Zero no Tsukaima:Volume18 Chapter2
Chapter 2: Fouquet and Wardes
Location: Capital of the Imperial Alliance, Romalia.
The streets of Romalia were carefully organized, so well-aligned that they resembled a Go Board. A figure of a woman could be seen walking hurriedly through them.
Her long dark-green hair on her forehead was split right down through the middle. Behind her glasses was a glimpse of a glimmering intellect, and her serious expression was enough to judge that she was prepared to face the commotion on these streets.
She wore a dark blue blouse accompanied with a white skirt, and in her arms she was carrying a lot of books that came from somewhere. Seeing her at first glance, she looked like a secretary of a local noble.
However, even despite her casual way of walking the woman always kept her guard up while keeping a watchful eye on her surroundings.
Right now the city of Romalia was wrapped in chaos because The Pope, St. Aegis the 32nd, had rallied his people to gather their weapons and continue in their duty to engage in the Crusade.
It was a huge campaign that would not end until the Holy Land was recovered from the hands of the Elves.
Walking through the streets of Romalia one could see, as they were everywhere, posters plastered to the walls that called on people to join voluntarily as soldiers for the Crusade. These panels had the slogan 'Your duty is to annihilate the heretics! (Elves)'.
The Cavalry of the Church could be seen parading down the main street in long lines, orderly organized with respect to ranks of the troops.
Any priest who saw the parade held by Order of Knights had to stop before them, make the sign of the Cross and offer his blessing.
Inside the big fuss of that place, the woman with casual steps walked for a few moments as tension seemed to start to invade her body. She continued her path until she came to a dead end.
This is a place where the country of Romalia could not extend its light.
In the corners, dirty water and food waste accumulated which produced an indescribable stench. Along the street could be seen here and there, with a disheveled and unkempt appearance, child refugees from different nations of Halkeginia. They sat there as if waiting for some uncertain event in this place that seemed to be hidden even in the eyes of God.
As the woman began to walk along this street it created an eerie effect in the children, who suddenly rose after watching this young woman with a twinkle of excitement in their eyes.
After hearing this the woman began to pull from her pocket a few copper coins, which she gave to the children who hurriedly approached her. The children came one after another here and there, gathering around about ten of them. They tried to decide the order in which they would receive the coins and started to fight around her.
"...Hey, there's enough for everyone, so do not fight and do not even try to steal the coins of others."
With money in hand, the children began to move away happy with the gift. Meanwhile the woman watched them from her eyes that remained narrowed.
As the children left, she made sure that no one was left around. Then she prepared to enter a collapsed building on which the façade plaster was falling apart.
After entering the lobby of this building she found some stairs leading to the second floor and climbed them.
Arriving on the second floor, the first thing that was obvious was a hallway with lots of doors uniformly arranged one behind the other. When you saw this place it seemed to be an old apartment building.
She went to a room down the hall, opened the door and saw a single room with a very poor interior appearance.
On top of the big bed next to the window she saw a sheet which had various patches across its surface. The wallpaper on the walls was completely faded to the point that she could not figure out what the original color on the paper had been.
However, the room had a feature that was obvious: an oak table with several columns of books stacked on it, plus some books were also scattered across the floor near it.
Truly this room was really like a mini library. And then she saw the figure of a tall man sitting in that room reading a book, surrounded by so many books that almost literally he was buried in them."You’re still carefree, Wardes."
While his gray eyes remained attentive, without taking his eyes off of the book in his hands Wardes said:
"By this point in my life, I doubt that there are still people who have any hostile intent against me or anything like that."
Compared to the time he was in Albion, participating as a member of RECONQUISTA, she distinguished a slight thinness in his body. Leaving that aside there was no other significant change in his manners.
Dressed in the outfit of a simple commoner, however, the presence emanating through his body was that of a noble military veteran who had fought countless battles.
The woman (who had originally been called Fouquet The Crumbling Dirt) suddenly dropped the books in her arms next to where Wardes was.
"Oh God, since the war ended with Albion you just spend your time sitting here reading books. Do you want to be an academician or something?"
Wardes did not respond to that.
"Giving money to children again?"
"How did you know?"
