Zero no Tsukaima:Volume18 Chapter4
Chapter 4: Strategy
Within the darkness, Tabitha found herself sitting on a bed. It had been a day since the time she had regained consciousness and realized she was in a room.
At first glance, this place could be mistaken as a simple bedroom, however this one had no windows and only had one door. The door looked tough and heavy, and it seemed to be locked from the outside.
The strange furniture inside the room could be distinguished as high quality but... one could not help but think that this room had been built to confine an aristocrat. In short, it was a prison.
The solid door remained unchanged no matter what she did. Tabitha realized this when her wand was taken, and now she was just a small and helpless child. She remembered clearly how Julio had caused her to lose consciousness, as well as how just before collapsing she had seen that girl with a face like her...
She knew from the first moment she saw her that she was not created by magic. Is she my twin? Tabitha wondered, though she had never heard of the existence of her sister...
Then at that moment, suddenly she remembered the stories about the taboo that remained within the royal families of Gallia. In the case of twins, only one should be chosen to preserve the family name...
If so, that means the person I saw that day was...
Anyway, there was no doubt about it, it was all part of the conspiracy of Romalia.
What happened to the garden party? What is happening out there? What has become of Sylphid? What about my mother? Isabella? What have they done to my friends from Tristain?
In truth all these concerns overwhelmed Tabitha, however at this time there was nothing she could do.
By looking closely, one could discover at the base of the heavy door a smaller door that was part of the structure itself and on the floor right in front of that tiny door, Tabitha discovered a platter with bread and dried fruit served with a pitcher of water at its side.
She realized that the little hole was where they provided her food for now.
"There's no doubt, this place is a prison." Tabitha was totally convinced.
It had been a whole day since she had been confined in that place but still the biggest mystery that haunted Tabitha's mind was: "What will Julio and his evil master achieve by capturing me??"
At that moment she heard a grumbling sound, "GGRRRRRR." from her stomach. In fact, if she had not heard it Tabitha would not have remembered that she had not eaten anything for over 24 hours...
Almost instinctively she reached out for the food found right inside the door. They may put poison in the food, she thought back, then Tabitha immediately returned the bread bowl to where she found it.
Right after that Tabitha began hearing something from the hallway. There were footsteps making their way towards her. Upon hearing this, the body of Tabitha immediately reacted and quickly she prepared herself.
She heard the sound of the bolt being withdrawn, and then with a loud screech the heavy door began to open. The one who appeared was none other than a handsome young man whose face she had already observed on a lot of occasions. But despite the familiar face, Tabitha couldn't help but feel a little surprised.
She knew it was not shocking that he was the one who from the beginning and behind the scenes had planned this whole charade. However, presenting himself directly before her was something that had never crossed her mind.
"First of all, I offer my deepest apologies for what happened."
Tabitha could only watch Vittorio quietly and intently as he continued. The young Pope seemed to have no problem approaching her as he wore a casual linen robe.
The only other place where the Pope could exhibit such an appearance would be the mansion that had been commissioned for the Romalian government, where the ambassador resided.
Then this must be it. This must be that mansion, because if it weren't, it would be impossible to build a room like this one without her knowing it.
Though she seemed to hold true hatred against Romalia, at some point they had shown great kindness to her and without his help she knew it would have been impossible for her to be proclaimed as Queen.
If she was honest with herself, she couldn't deny that she had seen it coming: the possibility of Romalia taking actions as excessive as this, but they have gone so far as to prepare a substitute for me. Their decisions completely exceeded my imagination.
That said, the fact that she had fallen completely into their trap and was unable to offer any resistance against the ploy... Although Tabitha did not want to accept it, she knew that it was all because of her lack of preparation.
"What have you done to Sylphid?"
"She is asleep in the next room."
"Where are we?"
"We are in Lutetia, in the mansion assigned to the Romalian ambassador." Vittorio informed Tabitha with a calm, almost indifferent tone. Yet Tabitha came to the conclusion that he wasn't lying. Also she realized something else. The fact that she found him at this very moment talking so candidly with her could only mean that the young Pope would not allow her to return to the outside world.
