Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 06 Chapter 2
Chapter 2 - The Blue World and the Travelling Girl
The autumn in Zchted was short, though one might also say that winter simply came early.
The deep green of vegetation as they had bathed in the midsummer sun had since faded with the autumn wind.
It wasn't all bleak, however; autumn was also the season of harvest.
Under the blue sky, golden wheat fields stretched far along the highway. As the wind blew, plump ears of wheat rustled softly. It seemed that with the abundant harvest around here, the faces of the farmers who were cropping were also smiling broadly.
Also standing out were green apple trees, whose branches hung down, heavy with plump green apples.
Looking at such peaceful scenery, Tigre felt at ease. The wind was cool to a comfortable extent, filling him with the desire to chat with the farmers in their fields. However, he suppressed this desire and urged his horse onward.
In places with many people, he avoided riding at great speed. Such an action was far too ostentatious. If he was seen riding leisurely, the presumption would likely be that he was just some young noble, off on a hunt. His neat clothing and bow, hung on his saddle, served to further reinforce this image.
At sunset, he'd find his way to a hamlet or small village, looking for accommodation as well as food, for the night.
Having thus traveled for a few days, Tigre exited LeitMeritz, and after passing through the King's territory, entered Legnica.
Three days after that, he arrived at the Imperial Palace where the Vanadis Sasha lived. Though an appointment was made upon handing over Ellen's letter; in truth, it was another two days before he was able to meet her.
---Two days, huh. That doesn't leave much time.
He'd heard from Ellen that Sasha was suffering from a debilitating illness. As the silver-haired Vanadis handed her letter to Tigre, she'd warned him.
"If Sasha's condition isn't too bad, you will also be able to meet on the day you hand over the letter. However, after handing over the letter, if you cannot meet her even after waiting for three days, please continue to Asvarre."
The Imperial Palace was composed of sand-coloured stones laid upon one another, with white marble to scattered all over. Though its appearance was surprisingly peculiar, there was no doubt on the solidity of its construction.
Leaving his black bow, Tigre walked down the hallway of the Imperial Palace, led by an aged servitor.
---Truly a palace that gives off quite a calming presence.
Looking at the ceiling and the walls, Tigre couldn't help but be moved.
LeitMeritz aside, this was his first time setting foot in an Imperial Palace, and thus everything intrigued him. Far from a single monotone gray, the walls were inlaid with white marble. The design was masterfully built upon the labors of previous architects, and one did not tire of simply gazing upon their splendor.
---And here I'd thought carved murals were the only way to decorate a wall. To think that you could do things like this......
Still awed, Tigre reached the front of Sasha's room.
The servitor made Tigre's presence known, before Tigre proceeded to open the door.
---This is somewhat of a lonely room.
The room was bright, lit by the sunlight which shone through the window, which was flung wide open, as well as the candle holder near the bed. However, with regards to furniture, the furnishings were the barest of the bare, and plainly coloured at that. Aster flowers by the bedside provided the room's only colour.
"Nice to meet you."
An unclouded voice struck Tigre's ears.
The woman on the bed sat up as she greeted him. Her dull black hair was trimmed to shoulder length, and she wore a loose white gown. She had a thin face and skin that was shockingly white. She was abnormally slender, and the loose fit of her clothes was the evidence of her wasting away.
Above her knees, wrapped in a thick blanket, were two swords. Above their white hilts and finely decorated black crossguards, the blades shone with a brilliant gold and red. The blades were rather short, and their sole distinguishing factor was their gold and vermilion colours.
From their design, Tigre realised the two swords were paired.
---So this is her ViraltDragonic Tool, huh.
Apparently belying her welcome, her swords rested near at hand.
Notwithstanding, Tigre found such an action neither rude nor unnatural. Ellen placed her Silverflash Arifal within reach even while working in the office, and assuming this girl to be no different, he instinctively comprehended the reasoning behind her actions.
Tigre bowed and stepped into the room. As he walked up beside the bed, he bowed again.
"I am Tigrevurmud Vorn. Nice to meet you."
"I am Alexandra Alshavin. I would have liked to have met with you much sooner than this, but because of my illness, I've made you wait. My humblest apologies."
Responding to the black-haired beauty who apologised politely, Tigre shook his head to indicate he did not mind.
"More than me, please take good care of your body, Alexandra-dono."
When he said so, Sasha sweetly smiled, and invited Tigre to sit.
"You can call me Sasha, Lord Tigrevurmud."
"Thank you. Please call me Tigre, then."
Sitting down, Tigre returned her smile. Looking up close, he thought she was a beautiful person.
That said, her beauty was quite unlike that of the energetic and lively Ellen. Like the aster flowers that swayed in the gentle breeze by the window, hers was an ethereal beauty; tranquil, like water.
---If you're not feeling well......
About to speak out, Tigre changed his mind.
Sasha's illness was nothing recent. She alone was the best judge of whether or not she was fit enough to converse. Moreover, the servitor who'd guided him until then was also checking Sasha's condition. Though it was only natural to be worried, doing too much wasn't for the best either.
"Then, Tigre. May I ask you something?"
Smiling from ear to ear, Sasha tilted her head quizzically. The adorable charm of her action made his heart skip a beat, and hiding the disturbance in his heart, he smiled and nodded.
"If possible...... I wish to speak with you candidly, as if with a close friend. I know the importance of courtesy, but I worry the tenseness of such a thing will serve me poorly."
She was already speaking more casually. Tigre, with a wry smile, answered that he understood.
---If I'm not mistaken, this person is 22 this year.
He heard so from Ellen. In other words, Sasha should be five years older than Tigre, but it did not seem that way from her earlier behavior. Though she did not seem to be the same age, it was as if she was only one or two years older.
Sasha extended her right hand. Being careful not to use excessive force, Tigre gripped her hand in turn. Her soft hand carried a faint warmth.
"So it really is true that you don't use a sword."
Staring at Tigre's hand, Sasha spoke in surprise. At those words, Tigre suddenly clenched his hand and stared widely.
---She must have determined this from the condition of my palms, by tracking calluses and blisters, even though she didn't grip my hand all that tightly.
"If possible, can you tell me about your encounter with Ellen?" Sasha asked.
At her eyes, filled with curiosity, Tigre tilted his head.
"Didn't you already hear it from Ellen?"
"I did. But that was from Ellen's perspective. I would like to hear your side of the story."
Tigre pondered inwardly. Though there was no reason to refuse, he wondered if he had time for such things. He was after all, in a hurry to reach Asvarre.
Nonetheless, his hesitation lasted but a brief moment. Having already read Ellen's letter, she was undoubtedly aware he was pressed for time. Accordingly, there must be some deeper meaning behind her request.
"I understand. I'm not the greatest orator, so this might take some time."
He did his utmost to clearly and concisely convey the events of the past year, from his captivity after the battle at Dinant to the battles in Brune following.
He tried to avoid diving into unnecessary details. Though the haste he felt within his heart was certainly a factor, the primary reason was due to the strong emotions that would arise as he recalled each event. It had been, after all, only a short half-year since these things had transpired.
Sasha nodded from time to time, following Tigre's story with great exuberance and interest.
When Tigre rested, Sasha rang the bell by her bedside and called the servitor, ordering him to prepare wine. Tigre, who'd been talking for half the day, was quite thirsty and gratefully accepted her goodwill. The servitor placed two goblets on the table and quietly filled them with wine.
"Thank you. It was very interesting, and I learned a lot."
"I'm happy to hear that."
"By the way, what kind of relationship do you have with Ellen?"
At this sudden question, Tigre almost dropped the silver cup which he'd just received from the attendant.
Sasha continued happily, "From what you've said, it doesn't look like you're anything more than allies, but......what you've told me is a little different from what I'd heard from Ellen."
A chill ran down Tigre's spine. What on Earth had Ellen said?
---Even if you ask me what kind of relationship we have, I'm not entirely sure myself......
It would be a lie to say that it was not a special relationship.
For example, the other day the two of them had gone to the city to play and had danced together. When he'd placed his hands on her slender waist, Tigre had suddenly blushed. As if his blushing was contagious, Ellen had blushed as well, leading their fellow dancers to tease them mercilessly.
However, those kinds of thoughts were not to be made public. Tigre and Ellen both had their respective positions to consider, and neither could place priority on their personal feelings. Even though there were times he couldn't restrain his feelings, he would not allow them to be more than an impulse.
Buying time, he brought the silver cup to his mouth while stealthily evaluating the look on Sasha's face. Though the smiling face of the Vanadis with black hair did not change, Tigre perceived the sincerity in her eyes.
Then I'll answer honestly. Lowering the goblet from his lips, he spoke.
"Ellen is...... She is an important comrade-in-arms. She has saved me many times. Should anything to happen to her, I would do my utmost to help. That's what I think."
"......Is that so."
