Rakuin no Monshou:Volume1 Prologue
“The princess is not there?”
“Indeed,” head maid Theresia explained with as bitter a look as possible. “Until a while ago, she was having tea with us in the central garden. Then she suddenly stated that she wanted to see the castle in the light of the setting sun from the roofs of Shikou Palace.”
“Shikou Palace… come to think of it, isn’t that where the airship departure point is!?” the head of the western palace guard shouted in dismay.
"My!" Theresia made a face as if she just realized it for the first time as well. “What should we do? The princess is among the best pilots in our country. In the last race too, although she admirably became the runner-up, she flew into a rage, as if there was no meaning to it if she didn’t end up in first place. She was about to throw away the trophy of all things, and we were desperate to stop her.”
“Is that so? N-No… we shouldn’t get into that right now.”
While the captain started getting flustered, his subordinates behind him looked at each other apprehensively.
“What might she be up to?”
“I suppose she is planning on making a casual round of the capital on an airship. She must feel reluctant to leave.”
“No, it’s that princess. I’m sure she suddenly changed her mind about the marriage and decided to get away.”
“Even I don’t like it. It's outrageous that our Vileena, the third daughter of His Royal Highness and princess of Garbera, a country where we take pride in our chivalry, has to consent to a marriage with that monkey from Mephius!”
Some of them snorted through their noses and stamped their feet on the floor,
“No, she is a princess and would not do selfish things like that. We all know how mischievous and incredibly lively Princess Vileena is. But listen to me my friends; she is also someone who loves this country, its people, and its environment more than anybody else. She would not vitiate a contract with Mephius because of her own displeasure.”
While others calmly reproached their comrades.
“This is because we are spineless.”
“Yeah. The Ten Year War with Mephius – what if we could’ve finished it with a victory on our side? If we could’ve raised Garbera’s national flag at Mephius's palace, a thing… a thing like this…”
Shaking their heads in frustration, some ended up being moved to tears and sorrow.
All of this was proof that there must be love for her, or so Theresia thought. Garbera’s third princess is Princess Vileena. Only fourteen years old, and after the coming week, she would be married into the Mephius Empire bordering the country in the northwest.
Although Theresia herself would be accompanying the princess in order to look after her surroundings, of course, for many people in Garbera, this would be farewell. Everyone who now met with the princess, although able to congratulate her on her marriage, couldn’t hide the loneliness, the anger, and the sorrow from their faces when they did.
Theresia was standing in a ceilinged corridor facing the garden on her right. On the side of a nearby pillar, a doodle of her, which had been drawn by the princess at a younger age, faintly remained. Theresia softly laid her hand on the drawing that depicted her in a devilish manner; the princess must have drawn it right after being scolded by her.
This is your last act of selfishness, okay, princess?
As she clung onto the captain of the guard, asking for an honest, desperate search for the princess, Theresia inwardly voiced her true thoughts.
About twenty kilometres southeast of Garbera Kingdom’s capital city Phozon.
In a range of gentle hills, there was a palace overlooking a vast lake. During the rebellion that took place five years ago, the region had almost become the centre of war. But now it was much like its mild climate, at peace, with a relaxed time flowing by.
However, it was just before the sun was about to set when it suddenly became very lively.
“Third air defence fleet, ascend!” the commander of the air defence force yelled, straddled over his own airship. “The first and second protect all sides of the royal palace. The fourth hasten on to Phozon Capital.”
Just five minutes ago, a flare signal had been raised from the watchtower. It was a signal that meant unidentified air units were approaching. And just now, they had confirmed visual of a single airship.
As the sky began to blend into the same colour as the surface, the air defence force rose into the air.
With a metal base made of dragonstone, steel, silver, brass, and the like, Garbera’s ornithopter-type single-seated airships were modelled after the large sea eagles that inhabit the Mother Earth. From the bill to the tip of the tail, they were approximately three metres long, and the full span of their high-speed flapping wings was about seven metres. The pilots had their seats built where the eagle’s claws would be as they whirled up into the sky.
I doubt a single unit would attack, though.
While the commander of the air defence force raised his suspicions, a deep black shape approached from the other side of the slope. It was the type which let the pilot lie with his belly directly on the hull during flight, and it wasn’t an ornithopter, but had a rear propeller and rudder controlling its direction instead while moving forward via propulsion. It was a type of airship mainly built for speed.
Isn’t that our country’s?
The chief looked at it through narrowed eyes. Garbera excelled in the art of purifying dragon fossils into a weightless metal – the so-called dragonstone – and the country’s development of small airships was unmatched by other countries. There were also many variations.
“Don’t go any further!”
Although the men on the air defence ships raised their shouts unanimously, the approaching unit did not show any signs of lowering its speed. It just passed by the airship of the third fleet’s captain at a hair’s distance and, as the airship was about to nearly lose its balance because of the near crash, the area suddenly grew tense.
“We told you to stop!”
“We’ll shoot if you don’t follow our warning!”