"Who's that girl?"
"She's your twin."
Tabitha's eyes opened wide in shock. Although she had concluded that this was the most likely answer, to hear the frank reality being revealed to her had been a shock well above her expectations.
I am not the only child. I have a sister with the same face, more like myself... However, this was not the time to worry about that.
"What do you intend to do with me?"
"I only wish you to provide me a bit of your time to accompany me on a trip."
Tabitha never had imagined such a response in this situation.
"Where do you intend to go?"
"Our destination is the mountain of the Fire Dragons."
"Is that the place where you intend to kill me?"
"There's no need to make such assumptions. It has never been my intention to kill you. In fact, it would be our greatest pleasure if you would become our ally. I would like you to consider what I'm asking and please try to reflect about it. Also, I would like to apologize in advance for our disrespect in addition to all the unrest we have caused so far..."
Tabitha just remained silent as she watched the Pope. The pale light reflecting from the bottom of her eyes looked as if to say to this: "I'll never cooperate with you, I'll never be a part of any of your plans."
"Certainly you seem to hate us." Vittorio said to her while outlining a smile on his face.
"I'm not foolish enough to help a religious fanatic." Tabitha said without hiding her hostility. After hearing this, Vittorio answered while shaking his head.
"It is our duty to recover the Holy Land."
"And for this purpose you think it is acceptable to kill anyone who gets in your way?"
"On the contrary." Vittorio said, immediately answering the question of Tabitha in a voice so quiet it was almost unbearable.
"What are you trying to say?"
"That's something you will understand if you help us, and that's why we must go to the mountain of the dragons."
"I'll never be able to understand what goes through your disturbed mind."
"Tell me, don't you believe in legends? You see, it would be correct to say that these legends and faith do not share any relationship, or am I wrong?"
Tabitha thought for a moment on what Vittorio had said and nodded. Then Vittorio finished his thoughts.
"I think the same. The essence of faith is to trust someone else in both the body and the soul. And if you get carried away too much, you'll end up losing your sanity. However, recklessly labeling someone as "crazy" is also dangerous in itself. Myths and faith, people detach from them and consider them lies and nonsense and it is actually quite easy to do. Even so, one must take into consideration that in the end both will always still be a small part of the truth."
Tabitha could only remain silent as she stared at Vittorio.
"You are a person that seems to have a very strong heart. Even while we have this conversation, I presume that you are imagining a method to escape from here, and probably a way to stop us. These ideas haunt your head over and over again because that's the kind of person you are. And it is for this reason that I would like you to become our ally. I hope that when we get to the mountain of the Fire Dragons, you will naturally be able to understand us and our faith."
In saying this, Vittorio seemed serene without any hostile intent in his speech. It was like he was totally confident that things would go as he supposed.
"Did you use magic on me? Are you manipulating my mind right now?"
"You see, God resides within the hearts of people. As his servants, it is our duty not to soil the place where he resides."
What the hell, what gives him so much confidence to believe that he can persuade me?
From the beginning, he has been an elusive character. But it seems that every time I see him he becomes more and more mysterious. This thought caused a slight tremor to shake Tabitha's body.
The one who waited by the door the moment Vittorio was about to leave Tabitha's room was none other than Julio.
He gave Tabitha a graceful bow before heading to his master.
"His Holiness, a report has come from the observation group that was sent to the Mountain of Fire Dragons."
"Show me please."
After receiving the report, Vittorio took time to review it carefully.
"It seems there are no changes from the previous results."
"That means we only have four days." Vittorio affirmed.
"So would it be desirable to send an invitation to them? Currently I have someone who closely monitors their actions, but..." Julio said with a straight face. In response Vittorio shook his head.
"I really don't think that's necessary."
"So we will still keep it hidden? I don't think there is a benefit for us to keep it secret."
