Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 08 Chapter 3
Chapter 3 - Successors
The next day after Sasha’s death, the ship carrying Elizavetta Fomina arrived at the port town of Lippner. Though it was a triumphant return, Elizavetta did not show up in front of the residents of Lippner.
The Vanadis whom the residents of Lippner looked up to as their master was Sasha. Nevertheless, they would probably not feel good if the Vanadis of Lebus proudly cried for victory. It was because she considered so.
By the way, Sasha’s death had not yet been officially announced. The Mayor of Lippner believed that this should be announced by the Imperial Palace, so he sent a messenger there. At present, it was just said that Sasha could not make a public appearance because she was sick in bed.
Accompanied by only one close aide, Elizavetta got down to the port. Although it was the port, it was in the area where warships were lined up and therefore, the residents of the town were not allowed to approach.
Following her was a knight of about 30-years-old named Naum. He had been working in the Imperial Palace of Lebus even before Elizavetta became Vanadis. Although wrinkles which blotted his hardships were carved on his face, since he carefully shaved his beard, he somehow looked young.
The duo who came out of the port headed towards the mansion of Dmitry, the mayor of Lippner. The red-haired Vanadis who was led into the drawing room asked about Sasha immediately after the greetings.
Though she was mentally prepared since she had already heard the doctor’s diagnosis a few days ago, Sasha was still alive when they parted at sea. Elizavetta wanted to ascertain the situation with her own eyes and ears. For this reason, she specially came up to here.
“Alexandra-sama has died yesterday.”
Dmitry answered in an indifferent tone. Elizavetta said “is that so” with a short mutter and made a wry face. The regret of not having made it in time and the condolence to the dead blurred on her pupils of two colors, but she hid her expression so as to avoid other people noticing it.
By the way, Ellen left Lippner yesterday and hurried on her way back to LeitMeritz. It was uncertain whether it was luck or misfortune that these two girls did not meet each other.
After having advocated the name of gods including Perkūnas who was the Lord God and prayed for Sasha, Elizavetta said in a slightly blunt tone.
“If Alexandra was not there, we would have been defeated. I just wanted to say that.”
Calling it gratitude would be too mild, but Dmitry nodded earnestly.
“I shall certainly convey Vanadis-sama’s words to the Imperial Palace.”
“No need. I will send again the message of condolence as the Vanadis Elizavetta Fomina of Lebus later.”
After indignantly rejecting Dmitry’s offer, Elizavetta changed the topic. After clearing up some businesslike talks, she thanked him and left the mansion. She asked Naum.
“How much time before the ship can depart?”
“About one koku and a half.”
She wanted to leave quickly now that she had finished her business, but it was necessary to let the rowers and sailors rest. Though she was not in the mood to kill time in the narrow ship, she was not also in the mood to stroll in this town which still lingered with the aftertaste of victory.
“Ready the horses. I don’t mind as long as they aren’t draft horses.”
Naum soon prepared two horses, even equipped them with saddles and pulled them over. After speaking words of gratitude “good work”, Elizavetta left the town followed by him. The Vanadis who straddled the horse immediately deviated from the highway and aimlessly advanced towards the coast.
A strange sense of loss opened a hole in Elizavetta’s heart. She did not think that she would like to be present at Sasha’s death, nor had they a relationship which could make her desire such a thing. If she was still alive, it would not be hard to imagine that they fought as the respective masters of Legnica and Lebus.
---Even I understand such a thing.
Nevertheless, Elizavetta felt loneliness. She had thought that she might have the occasion to exchange some words with her. While feeling irritation at herself, she could not thrust away those feelings.
Since it was a pastime, she did not hasten the horse. Naum was also following silently.
The sound of hoofs mixed with the sea roars tickled her ears. Occasionally, she also heard the sea birds’ chirps.
She let the horse advance about a quarter koku. As she looked back, she was considerably away from the town. The scenery of the surroundings also changed to a ragged rocky area.
“Vanadis-sama, we should return soon.”
This was probably because there was no path in front of them. Naum, behind her, proposed. Elizavetta, not answering, stopped the horse in a place where the rocky area broke off.
In the place going down the slope from the rocky area where she was standing, a small sandy beach spread out. The rocky area stretched on the other side of the sandy beach with a gentle slope.
There were several villagers in that place, which was sandwiched between two rocky areas.
Most of the people were gathering shellfishes. Elizavetta also had such memories.
Originally, it was preferable to gather them from spring to summer, but in case that one was concerned about savings ahead of the upcoming winter, even in this season at least, the shellfishes could be gathered. Though the shellfishes gathered in this period were only the small ones, it was better than none at all.
Besides, there was a boat of the size which could carry five to six people on the sandy beach. They might have been fishing. Turning it upside down and pointing the ship’s bottom upward must be in order to dry the ship.
Elizavetta’s gaze moved. Among the villagers, there was only one youth, holding a bow. He was looking at neither the sandy beach nor the sea, but rather at the sky. As Elizavetta looked up at the sky so as to track the youth’s line of sight, there were several birds in flight.
Elizavetta who understood somehow returned her gaze to the youth and stared in wonder. This was because the youth nocked an arrow to his bow and pulled the bowstring.
“Does he intend to shoot them down?”
“If so, then it’s a little too high.”
To the amazed Elizavetta’s voice, Naum responded. The sea birds were now flying at a considerable height. There was no way that an arrow could reach there. The two people thought that the youth was waiting for the time when a sea bird descended.
But, they were off the mark. After a time of about five or six counts passed, the youth casually shot the arrow. The height at which the flock of sea birds were flying did not change so much.
However, the youth’s arrow reached that height as if it was nothing and pierced a sea bird without erring its aim. Both Elizavetta and Naum stared wide-eyed.
The youth quickly nocked a second arrow and shot. He shot down a second sea bird. The second was flying at the height not that much different from the first, and what’s more, it rapidly turned trying to run away when the first was struck by the arrow.
Elizavetta finally understood. What the youth was waiting for was the timing so he could shoot down two sea birds successively. The height was not a problem from the start.
Elizavetta turned her eyes of different colors to the youth and asked Naum who was behind.
“Is there a person who can accomplish such a feat in my Imperial Palace?”
Astonishment was also contained in Naum’s voice as he answered. It would probably be difficult even for the bow soldiers who piled up training. It was the clearness of a skill hard to believe if he did not see it with his own eyes.
“How on earth did he…?”
Elizavetta cut her words there. This was because she heard a shrill cry.
At the rocky area on the opposite side of where the two people were standing, the figures of more than ten people appeared. They ran down the slope and surrounded the villagers. All of them were men wearing slightly dirty clothes and holding weapons such as axe and hatchet in their hands. Elizavetta frowned unpleasantly as she overlooked them.
“This is really a nasty coincidence.”
The men’s appearance was the same as that of the pirates whom they defeated a few days ago. Either they sunk all the pirate ships or they did not capture them. In other words, there were probably the remnants of pirates.
For Elizavetta, she had no obligation to help the villagers under her eyes. Who she should protect were the people of Lebus which she governed, not the people of Legnica.
It might indeed be a problem if it was found out that she let them die without helping, but it looked like the villagers and pirates did not notice them. In the first place, it was unthinkable that one young girl who had not yet reached even 20-years-old and one knight would stand against more than ten pirates.
However, while Elizavetta tightly grasped the Thunder Swirl hung on her waist, she made the horse jump and run down the slope. It was not from sense of justice. It was because letting the pirates, whom she let escape, run amok before her eyes was intolerable.
To the roar of the horse’s hooves, the pirates saw Elizavetta. Since the villagers were surrounded and blades were thrust at them, they could not afford to look back, but it might be lucky.
Elizavetta mercilessly swung the black whip on horseback. The whip, which wore lightning and shone white, blew away the head of the pirate, who was nearby, with a spray of blood.
The pirates’ complexion visibly changed. As Elizavetta thought, they were people who ran away after being defeated by the Lebus army in the battle a few days ago.
Although they, who safely escaped from the battlefield, somehow arrived at the continent, they were completely unfamiliar with the geography of this area. In desperation, they took out their boats until the coast, found the villagers who were fishing and came until here in order to capture them.
The presence of the red-haired Vanadis in a dress figure improper in a battlefield and who amassed a mountain of corpses when she wielded her black whip became a nightmare which remained in the pirates’ memory. In addition, when Elizavetta killed the second pirate with her black whip, the remaining pirates screamed and ran away.
The IsgrifaFlash Princess of the Thunder Swirl had no intention to let them escape. She rode the horse and surely brought down the pirates one by one.
However, when the pirates ran up the rocky area and escaped, as expected she could not chase them. This was because what she was riding now was not a trained warhorse, but a horse which could only be used for a short trip at best.
While Elizavetta reluctantly got down from the horse and picked up the hem of her dress as not to fall, she climbed the rocky area with her own feet. Only Naum followed. The villagers saw the pirates turned into corpses and sat down on the spot in utter amazement. There were also those who were trembling with faces which grew pale.