One craft blocked the course of the approaching unit that was flying straight ahead, the remainder went up, and took up positions to fire from the left and right. The commander himself was about to place a finger on the trigger that was directly connected to a machine gun, when,
“Thanks for doing your duty.”
Suddenly, a voice called out to him. It was a woman’s voice… or more precisely, a girl’s. He lifted his finger from the trigger.
Their airships were about to pass by each other, and her's left a platinum trail behind. When he realized that it was the pilot’s long hair streaming in the wind,
“Princess!?” the commander couldn’t help but raise his voice.
“Sorry, I’m in a hurry.”
The rapid words that returned came from the same voice, and then she was gone.
Everybody from the third air defence fleet was put off with equally flabbergasted expressions. Before long, gliding wings appeared from the airship near the small boards by the seat, and he just managed to see that she was steadily descending.
The commander of the air defence force was already into his mid-forties, and had a daughter who recently became fourteen. The same age as Garbera’s third princess Vileena. Fourteen years.
To him, it seemed like not much time had passed since he’d seen the tottering steps of his baby daughter. But the world already saw her as an adult member of society, and even if she got married and started having children at this age, no one would think of it as strange.
“Call back the fourth air defence fleet. I have to return to my post and write my journal: today, we’ve seen nothing but a peaceful sky.”
He was fixedly staring at the moon outside through the window.
Sitting up in bed, although his features, exposed by the pale light, neared the limits of age, the grace and austerity that he seemed to naturally possess was still going strong.
“I thought it was strangely noisy tonight, but I guess it must have been you.”
He spoke the words as he looked up at the moon.
“Yes, it’s me.”
The answer came from the side.
A shadow came in from the room’s entrance. With every step that was brought forward, the figure was gradually revealed by the moonlight, eventually producing the appearance of a girl.
“My son wouldn’t turn a blind eye if he saw you like this. In a certain sense, he is a man older than me.”
The old man laughed, as he looked at the approaching figure clad in airship riding gear. Although she was still more of a child than a woman, the outfit wound perfectly around her body, and the increasingly dangerous curves seemed to be maturing day by day.
The girl let a smile come onto her face, like a flower in bloom.
“Quite so. That’s why, when I participated in the race, he opposed it until the very end. Although he agreed it was good to humour the people, he said this manner wouldn’t do, and that I should wear clothes more suitable for a member of the Garbera Royal Family, among other things. There was no way I'd do it, with the hem of a long skirt hindering me. That’s why I had to content myself with second place.”
“That wasn’t a bad appearance either,” the previous King of Garbera, Jeorg Owell, said, as he smiled at his pouting granddaughter. “Although, because you ended up one point away from victory, I suffered a heavy loss.”
“Did you put a wager on me?”
Jeorg laughed with mirth upon seeing the girl’s eyes open wide.
“With the secretary of financial affairs, Wallace. That bloke… he wanted my favourite horse for a long time already. But while he works at the royal palace, I wasn’t informed that you were participating in a skirt. If I’d known, I would’ve have scolded that son of mine relentlessly for letting you race like that in public.”
“So, what is it that grandfather wanted from Secretary Wallace?”
“Haha… well, what was it again?”
“Secretary Wallace is quite famous for his liquor collection, isn’t he?”
“There’s that too. Hm… that guy has an excellent tastes in women too.”
“Back when we went to visit Wallace’s mansion, the chamberlain’s daughter who worked there – well, although she is his daughter, she’s already back with her parents at the age of thirty. But, she’s quite a beauty. I figured, if I get the lass to work at this detached place of mine, it was likely my life would become a little bit more worth living for.”
Garbera’s third princess, Vileena, puffed up her cheeks, and although she made sure to give her grandfather a scolding glare, the two of them immediately burst into laughter.
The sides of the curtains, filled with the pale moonlight, fluttered slightly in the all but nonexistent wind. Suddenly, Vileena crouched down near the bed and firmly took hold of her grandfather’s hand. She pressed her face against it, her small shoulders shaking.
“Vileena, this… what’s the matter? You’re acting like a child.”
“No. No, no…”
She closed her eyelids firmly, repeating her denial, frantically trying to resist the emotions that were welling up inside from whatever was eating at her mind.
He’s become so small.
She thought, as she laid her face into his thin, helpless hand.
Her grandfather was known for his bravery in his younger days. Subduing the stronger local clans one by one, he had pushed this country called Garbera up to the point that it wouldn’t lose to the other major powers. In the past, their territories had been invaded by the older nations of either Ende or Mephius time and time again, and their people had tasted hardship and exile under their rule. Now, everyone praised Jeorg Owell’s bravery, despite his short history, for producing a united country that was no longer inferior to those foreign nations.
Ever since she was young, Vileena had become attached to her grandfather. He still had a strong influence, even after withdrawing from the throne, and although his son, namely Vileena’s father, thought he was a shrewish and troublesome existence that he nonetheless couldn’t help but rely on, to Vileena, he was no one other than a kind grandfather.
So many times had she come to visit him at his estate, going to the river to fish or swim together, and when the days got dark, spending all evening simulating war campaigns at the board table.
