Zero no Tsukaima:Volume14 Chapter2
Chapter 2: The Third Annual Enthronement Ceremony
The third annual enthronement ceremony of the pope was to be held 300 miles north-east from the city of Romalia, near the border Gallia, inside the Town of Aquileia. This ceremony would last as long as 2 weeks, which made it a grand festival.
The Romalian church made intensive preparation towards the journey to Aquileia.
Ministers, generals and priests sat on dragon ships(not sure of the right term) decorated with various kinds of religious crest in the courtyard surround by the five elemental towers and the main tower. In comparison, the main tower harboured a gigantic warship for the sole usage of the pope. The pier aboard the main tower was only authorized for usage when the pope travelled.
The Holy knights of the church riding on pegasus' waited in the sky above, going through their procedures.
Despite the fact that Guiche and Ondine Water Spirit Knights would be the ones accompanying Henrietta on board the ship, they were delayed from boarding the ship because of certain circumstances.
Everyone on the harbour, which was extended like a balcony from the main tower of the large cathedral, waited impatiently for the arrival of their companions.
"What in the world is Saito doing..."
Malicorne murmured anxiously.
Though the apparent fact that the departure time was approaching, Saito, who bared quite a bit of responsibility, had yet to show up. Since he also skipped the training yesterday, it was inevitable for everyone to feel anxious.
"Did he escape out of fear?"
One of the students said with a hint of agitation. Everyone in the Ondine water spirit Knights were informed that they must prevent Gallia's conspiracy towards the pope.
Even if they assumed that the plan of Gallia was to assassinate the Pope of the highest authority in Halkeginia, they did not know what it was Gallia was trying to achieve through this conspiracy. But anyhow, it didn't seem like the enemy would be unprepared for anything.
More the reason why experiencing fear was expected.
A few students started to murmur "Knew he couldn't escape his status as a plebeian..." and similar topics. Guiche responded with a grunt and shook his head
"I don't think so. That is because he is a man who would still stand up, no matter the number of times he was defeated by my Valkyrie."
"Besides, he is a man who bravely stood against an army of 70,000. How could some feeble plan of Gallia scare him?"
Malicorne nodded whilst easily amending Guiche's conceited tone, at the same time refuting the theories of Saito being a scaredy cat.
Reynard, who was silent the whole time opened his mouth
"Actually... I saw Saito yesterday."
Everyone focused on this teenager wearing glasses with a seemingly serious character.
"It's something which happened yesterday morning. I saw him and Louise walk out of the cathedral side by side."
"Why didn't you say so earlier?"
Embarrassed by Malicorne's roar, Reinard scratched his head.
"Because... something like skipping training for a date with girls... if I said that it would hurt Saito's reputation. But on the other hand, I also understand Saito's feelings. On the night before carrying out a dangerous mission, it is a must to spend time with the one you love. After all, it might be possible to die on the battlefield."
"Then aren't we the same?"
Hearing what Gimli said, Guiche shook his head
"The one in most danger is actually Saito. That guy messed around with the Gallian enemies a few times. Anyhow, it should be about time he comes out already."
As Guiche commented, Louise and Henrietta showed up, accompanied by Tiffania and Agnes. Seeing Louise's clothing, Guiche and the group were stunned.
"Aah! Isn't this the dress of a nun?"
What Louise and Tiffania were actually wearing was a white robe worn by priests. All of the seams were sown together using bright orange thread. On the neck hung a holy object, giving the impression that they were outstanding nuns.
"Both of them will participate the ceremony as the status of a nun."
Agnes explained to everyone.
Tiffania's pointy ears were completely covered by her hood. It was a better fit than the hat she wore normally. This was the perfect safety charm she could have, since nobody will dare to do anything towards a Brimir Church nun.
Unknown if it was also because of the same reason, Tiffania seemed to be brighter than usual.
On the other hand, Louise kept making a frowning face, grasping the holy object tightly, as if muttering the prayers to God. With Louise's unusual attitude, Guiche could not help but feel uneasy himself.
Although he wanted to inquire about what happened to Saito, under the presence of Henrietta, he was unable to make the words form at his mouth. Just as Guiche was wondering about what happened, Henrietta asked the exact thing that Guiche wanted to know.
