Zero no Tsukaima:Volume13 Chapter5
Chapter 5: The Persuasion of the Pope
After arriving at the Cathedral, the first thing Louise did was greet Henrietta.
But for some reason, this Queen seemed to be quite distracted. She only acknowledged it saying "Oh, just in time." Even why Louise and the others were summoned to this country in the first place was not explained. Henrietta told Louise and Tiffania that the Pope his Holiness would explain later.
"Anyhow, the long journey must have tired you out. They have already prepared dinner. Please, enjoy yourselves first."
The dinner would be held in two different places.
Except for Saito, the Ondine Water Spirit Knights, Colbert, Kirche and Tabitha would share one room, while Louise, Tiffania and Saito would sit in the dining hall where the Pope would attend himself.
In the smaller room, they didn't have a single waiter, letting them to do as they please. Luckily, the members of the Ondine Knights did not seem to mind this kind of treatment. They were all celebrating today's battle, laughing and chatting loudly all the way.
Kirche looked at Colbert by her side. Since arriving at this Cathedral, he seemed to have a lack of enthusiasm. Leaving the untouched dish in front of him, he rested his chin on his knuckles, immersed in deep thoughts.
"What's wrong? Here, does it taste bad?"
Kirche indicated her soup by stirring it with a spoon.
"This soup really is disgusting. Other than spinach, there's nothing else. Having this kind of priest like meal, it's my first experience."
Still, Colbert stayed in the same position without moving an inch after commenting.
"What's wrong with you? Are you alright?"
Kirche bent her head worriedly. Colbert finally lifted his head up in response.
"Eh? Oh, sorry. Nothing much"
He took a few sips from his soup, whipping out a ruby ring from his pocket once in a while, staring at it like a dead man with his eyes open. It was what he gave into Kirche's possession when he was about to die in his battle with Menvil. After Colbert was completely healed, Kirche gave this back to him promptly.
"What's with the ruby? Are you, thinking about your ex?"
Originally meant to be a joke, Colbert nodded his head out of Kirche's surprise.
"Umm, just like that"
Kirche winced her eyes, and put a small cooked lobster on his head, although he was just as motionless. Not wanting other people to see her any more jealous, Kirche found someone else to talk to. At her side, Tabitha was eating expressionlessly.
"Hey, Tabitha. What do you think they are talking about in the dining hall?"
Tabitha slowly finished her cup of wine and answered
On the other end of the corridor inside the dining hall, no one said of anything and kept putting food in their mouths in awkward silence. Louise was sitting next to Saito, whereas Tiffania was sitting on the other side of him.
Today's incident wasn't something Saito could easily let go. Every now and then, Saito would stare angrily at Julio, grinding his teeth and food, thinking "Huh, that bastard"
Tiffania nervously shrunk into her seat. Holding the fork and knife in her hand tightly, the plate served just now, she had not taken a single bite, already cut into an unknown number of pieces now.
In front of her was the one who called Louise and the others there, Henrietta.
Likewise to Colbert, Henrietta was also deep in thoughts, focusing dully on the wine glass in front of her. On the side of Henrietta sat Captain of the guns squadron, Agnes, but she also seemed to be considering something silently.
Sitting at the end of the table, was Pope St. Aegis the 32nd, Vittorio Serevare, listening to Julio's daily report.
Not long ago, Louise, Saito and Tiffania, 3 of them were allowed to see Pope Vittorio alone. He used the caring, smiling face of his to welcome them all.
First, Louise was stunned by his handsome face. He was just like an elf, mysterious and mighty.
Next thing Louise felt, was the overwhelming warm feeling radiating from him. It's only something one can feel from those who had sacrificed all their desires for others. Just taking one sight of him, Louise felt as if she understood why he was able to become Pope at such a young age.
Saito also seemed to be experiencing what Louise was right now. His jaw dropped at the sight of the glamorous Vittorio, then quickily changed to a smile of defeat.
"Julio that kid may be handsome but he has his irritating side, but this person is completely different. So these people do exist in the world" Saito relayed his thoughts to Louise back then.
After that the dinner began. The only words spoken so far were from Vittorio, all of them comforting words, but irrelevant to the case. Not being able to raise a question on her side, Louise uncomfortably calmed down her mind.
What is this thing that Henrietta and Pope his Holiness wants us to see?
Louise jabbed Saito beside her and said
"What are her majesty and his Holiness planning to let us look at?"
"Dunno. I guess we will find out after this dinner. It may be extremely shocking, therefore a filled up stomach will surely calm you down."
Just like what Saito said, it's pointless to be thinking all day long. And so, Louise extended her hand to reach the food.
