Zero no Tsukaima:Volume2 Chapter3
Chapter Three: A Childhood Friend's Request
Princess Henrietta, who had just appeared in Louise's room, looked like she had been overcome with emotion, and hugged the kneeling girl.
"Oh, Louise, Louise, my dear Louise!"
"This won't do, Your Highness. Coming to a humble place like this......."
Louise said ceremoniously.
"Oh! Louise! Louise Françoise! Please stop acting so formally! You and I are friends! We are friends, are we not?"
"I am not worthy of such kind words. Your Highness."
Louise replied with a steely, strained voice. Saito, stupefied, just stared as the pair of beautiful girls embraced.
"Stop that, please! Neither the Cardinal, my Mother, or those greedy court aristocrats who buzz around wearing friendly faces are here! Oh, don't I have any friends who will open up to me? If even Louise Françoise, my old friend whom I've missed dearly, acts so distant, I would just die!"
Louise lifted her face.
"When we were little children, didn't we get together and chase butterflies at the palace courtyard? And got all muddy?"
With a shy face, Louise answered.
"......Yes, and La Porte-sama the chamberlain told us off for getting our clothes so dirty."
"Yes! That's right, Louise! We were arguing over those puffy cream cakes, and ended up having a real scuffle! Oh, whenever we fought, it was me who always lost. You would grab my hair, and I'd just start crying."
"Not at all, Princess achieved victory on at least one occasion."
Louise said, looking sentimental.
"You remembered! Looking at the two of us, one could call that battle the Siege of Amiens!"
"That was when we were fighting over a dress in Princess' bedroom, wasn't it?"
"Yes, in the middle of our 'Make-Believe Royal Court', we ended up fighting over who would play princess! And it was my blow to your stomach, Louise Françoise, that successfully decided it."
"I fainted in the presence of Princess."
After that, the two of them exchanged glances and broke out in laughter. Saito, amazed, just kept watching them in that state. The princess may have looked like a lady, but she was actually a tomboy.
"That's more like it. Louise. Ah, I'm getting so nostalgic, tears are coming out."
"So how do you guys know each other?"
Saito asked, as Louise closed her eyes in reminiscence before answering.
"I had the pleasure of serving as Princess' playmate back when we were children."
After that, Louise turned back to Henrietta.
"But, I am deeply moved that Princess would remember such things....... I thought you'd already forgotten about me."
The princess gave a deep sigh and sat down on the bed.
"How could I forget? During those times, every day was fun. There was nothing at all to worry about."
There was a profound sadness in her voice.
Louise looked worried as she peered into Henrietta's face.
"How I envy you. Freedom is such a wonderful thing, Louise Françoise."
"What are you saying? You're the royal princess, are you not?"
"A princess born in her kingdom is like a bird being raised in a cage. You go here and there on your master's every whim......."
Henrietta said, looking lonely as she gazed at the moon outside the window. She then held Louise's hands and gave a sweet smile before speaking.
"I... I'm getting married."
"......You have my congratulations."
Louise, who somehow felt the sadness in that tone, spoke in a subdued voice.
It was at that moment that Henrietta noticed Saito, who had been sitting on his bundle of straw.
"Oh, forgive me. Was I intruding?"
"Intruding? How would that be?"
"Well, isn't he your lover? Oh no! It seems I was so caught up reminiscing that I didn't realize my blunder!"
"Huh? Lover? That creature?"
"Stop calling me that."
Saito said with a disappointed voice.
"Princess! That's just my familiar! Don't even joke about it being my lover!"
Louise shook her head wildly, denying Henrietta's words.
Henrietta looked at Saito with a blank expression on her face.
"But he looks like a human......"
"I am a human, Princess."
Saito gave a strained greeting to Henrietta.
And he was even more hurt by how hard Louise had denied they were lovers. Even though that really was the case, it hurt all the same.
He recalled Louise's profile as she gazed at the other young noble during the day.
At any rate...... I'm a familiar. An earthling. Not a noble.
And I want to go home. I want to eat a teriyaki burger. Yeah, and I might even receive an answer at the online dating service. Painful thoughts like these were swirling together into a chain.