Unlike her father, her grandfather did not get angry when Vileena played with a wooden sword and shield, allowed her to scuffle together with children for play, let her ride horses, and cultivated her interest in airships. Rather than scold her, he instructed her carefully about these things in detail.
But above all, during the winter, her grandfather would sit near the hearth, lift her up to his knee, and tell her stories about war, about negotiating with other countries, about the many powerful clans in Garbera, and how to prevent the sparks of dispute in the country from breaking out into a tinderbox of civil war – Vileena became addicted to these stories.
And every evening she heard such a tale, when Vileena set to bed, she would always have a dream.
Dressed in shining armour, standing there on top of an airship, overlooking the valiant knights arrayed before her, giving them her orders. Her young heart was coloured with excitement as she imagined herself standing on the battlefield one day, fighting at her grandfather’s side.
However, ever since the winter, her once robust grandfather’s health deteriorated and he had become bedridden.
Whenever Vileena came to visit, he had a smile on his face that was not different from before, but they were no longer able to ride horses or fly airships together. And then, five years ago, something happened that had given her grandfather the final blow.
“Raise your head.”
Urged by her grandfather’s words, a startled Vileena did as she was told. Trying to fight back the tears, her eyes were brightly sparkling in the moonlight’s glow. Jeorg’s face crumpled.
“I see. I too, am getting old. Aren’t you the springy, tomboyish girl that will be getting married within the week? The same girl that needed so very little time to trample down my garden and destroy my prized flowerbed like some wicked, untamed dragon?”
“But I was even more surprised back in the day. I think you must be sick of this story, but word travelled all across the country. Five years ago, when the rebels had usurped this very estate, you did not even put one step back and magnificently tried to fight them off to protect me, while I was lying injured in bed. Everybody here said if only you were a boy. However, I didn’t think so. You are a fine lady – the pride of Garbera. No champion, no dragon, not anything that can be bought with gold can compare to you. You are my pride.”
Jeorg gently held Vileena’s blushing cheeks in both his hands.
“That granddaughter is about to marry. What kind of child will she give birth to, I wonder? I try not to have any regrets in this life of mine, and it is something that I proudly boast of. But if there is one regret, there is only one – that I won’t be able to see the sight of you holding a baby with my own eyes.”
“What are you saying? This evening doesn’t have to be a farewell,” Vileena said, forcing a bright tone and a smile.
However, she already knew the truth. Her grandfather had been bedridden for a long time now, and he no longer left his estate. Within several days, she would leave the country on her own, so she had actually come here to say her final goodbye.
Her smile immediately fell apart, and Vileena brought down her face again. Lowering her eyebrows, anger clouded her beautiful face.
“Grandfather. I don’t want to go and become someone’s wife. I don’t want to leave your side grandfather, I hate it. But even so… Why does it have to be Mephius, of all places!?”
For a moment, the face of the tomboyish princess, who was loved from all over the country, looked like that of an ordinary country lass who was about to marry, with a hint of heartfelt sadness. However,
“That country of barbarians. It is obvious the rebellion that led grandfather to be injured by those traitors was staged by Mephius. If only father had the resolve to let me, on the bridal night, I would readily slice open the sleeping head of my husband to be!”
“Oh, hey now…”
Even the undaunted Jeorg reflexively had a jagged coughing fit. While it also resulted in a personality brusque enough to visit her grandfather like this, she had, somewhere in her way of thinking, been influenced by the out-dated, old-fashioned portion of her grandfather’s upbringing all this time.
“You do not always draw blood during battles. And victory is not only gained over the opponent’s corpse. You have a gentle heart, so you’ve realised this a long time ago. Even the common people wage constant battles in their everyday lives. Although it may seem nothing compared to the majestic days of old, bringing us a time of peace also counts as a victory.”
“Mephius is an old country – much, much older than your father's – and may seem a bit strict, but if it’s you, it’ll be fine. Because, wherever you are, you are my Vileena.”
When Vileena raised her head a second time, the tears were already gone. The moon gently lighting the outlines of her smiling face invited her grandfather to smile as well.
“Indeed. This battle is not yet over. Not all soldiers pick up swords and lances. I too, am one such soldier, right?”
His granddaughter’s eyes were sparkling, and he felt the hint of something unpleasant.
“I understand. I will not shed blood, nor will I ask the people of Garbera to do the unreasonable. For this new battle, I – Vileena – will take up the challenge. I’ll probe Mephius’s true state of affairs, find out its weaknesses – I will use any means necessary, so please wait for me to bring us the glad tidings of victory!”
His fourteen-year-old granddaughter stood up in an instant, leaving Jeorg agape.
From a young innocent girl who was soon to be married off, she had suddenly turned into a knight on the battlefield before he realized it. While looking at how she was now boiling with excitement, her cheeks flushed and her blood set afire, he thought that, in a sense, that was truly how he knew his granddaughter.
References and Translation Notes
- The official name of the country is The Imperial Dynasty of Mephius, according to the kanji, but the author uses the reading for 'empire'. So, I'll be mainly using Mephius Empire, and only use the official name when the mood allows it to.
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