Tsurugi no Joou to Rakuin no Ko:Volume 1 Chapter 5
Chapter 5 – Proud Vixen
Francesca da Zaccaria accomplished many feats in her lifetime to be proud of. One of the most well known ones was that she had already refused marriage proposals of more than a hundred men in just her fifteenth year. She was the granddaughter of Duke Zaccaria, the leader of the Seven Countries of the East, and was both beautiful and talented since childhood. Thus, she was surrounded by many candidates picked by her father and grandfather to be her husband, but their proposals were promptly refused. Their attention only brought one sentence: "What a bunch of uninteresting fellows."
On the day when the number of men officially reached three digits, the old Duke Zaccaria who was usually gentle finally couldn't help himself from summoning his granddaughter to question her:
「Fran, in the end, what sort of man will you be satisfied with?」
「I want a man who is both stronger and more beautiful than I am.」 Francesca answered.
「It might be possible for one of your conditions to be met, but aren't the chances rather small for both of them to meet?」
「Of course not. At least, there will definitely be such a person on the battlefield.」
Hence, Francesca started to frequent the training grounds of the knights, bringing an even larger headache to the duke's family.
Her father was disturbed by her peculiar actions, and thus summoned an old knight under his command.
「What in the world is Francesca always doing among the knights? Is she observing your training?」 He asked.
「No, not only that.」 The old knight answered.
「Then she isn't training with you, is she?」
「No, not only that as well.」
The old knight's answer shocked Francesca's father so much that he couldn't even straighten his back. Never would he have thought that Francesca was actually teaching the members of the knighthood how to improve themselves.
After a year, a large-scale riot occurred on the borders of Zackaria. Francesca departed with fifty elite knights, and with lightning speed, led her troops directly into the church seized by the rioters to be used as their base. She captured the leader of the rioters alive, suppressing the upheaval practically without any loss of blood.
The news spread in the neighboring countries, and a poet gave such an evaluation regarding Francesca's various performances: Everything was like a ceremony to pray for rain. At first, there was an uproar caused by the campfire that was lit among great cheers of farmers and villagers, the inhabitants of the earth. Then, it was as though clouds darker and more turbid than ink were shrouded over the social circles of the nobility situated among the clouds, defamation that were continually spat out formed foul rainwater......
Francesca's father and grandfather once scolded her together, asking her not to partake in barbarous activities unbecoming of those of a Duke's family. However, in the end their efforts were all in vain. Facing their reprimands, Francesca said resolutely: As members of the Zaccaria, protecting our land is in fact, a perfectly justified matter, and we have the obligation to do so as well!
The elderly Duke Zaccaria did not usually anger easily, but when his tolerance reached its peak, he came to a decision by himself without care for opinions of the others. And the results that came to due to the failure of their reprimands was thus. The old Duke Zaccaria announced the renouncement of his seat, giving his title of the Duke to his son, handing the job of the Commander of the Knights taken temporarily by his son to Francesca.
「If so, outsiders will not have any chance of saying that you are fooling around with the Knights. However, if you do not fulfill your responsibilities and obligations as a Knight, your actions will be judged by military law!」
「That is exactly what I wish for!」
Just like that, the old Duke kept his hands off his beloved granddaughter, allowing her to wander the battlefields as she liked. After that, he summoned the Knights in the city to the central courtyard as well, publicly announcing the shift of authority for the Knights into Francesca's hands.
「Now, all of you are my subordinates, and I have already decided on a new name and flag appropriate for the Order!」
Francesca's words caused loud cheers among the knights lined up in the courtyard, and it was three years after that when the flag embroidered with a silver hen embracing a silver egg with its wings spread out fluttered in the bloodied wind of the battlefield, shaking up the entire Celestial Kingdom with its glorious feats.
"I was present as well when the flag of the Silver Hen waved at various battlefields. I was so excited each time we set out for expeditions that it felt like my asshole grew five times its original size."
The young military doctor in the team chattered on about the incredible feats performed by the Order of the Silver Egg on the battlefields while closing up Chris's wound. The stove by their side heated up the whole pot of water, its steam filling the whole tent; but the young military doctor blissfully telling his story didn't seem to realize it at all. He was called Nicolo, a vulgar, slovenly man. He had long, tea brown shoulder-length hair that was casually bound in a bunch behind him without much care. With his monocle on his nose bridge and his dashing features, he could be described as a handsome person. Although not visible from his features at all, he was once awarded a Badge of the Rose, and was a Knight to the letter.