Though Sasha's reaction was decidedly brief, her face revealed a satisfied smile. The strained atmosphere passed and after a short pause, Tigre carefully asked, "By the way, when you say it's a little different what you'd heard, which parts were you referring to?"
"Oh! The part where you peeked at Ellen in the bath, or when you sucked Lim's breasts......"
Sasha replied without a hint of shyness. Caught off guard by her words, Tigre was struck speechless, his face fast reddening up to the ears.
"It definitely seems like Ellen and Lim like you, but I don't think that's all there is to it. I've put some thought into it. Are you the type that's so adorable you're immediately forgiven or are you ridiculous to the point that others feel like their anger is wasted on you?"
"......Well, what kind of person would you say I am?"
Finally pulling himself together, Tigre straightened his posture and questioned Sasha in turn. Rather than answering immediately, Sasha let her eyes wander to the sky before turning to smile at him, her expression filled with mischief.
"Isn't it fine to leave that to your imagination? That said, it would be pointless to not tell you at all, so when you return from Asvarre, I'll tell you then."
Tigre's only response was to blink, unmoving, unable to mask his surprise in the least. So she can make that kind of expression too......
---It seems my first impression of the sickly Sasha was stronger than warranted.
Having spoken to Sasha now for the last four hours, Tigre felt that as compared to her gentle smiles earlier, that smile just now suited her far more. The similarity to Ellen was undeniable, although it was hard to say if that was merely the effects of the former's influence on the latter.
"I understand. I'll look forward to it then."
Tigre responded with a smile. He realised that they had digressed from their original topic of conversation, but the thought of something to look forward to upon his return wasn't bad.
"Now then, let's return to the matter at hand."
Though her smile never left her face, Sasha’s black pupils was filled with a stern light. She handed the silver cup in her hand to the attendant and sent him off with words of gratitude. Understanding her intent, he left quietly. As the door closed, the black-haired Vanadis opened her mouth.
"According to Ellen's letter, it is her desire that I assist you. I've heard you need to visit Asvarre; would you allow me to hear the full story?"
Tigre settled himself, and began to recount the details of King Victor's request and Ellen and Lim's views on the matter; in short, the circumstances behind his appointment as envoy from beginning to end.
This time Sasha, far from interrupting as she had done before, simply sat in silence like a statue, never moving a muscle. That notwithstanding, her eyes radiated her fierce will.
As she finished hearing the story she relaxed her whole body and gave a small sigh.
"I don't envy you."
"Yeah......I don't think it's all that simple a thing to sneak across the sea and deliver a letter to a blood-soaked battlefield either."
Deliberately speaking in a joking tone, Tigre shrugged. His comments were half his real feelings, and half a follow-up to Sasha's joking words. Though the Vanadis with twin swords laughed delightedly, her serious aura returned immediately.
"Do you understand just what position you hold in Zhcted at this point in time?"
"It would be a guest, I think. And likely also a hostage from Brune."
Though Tigre's answer did not seem wrong, Sasha did not appear satisfied by his response. She shook her head.
"Of course, there are those who harbor goodwill toward you, like Ellen or Mira. And from what I've heard, that might also include Sophie? However, those who begrudge your existence or would otherwise seek to exploit you are not the minority."
"It's not as if I haven't realised that there are people who are trying to use me......"
Tigre frowned. He was pretty sure this referred to those who had made an effort to visit him in his half-year in LeitMeritz. Nonetheless, he had no memory of anyone who had borne outright ill will toward him. Watching Tigre tilt his head in puzzlement, Sasha continued on in a grave tone.
"You've greatly altered the power structure of the Brune Kingdom. The Zhcted nobles who suffered losses, both large and small, as a result are not few in number. Such can only be expected given that the two great nobles said to represent Brune have since been deposed."
A groan escaped Tigre's mouth. He was dumbfounded.
Were the ones the subordinates of Duke Thenardier who harbored a grudge against Tigre, that would have been understandable. He had, after all, personally confronted Thenardier on the battlefield and slain him with the bow. However, after Duke Ganelon had lost to Thenardier, he'd set fire to the city and died. Tigre had not been involved at all. It was absurd to resent him for such a thing.
Perhaps guessing the thoughts that ran through the young man's mind, Sasha flashed him a look of sympathy.
"Allow me to repeat that what's most important here is the way in which the power structure has been altered. Losing influence over Brune can be seen as another kind of loss. Furthermore, since you have strong ties to both Ellen and Mira, eliminating you would be no easy task."
"But the one who made this request was King Victor, right?"
There was no way the lord of a small country could ignore such happenings, but King Victor ruled over a great nation, and should thus have been well accustomed to losses here and there.
"Suggestions like these are proposed to the king by court officials as a matter of course, regardless of the country in question."
A shout nearly escaped Tigre's mouth. Though he hadn't considered such an eventuality personally, he was persuaded immediately upon hearing it. Tigre too had often heeded the advice of local leaders and his subordinates when governing Alsace or commanding the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army].
"I'm sure the question of this appointment has caused His Majesty no small amount of grief. Nonetheless, to choose you, a foreigner, is simply too risky a choice for such a cautious person as His Majesty to make."
"Is King Victor a cautious person then?"
Tigre was struck by this fresh comment. This was because both Ellen and Mira had assessed King Victor quite severely. Sasha gave a wry smile.
"Speaking more frankly, he has something of a passive personality, though he can be somewhat cunning. He doesn't intervene in the battles between the Vanadis at all, prioritising his personal safety first and foremost. With that said, in the decades he has sat on the throne, there have not been any major wars. This is the one thing I grant him."
Tigre didn't immediately respond. Wasn't it precisely because King Victor failed to intervene in conflicts between the Vanadis that in the winter of last year, the Vanadis Elizavetta Fomina had advanced her troops to Legnica? As for Ellen having fought against Mira, wasn't that also his fault?
However, Tigre didn't express his thoughts, swallowing them instead.
He was, after all, a man of another country. He wasn't King Victor's vassal either. Furthermore, three years hence, he would return to Brune. In such circumstances, it was not his place to criticise the King of another country.
"Returning to our discussion earlier, what has been said is correct. Choosing you as the emissary is killing two birds with one stone. As His Majesty has said, your appointment represents the support of both Zhcted and Brune. In other words, rather than sacrificing a pawn, sending a beloved hero such as yourself to a land embroiled in civil war implies-"
"So that's how it is. It will give Prince Germaine the appearance that Zhcted values him greatly."
At Tigre's words, the Vanadis with black hair nodded in satisfaction.
"Yes. As such, our country can seize the initiative in negotiations with Asvarre, as long as the emissary neither errs greatly nor oversteps his bounds. Such is the advantage of sending you."
"And the disadvantage?"
"If anything happens to you, the consequences will be unimaginable," Sasha replied coldly.
"First of all, there will be a crack in the relationship between Zhcted and Brune. In the worst case, Asvarre will become an enemy. Furthermore, even within the bounds of our own country, it's unlikely that either Ellen or Mira will ever forgive His Majesty. Though they would never dare openly rebel, it would nonetheless be the ruin of this nation."
Turning her gaze to the aster flowers by the window, she continued.
"I won't refute Ellen's conjecture. There is no doubt that His Majesty wants to test your mettle. I believe this was the point of the letter - to prevent you from realising his motives during a face-to-face meeting. Nevertheless, it is my feeling that there are other schemes at play here."
A thorny problem indeed. After ruffling his red hair vigorously, his face taut, he exhaled deeply and smiled to change the mood.
"Thank you. I'll take care."
His attitude surprised Sasha. Though the country clearly hid individuals who sought to ensnare him, she caught no hint of fear in Tigre.
"Don't tell me you have some countermeasure in mind?"
Wearing an expression that feared neither heaven nor hell, Tigre answered firmly.
"I'm not about to shirk my responsibility from just this much. Though I know neither the identity of this individual nor his or her true intent, being afraid is pointless. Besides, I'm already resolved."
This was not, of course, a resignation to inevitable death, but rather the resolution to survive no matter what. The resolve to see this task to completion. After being given this task in LeitMeritz, when parting with Ellen and the others, he'd determined to fulfill his duty and return safely.
If that someone was trying to take his life, he would crush him.
Though he did not express it with words, Sasha seemed to have understood Tigre's intentions through his expression. She gave a sigh of relief.
"No wonder Ellen trusts you so much."
Saying that, she turned to look once more at the aster flowers. However, rather than taking in the sight, she seemed to be considering something.
At just about ten o'clock, she returned her gaze to Tigre.
"According to Ellen's letter, after this you are supposed to go to the port city of Prepus...... Could you change your destination to the port city of Lippner?"
Though Tigre frowned to this sudden request, his doubts were soon dispelled.
"Do you plan to hook that someone?"
It was King Victor's plan he go to Prepus. If Sasha's thoughts were correct, the person trying to entrap Tigre would certainly know. Therefore, she proposed to deceive that person.