As she went up the rocks, Elizavetta clicked her tongue. The pirates had already run down the slope on the other side. There was also a sandy beach there, and there were two small boats which about five to six people could board. The pirates carried them on their shoulders and hurriedly carried them to the sea.
Though she unintentionally shouted out, there was no way they would wait. The pirates floated the boats in the sea, got on, tightly grasped paddles and began to row.
Elizavetta looked back towards the opposite side –– the sandy beach where the villagers were. As she ran down the rocks with a tremendous force and scowled at the villagers, she pointed to the boat which was turned upside down with her hand holding the whip.
“I will borrow that. Then, some of you must ride as rowers.”
She one-sidedly declared with an oppressive tone and suddenly shifted her gaze towards the youth holding the bow.
“Are there any arrows?”
At the youth who nodded, Elizavetta frowned. Even though the other villagers were surprised at the sudden situation, were screaming and dismayed, only this youth was calm as if he was used to it.
His age was about the same as Elizavetta. He grew a stubbly beard with his unkempt darkish red hair. Although his build was average, one could understand with his limbs which stretched from his hempen clothes that he was well trained.
“You also come.”
In addition, Elizavetta chose three villagers. They took out the boat up to the sea and boarded it. Elizavetta sat at the vanguard, followed behind by Naum, the youth with the bow and the three villagers.
As they went to the sea, the two boats which the pirates boarded were immediately found. When the pirates saw Elizavetta’s figure, they desperately tried to escape as they concentrated strength in their hands which rowed the paddles. The red-haired Vanadis looked back at the villagers without hiding her irritation.
“Are there only three paddles?”
One of the villagers nodded with a red face while rowing. As the pirates were also in the same situation, at this rate, the distance between both parties would not shrink.
At that time, the darkish red-haired youth got up. He knelt down, set up his bow and nocked an arrow. Elizavetta and Naum frowned.
Though an eye measurement, the boats which the pirates boarded were distant of about 200 alsins (about 200 meters). Furthermore, the boat was shaking and though there was a gentle breeze, it was a head wind. It should not reach.
The youth let the sound of the bowstring resound. And the arrow seemed to have hit one of the pirates. His silhouette which still grasped the paddle could be seen as it suddenly inclined and fell into the sea.
The youth shot arrows again. Other rowers staggered and dropped the paddles on the sea in that tempo. The advancing speed was not that great with only one paddle. The boat soon started to slow down.
The youth, not even boasting of his skill to his comrades, aimed at the other boat. Here, he also shot down two rowers into the sea.
When he finished, the youth sat down in the boat once again. He took a paddle from a villager and took the place of the rower. Elizavetta looked back at the youth in displeasure.
“Why won’t you shoot anymore?”
The youth silently showed her the quiver on his back. The content was empty. He ran out of arrows. Although Elizavetta understood, she shook her shoulders to the youth’s attitude. She thought that he could not talk, but since he was exchanging some conversation with a villager in a low voice, it did not seem to be so.
Elizavetta spat her irritation as to stir up the villagers’ avarice.
“Row more quickly! If we completely catch up with them, I will give two pieces of silver coins per person as a reward! Even to those who are waiting in the sandy beach!”
The villagers looked at each other and changed their countenance. The man who handed over the paddle to the youth earlier snatched it back from him, and fiercely moved it while hitting up the water splash. Naum alternately looked at them and his master with amazed eyes.
Elizavetta’s boat caught up with the pirates’ boat before long.
The red-haired Vanadis gallantly turned her dress around on the narrow boat and knocked down most of the pirates in the sea with two swings of her whip. It is said “most” because there was only one person who escaped from the Thunder Swirl by using his comrades as a shield. He was a small man who rounded his back and was hanging two daggers on his waist.
The pirate’s name was Moritz. Though he acted as the commander of the left-wing squad in the naval battle of Olsina, he was the man who abandoned his comrades and escaped as soon as he realized the disadvantageous situation.
Moritz who skillfully escaped from the black whip kicked the boat side and attacked Elizavetta. If it was possible even to jump into her bosom, the two daggers wielded by this man would mercilessly cut down his opponent. Furthermore, she should not be able to handle it with a whip.
However, Moritz’s swords were flipped by a white light which suddenly appeared where he approached Elizavetta. Numbness enough to be painful ran throughout Moritz’s body, and he broke his balance and flatly fell into the sea.
Without even uttering his voice and while shaking his fingers which barely moved, Moritz’s body buoyantly rose on the sea surface. To the pirates with a deep blue face, Elizavetta cold heartedly said.
“You are conscious, right? But, after half a day, you won’t be able to move your hands and feet. In fact, let alone half a day, even a quarter koku may not be necessary though.”
Moritz opened wide his eyes in fear. If he was to be turned upside down by the waves and took a posture in which he became unable to breath, he would die. Unless he was blessed with great luck, he would die sooner or later. Until then, he should keep being frightened.
The sea surface which reflected lightning shone white just for an instant and thunder roared. Elizavetta brandished the Thunder Swirl and smashed the two boats which the pirates who boarded them into very small pieces.
Elizavetta took a small breath. Of course, it was not as if her sense of loss disappeared, but it was certain that rather than aimlessly riding the horse, it became much more recreational. Though a little, she felt like offering it to Sasha.
She looked back at the villagers, no longer caring about Moritz and company. She ordered as if it was a matter of course.
“Let’s return. Row.”
Though the villagers were dumbfounded by Elizavetta’s frightfulness and could not even utter a word, they pulled themselves together at her voice and hurriedly moved the paddles.
Of course, they did not know that Elizavetta was a Vanadis, but they guessed that she was a noble from her attire and the knight following her. However, now for them, Elizavetta, rather than being a noble before whom they should prostrate themselves, was a person of high rank whom they should fear.
However, as expected only the darkish red-haired youth did not seem to harbor fear towards her. As he turned an absentminded look towards Elizavetta, he sometimes returned it to the sea which depicted white waves.
Elizavetta immediately noticed that he was curious about her LazirisRainbow Eyes. Although she got angry, she also harbored interest in this youth.
“What is your name?”
At first, the youth was not apparently aware that it was to him that the question was asked. Being poked by a villager with the elbow, he finally looked up at Elizavetta.
One of the villagers held the back of the head of Urz who answered so and forcibly lowered it. The villager looked up at Elizavetta with a forced smile.
“I-I am sorry. This guy, he kind of hit his head, excuse his rudeness… Please, forgive him.”
Still holding down Urz’s head, the villager deeply bowed his head with a face covered in sweat. Elizavetta shortly said “I forgive him”.
Though the villager’s attitude looked servile, it was correct. If Elizavetta was a tyrant, Urz might have been pushed into the sea by now.
---At any rate, it’s a strange accent, eh. A Brune accent, I wonder?
Staring at the back of head of Urz, Elizavetta held such an impression. Then, at the villager who timidly raised his face, she decided to ask a slightly nasty question.
“You. What do you think when you see my pupils? Tell me what you honestly thought.”
The right golden pupil and the left blue pupil coldly overlooked the villager. Naum covered his forehead with his hand while pretending to brush his forelock upward, and had a tired face as to say “there she started again”. The wrinkles which were carved on his face became deeper.
“T-That’s of course, um, beautiful like jewels!”
Doing his best to float a smile, the villager answered so. Elizavetta nodded with an expression saying “all right”. They were common lines which she got tired of hearing.
This subtly mixed Elizavetta’s bitter inferiority complex and her bitter superiority complex; and if anything, it was a side show of an unhealthy class. No matter what kind of answer he gave, she would not have punished him. She only responded “is that so” with a radiant smile.
LazirisRainbow Eyes. They were irregular eyes which Elizavetta possessed since she was born. Uncertain pair of eyes considered as a good omen on some regions, and as bad omen in others.
Elizavetta had been tormented by these eyes since she was young. It was not as if her pupils had a mysterious power like in fairy tales. Those who saw these dichromatic eyes thought that she was sick, made her a laughingstock or tried to exclude her.
Though it was sad and remorseful, she did not have the courage to crush one of her eyes, and came to live with wearing an eye patch. Even so, since her LazirisRainbow Eyes were already known, she kept being bullied.
When time went by and Elizavetta became Vanadis of Lebus, her LazirisRainbow Eyes were rather appreciated by the people of the Imperial Palace. It was at that time that she got to know that the interpretation was different in each region.
The Vanadis of LazirisRainbow Eyes afterward came to ask someone when she felt like it.
The question “What do you think when you see my pupils?”
Though like the villager who now prostrated himself before her eyes, there were a lot of people who compared them to jewels, there were also those who compared her golden pupil to the sun and her blue pupil to the sky or sea.
There were also those who compared them to gold and crystal. If there were those who compared them to flowers, there were also those who compared them to birds. There were also those who compared them to legendary armors which were not well-known. Anyway, there were a lot of people who praised them as beautiful.