"Did something happen to Saito de Chevalier? It seems that he has yet to appear?"
Guiche lifted his head and said
"It is what I had in mind as well. Louise, what happened to Saito? He was with you yesterday, right?"
But still, all Louise did was hold the holy object tensely. Observing Louise's weird attitude, Henrietta seemed to notice something, and asked her
"Louise, you look like you know what happened."
Louise took a long, deep breath and told everyone looking at her
"Saito has already returned."
Everyone was too stunned to say anything. Henrietta stared at Louise with wide eyes. Tiffania covered her lips wide open from shock. Guiche, with a surprised tone asked Louise for more details.
"H-He went back to the Academy?"
Louise shook her head and replied
"He returned to his world."
Everyone froze like a statue after hearing those words from Louise.
"Louise! What happened! Tell us everything!"
Guiche frantically shook Louise's shoulders. Slowly, she brushed off his hands and replied
"You should all know that Saito is from Rub'al Khali, right?"
The Ondine Knights nodded. Everyone knew that Saito came from the place called "The East".
"... Saito received letters from his mother. It told him to come home"
"So you returned her request?"
Louise nodded. Malicorne pulled his hair and screamed.
"At this moment, it won't matter much if he didn't go back! Right at this critical moment..."
After hearing what Malicorne had to say, Louise gave him a stern look
"What are you talking about! It is exactly at times like this we should send him back! To this moment Saito has always been fighting for us. You call yourself an aristocrat! Is it not sensible to fix our own problems?"
Louise bit her lip, still holding the holy object tightly, and continued
"In any case, from this point onwards, we will never involve Saito in our conflicts!"
Malicorne then said with a troubled voice
"Although I don't completely understand... does this mean that we can never see Saito again? Or will he come back after assuring his mother?"
Louise closed her eyes for a while... then nodded. A pale-faced Louise never let go of the holy object in her hands, and returned to her murmuring. It was a prayer to God.
Noticing Louise's actions, the Ordine Knights' faces changed to a worrying white.
"Prayers, you can continue later. I still have another question, may I ask you of it?"
"Is it of Saito's own decision? Did Saito himself ever say he 'must go home'?"
Louise shook her head.
"I sent him back."
"How did you do it?"
"That I can't answer."
Everyone standing next to Louise became aware of Henrietta's strained face and stopped further pursuit. Everyone seemed to sense that this involved top secrets of the country.
However, the words of Louise stimulated everyone. Despite the end of dwelling on this subject, voices of blame continued to come out from the mouths of the Ondine Knights.
"This is no good! Even if he is your familiar, aren't you acting too much on your own accord!"
"I Did not! I thought it through thoroughly first!"
Malicorne tilted his head a little and said
"Right, but I don't think in the same direction. Perhaps Saito actually wanted to fight alongside us. If I were him I would've thought this way."
The teenagers all concurred with Malicorne's words and nodded vigorously. Louise began to say something, but was interrupted by Henrietta.
"Do you intend to shame me?"
All of this commotion between Tristain's Queen and her Knights caught the attention of the priests and officials of Romalia nearby, all of whom were desperate to eavesdrop.
With the sudden reminder from the Queen, the boys made a flustered face.
"It's a problem to be short of one chevalier, but a bunch of panicking guards because of this is another big issue. And I originally considered all of my handpicked guards to be brave knights..."
Being scolded by the Queen with such a serious tone, it stroke fear in all of the boys' hearts. Henrietta promptly followed Louise, who hurried to board the ship, and walked up the gangplank. Without exchanging expressions or words, one by one the Ondine Knights all followed Henrietta aboard.
Louise entered her cabin that was prepared for them and began to pray as she kneeled on her bed. Tiffania was staring at Louise across the room with concern.
She was obviously confused with the sudden event.
What does she mean by 'Saito returned'?
She once heard a story in Westwood of Albion that there was 'another world'.
... She said that letters were received by his mother from another world. I don't know how letters can be sent from a different world. But since Louise said so, it is probably true.
Speaking of which, when he was with me in the village he was talking about his hometown and began crying. I consoled him that time.
