Zero no Tsukaima:Volume9 Chapter6
Chapter Six: The Feelings of The Queen
As time flowed on, winter passed and spring came along.
Tristain was embracing the warm season.
Was it because of the reaction of the end of the war which had prolonged for 8 months? Be it in the streets or the Royal Palace, a somewhat gentle atmosphere was hanging in the air. The sentinels who were standing guard at the gate of the Royal Palace unintentionally yawned. The officers who should find fault with them were also gazing absent-mindedly at the sky, showing relieved expressions.
People walking down the streets brimmed with liveliness. Although Tarbes had burned down completely, most of the territory of Tristain was not involved in the war. The atmosphere due to the war was improving, various things started to overflow into the streets. As if to enjoy the transient festivity, merchants in the streets shouted at the top of their voice, and all the customers fished for and bought goods from Albion or other imported items.
On Bourdonné Street, which was crowded with people walking about, a pure white carriage sped past.
Flanked by two black coaches, one in front and one behind, and with a grand procession of knights making its way, the crowd knew that it had to be a majestic, high-class gentleman or lady.
Recognizing the lily crest across the coachman seat of the carriage, the citizens of Tristain rejoiced loudly.
“Her Majesty The Queen! Long live Her Majesty The Queen!”
It was the carriage of the queen of Tristain, Henrietta.
She was just returning from a luncheon with the King of Germania in a frontier city.
In the carriage, Henrietta opened a small window, and waved to the people outside. Having won the war, Henrietta was the popular focus of the citizens right now. The selfish citizens who complained about Henrietta's heavy taxation during the war began supporting her once again after their lives started becoming more comfortable due to the tax cut accompanying the end of the war.
“Long live Queen Henrietta of Honorable Poverty!”
One person in the crowd shouted, and that cheer spread all over in a flash.
“Long live Queen Henrietta of Honorable Poverty! Long live Tristain!”
After being called "Queen of Honorable Poverty" repeatedly, Henrietta's face darkened a little. For the sake of easing the poverty of the country, she had abandoned all the personal belongings of the royal family- this move had made Henrietta even more famous. Henrietta hated to announce that to the people... but Mazarin who had heard this from the finance minister had spread the report out without hesitating.
Her face left the window... The curtains were closed, and Henrietta mumbled to Mazarin beside her,
“Isn't this just like... a cheap play sold to flatter the people?”
“Is this not good? No one is going to lose from it, after all.”
Mazarin said with a composed face.
“I do not want to use such things to garner popularity,”
Henrietta muttered with ladylike fastidiousness. But she did not say it out loud, her lips merely mouthed the words.
“I have been saying this all the while.”
“Using whatever things which can be used is the basis of politics, right? Do you still remember it?”
“If that's the case, fine.”
Henrietta closed her eyes. Even my kind heart had to be used as a tool to rule over the people... This world I plunged into, what a foul place it is.
Despite the fact that the war had ended, Henrietta didn't have any leisure time because of it. Instead, at the moment, international relations were flourishing compared to the former days; she was pursued by more affairs than even during war time.
Uu... Henrietta lightly clasped her mouth. Apparently worried, Mazarin looked into her face.
“Your Majesty, what's wrong?”
“No... I feel a little...”
“Should I summon the Water healers?”
Mazarin asked with a seemingly anxious face. Henrietta shook her head.
“I'm fine. Sorry for making you worried.”
Her heart gradually could not stand all the affairs and the pressure, and started shrieking. I want to take a break somewhere, even if she thought that, living as a queen, that could not be done.
During the war, she was sustained by the word "revenge." But it had ended... and what left was a large hole in her schedule, but stress was simply stress, and couldn't be used to fill in that large hole of hers.
At any rate, Henrietta was completely exhausted.
The townspeople's cheer towards a certain person continuously flew into the ears of the queen. By merely hearing that name, the gloom inside her heart cleared... Henrietta's cheeks lightly colored.
Ondine • Knight Corps of the Water Spirit which was being led by Guiche and Saito was also given the duty of escorting the return journey of the queen from the luncheon.
Although it was an "escort," it contained a substantially formal factor. In short, it was the debut of the newly established knight corps.
They rendezvoused with Henrietta's troop at the gate of Tristania, according to the plan they developed some time ago, and marched to the palace together.