If they knew that Elizavetta was Vanadis, they could do nothing but praise them. They could only compare them to something gorgeous. She understood it, but still asked the question.
“Urz. What about you?”
Urz did not immediately answer. He fixedly stared at Elizavetta’s face, cocked his head in puzzlement and clapped his hands as he recalled something.
“They are similar to that of a cat. A long time ago, I have seen a cat like that.”
A figure of an old man of short and stout stature who held a small cat brought a souvenir which floated in Urz’s mind. The old man’s face became dim and Urz was not able to remember his name.
The villager raised a wordless cry and pushed Urz into the sea. A showy water splash rose. The other two villagers’ faces became bluer than the sea and they were speechless.
Even Naum, not knowing what to say because of too much consternation, let his gaze busily make a round trip between the villager, Urz who fell into the sea and Elizavetta.
Elizavetta, with a dumbfounded face, looked down at Urz who came to the sea surface. There was no malice in the youth’s words, but it was also hard to call it praise. The villagers’ reaction also proved it.
There were also number of people who compared her eyes to birds or flowers in the past, but those were to the bitter end praises based on the premise “beautiful”. Even if Elizavetta did not really neither like nor dislike cats, she had also not thought that they were particularly beautiful.
After a silence of about ten seconds, Elizavetta held her mouth with her hand, bent her body and happily laughed. She was literally taken aback.
When she settled her laughter, Elizavetta ordered the villagers to pull Urz up. And then, she bluntly asked.
“Urz. Do you have relatives?”
Urz who squeezed his wet clothes hesitated and looked at each villager. The villagers timidly answered on Urz’s behalf.
“Urz has no relatives. No, it’s uncertain whether or not he has.”
“Urz… This guy isn’t from our village. We found him lying at that place where you helped us.”
It was about twelve or thirteen days ago that Urz had fallen on that sandy beach. It was not a complete coincidence that the villagers had found Urz. This was because their village was near the sandy beach, and the villagers were going to the beach like every day in order to collect shellfishes.
The clothes of Urz who was lying down were ragged and his body was cold; although one wondered whether or not he was dead, he was still breathing when they approached and examined him. Hesitating about leaving him as is, the villagers carried Urz to the village and treated him.
“The village chief had wondered whether he hasn’t fallen from a ship which was passing by this neighborhood and was washed ashore.”
The youth regained consciousness after three days and furthermore, he was able to talk and walk after another two days, but even if he was asked about his identity by the people of the village, he could not remember at all.
When he was asked this and that about whether he could remember anything, the word “Urz” finally came out from the youth’s mouth. Thus, the villagers came to call him Urz.
Since he had no memory, Urz had nowhere to go. He did not also have money.
“In the royal capital Silesia, it’s said that various people and things overflow. For the time being, you can help with the work of everyone here and save money expecting the day when your memory will return. How’s that?”
Even if he was asked “how’s that” by the chief, Urz could not do something other than that. He owed them for having saved his life and nursed him. Bowing his head and saying “please take care of me”, Urz’s new life began.
When the villager ended his story, the sandy beach where they took out the boat could be seen. The villagers who were waiting noticed them and waved their hands with pleasure.
However, Elizavetta fixedly overlooked Urz.
“It is convenient.”
If Urz was a person from Legnica, it might have become slightly troublesome. But, in case of memory loss, there was no problem, either. Elizavetta judged so and told to Urz.
“I'll take you with me. Urz, serve me from today on.”
The villagers shouted, their jaws dropped down and Naum stared in wonder.
As for Urz, with an absentminded expression and a tepid voice, he answered “yes”.
The taking over of Urz proceeded with no stagnation, either.
Though just a few days, Urz worked properly, but it did not change the fact that he was a troublesome person. There was no reason whatsoever to restrain him. Rather, the Brune accent of Urz’s language was making them feel anxious and wary. If a curious noble was to take him over, it would be just what they wanted.
“I’m glad for you, Urz.”
The villager chief said so and tapped Urz’s shoulder.
“It might be a whim of a noble, but she doesn’t seem to be such a bad person. If you diligently serve her, then someday you will be able to return to Brune.”
“You’re right. Thank you.”
Urz also thanked the village chief with a smile.
Then Urz visited each acquaintance of the village, told them thanks for having taken care of him and farewell. Although the village girl who found Urz in the sandy beach had a reluctant expression, she saw the youth off with a smile while saying “take care”.
This village girl was not able to say it after all. About the black bow which he was grasping in his hand when she found Urz lying down. And, that she had unintentionally thrown it away to the sea when she somewhat felt that that black bow was something very creepy. And moreover, about the faint longing which was born in her heart in these few days.
Anyway, like this Urz came to serve Elizavetta.
When Ellen tended Sasha’s death in Legnica, Limlisha, in the absence of her lord at the Imperial Palace of LeitMeritz, was processing the mountain of documents piled at the office.
She was three years older than her lord, that’s 20-year-old; she wrapped her slender tall figure in thick clothes and tied her dull golden hair on the left side of her head. A little teddy bear hung on the belt of her waist in an angle not visible from other people.
She was Ellen’s aide and also one of her best friends. She was called by her nickname “Lim” by those close to her. There was no hint of sociability on her well-featured face, but if it did not mean that she was ill-humored or she lacked feelings. This was because it was half her nature, and as for the other half, she tried to be composed.
A sudden visitor came in LeitMeritz the evening of that day.
“Eugene-dono–– Earl Pardu?”
Eugene Shevarin was the feudal lord of Pardu which was in the east of LeitMeritz. Unlike Brune which attached the title to the family name, in Zchted, the title was attached to the territory’s name.
“Please lead him to the reception room. I will also go at once.”
As Lim gave such instructions while showing a light surprise, she stopped her work and stood up from the chair. Even if she kept him waiting, he was not someone who would feel offended, but she could not make him wait.
As she walked down the corridor by quick steps towards the reception room, Teita rushed over. With a maid figure which attached a white apron on a black skirt with long sleeves and which reached up to her feet; her chestnut hair was tied on the back of her head.
She was a girl from Brune who had served as a maid from the time when Tigre was in Alsace, and she also bravely and eagerly worked even after moving the place of work to this Imperial Palace. Now more than half a year after coming to work here, she was trusted not only by Ellen and Lim, but also by many people.
“Fire was put in the fireplace of the reception room, but a little time is required so that the room gets warm. I intend to warm the wine and send it.”
“Please do so. And how many people have come with His Excellency the Earl?”
“There is one attendant. I have him rest in another room.”
LeitMeritz was in a climate which should still be called autumn, but as expected, it was cold when the sky darkened. Glancing at the evening sky which could be seen from the corridor, Lim said to Teita.
“I think that there won’t be a problem if it’s His Excellency the Earl, but please prepare also a fur to put on. If you say it to the chief maid, she will put it out at once.”
As she bowed and said “understood”, Teita ran to the corridor.
Lim who arrived before the reception room slowly opened the door after calling the inside. The indoor warmth flowed and stroked her cheeks. Within the room, one man was sitting down on the sofa and resting his body, but he stood up with a smile when he saw Lim’s figure.
“Long time no see, Limlisha. Are you doing well?”
“Yes. It’s good above all that Eugene-dono also seems to be healthy.”
Lim also loosened her expression and saluted. For her, Eugene was a man whom she could call “teacher”. About three years ago when Ellen became Vanadis, Eugene was asked to serve as civil officer of LeitMeritz, and he had been visiting the Imperial Palace to teach courtesy and etiquette as a Zchted noble.
He was now 44-years-old. His long hair was darkish gray, and he also had a long gray beard under his chin. Though he seemed to be a quiet person judging from his calm demeanor and gaunt physique, but Lim, as well as Ellen, who was taught many things by him also knew that it was not the case.
“By the way, where is Viltaria-dono?”
It was about Ellen. As Lim could not suddenly answer, Eugene openheartedly laughed.
“Hmm. Has she secretly slipped out the Imperial Palace again and gone out to the town?”
Lim unintentionally blushed and looked downward. Such behavior of Ellen was since the time when she was taught various things by Eugene.
Just at that time, Teita came in carrying silver cups filled with wine on a tray. Lim pulled herself together and recommended the sofa to Eugene.
“I am glad that you came.”
Waiting for Eugene to sit down on the sofa again, Lim also sat across the table on the sofa placed on the opposite side. Then, Teita put the silver cups on the table. As the chestnut-haired maid bowed, she went out in the corridor and closed the door. Eugene asked Lim with a face full of interest.
“I think that the girl just now was not there three years ago.”
“She is called Teita. She is from Brune, and due to various circumstances, we look after her.”
“Brune, huh. I have heard rumors, but it looked like many things have changed. ––To think that you would have such a lovely hobby.”
Lim, who became speechless at these words, she tracked Eugene’s line of sight with her eyes. There, there was a doll which was still hung on the belt of her waist. She had in mind to take it off when she came out of the office, but since she was in hurry to deal with Eugene, she ended up forgetting about it.
