Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 08 Chapter 4
Chapter 4 - Behind the Scenes
It was the evening of the day when the signs of winter also crept in the Brune Kingdom, that a messenger of the Zchted Kingdom visited Brune and had an audience with Princess Regin.
Tigrevurmud Vorn fell into the sea and is missing.
When she heard this, Regin became speechless, and she asked the messenger again due to too much shock. If she was not sitting on the throne, she might have fainted. The Prime Minister Bodwin who was by her side was troubled for a moment as to whether he should stop the audience.
“What do you mean?”
While letting her graceful face turn pale in anger, it was a short time after the messenger expressed the Zchted King’s words that she inquired, holding down the shaking of her voice. Her light golden hair trimmed around her shoulders faintly shook. The messenger, no showing signs of faltering to Regin’s attitude, answered back.
“It is just as I said. His Excellency Earl Vorn was attacked by a Badvasea dragon on his way back from Asvarre and fell into the sea. I cry more than I express the truly regrettable course of events…”
“It is actually the first time that I hear about the fact that he went to Asvarre.”
“Since it was something which had to be carried secretly and immediately, His Majesty Victor and also Lord Tigrevurmud had said that they are very sorry for being unable to report it to Her Highness Princess Regin beforehand.”
Although the latter half of the words was completely falsehood, the messenger, without changing his complexion, really spoke as though he personally heard it. If he did not do so, he would not be fit for a messenger bearing such a duty.
Regin thrust her fingernails in the armrest of the throne and held back the anger welling up within by strongly grasping it. If she did not do so, she might have shouted at the messenger. Since the day was about to end, the surroundings of the throne were dark, and such a reaction by Regin was not seen by the messenger.
“Mr. Messenger. Did you know?”
As expected, it was impossible for her to smile right away, but Regin said under the guise of calm.
“Lord Tigrevurmud was not only the hero who saves this Brune from the hands of the villains, but he is also the man who saved my life.”
“I am aware of that.”
The messenger was still undaunted. This man understood the importance of his duty.
After all, he was directly ordered by King Victor, and what’s more, he was told the life of his family who was in the Capital would also be secured. When he left the royal palace, he was already prepared for death.
That’s why he was able to take Regin’s strong gaze head on without taking a servile attitude. Even so, the messenger’s back had already gotten soaking wet with a lot of sweat.
Brune and Zchted were in a relationship of equality. Although it borrowed Zchted’s power for the settlement of the civil war, Brune did not become a vassal country (dependency) of Zchted as compensation.
Even Tigre was only entrusted to them as a guest General with a time limit. In case of such a situation, even excluding Regin’s personal feelings, it was more than enough to fly into a rage.
---He seems to have been prepared.
Regin’s blue pupils wore a cruel coloring only for an instant. Nearly one year had passed since she came to live as a princess. While borrowing the strength of the Prime Minister Bodwin and Massas who acted as an aide, she was also learning various things.
“For the friendship between our country and Zchted, I have to give my thanks to King Victor who tried to use Lord Tigrevurmud.”
Regin who sweetly smiled continued.
“However, it will be rude to King Victor with just conventional words of thanks, right? Until we return the favor, I would like you to stay to the royal palace. All right?”
Though Regin’s voice was bright, the messenger felt a strange fear. While unconsciously stroking around his stomach with his hand, he deeply bowed his head.
“I will gratefully receive Her Highness the Princess’s consideration. By the way, about when may I receive your words?”
“Since such things require time, I will call you when I will be able to do it.”
“…When you will be able to do it?”
“Yes. When I will be able to do it. Please, rest at ease. I will nominate a messenger and send him to King Victor after all.”
If she would send a messenger, then shouldn’t she let this person convey the words of thanks?
As he could not, of course, speak his mind, the messenger was caught left and right by the imperial guards who stepped up. He was forced into leaving.
When the messenger’s figure could not be seen, Regin turned her gaze to Bodwin.
“––I will rest for about a quarter koku. The continuation of the audience will be after. Meanwhile, please let the others take a rest, too.”
As Bodwin bowed, he ordered the bureaucrats and imperial guards who were there to take a rest. Regin who confirmed it stood up from the throne. She headed towards the balcony opened from behind the throne.
Under the vermillion sky, only the ramparts surrounding the Capital and the meadows which spread to the other side could be seen from the balcony. Looking up at the sky, Regin who shook her shoulders desperately endured the urge to burst into tears. Bodwin appeared there.
“You were able to endure it well.”
He briefly said so. This old Prime Minister with a cat face had noticed Regin’s feelings towards Tigre. In fact, it was most recently that he noticed them though.
Letting her pale golden hair rustle in the wind, Regin looked back at Bodwin. At that time, she was even floating a smile.
“Thank you. Prime Minister.”
Although the other party was an experienced elderly, taking a polite attitude towards a retainer was probably Regin’s virtue. Bodwin thought of some words of comfort and encouragement, but the old Prime Minister confined them in the depths of his heart.
It was not his duty. It was the duty of the one who could step deeper into Regin’s innermost thoughts; what Bodwin should do now was to confront this young Princess with a more realistic problem.
“As for the answer to the Zchted’s messenger of earlier, I give you a passing mark. After all, we must ask him in detail about what really happened. There are definitely still some hidden parts.”
Regin nodded to Bodwin’s words and put on a serious expression.
“What do you think we should do from now on?”
“We should grasp the situation as accurately as possible. We shall send messengers respectively to Zchted and Asvarre and gather more detailed information. I would especially like to find out those who happened to be present at the scene where Lord Tigrevurmud fell.”
Even in case that Zchted did tell lies, it might hide the inconvenient truth. They need to gather information themselves.
“And then, we must keep a close watch within the country.”
Regin looked puzzled at Bodwin’s words.
“Do you mean to say that there are people who would see this as an opportunity and begin to move?”
“There might be those who would interpret that Zchted’s support will be lost due to Lord Tigrevurmud’s disappearance. In addition, whatever will be Her Highness the Princess’s reaction regarding this matter, there would surely also be those who will use materials which blamed Her Highness.”
“Understood. I will leave it to you. And, how shall we explain it to Earl Rodant?”
Regin who was carefully listening to Bodwin’s words until then suddenly showed a timid side.
Massas Rodant was a man who was the best friend of Tigre’s late father Urz. He also took care of Tigre in various ways, and he had also kindly cooperated when Tigre suppressed the Brune’s civil war in the past year. After the civil war, he began to serve as an aide due to Regin’s request.
He was currently 56 years old. Although he still stood up on the scene, it would not be strange even if he was to think about retirement. When Regin invited him to the Imperial Court it was probably also because of that, Massas did not seem to be enthusiastic about it.
Regin visited Massas, who was staying at his mansion in the Capital, persuaded him by saying “then, you shall serve while thinking of it as your last duty”.
“I will tell him myself. After all, I intend to have him cooperate, too.”
Massas surely loved Tigre like his own son. He would probably investigate about this matter more eagerly than anyone else. Even Bodwin thought that he was trustworthy.
As she nodded at Bodwin’s words, Regin waved her mantle with a smile.
“It is still a quarter koku early, but we shall return soon.”
At the Prime Minister who answered “understood!”, Regin chuckled.
“Prime Minister. I was certainly surprised, but I do not think that that person died.”
Though Bodwin frowned at these words, Regin’s expression seemed to have settled down.
“Although he became Zchted’s prisoner, he borrowed soldiers and came back. He repelled the Muozinel army which had an overwhelming number. Even after being caught in the collapse of the SangroelSacred Caverns of the Palace, he survived. It might be exaggerated for me to say this, but that person has the power to create a miracle. It's what I think.”
“A miracle, huh.”
Bodwin could only say that. A miracle. Bodwin wondered since when he had stopped believing in miracles. He had not believed in miracles when he accumulated achievements and became the chief vassal of the Kingdom. It was natural. There was no way a person engaged in political affairs would believe in such things.
However, Bodwin did not reprove Regin. If it became this princess’ support, then it was fine. Besides, Tigre’s activities were certainly something which could only be regarded as miracles.
“Let’s do what we should do for now.”
Saying so, Regin suddenly turned her gaze to the sun which went down in the end of the west. Without voicing it, she prayed to the gods.
---Please, protect Lord Tigrevurmud.
The Princess and the Prime Minister returned for the audience.
It was about ten days later from the day he received Elizavetta’s hospitality that Ilda Kurtis crossed the large river Valta and arrived at Silesia, the Capital of the Zchted Kingdom.
“Even though it’s already winter, it is really lively.”
While wrapping his well-trained tall figure in a thick overcoat and walking down the street at a quick pace, Ilda leaked a mutter of admiration.
Highways extended innumerably from this Capital where more than one million people lived; in other cities, in winter when the traffic of merchants would normally sharply decrease, many merchants and craftsmen showed their figures in the street and the people’s enthusiasm was not lost.
When the carts which piled up with various articles passed through the Capital’s gate, black tea, spices, wine, vodka and furs of animals were lined up in front of people, the merchants raised their voices.
To gather income in order to get through the winter, minstrels played harps and clowns fluttered colorful clothes in midair.
Taking a side glance at such hustle and bustle, Ilda headed straight to the royal palace. When looking up, the sky color was transparent blue and the position of the sun was in a place where it was still slightly early to call daytime.
When he entered the royal palace and gave his name, the concierges immediately called the one who was on standby inside. And then, the Grand Chamberlain showed up before long. With the official position of managing the state affairs overall, he was the chief of all the civil officials.
“You came well, Your Excellency Duke Bydgauche.”
The Grand Chamberlain in his mid-fifties deeply bowed his head. Ilda also straightened himself and returned a bow. Guided by the Grand Chamberlain, he set foot in the royal palace.
“It has been quite a long time since His Excellency the Duke has come to the palace.”
“It is because I had been bustling about the lands of the north. Speaking of which, I heard this name several times by the time I arrived here, but Grand Chamberlain, do you know the man called Tigrevurmud Vorn?”
While looking at the walls and pillars on which magnificent ornaments were applied, Ilda asked.
“You do know that last year, a civil war occurred in the Brune Kingdom, right? At that time, it is Lord Tigrevurmud who saved the princess and defeated Duke Thenardier’s army. He seemed to have been a prisoner of Vanadis-sama of LeitMeritz, but is an interesting man who borrowed soldiers from her and returned to his native land.”
And then, after the Grand Chamberlain told him “not a word to anyone”, he made a quick rundown about the fact that the King made Tigre head to the Asvarre Kingdom by a secret order, and that his ship was attacked by a Badvasea dragon on his way back, and that he fell into the sea.
Regarding that, Ilda could only keep nodding and avoided to comment. This was because if he were to say something uncalled-for, it might be interpreted as judgment and dissatisfaction towards the King.
As they walked for a while, Ilda noticed that they were not heading to the audience room.
---Are we heading to His Majesty’s office?
Ilda who had many times visited the palace immediately understood. As expected, the King’s office came into view, but one man was standing there. With a slim figure, he was probably older than Ilda. His face which turned to look back towards Ilda was slim and grew a gray beard under his chin.
Ilda knew him. He was Earl Pardu Eugene Shevarin. For Ilda, he was the husband of his younger sister and an older brother-in-law somewhat hard to deal with.
“If it isn’t Earl Pardu. I think the last time we met each other was during the last year’s MaslenitsaSun Festival, and I see you are as healthy as always.”
When Ilda bowed, Eugene also bowed with a surprised look.
“You also seem to be healthy, Duke Bydgauche. I have also heard about your activity in the north.”
“It was not that much, though. By the way, is my younger sister well?”
For Ilda, this was a question attached to the social etiquette. He had not met his younger sister for already more than 15 years. Partly because his father took good care of Ilda who was the heir and did not give much interest to his daughter; even if it could not be said that they did not get along with each other, it was not also a relationship in which they were particularly close.
“Yes. She is loved by the territories people, and I was also helped by her in various ways. Upon my return, I shall ask her to send you a letter.”