She wanted him to meet with a man called Matvey who was at the beach.
"Go to the port and ask Matvey of the Goldy Belluga. Well, you will understand."
"Thanks for your help, but will that be alright?"
The follower who was scheduled to meet him afterwards might have information that would be useful in negotiations with Germaine. When Tigre asked about it, Sasha shook her head to say not to worry.
"His Majesty would not do such a thing. The negotiations would get confused, and your value would decrease. He should tell you all you need to know about the negotiations before they take place. Even that man would understand that he may die by unnecessarily disrupting negotiations."
"That is also true. Thank you."
After bowing with a smile, Tigre made a face that seemed to hesitate before saying something.
"By the way, what is that proud beluga you talked about?"
The Vanadis with black hair could not immediately understand the meaning of his question. Sasha gazed at the perplexed expression of the youth and after saying "Eh!" with an unexpected expression, asked:
"You, don't you know what a beluga is?"
"......Have you already seen the sea?"
This time he shook his head.
Sasha wide opened her eyes; she stared at Tigre's face with a face that said she couldn't believe it. She smiled and murmured that she wonder if everything will be alright. Still she didn't certainly consider that a person who had never seen the sea had been entrusted with a secret envoy to a country on the other side of the sea.
At that time, the door was knocked on from outside. After a hoarse voice "Excuse me" was uttered, the aged servitor came in. Looking at him, disappointment appeared in Sasha's black eyes.
"It's already time, Vanadis-sama."
"......Can you give us a little more time? I feel better today."
Sasha's expression was like that of a child who wanted something even though she understood that it would be impossible. The servitor answered promptly without moving an eyebrow.
"It is exactly because you feel better that you must not push yourself."
From the conservation of those two people, Tigre realized that the time of parting came. He stood up quietly and bowed to Sasha.
"I will leave for today. Thank you very much."
"......No, I also thank you. It was fun."
Sasha extended her hand, and the two people shook hands quietly.
When Tigre was about to leave the room, the Vanadis with dark hair suddenly stopped him. Sasha, whose face was turned around, didn't know that the sunlight from the window made a backlight.
"Tigre. I leave Ellen to you. Become that child's strength."
"I will do what I can."
When he gave her a reassuring reply while smiling, Sasha seemed to smile too.
It was early in the morning of the next day that Tigre left the Imperial Palace in Legnica. Straddling the horse, he went dashing straight about the highway which led to the town of Lippner.
---In the end, I was not able to meet with Sasha after that.
He wanted to at least say goodbye, but he could do nothing but leave a message to the aged servitor since it was impossible to meet her because of her disease. The servitor had also handed him a letter which contained a map describing the way to Lippner and Matvey's features.
---Will we meet again?
She was a Vanadis. There should be no such thing as a disease that could not be cured.
Though he thought so, he remembered the feeling when they shook hands. Thin flesh, skinny fingers, that was indeed the hand of a sick person.
When leaving the Imperial Palace, Tigre offered a prayer to the gods. Even if it would be no problem to pay his respects to the gods because Brune and Zchted believed in the same gods, Tigre was not so religious as to pray every time like Teita.
Tigre often invoked the name of Elis, the goddess of the wind and the storm, while hunting and he sometimes went to the shrine to pray when an arrow flew well. But Elis was not a Goddess that healed disease. This sort of thing would be the in the jurisdiction of Moshia, the mother Earth Goddess or Vors, the God of livestock.
---No, I must concentrate on the things that I should do right now.
Shaking his head, Tigre dispelled his unease. Failing in this duty would be to trample upon Sasha’s kindness, but if he succeeded and returned safely he would have a good tale to tell of his travels. Holding the reins, Tigre went over the highway.
By the time Sasha woke up, it was well into the day.
Her body felt heavy, feverish. The court physician examined her condition, telling her to rest after drinking medicine and taking a light meal.
She did as she was told, and had begun to stare blankly at the ceiling by the time her servitor came in.
"How is your physical condition?"
"I am a bit tired...... I didn’t intend to, but I might have overdone it yesterday - it’s been a long time since I’ve had visitors."
While lying on the bed, Sasha gave a wry smile and answered the servitor. She hadn’t even managed to say half the things she’d initially intended to.
"I have been entrusted with a message from that Earl Vorn. It says: 'I wish to express my gratitude for your kindness. Let's meet again after I return from Asvarre. I pray to the Gods for your early recovery'."
As the aged servitor reported with a solemn look, Sasha chuckled and then laughed.
"What did you think of him?"
"To me, he looked like a boy of his age. However, Vanadis-sama seems to have a different impression."
Though likely not to mean any harm, Sasha found it amusing when he used the word "boy." She, even at 22, was probably still a young girl in this old gentleman’s eyes.
"I wouldn’t say that you’d understand just by speaking to him......but well, I understand very well that he is a sincere person, and that he possesses a strong will."
How Tigre met with Ellen, how he went through the civil war of Brune. She asked to hear the entire story that she had already heard in part beforehand from Ellen intending to better understand Tigre’s personality.
Whether the person himself would show off talking about his own distinguished military service, or he understated it and emphasized his good luck, it was likely to she would know the way he behaved when he talked to Ellen and the others.
Supposing that he had spoken frankly without dramatization after noticing her intentions, she would be inclined to think him a thoughtful person.
---Well, but I think he did not seem to think too deeply there.
So indeed, he probably had a straight personality after all.
"Though I understood that when I met him, he is very interesting...... No wonder Ellen lent him a hand."
"Does the Vanadis of LeitMeritz like such kinds of people?"
"I don't dislike him, either. If that child stays by Ellen's side in LeitMeritz, I wonder if this Legnica will therefore also be safe."
The two Vanadis whose territories bordered Legnica were Ellen and Elizavetta Fomina. There had been a conflict with Elizavetta last winter, and though Ellen had helped to repulse her somehow, their relationship had yet to be normalized. As such, the conflict could yet continue in the future.
If Leitmeritz were to stabilize, Elizavetta would likelier than not cease to interfere with Legnica.
Though Ellen could not be on support whenever something happened, it would be nice if she could be a deterrent.
"Then, please rest soon."
The servitor said with a kind voice.
"You will meet Earl Vorn again. It will probably be around the winter when he comes back from Asvarre. At that moment, you will be able to finish your conversation with him."
"......Yes. Thank you."
With a smile, Sasha calmly closed her eyes.
Though they had not spoken for long, it was still dangerous to upset her health in autumn when the cold was not yet severe. Preparing from now to spend the winter of this year was necessary.
The servitor bowed and left.
Soon, the quiet breathing of a sleeper began to leak from her thin lips.
As the sun grew high overhead and the heat grew oppressive, the port town of Lippner came into Tigre’s view. Under a pure blue sky, low walls stretched from North to South and the extension beyond the shadow of a building was visible. Wiping the sweat from his forehead, Tigre loosened the horse reins and went to the castle gate.
Two days had passed since he left Sasha’s Imperial Office; so far the journey had been smooth and without incident.
As soon as he entered and passed through the gates in the city, Tigre opened his eyes wide in surprise. Men and women with different skin colors and facial features traversed the road, and the languages of many countries flitted about.
---There are many people here, and not just people from Brune or Zchted. There are some Muozinel people with brown skin, some people of Asvarre and also some people of Sachstein.
Foreigners exchanged words to each other as a matter of course; if languages with words did not work, they would draw and show pictures. They also communicated in gestures.
Even after recovering from his surprise, Tigre walked for a while looking around restlessly in admiration. Signboards, such as those for bars and inns, which were expressed with pictures that stood out immediately.
---Pictures certainly seem better than characters in such a town.
After that, he was concerned about the smell, too. From the Muozinel people who were in the traffic crowd, there was the smell of perfumed oil and spices, the cheese from Brune's and Sachstein's people, and a smell similar to the smell of smoked meat from Asvarre.
---Anyway, this is a lively town.
Similar to the castle town of LeitMeritz, but more vibrant. A merchant of Muozinel had spread a shabby carpet on the side of the street, selling jewelry on it side by side.
Next to that was a bard of Brune singing deed-of-arms poetry, furthermore next to that, Sachstein's people were selling a number of small and large mirrors. Tigre, who was walking while enjoying this rare blending of cultures, had his shoulder suddenly struck from behind.
When he looked back, a beautiful woman who grew bright red hair to her waist was standing there. She looked to be in her mid-twenties, and she wore a rather provocative ensemble that emphasized her ample bosom even as she suddenly drew closer.
"Is it your first time in this town? I can be your guide if you want, what do you say?"
She had the accent of Sachstein's people. Though Tigre was surprised for a moment, he regained his composure at once.
"Thank you. But I have already decided where to go."
"Ara, is that so? That's a shame."
"......By the way, do you know a store that serves a good meal? Though I hope it is close to the port."