Tiffania was having mixed emotions. I'm supposed to be happy that there is a way for him to go back to his hometown, but I can't help but feel lonely. We went through a lot of trouble together and helped each other, but this is a sudden turn of events.
She wanted to know the full story from Louise, but decided not to interrupt her praying.
Obviously troubled, she folded her arms under her chest. Just as she was pondering what to do next, knocks sounded from the door.
Standing there was Henrietta, accompanied by Agnes.
Henrietta approached Louise but Louise didn't notice her as she continued to pray.
"Louise, please stop praying and look at me."
Finally, Louise lifted her head in silence, but did not look at Henrietta either.
She remembered the spell cast by the Pope 'World Door'.
"Louise, did Saito really go back to his world? You must have spoken to the Pope and Julio. Did the Pope really use void magic to send him back?"
Louise closed her eyes and nodded.
What would make her send him back?
They would have liked to ask for a detailed story, but right then there was no time.
Henrietta placed her hand on Louise's shoulder and whispered to her ears.
"We'll talk about this later on."
Henrietta went to the cabin of the Ondine Knights and gave them a lecture not to panic from the sudden news. Although the boys seemed to disapprove, this did, after all, came from the Queen and they had no choice but to nod their heads.
She then returned to her own bedroom and made Agnes leave.
Resting her head on her elbows on the windowsill, silent tears glittered from the shine of the moonlight, a direct comparison to her smooth white skin.
While letting tears flow, she realized how dependent she was on the familiar of Louise. Even though he did not have many relations to that world, she still gave him such dangerous tasks with heavy burdens.
He has now returned to the world he belongs to.
"Isn't this supposed to be a blessing?"
Until now I've always made mistakes. Now, I have to somehow do all this by myself. I am the Queen...
She understood her own reasoning, but for some reason the tears continued to flow from Henrietta's beautiful pair of eyes.
"It must be that I wasn't prepared for the sudden farewell", Henrietta thought
As soon as the boat carrying Pope Vittorio on the other side of the waterway left, the crowds congregated on the docks of Maltailago bursted into cheers.
The city of Aquileia next to the border of Gallia, which was made from filling the oceans to connect several artificial island using just sand and stones. An incredible number of narrow waterways ran around the city thoroughly, just like a maze. This city had been the stage and setting for famous conspiracies and romances for quite a few times in history.
The ship "Saint Moraco" carrying the pope started to descend slowly. The hull of the ship seemed to violently push away the calm waters, making great waves. The water started to overflow and formed small little waves running across the surface of Aquileia's centre. Soon, the centre was flooded with seawater. This fact, however, did not upset the gathered group of Aquileians, who risked being completely drenched to approach the ship closer.
Actually, the seawater here was considered as a type of Holy Water. To the highly religious people of Aquileia, this was priceless.
The people of this city were completely used to ceremonious atmosphere caused by the arrival of the pope's ship.
After the aggressive descent, the ship slowly edged itself next to the walls of the centre. Sailors quickly jumped onto the dock and anchored the ship.
With the chorus singing hymns in the lead, a winding staircase used to welcome the pope, was pushed out, making creaking sounds wherever they went. The staircase was installed at the gunwale of the boat, and purple canvas was laid down from the center of the courtyard all the way to the ladder.
Awaiting at the end of the winding staircase were Mayor of Aquileia with Lord Letsosonic, the other Archbishop. They knelt down and greeted the honored guests with hospitality.
The first ones to appear from the staircase were a group of Holy Knights. They wore purely white mantle that covered most parts of their body and lifted holy staffs to their chests.
After a long procession of knights that came down the ramp, they were followed by the Pontifical College of Romalia. This too was a train of people long enough to make everyone not help but wonder "where from the ship did they come from?"
When these two teams had finished popping out from the ship, another round of cheers, more enthusiastic than the last, came from the crowd.
The next group that came down the ramp was from Tristain. Queen Henrietta diligently walked down the ramp with the company of two maidens at her side as the Ondine Knights sandwiched her front and back. The allied young Queen, Henrietta also harboured a popularity worthy of credit here.
Somehow, the cheers soon turned into a chant of "Long live the Queen of Tristian!", Henrietta responded with a light wave.