In accordance with the hierarchy of the Royal Palace, that array of troops was at the end of the queen's troupe, but the group members were full of vigor.
At the head of the line was Guiche, the commanding officer. Saito's horse followed behind, keeping a distance the length of a horse's head.
“Ah... But this is... huh...”
Lining at both sides of the road, Saito looked at the figures of the citizens, whispering. A chevalier's crest... Clad in the dazzling mantle on which a silver embroidery was sewn, with his features, Saito appeared to be an extremely weird existence. The people at the street stared intently at Saito who was carrying a sword at his shoulder instead of a wand and for some reason, spreading rumors sneakily together.
Beside him, Guiche turned towards Saito.
“What's the matter, Assistant Commanding Officer?”
“None of your business,”
Saito muttered, blushing. Changing suddenly from when they practiced, in this kind of place where everyone's attention was focused on them, Guiche became less reserved. An exhibition of his flamboyant character.
“Just like this. Look!”
Saying that, Guiche waved his rose. The dancing, falling petals fluttered in the air, drifting about... Afterwards, they transformed into doves. Rustling, the doves flew about in the air.
Cheers spread forth from the spectators along the street.
Triumphant, Guiche raised his head high, at which one of the onlookers shouted,
“Isn't that gentleman the fourth son of the Gramont household, Guiche-sama?”
At which someone "uhuh-ed" in approval.
“That's right! I heard that he took down a city and got promoted as the commanding officer of the knight corps as a reward!”
Cheers rose from everywhere, subsequently Guiche's name was called out repeatedly.
“Long live the Gramont family, Long live Guiche!”
At those cheers, Guiche waved his hand at them. And for this, he had specially prepared sakura flowers.
But... after all, the scattering golden flowers which had acquired cheers, at the next moment, was replaced by something else. All the eyes focused at Saito beside Guiche, who was carrying a sword at his back.
“Who is that guy? Isn't he carrying a sword at his back? A commoner?”
“A normal commoner like that, why is he mingling with the knight corps?”
Gossips started to fly about everywhere.
Eventually, an audacious feminine voice could be heard.
“What nonsense are you talking about! Everyone! Isn't that boy SAITO-KUN! Because he held back the army of seventy thousand alone, the allies were saved!”
It was Scarron. Swaggering, he looked towards Saito and waved at him. At one look, Jessica and the other girls of the "Charming Fairies" Inn were beside him, in a line. Scarron who was running a bar business had probably heard this rumor from the officers who went to his bar for a drink. Or maybe it was Siesta who had told him.
Anyway, at Scarron's words, the stir in the midst of the onlookers subsided.
Almost all the people knew about the evacuating allied forces and how they got rescued by Gallia's army which had suddenly participated in the war. And the fact that before Gallia's participation, someone stopped the onslaught of the 70,000 strong army which was like a raging billow...
Which unit of soldiers had stopped them? Or was it some mage soldiers who participated in secret? Or was it the reluctant bodyguards of Germania? Or was it really a knight who had stopped them, and who was really an elf? The rumors went on. All kinds of rumors flew about.
But how could this youth accomplish any of that...?
Sniggers escaped from among the onlookers.
“But, for a swordsman to become a knight... he must have achieved quite some feat!”
At that voice, the laughter lessened. Upon which, noisy and boastful arguments rose.
“Impossible! No matter how you think of it, he is just a commoner. He could not have done such a great thing!”
“Recently Agnes-sama who had become the commanding officer of the musketeer squad, wasn't she of a commoner's origin!”
At the townspeople's dispute, the owner of the white carriage decided to settle it.
A soldier who was waiting on the queen went near the window, and looked like he received a message... He rushed over to Saito, whispering something, two words, three words, and Saito who was in the maelstrom nodded.
He approached the white carriage with a tensed look.
As the attention of the onlookers and the escorting guards focused on it, from the window, a white and graceful hand held out. It was Queen Henrietta's hand.
Saito took that hand, and awkwardly kissed it.
A commotion rose from the onlookers.
As expected, that hearsay was really correct. If he did not achieve something like that deed, it was impossible for the queen to allow a guard from amidst the commoners to kiss her hand.
The onlookers' started shouting repeating,
“Long live Chevalier Saito!”
Receiving the cheering voices from the townspeople, Saito displayed a bewildered look. After returning to the rank of troops, Guiche whispered into Saito's ear,
“Hey, hey! Everyone is praising you right? You have to live up to their expectations!”