"From here, you can hear voices outside. You know, you should not do anything to draw attention. Isn't that what you always say?"
At this Fouquet raised her eyebrows.
"Hey, you know, these children are refugees from Albion. They cannot afford to do whatever they want such as spending their days wasting time like others, ehh."
After their defeat in Albion, Wardes decided to go to Romalia with Fouquet. But overall, Wardes' actions since then were reduced only to read, read and keep reading books.
He was reading a history book.
Even having said that, it should be stressed that it was not just any history book. It was a book which Fouquet had gone through many problems trying to steal.
It was a secret that to this day had been dormant within the confines of the headquarters of the Holy Church of Romalia. In it, the government of Romalia the Holy Church recorded various past events such as oppression, wars with foreign nations and others that stressed the dictatorial character of Romalia.
Is this really the time to get lost and engrossed in a book? Wardes was really getting on Fouquet's nerves. With an angry voice trying to get his attention she said:
"Hey Wardes, I think it's time that we talk seriously. From the beginning it caught my attention, but what was the real reason we came to Romalia?"
Wardes was expressionless. All he did was turn the page while still reading. Seeing him do this irritated Fouquet. She approached Wardes and took the pendant that hung on his chest.
Apparently it was a locket. Fouquet carelessly opened it and saw a portrait of a beautiful woman.
"Do not take the picture of the woman you want to spend the rest of your life with, instead in here you still have the picture of your mother."
Even after Fouquet said that, Wardes' face seemed not to pay attention.
"Wardes, I'm willing to give you my support no matter what. So tell me, all this has to do with something that happened to your mother? You who abandoned everything and completely surrendered yourself, even your intervention in RECONQUISTA now just heightens the Crusade initiated by Romalia. Tell me: You’ve done all of this because you have one goal in mind, right?"
Despite the words of Fouquet, Wardes continued in silence which ultimately caused Fouquet to lose her temper.
"Ah! So yeah, if you intend to ignore me completely, it’s fine. But then I’ll make it clear, you have in your hands is the last thing I will do for you: stealing. So I hope you're really enjoying your book for it will be the last."
Then she pulled his ear and told him:
"Also… forgive me for bringing up your mother."
Wardes, without looking up from the book, said:
"My mother was a head researcher at the ACADEMY."
"ACADEMY you say, do not tell me it was in that era where someone spoke of his own research?"
"Yes, something like that. At that time my mother was a researcher of history and earth science, but her mental health reached its limit, and she fell ill. The ACADEMY abandoned her and thereafter gave orders to lock her in the mansion. My father and other relatives said 'This is what happens when women try to embark on research too difficult for them.' And I thought the same. Oh God, I remember how my mother changed that time: she was delirious, babbling nonsense such as 'Jean Jacques has to go to the Holy Land', and repeated it again and again. And in the end, my father ended up confining her to the innermost room of the mansion."
Hearing this Fouquet started to frown.
"I’m sorry to hear what happened to your mother. However, these delusions you mention, don't tell me you take these seriously? Was that the reason you joined RECONQUISTA?"
"I also thought these were nothing more than hallucinations due her sickness and because of that the only thing that I felt for my mother was nothing but shame. But still I cannot say that was the worst of it. How many times have I said 'stop now', how many...?"
"So, what was the reason you decided to fulfill the desire of your mother?"
At that moment from his chest Wardes took a small book from a bag and without saying anything he gave it to Fouquet.
"It's the diary of my mother."
"I'm surprised that you still keep things from your parents."
So, Fouquet began to read that journal. Apparently it was begun at the time of birth of Wardes.
The joy she felt for her son could be seen in her words written that day. The entries showed how touched she was when Wardes was born.
After that point, what predominated in that diary were the memories of the days she spent as a researcher at the ACADEMY.
Apparently the research focused on certain wind stones lying along the Halkeginian continent.
The contents of the diary were written in such a way that it was difficult to understand for those who were not familiar with the same research, so it was likely that the mother of Wardes did not plan that someone besides her would read it.
And the truth was that Fouquet really had no desire to read it, but... Being an earth mage like the diarist she was curious, but somehow she could not understand what was written in it.