And... after all those honored guests had showed up, as soon as the starring actor of this day showed himself, the masses suddenly became unerringly quiet. Even the young boy yelling loudly to sell water took off his cap and drew a cross in front of his chest.
When Pope Aegis the 32nd, Vittorio Cervale with dazzling eyes appeared in front of the people, the congregated people of Aquileia involuntarily sighed.
It was as if the shining light from this holy man had focused on each of the many people in this centre.
As soon as Vittorio raised his hands, and a smile was laid across his face... the spell of silence was broken immediately, and there were cheers so loud that it echoed throughout the place.
On the first night the pope and the people accompanying him had touched the ground of Aquileia, all of the members with knowledge of this plan were all sitting at the round table sitting inside the Cathedral of St. Lutia Aquileia.
Tiffania and Louise sat next to Henrietta, and next to them was Agnes. In a fairly distant side of the table sat Guiche with a strained face.
The other half of the table was surrounded by the officials of Romalia.
Right in the middle was pope Vitorrio himself, in the company of Julio and the captain of the Holy Knights. Next to them was the pale-faced Mayor of Aquileia and the High Priest of St. Lutia Church, discussing topics with uneasiness.
The mayor who had been informed of this plan worriedly said
"I am familiar with the plan, but is it true that Gallia plans to attack the pope?"
It was, in fact, the aim of the legendary "void mage", but to avoid confusion, it was not mentioned.
Vittorio nodded while wearing a kind smile.
"It is undoubtly true. The incompetent king of Gallia wants to rule the entire Halkeginia. Our father in heaven, my ancesestors and myself are all obstacles in his eyes."
Listening to how the Pope said that without hesitation, the mayor had to wipe off the sweat furiously dripping from his forehead.
Just my luck that such a troublesome incident had to happen within my term
The mayor who was on the verge of anxious tears thought.
"In these circumstances, thou should not endanger thyself..."
One of the events of the annual coronation ceremony was continuous prayers with numerous priests and priestesses.
During this event, Aquileia would be crammed with Halkeginian believers, queuing up just to catch a glimpse of the Pope praying.
"The Gallian syndicate would be disguised as one of the believers to take action", the Pope and the rest of the people thought. But to the eyes of the Mayor, this plan was like a horrendous nightmare. Should the guards of the Pope fail, he would have his name left in the books forever, guilty of incapability to protect the assassinated Pope.
"The Mayor's concerns are inevitable. However, my knights and I will strike an unerring coup de grace towards our enemies."
Julio stood up and began to write the plan on the blackboard.
"As we all know, the thing we have to fear most is an attack by magic."
Smoothly, Julio drew the layout of the Cathedral with chalk.
"Therefore, to prevent our assailants from casting spells, we will use magical tools capable of detecting magic to surround the whole Cathedral!"
Julio marked a few points on the board.
"Obviously, wands or staffs are banned when visiting. However, suppose they use magic through some other method... the instant they use magic, we will be alerted by this device, and the magic caster will be arrested by the knights around here."
The mayor looked as if he let out a breath.
"Of course, that is not all. We would also cast several folds of 'air shields' to ensure the Pope's safety. Common magic or guns would be ineffective against this."
The Pope and the Mayor exchanged reassuring expressions, and nodded in agreement.
Although at many times most of the people were impressed by this plan, one of them just didn't seem to be convinced.
That person was Tiffania.
After hearing what Julio had said, for some reason an indescribable emotion seemed to flash across her mind now and then. When she was small, the one who entered her house in subterfuge and killed her mother was a normal knight under the orders of the Albion King.
When an organisation as large as a country wants to eliminate people in their way... especially when it would have a big influence on future events, would they use a conspiracy? Or would they attempt to assassinate?
If they wanted to completely remove the target, wouldn't it be more sensible to use other methods?
They would have applied a reliable, infallible method...
Tiffania hesitantly raised her hand.
Beaming a smile, Julio looked at Tiffania.
"Y-yes.... may I ask a question?"
"Then ...in front of all these great people, although I consider it to be foolish, it has troubled me for quite some time. And ..., what if Gallia sends their army in?"