"Actually, our Captain is a person who appreciates talent. Beauty or immeasurable strength, those who fulfill one of the two criteria will gain her recognition. Because of that, there is no end of cute girls even among our Captain's personal guard, such as Meena, Paola, and as for those who are currently absent......"
The military doctor counted names of girls on his fingers, while Chris listened blankly beside him. But since the number was too large, he was even unsure of what he should feel surprised at halfway through.
—What is wrong with this Order......
The leader was a duke's daughter just at an age of eighteen; the military doctor looked like an insufferable flirt, knights eavesdropping for information from the outside time after time showing their uncultured backgrounds, and there were even some who looked just like bad-hearted mercenaries as well, while the curiosity that overflowed from the their gazes when the looking at the captured Chris was almost as strong as enmity.
It was the first time he felt such an atmosphere in an army.
These people did not have cheap desires— that was what Chris sensed in the air. In the past, each of the troops that he saw was filled with the stench of beasts due to the strong desire for slaughter, coin or entertainment. However, the knights of the Order of the Silver Egg around him did not have such a stench at all, and the one who made the deepest impression on him was Minerva.
—That's right! Where's Minerva? Is she alright? If I'm not mistaken, she's hurt as well......
"Excuse me, Doctor......"
"Just call me Nicolo." The military doctor smiled, and immediately frowned after that: "Listen well, you cannot speak of the word 'Doctor' for a second time in the Order of the Silver Egg. It is a taboo more horrifying than the god of death."
Chris had never heard any mention of the fact. However, that was not important......
"How is Minerva right now?" Chris asked.
"Paola is probably taking care of her. Women have female medical staff to take care of them— it's all because of that Francesca, who made such an unreasonable request. If I'm in charge of everything, I'll definitely heal everyone completely, without fail...... Hey, where are you going!? Lie down! The injuries you sustained are much more severe than that of Meena's!"
Nicolo pushed Chris back to the bed by his shoulders. He even kindly covered Chris with a blanket, but such physical exertion was already enough to cause the wounds on Chris to throb faintly. He could not help but furrow his brows.
"That girl...... Is she alright? She was hurt rather severely as well......"
"Compared with yours, her's are actually quite light. Instead of talking about her, what kind of monster are you, seriously......" Nicolo said.
After hearing that, Chris shifted his gaze to the patch of tent above him and deeply breathed out in relief.
—She's okay, that's so great......
—After all, if she is not present in the future, I will not be able to live on as well......
" You're a mercenary of the Celestial Kingdom, aren't you? Why are you so worried of Meena? Are you really her slave?"
Hearing Nicolo's questions, Chris immediately turned around to ignore him.
"So what is it? Why don't you just tell me? What does it matter? You'll be asked these questions no matter where you go as long as you stay here anyway."
Chris raised the back of his palm to eye level, and finally sighed in relief when he saw that the insignia there had already faded into his natural skin color— it seemed like the military doctor was still ignorant of the fact that Chris was the Star Eater.
"Minerva and I met on a battlefield, and I became her slave since I lost...... It's just that simple."
"Oh, then the 'beast's son who has jet black hair as profound as the night skies' Minerva once said would kill her would be you?"
Chris couldn't help but gulp at those words.
It seemed like Minerva had already told the comrades on her team of what she had foreseen. But to what extent did she reveal the information? Chris heard a guarantee from Minerva that she would definitely not tell the others of the brand, so Chris believed that the people who knew of it in the Order of the Silver Egg should be few.
"She said that this day would be the date of her death, and so left the squad by herself." Nicolo said: "But when we started a bet, everyone bet that she would survive in the end, so the gamble couldn't be started— But isn't that obvious? How can anyone in this world kill her?"
—That's true. Even the powers of the Beast Brand could not kill her......
—No, perhaps I should say that she was not killed exactly because of the brand's power? This......
"Even so......" Nicolo said with his head tilted: "Why in the world did she bring you back alive? Did anything happen between you?"
"Ah...... Um...... That......."