Hearing the report, Vittorio deeply bowed to everyone.
"My familiar must have caused you trouble"
Hearing him say this, Louise and Saito both, "Pufffff!", spit out everything in their mouths.
"Your Holiness, just now, what did you say?"
"I was apologizing for the trouble caused. Julio, why did you do these things without informing me? I only said 'Hope you may welcome them'."
Julio's hetero-chromatic eyes shined, and chuckled.
"No, not that!"
Louise unconsciously stood up.
"Just now, your Holiness said 'familiar'?"
"Yes, that is correct."
Julio looked at Saito and Louse, then said while nodding,
"We are brothers, gifted with the power to guide people to the correct paths, brothers wielding legendary power."
Saito and the others were all astonished by this sudden confession from Julio. Julio then casually took off the glove on his right hand.
On his hand, a chain of letters similar to Gandálfr's inscription was marked.
"I am the right hand of God. Vindálfr. Saito, you and me are like brothers."
"Vindálfr", Tiffania murmured to herself.
"Because Miss Tiffania still does not possess a familiar, that will be 3 bearers, 2 familiars, and..."
Vittorio eyed the Founder's Prayer book lying beside Louise
"A secret treasure, two rings, all inside this room"
Julio whispered softly in Vittorio's ear
"Ring, there is one more that can be counted"
"In that case, then there are 3 rings. So this is it."
The dining hall was filled with tension. In the middle of this stifling air, Vittorio turned to Henrietta.
Henrietta nodded deeply with a concerned face.
"Then, today, the reason for everyone's presence here is none other than what you are expecting. I hope you may all help me."
At this point, Henrietta opened her mouth and offered to continue for him.
After Saito and Louise had finished listening to what Henrietta had to say, they widened their eyes at this ridiculous task. Eventually returning to reality, Louise opened her mouth and said,
"Anyhow, what your Majesty is trying to say is, to use our power, and to reclaim the holy land back from the elves' hands? How is this different from the Reconquista people?"
"No, it's not like that, Louise. It's to discuss. War is foolish. Both of you have made me realize this point."
"Then, why must we reclaim the holy land?"
This time Vittorio cut in,
"It's because that place is where we belong. Why do wars exists? Why do the governors of this world, us, sheepishly declare war with different clans? Simply said, this state exists because of the loss of our destined land."
Vittorio's calm voice stood out from the rest and he continued,
"During the thousands of years after we've lost the holy land, we've been in a state of low self-confidence. Our promised lands conquered by unfamiliar people, is unhealthy for the overall population. Losing confidence, we have been seeking cheap replacements. Pointless fights over countless lands, we have bled a lot unnecessarily."
Louise could not counter his statements. This is Halkeginia's history.
"Reclaiming the promised lands. Revealing the legendary power. Only at this moment, our true confidence can come back to life. Only through this, we are able to construct our glorious future. When Halkeginia is finally united, there will be no more wars."
Vittorio calmly spoke of the word "united". This was a word which appeared often in countless Halkeginia kings' dreams.
"As the descendants of our Founder Brimir, everyone of us, in front of God and Founder himself are all brothers and sisters."
Louise's was swayed by these words. On the other hand, her instinct continued to tell her that there's a catch here somewhere. Before Louise was able to voice out her thoughts, Saito cut in,
"Then, may I speak a few words? Your Holiness."
Saito said apologetically,
"I, my, I'm not too smart, therefore what your Holiness said, I do not quite understand it. From what I hear, your meaning is that we should pick up our swords, and threaten them to take the land back, is that what you meant?"
"Yes. It's just that. Not very different from what you said."
Vittorio decisively confirmed Saito's description.
"How could we? Just because they are foreigners (elves), these things are permitted? I really don't think this will result in anything good."
"We believe to bless every single person is too arrogant."
Vittorio straightforwardly replied.
"My hands are small. These hands which God gave me, if I were to use them to care for every single creature in this world, then it would not be enough. I am a believer in Brimir. Therefore the first ones I should bless is Romalian pilgrims for their well-being. Am I wrong in doing so?"
"I don't think you are wrong. But...."
Saito paused a while for his brain to process. Henrietta opened her mouth, as if to persuade Saito to change his mind, and said,
"Saito. I also considered it thoroughly myself, and also agree with the Pope's wishes. I have sheepishly triggered a pointless war before, but I do not wish for history to repeat itself again. This is what I think. If you can use your power to stop a war, then I believe that is also a kind of justice."
Saito made himself clear.
Henrietta seemed to have something else to say, but Saito unerringly shook his head.