“N-No, this is, um, a charm, I mean…”
“You do not need to feel shy. The bear is called the incarnation of Vors, the God of Livestock, and dolls are also things girls like. Have you already found yourself a lover?”
Though Lim panicked, she regained her presence of mind at the question of Eugene who was joking, and briefly denied “no” with a lonely expression. She changed the topic with a smile.
“I ask for the hot water and meal to be prepared. For you to visit today, is there anything the matter?”
As far as Lim knew, Eugene was a man who would send a messenger beforehand. She thought that an incident occurred and asked, but the courtesy’s teacher laughed and shook his head.
“You do not need to be so anxious. It was on my way, so I only stopped to greet you.”
“On your way?”
At Lim who was puzzled, Eugene nodded and picked the silver cup on the table. The surface of the silver cup was illuminated by the flame which brightly burned in the fireplace and it was shining dully.
“I was summoned by His Majesty the King and was heading to the royal capital.”
Lim agreed. To go from Pardu governed by Eugene to the royal capital Silesia, it was certainly fast to pass by the highway of LeitMeritz.
“It's already got dark. Please stay here tonight. I said it a little while ago, but I ask for the hot water and meal to be prepared.”
Eugene seemed to hesitate. While Lim was careful not to become pushy, she added again.
“If I send off Eugene-dono with only one cup of wine, I will be scolded by Eleonora-sama. The shame of the retainer is the shame of the master. I have not forgotten.”
Eugene floated a smile at Lim’s words. This was because Eugene, who had taught the etiquette to Ellen and Lim three years ago, told them those words many times over. More exactly, it was something like “Our shame is the shame of our master, and the shame of the master is the shame of the country”.
“What, given her usual behavior, Viltaria-dono cannot do something like scolding you.”
Eugene who said so gulped down the wine, he changed his wry smile to a warm one and continued.
“That said, it is rather rude to decline an offer made up to there. I shall accept your kindness.”
She first had Eugene gotten over with the bath, and then Teita guided him to a guest room. The guest room, like the reception room, was made warm by lighting a fire in the fireplace, and Lim and Eugene sat down on both sides of the table.
The supper which Lim had prepare for Eugene was rather simple.
Wheat rice porridge with fully sprinkled warm milk, an omelet mixed with walnut and spicy grass, roasted until melting strong salty cheese on thinly sliced potatoes, and a soup of beans and fish were lined up on the table and drifted a fragrant smell which aroused the appetite, and let steam rise up.
These dishes were instructed by Lim who remembered Eugene’s tastes. Sure enough, as she saw Eugene’s reaction, fortunately his tastes seemed to not have changed from those of three years ago.
“Are madam and the child doing well?”
“Yes. My daughter grew up to be quite a naughty kid. Upon hearing the activity of Viltaria-dono on the battlefield, although every day she doesn't seem to run out of fresh bruises, as she took an interest in sword and horse. Though she was brought up quite opposite to my wife, it seems to be rather fun. We are constantly watching over her.”
Eugene had a wife and a daughter. The thin earl’s voice, though mixed with a sigh, was full of affection for his daughter and his wife.
As she checked that, Lim once again felt a sense of respect towards Eugene.
This was because his wife was not a girl of towns, but from the royal family. She was King Victor’s niece.
At one time, Eugene had served as King Victor’s close aide, but as his upright temper of advising the King without being daunted was appreciated, his marriage to the King’s niece was recommended. It was 15 years ago.
By the law of Zchted, when a woman of the royal family got married, the rights to the throne which she possessed moved to her husband. If you married King Victor’s niece, you would obtain the eighth place of the rights to the throne. In the eyes of the King, it might have been a sign of utmost kindness.
Eugene was thankful to the King and married her. Then, he was given Pardu in the southern part of the kingdom as territory and moved to there with his wife. Afterwards, except for events to celebrate the New Year, he rarely went to the royal capital. It was an expression of his loyalty.
By the way, when Ellen was told about this by Eugene, became speechless after saying “He~e”, and fixedly stared at this thin Earl. It was that much of a shock for the silver-haired Vanadis that he had such an episode with King Victor.
Because of their reunion for the first time in three years, Lim and Eugene were talking about each other’s current status, but when Eugene touched the subject about Brune’s civil war of last year, a shadow of melancholy rose on Lim’s face.
Eugene who noticed it was going to change the topic, but Lim put on a resolved face and stared straight at the gray-haired Earl.
“No, you do not need to be considerate. Besides, it might be better that I tell Eugene-dono about it.”
Her blue eyes were filled with seriousness and acuteness, and Eugene renewed his expression.
“…Let me hear it.”
“Well then, I will tell you about the civil war of Brune.”
Lim explained as concisely as possible the events from the battle of Dinant which made Tigrevurmud Vorn a prisoner of war, the cooperation of LeitMeritz wtih Alsace, the intervention in the civil war to Princess Regin’s rescue and Duke Thenardier’s defeat.
“Afterwards, Lord Tigrevurmud spent his every day in this Imperial Palace as a guest General. He showed an attitude in which he assertively studied the culture of our country and I also helped him despite my poor ability.”
Ellen also joined occasionally, Lim taught Tigre various things. The language required in etiquette and the royal court of Zchted, the customs as well as the fairy-tales transmitted from a long time. Occasionally, Tigre also taught the customs and proverbs of Brune to Ellen and Lim.
To a difficult problem which rose from a local village, the three people had also racked their brains about how to solve it.
Lim was surprised and came to respect Tigre because of his seriousness and sense of balance. Even about things profitable to LeitMeritz and Zchted, Tigre seriously considered.
But, for example, when the interests of LeitMeritz and Alsace conflicted, even if the youth made some concessions, he had never completely compromised. Lim rather held trust and a favorable impression at that attitude.
They prepared a light meal, let Teita eat with them; if there were times when they were just chatting the whole time, there were also times when the four people disguised themselves and went out of the castle with the pretext of social study.
“While it might be presumptuous for me to say this, I think that Lord Tigrevurmud was not just a foreign guest, but also a precious friend for Eleanora-sama.”
Lim cut her words for a moment. If she was to keep talking like this without resting, she felt like she would not be able to suppress her highly strung feelings.
Though Eugene was silently and carefully listening to Lim’s story so far, he calmly opened his mouth probably due to her words talking interrupted.
“That guest seems that to have currently gone out somewhere.”
“…How do you know that?”
“If he was in the Imperial Palace now, there is no way you would not have introduced him to me. You said that he is a friend of Viltaria-dono, but you also seem to be quite concerned about him.”
Lim unintentionally looked downward. She intended to talk calmly, but she had apparently been seen through. Or, was it because she was eagerly talking that she was noticed?
It’s not good, thought Lim. Even though she just persuaded herself to calm down, her voice had already sunk. However, the calm she had lost did no longer return.
“Lord Tigrevurmud went to the Asvarre Kingdom for a certain task, but his ship was attacked by someone on his way back and he fell into the sea…”
Her words became intermittent. Eugene’s face strained with tension. This noble of slim figure immediately understood the seriousness of the situation.
There was no way that a guest General whom they were entrusted with by Brune would have willfully gone to a foreign country of his own will. It should be right to think that the intentions of Zchted were closely involved there.
If so, then even if the fact that Tigre fell into the sea was an accident, Zchted would be at fault. Brune would probably not forgive Zchted.
And if a confrontation between Brune and Zchted resulted from it, the neighboring countries such as Muozinel and Sachstein would definitely involve themselves in it.
In the past, Eugene had been in charge of the diplomacy with Brune for nearly ten years. Depending on the future circumstances, he was more likely to be ordered a difficult mission. No, the reason why he was now summoned in the royal capital like this was perhaps in regard of this topic.
Precisely because Lim thought so, she talked about it even though she knew she would become sad.
Eugene softly laughed and said.
“I think that I said it before, but it is by no means shameful to cry. And if you yearn for someone, then all the more.”
Before Eugene finished speaking, Tears overflowed from Lim’s eyes and streamed down her cheeks.
Once she realized it, she could not stop. The girl who acted the substitute of the Vanadis cast her eyes down, shook her shoulders and leaked sobbing. This was the first time that Lim shed tears before someone since the time she heard about the youth of Brune’s disappearance.
After about half of a quarter koku, Lim stopped crying.
“You should not overdo it.”
Eugene kindly called out to the golden-haired girl, who was wiping around her eyes which became red.
“You would better rest for one or two days. The Imperial Palace will not fall into confusion for that much.”
“Thank you for concern. But I am all right.”
While gently touching the teddy bear still attached to the belt of her waist in the end, Lim continued her words.
“It may be laughed at with regret when I say it like this, but I want to believe that Lord Tigrevurmud is still alive. That that person would not lose his life in a place like that.”