"It seems that your mother's research focused on developing more efficient ways to extract wind stones. But how does that relate to you and the Holy Land?" While she murmured this, Fouquet continued reading the diary.
After reading for a while, going over every paragraph of that book with her finger, suddenly something written there made Fouquet stop.
The entry in question was no more than a single sentence:
I discovered a terrible secret that lies on the border of the continent, a terrible secret...
From that point on all journal entries focused on the "terrible secret", which apparently was what caused Wardes' mother to lose her sanity due to fear.
I cannot tell this to anyone. Oh God, what do I have I to do? Please tell me, God!
Fouquet swallowed. Why would Wardes' mother not tell that awful secret to anyone else? What could have been the cause? But if she was someone important, a researcher of the ACADEMY...
If we cannot get to the Holy Land, none of us will be saved. But first we have to retrieve it from the clutches of the Elves or else face our destruction...
Looking, without success, it could be any reference to the true nature of that awful secret. It was just that knowing the "secret" need to find something necessary but keeping it to herself was what apparently caused the disorder in her mind.
Dear Jean, my precious Jean Jacques, please, you have to recover the Holy Land rather than your mother. Surely it is the key to our salvation...
So from that day the entries written in the diary were just nonsense annotations constantly repeating...
Jean Jacques, go to the Holy Land... and so, that's how the diary ended.
"I was 20 when I discovered that diary. I found it while I was busy cleaning my mother's room."
"You know, I don't mean to speak ill of your mother. But to me this does not seem more than the hallucinations of a patient. No matter what this terrible secret is, believing this diary and deciding to go to the Holy Land is something unlikely, don’t you think?
"There is something more important than believing or not believing." Wardes said in a voice that evidenced his weariness.
"What do you mean ‘something’?"
"I was the one who killed my own mother."
"I, at that time, had just turned 12. It was the day we had a party at the mansion. For some reason, I know my mother came out of her room right at the moment when the party came to a climax. So when we heard the commotion she was just in the hallway, and again she kept repeating my name. At that moment, from the bottom of my heart I really came to hate my mother. When we were about to take her back to her room, she was already on the edge of the stairs. Then when she tried to hug..."
With a blank expression, Wardes stopped and stared for a moment at his left artificial arm.
"I did not think that I would shove her. I was only 12 years old, I was at 'that age'. For me the affection from my mother was so irritating and despicable that I could not stand it, not to mention having what everyone called 'a lunatic mom' was more embarrassing than anything else that had happened to me. In truth, I only wanted to give a little push but then she lost her balance and began falling down the stairs. She broke her neck and though it had been twisted only slightly, even now I still remember it clearly. My mother's neck bent as if the spine..."
Wardes closed his eyes for a moment.
"They said it was an accident, my father even took it as such. Surely, my father had hard times dealing with the illness of mother. He always tried to comfort me in times when the memories haunted me for my sin. 'Your mother is resting in peace, you did not do anything wrong.', he said."
Fouquet at that moment could not do anything but stay attentive to Wardes' story and so he continued in a voice completely devoid of intonation:
"After that, those memories haunted me for 8 years. All that time I devoted myself to studying and practicing (magic). I felt that if I didn't I could never atone for the sin of 'killing my mother.' But when I turned 20, that was when I found that diary and then discovered the cause of my mother's illness. And I couldn’t forgive myself for that time, the time I believed my mother was no more than a weak woman."
Then Wardes began to plunge his body in the chair as if it swallowed him.
"You need to understand, Matilda! To go to the Holy Land is a must. If there is nothing in that place I don’t care. My sole objective is to fulfill the last will of my mother. I'll go to the Holy Land regardless!"
Fouquet stretched her arms up to Wardes’ neck and embraced him lovingly.
"I finally get it. I will never leave your side. You're an orphan, a poor child who has been abandoned even by yourself."
Oh poor orphan, every time I encounter such a child I cannot leave him.
The sweet embrace of Fouquet really resembled that of a mother. So as part of all the love that emanated from Fouquet, she began to hum a lullaby.
After a few moments, with a face full of concern Fouquet asked Wardes,
"You... Are you really intending to participate in the Crusade?"
"To get involved in the madness of what Romalia is planning is certainly unwise. However, that would be the fastest way to achieve my goal. Besides, I feel the urge to know what that 'terrible secret' was that ended the heart of my mother."