The woman looked puzzled and smiled happily when he asked her so.
"Are you inviting me to dinner?"
"I wouldn’t mind having someone to talk to while eating. If it tastes good, it doesn't matter if it is expensive."
To Tigre's answer, the woman shrugged with a smile.
"Well, thank you, but I finished cooking dinner a little while ago, so I'll just tell you about some good shops I know of."
In exchange for being told of three shops near the port, Tigre gave her one big copper piece as a reward. Receiving it with a smile, she disappeared into the crowd with a light wave. Seeing her off thusly, Tigre resumed walking while carrying his luggage on his shoulder.
---Was it out of goodwill?
Those who suddenly offer guidance were not necessarily people like her. Among them, there were fellows who lured travelers with honeyed words to the back alleys before stealing their wallet or baggage.
Tigre had also seen such persons whether in Alsace or LeitMeritz. Again, this time, he thought that he was slightly aggressive and must have appeared as if he was harassing her.
---However...... Though it was unusual, maybe I am too restless.
He inwardly persuaded himself to be careful. On the way, he dropped by one of the stalls to buy some fruit, picking them from a big barrel of water used to cool the mix of apples, pomegranates and figs - as well as a few ceramic bottles which most likely contained alcohol.
Though the summer was already over, it was fairly hot today. Tigre bought an apple, wiped it with his sleeve and bit it as he walked.
Seeing all this, he once again felt that there were many different kinds of people in this town.
Not only race, but there was also various occupations in the town. There were some mercenaries who wore dirty leather armor, there were swords hanging at their waist, and some travelers dressed in similar fashion as himself. Sometimes, he heard the language of an unknown country, or even noticed some characters in languages he had never seen before.
---So, this is a port city, huh.
Tigre stopped suddenly, causing the man who was walking immediately behind him to pass by the side with a bemused face. Twitching his nose doubtfully, he stopped. There was a strange smell. No, it was not just the smell. The blowing wind had also taken on some moisture.
---Is the wind coming from this direction? ......And this strange smell too?
He wondered if an accident had occurred, but this smell didn't seem to concern the people of the town as far as he could observe from the circumstances.
---I wonder if I should have asked for some more information from that woman a while ago.
While thinking about such things, Tigre passed through the crowd and arrived at the port.
Tigre stopped again. But this time with surprise.
The first thing he noticed were several huge ships, each so large that one might mistake it for a shrine or a mansion. Each were either connected to a wharf, or they were about to set sail.
There were a fleet of a dozen galleys that were arranged in wedge formation, and there was also a sailing boat with a white sail emblazoned with the motif of some small dogs.
He had never seen a ship until now. Tigre knew that a ship was something made to go across big rivers and lakes. Still, this was his first time seeing anything as huge as this.
Around the moored ships, sailors with robust sunburnt bodies were moving around busily.
There were people who had to clean the ship, those who were carrying cargo, and those who had to inspect the cargo. There was a person who had made a temporary grill, and grilled shellfish and fish when taking a break.
Tigre was looking up at the ship stunned, and began to walk at a brisk pace to recover from his surprise. He stood from the wharf at some distance.
"......This is the sea, huh."
After saying those words, he fell silent. Tigre was gazing at the dark blue ocean which spread throughout his field of view, fascinated. The sea surface which waved gently reflected sunlight and was dazzling, the roars of the sea were echoed continuously and sea birds were dancing in the sky. The ships which left the port gradually became smaller.
Tigre noticed that the smell he was worried about a while ago, was the smell of the sea. The Wind that came blowing across the sea was cold . The meaning of "an end of the land" became clear.
He had been told that he would encounter "an end of the land" roughly when he found the sea. Asvarre was across the sea, beyond the horizon.
Then, what was beyond Asvarre?
How many countries lay in lands yet unseen by him? Were there dragons dwelling in uninhabited lands at the end of this sea? How far did the sea spread, or was it boundless and without end?
It was the sound of the bell which made Tigre, who kept standing on that occasion and was gazing at the sea for about 1/4 koku, come to himself. Thinking about it, he had only eaten an apple since he entered this town. He spoke to the sailors, who were cooking and eating fish and shellfish nearby, and he tossed them a copper coin and got a portion of their food.
The grilled fish, skewered through from mouth to tail, was as big as a two large buns. When he dug in, the skin had a plump and crispy texture.
The shellfish soup was also delicious. Though the soup was too hot and he nearly burnt his tongue, it was seasoned with ash salt, a seasoning made from burnt seaweed, which created a saltiness which gradually permeated throughout his mouth. While enjoying the fresh taste, Tigre asked a seaman about Matvey. But he shook his head in a way to show he didn't know Matvey, then he exclaimed as he remembered.
"The [Górdyj BelugaProud Beluga]'s Matvey? If it's that guy, he is usually on the wharf on the north side. You should go and look over there."
The port in Lippner drew a gradual curve near the oval, and five wharves of various sizes had been installed from the north to the south. According to the sailors' talk, it seemed that ships which entered the port anchored in the same place as long as there were no special circumstances.
Telling them thank you and farewell, Tigre headed to the wharf in the north. Having relieved his hunger, he now worried about the sea breeze that blew from the ocean. He turned his gaze to the black bow in his hand.
---I don't think that this bow will be affected by the salty air, but......
It was not just a simple bow. It was the heirloom of the Vorn House, and though he did not know much more than that, it was an item related to the gods. It had not occurred to him before that this may be a problem as he begins to journey onto the unsteady domains of the seas.
---Let's take care more than usual while sailing on the ship.
Tigre had made that decision after some thought, though the deciding factor had not come from any respect or fear he might have had for the bow. Rather, it had been the fact that it was the heirloom of his house and his instincts as a hunter that caused him to decide thus.
Afterwards, Tigre caught some sailors and asked if he was able to meet Matvey.
"Do you have business with me?"
He was a man in his mid-thirties or such. Though the sailors who he had seen on his way here had all been stout and well-built, Matvey stood head and shoulders above them, giving him a far more intimidating presence.
His hair was short, his skin was a burnt bronze, and his beady small eyes had a sharp glint to them. His black silk hat and gold-trimmed crimson jacket gave him a brutish air; and with his build he gave off a dominating presence just by standing still. As such, his polite way of speaking came out rather grim instead.
"Nice to meet you. I am Tigrevurmud Vorn."
Visibly unintimidated by the man, Tigre put his bags on the ground and retrieved Sasha’s letter. Upon receiving it, Matvey broke its seal and quickly read its contents.
"Oh! Do you know the content of this letter, Lord Tigrevurmud?"
Matvey smiled as Tigre shook his head, though his frightful countenance twisted the expression to resemble that of a shark that had discovered its prey.
"It says to accompany you and help out as much as possible. I cannot refuse a favor from Alexandra-sama. Please step on my ship "The [Górdyj BelugaProud Beluga]"."
Bowing his head as thanks to his words, Tigre was impressed by his attitude. Despite knowing the current state of Asvarre, Matvey showed no fear. A most reliable man - as expected of someone Sasha had trust in.
"I hope to get along with you. By the way, when does this ship depart?"
When the answer “after a half koku” came back, Tigre’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.
"The '[Górdyj BelugaProud Beluga]' was originally scheduled to head to Asvarre. You are lucky. If you had come here a little later, we would not have even been able to meet."
Matvey laughed as one revealing a trick as he continued to explain.
"Though the '[Górdyj BelugaProud Beluga]' is a merchant vessel, we often let other various customers aboard, so I don't think you will particularly stand out."
"I’m sorry, but I’ve yet to see that beluga thing......"
When Tigre answered so apologetically, Matvey turned around quickly. On the back of his crimson coat, there was a pretty design of a beluga jumping. Though Tigre thought that it didn't look good at all, he wisely avoided putting those thoughts into words.
"With this picture as basis, I have put on a white mantle for the title '[Górdyj BelugaProud Beluga]'."
"Though I should be here at about a quarter koku, what would you do? Will you come to my ship with me?" 
"Thank you for your kindness. If it's alright with you, I would like to go on ahead to the ship. I don't want to interfere with your work."
Bowing, Tigre answered so. As Matvey nodded with a smile, he took something out of his jacket pocket and presented it to Tigre.
At first glance it looked like a silver coin, but its design differed from those of Brune or Zchted: a beluga, like the one on display on Matvey’s back, was engraved upon it.
"Please take that. This is like a boarding permit, if you show that to the people in the ship, they will let you through with a smile."
Accepting the token with a word of thanks, Tigre left the place. As he walked while looking at an average ship on the wharf, he was wrapped with tension and excitement at the same time. He would be finally riding on a ship for the first time.
"Can I have a few moments of your time?"
He was suddenly called to from behind. As he looked at that place while thinking that he had been called out pretty often today, he saw a boy-like traveler with a small bag in his hand standing.