Chris thought, if the military doctor who was good at getting familiar with other people found out about the brandings of the Beast on Chris, he would definitely look at him with a disgusted expression. Just thinking of that caused him to be unable to speak. However, just when Chris was stuttering over what he should explain, Nicolo suddenly showed a strange smile, making a conclusion over Chris and Minerva's relationship by himself: "Oh, so that's how things are? Well...... Indeed, if something like that really happened between you, it's true that it would be hard to talk about." Chris felt that he seemed to have misunderstood something, but he still did not answer in the end.
"There are five stitches on your stomach. Stand up slowly, okay. Can you put on your clothes on your own?"
Nicolo was not talking about the old clothing Chris originally wore that was stained by blood, but the brand new clothes that the squad prepared for him. When Chris wore the clothes, he thought in puzzlement over the reason he, as a captive, was allowed to wear clothing of such high quality. He only found something wrong after buttoning the clothes.
"Wait a minute, these clothes are?"
A flamboyantly carved sword accessory was hung on the chest position of the shirt, while emblems of a silver hen and a silver egg were embroidered at the area between the elbow and the cuff.
"This is the badge for Francesca's personal guards. As for the sword on the chest, it signifies that you have to keep Francesca's safety in your heart at all time." Nicolo said.
"W-What the heck is this! What were you thinking!" Chris couldn't help but cry out: "I'm a slave, why must I fight to the death for you!"
" Didn't I already tell you? Francesca wants to enlist you in her personal guards."
Chris was dumbstruck— Me? In among the Captain's personal guard? This means...... I'm supposed to become a member of the Order as well?
—What a joke! If things really turn out that way......
Chris was worried that the fact that he was the 'Star Eating Beast' would be found out not long after. People might even see the Beast brandings on him. If so, he would be cursed and resented by the members of the squad. If even Minerva couldn't suppress the beast in him one day, he might have to eat up even the members in this team......
—I-I definitely won't let things turn out this way.
With a resolution of only being the slave by Minerva's side he was unprepared to come in contact with any other person in the team......
"Hey, can't you be a bit more contented? You're becoming a member of the Captain's personal guard, you know? You can sleep in the same tent as her, call her directly as Fran, and there might even be a chance for you to change her clothes for her! What is there to dislike? If you're not willing, then let me take your place instead!"
"Nicolo, if you have finished your work, can you directly stitch up your mouth as well?"
All of a sudden an unexpected sound rang, causing Nicolo to grab the dagger on the floor in shock. But when he realized who the owner of the voice was, his shoulders convulsed furiously as his shoulders froze. Chris looked back in shock as well; the one he saw was the blonde girl he encountered before. She was standing at the cramped entrance of the tent.
"Hello, beautiful beast." She walked into the tent. That moment, all of the armor on her was completely taken off, and the dress with an open chest did not look like clothing worn on a battlefield at all. The eyes that were like sapphires abruptly approached Chris, causing him to bump into a post supporting the tent when he walked backwards.
"Nicolo probably told you about the squad badge, didn't he?"
Hearing Francesca's question, Chris's lowered eyes saw the sword ornament tied to his chest, and forced out an answer after raising his head: "I am from the Celestial Kingdom, and so cannot be your comrade."
"Aren't you a mercenary? Besides, isn't your employer already missing?"
Francesca's rebuke made Chris speechless. Not knowing how to counter her, he could only nod when he stared at Francesca's mysterious expression.
"Listen well......" Francesca said: "Meena was the one who took you back, and she is my subordinate. So you are my belonging as well. Do you understand now?" She pressed her hand on the side of Chris's ear when she spoke, gently sliding her soft, chilly fingertips to Chris's chin, as though she was teasing him, "For me, I will not be satisfied even if the soldiers around me are as much as the stars in the skies, so your participation can be said to be irreplaceable to me as well."
"Why—?" Chris swallowed his words halfway through— What is wrong is with this Order? Normally, won't any other daughter of a duke be nestled up in her own city, indulging in luxurious dresses, balls, and other people's gossip? Why did this woman lead an army to war? Might it be possible that she is really treating the troops her father entrusted to her as a toy......
To that, Francesca shrugged and smiled superficially: "I'm not thinking of bringing down the Celestial Kingdom just for fun."
Her answer stunned Chris to silence— Bringing down the Celestial Kingdom?