And then, the two men threw a questioning gaze at the Grand Chamberlain. However, the Grand Chamberlain pretended not to notice their gazes and exaggeratedly bowed his head.
“Both of you, please wait a little.”
The Grand Chamberlain turned around at the door of the office. He lightly knocked on the door and told the person who was inside that Ilda and Eugene had come.
After confirming the reply in a low voice, the Grand Chamberlain once again looked back at Ilda and Eugene.
“His Majesty is waiting for you.”
Saying so, the Grand Chamberlain moved to the side of the door. Ilda knocked on the door, waited for the reply of the King who seemed to be inside and opened the door.
As might be expected from the King’s office, it was a big room. Though the ornament of carpet and curtains looked simple, Ilda knew that even just one silk embroidery cost an amount of money enough to buy a mansion.
On the walls of both sides, there were shelves where letters and scrolls were put away and the ZirnitraBlack Dragon Flag which was Zchted’s symbol was hung on the front wall.
The documents were hardly piled up on the office desk, and two chairs were put on the front. Not only were they sturdily made, but cushions were also laid out. Ilda thought that they were apparently prepared for them.
And, King Victor Arthur Volk Estes Tsar Zchted was on the opposite side of the office desk.
He was 61 years old this year. His hair and beard were dull gray. His skin turned dark and his blue eyes lacked vitality. His silk clothes which used gold and silver threads abundantly were relaxed, but his arms which extended from there were so thin as to hark back to dry wood.
Both Ilda and Eugene went down onto their knees and bowed their heads.
“Raise your heads, both of you. We are not in the audience room here.”
As King Victor said so, he recommended the two men sit on the chairs. Ilda and Eugene deeply bowed to the King once again and sat down on the chairs. They waited for the King to speak.
When about ten counts passed, the King slowly opened his mouth.
“I caught a cold the other day.”
Though the two men were facing him across the office desk, those were words which they did not expect at all.
“Has your condition improved now?”
Eugene timidly asked. The King nodded.
“I slept for about a few days though. Now, it is as you see.”
“It's good to hear, but please take good care of yourself.”
Though Ilda said after recovering from surprise, Victor shook his head.
“It is not for that that I have called you. It's to speak about the future.”
The aged King’s voice was tinged with cold. The two men straightened their posture. About the future –– in other words, it must be about whom to make King of the next era.
The throne of Zchted was not particularly different from that of other countries. It was hereditary and gave priority to the eldest son. In addition, the nomination by the King gave priority to inheritance. Though women were also given the rights to the throne, even thinking about the fact that there was no queen so far, it could be said that the hope was very small.
First in the line of succession to the throne. Prince Ruslan who was the King’s son suffered from heart disease a few years ago. He set fire to the royal villa which was on the outskirts of the royal palace. What the palace guards who noticed smoke and rushed saw was the prince’s figure holding a torch in the background of the royal villa wrapped in fire.
Several days later, the prince was confined to a certain shrine under the pretext of medical treatment of his disease. He was not deprived of the rights of succession to the throne because his father clung to the hope that he might recover some day.
About the cause of his heart disease, nothing was yet clarified. It was said that it was because he lost the woman who loved him by illness, but there were also up to rumors such as he encountered a case to the extent of suffering from heart disease in state affairs, or he was poisoned by someone, or when he did something bad, he was possessed by an evil spirit, and the like.
The prince, even before suffering from heart disease, was knowledgeable about both political and military affairs, and even the chief vassals were relieved with the thought “if this person becomes the King of the next area”.
The second in line of succession to the throne was Prince Ruslan’s son, who was also King Victor’s grandchild. Though he was still nine, there was no doubt that he was King Victor’s direct descendant.
This boy was living in one room of the royal palace, and it was said that he was leading a life close to confinement. Because of Prince Ruslan’s matter, this boy had not come out in public.
The third in line of succession to the throne was the husband of King Victor’s eldest daughter. The eldest daughter’s rights to the throne were given to her husband by marriage. However, this husband became blind due to an accident several years ago. Though he could lead a daily life thanks to the devoted support of his wife and daughter, it was probably impossible for him to rule a country.
The fourth in line of succession to the throne was the daughter of the King’s daughter and her husband. However, she was 11 years old this year, thus too young to be thought as the next King.
The fifth in line of succession to the throne was King Victor’s younger brother. It was Ilda’s father and also Eugene’s father-in-law. He was six years younger than his older brother, that’s 55 years old. He suffered an injury to the waist and he spent around half of the day in bed. Other than that, he was healthy in general, but it would be tough for him to stand at the front line of political affairs.
The sixth in line of succession to the throne was King Victor’s younger sister. She had married twice so far, but because she was bereaved those two times, the rights to the throne returned to her. She has no child.
King Victor who sympathized with his younger sister recommended her a remarriage several times, but she declined them all and calmly lived in Osterode where her second husband was born and raised. Osterode is the land located in northeast and governed by the Vanadis Valentina Glinka Estes.
Both Ilda and Eugene knew of the aforementioned circumstances.
Then, Ilda was seventh in the line of succession. And Eugene eighth.
It would be fair to say that those two were currently the closest to the throne.
Victor called the name of the thin man in his mid-forties.
“I nominate you as the next King.”
A shock soundlessly ran within the room. King Victor did not choose Ilda, but Eugene as the next King.
“…Your Majesty. With all due respect, please can you explain your decision?”
Breaking the silence after little less than ten seconds, Eugene opened his mouth. Even for him, who would not be perturbed by ordinary things, it was not easy to regain his presence of mind for the sudden change of fate which suddenly came.
King Victor shortly asked back with a speed as he anticipated his question.
“Do you have any objection?”
“Far from it. It is just that I do not have the blood of the royal family.”
“Your wife is my niece. And her daughter has inherited the royal family’s blood.”
“Your Majesty. Please, could you allow me to hear only a part of what made you arrive at this decision? Because this body is incompetent, I am just confused about how I should answer.”
While Eugene stated repeatedly, Ilda who was next to him remained silent without the slightest movement. After an interval of about two breaths, Victor said.
“Earl Pardu. You have enacted the duty of negotiations with Brune for nearly ten years, right? I made my decision based on it.”
It was the time when Eugene worked as King Victor’s close aide.
Though he was still 20 at that time, he was a man who was not daunted even before the King. That attitude did not change even when the other party was from another country; his quiet, yet pushy behavior and his stance, which was resolute and would not back down if necessary, were also highly evaluated by Brune.
Due to the tenacious and steady diplomatic negotiations of Eugene, Zchted was able to conclude some contracts including a non-aggression treaty with Brune.
Afterwards, even if small confrontations and quarrels occurred with Brune, the messengers of both countries kept in touch and they were finally able to settle them through negotiations.
Until the battle of Dinant where Tigre and Ellen met for the first time, both countries substantially gathered soldiers and battles of scale on which they crossed swords did not occur.
The fact that King Victor nominated Eugene as the next King meant that he sought friendship with Brune, and it was also to show Zchted’s policy in the future. Though Ilda was a man who had influence in the northern part of Zchted, he had never gone to Brune.
Eugene was making a face showing that he could not yet understand, but as expected even he could not inquire any further to the King. It was a talk different from advice.
“I do not say that you should wear the crown and sit on the throne tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. It is for when I will no longer be of this world. Though it is not so far, I guess.”
“So, that day does not come quickly, I shall exert myself much more.”
And then, King Victor finally looked at Ilda.
“Lord Bydgauche, I ask for your assistance. On the occasion when Earl Pardu will become King, please support him.”
Ilda calmly bowed his head.
However, his fists were strongly grasped at an angle not visible to the King, and he was faintly trembling.
Why, he was repeatedly shouting so many times in his mind.
It would be a lie if one was to say that Ilda had not thought about the throne until now. He was the child of the King’s younger brother, young in his thirties; he excelled in military arts and was also blessed with the ability as a ruler. He also knew of the tragedy which attacked Prince Ruslan.
And, he had never once thought of Eugene as a rival.
It was not that he was looking down on him. He heard about the fact that Eugene gave advice without flinching even if the other party was the King, and he had even thought that he should follow his example.
However, Ilda was seventh in line to the throne. And Eugene was eighth.
Even if there was no difference in the ability as ruler, compared to Eugene who was 40, Ilda was 30. In addition, a lot of people acknowledged that Ilda excelled in bravery. As for Eugene’s achievements from nearly twenty years ago, there was only the non-aggression pact conclusion with Brune.
Ilda’s position in succession to the throne was above, he had a future and he also had ability in military arts and had a lot of achievements. Above all, although favored by the King, it was public knowledge that Eugene had no ambition.
Ilda had no reason to have a competitive spirit towards him, and he also had no reason to be wary of him.
It was that great a shock.
It was as if he was struck by thunder. He would have still been able to suppress his surprise if another person’s name such as one of the King’s grandchildren arose.
Why, the inner voice which asked so did not disappear within Ilda, and rather increased in size. Why was it not him? Why was it Eugene?
Between Ilda and Eugene, there was no discord whatsoever.
Since there was a kinfolk’s relation, he naturally knew the other party’s face and name. However, Ilda was estranged with his little sister, and did not even try to assertively have an interaction with her.
Each other’s sphere of influence did not also overlap at all. Bydgauche which was governed by Ilda was in the northern part of Zchted, and his activities also centered on the north.
In contrast to this, Pardu governed by Eugene was in the southern part of Zchted. And, Eugene even rarely visited the Capital in consideration for the King.
If their spheres of influence were different, there would also be rarely interest conflicts. And thus, no discord could be born.
However, now Ilda was strongly conscious of Eugene for the first time.
“I think that both of you understand, but this is confidential. I will look for an occasion to announce it. Right, it can even be at the next MaslenitsaSun Festival.”
The MaslenitsaSun Festival was celebrated from the end of winter to the coming of spring, and it was a festival held in Zchted since ancient times.
Coming with the spring arrival, the Capital was crowded with many people.
Local feudal lords and nobles of the surrounding countries who came to greet the King, those who came over all the way from towns and villages to enjoy the festival, mercenaries in search of contracts on which they could earn monry, trade merchants and minstrels who set their eyes on them, the clowns and the like showed up, and it was said that during the festival, even the night became as bright as the daytime.
If the King were to announce the next King at such a place, the effects would be immeasurable. Eugene’s name would instantly be known to the surroundings countries. And, the King’s words also meant that the necessary preparations, also including the mental attitude by the MaslenitsaSun Festival, would be finished.
When that time came, Eugene would part from the mansion and the territory in which he was used to living and would move to the Capital. He would have to pack up his loads and look for a person to whom he would leave the territory to after leaving.
Ilda, similarly to Eugene, would also live in the Capital depending on the situation.
Like that, the audience in the office ended.
As he left from the office, sweat suddenly trickled from Ilda’s face. He was stifling and his body was hot. Blood was also rushing to his head. Like when one gulped down strong vodka in one go.
Probably because he noticed that Ilda was strange, Eugene called out to him as he was worried. When Ilda turned towards Eugene in slow movement, while wiping the sweat on his face with his hand, he said with a smile.
“Earl Pardu. My sincere congratulations. I was surprised when His Majesty nominated you, but the throne would certainly be suitable to you.”
“Thank you, Duke Bydgauche.”
Eugene deeply bowed his head without destroying his placid expression.
“Because I have been away from the royal palace for a long time, I hope that you will help me as much as possible.”
“Yes. It's also an order from His Majesty. I will support you with all my power” While answering, Ilda could not help but feel the hypocrisy in his own words.
The strange feeling which was not there before entering the office was lurking between the two men.
Ilda who parted with Eugene before the office was silently walking down the corridor.
He understood that he was irritated. He wanted to leave this palace as soon as possible.
From the unusual atmosphere, even those who knew him seemed hesitant to readily call out to him. If King Victor saw this scene, he might evaluate it was no use since he put out such attitude.
Why was it Eugene? And not him?