His body, short in stature, was wrapped in a slightly soiled mantle, and only a small part of his face was visible as he raised his face to look at Tigre, since it was being covered with a hood cast over his eyes.
"...I'm looking for a ship called The, Proud, Beluga, Do you know where it is?"
His voice had an accent that Tigre didn't know. There was a little interval between the words as he uttered the ship's name.
Since he seemed to have difficulty remembering the name.
Tigre looked down at the boy with a mystified look. The boy's height was only around his chest level.
Supposing he was a traveler, it seemed to be the age where one was still likely to be accompanied by parents.
"Since I am also boarding the same ship, would you like to go together? And, are you alone or are there still other-"
-companions? Those words were dispelled by a sudden snarl. When he looked there with a frown, three men who probably had not yet reached 20 years old walked forward with squared shoulders.
"You bastard, we said that we will show you the way around, what are you thinking by running away from us?"
One of the three stared angrily at the boy, and he shouted while pointing his finger at the boy. Whether it was his expression or his attitude, these were young people who seemed suited for the word hooligan.
The boy didn't show any signs of fear even though he was yelled at and calmly responded.
"Please don't continue to chase me. It's troublesome."
The man became extremely enraged, and with a red face, he struck out with his fist. Tigre, with the bow still in his left hand, after placing his bag in his right onto the ground, came in between the boy and the man and caught the man's fist.
"He is my companion. Could you tell me what exactly is going on here?"
"These people agreed to guide me to the ship originally, but they then tried to take me out of the port."
Although Tigre tried to calm the mood for the time being, the boy was the one that answered back immediately. The man did not deny it, and moreover the two men who were watching the situation from behind held their tongues, then began to move. One of them went straight towards Tigre aggressively, and the other headed toward the boy.
However, Tigre's action was quicker. Others would have thought that he would first release the fist of the man who had struck out initially, however he promptly twisted it while gripping the arm without mercy and raised it. The man screamed in pain.
Then while using the man as a shield and checking the whereabouts of the second person, he pushed him away vigorously. The two thugs who collided collapsed together onto the ground.
---I need to hurry up and help that child...
When he looked back while thinking so, the battle was also already finished there. The hooligan only managed to pull off the boy's hood, while on the other hand the boy had jumped right in front of the thug's body, and he shot one sharp blow to his belly.
The man collapsed without a sound. Tigre, with a look of surprise and admiration, turned to the boy.
"Well then... What do you guys intend to do now?"
Looking back to the thugs that had fallen on their feet, Tigre used a cold voice to address them.
"We are not that free either. If you would just obediently allow us to leave, we will not pursue this matter any further."
Though the man growled in vexation and scowled at Tigre, he had to admit that he was no match for Tigre at all. Being challenged two against one, and despite Tigre only using one hand, they were still defeated.
As the men stood up unsteadily, they lent their shoulder to their friend who was holding his belly and then turned their backs on Tigre.
They disappeared into the crowd while cursing the onlookers. Thinking the uproar to be settled, the people who were looking at this situation from afar walked away.
The clamor of the port returned. As Tigre turned back to look at the boy, almost at the same time, the boy also looked at him.
Tigre opened his eyes wide. He had thought all along that the traveler was a boy, but it turned out to be a girl.
Perhaps thirteen, or around fourteen years old, with disheveled light pink-coloured short hair and large eyes reminiscent of dull black pearls.
Her face was stained with dust, though the outline was slightly roundish, suitable to her age. Upon closer look, she was beautiful enough to arouse admiration. Although she gave an impression as though she were slightly absentminded with an expressionless face, she brought about an indescribable feeling and was extremely lovable.
"Thank you very much for helping me."
With a very monotonous voice, the girl quickly bowed her head.
"It was not a big deal. Though I think you are alright, did you get injured?"
When Tigre asked that while picking up his luggage, the girl looked up and issued a question while tilting her head in wonder.
"I'm not hurt. ---Why did you help me, a total stranger? Those people may have been in the right."
"More or less, because there are such people in every town, you will know who is right and wrong after you see such things happening several times. Even if it were not because of this, after seeing three large adults chasing after a child, if they were to strike you without even saying anything, it wouldn't be considered proper conduct now would it? In addition, you did not run away when I went in between you and those people."
At this answer, the girl narrowed her eyes while seeming to think about something. Her black eyes were, this time, directed to Tigre's black bow.
"What didn't you let go of your bow? Without even hesitating, you used one hand to-"
"Even if it looks like this, this thing is my family heirloom. Though it also depends on the situation, I don't want to treat it roughly if I can help it."
As he answered, Tigre thought that he couldn't understand this child very well. Although he didn't know about what she was always thinking about while being absent-minded, she was calm unlike a child. Her questions was clear too. After she seemed to have been convinced by this answer, she nodded and gave her name.
"Sorry for the late introduction. My name is Olga. So, Proud... U-Uh, Proud... Beluga..."
She stammered over her words. Opening her eyes, which were nearer to being half-opened, wider, Olga repeated the words desperately. Her blushing and flustered look made her seem a girl suitable of her age, and Tigre unknowingly gave a smile. He bent his knees, crouched and adjusted the height of his gaze to be level with hers.
"'[Górdyj BelugaProud Beluga]', right? Let's go together. I'm Tigrevurmud."
It was half for a precaution not to have given his family name, and the other half was for consideration to her. Giving only her name must mean that Olga was very likely to be a commoner and not a noble. He took care not to frighten her. Of course, he also considered the fact that Olga didn't give her family name for precaution.
"Tig, revurvur... Tig, vurm..."
"If it's hard for you, just call me Tigre."
Looking at Olga repeating painfully while mumbling, Tigre gave a wry smile this time.
When standing on the deck, he felt like the sea breeze became stronger.
"It shakes more than I thought."
In accordance with the waves of the sea surface, the ship had been repeating its up and down motions gradually. That feeling was fresh to Tigre and it was a strange thing. He thought it will take some time until he got used to it. The 'Proud Beluga', a ship that belonged to a big class of the ships which was at anchor in the port.
There were two big masts, upon which folded sails soared, and the deck under was a three-layer barrel structure including the bottom of the ship. While the deck was narrower than he thought, sailors were moving about busily between the barrels that were present everywhere and the rope that was spread all around.
Everyone there had very stout bodies, and there were many instances where they almost knocked into Tigre.
"Let's quickly go to the cabin."
As Tigre said this profusely, Olga, who was walking beside him, nodded slightly. She put back her hood again as she got on the ship, therefore Tigre found it hard to see the expression that she had .
She had not spoken much since then. Although Tigre thought that it was because she was ashamed of being unable to neatly speak Tigre's name or that it was because of her accent, it did not seem to be the case judging from her words or her attitude.
She did not try to engage in polite banter. Regarding herself, the only thing that she told Tigre was that she was traveling alone.
As he got off the ladder in the stern and entered under the deck, he walked down the aisle which was filled with the sea breeze's smell mixed with that of the wood. Tigre ducked into the room where he was told to stay for the time being while on the ship.
When he opened the door, there was a really small room. In addition to the bed fixed to the wall and the floor, there was only about three or four steps of walking space in the room. There was nothing to do other than to put his luggage on the floor and then go to sleep. By the way, the lock for the door was a rough lock handed over to him at the time of his boarding.
To Tigre who was stunned by this sight, Olga said with a monotonous voice.
"Well then, see you."
To her words, Tigre rethought that, unlike himself, who was assisted by Sasha and Matvey, Olga paid the fare as a simple guest to board the ship. At the time of boarding, the boarding permit she had passed to the sailors, though it was similar to his, it was in a copper colour instead.
"If it's okay with you, may I see your room?"
As he asked out of curiosity, Olga approved it while nodding her head as if looking down.
While walking across a narrow passage, Tigre was observing while running his eyes to the left and to the right. This layer was for the guests' and sailors' rooms, and it seemed as though there was also an Armory and some other rooms as well.
When they arrived at the vicinity of the prow and got off the ladder to the lower layer, it gradually became dimmer and a peculiar stench became increasing stronger. The narrowness of the passages did not change. Olga stopped after walking about ten steps and stood in front of one door.
After she opened the door, inside there was nothing special apart from the fact that it was pretty large. Compared to Tigre's room that could be called a private room of an inn, this place would be the equivalent of a large room used by many people. Inside the room were 12 to 13 men.
Half of them were armed with swords and armor, and they were leaning on the wall or sitting on the floor. Though the others were not armed, that didn't change the fact that a dangerous atmosphere was released from their whole body. They had distanced themselves moderately and everyone was watching each other closely.
Those eyes mixed with hostility were of course turned to Tigre and Olga that opened the door.
---Well that is to be expected...
Though Tigre did not show that on his face and his voice, he was aware of that. The destination of this ship was Asvarre that was in the maelstrom of a civil war. Naturally, there were only certain types of people who would go to such a place. If not a mercenary, than it would be a merchant, or else it would be people with special circumstances such as Tigre.
