope for if they managed to capture her alive.
Ellen and Tigre were the core of the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army]. Though the reward was a major reason for their morale, they had revenge in mind more than anything. They would have revenge on these two for the deaths of Thenardier's son and aide.
--- This is bad...
Ellen's breathing was disrupted, and the rain had become stronger. Her argent hair had absorbed the water, causing it to stick to her face. The dust and sweat on her body was washed away, mixing with the river of blood on the ground.
However, what appeared in her head was the progress of the battle.
--- If the enemy breaks through here, they will hit our main force with their momentum. Our center will collapse.
She stared at the large flag of the Thenardier Army in the distance.
Suddenly, the flag fell over. It was done by a single arrow.
The man with the flag was killed; the Thenardier Army was wrapped in surprise and agitation. It was the banner held in the center of the Thenardier Army. On the battlefield, in the midst of the whirlpool of chaos, it was virtually an impossible task for a single arrow. It was not a simple skill to do something of that nature.
While the Thenardier Army had stopped its movements, a group of cavalrymen appeared from behind and charged forward fiercely. It was the detached unit of the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] led by Tigrevurmud Vorn and Ludmira Lurie.
Mira wielded the Frozen Wave at the forefront and brought one enemy after another to the ground. Behind her, Tigre nocked an arrow to his black bow as she protected him. The wind screamed and Thenardier soldiers cried out as they died, one after another.
One corner of the siege the Thenardier Army built up was destroyed, allowing the Zhcted Army to retreat in a single moment.
“Ellen, Are you safe?”
Tigre rode to her on his horse. Though Mira was pouting in dissatisfaction next to him, she said nothing.
Though Ellen smiled, she was too fatigued to reply immediately. She raised the tip of her sword slightly, and the longsword blew a gentle wind in Tigre's face.
“... Well, that's how it is.”
After recovering her breath, Ellen finally spoke. It was a difficult answer, so Tigre nodded with a smile.
Because they were convinced of their superiority, the Thenardier soldiers were surprised with the appearance of a new enemy. They were clearly confused as they were pushed back.
Tigre's smile soon became serious as he gazed at Ellen.
“Though it might be a bit harsh to ask you to handle this... Can you still do it?”
The Vanadis with silver-white hair smiled fearlessly.
At that time, a change occurred in the center of the battlefield.
Massas and Lim, who were entrusted with command of the left wing, were unable to push back the Four Spears Formation and barely managed not to collapse. In actuality, the enemy's movements were clever; they had invited the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] by retreating many times when their formation was broken, only to attack with fresh troops. This had been repeated numerous times.
Massas and Lim dealt with the new forces every time the Thenardier Army retreated by quickly replacing soldiers with those from the rear, but it was simply a temporary measure.
While it was effective for an enemy against whom they could not deal a fatal blow, the main unit gradually weakened, as if it had a small injury in which the blood would not stop flowing. Because of this unpredictable attack, Tigre's reserve forces needed to intervene, which resulted in him giving aid to Ellen earlier than expected.
The rain had grown stronger in this battle which had lasted two koku.
Lim pushed her wet hair away from her face and spoke to Massas, her face as nondescript as usual.
“... It is difficult to read their movements. This is taking too long.”
“As expected... We still haven't understood it fully.”
Massas stroked his wet beard as he sighed. Fatigue was heavy in their voices.
“His command from the center... It's difficult to tell, but it seems like it is breaking apart... even the formation on the battlefield is.”
Massas laughed as he gave his opinion of Marquis Sonier's command.
The Four Spears Formation was actually a simple plan, if only looking at its structure. Once one of the four spears assaulting the enemy was broken, they would retreat. The enemy would be dragged away to crush them as they retreated, only to be assaulted by another spear. This pattern would repeat itself.
Another variation was to use an injured spear to prevent reinforcements by drawing the enemy away.
Though a plan devoted to defense, each spear would attack as well. They could also throw stones to provoke the enemy, provoking their attack, which would result in spreading the enemy even further.
Lim, naturally, was not acquainted with Marquis Sonier. Despite the report, she had already formed a plan to deal with the Four Spears Formation.
“What would you do?”
“Of course. We will use the bow to crack the spear.”
Lim spoke as she saw the next spear formation heading towards them. Massas issued instructions accordingly. The main unit of the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] gradually changed their formation.
Even if the Thenardier soldiers saw the change, they did not stray from the Four Spears Formation. Marquis Sonier ordered an attack with the second spear.
A cry was raised and the muddy water splashed about as the Thenardier soldiers charged forward. The Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] retreated in an orderly fashion, like a tide pulling away from the coast.