Feeling a great weight upon him, he put his hand on the wall. As fast as Saito had become elated, his feelings fell just as soon. What a hectic personality.
"True, true. Oh, Louise Françoise, you may have changed since our younger days, but you are still quite the same."
"I didn't make it my familiar because I wanted to."
Louise looked disappointed. Henrietta gave off another sigh.
"Princess, what happened?"
"No, it's nothing. Forgive me, oh, I'm so ashamed of myself. It's not something I should tell you...... but I am just so......"
"Please tell me. What troubles are they that cause Princess, as cheerful as she is, to sigh like this?"
"......No, I cannot tell you. Please forget I said anything. Louise."
"I will not! Didn't we use to talk about everything? Princess was the one who had called me a friend. Won't you share your worries with your friend?"
After Louise spoke, Henrietta gave off a cheerful-looking smile.
"You've called me a friend, Louise Françoise. That makes me so happy."
Henrietta nodded her head in determination, and began to talk.
"You must not speak to anyone about what I am about to tell you now."
After that, she gave a quick glance in Saito's direction.
"Should I step outside?"
Henrietta shook her head.
"A mage and her familiar are as one. I see no reason for you to leave."
And with a sad tone, Henrietta started talking.
"I am to marry the Emperor of Germania......."
"Germania, you say?!"
Louise, who hated Germania, spoke out in astonishment.
"That country of barbaric upstarts?!"
"Yes. But it can't be helped. It must be done to solidify our alliance."
Henrietta explained the political climate of Halkeginia to Louise.
There was an insurrection among the nobles of Albion, and it looked like the Royal Family would soon be overthrown. If the rebels won, then the next thing would be the invasion of Tristain. To defend against this, Tristain was looking to form an alliance with Germania. For the alliance's sake, it was decided that Princess Henrietta would be married into the Germanian Imperial Family.......
"So that's why......"
Louise said with a depressed voice. It was clear from Henrietta's tone that she did not desire this wedding.
"It is alright. Louise, I have long since abandoned the notion of marrying the one whom I love."
"Those two-faced Albion nobles do not want Tristain and Germania to become allies. Two arrows are easier to break when they are not tied together."
"......Therefore, they have been searching frantically for anything that would interfere with the marriage.
"And they've found something......"
Saito didn't know anything about the alliance or Albion, but in any case, it seemed like it was something serious. Yup, as big as another Yagoto, Saito thought with a nod.
"Then this is about that thing that could get in the way of Princess' wedding?"
Louise asked, her face looking pale, and Henrietta gave a regretful nod.
"Oh, Founder Brimir... please save this unfortunate princess......"
Henrietta covered her face with her hands, and crumbled on the floor. Saito was a little shocked at the dramatic gesture. He'd never seen anything so grandiose in his life.
"Tell me, please! Princess! Just what is it that could interfere with the princess' wedding?"
Louise, like she had also been infected, rattled off with an agitated look. With both hands still on her face, Henrietta looked like she was in pain as she began muttering.
"......It is a letter that I had written some time ago."
"Yes. If those Albion nobles get their hands on it...... they would probably send it forward to the Germanian Imperial Family as soon as they could."
"What kind of letter could that be?"
"......That I cannot tell you. But if the Germanian Imperial Family were to read it...... they would never forgive me. The marriage would fall through, and with it, the alliance with Tristain. Then Tristain would stand alone against the strength of Albion."
Louise gave a gasp and seized Henrietta's hands.
"Where would that letter be? The letter that would bring crisis to Tristain!"
Henrietta shook her head.
"It is not with us. The truth of the matter is, it is already in Albion."
"Albion! But then...! Is it already in the enemy's hands?"
"No...... the one who holds the letter is not with the rebels of Albion. As the conflict between the rebels and his kinsmen unfolded, Prince Wales of the Royal Family......"
"The Prince Wales? The Prince Valiant?"
Henrietta bent back and laid down on the bed.