Though her blue pupils were slightly wet, her tone was steady. Seeing that she seemed to have regained her composure, Eugene nodded with a relieved face.
And then, Lim spoke about the reason of Ellen’s absence. Eugene who finished listening to her revealed a stern countenance.
“Alexandra Alshavin-dono… It was only once that we met.”
“Eugene-dono. Was what I did wrong?”
Lim expressed anxiety. It was precisely because it was Eugene whom she looked up to at a teacher that she could ask. The gray-haired Earl shook his head with a calm smile.
“I will not say that it was right, but I do not think that it was wrong. I hear that Alshavin-dono was also a good person as the ruler of Legnica. The people of Legnica will not forget that Viltaria-dono cherished her friendship with her. Besides––”
As Eugene put on a serious expression, he continued in a low voice.
“Actually, I do not think that the Muozinel troops will invade before long.”
“I feel the same, too.”
As Lim replied so, pleasant feelings floated on Eugene’s eyes.
“Can you explain?”
He had returned to the attitude and tone of when he was teaching various things to Ellen and Lim three years ago. Lim also hung on it and floated a smile. Probably because she was taking an attitude of teacher towards Tigre, she, who returned to the position of student, felt nostalgic.
“It is because I cannot think of a meaning for them to attack now.”
“I wonder about that. Brune is exhausted by the civil war from last year. I have also heard that the internal situation in Sachstein is not very good. Muozinel as well as the east countries seems to be currently doing well, and if so, then they may not want to needlessly meddle in the affairs of our country?”
“If it is to the degree of skirmishes, I think that they have frequently occurred at the border. If they move a large army of 100,000, then there should definitely be some kind of purpose there.”
“The southern part of our country is a very fertile land. Besides, the current Muozinel King seems to have a personality which likes to assertively extend his borders outside.”
“Yes. There, the means which Muozinel took was to join forces with Asvarre. They are trying to repress our country from the south and west in that way. It seemed to have failed though.”
After Lim prefaced by saying “not a word to anyone”, she talked about the fact Asvarre’s civil war ended and that Zchted formed an alliance with Princess Guinevere. As this seemed to indeed be the first time he heard about this, Eugene opened wide his eyes in admiration.
“Then, Muozinel’s purpose will be to attract our attention to the army of 100,000. Meanwhile, they surely intend to make those concerned with Asvarre and those probably hiding in our country pull up (withdraw).”
“Yes. However, they may do a more showy provocation if we show an opening.”
Though Eugene contentedly nodded hearing Lim’s answer, he soon tightened his face.
After finishing some serious topics like that, the two people amused themselves with a pleasant talk as if driving away the mood which was likely to become depressing. There was so much to talk about.
Early in the morning of the next day, Eugene, as he said himself, left LeitMeritz with his attendant. Lim saw off his back figure, which went further and further away, from the rampart of the Imperial Palace.
Elizavetta Fomina who returned to Lebus in the far north from LeitMeritz first had to settle the state affairs which had piled up during her absence.
Although the bureaucrats, who had taken charge during her absence, had processed a percentage, there were naturally a lot of matters which needed the approval of Elizavetta who was the lord of this dukedom. Even while walking down the corridor and heading towards the office, she was hearing several reports and issuing instructions.
Once she entered the office, there was a mountain of documents piled up on the desk. She gave priority on the urgent government matters, and then waited to deal with the waiting matter concerning this naval battle.
“Although there were some booties, honestly it was a battle where there was nothing to gain.”
As she issued the instructions of the remuneration to the soldiers and sailors, the arrangements for solatium to the families of the deceased, the repairing of warships and the supplement of various equipment and the like, Elizavetta sighed.
The numerous booties including the nearly twenty ships which they took away from the pirates were equally shared with Legnica, but there was no doubt that the war expenditures and the loss suffered from this pirate subjugation were great.
Though the pirates who were captured were sold off as slaves to the Muozinel merchants who were in the port, they ended up selling them at considerably lower prices on the pretext that they were pirates. They were probably seen through about the fact that they wanted to get it over with quickly.
---Speaking of the biggest loss…
The scene of the fight between Sasha and Torbalan flashed across Elizavetta’s mind. Seeing as a whole, her death was definitely the biggest loss.
---I wonder if Alexandra told someone about her fighting against the demon.
Speaking of Vanadis close to Sasha, there were Ellen, Mira and Sophie. Since Sophie and Olga had been attacked by Torbalan on their way back from Asvarre, they definitely knew of the demon’s existence itself.
Ellen’s face came to her mind. Should she speak about how Sasha fought to at least her?
---Why should I do something like that? Someone of Legnica will tell her, right?
Elizavetta who shook her head on both sides shook off idle thoughts. And then, she scrutinized and scowled at the mountain of documents piled up on the work desk. Though she did not intend to neglect her duty as a lord, was it luxurious to want to be absentminded without thinking about anything for about a quarter koku?
The door was suddenly knocked from outside and a servant’s voice was heard.
“Vanadis-sama. His Excellency the Duke of Bydgauche came.”
Elizavetta’s reaction was late for about one second. It was not just due to fatigue. The visitor was someone enough to surprise her.
“––Ilda-sama, no, His Excellency the Duke?”
As Elizavetta abruptly stood up from the chair, she went to the door at a quick pace. When she opened the door, the servant was standing there.
“Guide him. How many attendants have His Excellency the Duke brought with him? You should prepare the guest rooms, cooking and hot water for the number of people.”
“He came with three attendants. The other people were led to the drawing room.”
To the servant’s answer, Elizavetta breathed a sigh of relief. If there were four including Ilda, then she seemed to be able to cope with them without being rude.
“Thank you for your efforts. You have done well.”
As Elizavetta praised so and thanked the servant for his efforts, she made him prepare a white silk mantle, put it on her and kept her appearance for now. If possible, she would have wanted to change into a formal dress, tidy up her hair and put on make-up, but she would keep the guest wait. She could only come to terms with it.
Elizavetta who finally arrived at the drawing room knocked the door, gave her name, waited for the other party’s reply and pushed the door open.
“Long time no see, Your Excellency the Duke.”
Elizavetta bowed with a radiant smile. The man who was called His Excellency the Duke was relaxing sitting on the sofa, but he stood up and bowed towards Elizavetta with a fearless face.
“I do not mind you calling me Ilda in such a place. It’s good that you also look fine above all. Vanadis-dono.”
The Duke of Bydgauche, Ilda Krutis was 34-year-old. With a tall figure, his body which was forged with training and war was tanned by the sun and was keenly tightened. There were dignity and ambition on his finely chiseled face.
He was King Victor’s nephew. The son of the King’s younger brother. He was seventh in line of the succession to the throne, and was given the rank of Duke from the Kingdom. He governed Bydgauche near Lebus, and it would be fair to say that the relations between the two territories were currently good. They mutually helped each other when necessary.
Though Ilda possessed excellent ability as a ruler, he was solely known as a man of valor. Even the person in question seemed to think that his own essence was bravery.
Actually, his sword skills, horsemanship and ability to command on a battlefield were high, and it was to the extent that one wondered whether there was anyone in the northern part of Zchted who could rival him in those areas.
“I hear that you ended the barbarian subjugation of this time safely above all.”
“You also had an outstanding performance in the pirate subjugation.”
“Because of my incompetence, I have lost a comrade in arms.”
Elizavetta dropped her voice. But, she did not speak of her remorse of having suffered many damages and lost many soldiers. This was because she had heard that Ilda had also suffered great sacrifices.
About a month ago, Ilda was ordered by King Victor and went with three thousand soldiers for the subjugation of barbarians who were wreaking havoc in the north of the Kingdom.
Though in the original plan, it should have been over within 20 days including the post-processing, the barbarians’ number was far greater than what was reported, and moreover, they resisted more than expected; Ilda was forced to a hard fight. It was about a few days ago that he was able to sweep away the barbarians and the damage reached nearly 20%.
Although he succeeded in the subjugation, what remained for Ilda was a result of a great dissatisfaction.
In order to drive away the heavy atmosphere, Elizavetta deliberately asked in a cheerful voice.
“By the way, for what kind of business did you come here today?”
“No, I only stopped by here. I think it would be impolite for me to just pass by without greeting you. I will leave immediately.”
“Do not say that, how about resting for a while? Though Your Excellency the Duke, no Ilda-sama can afford it, your attendants seemed to be tired. If you have a pressing business, I cannot afford to retain you though.”
“Hmm. If you say to there, then I shall gladly accept your kindness.”
Ilda laughed and showed his feelings of gratitude to Elizavetta’s offer.
Since Ilda’s visit was sudden, the meal which Elizavetta prepared was, so to speak, a makeshift one, but still it was quite extravagant.
Something which put sturgeon eggs to a thinly burnt bread, an omelet which mixed finely cut salmon, Spit-roasted beef and edible wild plants, a rainbow trout grilled with salt, shrimps and shellfish, stew fully seasoned with spices put on mushroom and the soup made using seaweed filled the table.