However, the Thenardier soldiers did not notice this immediately. Due to Lim and Massas' clever commands, it took the enemy time to notice, and by the time they did, it was already too late.
A battle cry arose from the left and right sides as the Brune soldiers sunk their fangs into the enemy. Their spears gouged flesh between gaps in armor, shields were dropped to the ground, and many fell before they could even take action.
Having lost the momentum of their assault, the Thenardier soldiers were relentlessly bombarded with sword and spear from the left and right.
Marquis Sonier viewed the scene from a distance and ordered a new assault with another spear. With the enemy throwing his men into confusion, he would use his allies to come to their aid.
However, that movement was also read by Lim.
“When the second spear is attacked, the first or third spear will take action, and the fourth will not.”
Being told that much, Massas was also able to respond.
“Moving spear four in front of spear two will create a single spear. This makes charging and retreat more difficult.”
The soldiers' movements became dull with the muddy earth.
However, Sonier could not handle the Four Spear Formation as well as Steid or Thenardier. The way he used the spears, even as far as the timing of their rushes and retreats, had been read.
Of course, the movements would likely not have been caught by the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] if not for Lim and Massas, and it would have been impossible to finish off the enemy before support arrived.
In accordance to Lim's expectations, Thenardier Army's first spear rushed forward. Massas took a small unit with him and completely isolated the Thenardier soldiers which had separated from their allies. He encircled them in order to annihilate the unit.
Though Marquis Sonier requested reserve forces from Duke Thenardier, he was refused. Thenardier did not dislike him, but he had already used the reserve forces to attack the Zhcted Army.
However, while he had done this, the Zhcted Army had not fallen. Rather, the enemy reserves came to their aid and turned the scuffle around.
“But... this is a risky fight.”
Massas muttered to himself as he continued to fight the first and second spear. There were no reserve soldiers, since they were left in the command of Tigre and Mira.
If Massas was slow in grasping the enemy's movements, the Thenardier Army could break through and attack the main unit of the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army], causing it to collapse.
The central force of the Thenardier Army had been partially destroyed, and the left wing was weakened. Only the right wing continued to fight bravely. The battle against the Knights of the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] developed into a constant shift between offense and defense.
Though the Knights never charged dramatically, they rarely retreated in the face of an enemy attack. Furthermore, they would occasionally strike a strong counteroffensive.
Due to the brave battle of the Calvados Knights, led by Auguste, and the Perucche Knights, led by Emir, the Thenardier Army were slowly pushed back.
The rain had become more intense; the banners fluttered in the strong winds.
“--- Your Excellency, please run away!”
In the base of the Thenardier Army, one of his aides finally spoke up with a pensive expression.
There were fewer than ten aides and approximately one hundred soldiers around the Duke.
The Thenardier Army was on the verge of collapse due to the Zhcted Army's actions. Though they could hold out, it would only be a matter of time.
He was deep in thought as he looked at his main force. Half his men were surrounded and would soon be crushed, and any soldiers that came to their aid were skillfully pushed back.
Though the right wing had little movement, it was clear they were not in a superior position. If he pulled even five hundred men from there to guard his base, they would immediately be suppressed.
He could not possibly recover from defeat.
“We can retreat to Nemetacum and gather more than ten thousand men---!”
The man gave his advice, prepared to be cut down. Though such words were for Steid to speak, he was no longer there. Duke Thenardier looked down at his aide who hung his head then looked at the black sky.
--- If Steid were here...
If he was alive, victory may have been within his grasp. He held that conviction; however, there was no sense to think such things anymore.
Thenardier already knew it was pointless to escape to Nemetacum at this point in time.
“There is no need to curry my favor. If you wish to surrender, then leave. If you wish to fight, then do so.”
Thenardier spoke with a solemn expression more stern than usual. Both the soldiers and his aides, even those not present, he determined their actions came from their desperation and not their loyalty.
The left wing of the Thenardier Army was finally broken. The soldiers had little energy to move or even lift a sword. The Zhcted Army chased after them; there was not a single soldier who did not bleed.
Even so, they continued to throw their weapons aside and summoned all their energy to run away. Zhcted soldiers broke away from the chase and rushed forward. Duke Thenardier saw many horses heading toward his base.
Wet with rain, the ZirnitraBlack Dragon Flag waved in the turbulent wind. Beneath it rode the Vanadis with silver-white hair and the Vanadis with blue hair. Leading the charge was a young man with red hair and a black bow in hand.
He had returned from the Sangroel[Sacred Caverns of the Palace]. Tigrevurmud Vorn and Felix Aaron Thenardier took their stance, facing each other with bow and sword.