Nervously, Saito waved his hand.
At which the shouts of joy became louder still.
“I give up... If this is the case, I won't even step out to the streets.”
“Whhhaaat? The people would be weary of this soon. Tomorrow, they may somehow forget about you,”
Guiche whispered, as if he understood.
After closing the window, Henrietta stared at the back of her hand that she had allowed Saito to kiss just now, and heaved a depressed sigh. She then turned to look at Mazarin beside her. Maybe riding in the carriage was too tiring, as he started nodding off to sleep. Henrietta's teacher was not young anymore. Henrietta stretched out her hands to adjust the round hat of the aging prime minister.
I have to be more firm. Firmer, firmer.
Her heart was suffering from this heavy pressure again... Gazing at the back of her hand, her faint courage sprung up.
They arrived at the palace, and except for one part which was on duty, the rest of the escorting knight corps dispersed. Unconsciously, she searched for the Ondine with her eyes.
The Imperial Guard corps which had been established by Henrietta not long ago was having a friendly chat at a corner of the palace. Having just completed their debut, they were going to return to the Academy after that. Because they were required to undergo a year's training period before taking up any formal duty in the Royal Palace, they were not going to linger in the palace.
Among the knight corps, she discovered the black hair of Saito, whom she permitted a kiss at her hand. Even though she had the sudden urge to go to his side, Henrietta changed her mind.
Cabinet ministers and servants welcomed Henrietta who had arrived.
Without losing the dignity of a queen, she displayed a smiling face, and thanked their efforts.
Henrietta walked alongside her ministers down the corridor, while telling them her decision for each matter. Even as she was walking, work befell on her continuously. That was because Henrietta must fulfill her duties as the Queen.
As they were walking, one of the court ladies approached her.
“A visitor is waiting.”
“Visitor? Any visitor, no, be it an emperor or the Pope, invite them to the waiting room.”
The court lady whispered something in Henrietta's ears. Hearing that name, Henrietta displayed a smile of relief.
When Henrietta saw the person who was waiting in the living room, Henrietta's face brightened up suddenly. A smile which was rarely seen lately was displayed, and Henrietta tightly embraced the visitor who was waiting for her since some time ago.
“Aah, Louise! Louise! You should come once in a while to show me your face!”
“I want to do that very much as well. But the Princess is busy, I think...”
“If it's you, I grant you the privilege to come to this room at any time you want, Louise. Isn't that natural? You are my friend.”
Louise surveyed the room which had nothing.
“Everything here has really been sold, huh?”
She said in a lonesome voice.
“Yeah, that's right. For the duties of a queen, a place to sleep and a desk are enough.”
She said that, but the bed was left behind because of the Finance Minister's insistence that “he would oppose her sleeping on the floor, as expected.”
Louise realized the absence of the glittering "Ruby of Wind" on Henrietta's finger, and her eyes bulged.
“Princess, what happened to the Ruby of Wind?”
“Ah, I sold it.”
“Because when I look at it, I recall things... Because of the feelings in the ring, I was spurred to go into a war. Consequently, now that the war has ended, I released...”
“What do you mean!?”
Louise let out a shocked voice.
“What's the matter? Louise.”
“That ring is... a ring necessary for the 'Bearer of Void.'”
“What do you mean?”
“Once I insert the ring, I become able to read the Founder's Prayer Book.”
“Aren't you the only one who could do that?”
While saying those words, Henrietta paled.
“Recently, didn't you receive a notice? At Albion, we were attacked by a 'familiar of Void,' and we met another 'Bearer of Void.' There is a possibility that other 'Bearers of Void' exist. And that person is unlikely to have a pure heart. If the ring falls into the hands of those who have a reason to use the power of Void...”
Henrietta was distraught.
“Aa, what should I do! If it's me!”
“Do you know who you gave it to?”
The one to which it was given to was Finance Minister De Muri. Henrietta quickly summoned him.
“Did you call me, Your Majesty?”
It seemed that he sensed something unusual about Henrietta's expression. It was an anxious voice.
“Finance Minister, the ring I gave to you...”
The Finance Minister grinned.
“Is it that ring? The memento of the Albion royal family, 'Ruby of Wind?'”