Since Lebus faced the sea, many things caught in the sea could be used for the soup and stew. Any dish was heated up as much as possible, and steam was rising to the extent that the face of Ilda who was sitting across the table could not be seen.
Besides, the bottles of wine and vodka were placed. Elizavetta knew that Ilda usually drank vodka. By the way, Ilda’s servants were having meal in another room.
“If it suits Ilda-sama’s taste, then it’s fine.”
“Vanadis-dono is a prone to worrying. Even though I suddenly visited, you make such a hearty banquet. There is no way it would not be delicious. Besides, I was on the battlefield until the other day.”
Laughing, Ilda ate up one after another, the meals displayed on the table. While feeling admiration for the first time in the hearty eater who can be rather said to be brilliant, Elizavetta asked him where he was going in a casual tone.
“To the royal capital. I was summoned by His Majesty.”
Ilda answered while applying the cup filled with vodka to his mouth. The sharp taste of the sake brewed in the north of Zchted was stronger than those made in other districts, but Ilda spat a satisfactory breath when he gulped it down with a composed face.
“By the way, do you continue the training of sword?”
For a certain period of time, Ilda had taught the basics of the sword to Elizavetta. He was asked by Elizavetta.
Though her Dragonic Tool Valitsaif was a black whip which wore lightning, it could also become a rod-shaped weapon by the will of Elizavetta who was his owner. Even if she was skilled in using Valitsaif as a whip, as for Elizavetta, it was incomplete with that alone.
“To think that a Vanadis using a whip would have an interest in the sword.”
Although Ilda who said so amused himself, he taught Elizavetta how to use a long sword and also a short sword in general.
It was then that Ilda said that he did not mind even if she was to call him by his name at a private place. Elizavetta thought that she was being courted, but after understanding that it was certain candidness which Ilda possessed, she began to call him so.
“Yes. Compared to those days, even I think that I considerably improved.”
“It’s good. It might sound like a sermon, but do not neglect the training in the future.”
Then, the next morning, Ilda left the Imperial Palace and headed to the royal capital as planned.
Elizavetta who saw off the King’s nephew and his attendants indifferently handled the work in her office. It was when daytime just came that one of the civil officers visited Elizavetta.
Being 53 years old in this year, he was in a considerable advanced age among the civil officers working for the Imperial Palace. He was a man who had served since the time of the previous Vanadis, and his ability was the reliable.
“That man named Urz, who on earth is he?”
At the question with a solemn face, Elizavetta stared blankly. About Urz, she intended to carefully think and decided of his treatment once she had settled the state affairs which piled up; so she gave him one of the guest rooms for the time being, and she should have ordered to one of her servants to take care of him including meals.
“Did he pull a prank or something?”
The elderly civil officer shook his head. It was a habit of this man to repeat “no” when denying.
“He is very docile, but we have not heard anything from Vanadis-sama.”
Now that he mentioned it, she felt like she did not explain anything in particular.
There were so many things for Elizavetta to do when she came back to the Imperial Palace, and in addition, since there was also Ilda’s visit, she ended up forgetting.
While being a little tense, Elizavetta said in a tone as natural as possible.
“I decided to make Urz my servant.”
“…Who is that man really?”
When she frankly answered that she did not know as he had lost his memory, the civil officer suddenly frowned.
“It is not so different from wanting to keep a stray cat.”
“Yes. He is much more useful than a stray cat.”
Although Elizavetta pretended to be serene, anxiety and strain swirled in her mind.
For the red-haired Vanadis, it was a kind of adventure.
In the first place, Elizavetta was not that close with the civil officers. This was because there was no one among them whom she had personally chosen.
Though it was four years ago that Elizavetta became Vanadis of this Lebus, at that time, both the government official engaged in the state affairs, the general and knights leading the soldiers had been gathered without excess or deficiency. They were trained elites whom the previous Vanadis racked her brain, searched and gathered.
Thanks to them, Elizavetta did not have the need to look for talented people herself. She was very thankful for it, but the red-haired Vanadis were also distant to them.
They compared Elizavetta with the previous Vanadis. Their speech, demeanor, political ability and command in the battlefield.
Regarding the Generals and the knights, Elizavetta soon took an aggressive attitude.
She showed an extraordinary talent on the battlefield, as a warrior she was brave, and it was enough to make them admire her. The red-haired Vanadis thoroughly knew about the hesitation, weakness, and danger on the battlefield, and at times, she was also able to hold down her subordinates with a coercive attitude.
However, Elizavetta was not yet confident regarding the state affairs. Although there was no conspicuous failure yet, no matter what she did she looked inferior compared to the previous Vanadis. And the civil officers did not overlook it; while Elizavetta relied on them, she had trouble dealing with them.
“Urz’s bow skills are amazing. Selecting superior talented persons is also the duty of a ruler. It’s something you taught me.”
Though Elizavetta said so and tried to prevent his rebuttal, the elderly civil officer did not fall silent with only that.
“Vanadis-sama. I have certainly said something like that. However, even if there is one thing you are proud of, you cannot turn a blind eye to other things. There is no way that such a method of selection is good. For example, at the time of the previous Vanadis…”
“I am not the previous Vanadis.”
As she returned such words, the civil officer suddenly shut his mouth and respectfully bowed.
“I am sorry. However, even if I incur Vanadis-sama’s displeasure, I will daringly express it. However much impressive his skills are, making a person whom you do not know the identity your servant is not a sage’s deed. By all means, desist from doing it.”
“No matter what?”
Elizavetta furrowed her eyebrows and said with an entreating tone. In this case, she had another reason which she could not loudly say to the civil officers.
What decided for her to want to make Urz into her servant was because he was the owner of outstanding bow skills as she said earlier to the civil officer, and also she was pleased with the answer he gave to her question. Aside from the former, it would be difficult to persuade others with the latter reason.
Speaking of the civil officer, he looked with a greatly perplexed face at Elizavetta who had not yet given up.
“…Do you want to make that youth your servant no matter what? Is there even any dissatisfaction among the people serving you now?”
“There is no dissatisfaction. You are doing your best for the peace of Lebus after all. Regardless of it, I want to make Urz my servant.”
Declaring so, Elizavetta fixedly stared at the civil officer. The civil officer also shut his mouth.
They silently stared at each other.
And after a time of about 1000 counted passed like that, the civil officer finally compromised.
“Well then, can you allow me to observe the situation?”
“First of all, I will make him serve as a stable boy for about two to three years. Then, if he works seriously, I will once again consider his treatment.”
A stable boy, if one had to say, was the work to take care of horses.
“I told you, right? That Urz is good at archery. Should he not rather be assigned to work made use of his special skill, like a hunter attached to the Imperial Palace?”
“There is already one hunter attached to the Imperial Palace. It will be useless to have two.”
Currently, it was an old man called Anton who served as the hunter belonging to the Imperial Palace. As expected, he had also served since the time of the previous Vanadis, and Elizavetta did not dislike this man of calm temper. It seemed that she could do nothing but look for a different work for Urz.
“Then, how about a clown attached to the Imperial Palace?”
“Does Urz possess the talent to make laugh and entertain?”
“He made me laugh from the bottom of my heart for the first time in a while though.”
Though Elizavetta seriously answered, the civil officer did not break his expression that he could not consent.
“Vanadis-sama. All of those who served in this Imperial Palace, be it the soldiers, the civil officers or the maids, are carefully selected persons who overcame a strict standard and issues. If you disregard those people and bring someone, whose identity is not even known and who has no track record, close to you, they will have harbored dissatisfaction.”
---So that’s it.
Elizavetta understood that he seemed to be opposed no matter what if it had anything to do what was attached to the Imperial Palace. Even the fact that this civil officer recommended him as a stable boy, this was because unless he became the groom head he would not enter the Imperial Place.
Although Elizavetta was disappointed, she thought that this area probably hit the limit.
She was conscious that what she was saying was her childish selfishness, and she had no reason not to admit the rightness of the civil officer’s claim.
At such times, if it was Ellen for example, she would carry through with “It’s all right, if it’s just one person. After all, it’s not as if I say that I will reduce your pay”. However, Elizavetta could not do it.
---Should I be satisfied with this?
“Understood. Then, let’s get him work as a stable boy. It’s also necessary that he get used to this Imperial Palace.”
Thus, Urz became a stable boy. More precisely, he had been made to do it.
On the outskirts of the Imperial Palace, there were a ranch and stable to make the horses exercise. The lodgings where the stablemen stayed at were also built near it. Twenty stablemen were taking care of one hundred horses.
Such stables and ranches were located in several places not so far from the Imperial Palace. They were scattered because it was more efficient like that.
It was in the nearest stable from the Imperial Palace where Urz was taken. As the ranch was spacious, stone-made lodgings were built in the corner. In a place at about dozens of steps away from the lodgings, big stables which were twice the circumference of the lodgings were massively set up. These were wooden.