"If we could, there's still a chance. But I can only hope they will still believe us, otherwise there is no choice but to dispose of them."
"There is something I want to show, and although it reveals the unforgiving truth... Do you think they are still suspicious of us?" Vittorio said in a tired voice, which was something really unusual as this Pope rarely showed a face full of concern and regret as he did right now.
"Who knows, it may still be the case..."
Julio also showed an attitude full of concern.
"Leaving this issue aside, it is certain that they will at least chase us to rescue their friend whom we've replaced."
"I think they still haven't realized that we have replaced their friend."
"They have realized it and that is because they are our 'brothers'. And if they are not capable of seeing through a ploy at this level, then we are in trouble."
At that moment a servant came hurriedly with a plate of food in her hands. She gave a bow to the Pope, then after Julio opened the little door found at the base of the heavy door she placed the plate of food inside the room.
The young servant then bowed again to the pair and made her way back from where she came.
While the girl left out of sight in the corridors, something was hanging around her waist, the brightness of a small knife that one might believe she used for self-protection.
A report was sent by Isabella reporting that she had finally figured out the whereabouts of Tabitha. It arrived four days after the beginning of the garden party. It was a letter of a single sheet, which had been delivered to Henrietta's room in the evening.
The letter had no sender written on it, and its contents consisted of long lists of seemingly meaningless numbers. Using the sheet with the code provided by Isabella, Henrietta began to decipher the message.
Her Majesty Queen Charlotte remains captured in the mansion of the Romalian minister Barberini. Tonight at 8 I would like to have a conference in order to plan a rescue mission.
At the end of the report, Isabella's initials were written on it. Henrietta's mood turned foul upon receiving this news. She had to inform the organizers of Gallia, and she would have to apologize for being unable to attend the night of the great banquet. She also has to gather all her trusted men in her room and so, expect a visit from Isabella.
Those invited to Henrietta's room were Louise, Saito, Guiche, the friend of Tabitha, Kirche, and Agnes.
"Did they find the place where Tabitha is?" Saito asked upon entering the room and Henrietta nodded to his question.
"Yes, that's what it seems."Soon after hearing the message, Guiche knelt with one knee on the floor next to Henrietta.
"Let me take care of this matter. No, let me correct: Please allow this brigade commander of the Ondine Knights to be in charge of executing the rescue mission to safely return Her Majesty Queen Charlotte!"
Because of such a statement, Saito tried to stop Guiche.
"Hey! Hey! Hey! Could you tell me how you plan to accomplish that? Keep in mind that we are talking about the mansion of a minister. Besides, once we go inside we'll be in the territory of the Romalian Embassy. It would be crazy to try to enter through the front door and try to confront them."
"Yes, Saito is correct," Kirche said nodding to Saito's statement. "We have to infiltrate stealthily and quietly rescue Tabitha... And if I remember, that's not how you work, right?"
*Gulp* Guiche could not remain silent upon hearing Kirche.
"Ehhhh... Fighting clean and fair, defeating your enemy by fighting him face to face. This is the correct way an order of knights performs their duty."
"No! Do not even compare this to what we did last time in Alhambra. You have to take into account that we are now at the center of a city. If you do something that catches their attention, you will be captured immediately."
Henrietta also showed approval of Kirche's warnings.
"And that's because we cannot consider all authorities in Gallia our allies."
At that moment they heard a voice echoing from behind the door.
"Your humble servant, Isabella Martel, asks for your audience."
Upon opening the door, Isabella came into view wearing an evening dress. The first thing she did was to approach Henrietta and offer a respectful bow.
"Is it really alright to come and visit us this way?" Henrietta asked. After finishing her greetings, Isabella nodded indicating that there was no problem.
"In fact, I was assigned by the government of Romalia a task to keep an eye on you all."
A sudden tension began to flow throughout the room. Guiche reacted first, holding his wand in his hand.