--- Earl Pardu is His Majesty’s favorite. However, His Majesty would never choose him only based on it, either. Although he highly evaluated his negotiations with Brune, that was twenty years ago…
He suddenly recalled the existence of the youth named Tigrevurmud Vorn whom he heard about from the Grand Chamberlain. Due to the fact that the hero, who ended Brune’s civil war, died by a blunder of Zchted, let alone their relationship growing worse, it would not be strange even if they were warring.
---However, Brune is exhausted from the previous civil war, and I have heard that the influential feudal lords also fell. Is there a need to consider up to there?
In fact, Ilda had not have much knowledge regarding Brune. He immediately came to a dead end.
---About Brune and Earl Vorn, it would be better to ask someone well-informed in the near future. Besides, the reason may not necessarily be limited to Brune.
Ilda worked out his thoughts. For example, might he not have some faults?
What immediately came to his mind was the matter with the barbarian subjugation of this time. Ilda who was proud of his military prowess had been forced into a hard fight; not only had he spent more days than expected, he also took substantial damage. It might be thought that a shadow arose to his military prowess.
He came out of the corridor. The walls in which ornaments were given continued on the left side, but there was no walls on the right side; the pillars stood in a row at equal intervals and one could enjoy the outside scenery.
At the time that he entered the royal palace, the sun should not have yet reached its zenith; but now it was passing it zenith. The clear blue sky was irritating.
“Ara, if is not the Duke.”
Suddenly, a cheerful woman’s voice sounded from behind, and Ilda stopped. When he looked back, a beautiful woman around 20 years old was standing. Ilda knew her.
“Vanadis-dono, huh. To think we would meet in such a place.”
The woman called Vanadis-dono bowed with a smile. Her bluish black hair which reached her waist and her pure white dress which treated red and purple roses everywhere gave off a neat and clean impression.
Those who looked at her would first leak a sigh of admiration before her beauty and graceful appearance, and then shift their attention to her long-handled scythe carried on her delicate shoulder.
It was because this jet back and deep crimson scythe seemed to mysteriously adapt itself without discomfort that their attention did not face there at the very beginning.
However, it might also be natural. After all, this scythe was a ViraltDragonic Tool for Vanadis.
Her name was Valentina Glinka Estes. She was the Vanadis with the nickname “ShervidIllusory Princess of the Hollow Shadow”.
Though there were seven Vanadis in Zchted, Ilda was only close to her, who governed Osterode in the northeast and Elizavetta.
“It has been a long time. I did not think that I would see the Duke in the royal palace.”
“I do think that I come to the royal palace much more than you though. How is condition of your body, good?”
Ilda had heard that Valentina had a weak body and thus rarely went out from Osterode which she governed. Actually, it had been a while that he met Valentina in the royal palace.
“I like Osterode, but the Capital is warmer at this time.”
As Valentina replied with a carefree smile, she knitted her brows as she noticed something. Stepping about a half step forward, she looked up at Ilda with a worried face.
“You, too, Duke, you do not seem to feel well, but… did something happen?”
The innocent girl who knew nothing was purely worried about the person in front of her. In Valentina’s gesture and expression at this time, there was something which made the other party think so.
Ilda was embarrassed to give an immediate reply. He understood that it was confidential. However, there was definitely the conflict of wanting someone to hear him out.
“No, it's not a big deal.”
However, Ilda hid his inner thoughts and shook his head with a smile.
“After going to greet His Majesty, I hear that he caught a cold. He said that his condition has improved now, but as one who was told, as expected the liver got cold.”
Valentina stared in wonder and raised a small voice saying “oh my”.
“When I also gave my greetings to His Majesty, I was surprised to observe the same thing.”
“It was hard for both of us.”
At the black-haired Vanadis’ reaction, Ilda unintentionally burst into laughter. And then, he remembered that she also had the rights of succession to the throne. By having laughed, a part of his thinking which was curdling might have been untied.
“Vanadis-dono. Have you not heard anything from His Majesty?”
Was it because that question was too abstract? Valentina bent her head slightly to the side as to say that she did not understand. Was she not told because her rights of succession to the throne were too low? Or was that after all only told only to Eugene and him?
Valentina suddenly muttered. In a voice small enough to be called a whisper.
“Was it about something along the line… \who will succeed the ‘wolf’?”
Ilda was startled, and unintentionally ran his gaze around. Other than them, there were only imperial guards in the grand corridor of the royal palace. They were also carrying through standing at attention without leaving their posts.
Partly because Valentina lowered her voice, there was probably no one who heard what she said.
The “Volk” in the name of Victor Arthur Volk Estes Tsar Zchted was a word meaning “wolf” and was a nickname which the late King gave to his son.
It was due to a certain old custom of Zchted that the King gave the name of a beast as the Prince’s nickname. By the way, in case of the princess, there were many cases where the name of a flower was given to her.
The one who would succeed the wolf. In other words, the one who would succeed Victor. It was about the next King. Judging from her tone hesitating about the surroundings, there was no doubt that Valentina knew.
“…I will ask just to be sure, but from whom did you hear it?”
“From His Majesty. He said that it was confidential, but it looked like he told it to some other people after all.”
Ilda agreed by saying “that is also right”. If he had really spoken only to Eugene and him, then the government would not just get confused. He should have told this to those near the center of the Kingdom.
He could only think of something of that level, and he himself had probably not yet recovered from the shock.
“By the way, Duke. I will change the topic, but...”
As she withdrew half a step which widened the distance, Valentina broadly smiled.
“I received vodka from an acquaintance of mine. How about it? Why do you not come to my mansion tonight? I hope to talk with you after such a long time.”
Even excluding talks about the throne, it was a happy invitation for Ilda. This was because strong drinks were his favorites, and several months had passed since he met Valentina.
“Then, after a half koku, may I visit you before the day sets?”
Thinking from each other’s position, Ilda suggested so. The day had just slightly passed. Even if she sent a messenger to the mansion now to make preparation to welcome Ilda, There was enough time.
Besides, if a single young man visited a single woman at night, who knows what kind of backbiting gossipy people would be engaged in.
“Understood. I will wait for you, Duke.”
As he parted with Valentina, Ilda once again walked down the corridor. His face became a bit brighter.
In an area where the residences of nobles gathered, there was Valentina’s mansion.
The mortar plastered to the walls was brand-new white, the brown roof tinged with black did not get dirty; one could understand that it was carefully maintained. But the mansion itself was small and the decoration was also old-fashioned. The garden was also snugly made and it even looked like it was hidden by other towering mansions in the surroundings.
In fact, since the place where Valentina should originally be was Osterode, this was enough.
Besides, there was not many Vanadis who had a mansion in the Capital. When Ellen and Mira stayed in the Capital for a long time, either they would borrow a room in the royal palace or they would use hotels available for royalty, titled nobility, and wealthy merchants.
As Ilda said himself, he visited when the blue of the sky darkened. Valentina personally came out to receive him. She guided him to the drawing room.
The fire was already lit in the fireplace of the room, and the room was sufficiently warm. There were two big sofas and a small round table put between them.
Though the curtains were two layers with white and black, Ilda quietly split a smile at the fact that embroidery of roses was applied on either of them.
A bottle of vodka, silver cups and two plates were put on the table. Fruit was served on one side, and on the other side, there were cheese and thinly sliced bread.
Waiting for Ilda to sit down on the sofa, Valentina poured the vodka into the silver cups with her own hands. And then, she herself sat down on the sofa, too.
“Speaking of which, I heard that you safely ended the barbarian subjugation. Congratulations.”
Valentina said so and raised her silver cup. While Ilda smiled wryly, he also raised his silver cup with the same timing as her. He did not think to be not proud of his military gains, but he was not so tactless as to voice it out in a place like this.
Ilda who put the silver cup on his mouth opened his eyes wide. He'd drank various things so far, but this was quite a first-class drink.
Transparent (clear) like a clear stream, it went through his throat with almost no bitterness. His body was warmed from within and his mood rose.
Fatigue of the journey to the Capital seemed to disappear with the heat emitted.
“I am glad that it is to your liking.”
Valentina broadly smiled. She had already put her silver cup on the table and picked up an apple.
“Please, drink without reservation.”
As he was told so, Ilda drank one cup after another. While occasionally gnawing cheese, he amused himself with friendly chat with Valentina.
Ilda talked about the barbarian subjugation, the events which occurred in his territory and the gossip which he heard from the minstrels, and Valentina, while also talking about what she experienced in the Capital and her territory Osterode, basically took the listener’s role. Ilda thought that she was a good listener as usual.
Duke Bydgauche did not feel boredom. The black-haired Vanadis asked questions such as “Duke, how did you do afterwards?” at the key points of the talk, and kept drawing out words from Ilda. Valentina devoted herself to the listener’s role before one knew and was hardly talking.
As he would be thirsty when he talked too much, he piled up more wine cups. Ilda was slowly drinking the vodka in order to savor it, but after about a half koku had passed, the vodka in the bottle had decreased to less than half.
“––Speaking of which.”
In the place where Ilda’s talk was interrupted, Valentina asked as if she recalled.
“What do you think about the royal palace, Duke?”
At the term “royal palace”, Ilda recalled earlier in the daytime. If he was composed, he might have asked her to be clear regarding her vague question.
However, his thinking which was muddled by the vodka immediately ended up bringing about words and memory. Although his consciousness as a vassal immediately recalled the words “this is confidential”, he reconsidered that Valentina also knew. He answered with a slightly violent tone.
“It is an order of His Majesty. That I shall support Earl Pardu… No, King Eugene as his first retainer. Right, I must get used to that way of calling him from now on.”
Anyone who worked in the royal palace knew the order of rights to the throne. When Eugene would sit on the throne, Ilda who was once above him (in rank to the succession) would rather have to take the initiative and go down on his knee.
“So, the Duke will serve as the next King’s “uncle”. Speaking of the King’s uncle, I remember “Efram and Ivan”.”
With an air as if not noticing at all Ilda’s distress, Valentina spoke of the title of a fairy tale. “Efram and Ivan” was a fairy tale retold in Zchted since ancient times.
The wise Prince Efram who was driven out of the royal palace by the hateful Grand Chamberlain Ivan defeated him (Ivan) with the cooperation of an uncle secluded in the depths of the forest and made a triumphant return to the royal palace. Afterwards, the uncle became the Grand Chamberlain and devoted himself to Efram’s reign.
It was said that there were more than 50 ways of narrating “Efram and Ivan” in Zchted. Probably because the plot line was very simple, the minstrels added dramatizations and exaggerations on a whim, and thus each region had its own version of “Efram and Ivan”.
In a certain region, it was something like: Efram was not driven out, but he rather left for a journey looking for a woman who would become his wife. In another region, it was a plotline where all was the uncle’s scheme and the Grand Chamberlain Ivan was in reality a good person.
It was also said that Efram’s story was a dream of one night of a villager named Efram.
“––“Efram and Ivan”, huh. How nostalgic.”
Though Ilda laughed, he could not be quite calm inwardly.
---It was probably out of kindness that Vanadis-dono mentioned “Efram and Ivan”.
Ilda also knew about “Efram and Ivan” since the tale was also transmitted in Bydgauche which he governed. In the so-called Bydgauche version, Efram’s brother-in-law appeared instead of the uncle. He was the older brother of Efram’s wife.
Efram and his brother-in-law opposed each other whenever there was something and sometimes crossed swords, but every time Efram’s wife remonstrated both of them, they reconciled and reluctantly re-sheathed their swords.
“It can’t be helped since it’s you who asked it. Even such a man is important to you, I guess.”
Both Efram and his brother-in-law spoke word by word exactly the identical lines.
The conclusion was the same as other stories. The two men joined forces and won, and the brother-in-law became the Grand Chamberlain.
Ilda had heard that Valentina had a weak body since she was child, so she was confined in her mansion and was absorbed in reading various stories. She must have daringly given that name surely because she knew the contents of the Bydgauche version.
---But, my younger sister and I haven’t the same relations as the uncle and the younger sister in that story.