"So this is the real reason you made me steal all those books. Oh God, sneaking into the Imperial Library was not child's play, you know. So tell me: Was it worth it, did you find out anything?"
"At this moment I haven’t found anything as big as you think. However, it is certain that at this very moment Romalia is doing something but... After all the dirty deeds this country has done, what was to be expected?"
Then Wardes threw on the table the records of the secret meetings held by the Executive Committee of Romalia:
"Oppression, murder, annihilation... If they suspect you, they will kill you immediately. If it's for the good of the Founder, it does not matter even if the world is destroyed. That is the level of fanaticism that these types handled. Compared with them, seriously, RECONQUISTA looks as nothing."
"If we are practical, it's really fair to say it was not much."
Right in the middle of their conversation, someone knocked on the door.
Without wasting a single second Fouquet and Wardes walked away. From her chest, Fouquet took out her wand.
Wardes also took up his military wand which was located right next to him.
Once again the door was hit. Wardes glanced at Fouquet, but she shook her head as if to say that she did not have the slightest idea what was going on.
In the end Wardes decided to approach the door and then said:
"Who is it?"
"I am a representative of the Government of Romalia."
It was the voice of a young girl. Fouquet murmured softly:
"...That is not gonna happen if you don’t do something stupid!"
"But isn’t that what we've been doing since the beginning?"
Determined to find out who it was, Wardes started to open the door while firmly holding his military wand with his right hand.
Seeing the character standing there knocking on the door just a moment ago, Wardes couldn’t help but be surprised as he watched the girl with a skeptical eye.
That 'Romalian representative', in truth she was a peculiar character. Her age was about 10 years old and in her white priestess robes, she really looked like a small deacon of the church.
Intimidated by the brightness, the little girl’s eyes dimmed and she shrugged her body as if trying to hide.
"The government of Romalia? Could you tell us what are the issues they have with us?"
By asking this question, the little girl said with a trembling voice:
"Ah, this... If I'm not mistaken, you are Viscount Wardes and Miss Sachsen Gotha, right?"
Wardes set out to see if someone was behind the girl. In addition to sharpening his senses he tried to detect if someone was in the hallway or downstairs or even outside the building, but in the end he couldn't feel anyone hiding nearby.
Confirming the identity of that girl, he concluded that apparently she had come to this place alone. Therefore the courage of this girl really amazed him.
Rather than trying to deny it, Wardes seemed to be more interested. He tried to be honest and admitted what they are doing, although he began to think that they would not gain anything if they refused. In the worst case, they must already be surrounded by a battalion of knights.
"Yes, we are, however right now we do not keep any relationship with RECONQUISTA."
"We were already aware of it."
"May I ask how you know who we are?"
"That would be because you two are very famous..."
Wardes then turned around and as if to tell Fouquet 'we're going to do nothing' extended both his hands.
"Sorry, but from the moment you entered the country we have been watching you constantly, so we are aware of your actions and... I apologize."
A smile appeared on the face of Wardes. As expected of Romalia. Even so it was a bit frustrating knowing they were trapped so easily, even after taking precautions to conceal their identity like dressing and using false passports to enter the country.
"It seems we have been dancing in the palm of your hands from the beginning. So if I have to guess, at this time we are stuck waiting to know what you want from us."
The girl nodded.
"We will return the book, as I finished reading it completely; and tell me, would it be too much to forgive us this time? The truth is that we do not have anything planned at all that would be against their interests, just did our best to try to conclude some research we are doing and we are in the best of spirits to accompany Romalia with this Crusade."
Hearing Wardes say this, the little girl sighed as if a great burden had been lifted from her shoulders.
"I am very glad to hear you say that. To be honest my task was to ask for the cooperation of the two of you, because these are the wishes of my master."
"I would like know, who is your master?"
After hearing this, the young girl took a letter from her chest after making a respectful bow. Upon reading the sender's name Wardes' expression changed completely.
"From the Servant of the People, Vittorio Severare."
"...The Pope, His Holiness Aegis 32nd sacrum, is your master?"
While her little head was still down she informed Wardes:
"My master is waiting right now."
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