"Would you like to come to my room instead?"
To Olga who were standing nearby, he asked quietly. On her face looking up at Tigre, there was faint surprise in her expressionless absent-minded face.
"Is it okay?"
"As you saw a while ago, it is a small room. But it'll guarantee your security. And there is also a lock."
Tigre didn't know why she was heading to Asvarre. It was not like he didn't care about that, but he had no intention to ask since he was in a position in which it would be troublesome if he himself were to be inquired.
Therefore, though he didn't know anything about her, as expected he was reluctant to let a girl who was younger than him stay there.
Soon after that, 'The [Górdyj BelugaProud Beluga]' departed from Lippner town.
A white sail gathered the winds and 'The [Górdyj BelugaProud Beluga]' leisurely progressed along the azure blue sea. Tigre and Olga were standing on the deck, looking at the boundless sea and the far away silhouette of an island.
"How do you feel sailing on my boat?"
With his crimson coat flapping in the sea breeze, Matvey came walking toward them. Turning his gaze to Olga, he made his small eyes shine keenly.
"Oh! An acquaintance of yours?"
Tigre replied "Yes" with a smile and Olga nodded silently. Tigre was impressed (without saying anything) since the fact that she was not perturbed even before Matvey's evil look was admirable.
"In about how many days will we arrive in Asvarre?"
"If the wind continues to be good like now, in seven or eight days I guess. Since this is not a windless season, we can think that at the very least it won't take more than ten days."
Tigre was relieved to hear that. He had no other choice but to let Olga lay down on the only bed there was, and he himself intended to sleep on the floor. It seems he would only have to endure it somehow for eight days.
"Matvey-san, about how old were you when you first became a sailor?"
"I was younger than you are now. Those who were born and raised in Lippner that decide to live with the sea think that they must have their own ship first. Therefore, to work towards this goal, while working and earning money in the ship of an acquaintance, I also learned how to trade various things for business and how to handle a ship."
"Were you not scared to go out to the sea?"
To tell the truth, Tigre was a little scared. Puffing out his chest with pride, Matvey replied while laughing.
"It's something familiar around here. As for me, though I did not mind since I saw shipwrecks drifting to the outskirts of the town where I was playing in my childhood, there are, as expected, many people who still get nervous when they get into a boat for the first time. Nonetheless, I overcome the fear with various experiences."
Olga tilted her head.
"Storms, shipwrecks, pirates... In addition, with narrow ships, close combat which involves killing may occur, causing a situation where it becomes impossible to continue sailing. There are also things such as sharks and the sea dragon."
Though the last words were a little theatrical, the word "Dragon" attracted Tigre's interest. Hearing his parrot-like repeat of the word, Matvey gave a wry smile and answered.
"A long time ago, I saw it only once from afar. Like this, his body was like a long rope, looking like that of snakes, and that body was much bigger than this ship's mast. I wondered if it was capricious or was not hungry, since it did not come to attack us, and ran away with all its might."
"Such a thing is...in the sea."
"It is nothing to be concerned about. Even among the sailors who kept going to the sea for 40 or 50 years, those who happened to see it is low in number, making it a very rare sight. Unless you are extremely unlucky, or else there is usually no chance to see it within a single voyage.
To Matvey's words that reassured him, Tigre sighed.
From then on Tigre who asked a lot of things about the ship and the sea, suddenly asked about what was on his mind.
"Matvey-san, do you know the details about Asvarre?"
"Yes, since it's an important customer. Is there something that worries you?"
"I'm sorry if my question is not clear, but... What kind of country is Asvarre? For example, I don't know what kinds of Gods are worshipped in Asvarre."
He had intended to ask Sasha but unfortunately he missed the chance to. He knows the current situation in the Kingdom of Asvarre and also the fight between the princes. But, regarding anything else, it might be more accurate to say that Tigre doesn't have the slightest idea of it at all.
"Alright. Since there is no problems now with the ship, then I will have the privilege to have a nice long chat with you."
Asvarre is called the country of the fog and the forest.
It was once a territory that was limited to only a small floating island in the North Sea - the island country of Asvarre, and there were five tribes competing for supremacy over the island. The origin of the country's name came from the island. There were few mountains but many hills, rivers and forests.
The wind-tinged heat which blew constantly from the west sea, was cooled by the time it reached the middle of the island, and hence most of the year the island was covered with fog.
"...So it is said, but as expected, to say that most of the year it is covered with fog would be an exaggeration. There are also regional variations, like between cities for example. In additon, it would not be strange for the fog to just appear at any place regardless of the time."
The island was under the constant threat of war. While it was a given for conflict to exist between the five tribes, the continental nations tried to invade the island aboard their ships, and pirates roaming around the coast was also a daily occurrence.
"Though these words may be a little too pessimistic, it can be said that where people exist, there will always be conflict, this is the reality. There is a saying, there is never a day where Asvarre goes by without having blood spilled. However, that situation changed completely due to one hero alone. His name was Artorias. He was the king founder of Asvarre."
One day, Artorias said that he dreamed that he transformed into a red dragon.
The red dragon is a symbol of the king who bundles the five tribes' leaders. Artorias, who was until then a very ordinary warrior, believed in the oracle, and decided he will become King. Though most people laughed at Artorias, 12 companions decided to follow him.
Afterwards, Artorias would always fight at the front lines while wielding his sword, fighting in countless battlefields and obtaining victory. Various tribes began to pledge allegiance to him, the pirates were cleared up, and repelled the nations that had invaded them. The 12 people following Artorias were then given the title the Knights of the Round Table.
"...It looked somewhat like the myths in Brune and Zchted, right?"
Tigre harbored such an impression. Regarding the myth of Brune, Charles, who became the successor of the king founder, started his battles after receiving a revelation from a highly virtuous monk living in a holy cave shrine. And according to the myth of Zchted, a man claiming to be the incarnation of the Black Dragon appeared before the many feuding tribes, then led his followers and started his conquest.
Seemingly not taking any offense to Tigre's sudden interuption, Matvey responded with a smile.
"Though I am not well informed about the myths of other countries, I think there are points that are in some way common."
Tigre showed his consent as well obediently and Matvey resumed the talk.
"Though Artorias and the 12 Knights of the Round Table are not gods in Asvarre, they have become objects of worship. Because it is thought that all the victories of Artorias were assumed to be due to the blessing of God. It is also assumed that each knight of the round table had the divine protection of angels - seemingly beings like spirits that obey God."
After Artorias' death, as the kingdom of Asvarre was spending a peaceful time without conflict. However, one day the peace was suddenly broken. There was the Cadiz kingdom of the continent, which possessed a large fleet, that crossed the sea and invaded Asvarre.
"Asvarre desperately resisted, but succumbed before the pressure of an overwhelmingly large army. It is said that it was deprived of half of the island in a short time. After the king ended up sick in bed, the people who recommended surrender and those who attempted to escape came out one after another, and the fate of the kingdom was without doubt in a precarious state."
However, among these people, someone appeared. Scolding the frightened retainers and soldiers, there was a person who showed a firm attitude. That person was Princess Zephyria.
"While it was said that Princess Zephyria was the owner of an incomparable beauty, she also possessed a heroine's mantle. She personally took up the sword and jumped into the battlefields, showing bravery to the extent that it was difficult to think she's a woman, . And thus, she obtained victory that was comparable to the founder, Artorias. It seems her mantra is: 'The armor is my husband and the battlefield is my palace'."
Afterwards, the king died without recovering from his illness, and after a year of conference within the court, Zephyria became the first queen of the kingdom of Asvarre. The impact that this gave to the continental nations was not small. It was because the idea of a queen in either Brune or Zchted was something absurd.
"Queen Zephyria was also excellent as a ruler. The country that was shaken by the death of the king was firmly brought together by the birth of the queen,then she subjugated the pirates in the coast, stabilized both internal and external matters of the country, and later launched an invasion of the kingdom of Cadiz."
The Cadiz kingdom was ultimately defeated by her in the end.
"Asvarre then took possession of a territory of the continent. That was something the king founder Artorias had strongly desired for, but was not able to accomplish. Queen Zephyria, who accomplished it, received the prestigious title of 'Supreme King', continuing to rule without even marrying, and finally proposed a person who had the closest blood relationship with her Father the king to be the successor, then died."
"The queen huh..."
Tigre gave a breath of admiration. Olga, who was still wearing her hood, raised a question from the back.
"I have heard stories that Queen Zephyria actually had a lover."
"Of course, many such similar gossips exists as well. I know some, too. For example, someone like the vassal who secretly supported her, the wandering knight, the traveling bard cum hunter... It is precisely because this portion of her life was non-existent when she was a ruler that is why the people had such fanciful imaginations."
Though Tigre showed honest agreement to the words of Matvey, Olga was thoughtfully silent.