"Doing these things is too despicable! Tiffania sitting here, has elven blood flowing in her right now. I do not want to do anything similar to threatening Tiffania's mother"
Tiffania bit her lips. Although she has been thinking a lot, she believed there was no place for her to talk.
Henrietta stood up and walked next to Tiffania's side.
"Greetings, Tiffania. I am your cousin Henrietta"
She said, holding Tiffania's hands.
Tiffania answered, stupefied.
"That's right. Your father Sir Montreal (Prince of Montreal), not only was he the brother of the previous Albion King, he was also the brother of our previous Tristain King Henry. Which goes and say, you are my cousin."
Henrietta hugged Tiffania tightly.
"Ohh, my lovely cousin. I am sorry to remind you of all your painful memories. I also hope that you will forgive me for not being able to announce this fact to the public."
Tiffania hugged her only relative back, tears dropping form her eyes uncontrollably. The dining hall was veiled by silence momentarily. But then, through sobs, Tiffania still asked Henrietta,
"Your Majesty. Are you going to fight with my mother's clan?"
"It's not like that. We just want to tell them peacefully, to return that land to us. After all, that land was originally ours. I was hoping, during the discussion, the blood that's flowing through you will become a bridge never before crossed between us and them."
Tiffania hung her head, then softly replied,
"I, really do not understand difficult things. But, if my power can be of help to everyone, I believe, that there is nothing more more joyful that this."
"You are willing to help us?"
Tiffania turned to the surprised Saito.
"If Saito, says so, then I would also help. It is Saito who brought me to the world outside. If Saito decides to do so, then I am also willing to follow."
Henrietta looked at Saito, almost begging. Seeing Henrietta like this, his determination was slightly swayed, but in the end, he still couldn't accept it.
"I am sorry. Your Holiness and your Majesty's ideals are very attractive. But I do not want to use Louise's and my power because of this"
"Louise, what do you think?"
Henrietta turned to Louise in despair....
Louise was confused.
What Henrietta and Vittorio said were undoubtedly correct.
She was also one of Halkeginia's nobles.
As a noble, it was always first priority to consider Halkeginia's needs. Otherwise, it would be meaningless carrying the title of a noble. If this event happened a long time ago, Louise might have nodded her head towards Henrietta's beliefs.
But, the Louise now was different.
She did not, just because the others were elves, want to do these forceful actions.
Among the peasants, there were all sorts of people.
It must be the same for elves, all sorts of elves. There would be bad elves, as well as good elves. Through Saito and Tiffania's conversation, Louise also thought this way.
Conveying Louise's silent response, Henrietta gave a smile, nodded her head and said,
"Most certainly, it may be a very difficult choice for you to make. But, it is a choice you have to make eventually. Before you are certain, I hope that you will not forget, the meaning of the cape kept in your mother's possession. The marks stitched on it, are not decorations. Those marks represent the responsibility for Tristain's future, as well as the entire Halkeginia's future."
Yet even after Henrietta have said so, Louise was still motionless. Something was rejecting this idea in her mind.
Henrietta turned again to Saito.
"You too, are fighting for Louise's sake, aren't you? To save the person you treasure most, you will do whatever you need to. I too am the same. I cannot stand the conflicts between people. Therefore, I will also do what I must."
"For this, you do not care what happens to the elves?"
Hearing Saito's question, Henrietta nodded her head.
"I am Queen of a country of humans. Same as his Holiness, there is a limit to what my hand can cover."
These words carried a powerful effect behind them.
Vittorio said uncaringly,
"It has already been 3 years for me as the Romalia Pope. In this period, there was only 1 thing I learned"
Pausing in between, Vittorio said with force,
"Love cannot save everyone."
Everyone continued their dinner speechless.
Not before long, Saito raised another question.
"Then, may I ask another question?"
Vittorio nodded his head, chuckling.
"Assembling the void users is nice, really, but what about the Gallian side?"
That's right. Gallia's void user and his familiar always had their eyes on Louise and the other bearers.
Also, undoubtedly there would be the Gallian King Joseph and the elves who wield powerful Ancient Magic waiting in the shadows. To think that they would help this side was impossible.
To everyone's surprise, Vittorio laughed.
"Of course, I have my own way to solve this problem. It is exactly because of that I called this meeting here."
"What do we do?"
"In 3 days, my third anniversary coronation ceremony will be held. Right at the city near Gallian borders, the city of Aquileia. Of course, the Gallian King will also attend."
"Who knows. It does not matter whether he comes or not. My point is, Miss Vallière, Miss Westwood. I hope you will also attend this."