Tigre's face and arms were covered in small wounds, and he was even shedding blood. Thenardier, naturally, was unscathed.
Though Thenardier did not know, it bore a strong resemblance to the spectacle which occurred at the Molsheim Fields where Tigre and Zaien fought one another. Even if he knew, and even if it were not raining, it would be unclear if Duke Thenardier would feel any deep emotions.
For a while, the two men glared at each other in silence. Lim and Ellen, as well as his aides, kept their silence. However, everyone felt it as the tense atmosphere was torn away.
The sound of the rain drowned out the sound of the distant battle. Every person present was wet from head to toe. The soil and grass screamed, as if unable to stand up to the wind and the rain.
“... For what reason did you attack Alsace?”
Tigre quietly asked. Thenardier stared at the young man in surprise. He wondered why he bothered to ask at this point in time.
“If it did not happen, this situation would not be what it is now.”
Most likely, Tigre would have been sold to Muozinel as a prisoner of LeitMeritz, and the Vanadis would not have intervened in the fight between Thenardier and Ganelon.
“Removing Alsace would have prevented Zhcted from invading. Burning the ground and taking the people was the most certain method.”
Thenardier gave thought to the scorched-earth tactic.
By creating a desolate wilderness before Zhcted invaded, he would reduce their morale. Thenardier held no mercy for those who were weak; rather, he was ruthless in his judgment.
“For such a reason...!”
“It was not an incorrect decision.”
Thenardier calmly answered Tigre, who could not suppress his anger. His gaze moved toward Ellen.
“Across Alsace, on the opposite side of the Vosyes Mountains, there is an opponent with the name of Eleanora Viltaria. Though it was due to the carelessness of the soldiers of Brune, she led five thousand troops and forced twenty-five thousand to retreat in a single night. I was wary that she might invade Brune as she saw the fight between Ganelon and I escalate. If she did that, I would be the first to suffer.”
In fact, the Kingdom of Muozinel had waited for that opportune moment. They waited for Thenardier and Ganelon to move their troops before invading.
Thenardier's Army would not last if it had to deal with the Muozinel Army. Kreshu, the General of the enemy, had skillfully camouflaged his men and waited for an appropriate time to invade. He intended to use Roland as his trump card in the case of an emergency, but he was lost immediately prior to their invasion.
Thenardier continued after returning his eyes to Tigre.
“If I let things go, it was possible Ganelon would have attacked Alsace. Like me, that man has ties to Zhcted. Like you have done, he may have brought the Zhcted Army into the country.”
Ellen and Mira were surprised, though they did not utter a single word.
Though they had asked, they were surprised he had answered in such detail, and they could not suppress a shiver upon hearing of his cruelty. His entire body was filled with power befitting the dignity of a man who had lived twice as long as they had.
Though Tigre was also silent, he was not surprised or frightened.
Thenardier closed his mouth, telling them he had said everything he needed to. Tigre stared at Thenardier and let out a deep, clouded sigh.
“I have heard your story, and I understand your reasons. Like I thought, I cannot forgive you.”
The thing which floated to Tigre's mind was the old man painted in the red of his own blood as it leaked out of his ghastly wound.
The sky had darkened, and the rain and wind became more intense. Tigre's eyes held a desire for revenge. In contrast to his cold body, his heart was hot and his mind was black.
--- The black bow pulsed in anticipation.
“For the death of my son, I, too, cannot permit your existence.”
Tigre nocked his arrow as his horse took one step forward. Thenardier drew his sword and rode his horse out of the base.
At that time, Ellen advanced next to Tigre. Expecting a man-to-man fight, everyone started calling out when they witnessed something unexpected.
Ellen, with a sullen face, struck Tigre's back. Tigre's body tilted forward from the unexpected blow.
Everyone gasped. Even Thenardier could not find the meaning of her action. Perhaps only Ellen understood.
“--- You've got terrible eyes.”
Tigre was surprised and looked at Ellen's face, not understanding her words.
“Don't get drunk, Tigre.”
Her bright red eyes and sincere voice penetrated deep into Tigre.
“Go get your revenge, but don't revel in it. That is not your only weapon.”
Though Tigre did not respond, Ellen's words reached him. The darkness in his eyes began to recede, and the light slowly returned. Though the darkness had not fully faded, it was no longer enough to envelop his heart.
The black light spreading throughout the bow in Tigre's hands disappeared without anyone noticing. In this rain, there was not a single person who saw the light.
Tigre removed his gaze from Ellen and looked at Thenardier.
I am grateful to have met you.
After muttering those words to himself, his will to fight returned to his dark eyes.