Henrietta smiled gently and said
"Tiffania, you do not have to worry about that. Gallia is a country of deep history. The Kingdom of Gallia is a full-fledged member of the alliance of kings, not the alliance of nobles. They still have to keep up their reputation, and would not dare violate the contract signed, and lead their army across the borders and this sort..."
At this point, Henrietta realised that with the exception of herself, no one was smiling. On the other hand, Julio nodded his head in the direction of Tiffania.
"I'd say there's a fifty percent chance of that happening."
Henrietta's face immediately lost its colors. Calmly, Julio continued
"Until last week, there have not been many troops in redeployment. But now, since I was cut off from my informant, we have had to prepare ourselves. Near the border of Gallia, I have positioned 9,000 elite Holy Knights from 4 united teams. In addition, the fleet of Romalia is hovering above them for protection. The only fleet from Gallia capable of defeating them is the 'multi-purpose fleet'."
"You amassed an army at the borders of Gallia? Isn't this an act of provocation!"
Henrietta stood up and yelled.
"It does not matter even if it was taken as provocation, as long as it makes our job easier."
"This is different from what we agreed! Your holiness, are you trying to trigger a war?"
Vittorio shook his head and replied
"We are not the ones starting a war, the king of Gallia is."
"Aren't thou the one who could not tolerate bloodshed between Romalian Pilgrims! Having said all that you make preparations for the war in clandestine! I just cannot understand thy actions!"
"It is exactly because I cannot tolerate bloodshed, I would want to end this all in a showdown. That's why this plan was devised. Anyhow, rest assured, Gallia may be called home to a horde of soldiers, we have done what we could have done."
"Contemptible! Trying to conceal it to this day!"
Vittorio said with a gentle, yet dignified voice. His voice was just like magic, filled with assurance enough to make anyone calm down. Henrietta bit her lips and shook her head in defiance.
"Although I said that I hated war, I never denied the possibility of war. I only prepared enough to counter every possible scenario."
"... Thou are merely quibbling. I finally understand why you chose Aquileia, next to the borders of Gallia, as the venue for the coronation ceremony. Not to lure the enemy into mistakes, but to start a war."
Vittorio answered with a hint of bitterness
"The choice is not in my hands, but in Gallia's. Even now the chance of having a war is only fifty-fifty."
The mayor and the High Priest fainted away from the shocking content of the conversation. A topic which changed from a coronation ceremony to having a war really was too big for anyone to handle. Tiffania knowing that it was her question which led to this, felt goosebumps all over and held herself from shaking too vigorously.
On the other hand, Guiche, not knowing whether it was an act of determination or not, closed his eyes and stared blankly at the ceiling. Agnes was just as expressionless as usual. None of the Ondine Knights had responded much to the conversation either.
Henrietta stood up alone and stared at the motionless, silent Louise by her side
"I am deeply regretful that I may no longer contribute to this conversation. It is because Louise's father and I have agreed to 'never put Louise on the fields of a battle'. Now then, Louise, let us leave."
But Louise did not respond to Henrietta's call. All she did was hang her head apologetically.
Julio used a soft, weak voice and reminded
"Miss Vallière has sworn under the name of God and our ancestors. She will devote herself for our ideals. Right now her allegiances no longer belong to you, but to our one and only God. She is now our family."
Hearing the words "sworn" made Henrietta's face change colours. To aristocrats and people of higher status, swearing is absolute. To eat your own words is no different from suicide.
"Is that true? Y-you..."
Uneasily, Louise nodded.
Henrietta sighed and laid out her hands. An epiphany came to Henrietta. Saito was undoubtedly sent back to his world by the hands of Pope Vittorio using the "world door magic".
There's one catch here... Would any Pope, having sworn to use void magic for the greater good of Halkenia, use their trump card on a mere knight?
Henrietta seemed to realise the conditions Romalia used to lure Louise into swearing under God's name.
Familiars may be replaced, but void magic users cannot.
Instead of feeling anger, Henrietta was experiencing more of an emotion called sadness. A sadness no one is capable of relieving. In other words, helplessness. Henrietta savoured the taste of helplessness while staring at Pope Vittorio with a pair of exhausted eyes.