From what he was aware of, no matter how powerful an aristocratic House was, they would only cause uprisings to get land, military force and taxing rights from the Celestial Kingdom, but never did anyone make the grandiloquent declaration of overthrowing the Celestial Kingdom. However, the little girl of eighteen before his eyes......
While Chris was stunned in awe, the tent entrance was flipped open once again.
This time, it was Minerva who rushed inside. That moment, she had already taken off the cape pinned to her sleeves, exposing her white, slender shoulders. With bloodstains on the bandage covering her wound on her waist, her fragile body would make people's heart ache. It was hard to associate her with the 'soul reaper' nimbly waving a large sword no matter how you looked at it.
"Don't you do things on your own accord. He is my belonging!" Minerva shouted in agitation.
"What is he to you again?" Francesca asked in nonchalance.
"I said, he's my slave!"
"Did you already forget, there is a rule in the Code of the Rose which says, 'without my permission, battle spoils cannot be taken for yourself.'"
"Ngh......" Her words caused Minerva to lean unsteadily against a post and supported herself on it while protesting weakly:
"But...... He's a person, not a thing, so he can't be counted as a battle spoil....."
"But didn't you say just now that he's your belonging?"
Minerva's face reddened in anger. Her hand gripping the post tightened abruptly, causing the wooden post to creak in response. Seeing her reaction, Nicolo hurriedly ran forward with his face pale, "Hey hey hey, what the heck are you doing! Are you thinking of tearing down my tent? Calm down a little! How can you win against the Captain in an argument? You didn't even think of the fact that your brain isn't that quick from the star—"
Thump— Minerva's fist lashed out, hitting Nicolo away in an instant. Chris barely managed to catch the tall man, causing his wounds that were just stitched to throb in pain.
"Sorry, sorry, thanks a lot......" While apologizing, Nicolo rose, a flaming trail of nosebleed on his face.
"Say that once again if you dare, and we'll see how quick your brain will twist!" Minerva cried out in anger. However, the shout caused a severe pain in her wounds, making her press her side abdomen. That moment, another person ran into the tent.
"Meena, I haven't finished dealing with your wounds yet. You can't just run off like this!"
The girl wore a brimless hat and donned a blue, triangular cape. It seemed like that was the uniform for the medical soldiers. The medical staff looked similar to Minerva in age, or was perhaps a few years younger than her. There were even a few locks of light brown baby hair at the side of her youthful face. Seeing the disaster in the tent and her liege lord standing before her, she couldn't help but cry out with her hand covering her mouth and her face pale: "Ah! Lady Fran, my deepest apologies!"
"Paola. Haven't I told you that you must tie up her neck when you are handling Meena's wounds? She doesn't get hurt often, so she hates the medicinal odor."
"What do you treat me as, a dog?!"
"N-No, Meena ran out in a rush when she heard Lady Fran discussing about the entry to the team with the captive......"
Seeing the two squabbling before her, the girl called Paola added on in support of Minerva after looking at them timidly. From beside, Nicolo spoke by Chris's ears in a low voice, "You two are actually rather similar......"
However, the words seemed to be overheard by Minerva, and she immediately shot a look as sharp as blades across Nicolo's heart. Judging that the situation was not good, the military doctor hurriedly hid behind Chris without regard for his own pride.
That moment, Francesca spoke while holding Minerva's hand: "Why do you refuse to let this beautiful beast join us?"
"This—" After hearing her question, Minerva first glanced at Chris, and then stayed mute after looking around at the people present. Then, she said: "Because...... Because I must keep him by my side. If not...... It'll be...... dangerous, if he is allowed to approach the others......"
"So the two of you are so close that you're inseparable?" Francesca added quickly.
"Don't explain it in such a way! That is not what I mean! He is just my tool, and nothing else!"
—What in the world are these two talking about......
Chris was dumbstruck, and even then, Nicolo still refused to behave, and interjected: "This is the man she saw every night even in her dreams, of course she won't let him g—" Before finishing his words, the gauntlet that Minerva tossed over crashed heavily on Nicolo's forehead, causing him to bend down in pain.
After seeing that, Francesca sighed and said: "Paola, have a look at Nicolo. No matter how much he bluffs of his greatness as a doctor, I think he won't be able to deal with injuries on his own face. Well then, welcome, beautiful beast."
She changed topics in a flash, taking Minerva and Chris out of the tent at the same time, passing through the center of the camp.