"After that, up to current times, there hasn't been anything major to talk about. I think that even now Artorias and Zephyria are still heroes representing Asvarre, and even local farmers are proud of them."
"Thank you. Well then... Now, how about the current situation of civil war?"
Tigre asked it with a careful tone.
"What I know is only the information I heard from about 10 days ago - That there are skirmishes that happen frequently, but no major fights, and that the situation has fallen into a stalemate."
---It meant that the ones suffering the most from the quarrel between the two Princes were the people in Asvarre.
Unbearable anger blotted Tigre's expression. A stalemate meant that the hope for the end of the conflict was no where in sight. Anyhow, it would be fine if the soldiers of each side did not move too much and from the beginning to the end and just glared at each other, but it was a different matter if there were many conflict-ridden areas.
Not knowing when they will get dragged into the war, without even knowing when the war would end. Even though it was not even a battle they wished for.
Seeing through Tigre's feelings of turmoil, Matvey deliberately continue to speak with a businesslike tone.
"Concerning the number of soldiers, Prince Elliot seems to be superior, but on Prince Germaine’s side, there is a very remarkable general that is able to often overturn the numerical inferiority and obtain victory. Therefore, this war isn't likely to be able to be settled easily."
"Is there such a person? What is his name?"
"If I'm not mistaken, his name is Tallard Graham. There is rumor saying that if that man was not there, Prince Germaine might have already been defeated."
Though Tigre was interested in the man named Tallard, for the time being he pushed aside that matter in the corner of his brain and proceeded with his thoughts. Compared to what he heard from Ellen, it seemed that there wasn't much change in the situation.
Would his would meeting with Prince Germane be able to change this situation?
Tigre stood there with a disappointed face, while Olga, whom he had not the slightest idea of what she was thinking about, absent-mindedly and expressionlessly gazed at him.
As the sun sank, the ship moored at a small island.
Tigre was in his room. Sitting on the bed, he was taking care of his bow. There was only a lamp with light that dangled down from the ceiling, swaying from side to side to match the floating of the ship.
The door was knocked on from the outside. He put his bow on the bed, stood up and opened the door. He stood up before Olga who wore an absent-minded face and was holding a deep pot. White steam was rising from the deep pot. Before returning to the room, she had bought hot water from the kitchen.
"How much was it?"
"It was two copper coins."
Only about half the deep pot was filled with hot water. Though it seemed that it would not spill even if the ship more or less shook, Tigre thought that this amount of water for two copper coins was expensive.
As Olga put the deep pot on the floor, she removed her mantle. As for the clothes that she was wearing, a cuff was loose, and there was delicate embroidery decorating the neckline and sleeves. Her waist was wrapped around with a belt, and it was something not seen much in Brune and Zchted.
However, what further attracted Tigre's attention was the axe which she hung on her waist. It had a grey edge with a small ax head and a short hand grip, so that even Olga with her small stature can easily handle it.
What looked out of place, was it's elaborate handle.
A topaz, which was also about fist sized, was embedded at the junction of the handle and the blade, and a fine pattern was engraved on the blade as well. It seems, I guess, that most people would consent even if it was said to have been built for affluent nobles to decorate their residence.
However, Tigre held a different impression. Certain weapons flashed through his mind after he saw that axe.
There was the long sword that Ellen carried, Mira's spear, the bishop's staff of Sophie and Sasha's twin blades. These weapons flashed like a bolt of lightning through the darkness inside his mind.
---It can't be... A ViraltDragonic Tool?
Weapons that had paranormal power and were only allowed to be owned by the seven Vanadis.
"Are you interested in this?"
Hearing the voice, Tigre was startled and pulled himself together. He was very likely staring too much, and although Olga still had her dimly expressionless face, some caution had crept into her black eyes.
"Oh! That axe has a splendid structure."
Tigre answered so while rummaging his dull red hair. He banished the question he wanted to ask in his innermost thoughts. Certainly it was an axe with a very remarkable structure, but there was no way that a Vanadis would be in such a place.
"Because it is a heirloom."
Olga leaned the axe against the wall while answering in a monotonous voice. She untied her obi and took off her clothes. Her upper body that became bare was slim, and the flesh was thin, and the swelling of her chest was over modest. She had a very soft, healthy body, which was also exceedingly beautiful, though it was still far from maturity.
In the presence of a dumbfounded Tigre, Olga sat down on the floor, took her hemp cloth from the cargo bag, soaked in the hot water and squeezed it. She wiped herself her body gently.
"...As expected, I don't think it's a good idea to expose your body in front of a man."
Tigre gently reproved the girl with pink turtle's hair with an embarrassed face. Olga stopped her hand that was wiping the dirt off her body, gave a glanced to Tigre, then answered while returning the hemp cloth to the hot water once again.
"It can't be helped. There is no other place."
"Even so, this is definitely not very appropriate. You should have let me turn around..."
"This is a room that you borrowed, and I am here because you have let me use it."
What a sincere child.
Tigre let out a sigh and turned his back to Olga.
He thought that it was good that she was young. He would have been more frantic if she were about the age of Ellen and Mira.
Tigre waited for a little while more even after finishing the maintenance of his bow.
Before long, the sound in which the hot water was squeezed was no longer heard, and the rustling of clothes reached his ears.
"It is alright now."
Looking back to the voice, Olga, who was already dressed up wearing a cloak, was currently sitting on the floor. Pointing at the deep pot, she continues speaking.
"Though it is now lukewarm, if it is alright with you, use it."
"It that so. Then, please allow me to gratefully accept it."
Since he had stood for a long time on the deck, even Tigre's body had become sticky because of the sea breeze. It was a troublesome thing to go to the kitchen now to buy hot water.
Swapping places with her, Tigre wiped his body quickly. After putting on a mantle similar to Olga's, Tigre pushed aside the deep pot to the corner of the room.
"Well then, let's go to sleep? I will sleep on the floor, so you can use the bed."
"It's impossible for me to accept your kindness to that extent."
Tigre who was going to plop himself down on the floor looked troubled at the refusal of Olga and raised his body. Though the girl with pink color hair was still expressionless, there was slight anger in her voice.
"I understand that you are behaving as an elder, since I'm younger. However, I... I want to be independent and be responsible for myself."
Although she hesitated to say it at first and turned down her eyes, Olga raised her face and asserted flatly. Guessing that he may have hurt her self-esteem, Tigre scratched his head and apologised.
"I'm sorry but I did not have the intention to hurt you. This room is considerably cold, and though you seem to be accustomed to traveling, but..."
It is probably because they were on top of the sea, therefore the ship's air becomes fairly cold at night. It was because of that that both Tigre and Olga put on a mantle.
"Let's sleep on the bed together then."
Olga said without even showing a hint of shyness.
"There is only one blanket. As for sleeping on the floor, the shaking of the ship, in addition to the cold, goes directly into your body. Then, even though it will be slightly cramped on the bed, it is still better to do so. ---You look unexpectedly stubborn."
Though Tigre thought the two of them were on equal levels regarding their stubbornness, he felt that talking about that would be going off topic and thus decided to keep that for himself. He still had something he wanted to say.
"I understand what you are saying. I understand that but... Should I say that you should be a little bit more ashamed or that you should pay more attention to your surroundings?"
"If it seems as though I am trying to seduce you, then let me clarify things. If you do ever something with ill-intent, I will kick you down."
"...Understood. Then let's sleep together."
The reason Tigre compromised was because she was stubborn, and he thought that if that situation continued, she would not use the bed and would instead just lie down on the floor. When he saw her nude not long ago, though he thought that she had a healthy body, he did not hold have any other thoughts about it. The reason why he had such a thought was because Olga was still young.
They lined up and lay down on the bed. Turning the light off, Tigre slowly turned his back toward her.
Sailing on a ship for the first time, he began to progressively become sleepier since he was so filled with excitement and the tension in the morning.
It was not long before the breathing of sleep could be heard from the both of them.
There was a Vanadis in the port of Prepus where Tigre was scheduled to go originally.
She had been staying in that town for a few days already, disguised as a noble woman who was on a trip, and had spent those days staying inside a room of a certain hotel. It was far more expensive than other hotels, had thick stone walls with complimentary horse carriages for people who want to travel out of the hotel, and had a reticent owner who was also good at preparing delectable meals.
Many wealthy aristocrats and affluent merchants and ambassadors from various foreign countries commonly visit this place, mostly because of the continuous arrivals of merchant ships from Brune and Asvarre to Prepus, thus allowing this particular hotel to be as successful as it is.
The Vanadis, Valentina Glinka Estes, was now receiving a disappointing report from her subordinate.
"...Is that so. Tigrevurmud Vorn did not head to this Prepus port but to Lippner port instead."
In a room that existed in the deepest part of the hotel. Only the lamplight that hung from the ceiling shone in the room. With a light source that weak, the light did not reach the corners of the room, and darkness hovered in the background. In the darkness, there was a huge sickle.