“--- I'm off.”
He spoke quickly. This time, Ellen did not stop him; however, she strongly gripped the hilt of her sword, praying for Tigre's victory.
--- I will defeat Duke Thenardier.
This man was a menace to the peace of Alsace, and he was the cause of this war. Right here, right now, he would fall.
Tigre removed the quiver hung on his saddle and dropped it, and all the arrows within, to the ground. Thenardier looked at him with a sharp expression.
“You will fight me with a single arrow?”
“I can see with my own eyes that there would not be enough time to nock a second arrow. Besides, it would only weaken my resolve.”
“In this rain and wind? Are you crazy...?”
“It is not my only disadvantage.”
The rain lowered his body temperature, and his clothes were stuck to his skin. His hair was heavy and uncomfortable and impaired his vision. Not only could the bow easily slip from his grasp, the arrow would not fly straight if it flew into the wind.
“--- Very well.”
The two naturally made their horses advance, separated by a distance of thirty alsin.
Bow and sword – it was a strange duel. Ellen stared with bated breath. Mira, the soldiers of Zhcted, and the Thenardier Army all watched the scene before them.
It was a strife born of personal hatred, a battle separate from war.
Thenardier readied his sword and grasped the damp reins. Tigre gazed at his enemy with his bow bent and at the ready as he waited for his opponent.
There would be no second chance; there was only one shot. Tigre was at a heavy disadvantage. Even with a distance of thirty alsin, Thenardier was on horseback. Even if he could attack first, Thenardier's blade only needed to reach Tigre's neck.
Still, the speed of an arrow at short distances was a frightening thing.
Unlike the sword whose orbit formed a line, the arrow was a single point. Even with Tigre's archery skill, one mistake in his fingers' movements would result in his death.
The two stood tense; more than a count of ten had passed without either moving. The rain showed no signs of becoming weak, and the wind continued to blow harshly.
The wind changed to Thenardier's advantage. It was a headwind for Tigre. The moment he felt this change, Thenardier kicked his horse's belly and let out a roar. The four hooves kicked up the mud as he quickly reduced the distance of thirty alsin.
He aimed in a single moment and began to release his arrow. Thenardier judged in an instant that it would not hit.
--- Goddess of Storms...
He chanted the name of the Goddess in his mind. The face of the girl with silver-white hair floated to his mind.
He had cut the distance to twenty alsin. At that time, the arrow separated from Tigre's hand.
The bowstring moved forward, propelling the arrow. The arrow moved neither early nor late. The speed and aim was perfect.
It hit him right between the eyes. Thenardier's large frame separated from the horse, flying through the air.
--- Everything happened in a moment.
The moment Tigre shot his arrow, Thenardier brandished his sword. It was a frightening reaction, as if he had caught the very sound of the trembling bowstring.
The arc of the sword was not simple. He had clenched his dark gray blade and accurately caught the movements of the arrow. Thenardier was sure of his victory.
However, at the moment before he smashed the arrow to pieces, the wind blew. It differed from the raging gale a moment before; it was a breeze he would not notice, even if it touched his skin.
The arrow's trajectory changed, passing right beside the blade.
The arrow pierced the Duke's head and buried itself halfway through. The Duke was thrown off his horse; his eyes were opened wide as he toppled to the ground on his back.
Tigre's fingers had not moved from the moment he released the arrow. He was still in shooting position. He could feel the vibration of the bowstring and the cold sweat dripping down his face.
After a long, long silence, Tigre dismounted his horse and walked to Thenardier. The Duke was still breathing. The rain immediately washed away the tide of blood from the fresh arrow wound. Thenardier's eyes gazed at Tigre, and his lips moved.
His words ended there. His eyes were hollow and he never uttered another word again.
Felix Aaron Thenardier gasped his last breath in Mereville Fields.
“... That wind just now, was it you?”
After confirming the duel had finished, Ellen whispered at the longsword at her waist.
Tigre's arrow moved just before it hit Thenardier's sword. Ellen had not overlooked this.
Though it may have been a coincidence, she instinctively suspected her important partner. Arifal let out a light wind denying her words.
“... I see.”
The ViraltDragonic Tool does not lie to its master.
Tigre won by his own strength. The wind was simply his ally.
Tigre returned slowly and was greeted by Ellen with a brilliant smile. No words could be said to describe her excitement.
With the death of Duke Thenardier, the morale of the soldiers serving him shattered. Regin called for their surrender and had her soldiers move back. The soldiers of the Thenardier Army threw their arms away, one after another.
The fight at Mereville had finally ended.
Tigre's battle which began in LeitMeritz had finally come to a conclusion.
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