The stableman head who managed this stable was an unsociable man in his forties. Even though Urz said “I look forward to working with you” and bowed his head, he did not even reply.
“Come with me.”
After saying so, he turned his back and began to walk. As Urz followed him with perplexed face, the place where they arrived was a stable. Urz unintentionally frowned.
The air that filled the stable was a mixture of the smell of horse dung, the smell of a beast and dry straw causing one to groan.
“First of all, you will deal with the horse dung and urine.”
The stableman head said without changing his complexion.
“Afterward, you clean within the stable. Since the exchange of water and the dealing with the bait are done by other guys, observe it well. Also the grooming of the horses' body. Since you are an apprentice, don’t touch the horses until I say it’s fine. When you get it over with, take care of the stirrups and harness. When it’s over, you once again deal with the horse dung and urine.”
---I was brought to an awful place, eh.
Urz inwardly complained as he pinched his nose and endured the stench.
It was several days later after Ellen returned from Lippner that Sophia Obertas visited LeitMeritz.
She was at the royal capital to report to the King about the matter of Asvarre, but as King Victor’s condition worsened due to the cold, she stayed at the capital for several days. As a result, it was only now that she came to LeitMeritz.
“Sophie. I am glad you came. I knew of the matter in Asvarre by hearsay, but anyway, it’s good that you’re safe above all.”
For Ellen, it was their reunion after a long time. Greeting the PresuvetBrilliant Princess of the Light Flower who was her friend with a smile, she herself led her until the drawing room without leaving it to the maid. Sophie responded “thank you” with a smile.
However, both of them could not dispel gloom from their expressions and tones. After all, they had lost important people who were Tigre and Sasha in succession. Especially, ten days had not yet passed since Sasha died.
Immediately after returning to LeitMeritz, Ellen sent a mourning letter in Legnica.
『In having reached such a day, I cannot help but feel sad and angry. I express my condolences to the people of Legnica. Please, let me share your deep sadness. Despite the fact that my relationship with her is an age of only a little less than three years, she was a friend whose trust exceeded the social status, and she was also a comrade in arms. She was also the way how a Vanadis should be. She taught it to me, and she herself had not done anything which ran counter to it. I was saved on countless occasions by her nature, and I prayed from the bottom of my heart that she could recover from her illness. The day when I met her for the last time, she was bright, calm and brave as usual. Even the time when she gave her last breath, I believe that it should have been so. She did not succumb to the illness, but ran through a colorful life exactly like a flame which pierces the heaven and intensely blazes as the Hidden Princess of the Luminous Flame. Though I cannot deny it was a short time, I do not think that she left regrets. Now, I once again pray to the gods. Give what true peace to the soul of Alexandra. Bring peace and tranquility to the land which she loved and the people living there.』
And, this was only about one-fifth of the whole letter. The position of tending to Sasha’s death which she could not write about, she ran the brush there with an unusual passion.
Her placid expression, as if she was sleeping, was still clearly floating in Ellen’s mind.
And, the greatest reason why Sophie visited this Imperial Palace was to hand over Tigre’s presents. With this, there was no way the talk would get lively.
Though Sophie handed in turn the presents to Ellen, Lim and Teita, who was called over, it could not be helped that the gloomy atmosphere increased its deepness whenever one received it.
Especially, Teita on the spot spilled large drops of tears like rain, and Lim made her withdraw while hurriedly calming her.
“By the way, Ellen. I am really sorry, but, there is something I would like to ask…”
Sophie asked whether she could send to Mira the present which Tigre bought for her.
Sophie intended to personally hand it over at first, but the fact that she wasted more time than expected in the capital Silesia derailed her schedule. If she was to go from here to the south in Olmutz which Mira governed, Sophie’s return to Polesia which was her dukedom would be further late.
In addition, the Muozinel army of 100,000 was still threatening the southern border.
“Understood. I will take the responsibility and deliver it to her.”
Ellen answered so with a smile, and Sophie put on a face which said that it was unexpected.
Ellen was reluctant to speak her mind, but since Sophie carried the present up to here, she could not refuse. There was also what Sasha said, and she thought that if she did not do it properly, she could not apologize enough to Tigre.
Afterwards, they finished some businesslike talks. Even about the demon called Torbalan, she settled it until the part she would talk about once she met with all the Vanadis, but the two girls lacked the willpower just to put it into action. They put it off by saying “we’ll talk about it again when spring comes”.
And soon after, Sophie said that she would leave LeitMeritz. It was hard for her to be here any longer.
“Do you not want to meet Lunie?”
Though Ellen asked in a joking tone, Sophie shook her head.
“I will pass this time. Hey, Ellen. You know, when I meet Lunie-chan, I only look at Lunie-chan and I want to think only about Lunie-chan. But… Now, I don’t think I will be able to do it.”
At her friend who concealed her sorrow and laughed, Ellen could only return the words “I see”.
“Sophie. It will take some time until we will become able to laugh again from the bottom of our heart; see you again. Since you seem to be busy for the time being.”
“Yes. Ellen, you too, take care.”
Thus, the PresuvetBrilliant Princess of the Light Flower left LeitMeritz.
It was when Sophie had just left that Rurick, who was the man in this LeitMeritz who respected Tigre’s bow skill the most, was called by Ellen.
After he received Tigre’s present, he was also left the presents to other people such as Aram.
“For this case, I will allow you to refuse.”
Though Ellen said so, Rurick carefully held on to the presents of others while letting his bald head without one hair shine. And, he strolled in the Imperial Palace and indifferently handed the presents.
Except Rurick, there was only another man Aram with whom Tigre was especially intimate, but after this, Aram gambled with companions and lost silver coins equivalent to one month’s salary in about one koku. This man who was usually awfully strong to gambling entirely lost his intuition.
Though his comrades who knew of the circumstances said to invalidate the bet, Aram silently put on the spot the amount of silver coins he lost, returned to his room despite being in duty, and slept. His attractive face, which was often said to resemble that of a beaver, grew awfully wild that day.
The next day, he was removed a meal as punishment of leaving his duty halfway.
Rurick was in contrast to Aram. He worked hard for his duties as usual, and as he finished his work at the sunset, he began his daily training of archery in the courtyard.
However, the training of that day ended with just one arrow mark. The bowstring drawn to the limit cut with a sharp sound. Rurick suffered a light injury in a finger.
“It looks like I put too much force…”
Staring at the bow which lost it curve because the bowstring was cut, Rurick feebly laughed. It was the first time in three years that he did such a mistake.
When Rurick finished treating his finger, he returned to his room without continuing any longer his training on that day.
That night, there were people who heard a sobbing-like voice leaking from his room, but they pretended they did not hear anything and left in silence.
Under the cold sky, humans, horses and cattle, and white barracks filled a deathly pale wasteland which only grew even weeds sparsely. It was near the border between the Zchted Kingdom and the Muozinel Kingdom. The signs of winter had crept up to here.
The number of people was indeed 100,000. Their skin was uniformly brown and there were a lot of slender men. Wearing leather armor on thick clothes, they were hanging curve swords to their the waist. The soldiers wrapped a black cloth around their head, and the chiefs of squads wore an iron helmet over their head as proof. The helmet reflected the sunlight and shone dully.
The horses were for the cavalry and oxen for the pack (logistic) squads. The barracks had a peculiar round shape and the ceiling was also roundish. Each could accommodate five to ten men.
The flag fluttering to the barracks was crimson. A golden helmet which grew horns and a sword were drawn in the middle. It was the symbol of the Muozinel war God Vahram. The red and gold battle flag received the dry wind of the end of autumn which ran in the wasteland and fluttered.
They were the Muozinel troops. The supreme commander was Kreshu Shaheen Baramir. He was a man with the nickname “BarbarosRed Beard” who was the younger brother of the Muozinel King.
30 days had passed since they encamped here. Advancing towards the north from this wasteland for about two days, there was the border of Zchted. Of course, Kreshu knew that the Olmutz troops led by the Vanadis Ludmira Lurie were encamped and watching out there.
The supreme commander was receiving a report in his own barrack. By the way, Kreshu’s barrack, unlike the others, had been dyed red.
There was neither some belief nor intention behind this, he just felt like doing it. By the way, yesterday it was in green and the day before yesterday in blue. There was also a day where it mixed multiple colors.
Anyway, Kreshu was within the red barrack today. On the bed which piled up many silk cushions, he was listening to the report of a soldier.
Though he had a firm body of medium build, the hems of the cloth he was wearing were so big that those who saw them would not understand why he wore it. A huge rainbow-colored feather was placed on the cloth wrapped on his head.
His eyes were greatly sunken, his nose and ears were long, and his red beard which was the origin of his nickname was made in three braids. He also felt like making this beard’s shape.
The close aide revealed a sour face at each report, after all the other party was not only the supreme commander, but also the King’s younger brother. Above all, Kreshu possessed an overwhelming talent and many achievements. Also, his eccentric behavior did not date from today, and he could not give candid advice.