"Oh, it's a disaster! Sooner or later, Prince Wales will fall captive to the rebels!! And when that happens, the letter will come to light! And everything would be ruined! Ruined! Without an alliance, Tristain would have to take on Albion by itself!"
Louise held her breath.
"Then, Princess, the favor that you're asking of me......"
"Impossible! It's impossible, Louise! How could I be so terrible? It's all confusing! When I think about it, I couldn't ask you to do such a dangerous thing as to go to Albion while this conflict between the nobles and the royalists is unfolding!"
"What are you saying? Be it the kettles of hell, or into the jaws of a dragon, if it's for Princess' sake, I'll go anywhere! There is no way the third daughter of the House of la Vallière, Louise Françoise, could overlook such a crisis for Princess and Tristain!"
Louise kneeled down and lowered her head reverently.
"Please leave this matter to me, the one who has captured Fouquet the Crumbling Earth."
Saito, who had been leaning on his arm against the wall, turned to look at Louise and spoke.
"Hey, wasn't that me?"
"You're my familiar."
"A familiar's achievement, is its master's achievement."
Louise said with perfect confidence.
"And a familiar's mistake?"
"That would be your mistake, wouldn't it?"
Though he felt somewhat cheated, it was useless to object when Louise got into her usual threatening attitude, so Saito just nodded half-heartedly.
"So you will help me? Louise Françoise! You are a dear friend!"
"Of course! Princess!"
Louise grasped Henrietta's hands, and as the former spoke heatedly, the latter gave in and started crying.
"Princess! I, Louise, forever friend of the princess, will be your confidante! Have you forgotten my vow of eternal loyalty?"
"Ah, the loyalty. This loyalty and sincere friendship! I'm deeply moved. I will never forget through life your loyalty and friendship! Louise Françoise!"
Saito opened his mouth gaping, and stared half amazed at the two. It was like a conversation between two people who were getting drunk with their own words. Ah, so this is how it's like for nobles and princesses, it's troublesome, Saito was strangely convinced as he watched.
"Louise. Sorry to bother you while you're reaffirming your friendship and everything."
"Going to Albion in the middle of a war is fine, but what use am I gonna be?"
"I've bought you a sword. You can use that, at least."
"Yeah. I'll do my best......"
Saito lowered his head gloomily. Come to think of it, they haven't talked about the Legendary Familiar Gandálfr's rune that had appeared on the back of his left hand yet. But even if I say it, it's just going to be a waste, Saito thought.
Legendary or not, she still treats me like a dog.
"Then shall we go to Albion, find the Crown Prince of Wales, and get the letter back, Princess?"
"Yes, that is correct. I feel confident that you, the ones who have caught Fouquet the Crumbling Earth, should be able to accomplish this difficult mission."
"As you wish. How urgent is this task?"
"I've heard that the nobles of Albion have managed to drive the royalists into a corner of the country. It will just be a matter of time before they are defeated."
Louise's face looked serious as she bowed to Henrietta.
"Then tomorrow, we shall depart."
Afterwards, Henrietta turned her gaze towards Saito. Saito's heart skipped a beat. Though Louise was also foolishly lovely and neat, Princess Henrietta was so beautiful that he almost gasped. Her millet-colored hair, trimmed right above her eyebrows, was swimming gracefully. Her blue eyes shone brilliantly like the southern seas.
White skin, on which floated a feeling of purity, a nose like a priceless and finely shaped sculpture.......
Saito stared at Henrietta as if he was in a trance. Louise looked at this with a chilly gaze. It didn't seem like she was in a good mood.
Why are you looking at me like that, Louise? Ah, is it because I'm staring at the princess with admiration? Could you possibly be getting jealous? But weren't you blushing when you saw that noble with the feathered hat? And weren't you completely out of it after that?
It's funny how jealous you're getting, Louise. Saito shook his head.
Rather than your lover, aren't I just your familiar?
Will I never be more than a dog for you?
I'm just your dog, so why are you looking at me like that, Louise? Ah, is it because I am a dog? Is it because someone like me, who's just at the level of a dog, is looking at her? My apologies. Please forgive me for ever being born. Woof.
Saito's head spun for a mere two seconds.