Valentina sank her body into a soft chair that used cotton and feathers in abundance while listening to the words of her subordinate. Her long black hair that seemed to melt into the darkness. She revealed a beautiful smile, making people feel that it was impossible to not be enchanted by her breathtaking beauty. She wore a pure-white dress decorated with roses and had an open book on her knees.
The subordinate was kneeling on one knee in front of the faraway doorway and continued reporting plainly.
"Although I, your humble servant, thought that it may be because Earl Vorn, being someone who is from Brune, may have taken the wrong way, but it seems like he who had entered Lippner without any change in direction had changed his plans by himself."
"Thank you very much for your efforts. I originally wanted to meet up with Earl Vorn to give him my greetings, but there's no helping it."
"Should I continue the pursuit?"
"That is not necessary. He must have already gotten into a boat heading for Asvarre at this time. I guess the greeting can only wait till after Earl Vorn comes back."
After her subordinate left, Valentina stared at the dark and sighed softly.
---He ran away, huh.
It was Valentina that had made the proposal to King Victor to choose Tigre as a secret messenger to Asvarre, but not directly. Another two elder statesmen had slipped in the word, and she made sure that others would not know that the idea was originally hers.
Though there were a few reasons, the most important one was because she wanted to meet him once at a place where there were no other Vanadis.
According to the agreement, Tigre could not move out from LeitMeritz unless there was some kind of special situation happening.
Having said that, she had to go through an official procedure if she wanted to meet with him in LeitMeritz and Ellen will definitely become suspicious of her actions. This is something she wanted to avoid happening.
---I wanted to speak with him about various things, and to know his personality in detail.
If their interests matched and there exist possible benefits for each other, there would be a possibility for them to join hands, but in the case where he would be an obstacle for her ambitions, she would find a way to eliminate him. If it was the former, she intended to support him so that he could achieve his duty as a secret messenger safely, but things did not go her way.
---Was it Eleonora...? No that is not possible. It did not seem as though she had good knowledge of the geography of Legnica. In that case, it is likely to be Alexandra.
She heard that he had stopped by her Imperial Palace.
What to do now? Thought Valentina.
Even if Tigre were to die because he got involved in the civil war of Asvarre, it did not matter. At the present time, after Ellen and Mira, he had also built a close relationship with Sasha. His death would be a shock to them, and it will lead to the deterioration of relationship between Zchted and Brune.
Even King Victor would be held responsible if such a thing came to pass. Nevertheless, if he came back safely, he would come to the Royal Palace. It would be necessary to report the results. King Victor will also have to thank Tigre for his services, and would give a reward depending on those results.
---At that time, if I visited the Royal Palace, I am likely to be able to meet him.
Depending on his attitude and his personality, she would then reveal that it was she who made the proposal to send him as an emissary, in order to receive his favour, and might conversely criticize King Victor to make him believe that she is a friend.
She examined Tigre's schedule to know when he might come back and must think about a reason to visit the Royal Palace on that day. Since she was supposed to be sick and lacked physical strength.
---For example, I cannot frequently go to the royal palace like Sophia Obertas.
Though it was troublesome, Valentina did not hate to think about such things. Instead she was more of a character that seemed to enjoy that. Besides, it was convenient for her to pretend that she had a weak body.
---For example, even if I am ordered to dispatch my troops, I would delay it by the reason of my sickness to the very limit and retreat as soon as I fought a little, and I can thoroughly control the damage to my soldiers. Also, I can report that I am sick when I am summoned to the Royal Palace, collecting as much information as possible before facing whatever crisis may be happening that required my intervention. From the past till now, that is what she has been doing.
The reason she did so is to cause everyone around her to underestimate her, to let all of them become more relaxed and unaware around her.
After organising the thoughts forming in her head, Valentina turned her gaze to inspect the book that was expanded across her knees. On the front of the book was the title that was carved in gold, "Records of the war of Zephyria".
Queen Zephyria who expanded the territory of Asvarre greatly. In the record that details her history of battles, and her popularity was shown to be able to rival with the founder King, Arturius, in the kingdom of Asvarre. After discovering it by chance in her residence and reading it when she was young, that became Valentina's favorite book.
However, she did not limit herself to only enjoying it, as the book also encompasses her notions of dreams or ambitions.
---Someday I will become a queen, too.
Then she would show that she would become an existence that reigned in Zchted kingdom. After some investigation, she found out that the blood that flows through her seems to be connected to royalty.
However, it was so thin that it would hard for her to insist on the succession of the throne as her ancestors are but minor relatives of the previous Kings. Therefore, she did not intend to rely on such a thing.
With her own wits, in addition to being born and raised in the Estes House, and by using the good luck that allowed her to be chosen as a Vanadis, she intended to reign on the throne. Though she did not know when that will be, but she was convinced that that day will come.
As she had already read the book many times before, she already knew the contents of the book like the back of her hand. However, she could not stop once she opened the book.
The light of the room did not disappear until it was very late into the night.
Tigre was exposed to a severe sight.
Five girls were standing before his eyes. There was Teita with Ellen, Lim, and Princess Regin of Brune with Mira. Ellen and Lim, together with Mira were familiar with combat uniforms, and Teita had her usual maid figure. Regin's formal dress as a princess was based on white and decorated with gold and silver everywhere.
Somehow they were uniformly angry.
Ellen sharply glared at him with her arms folded. Lim looked amazed and seemed to be heaving a deep sigh even now. Teita withheld her anger and frowned. Mira seemed to be measuring the timing to put her hands on her waist, and looked ready to pour out an angry tirade.
Regin did not hide her dissatisfaction, but she was at loss as to whether she should be angry or not.
"What's wrong?" Being driven by impatience and anxiety, Tigre asked so, and Ellen then angrily answered.
"Why don't you touch your chest and ask yourself that question."
Tigre, in a panic, hurriedly looked at his chest after taking her words literally. Olga was there. She stuck her body to Tigre, naked from the waist up. In a voice without the intonation, she said.
"Please take responsibility..."
Thereupon, he woke up. There was a slightly stained wall spreading through his view.
His body felt a slight shake.
---A dream, huh...
With a small breath, he soliloquize "That's right, isn't it?" in his innermost thoughts. It was only once that those 5 girls gathered in one place. It was only that day when Tigre defeated Duke Thenardier and returned in triumph to the Royal Palace of Brune. However, even during that time, there was never an occasion when those five were lined up all together.
---Fatigue must be accumulating. It was a trip where I was in a hurry all the time until I got on the ship.
"If you have already woken up, I hope you can release me."
He heard a monotonous voice from the side right away. At that time he noticed that his right hand was touching something soft and that there was also a feeling like hair in his left hand. Above all, he felt a small amount of heat on his body.
When he moved his gaze, there were Olga's eyes. Tigre's left hand held her head, and his right hand gripped her butt. Before he was aware of it, he started embracing her while sleeping.
"And... It is hitting me."
Tigre took his hands away from her in a hurry, and jumped up vigorously. Seems like not everything was a dream. However, Olga was wearing clothes though, unlike in his dream.
"No, what should I say, that's... I'm sorry."
While taking a rough breath, Tigre covered his face with his hand and bowed his head in shame. Speaking of Olga, she woke up quietly with her usual expressionless face, not seeming in the least flustered by the situation. Lowering her gaze from Tigre's face, she looked down to his waist.
"I was told by my mother and my older sister that it can't be helped that a man is like this in the morning as it is out of their control."
Although it was good that she understood, it was still extremely shameful. All Tigre had the strength to do was to nod without speaking. Olga continued indifferently.
"Also, I understand that you did not hug me intentionally, since I confirmed that you were still sleeping. Your body instinctively search for heat because it was getting cold at night, right?"
There was a reason why Olga did not blame the young man at all. The girl with pink coloured hair was also clinging to him as she woke up.
The surprised Olga originally wanted to push Tigre away, but her feet which protruded out from under the blanket allowed her to feel exactly how cold the room was. At the same time, she felt the physical warmth of Tigre. The blanket which they covered themselves with simply could not provide such a warm feeling of comfort.
It was because of that that Olga readily compromised. Of course, she did not intend to say that to Tigre.
"I'm very thankful that you can say that, I... I will take more notice of this."
Tigre bowed once more with an apologetic face. Nonetheless, there were some things that cannot be solved with only sincerity.
In the end, until he arrived at Asvarre, there was not a morning where Tigre was able to wake up without finding himself hugging her.
Translator's Notes and References
- V-shaped formation
- Beluga AKA White Whale.
- I think Tigre means that Matvey’s appearance doesn’t match that of the beluga
- I think he means that he needs to stick around for the next half koku, and if Tigre wants to stick with him, hence why Tigre replies that he wouldn’t want to be a nuisance for that amount of time.
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