Valentina did not probably know up to that extent. No wonder. Unless they were very close or he did not say very dangerous things, he would not tell her about their relations between siblings.
He unintentionally spoke his inner thoughts. Why did he have to go down on his knee before Eugene?
Even though he should be the one to sit on the throne. Where on Earth was he inferior to Eugene?
A very kind voice struck Ilda’s earlobe. It was Valentina’s voice.
“Why don’t you try to trust Earl Pardu for the time being?”
Within the dim light, the black-haired Vanadis smiled.
“I understand your feelings, Duke. His Majesty would not hand over the throne to Earl Pardu with only the reason being that he was his close aide before. Disregarding the order of rights to the throne, the individual achievements, anything and everything.”
“…I also considered such a thing.”
“There are only the Duke and I in this room. Neither His Majesty nor Earl Pardu are there.”
Ilda’s weak rebuttal disappeared in the warmed atmosphere.
“But, maybe, there is a thought which does not depend on His Majesty himself and he hands over the throne to Earl Pardu.”
Valentina’s words were accurately expressing word for word Ilda’s innermost thoughts.
Ilda, as a retainer of the King, wanted to consent.
If there was such a reason, he would also understand why not him, but Eugene was chosen as King. Although it was possible to think so, he wanted it.
“I think there might be that. I also do not understand though.”
Discouragement and disappointment spread through Ilda’s heart. Valentina continued.
“So, how about trusting him?”
The consciousness of Ilda who was absentminded due to the vodka took about three seconds and somehow recalled Valentina’s words from a little while ago.
“…Hmm. You are right.”
Although a relation between brother-in-law and younger brother-in-law, there was no interchange which seemed like interchange until now. Ilda knew both Eugene’s face and name. He also knew about the fact that he had served as the King’s close aide, and that he was not hesitant when giving advice.
However, He only knew that.
If he were to trust him and interacted more with him, he might find the reason which could make him content.
“It is as Vanadis-dono said. Aside from strong drinks, it seems that I have a precious thing.”
Exhaling a hot breath mixed with alcohol, Ilda muttered so.
Then after a half koku, Ilda left Valentina’s mansion when the sky was covered with a very dim light. With his attendant, he headed towards his mansion. Though the ill feeling did not naturally disappear, he had felt inclined to consider her words positively.
It was at noon of the next day when she treated Ilda to vodka that Valentina sent a messenger to Eugene’s mansion in the Capital. The messenger of the black-haired Vanadis, though brief, conveyed his lord’s words after expressing his greetings according to the etiquette.
“I have heard that it is extremely rare that His Excellency Earl Pardu shows up in the Capital. I assume that you are busy, but can you allow me at least to greet you?”
Though Eugene was acquainted with Valentina, they had almost never spoken. This was because there was no opportunities of which to interact with her, who governed Osterode to the northeast. That said, since there was no discord between them, he had no reason to decline. Besides, he thought that it might be recreational.
Actually, Eugene intended to return to his territory Pardu as soon as he finished the audience to the King. He had also gathered up the baggage on the day when he arrived at the Capital.
However, the words conveyed by the King were far beyond his expectations.
Therefore, he changed his schedule and had thought to stay another several days in the Capital and put his thoughts in order. He gave several silver coins to the only attendant who accompanied him and told him that he could even do some Capital sightseeing.
The attendant also guessed that his master was given a mission which he could not tell him. As he obediently received the silver coins, he said that he would be back before the day got dark and left the mansion.
As such, with no plan to meet someone, he thought to walk along the Capital’s main street. Valentina’s visit was right after he left.
“Understood. If it is fine with you, let’s meet today when the day has gotten dark.”
Then, when the evening came, Valentina Glinka Estes wearing a pure white dress decorated with roses visited Eugene’s mansion. She left her ViraltDragonic Tool Ezendeis to an attendant as she went through the mansion’s gate.
“It has been a while. Earl Pardu.”
Exchanging simple greetings, Eugene led Valentina to the drawing room.
They began to discuss the King’s condition, and then followed with talks about the territories which each of them governed. As the atmosphere became friendly, Valentina suddenly changed the topic.
“By the way, I am worried whether or not I may say it in such a place, but… since pretending not to know would be rather rude, I wish to congratulate you. Really, congratulations on the matter of succession to the throne.”
The gray-haired Earl openly frowned. Because his usual expression was calm, when he made such a face, there was enough strength to make those who saw it flinch. To Valentina which returned a wink as surprised, Eugene asked in an unusually harsh voice.
“Where did you hear about that?”
Though Valentina held her tongue with a startled face, she soon broke the silence and answered.
“…From Duke Bydgauche.”
Eugene’s expression grew in severity. He inwardly resented him.
---Didn’t His Majesty say that this was confidential?
“Valentina-dono. This is said to be confidential. I should assume that you did not talk about it with other people such as the attendants and maids who serve you.”
Valentina nodded her head with a depressed expression.
“I am sorry.”
“…No, if it is only you knowing, then I do not mind.”
Eugene consented by saying “I see”. As for Valentina, since she got to know, it was natural to think that she should give her greetings. Otherwise, as she said, it might rather be taken as disrespect.
“You knew that I would become King, but did not come for greetings even though you were in the Capital at this time, huh.”
If it was cross-examined so by Eugene later, an excuse would no longer stand. Though unreasonable, it was frightening since it was acceptable.
---Throne. Power. His Majesty held it well so far…
While massaging his own forehead with a finger, Eugene sighed. He, who had been King Victor’s close aide, had seen the power of a King immediately nearby. But at the same time, he had also seen the hardships, troubles and despair of a King.
He had no intention to pity Victor. However, he only decided at least to say what needed to be said and served him. At that time, Victor was not married, and he had also lost his parents.
Though King Victor was slightly quick-tempered and irascible on that subject, Eugene sincerely took the trouble to deal with it when he judged that he should lend him an ear.
He thought that it was worth serving him. He kept advising him.
Afterwards, he was really appreciated. When he was recommended the marriage, he was very surprised. Although he gladly accepted it, he thought that he could no longer serve as an aide. This was because it might be thought that the existence of his wife who was from the royal family would give influence to Eugene’s advices.
Eugene was afraid of becoming ‘a maternal relative who wielded power’. As King Victor surmised that thought of Eugene, he gave him a title and a territory.
And, now. King Victor was going to give something enough to overshadow what he once gave to Eugene.
The crown, the throne and the whole land of the country called Zchted.
Eugene thought that he could not refuse it. This was not because it was the King’s order.
Victor thought that if it was Eugene, he would value these; and thus he handed it over to him. Like when he gave him a wife, a title and a territory before. He could not ignore those feelings.
---But, Duke Bydgauche does not seem to appreciate.
While looking at Valentina who looked apologetic, Eugene felt bitter.
However, those feelings of Eugene stopped in an unexpected form (way). Valentina opened her mouth with a resolved face.
“Um, Earl. With all due respect, there is something I want to say.”
What Valentina asserted was that Ilda did not say it clearly. That she had just guessed when he spoke ambiguously.
“Duke Bydgauche-sama did not disobey His Majesty’s order which said it was confidential.”
Speaking of which, Eugene remembered. Valentina, as her name and family name showed, was from a branch family to the royal family. Which meant that her knowledge was more abundant than other people.
If so, then it could be not helped even if she noticed it.
Valentina vehemently argued more.
“Besides, the Duke was awfully disappointed… I thought to comfort him by at least hearing his story.”
Now that she mentioned it, even Eugene could not remain angry at him. After all, Eugene himself repeatedly tried to find out why it was not Ilda, but him who was chosen as the next King. Since it was even so for him, the degree of disappointment and indignation was probably stronger for Ilda.
“Earl. If possible, would you talk at once with the Duke?”
“With Duke Bydgauche?”
Even without Valentina saying it, Eugene planned to arrange an opportunity to talk with only the two of them, but he was urged ahead before her sincere look.
“At the same time that the Duke was disappointed, he felt uneasy about the danger of his position. About the fact that he would become the King’s brother-in-law.”
Eugene was not disgusted by Ilda, but rather he could not help but feel sympathy towards him. The King’s maternal relative who could wield power if things went well, but one wrong move and you would be regarded as dangerous and immediately judged. That was the position in which he was put in the future.
“Thank you, Vanadis-dono. By the way, do you know what Lord Bydgauche likes?”
“If we speak about the Duke’s tastes, I would say strong drinks (vodka).”
Valentina explained as much as possible about Ilda’s tastes, and proposed Eugene about how he should send a strong drink before they met and spoke. She said that it was better for Eugene to meet Ilda after his anxiety and wariness had decreased to some extent.
Eugene also nodded to this and said that he would do so.
Afterwards, the two talked about various things, and Valentina left Eugene’s mansion before the night came.
Ten days had passed since Urz became a stable boy in the Imperial Palace of Lebus.
From the early morning before even the sun had risen, Urz got up and left the bed while shaking his body in the drifting cold air within the lodgings. His breath was white. However, he woke up thanks to that.
Until his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, he desperately rubbed his body to warm it up, and he came out of the lodgings almost fumbling. This was because there was almost no light.
When he went out, the sky was still dark. After washing his face in a well near the lodgings, he headed to the stable. He met other stablemen there.
As he said so, a short answer “yeah” came. On the first day, they were only looking at him with suspicious eyes and could not even greet him, but recently, they finally began to reply to his greetings.
He even headed to the stable with a companion. It was stinking as usual early in the morning, but as getting used to it was awful, Urz hardly worried about it.
As usual, he began to deal with the horse dung and urine. He scooped them with a special plow and carried them to a specified place. Then, he cleaned the stable, replaced the water and carried out food.
Urz had adapted on his daily life as a stable boy.
In fact, it did not happen just by getting used to it. For example, it was about the time when he fed the horses for the first time, being asked by the stableman head. As if his body remembered, he was able to do it with natural hand movements. He also knew how to handle the stirrups and saddles before being taught.
---It seemed that the me before losing my memory was taking care of horses.
In the fishing village where he was found, it was also like so the first time when he touched a bow. Urz recalled a nostalgic feeling by various works in the stable.
---Though I don’t know why I was made a stable boy…
Both the lodging and the meals were guaranteed. He even got paid. Though even now, Urz thought that all of that was great, he came to think that he would work here for a while.
Found in that fishing village, even when he understood that he could remember nothing, Urz not feeling that much anxious, optimistically took the stance “I will somehow manage it”. The villagers were very amazed when he said so.
As that stance did not change even when he became a stable boy, he even came to think that either the him before losing his memory probably had quite a carefree character, or his instinct might have realized that it was dangerous to move randomly.
As he finished all his work, Urz returned to the lodging with his companion stablemen. It was to have breakfast.
When he passed through the door of the lodging, he passed by one of the stablemen. It was a man two or three years older than Urz. As he saw Urz’s face, he floated a nasty smile.
“Hey, Urz. I heard that you were taken over by Vanadis-sama, is it true?”
“Yes. That's right.”
Not even thinking to hide it, Urz honestly answered. The next moment, the smile disappeared from the stableman’s expression and his face was dyed with surprise. After the man glanced at Urz with unpleasant eyes, he snorted and walked away. Urz saw off the stableman’s back with an absentminded face.
“What was that…?”
Although Urz was dubious about the stableman’s sudden change of attitude, he was very hungry due to the fact that he woke up early in the morning and worked. Rather than running after him and hearing him out, he gave priority to breakfast.
As he finished the breakfast of hard bread of rye and soup which cooked together potato and cabbage, he had to start his next assignment immediately.
Then, it was about when the day would soon grow dark that Urz returned to the lodging. He dragged his body tired from work and headed to his room.
Although his room, of course it was not a private room. It was a room used by four people. Each bed was put in one of the four corners of the room which was not that much wide, and there was a little space in the center. Each person had all his personal belongings put on his bed and it had been decided that one must not use another person’s bed selfishly (without his permission?).