Louise looked away from Saito with a "Hmph". Saito turned away as well.
Henrietta didn't notice the subtle exchange between Saito and Louise, and she began speaking in a cheerful voice.
"Yes? You mean me?"
After Henrietta called him dependable, the slumping Saito became happier.
"Naw, that's too much. Just treat me like a dog."
"Please keep taking care of my most precious friend."
And then she gently held out her hand. A handshake? he thought, but the back of her hand was turned upwards. What sort of gesture was this?
Louise spoke up with an astonished voice.
"That won't do! Princess! To offer your hand to a familiar!"
"It is alright. This person will be acting for my sake, and without a reward, I won't have his loyalty."
"Offering a hand? The way someone does to a dog? Is that how you treat your dogs?"
Saito stooped and lowered his head.
"That's not it. Ooh, this is why you're a dog......, a commoner dog who doesn't know anything. When she offers her hand, it means you can kiss her. That's saying it plainly."
Saito's mouth opened widely. He'd never thought that he'd be allowed to kiss a princess from another world.
Henrietta smiled sweetly at Saito. His smile appeared business-like to other people, but Saito was thinking 『I'd love to』. To be liked by such a princess wouldn't be half bad, he thought.
Saito grinned deliberately at Louise. Louise muttered under her breath and turned her face away.
Ah, what, so you *are* getting jealous. Just look at yourself. This is what you get for getting charmed by that noble with the plumed hat and for blushing, Saito thought.
Saito caught Henrietta's hand, and then firmly pulled her to him.
Henrietta absentmindedly opened her mouth in surprise. Then before they could blink, Saito pushed his lips against Henrietta's.
What tender, tiny lips they were. Henrietta's eyes opened widely into circles.
The circles went white. The strength left Henrietta's body, and, slipping through Saito's hands, she fell to the bed.
"She fainted? Wh-why's that?"
"What are you doing to her highness?! You d-d-d-dog!"
When Saito turned around, the bottom of Louise's shoe was flying towards him.
Saito took Louise's jump kick in the face and tumbled to the floor.
"What was that for?!"
When Saito said that, Louise stamped angrily on his face.
"It was on her hand she gave you permission, the back of her hand! A kiss on the back of the hand! Why'd you give her an all-out kiss on the lips?!"
Louise was so mad, it looked like she was going to catch fire.
"How should I know! I don't know anything about your rules here."
As his face was getting trampled, Saito spread his hands and spoke plainly. Getting stepped on was something Saito had experience with.
"Y-y-y-you, you, you dog......"
Louise's voice began trembling in fury.
Henrietta rose from the bed while shaking her head. Louise rushed to kneel beside her. She then grabbed Saito's head and pushed it down to the bed.
"I-I'm sorry! My familiar's misconduct, is my own misconduct! And you say it, too! Apologize!"
The ever-prideful Louise was apologizing to someone. On top of that, she was shaking all over. If I don't do what she says, she'll probably give me hell for it later.
"Sorry. I only did it since you told me I could kiss you."
"And where can you find someone who would go for the lips when they hear that?!"
Louise struck Saito with her fist.
"How forgetful. Who gave you permission to use human language? Just bark. Dog. Come on, bark, I say. Everyone look at the doggie. Stupid dog."
Then she stamped on Saito's head and ground it against the floor.
"I-it's alright. Loyalty must be rewarded, after all."
Henrietta bowed her head, giving real effort to appear calm.
At that time, the door slammed open and someone came flying in.
"You! The princess! What do you think you're doing?!"
It was the one who had dueled with Saito before, Guiche de Gramont.
With an ever-present imitation rose in his hand.
"What do you want?"
Saito said from where he lay on the floor as Louise continued stepping on his face.
"Guiche! You! Were you eavesdropping? Did you hear our conversation just now?!"
Guiche, however, didn't answer the pair's questions and just stood in a daze.
"For my hunt of the rose-like, lovely princess bringing me to this place...... and then seeing a theft, so to speak, occur through the door's keyhole...... that idiot commoner taking a kiss......."
Guiche flourished his imitation rose and cried.