Under the evening skies, smoke curled upwards from the porridge stewing in the campsite...... A whole day passed since their return. Night was about to descend.
Military tents were erected everywhere. All the soldiers in the Order sat around the campfire. When they saw Francesca walking by with Chris and Minerva, they nodded to their liege lord one by one, glaring at Chris who was walking behind her as well.
Among their murmuring voices, Chris heard the word 'Star Eater' and froze on the spot.
—Someone knows of me!
—Is it possible that there are even people among the Principality who heard of rumors about me?
"Hey, you guys know of this beast?"
Francesca heard it as well. She stopped and questioned her subordinate sitting by the campfire.
"Of course! He has quite the famous name!"
"Captain, did you see the armor that guy was wearing? Each part of the set is first class stuff of the highest level. However, not one of them was of the same set."
"There are some with emblems of Duke Houses, some with art hand-drawn by noblewomen, and even some of the exorcism pictures of the Church. How could anyone get such an assorted set of armor together?"
Hearing their descriptions, Chris couldn't help but avert his gaze.
"All of those were probably robbed from famous Generals or Knights after he killed them."
"Actually, it's still fine when we hear the name 'Star Eater'. It's the people of the Celestial Kingdom army who would get scared out of their wits after hearing it."
"I heard that an army with him would definitely perish."
Thus, quite a few gazes were focused on Chris. Even when he looked away, he could still feel the gazes full of enmity piercing his body like a thousand needles.
"Meena, why the heck did you bring this guy alive? Wasn't this guy supposed to kill you?"
"That's right, you should have chopped off his limbs, leaving him alone on the battlefield."
Just when Minerva was about to answer, Francesca stopped her with a flourish of her hands, speaking ahead of her instead:
"He's joining my personal guard."
The words caused the soldiers surrounding the campfire to stand up as well. Even the people slightly further away from them gulped and almost stood up together as well.
"Captain, are you serious?!"
Among them, an impatient soldier who was the eldest, and had a large scar on his face approached, questioning Francesca in a distance so close he almost pressed against her.
"Putting this guy in the Order is just bad luck. Please don't do something like that!"
"If we let him stay in the Order, who knows what trouble he would bring!"
"You're just plainly ignoring the lives of your comrades if you do this!"
The words pierced Chris's heart one after another. However, it was actually quite normal for them to have such reactions.
—Just let me be a slave of my own will, just like a rusted hoe kept in a store by a farmer......
—Please don't drag me into this team......
"Are you doubting my decision?"
Facing her subordinate's objections, Francesca tilted her head, halting everyone's discussions with a loud, imperious voice. The soldiers who continually jeered at Chris paled, not daring to make the slightest sound.
"You think that the Order of the Silver Egg trained by me, Francesca da Zaccaria, directed by me in warfare strategy will lose to the misfortune wrought on by such a cute beast?"
Francesca's imposing presence covered that of the soldiers present. After they exchanged gazes with each other, all of them knelt down, bowing down before their Captain. The scene shocked Chris into a daze.
The blonde girl with a startling imposing manner lowered her head to look at her subordinates, and berated right after that:
"How many times have I told you not to forget your pride as a member of the Order of the Silver Egg? The pride includes the honor signified by the flag you are under, your liege lord's name and your own pride!"
After saying that, she turned around, while Minerva chased over while saying in displeasure:
"Look, everyone had such a reaction just because you wanted to enlist him into your personal guard. This guy is a mad dog. You can only order him around as a slave with a collar on his neck......"
Chris knew that Minerva was having a headache over how she should keep him by her side as well, and if Chris's presence caused harm to the Order's safety, Minerva would probably kill him without hesitating. However, if Chris were to become a member of the Order, she could not do that anymore.
"Meena, do you mean to keep this beautiful beast all to yourself?"
"That is not what I mean!"
"Excuse me...... Francesca......"
While Francesca and Minerva were bickering, Chris called the young Captain before him as he walked to a shady spot in the tent behind them.
"Just call me Fran. You are the fifth person to get permission." Francesca turned around and said while pointing at Chris.
However, facing the goodwill of the daughter of a duke, Chris instead caught hold of the sword ornament tied to his chest and handed it to Francesca after tearing it down with its band.
"What are you doing?" She asked. With her head tilted, she stood before Chris like a cat that caught sight of its prey.