Urz had no personal belongings. If one had to say, when it was decided that he would work as stable boy, he was provided two clothes, two pieces of thick blankets and one stiff pillow. Of course, all of those were put on his bed.
When he opened the door and entered the room, Urz opened his eyes wide in surprise.
In the empty room, his bed was turned upside down. His clothes and blankets were thrown out on the floor, and the clothes were torn to shreds. The pillow as well.
“What, is this…?”
Only those words came out as he thought that that was too much. It was too mean to call it a prank. Nothing was done to the beds of the other three people, so it was obvious that the one who did it aimed at Urz.
As he remained standing in utter amazement, footsteps were approaching. Mark, a stable boy who used the same room came back as he finished his work.
Though Mark was 17 years old, he was so short that one would think he was two years younger, he had a pale skin and his limbs were also thin. More than physical works, he was good at works which asked for the dexterity of hands such as the mending of harness; among the people using this shared room, he was the friendliest to Urz.
Though Mark put on a wondering face when he saw Urz’s attitude, he looked into the room and understood immediately.
“Do you know who did this?”
Urz who recovered from stupor, asked Mark without being able to hide his irritation. But, Mark looked at Urz with a sidelong glance and shook his head.
“You should give up on searching the culprit.”
“Because you won’t find him.”
As Mark entered the room, he put his hand on Urz’s bed.
Being said so, Urz approached his bed with slow steps. The two returned the bed which was turned upside down. To Urz who fixedly stared at the clothes and blankets which he picked up, the stable boy of small stature turned a sympathetic look.
“It seems that you were picked up by the current Vanadis. It had been secretly talked about between everyone.”
Urz raised his flipped bed and looked at Mark. There was a small window in the room, and the vermillion evening sun came in from there. Its light made a mysterious shadow on his face.
“In short, it’s something like that. Because there had never been a precedent where the current Vanadis made someone directly work in the Imperial Palace. And, I don’t know whether or not you noticed yourself, but you have good skills at work. You have never been called by the head, right?”
The head here referred to that unsociable stableman head. As the puzzled Urz nodded, Mark shrugged his shoulders and smiled wryly.
“That person doesn’t scold anyone in presence of others. After the work of the day is over, he would call him to his room and make a short sermon. Among the stablemen who are in this stable, there is no one who wasn't yet called since the beginning of work within a few days. Except you.” <
Now that he said it, certainly Urz had never seen a scene where the stableman head scolded someone. He selfishly thought that he was a person who did not get that much angry, but it seemed that he was wrong.
In other words, this meant that this treatment was out of jealousy. Urz strongly chewed his molars and tightly grasped the blankets and clothes which he held. It was too much irrational. To Mark who sat down on his bed, Urz asked in an unbearable thought.
“What should I do?”
“Consult with the stableman head. I’m sorry, but I can’t be of help.”
What was returned was a clearly and very distant answer of someone apparently wanting to avoid getting involved. He even thought that the ten days after he became a stable boy were denied.
---I guess there’s no helping it.
Urz inwardly sighed. As he once again confirmed the damage which he received, it was natural to think of not wanting to be involved. Besides, putting it another way, after Urz began to work as stable boy, only ten days had passed.
---However, I don’t think that I can let it be.
Urz calmly began to think about a method of counterattack.
Several days passed since the day when he first received harassment. It continued as usual.
This morning, an insect was put in his soup. He finished the early morning work and was called by the stableman head in as he was on his way to take his meal, and it was a mistake to have left the dining room in such a short amount of time.
Because he was annoyed, he drank up the soup after throwing away the insect.
He had already consulted with the stableman head. Although the latter apologized that his management was not thorough, even he did not seem to come up with a solution. He called each stableman and interrogated, but the culprit was not yet found.
While Urz held down his anger within, outwardly, he was indifferently handling his work. He did not know whether or not he could say that it was fortunate, but there was no harassment related to his work at all.
---It’s probably because they would easily be caught by the stableman head.
About this work, the stableman head exactly grasped when and where everyone was. If one were to get away from where he worked, it was more likely to be found.
Urz finished the unpleasant breakfast and returned to the stable, but he was shortly called by the stableman head. He hurried to the lodging while thinking “what may it be?”. When he arrived at the lodging, the stableman head and Mark were standing there.
“Go shopping with Mark today.”
They went to buy necessary things in the town. Mark went with him because if Urz was to go alone, he knew neither the way nor the location of the shops.
Like that, as he confirmed the contents of the shopping to Mark, the stableman head walked away to the stable. Only Urz and Mark were left after.
“Then, shall we go?”
Mark timidly said. After the harassment to Urz started, he did not talk very much with Mark. Thus, Mark was feeling guilty and Urz, on the other hand, was thinking that it would be better that if he was not getting him involved.
Probably for that reason, Mark shook his shoulders startled as Urz called out to him. While Urz smile wryly, he continued his words.
“Can I ask you a favor?”
Three stablemen set foot in the room, which Urz used, in the afternoon. They hurriedly came back at the break of the interval of work.
“That guy went shopping, right?”
“Yes. I confirmed that he left the ranch. What do we do today? Do we throw away the bed?”
One person asked his friend with a nasty smile.
“We will use this today.”
While another one pinched his nose with his left hand, he raised the bag which he held in his right hand. The other two understood what the contents of the bag were with the smell. It was the horse dung. He probably prepared it during his work.
“I will rub this. So that the smell won’t go even if he washes.”
After looking around just in case and checking whether or not there was anyone watching, the three people entered the room used by Urz. They immediately knew which Urz’s bed was. Though there were personal belongings on the other stablemen’s beds, there were none on Urz’s.
When they threw out the horse dung onto his bed and blanket, they came out to the corridor with satisfied faces.
However, it was only so far that they could exult.
“––Have you already finished?”
Urz was standing in front of them. The three people’s faces completely changed to fright, and they remained standing stock still.
“Y-You didn’t go shopping…”
One of the three spoke up to there while his voice was shaking, but he swallowed his words as he noticed something. Urz calmly answered.
“Yeah. I dropped it.”
During the day before yesterday, Urz asked the stableman head. To make him do something which would make him go outside in a very natural way, several days later.
The reason why he daringly put it during the day was to catch the culprit(s) red handed. Since he was harassed, Urz thought that there was the possibility that he was watched.
Even if he went shopping for today, he would go outside the ranch with Mark, and when he confirmed that there were no people following them, he left the shopping to Mark and hurriedly returned to the lodging. And, he ambushed them in the shade of the corridor.
Although the stable boys also checked up to the fact that Urz left the ranch, they could do no more than that. This was because they would definitely be found if they were too far away from their workplace.
“Did you also hide there more than two koku?”
One of the stable boys panted. It was not that it was difficult to hide, but hiding oneself without moving for two koku was not something one could easily do.
However, Urz also responded to this as if it was nothing.
“It’s far easier compared to an ambush when hunting. There is also neither obstructive grass, nor insects and snakes…”
Stopping there, Urz suddenly cocked his head in puzzlement.
Just now, the word ‘hunting’ popped out very naturally from his mouth. When thinking about the fact that he was good with the bow, he wondered whether the him before losing his memory wasn’t a hunter after all. From the scars remaining on his boy, he also thought that he might have been an archer.
One person cursed Urz and threw a fist at him. As if getting hooked by his movement, the other two also attacked him from right and left.
However, Urz did not flinch at all, calmly saw through their movements and dodged their fists, or blocked them. As he judged that the stable boys were not that familiar with fighting, he quickly sneaked around the back of one of them and twisted his arm. A groan of pain leaked out from the stable boy’s mouth.
“I will report on everything to the stableman head so that he deals with you. Okay?”
When Urz said and released the man’s arm as he thrust him away, he kicked him. The man who was pushed forward rolled up the other two and fell down flashily.
The harassment to Urz ended on this day.
It was the evening on the day when Elizavetta ordered her close aide Naum to report about how Urz’s work was going.
“About 15 to 16 days passed, right? If possible, I would like to hear about the report tomorrow.”
Elizavetta, who let her golden and blue pupils brighten with expectation, said so and Naum was perplexed.
“Isn’t the work of stable boy the repetition of the same thing no matter how much time passed?” Naum thought.
That said, having witnessed Urz’s ability with the bow, for Naum who knew that he seemed to have lost his memory, he was interested about how Urz would live in a new environment. As there was also Elizavetta’s order, Naum asked the stableman head and heard him out on the night of that day.
The next day, Naum visited the office a little before daytime came and reported to Elizavetta.
“He caused brawling.”
Though Elizavetta put on a surprised face, her expression got cloudy as she heard Naum’s report.
---I should have asked for the report much earlier.
She breathed a sigh of regret. She did not do so because first, she wanted to avoid the sarcasm of civil officials, and second, she thought that she should accumulate the reports to some extent.
Though not as much as Naum, Elizavetta did not also think that the stableman’s work would be rich in daily change.
“Naum. Do I still have to let Urz continue working as stable boy?”
“Excuse me, but… Will it not be instead more difficult to make him work other than as a stable boy?”
While stroking the wrinkles carved on his face by hardship, Naum answered as if admonishing her.
“Whatever the reason, Urz has caused a fight. A man who has not even yet worked one month as stable boy. It could not be helped even if he was driven out––”
Saying up to there, Naum shut his mouth. He noticed that flames of anger were burning in Elizavetta’s pupils.
“Urz should have silently endured whatever was done to him. Do you want to say that?”
“I am sorry for incurring Vanadis-sama’s anger, but it’s what I mean.”
Naum took heed of the red-haired Vanadis’ gaze and continued his words.
“It has already been widely known in the Imperial Palace that it was Vanadis-sama who personally called out to Urz and brought him along. Most of the people will probably see in it that Vanadis-sama took a liking to him. It is also a situation where Vanadis-sama’s honor will be affected.”
Elizavetta dropped her shoulders as she could not return words at all. While painfully seeing his master depressed, Naum continued.
“Even if you were to change Urz’s work to something else, as long as he works in the Imperial Palace, jealousy will probably follow him around.”
It was not just the stablemen who harbored jealousy and prejudice.
“In that case, it would be preferable to let him continue working as stable boy. At least, he proved to the stablemen that he was a man who did not yield to harassment.”
“But, won’t he be isolated?”
Elizavetta’s expression did not clear up. The red-haired Vanadis softly closed her left eye.
As she soon opened her left eye, she closed her right eyes this time. She had a habit to watch something only with one eye in some rhythm.
When she was small, Elizavetta was bullied by the villagers due to her LazirisRainbow Eyes. She encountered Ellen when she was 10 and came to have the will to confront the bullying, but her dark past up to there was even now recessed in the depth of her memory.
“I would say that isolation is also better though.”
Though Naum said so, Elizavetta could not immediately draw a conclusion. She put it on hold for the time being and continued to hear the report about Urz’s work.
To the report that he seemed to have experience of taking care of horses, Elizavetta tilted her head to the side. Not only that, it was said that he was also used to tending the harness.
“I wonder if he can ride a horse.”
After a little thought, Elizavetta asked. Whether or not he could ride a horse was an important clue to learn Urz’s identity. This was because unless one was either a knight class or a noble, he would not do training for horsemanship.
She thought that it was a good thought. After all, even Urz himself did not know what he could do. If she were to know his ability, she could give him a more suitable post.
“If Vanadis-sama wants, shall I make him do a trial?”
Naum said. Just now, he just said that it would be better to let him keep working as stable boy, so this could be considered as a passive suggestion to his saying of earlier. Naum was also thinking that there would be nothing better if Urz could do some other works, and that led to the breakthrough of the status quo.
Above all else, if it could improve his master’s mood, then it was worth doing that much.
“You’re right. I also want to let him try various other things. Despite the fight, he won in a three-to-one, right? We shall also let him try weapons. And then, I wonder if he can read and write. We will first let him try these three, and change his treatment depending on the results.”
Though Naum respectfully bowed with a smile, he did not forget to add a few words.
“However, Vanadis-sama. Urz is a, to the bitter end, a newcomer. In case that you change his treatment, please take that into account.”