"Such a beautiful move. Looks like it's checkmate for me. Even this foolish Queen finally understands how your holiness was crowned as Pope at such a young age."
A bit of annoyance emerged on Vittorio's face.
"Haven't I said it before? I have my ideals. If it is to complete my objectives, I would not hesitate to do so."
Henrietta's face surged with redness. It looked as though she almost lost her mind over being angry and ashamed, but eventually she controlled herself. When she thought of it thoroughly, what the Pope said wasn't entirely incorrect.
Preparation for war was inevitable. Using Romalia as a scapegoat seemed unfair.
"I get it. From now on I will make decisions after thoroughly thinking what your holiness will say. As for another issue, I will have to voice my displeasurement."
"Feel free to tell us all. I am quite satisfied with my actions."
Vittorio said decisively with a straight face.
"Then I will proceed. Your holiness has retired one of my close guards. Sealing the future of my knight, which means Pope Vittorio your holiness, this is a major involvement in my politics. How do you explain yourself?"
Queen Henrietta inquired with a stern tone. As if it did not matter at all, Vittorio countered
"Just as thou said, prior to Saito Chevalier De Hiraga becoming Vice-captain of your personal guards, wasn't he a personal familiar of Miss Vallière? Since Miss Vallière, as master of her familiar pleaded us to send him back, I merely acted what any Romalian Pilgrim would have done, to believe in our faith. Despite that, what Queen Henrietta said is very sensible as well. Without your consent, I am slighted. I will cover your losses in any method you wish."
"Did you really send him back?"
"Affirmative. I opened a gateway to where his soul belongs to. In other words, I sent him back to his home. I believe it was the right choice to make."
As expected by Henrietta... during all this chatter, Henrietta kept shaking her head. Louise stood up suddenly, making her chair skid loudly away from her. She faced everyone and bowed, her weak shoulders trembling non-stop
"Louise." Henrietta addressed.
"...My deep apologies, everyone. I am not feeling quite well today and will take my leave."
Henrietta glared at the Pope for a short while, but eventually said, shaking her head
"Thou are really a scary person, Pope Vittorio, your holiness. After this ceremony has ended, I will have to reconsider the best method to approach the King of United Romalia."
Vittorio replied elegantly
"It is my honor to receive your Highness's compliment."
Louise, alone in her designated bedroom, was praying.
After seeing Saito leave, Louise had almost spent all of her time praying. If she had not done that, she might have had a mental breakdown.
Actually... she might already be in a mental breakdown.
Because... Just now during the conversation of "the possibilities of a war", I did not sense any change in emotion at all. It was as if it would happen in a far away land unrelated to me.
Dear Ancestors. The messengers of our holy God, our Ancestors. The holy God who will guide me, illuminate the stars in the sky, fertile the soil of the ground, give humans your love, and help me calm down...
Repetitious prayers over and over again.
Yet, despite how many times these prayers came from Louise's lips, she was still unable to think clearly. Louise stopped all prayers and laid down on the bed. Hands covering her eyes, endless tears surfaced.
All she thought about while crying was Saito.
Even though I knew I would become depressed... yet I chose to send him back.
Even though I can't stand losing Saito.
What would Saito be doing right now?
Is he seeing his mother?
If Saito found his love in the other world... would he forget about me? Saito has always said that "he loves me"... yet I never gave him a direct response. Instead, I had to find all sorts of excuses, I had to argue with him, doing these things as if cheating his feelings again and again.
Such an obstinate girl, would most likely be forgotten.
But what about myself?
Louise shook her head.
How long will these painful days last...
"If this continues... Even devoting my whole life to Halkeginia will be an impossible task."
If I can't even carry out such a simple task, there will be no value for me to live.
I could say, I already am a puppet for Halkeginia. I made my choice when swearing under the name of God, in front of the Pope himself. However, to be bound by the feelings of being discarded, do I even deserve the title of a puppet?
If this goes on... I will not be able to accomplish anything.
Any method to grant myself peace, is also a method to grant Halkeginia peace...
"If I can't forget it..."
Louise knew there was only one method.
On one hand, if I did that, I would not be myself anymore...
On the other hand, is there any value to the current me?
Making Saito return home was the correct decision, but the current me who regrets everything...