"I cannot become your comrade, because I am a harbinger of misfortune no matter where I walk. No matter where I go, I will be resented, cursed by the people like just now."
Before realizing it, Chris almost let slip the fact that he had the Brand of the Beast in him as well, saying that he was a beast that lived on the lives of other people, but he still held back in the end. After all, he would be unable to continue staying by Minerva's side if such words were spoken.
"I don't care what other people say. The most important thing is how you yourself think, isn't that right?"
Francesca's denial caused Chris to be struck dumb momentarily.
"Besides, don't you have a reason to stay by Meena for?"
In a double-team of the elegant Lady's gaze who could see through people's thoughts and Minerva's gaze that was chilly as heavy lead, Chris nodded vaguely, "I-It's..... true that I wish to stay by Minerva's side, but......"
"—! You— Can you please mind how you speak!?"
After hearing that, Minerva struck Chris with an elbow hit, causing him to see stars.
—Why did she get mad? Isn't things exactly so......
—Henceforth, I will always...... always stay by your side, devouring your fate, eating up your destiny of death......
"Oh my, fine, fine." Francesca widened her eyes in feigned shock, smiling while she walked, "It's just great, Meena. How good will it be if I could hear someone say that to me."
Seeing Francesca's hand that was approaching her, Minerva pushed her's away abruptly, walking two steps before Francesca after that.
"Anyway, your reason cannot be disclosed, right?" Francesca asked once again. However, Minerva gave a 'hmph', while Chris nodded as well.
—How can we disclose this......
—How can I tell the others that I am actually a beast who lives on the fates of the others?
"Very well. Forget it. Anyway, I've already decided. Since I like this beautiful beast, I am enlisting him in my personal guard."
That moment, the three of them were passing through another campfire. When the soldiers around them heard Francesca's words, they glared at Chris in surprise.
"Captain's personal guard......" "We're talking about that guy?" "Captain is making reckless decisions again......" Chris could not help but feel a blow when he heard the discussions around them, and lowered his head to look at his feet.
—In such gazes and disparagement...... How can they fight by my side in companionship......
"Besides, this beautiful beast probably knows nothing but fighting, isn't that right?"
Hearing Francesca's voice, Chris came to his senses after a moment of shock.
"You said that you're keeping him as a slave, but what can he do? You aren't thinking of letting him dress you up everyday, are you?"
"N-No...... This...... Well......" Facing Francesca's questions, Minerva stuttered, not knowing how to answer.
"Look, the people around us would have less to say if I keep him by my side instead. If so, it means that he's by your side as well, so please think better about it."
Chris did not speak, and brooded over the words of the young Captain.
In fact, she might have been right as well. After all, his identity as the 'Star Eater' was long known. If so, as long as he stayed in the Order, no matter as a slave with his neck tied up, or fighting with the others while holding a sword, such enmity would not disappear. If so—
Chris nodded to Francesca's opinions, while the young Captain narrowed her eyes in a smile in satisfaction as well, nodding in response to Chris's affirmation.
Thus, with uneasy emotions, he tied the sword ornament that was not yet handed out back on his chest.
—Can...... Can I really protect the others......?
—In the past, I was a beast who devoured the fates of other people all along. Can I really protect Minerva?
Chris thought in his heart. If the night of the new moon descended, and even Minerva was unable to suppress the beast on him, he would have to escape by himself. If so, he only had that choice as well......
However, to Francesca's statement, Minerva objected while pursing her lips:
"You want him to join your personal guard, but you decided without getting Gilberto's agreement. That guy will be angry."
"Even though he's the captain of the personal guards, he does not have the right to object to my decision as well. Besides, Gil isn't even here anyway."
"Not here? Why?" Minerva asked.
"I asked him to sneak into an enemy campsite, but I think he's about to return soon."
"Sneaking into an enemy campsite? Why? Aren't we already retreating?"
Facing Minerva's question, Francesca patted her on her shoulders.
"How do you think you were saved in the river valley? It's because of Gil asking the mercenaries of the Celestial army to catch the Salt Sprayer by offering gold coins as a reward that the net of enclosure you had to face in the end got weaker."
Hearing that, Minerva's eyes widened. She froze, while Chris had the same reaction behind her as well.
So that was what happened. Minerva and Chris did indeed hear the soldiers on their tail mention while searching for them that another person was willing to pay more for them alive, compared with the money that Cornelius offered.