He meant that if she were to give him too good a treatment, he would stir more jealousy and antipathy than now. Though Naum was taking interest in Urz’s existence, he knew that it was not so for the other close aides.
In addition, Naum had a different concern. Elizavetta was young, as well as Urz.
If she was too concerned with Urz, he could not help feeling uneasy about the fact that those looking from witty viewpoints would appear.
Elizavetta halted Naum who finished the report and was about to leave.
“I really hate that kind of bullying.”
To Naum who made a dubious face, the red-haired Vanadis said with a tone which especially emphasized the word “hate”.
“Can I have you convey that within the Imperial Palace? I understand the human’s way of the world, but it will be effective temporarily.”
As Naum deeply bowed once again to show respect to his master, he quietly left.
It was about three days later after Naum had visited to report to Elizavetta. To this, the red-haired Vanadis was half surprised, half amazed; and she said to her close aide who had a face harking back to a pessimistic nature.
“It’s quite early, eh.”
“It’s because I tested him yesterday and the day before yesterday and very interesting results came out.”
Naum answered with a really happy face.
“I will move from the conclusion. I was also present myself at the scene and confirmed it, but I can only say that he was admirable at handling horses. On the other hand, he handles sword and spear like an amateur to the extent that you wonder if it is the same person. I also let him try using the battleaxe and the mace, but he’s really bad at handling them. However, only his archery is exceptional.”
“I test him in form of a game, but he held down all the skillful bow users of this Imperial Palace.”
The game which Naum planned was as followed.
They would shot and hit distant targets. He let them freely decide how far away they would be from the targets.
They would shoot the arrows while riding a horse, hit five targets lined up in a row.
They would compete on how high they could fly an arrow by aiming at the top of the rampart.
“I didn’t know that.”
To Naum’s report, Elizavetta pouted as she was sulking. If she knew it, even if she was in the middle of state affairs, she would have probably come to see under the pretense of taking a break. Of course, Naum had expected it, so he did not tell her. But, when he was asked why he did not tell, he answered like this.
“It was good above all that Vanadis-sama did not show. If you had come to watch, some of the soldiers of the Imperial Palace would have never again touched a bow.”
“…Was it that overwhelming?”
Urz’s bow skill was to the extent that if Elizavetta had witnessed that scene, the honor of the bow users would have been soaked.
Thus, Naum nodded with a deadly serious countenance.
“I let him shoot and aim an arrow from a distance of 300 Alsins, and he hit all the targets when he shot the arrows while riding a horse, and so shot an arrow which reached to the top of the rampart. If such a person suddenly appeared and comes forth, it will become so.”
Elizavetta was also dumbfounded by his words.
From the fact that he had shot down seabirds flying high in the sky, shot arrows from a shaking boat and killed pirates, she understood that he was an owner of exceptional ability.
However, this far exceeded Elizavetta’s expectations. Even looking around the whole Zchted let alone Lebus, there was probably no bow user like Urz.
At that time as if he recalled, Naum, with a deeply move face, tightly grasped his fist and emphasized.
“The civil officials do not seem to know yet, but Urz’s bow skill is more than a bargain. With that, any noble would spend a large sum of money and try to employ him.”
“––Naum. Have you heard rumors about an owner of such bow skill?”
Elizavetta also thought that what Naum said was not wrong.
But then, it might have been talked more.
Urz encountered Elizavetta ten days after he was saved by the people of a fishing village. About twenty days had passed since he came to this Lebus and began to live here as stable boy. Adding the number of days taken to move from the fishing village to this Imperial Palace, it exceeded forty days.
Or, it had probably made a great uproar in Brune which was probably the land where Urz was born and raised, but did it mean that it had not reached here?
Naum cocked his head in puzzlement at Elizavetta’s question and answered while stroking the wrinkles on his face.
“Speaking of which, I have heard that a person named Tigrevurmud Vorn, who suppressed the civil war in Brune Kingdom, is an unmatched bow user.”
“––If it is that man, he died.”
Elizavetta swayed her red hair and shook her head.
“It seemed that he was attacked by a monster and a Badvasea dragon and fell into the sea. Even that Sophia Obertas has searched, but has not found him, so there is no mistake.”
Now, Elizavetta also knew the existence of the Demon called Torbalan. The story of the Badvasea dragon that Sophie had told was probably not wrong. If so, Tigrevurmud Vorn must have died.
“Anyway, I understood about the bow and the horse. Is there something else?”
When Elizavetta asked, Naum straightened himself as he remembered.
“He is quite cultivated. He can read and write both Brune’s and Zchted’s languages and he also knows how to count (calculate). About the reading and writing, as expected he’s more adept with Brune language. Maybe Urz is a noble from Brune.”
“But, Brune despises the bow, right? Is there any noble from Brune skilled in archery? Would it not be at least Tigrevurmud Vorn whom you just spoke earlier?”
At Elizavetta’s pointing out, Naum made a startled face.
“It is certainly just as Vanadis-sama says.”
Although Naum answered so, he made an expression showing that he was not completely convinced. Excluding the point about the “bow”, Urz was without a doubt from Brune, and it was also more than certain that he received training.
“Is there anything other than that? Was Urz able to remember something?”
“About his memory, he seems to have the feeling to fragmentary remember something…”
Naum shrugged his shoulders.
“He said that it seems that things such as the scenery of hunting, scenery of a battlefield and a certain mansion floated into his head, but he cannot remember his name at all, the details also became blurred, and he does not properly recall anyone’s face, too. Rather, how about we take Urz to Brune and search for his home?”
“…Even if you say “Brune”, it is very large. I will think about it if Urz remembers at least something which can serve as reference. There will be a personnel selection of those to attend and there is also the expense (to take into consideration).”
Though Elizavetta took a liking to Urz, as expected, she could not become that soft-hearted a person to make preparations that far.
“But for the time being, I have decided.”
Elizavetta said with a smile and told with a proud look and attitude to Naum who made a wondering face.
“Take Urz under you. I will add him as one of my close aides.”
Naum became speechless. It was more than a great promotion. He wondered what was the use of the exchanges they had a few days ago?
“Vanadis-sama, you must not. Even I object to this.”
“You said that any noble would spend a large sum to employ him, right? Won’t I be a laughing stock if it is known that I let a user with that much bow skill work as stable boy?”
“It is as you say, but it does not change the fact that Urz is still a person with uncertain identity…”
“Don’t make the identity’s matter a reason to reconsider!”
Elizavetta openly glared at Naum with indignation. Although she, who was abandoned by her father who was a noble and have lived in a poor village when she was young, understood that it was natural to be wary of someone with unknown identity, she hated to be wary more than necessary.
In addition, Urz was the first person whom Elizavetta chose as her subordinate. It was by coincidence that the two met, it was not human. She also knew the feeling of wanting to be accepted.
Naum frowned. The wrinkles on his face increased in depth. But even so, he did not say “understood”. The factor of “unknown identity” was that much of a danger.
Waiting until the red-haired Vanadis calmed down, Naum opened his mouth.
“Can you give me at least one more reason?”
At Elizavetta who made a suspicious face, Naum continued as to add.
“I understand Vanadis-sama’s feelings. With all due respect, I also think in the same way on a certain degree. However, if you rashly make an exception, you will definitely cause unnecessary confusion in the future.”
As he explained up to there, Elizavetta seemed to have guessed Naum’s thought.
“…You want me to prepare one more strong point for the fact that it can only be Urz, and assume it an exception as it is not applicable to anyone other than him. Is it what you mean?”
Naum deeply bowed as to show that that was exactly what he thought. To give Urz special treatment, impressive archery skill alone was not enough. Another push was necessary.
“As long as it is approvable, I will persuade those who oppose.”
Opposition was especially expected from the civil officials. So that their negative feelings did not turn towards Elizavetta, she must carefully proceed.
As Elizavetta crossed her shapely leg, she removed her gaze from Naum, turned her eyes of different colors towards the ceiling and lost herself in thoughts for a while. Naum, while waiting the words of his master, was himself also thinking, but in the end he could not come up with something which could persuade the civil officials.
Suddenly, the red-haired Vanadis muttered as if something came into her mind. Crossing the other leg, Elizavetta returned her gaze to Naum.
“I am seeing that the friendship between our country and Brune, even if short, will continue from three to five other years. Eleonora of LeitMeritz will probably intend it to continue for a longer time.”
Her voice sounded with mixed feelings when she voiced out Ellen’s name, but it was a change small enough that even Naum did not notice.
The number “three to five years” was something she estimated considering the time that it would take for Zchted in order to completely stabilize the land of Agnes, which was cut out from Brune, as theirs and the time necessary until Brune recovered their exhausted power
“This Lebus also wants to extend the association with Brune from now. Duke Thenardier who had interactions from the time of the previous Vanadis was defeated in the civil war, and Duke Ganelon is missing. Tigrevurmud Vorn also fell into the sea and died.”
Regarding Tigre, Elizavetta kind of showed friendship by sending goods. It was at the time when he repelled the Muozinel troops.
In doing so, Elizavetta who stepped on the stage intended to deepen interchanges with Tigre, but he had become useless.
The current Elizavetta did not have a partner who had an effective connection in diplomacy with Brune. Therefore, it was necessary to hurry up and make a new connection, but it could be said that Urz who could speak the Zchted’s and Brune’s languages was just the ideal talented person.
But, Naum who heard it put on a difficult face.
“An outstanding bow skill. Reading and writing the words of the Brune language. –– Slightly unreliable, but I will live on it for the time being.”
And several days later, Naum visited Elizavetta. His expression was exhausted and moreover, it was not bright. The red-haired Vanadis was seized with uneasiness.
---Was it impossible after all?
These several days, Elizavetta had met face to face with the civil officials. This was because their cooperation was indispensable in order to handle the daily state affairs
But beside the state affairs, even though Elizavetta asked about this matter, the civil officials only unanimously said as followed.
“We are conferring with Naum-dono. Please, wait for the answer.”
The civil officials probably wanted to prevent a situation which would be intervened midway by Elizavetta. Since she left it to Naum, even Elizavetta was not to interfere until the answer came out.
--- If it was impossible, I will have to think about the next move…
However, Naum said this.
“There is apparently posed only one condition.”
Elizavetta brightened her pupils of different colors and urged him to continue by nodding.
“If he really is so skilled with the bow, they would like him to present one clear achievement he has with that bow. It is the condition that they gave. They said that as long as it is achieved, they will have no objection to let you make Urz a close aide. ––Any other than this is unacceptable.”
Spitting out a sigh filled with the feeling of fatigue at the end, Naum finished his report. Elizavetta swayed her red hair and tilted her head to the side.
“By achievements in this case, is it something like bandits subjugation?”
“I think that it is. But, if it is not on a certain scale, it will be impossible for them to acknowledge him.”
“I think that Duke Bydgauche just accomplished large-scale barbarian subjugation the other day though.”
Thanks to that, recently there was no petition that bandits came out in the field. There was just a report that winter would probably be spent safely this year the other day. Naum indignantly nodded.
“They probably knew and thus give such a condition.”
Even pirates would not appear in winter. This was because there were hardly any merchant ships which would become spoils of war.
Elizavetta spontaneously stood up and slammed her palm on the office desk before her. Valitsaif which was hung on her waist was tinged with a slightly white light as if responding to its master’s anger. While nervously staring at it with a sidelong glance, Naum said as to cheer her up.
“Bandits will definitely appear in the early spring. It is the person’s way of the world after all.”
“So, must Urz keep working as stable boy until then?”
“If we think about his identity, it is necessary to let him work as stable boy for two or three years. And it would be shrunk to less than half a year.”
Elizavetta indignantly reseated herself on her chair. She thought that it couldn’t be helped. It was also not as if she did not know about the civil officials’ opposition. The compromise was probably around there.
Suddenly, Elizavetta thought of a certain thing. She thought that coming from her, it was a very good idea and floated a smile, but Naum who saw it bedaubed a color of anxiety on his whole face, and timidly asked as if probing into the mood of a wild beast.