What value lies in a person as contemptible as myself?
The least is to become a nun, endlessly praying... but even praying has a limit.
Afterall, to become a real nun, I must be able to unleash miracles from God.
And the real miracle... "Voidness"
Louise, who had left her room, stood in front of Tiffania's bedroom door. Because this place was intended as a resting place for priests and priestesses, the doors left and right all looked the same. Softly, Louise knocked on Tiffania's door, and just as she hoped, Tiffania seemed to still be wide awake. After the rustling noise from bedsheets ended, came Tiffania's soft voice of enquiry.
As soon as Louise's voice was heard, Tiffania opened the door timidly. Tiffania in her pajamas welcomed Louise in.
"...This. This. And also this... I'm lost myself. Too many things have happened. But..."
Tiffania seemed to have trouble forming the words in her mouth, but finally
"W-Why did you have to send Saito back? Why?...Although what you did was a sensible choice, but Louise, you..."
Louise lifted her head and interrupted in a soft low voice
"I have a request."
"Request? What kind of request?"
Unexpectedly, Louise did not reply. It looked as though what Louise was going to say next required a lot of courage. Tiffania was also troubled by this. Just as both of them were silent, knocks rang from the door again.
While they were pondering "who could it be", the person standing outside voiced
Right in front of Tiffania's bedroom, was none other than Henrietta.
"It's that I saw Louise come in..., therefore..." Henrietta mumbled.
As sudden as her knocks on the door, Henrietta took a deep bow towards Louise and Tiffania.
"In front of both of you, I do not have any excuses. Although I promised never to use either of you as a tool of war, things turned out like this."
Tiffania shook her head.
"N-Not necessarily... perhaps there won't be a war. Besides... I don't think preparing for every possible scenario is something bad."
"I guess" Henrietta sighed.
"But anyhow Gallia is still an indispensable part of Halkeginia. If their conspiracy does not achieve their goals, waging war is also perfectly possible. This is what I should have originally thought of, but I ignored it and was hoping for the best, putting you two into these risks...perhaps I really do not possess the skills a Queen should have."
Facing her cousin pouring out her thoughts, Tiffania was wide eyed with shock.
"... I'm troubled at how easy you describe yourself "to not possess the skills a Queen should have". Wouldn't it be a serious matter if anyone were to hear this?"
Henrietta was shocked by the sudden reminder, then nodded in agreement.
"You are absolutely right. Perhaps it is because you are my cousin, I instinctively spewed out everything."
Afterwards, Henrietta looked at Tiffania with a serious face and said
"Tiffania, are you really alright with it? Even if a war broke out... would you continue to aid us?"
Tiffania gave it quite some thought, then shook her head and replied
"...To be honest, I am not sure myself either. I was brought to this world by Saito. Therefore, I would follow his decisions. But now..."
"He won't be coming back anymore. I am here to ask Louise and you about this."
Henrietta turned to Louise, who was hanging her head
"Why did you return Saito back? Yes, he is not a person from this world. Even if returning him back to his homeworld is the right decision, Louise, aren't you..."
With reference to what Henrietta just said, Tiffania nodded. Saito loves Louise. Moreover, Louise seems to love Saito as well...
"I value his presence, that's it. I do not have any excess feelings for him."
Louise said, as though neglecting a part of her true feelings.
"That's why... I thought what was best for him, what is happiness to him. For his happiness, what can I do."
A moment of silence fell across the room. Henrietta sighed and muttered "Is that so...", then held Louise's shoulders tightly.
"You're too gentle, such an idiot, Louise Françoise. You've always been like this since I first met you. Doing these unnecessary things out of compassion. Like continuously watering a cactus but eventually drowning it. ...Saito actually desires to be your knight."
"But, even if I were like the person you described, what I did was for his sake. Every human has their own home-world."
"I'd want to agree with you too. After all, we are best friends from a small age. But, I reckon the one to decide shouldn't be you. Seriously, you didn't even discuss it with me..."
Henrietta shook her head out of loneliness and closed her eyes.
"Really, I still haven't given him my words of gratitude over the countless times he's helped us..."