Louise seemed to have noticed something and stood up,
"Are you suggesting to use us as bait?"
"It is my ceremony. Prior to this, I have already spread news of me being a void user to Gallia, meaning you won't be the only ones being the bait. I am a person that would feel uncomfortable if I'm not part of the plan."
"This is too dangerous!"
"I understand about the danger. But, keep in mind that if you keep being on alert it would be even more dangerous. What does Gallian King Joseph wants? I'm afraid it's to eliminate all void users not in his grasp, and to turn Halkeginia into his own. He may be jeered as an incompetent King by his subjects, but I beg to differ. His is a cunning, cruel, emotionless man. The title "Incompetent King" is just a disguise for his ambitions. He can be cunning enough to that extent. Only if all three of us congregate together, he will commence his attacks."
"Then, how are you prepared for it?"
Intrigued, Saito asked further on.
Louise angrily bellowed with laser eyes focused on Saito.
"How is this bad? Just now I may have refused, but this is a different matter and I agree with it. The arrogance in that Gallian King, I have long despised. Not only did he brutally attack us, but also did such unforgivable things to Tabitha. I will never forgive him. If we are going to kill him eventually, it's better to do it as early as possible."
Saito's words made a pleased Vittorio nod,
"I fear he will send his familiar first. It's that Myoznitnirn you have encountered a few times before. That woman who uses magical items."
"We must capture Myoznitnirn with all our force, but must not kill her."
"Why is that?"
"If we kill her, then Joseph can summon another familiar again. Must capture her alive, keep her alive. This way, the Gallian void user cannot summon another familiar. Without a familiar, that void user's power will decrease by half. It will be a great chance for us to then go and negotiate, dropping his title as a king once and for all. After that happens, it might even be possible for your friend to take the throne."
"This is great! Let's do it then!"
Henrietta looked at Saito with trust. Julio joined in and laughed. Tiffania nodded her head.
Yet, only Louise was shaking her head alone.
Saito looked at Louise, not understanding why. Louise was astonished by their optimism, as well as at her boiling point. Although there were 3 void bearers in this room, there were only 2 familiars, Saito and Julio. However, Julio was Vindálfr. Even if he could control excellent beasts, between the battle of familiars they were still at a slight disadvantage.
Yes, in the eyes of those Albion dragon knight, Saito might be very used to fights.
But that was only under normal circumstances. Now we were talking about void, with all sorts of magical weapons flying around on the battle field, how useful could he be?
And it didn't end there. Tiffania was only capable of using one spell. The effects might be strong, but it was not a spell one could apply directly on the battlefield. As for Vittorio's power, no one knew. Perhaps he might be very powerful, but Louise just could't imagine how much battle experience that soft and gentle Pope had. In a battle, the spell's power wasn't everything, because if one had enough experience, even a dot level mage could defeat a triangle mage.
In comparison, although there were only 2 people as the enemy, their true power was still unknown.
The Myoznitnirn capable of controlling any magical weapon.
Along with the help of the Elves who commanded formidable Ancient Magic.
Louise might not have lost before, but she couldn't win either.
No, the reason Louise survived through all of that, could only be her luck.
There was also the possibility that the enemy had not unveiled their true power yet.
Remembering the Jörmungand some time ago, Louise shuddered. To defeat one was already tricky enough. What if they had 5?
No matter how, Louise did not agree that their victory was possible.
"Just facing Myoznitnirn alone has been difficult enough. I cannot imagine how tough it would be when she's accompanied by another void user. It's too dangerous. We must be more careful."
"We need courage. Courage capable of changing our current state. We must end this before the enemy obtains even greater power."
Vittorio pointed out.
"Louise, I think his Holiness is right."
You idiot! Louise blamed Saito in her thoughts. We may have 5 people over here, but isn't the one fighting the most going to be you?
Actually, it's only Saito himself
Saito must fight alone to buy time for Louise to chant her spells. Facing the enemies, who would be giving it their all, alone.
But, these words did not come out.
If it was said out loud, most would think that the master was putting himself/herself's safety first. Willing to become bait himself, for a Pope daring enough to say this, Vittorio should be the first. Since the Pope already decided it, nobles who disagree with him shouldn't be nobles at all. Even for Romalia Pilgrims, even as a heretic, there really was nothing to disagree with.
Louise was bitter, but she was not able to voice out any rejections.
"Even though, I still disagree. I cannot let the Pope's body be exposed to the danger of this plan."
Vittorio continued to smile and said,
"That's alright, you would not agree to a suggestion as sudden as this immediately. Please take your time to consider it. You will slowly change your point of view and see that I am right."
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