“…Is there something?”
“If I remember correctly, Urz had no personal belongings.”
Naum nodded. It was soon the day when salary would be paid, but Urz did not have even one piece of copper coin until then. In the report of the stableman head, the person himself did seem to feel that much inconvenienced about it though.
“Give a bow and arrows to Urz. I won’t hear complaints this time.”
Though Naum inwardly thought that it somewhat became like a child’s quarrel, of course even if it showed on his face, he did not put it into words, and respectfully bowed.
A silver bracelet, on which a hunter was carved, decorated a corner of the office desk of the Imperial Palace of LeitMeritz.
It was the souvenir that Tigre bought in the Asvarre Kingdom for Ellen. When this was given to her by Sophie, Ellen was honestly greatly perplexed about how she should treat it.
Though she also thought about putting it on every day, she reconsidered because she would look like a widow wearing a mourning badge. On the other hand, she also felt awkward to close it within a shelf of her private room.
After being troubled, she ended up putting it here. When she suddenly moved her gaze to the side the state affairs, she remembered Tigre’s face.
By the way, Lim who received a Sera Dollporcelain doll bear as souvenir displayed it in her private room.
Dozens of days had passed since Tigre went missing. The trees in the courtyard let their leaves fall and winter was also arriving in LeitMeritz.
“There is nothing at all recently.”
The afternoon of one day, Ellen said as she stopped her hands processing the documents. She leaned against the back of the chair and stretched herself with all her might. Lim who was helping with the state affairs at her side also went along with her lord. This was because the matter which must be dealt with within the day was almost over.
“It can’t be helped since it's winter. The construction of the mountain road also stopped after all.”
It was about the construction of the mountain road connecting LeitMeritz and Alsace. The ground was frozen and became hard during winter, and it was interrupted in order to stop the progress from other seasons. Even if one was to force, it would be ineffective, and moreover, because it involved wood materials, the increase of burden was intense.
“It seems that the 100,000 of Muozinel also ran back without even having one battle. Ludmira said that they ran away in fear of her military power, but perhaps ,the army of Muozinel were in fear with looks of disbelief on their faces that it was her(Ludmila) people.
“Avoid quarrel as much as possible. I remember you said so.”
Lim reproved her in a light tone. Ellen shut her mouth with an awkward face. It was the day when she came back from Legnica. Lim talked about the fact that Ellen tended for Sasha’s death and the last conversation she exchanged with her.
“I will be careful.”
Saying so curtly, Ellen suddenly shifted her attention to Lim as if she remembered something.
“Speaking of which, Eugene-dono came here when I wasn’t there, right?”
Lim seemed to remember now she mentioned it. She wonderingly tilted her head to the side. Afterwards, Eugene did not visit LeitMeritz.
“Since he went to the Capital, I thought that he would also drop here on his way back.”
“Maybe he is still staying in the Capital.”
“No way” Ellen laughed and shook her head.
“Eugene-dono does not seem to dislike the Capital, but he also seemed to be careful as much as possible not to stay too long. He had probably returned to Pardu in a great hurry. It is already winter after all.”
Ellen suddenly shifted her attention to the window. The sky was white and the sun was feeble.
“Teita said that she was troubled that the laundry was hard to dry, so I already taught her how to dry them in the room. It is her first winter in Zchted after all.”
“Its already been one year, eh.”
Lim, similarly to Ellen, turned her blue eyes towards the outside of the window. It was the early spring which put an end to the traces of winter everywhere that Tigre, as a guest General, and Teita, as his maid, came to this Imperial Palace.
Silence fell in the room. As they thought about the depth of what they lost, the leisure to enjoy the change of season disappeared. Neither of them returned to the state affairs.
---Winter just ends.
While putting the documents in order, Ellen thought such a thing in a corner of her mind.
Just this year, she lost her best friend and an important man. At the very least, she wanted to spend her daily life peacefully until spring.
But, such a wish Ellen quickly dispelled.
Early morning of the next day, a messenger from the Capital showed up. As he seemed to have ridden the horse desperately to come here, though the piercing wind of winter was blowing, he was sweaty all over his face.
“Since recently, every last one of the messengers from the Capital don’t say anything good, I don’t want to meet him.”
Ellen, who was told by Lim about the messenger’s visit, said so without even hiding her tiresome expression. Of course, she knew that such a thing was not suitable.
“If it’s urgent, I don’t mind seeing him even dressed like this. Please tell Teita to prepare sake and hot water.”
As she said so, Ellen headed to the drawing room with her blue military clothes as is.
The messenger from the Capital hurriedly asked Ellen after greetings.
“Vanadis-dono. Do you know Earl Pardu Eugene Shevarin-dono?”
Ellen nodded. The messenger asked once more.
“Then, what about Duke Bydgauche Ilda Kurtis-dono?”
“The name at least.”
Ellen answered so while wondering about the question of the other party. He was a famous man on the northern part of Zchted. Excellent in military arts, he was also good at commanding the soldiers. The messenger said while fixing his breathing.
“It is said that that Duke Bydgauche has moved his soldiers. In order to kill Earl Pardu.”
Ellen opened her eyes wide. She unintentionally leaned forward. Honestly, she couldn’t care less about Duke Bydgauche, but if danger was approaching Eugene who had taught her etiquette, then it was another story.
“What do you mean?”
“I will explain only what I know…”
Though both Eugene and Ilda had stayed in the Capital until about ten days ago, it was said that Eugene gave a present to Ilda at a certain time.
“The present was apparently a strong drink. Duke Bydgauche is someone who likes strong drinks. It was said that he gladly drank it with his attendant.”
On that occasion, his attendant offered to taste for poison just to be sure, and Ilda, while smiling wryly, let that attendant drink first.
However, the attendant could only drink about half of a cup. He dropped the silver cup with the remaining contents, fell down to the floor and died as he went into convulsions. There was poison.
Ellen muttered so unconsciously. The Eugene Shevarin, who she knew, was not the kind of man who would think of poisoning someone even if he awfully hated him no matter what the reason.
To Ellen who became speechless, the messenger continued.
“Naturally, Duke Bydgauche flew into rage. According to those who saw the Duke, it was in a terrifying state to the extent that one was horrified to make eye contacts with him. The Duke left the Capital on that day and returned to Bydgauche. And then, he appealed for revenge and began to gather soldiers…”
“Isn’t it some kind of mistake? If it is Earl Pardu, I know him well.”
“Vanadis-dono.” Interrupting Ellen’s words, the messenger said.
“It is no longer at the level of asking whether it is a mistake. ‘I want you to protect Earl Pardu’. His Majesty the King said. And he added ‘please’.”
Ellen narrowed her eyes and looked back at the messenger.
“Does it mean that he don’t care even if I have to cut down Duke Bydgauche?”
Saying so, Ellen stood up. She looked down at the messenger and continued.
“Messenger. Depending on your answer, I will pretend that I didn’t hear the talk just now and I intend to wield my sword only to protect a benefactor.”
While floating sweat on his face, the messenger greatly panted.
Ellen’s eyes of ruby fixedly stared at the messenger.
“He said that if possible, it would be preferable to capture him alive.”
“Definitely as the words literally say?”
She asked to confirm. The messenger nodded as if he succumbed to the drive. On the other hand, Ellen floated a smile filled with fighting spirit.
It was a feeling she had not tasted for a long time. While walking towards the door, Ellen called the messenger with an unusually cheerful voice.
“Time is precious! I will hear the remaining details while walking!”
Then, after 2 koku, Ellen finished the formation of 1,000 soldiers.
In the limited time of two koku, this number was the limit due to the lack of equipment, food and fuel. As for the breakdown, there were 200 cavalrymen. Which meant that there were 800 infantrymen. The adjutant was not Lim, but the knight with a bald head Rurick.
She had Lim remain in the Imperial Palace, and she entrusted two tasks to her. One was the organization of the reinforcements. This was because depending on the forces led by Lord Bydgauche, Ellen would devote herself to buying time.
The other was to dispatch someone to Pardu, and hear about the details from Eugene.
If possible, Ellen wanted to first go herself to Pardu, but as far as she heard the story of the messenger, it seemed that Ilda was going south at a considerable speed.
I did not want to make the ground of Pardu into the battlefield. In that case, she could do nothing but hold back Ilda in the north, so there was no composure to stop by in Pardu.
“First of all, to the east. Send reconnaissance over again, also ask the towns and cities in the vicinity and locate Duke Bydgauche’s army. I don’t know how much military power he has, but if they see us, they will probably stop their march for the time being.”
When the sun of that day set halfway in the western sky, Eleonora Viltaria and the one thousand soldiers whom she led left the Imperial Palace. The air was already cold and the humans firmly matched the neck (collar) of a thick overcoat put on their armor.
King Victor did not ask only Ellen for the duty to stop this clash.
Around the same time, a messenger from the Capital had also visited the Imperial Palace of Lebus.
“…Duke Bydgauche (did that)?”
Elizavetta, who heard the circumstances, blurred suspicion and doubt in her pupils of different colors.
As far as she heard the story, it was no wonder that Ilda got angry. After all, Earl Pardu completely intended to kill Ilda. And, one of his attendants died. Instead of Ilda.
“So, do you tell me to stop His Excellency the Duke? Not to cooperate with His Excellency and kill the unscrupulous unjust Earl Pardu.”
Facing the messenger of the Capital in the drawing room, Elizavetta floated a provocative smile. The messenger who had a round face and body like a snowman made by a child, while wiping cold sweat, but still kept his calm and answered.
“His Majesty Victor does not wish for the country’s powerful nobles to lead the soldiers, shed blood, and devastate the country. Should you not first talk in His Majesty’s presence once?”
“He tried to kill. He was about to be killed. Is there anything to say other than that? Honestly speaking, I have no confidence to stop him. Have you heard about Duke Bydgauche’s fame?”
“Precisely for this reason, the task has been given not to anybody, but Vanadis-dono. Another messenger has also been sent to ask Vanadis-dono of LeitMeritz, but I have not yet received a good answer…”
It was not certain whether or not the messenger intended it, but these lines strongly stimulated one point in Elizavetta’s heart. Even so, she did not immediately agree; after making him promise to let the Kingdom bear the reward, food and fuel by letter, Elizavetta finally accepted.
“I also have my hands tied here, but I am in His Excellency the Duke’s debt. I cannot become a robber who betrayed a royal order.”
As she saw off the messenger who hurriedly left the Imperial Palace, Elizavetta called her aides. She talked about what was told a moment ago.
“We go to the front. How many soldiers can we prepare by two koku?”
“I would say about 1000 soldiers” one of the aides answered.
Elizavetta nodded and ordered the organization. Because they had served from the time of the previous Vanadis, they will do it well even if they were just given instructions. And then she hailed Naum and told him to call Urz.
“Do you intend to take Urz along?”
To Naum who opened his eyes wide, Elizavetta nodded as if it was a matter of course.
“You remember the calm attitude of Urz at the time when we chased the pirates, right? He should not be confused.”
“I am not that much worried about that, but…”
Elizavetta looked puzzled at Naum who frowned.
“If you have something to say, say it clearly. I highly evaluate that part of you, too.”
As the Vanadis of LazirisRainbow Eyes urged him, Naum opened his mouth while hesitating.
“About the matter of this time, it is not sure that we will definitely fight, if it's something which will be solved if we can persuade Duke Bydgauche. I understand Vanadis-sama’s feelings, but is it not a little hasty? Being seen that you are favoring, would be bad for Both Urz and Vanadis-sama…”
“Precisely for this reason, it is necessary to show results as soon as possible.”
In the tone which believed her rightness, Elizavetta answered.
“Depending on the situation, we may also have to fight against Earl Pardu’s army, leaving the north aside, they may also be bandits from the center to the south. After seeing Urz’s bow skill, nobody should think that I favor him (I am partial).”
“…If you say up to there.”
Naum respectfully bowed.