"Duel with me! You scoundrel!"
Saito sprang up and drove his fist into Guiche's face.
"Duel away then, stupid! I still remember how you broke my arm! Let's go!"
Saito gave Guiche, who had fallen to the floor, a hard kick, then he sat on him and started wringing his neck.
"Th-that's not fair! You! Gah!"
"So, what now? This guy overheard Princess' story. Shall we have him hanged?"
If the opponent was a guy, Saito could be very serious.
"That might be best...... it's really too bad he had to hear our conversation just now......"
Guiche caught Saito off-guard, and stood up.
"Your Highness! By all means, please appoint me, Guiche de Gramont, to this difficult mission."
"You go to sleep."
Saito swept Guiche's legs. Guiche fell down gaudily.
"Let me join your group!"
Guiche yelped as he collapsed.
Guiche's face reddened.
"I wish to be of use to Her Highness......"
Saito was sensing something from Guiche's appearance right then.
"You, are you in love? With the princess?!"
"Don't say such rude things. I am, absolutely, just wanting to be of use to Her Highness."
However, Guiche's face was burning intensely as he said this. Telling by the passionate look he was giving Henrietta, he was certainly under her charm.
"But you have a girlfriend. Who was that again? Uh, Monmon-something......"
"So what's going on?"
But Guiche was silent. Ah, I see, Saito thought.
"Did you get dumped? She completely dumped you, I bet?"
"Q-quiet! It was all your fault!"
It was the matter of the perfume in the dining hall. When he was caught two-timing, Guiche was dripping with wine from the top of his head courtesy of Montmorency.
"Gramont? Ah, of General Gramont?"
Henrietta fixed her eyes on Guiche's vacantly looking face.
"I am his son, Your Highness."
Guiche stood up and gave a reverent bow.
"Are you also saying that you wish to help me?"
"It would be an unexpected blessing for me if I were to become a part of that mission."
Henrietta smiled at Guiche's enthusiastic expression.
"Thank you. Your father is a great, brave noble, and it seems you have inherited his blood. Then, please. Would you help this unfortunate princess, Sir Guiche?"
"Her Highness has called my name! Her Highness! Tristain's lovely flower, has smiled her rosy smile at me!"
Guiche, having felt too much excitement, fell on his back in a faint.
"Is he alright?"
Saito poked at Guiche. Louise paid no mind to the disturbance and spoke in a serious voice.
"Well then, tomorrow morning, we shall depart for Albion."
"We have heard that Prince Wales has set up camp somewhere around Newcastle in Albion."
"Understood. I've travelled through Albion with my sisters before, so I'm familiar with the geography."
"It will be a perilous journey. If the nobles of Albion discover your mission, they will do everything in their power to get in your way."
Henrietta sat at the desk and, with Louise's feather quill and some parchment, wrote a letter out.
Henrietta quietly gazed at the letter she had written herself, before she began shaking her head sadly.
"Princess? What's the matter?"
Louise, thinking something was up, called out.
Henrietta blushed, gave a nod as if she had settled on something, then added another line at the end. After that, she murmured in a soft voice.
"Founder Brimir....... Please forgive this selfish princess. Even though my country is in distress, I cannot help but write this one sentence....... I cannot lie about my own feelings......."
Henrietta's facial expression made it seem like she had written a love-letter rather than a secret message. Louise couldn't say anything more, and just looked at Henrietta quietly.
Henrietta rolled up the letter she had written. She waved her staff. Out of nowhere, sealing wax appeared on the rolled-up letter, and a seal pressed down on it. Then she handed the letter over to Louise.
"When you meet the Crown Prince Wales, please pass this letter to him. He should then return the letter in question immediately."
After that, Henrietta removed a ring from the ring finger on her right hand, and gave it to Louise.
"This is a 『Water Ruby』 that I had received from my mother. It should work as a good-luck charm, at least. If you have any money concerns, please sell this to get some travel funds."
Louise bowed her head in silence.
"This mission is for the future of Tristain. For that, my mother's ring will protect you from the harsh winds blowing in Albion."
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