"I wish you did not misunderstand. I'm still one of your allies. I can assure you that any form of cooperation to help Romalia was only for the sole purpose of saving my cover. And so, because Romalia wished to keep an eye on you, I used that excuse so that I could visit you openly without arousing suspicion."
From that moment, Isabella began to explain the situation to all those present.
"To put it plainly, the possibility to rescue Her Majesty from the Embassy is almost zero. We studied hard but still... the level of security that is held in the Prime Minister's mansion is almost ridiculously high. Magical barriers and several traps have been prepared to guard the place. And at all times a company of Templar Knights is responsible for securing the perimeter of the mansion. The only way to make a successful frontal attack is having a force three times greater than what we have at this time."
After hearing this, the faces of everyone present were filled with dismay. If they were to unleash a scandal of this magnitude right in the middle of the city, it would be catastrophic. Everything, including the odds, was against them.
"And perhaps the most important consideration of all, it is known that the Pope himself is constantly seen going in and out of that mansion."
"As a result, more stringent measures than normal must have been assigned to the mansion. Surely there will be a much larger amount of soldiers if you count all his escorts." Henrietta muttered while her eyebrows furrowed.
"What if we infiltrate secretly and rescue her?" asked Kirche.
"Taking into consideration the strict security and the number of soldiers at our disposal, quite frankly, it would be impossible. One of my most loyal soldiers, Chikasui, could infiltrate the mansion but that would be the limit. Also taking that into account, it would be impossible for Chikasui to rescue Her Majesty alone.
Then came a sudden silence in the room.
Saito, briefly considering the options, lifted his head and began to say:
"We can only rescue her in the instant they decide to transport Tabitha to another location."
Isabella nodded at Saito's proposition.
"That's right, it would be illogical to think that they can keep Her Majesty locked up in that mansion forever. Surely there must come a time when they plan to move her to a different location. And we have to aim at that time to rescue her. That's the only option left!"
At that moment... From behind the door a resonating voice was heard again, belonging to one who seemed a lady of the court.
"I come to deliver a message."
"What could it be?"
Louise quickly opened the door and met the courtier. In a hurry, the lady started to convey the message.
"Apparently, tomorrow morning His Holiness the Pope has to make a sudden return to Romalia. In consequence a farewell ceremony has been planned for him. Therefore, we cordially invite Her Majesty, Henrietta, to attend as a guest of honor at the ceremony tomorrow."
Louise then went to Henrietta. Her face reflected the tension she felt. Henrietta then gave a positive response to the invitation offered only a moment ago.
Along with the sound of the door closing, Kirche's voice was heard:
"Though we are still celebrating the feast in the garden, it is quite strange that the Pope decided to return to his country at this time."
At that moment, Isabella realized something and immediately informed everyone:
"Will it be... Did the Pope intend to take Her Majesty along with him to Romalia...?"
At that time all present showed a face of surprise.
"If the Pope intended to take her with him, it is certain that Tabitha will be with him at the ceremony tomorrow." Kirche said in an overwhelmed voice.
"He knows that it would be dangerous to keep her for a long time even within Gallia." Guiche replied.
In the current situation, Isabella immediately set out to make a decision.
"I will prepare some clothes, so I would like you all to make a change of clothes."
"Tomorrow morning, we will split into two groups. One group will be among the crowd bidding farewell to the Pope, the other will be waiting near the mansion of Minister Barberini. In case Her Majesty were to be found in the Pope's group, and if we have the opportunity, we will rescue her. This plan is our best possible chance. I will also use the full strength of my squadron of knights."
"Whaaat? We alone are enough to handle this!" As usual, Guiche blustered while failing to consider the difficulties that surrounded this mission.
"That would be impossible! You as a foreigner have the disadvantage of not knowing the terrain layout. Do not worry! For us to act cooperatively, I'll be sending an emissary of my highest confidence to report the conditions clearly and concisely. Also, please be so kind to follow their directions" Isabella said, ending their conversation.
|Back to Chapter 3||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 5|