And, after two koku, Elizavetta left the Imperial Palace with 1000 soldiers. Near her carrying a bow on the shoulder and hanging a quiver of arrows on the waist was Urz’s figure.
The youth was staring at Elizavetta’s back with a somewhat troubled face.
Although it was naturally grateful towards her who took him in while she did not even know his identity, Urz was harboring the feeling that he was picked up by an extraordinary person
---Her first subordinate, huh…
He remembered the words of the knight called Naum who taught him various things. He said that, of course, Elizavetta set her eyes on Urz because she highly evaluated his bow skills, but it was only that; it was also because he was the first subordinate that she chose by herself.
Suddenly, the figure of an old man with a small stature vaguely floated in Urz’s mind. He felt like he was said by that old man “don’t you remember of having done something similar?” Strangely, Urz was able to easily accept that indication. The ill feeling towards Elizavetta also faded.
Though a troubled person, he was in her debt. It did not mean that he dislike her.
Urz decided to follow her and do his best for now.
The LeitMeritz forces led by Ellen were carefully advancing to the north while repeating reconnaissance as planned. Three days had passed since they left the Imperial Palace. They went along the highway, and partly because they could buy food and fuel in cities and towns, there was no problem with the march at present.
The sky was white, the sun was hidden by the clouds and the wind was cold. After leaving the Imperial Palace, such weather had continued all long.
“It may finally snow around today.”
Rurick who was by Ellen’s side said so. Ellen responded without even smiling.
“It would be troublesome if it get colder. I want to clear it up before it snows.”
That Ellen was making a sullen face was not only because she hated snow as a commander, there was also another reason.
Last night, the soldier who heard the story from Eugene galloped his horse and came up to Ellen. Although they advanced without deviating from the highway and she precisely showed their location, Ellen did not think that he would come this early, and she gladly met the soldier.
But, what she heard from that soldier was not something pleasant.
“According to what Earl Pardu says, he has certainly bought a strong drink in order to deepen his friendship with Duke Bydgauche and sent an attendant to give it to the Duke’s mansion, but even he does not know why this happened.”
“…Is it the truth so far?”
“I keep the letter addressed to Vanadis-sama by His Excellency.”
The soldier handed the leather package which he was holding in his hand to Rurick who was at Ellen’s side. Rurick who received it removed the leather package and handed over the letter inside to Ellen.
The silver-haired Vanadis broke the seal and quickly took a look at the contents, but the sentences of the content that was almost the same as what the soldier reported was written with Eugene’s handwriting.
While being a letter addressed to Ellen, she felt Eugene’s nature around beginning from one sentence mourning over the death of Ilda’s attendant, but from Ilda’s perspective, it was very obviously that he flew into rage.
“I know that Eugene-dono isn’t the kind of man to do something like that. Leave it to us the territory of Pardu and the people living there.”
Ellen also wrote such a letter, handed it to the soldier and made him go to Pardu, but the situation was clearly against Eugene. She was irritated because of that.
In addition, there was one more thing; there was an element which put Ellen in a bad mood.
“––What is hidden behind this?”
It was about one thing that Ellen wanted to know in the letter from Eugene; it was not written why he suddenly intended to have friendly relations with Ilda.
Eugene and Ilda were brothers-in-law. Thinking about it, it was not strange to try to have interactions. But, why did it come now?
“Besides, according to what Lim said, Eugene-dono was summoned by King Victor and should have gone to the Capital.”
Ellen thought about it all night, but like that without her finding any clues in the end, the day dawned and they resumed their march as they were searching for Duke Bydgauche’s troops. But, somehow her mind was distracted and she was not able to concentrate.
It was about the time when the sun, hidden by white clouds slightly covering the sky, was about to reach the zenith that one of the cavalry squads, which were sent for reconnaissance, returned with an unexpected report.
“We have discovered a group which is fluttering the banner of Lebus.”
Ellen was stunned. She knew that Elizavetta was going south from Lebus with also 1000 soldiers. So, it was not strange in itself that they met them.
---Then, where is Duke Bydgauche’s army?
As Ellen stopped the march and ordered the soldiers to rest, she asked Rurick to prepare a map.
Seemingly, Duke Bydgauche’s army was not going south straight somehow.
“I wonder if they made a detour.”
Ellen asked for Rurick’s opinion. But, Rurick did not agree.
“Maybe, they are unexpectedly lying hidden near here.”
“Why do you think so?”
“As far as I hear the story, it seemed that the man called Duke Bydgauche is not that much familiar with the geography, south of the Capital. Make a detour would take much more time, right? Would they not somehow try to let us and the Lebus army go past?”
Ellen nodded as she was impressed. Though he was not a man who would think like this about the enemy movement before, he seemed to have unwittingly grown.
“What do we do?”
As Ellen snorted at Rurick’s question, she flipped at a point of the map with her fingertip.
“I’m reluctant, but we will join with the party of Lebus. They might have grasped the enemy movement.”
Afterwards, as Ellen and Elizavetta mutually advanced their soldiers, they agreed to join before the day went down. The place was a small meadow called Radom, and there was an intermediate distance from each other’s position.
When she decided to head to Radom, Ellen released the cavalrymen as a scouting party. Just to be sure, she made one party head to Pardu. Moreover, she resumed the march leading only the infantry.
When they entered in less than one koku, the silhouette of the Lebus army and its banner could already be seen. Under the white sky, a golden band, which described an arc reminiscent of her Valitsaif, was shining in the purple flag. At the vanguard, there was the figure of Elizavetta straddling on horse.
Ellen stopped her troops, and she approached Elizavetta accompanied only by Rurick. Elizavetta likewise headed towards her along with a youth who seemed to be an attendant.
Cold wind blew and something flickered within the field of vision. It was the snow. It was snow which seemed to melt in the atmosphere before touching the ground, but it certainly fell from the sky.
When each side approached until a distance of about dozens of step, Ellen noticed.
Seeing the youth on horseback following near Elizavetta, Ellen opened her eyes wide.
Though he was wearing a padded undershirt in fur of the Lebus style, the darkish red hair, black eyes, features which mixed calm and gallantry, the medium stature and the figure which carried a bow on his shoulder and hung a quiver on the waist was unmistakably that of Tigrevurmud Vorn who she knew.
Rurick who heard Ellen’s murmur and doubted it also turned his gaze there, and glared in surprise. Words did not seem to come out right away.
While being moved to tears and shouting the youth’s name, Ellen rushed her horse. However, she immediately harbored suspicion. Even though their eyes met, Tigre only stared back at himself with a wondering face. Then, Ellen finally arrived at a basic question.
Why was Tigre riding a horse next to Elizavetta? Like a servant.
“What’s the matter? Suddenly shouting.”
In the place where they approached until a distance of about ten steps, Elizavetta said with an amazed face. But, Ellen paid no heed to it.
“Elizavetta. I would like to hear the man’s name.”
Without even greeting her, she frankly demanded. Elizavetta frowned.
“He is Urz. My subordinate.”
The youth called Urz bowed to Ellen with an expression like that one which met someone for the first time.
Ellen held her breath. Her shoulders shook; she was about to burst into tears at any time, but endured it desperately. As she made her voice calm as much as possible, she said.
“Where did you hire him?”
“…Why are you curious about such a thing?”
Elizavetta’s expression and tone was tinged with wariness. Ellen who glared at her answered.
“From interest. I don’t mind even if you don’t tell me.”
“…I don’t see the need to answer.”
There was a pause until the refusal. It was obvious that she was apparently hiding something.
“More importantly, let’s begin the war council quickly.”
Elizavetta said so, but Ellen ignored it and turned her gaze to the youth.
“Tigre! Tigrevurmud Vorn!”
Urz was staring at Ellen with a blank face. Ellen still kept appealing to him.
“What‘s wrong? We do not meet each other for about 100 days, and you have already forgotten about me? Did you forget Eleonora Viltaria? I, who allowed you to call me Ellen!”
A change occurred on Urz’s expression. The youth removed his gaze from Ellen as if pondering on something.
“Ellen. Ellen…? No… Where have I…”
Elizavetta shouted, and advanced her horse so as to break in between Urz and Ellen and the others.
“Urz has lost his memory! Do not confuse him!”
“Hou, lost his memory, you say?”
A sneer floated in Ellen’s lips.
“Then, shouldn't you help him regain his memory?”
“It’s up to me to decide. I want you to stop throwing strange words and confusing Urz.”
“What do you mean by strange words? I have only said my name and Tigre’s name.”
At Ellen’s words, Elizavetta flinched. Her hand stretched to the black whip to her waist.
Ellen likewise put her hand on the long sword to her waist. The wind arose from the long sword and gently brushed her silver hair.
The SilvfrauWind Princess of the Silver Flash lightly chuckled.
“Even Arifal said it. That person isn’t Urz. It’s Tigre.”
“…Stop your false accusations. Tigrevurmud Vorn fell into the sea and should have died. I have heard that even though Sophia Obertas desperately searched, even his body was not found.”
Elizavetta glared at Ellen with her eyes of different colors, and pattered. However, Ellen, not even showing a slight sign of hesitation, eluded it with a composed attitude.
“I was told so, too. I believed that. I will ask once again, Elizavetta. That man you are calling Urz, where did you find him?”
“It doesn’t matter where I found him!”
Elizavetta flew into a rage. She cried like a child and vigorously shook her head.
“Urz is my subordinate. I don’t know anyone called Tigrevurmud Vorn!”
“I don‘t know anyone called Urz either. No, speaking of which, I just remembered. Urz was the name of Tigre’s father.”
Elizavetta’s face turned pale. At this time, the red-haired Vanadis understood the situation almost exactly. What Ellen was saying was probably correct.
Urz was definitely Tigrevurmud Vorn. There was no way that two people with such bow skills to that extent would exist.
Rurick who finally came to his senses advanced his horse and raised a sad cry.
“If you are really Tigrevurmud Vorn, then we would like you to respond to the voice of our lord! There’s no helping it even if you have forgotten about me. However, there are a lot of people around you whom there is no way you would ever forget!”
To Rurick’s angry look, Urz just merely opened his eyes wide in wonder. Rurick spoke further vehemently.
“Teita-dono was always at your side! Don’t tell me you also forgot the name of Batran-dono who died! Earl Rodant!? Viscount Augres and his hateful son!? It was us who saved Princess Regin from Muozinel, right?”
Not giving even one name of a person from Zchted, Rurick gave only the names of the people from Brune.
With her pupils of different colors, Elizavetta stared at Rurick. The bald knight was being overawed by her terrifying gaze, but he put power into his stomach and looked straight again. As he painfully exhaled, he opened his mouth in order to call him (Tigre) again.
But, Ellen stretched out her hand before him and stopped him.
“Step back. You've done enough.”
“It would be meaningless even if you say any more than this”, Ellen judged. There were also Eugene and Ilda. It was necessary to end it quickly.
She unsheathed the long sword and thrust the point at Elizavetta. Feeling her preternatural fighting spirit with her skin, Elizavetta likewise put on a serious look, and tightly grasped her black whip.
“I will have you return Tigre, Elizavetta.”
“Don’t make me say it so many times. It’s not Tigre. It’s my Urz.”
The wind swirled and white sparks scattered. The silver-haired Vanadis, in order to take back her important thing, and the red-haired Vanadis, in order to protect her important thing to the end were going to cross weapons.
Under a white sky tinged with loneliness, snow and wind began to increase strength.
- hope for a woman to become King, that is
- single here as in celibate, unmarried
- sorry if it’s a little difficult to understand, but I just translated how he should be
- the fact that his bed was turned upside down, well in short, bullied
- here to mean that if someone come out of nowhere with such bow skill, it would not be strange that some bow users would think of giving up on archery
- for him, at least
- I understand this as such: in winter, merchant ships hardly traveled, thus pirates also hardly had prey to attack
- extraordinary here in the sense that she was unpredictable
- feeling of antagonism
- which means, it was the proof that the letter is from Eugene (that it wasn't a faked letter)
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