The air became dense with sadness and regret, even Tiffania who was listening silently had a sudden urge to cry. Henrietta's eyes landed on Louise's dress of a nun. Throughout the ceremony, Louise and Tiffania would have to stand next to the Pope wearing this kind of dress. Not only because of the ceremonial dress code, but also for the sake of "congregating all void magic users".
All of the trouble arose from Gallia's evil manipulator...
But to Louise, this dress also had another meaning.
"... You are not planning to live in a monastery, are you?"
"No" Louise denied with a shake of her head.
"When this is over and I have accomplished the expectations of the Pope and your Highness, I will request for the permission to become a nun."
Henrietta held Louise's hands tightly.
"... My apologies, I went overboard. The one in most pain must be you."
"But, I already... can't handle it much longer."
Louise said helplessly. Then, as if determined to do this, she turned to Tiffania.
"Therefore, please Tiffania"
"Louise, do you intend to..."
Tiffania realised Louise's intention and immediately went pale.
"That's right. I want you to remove all my memories of Saito"
Hearing what Louise suggested, Henrietta was in shock.
"Impossible! How can this be done...because, because, Saito is... is your..."
"It is exactly because of this, my memories should be erased!"
Louise yelled grasping her holy object tightly.
"We will never meet again. I am sure of it. It's because I chose it for myself. But if I continue like this, then for what purpose am I living for! Even becoming a nun of Halkeginia would be an impossible task. That's why..."
"Louise, Louise, I cannot agree to this request. Because, if you do this, you would not be the same person as you are right now"
"Am I not better off that way?"
Louise yelled with tears rolling down her cheeks.
"Do you understand me... Tiffania, if it is another void magic user, I hope that you understand my actions. I can't stand it any longer. I no longer have the faith to last any longer. Therefore... please"
Uncertain of what to do, Tiffania glanced at Henrietta for help. Although Henrietta's face was purely white..., she solemnly closed her eyelids and nodded lightly.
"...I plead you as well. Being alive yet unable to see each other..., how is this different from being dead. It is still indescribably miserable."
Tiffania hesitated for a period of time..., then looked into Louise's eyes seriously.
"Are you sure? If I erase your memories about Saito... you will lose all your precious memories. This precious time, which is like a gem to you, you'll lose it for eternity. Are you still fine with it?"
Louise reached into her pockets and pulled out a pin. It was the pin Saito bought for Louise as a present back in Tristain. In silence, Louise handed it over to Tiffania.
Then, she slightly nodded.
Tiffania shook her head in sadness, but submitted to Louise's plea.
"I will never forget about Saito. Because he is my most important friend. But Louise, to you, in this memory... just the part of recalling emotions is enough to make you suffer. Despite that, I still don't think... that your decision is right. But if it is all for your sake... because, to me you are also a very important person."
Holding the wand, Tiffania started chanting the spell.
"Nausido' Iza, eiwa-zu..."
As Tiffania chanted, Louise treasured every last drop of memory she recalled about Saito. She felt like she loved these disappearing memories more than anything in the world.
The first time we met..., the disappointment caused from seeing such a familiar.
The person who saved me just as I was about to be squashed to death under the foot of a golem... The guy who did not care about noble statuses and slapped me across the face... The person whom I danced with at the ball, our coordinated footwork... The adventures at Albion... The kiss he planted while on Sylphid...
"Berukana' Man, Iagu..."
The conflicts we'd had in the midst of a war...
The Saito who sacrificed himself for the sake of me and the others...
An uncountable number of adventures.
All those times when he gave up on himself only to pull himself together at the last minute and defeat whatever challenges came his way, he was a knight that belonged only to Louise.
Strong bonds that grow deeper with each passing day, chained our destinies together.
The number of nights spent together alone.
A few kisses...
All of these were about to disappear.
Louise muttered "I am..."
"choosing farewell for Satio, choosing to forget for myself."
"Such an obstinate girl."
But, God, please forgive me
Because from now on, I... will definitely become "void". Literally void. Like a flask void of water, a human void of feelings...
Please forgive my sins
To be suited for my void magic, Louise thought.
The spell was done, Tiffania waved her wand. Henrietta involuntarily turned away from the sight.
The void magic shone brightly in the room, then disappeared.
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