Finishing hearing the report of the young soldier, Kreshu lift his body.
“Then, the plan of Asvarre was a complete failure, huh.”
“Yes. The Asvarre Kingdom is currently ruled by Princess Guinevere and a man named Tallard Graham.”
The soldier answered with a disappointed face. It was not the attitude which a mere soldier should show in front of the supreme commander, but he was trusted by Kreshu, so he was forgiven.
“Both Prince Jermaine and Prince Elliot died. Even among the people we made creep in, only five were able to come back alive.”
“I suppose it’s good since five were able to come back alive. After all, I have heard some interesting things.”
While Kreshu played with his red beard knitted in three braids, he said so in a tone which did not seem very disappointed.
Until about two months ago, because the two princes Jermaine and Elliot were fighting over the throne, the Asvarre Kingdom was almost divided into two.
While the Muozinel Kingdom was backing Prince Elliot, they were also waiting for the opportunity to approach Jermaine. No matter which Prince won, Muozinel was going to interfere in Asvarre afterwards.
One of the reasons why Kreshu organized an army of 100,000 soldiers and advanced up to here was, while concerning themselves with Zchted, was to know the movement of the spies sent in Asvarre even one koku early, and had them return depending on the situation.
As for Kreshu, one could say that he achieved his purpose.
“However, interfering with this and that in a distant country is troublesome as expected. The orders do not catch up with the turn of events at all. On the other hand, even if I assume about ten ways of change (of the situation) beforehand and take a countermeasure, in return there is no one who will be able to execute it.”
“Speaking of coping with changes, was he called Tigrevurmud Vorn? That man was amazing. He fell into the sea on the way back and died though.”
To the soldier who said so, Kreshu grinned with a complacent smile.
“Damad. Why can you assert that he died?”
“Even if you ask me why…”
The soldier named Damad panicked. His age was 19. He was tall, and his nose and chin were thin. Though thin, he did not give any weak impression and his fearless gaze was reminiscent of a tiger or leopard.
“He fell from the ship in the sea at midnight, you know? Even after searching for him half a day, even his body was not found. He would not be human if he were still alive.”
“There is the possibility of rigged.”
At Kreshu’s words, Damad tilted his head in puzzlement so as to say he did not understand.
“Let’s assume he died. If you think that I have put that man at hand, then I will do so.”
While messing around with his braided beard, Kreshu happily explained.
“The youth was probably entrusted to them by Brune. He will have to return sooner or later, but wouldn't it be a waste if we regard him as dead? We could assume him taking an appropriate alias, birth date, on top of that a mansion, money and even women, so as to start his second life.”
“…If we assume that he died, it can’t be helped if the relations with Brune will take a turn for the worse.”
“Such a thing, they can settle it if they send two or three heads of incompetent nobles and generals.”
To Kreshu who casually said, cold sweat could not stop flowing on Damad. What was frightening was if Kreshu felt like it, he could carry it out as he said.
“In other words, does your Excellency mean to say that Tigrevurmud Vorn may still be alive?”
“From here on, it’s your job to check it, Damad.”
At Kreshu who said in a tone without hesitation as if he had thought since before, Damad frowned. Two years had passed since he, who was a mere soldier was selected by this King’s younger brother with a red beard to become his aide. But, if he just moved as he was said, it would not be that very big a deal.
“We will withdraw from here on. However, you will creep in (infiltrate) Zchted and check whether or not Tigrevurmud Vorn is really dead. Look for the people who saw him where he died and thoroughly hear them out. If you find his grave, divulge it. If you come across a suspicious man, inquire his identity thoroughly.”
“…Is he a man that worth it to go so far?”
At Damad who asked in a skeptical tone, Kreshu nodded using his entire body.
“Didn‘t you also say it? That he was responsible of the changes.”
Indeed. Although Damad made a bitter expression, he immediately changed his thinking.
“Understood. By the way, In case I found that he is really alive?”
“Get rid of him. You also want to test his skills, right?”
To Kreshu’s words, Damad floated a smile filled with fighting spirit.
“One could look over The record of the battle of Agnes just like reciting. To think there was a human who can fly an arrow at 300 alsins. And in a confused battlefield at that. ––Really, I started shivering.”
“Thanks to that, we lost Kashim. He was a useful man.”
Last year, The Muozinel army advanced its soldiers to Brune which was in the midst of the civil war. Within the chaos, they intended to snatch the territory of Brune and take away its people as slaves.
However, their plan was splendidly stopped.
The troops which attacked from the sea were defeated by Duke Thenardier, and the march of the troops which attacked from the land was stopped by the “Silver Meteor army” led by Tigre and the Olmutz soldiers led by Ludmira. At that time, the supreme commander of the land troops was Kreshu, and Kashim was the commander of the advance party.
Although the advance party was defeated and Kreshu cornered Tigre and the others, he judged that there was nothing to gain even if he won and withdrew his soldiers. Furthermore on that occasion, he had one-sidedly sent the nickname “SilvrashStar Shooter” to Tigre.
“However, will you really withdraw without even having one battle? After leading 100,000 soldiers up to here.”
Damad asked to Kreshu with a face showing disbelief.
“I told you, right? I have achieved my goal.”
Kreshu casually grasped a bunch of papers put near the bed. All were reports.
“The reaction of the Vanadis and feudal lords of the south border. The approximate number of soldiers whom they sent. Their deployment. The road from this wasteland to Agnes to the west. The topography. The road which could enter the Brune country without going by the highway of Agnes. Hahaha. It has indeed taken 30 days, but I grasp them all.”
Squashing the report, Kreshu let his sunken eyes shine and merrily laughed. This was his true purpose of leading these 100,000 soldiers.
“When I return, I will report that 100,000 were not enough. After adding another 50,000 soldiers, I will move with 150,000 soldiers the next year at the earliest or within three years at the latest. My aim will be, of course, Brune.”
Even those 100,000 soldiers was just a preparation for a bigger strategy. And Kreshu’s aim was not Zchted.
“I have also heard the southern part of Zchted is quite rich.”
“Even though there is a rich, green and warm ground immediately near Brune, they probably won’t move to aim at it. As long as the people from Zchted are surrounded by the snow and gnaw potatoes and salmons, then it’s fine.”
Though it might be what he really thought, he was merciless. Damad inwardly sympathized with the people of Zchted just a little.
“Read this report, Damad. The people in the vicinity of the border secluded themselves in the fort or castle, close the door and prepare for defense. Those who were going to strike did not finally show up. In that case, even if I show up with 150,000 soldiers two years later for example, they will probably react the same way.”
“…Then, disregarding the people who shut themselves away and don’t come out, we will aim at Agnes in the west at once, huh.”
“That’s right. Besides in these 30 days, I also found a lot of people who could be useful.”
Among the reports which he had squashed, Kreshu chose one sheet and pulled it out.
“They are those who splendidly commanded the soldiers, or obtained brilliant results by scouting out in a boring situation without even one battle. I will make them my subordinates once I return. I look forward to the next battle.”
Though Damad was staring with a face, which seemed to want to say something, at Kreshu who floated an ominous smile, he resolutely opened his mouth.
“Your Excellency. Will you really not do even one battle? If you could give me 1000 soldiers––”
“…If I give you, what will you do?”
At Kreshu’s reaction, Damad vehemently spoke with enthusiasm.
“It will be difficult to capture a fort, but it is possible to burn down and plunder villages and towns. I could also give a blow to the enemy, and you will not have to say that you have done nothing even though you led 100,000 soldiers.”
Kreshu said “Ohou” with an amazed voice as if he felt admiration. His sunken eyes emitted a whitish light.
“If you have confidence that you will not lose even one soldier, you may do it. However, if even one soldier dies, your head will become the food of wolf. And that, even if a soldier fell down during a march, hit his head and died.”
Feeling his master’s seriousness in his indifferent tone, Damad held his breath. He got down on both his knees on the spot.
“I said too much. I am sorry.”
“It’s all right if you understand. Do not disappoint me, Damad.”
It was not as if Kreshu disliked plunder. He disliked the fact that a rip could arise in his command as a result.
If he were to allow fight and plunder here to a specific squad, other squads would harbor dissatisfaction. In addition to that, they had spent 30 days of boredom. There was the fear of acting selfishly with a large number.
On the other hand, when thinking about dividing the booties equally, the number of 100,000 would become a problem. Just to satisfy that number of soldiers, one had to face a very large-scale battle.
Therefore, Kreshu never intended to fight from the beginning.
The next day, Kreshu withdrew the soldiers as planned. Only Damad headed towards the north contrary to the army, crossed the border and succeed in sneaking into Zchted.
During these 30 days, a messenger was dispatched to Muozinel from Zchted many times and asked why they moved their army, but Muozinel kept answering that it was for the training of soldiers.
And the Muozinel army had really ended it just as the training of soldiers.
- spoilers of war
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