—So they used the tactic of dispersing the enemy forces......
Chris thought, the act of fearlessly scattering money in the enemy camp was just too reckless.
"That's why, when Gil returns, you'll have to thank him properly." Francesca said.
The tent of the Order of the Silver Egg's captain was far more lavish than one would have imagined, as though a bedroom in a noble's palace was completely duplicated there. The large bed in the tent's bedroom was stuffed full of feathers that seemed to be able to drown a person. The large flag signifying the dukedom and the Order that alternated in gold and silver was hung between the posts. The position at the bedside where armor was supposed to be hung was furnished with a galore of enchanting dresses. The dishes served by the servants were so sumptuous that it would cause people's eyes to widen.
"You're still hungry, aren't you? Have a seat." Francesca said.
The menu included roasted pies with a soft texture that were filled with apple fillings and extremely fresh meat products. Those were all delicacies that Chris never had a chance to consume in the army.
Although the food on the table looked mouthwatering, and definitely won't taste bad, to Chris, they were all dishes unsuited for his appetite. Added with the fact that Francesca and Minerva's gazes never left him as they dined, he only dared to consume some drinks and cheese.
The red wine there weren't sour at all, and was excellent wine. From that point, the Order probably had alcohol fermentation equipment as well.
—Speaking of which...... Chris raised his gaze and glanced at the two girls by his side, thinking that the dining etiquette of the two were just too particular, as though they had forgotten that they were actually in a military camp. Bread had to be tore off with the hands before putting them into the mouth, while chewing had to be done in small bites so that the cheeks would not swell up...... It was understandable to Chris that Francesca ate thus, but it surprised him to see that even Minerva did so.
—It's the first time I encountered such a strange, uneasy feeling......
After they finished eating, Francesca actually shocked them by saying:
"I'll sleep in the center, Paola sleeps on the left, Meena sleeps on the right. As for you, you can sleep on the area below our feet."
"Wait a minute!" Minerva shouted with a flustered expression before Chris even spoke: "Are you inviting him to sleep with us?!"
"But of course. He's a member of my personal guard."
"But doesn't Gilberto sleep at other places as well? And he's a man as well—"
"That's because Gil himself was unwilling to do so. As for me, as long as they're beautiful, I won't mind if they're men or women. Besides, won't it be great if we have such a beautiful beast as a footrest when we are sleeping?"
Chris's eyes widened, and fell into a daze. However, his brain started to buzz in slight pain.
—This woman...... isn't crazy, is she?
"Even if it's fine for you, Paola won't be willing as well!" Minerva frantically tried to change Francesca's opinion.
"Eh? Does that mean that you aren't unwilling?" Francesca asked.
"Of course not!"
That moment, sounds of approaching footsteps came from outside the tent. Chris reflexively touched his belt, but there wasn't any sword hanging there. The footsteps sounded light and rhythmic. If not for the metals on his armor clinking, it might have been hidden by the two women's bickering in the tent.
It was the footsteps of a veteran on the battlefield.
"Lady Fran, I have returned."
When they looked around, they saw a tall man at the entrance of the military tent. He had gray hair shaved extremely short, eyes that were as bright as marbles, while his graceful features looked like a profound lake encased in a thin layer of ice.
The man wore black armor, but the armor could not hide the body it covered that went through numerous trainings and his hardened limbs. However, his longsword fixed to his waist was probably the most eye-catching thing about him. The arc of the sword's body was extremely graceful. It was most probable that the sword was just covered with a holster of knots as a suitable sheathe could not be found for it.
"So you're back, Gil. Listen, I was just talking to Meena about the problem of increasing the size of the bed."
The words caused the man to shoot a look as sharp as a nail at Minerva, fixating abruptly on Chris, leaving only after that. He looked back at his liege lord. There was a short sword hung on his waist, and the emblem of the Order carved on it was owned by Chris as well. It seemed like he was the leader of the Captain's personal guard, Gilberto.
"Due to the increase in numbers of my personal guard, this bed will not be enough anymore." Francesca said.
"Can we please discuss this matter only after we return to the country." Completely ignoring his liege lord's high spirits, he coolly poured cold water on her. After that, he said in a stern voice: "The enemy assigned an assault team to attack us in two directions. They'll probably reach us in about half an hour."
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