“That's it! The one I commanded you to sell, the 'Ruby of Wind' I handed to you. Do you remember who you sold it to?”
The Finance Minister produced a small box from his breast pocket.
“Is it this?”
The thing which appeared from the small box was the Ruby of Wind, as expected.
“When Your Majesty handed this to me, Your Majesty's face was not normal. Because of that, I held onto it. At any rate, I wanted to return this to your majesty for some time.”
“...Aah, you are a splendid person, Minister De Muri.”
“No... Because it is something filled with memories, I will never sell such a valuable thing. This is just like a part of the body.”
Leaving those words, the Finance Minister withdrew.
Henrietta gazed at the Ruby of Wind which had returned to her hand once again. From those eyes, a tear drop trailed down her cheek. This tear seemed to come suddenly of its own accord, Henrietta still had a dazed expression.
After realizing that she was overflowing with tears, Henrietta hid her face with both her hands.
“What am I... Only after my tears fell did I realize that I was relieved.”
Louise's face became serious, and placed her hand at Henrietta's shoulder.
“Princess-sama, you are getting tired. Why don't you take a day off and rest?”
“Thank you. The one who would call me to 'rest' is only you. But, I cannot do that. If I were to rest for a day, it is just as if some part of the country has stopped.”
Henrietta said, while patting Louise's hair.
“You make me envious, Louise.”
"What is your majesty talking about? Princess-sama, don't you have everything that I don't?"
"I believe that ...... actually not having anything is much more blissful than having everything. That's what I really feel, when I look at this ring."
Henrietta gazed at the 'Wind Ruby' in her hand and said. For a short while, she gazed at it...
“I haven't listened to the reason you came here for.”
Louise looked hesitatingly as if it became difficult for her to speak, before displaying a resolute expression.
“Um... It's about Saito.”
Henrietta, who was taken aback for a moment, returned to normal immediately.
“Even today, I have borrowed him. He is good and hardworking. A magnificent, gallant man. Aah, I should offer him an expression of gratitude...”
“It is about that gratitude. To receive Saito alone, sending the Varsenda vessel; conferring the rank of 'Chevalier'... giving the instructions for a servant for him, and allowing him to kiss your hand in the middle of the city...”
“Although this might not be appropriate... as a treatment to a mere chevalier, this is too kind. Your majesty treating him like that, do you have any other ulterior motives? This is what I am suspicious of.”
“Using him for some dangerous duties...”
Dumbfounded, Henrietta stared at Louise.
“I? Using him for dangerous duties!? Never! How could I do such a thing! He is your valuable familiar right? Even if he becomes a noble, that would not change. The valuable person of you who is valuable to me, there's no way I would make him do dangerous things.”
“If that's the case, then it's fine, but...”
Henrietta hugged Louise tightly.
“As I thought, you are a gentle child, right? Same as during those days. He is... a great person, to me and the country... Yeah, he had displayed unparalleled loyalty. As a queen, I should reward this loyalty.”
“...But, Saito is someone from a different world. Someone who has to leave here sooner or later. Is it a good thing granting such an important task to such a person?”
“...That is something he had decided, Louise. To me, he is a necessary... errr, oh yeah, a necessary person. Because of that, I had done what I could. Even if he had accepted them, he has the freedom to repudiate them. When he was conferred the title of a knight, I had already said that.”
Louise nodded. During the ceremony in which Saito was conferred the title of a knight, he didn't swear allegiance to Henrietta and the mother country. So to speak, he was a free knight... if those words were the case... At any rate, Saito was not an ordinary knight.
Anyway, if he won't be going through anything dangerous, she had no objections any more. Louise bowed her head quickly, and withdrew.
“Aren't you returning together with Saito-dono? Now, he might possibly still be in the courtyard.”
Louise shook her head.
“No... because I didn't tell him that I was coming. So, I return alone as well.”
“I see. Take care. When you are free, come visit again.”
With a respectful bow, Louise withdrew.
When Henrietta sat down on her chair, she lifted her hand. Gazing at the Ruby of Wind at the center of her palm, the exhausted, young queen murmured,
“...Go love somebody else, you had said that. I had thought that I would not love anyone ever again. But...”
Mixed with sighs, Henrietta muttered,
“Whether this is love or not, I don't know. Just that, sometimes when I think of this, in my chest, a little fire is lit up.”
Someone knocked on the door.
“Who is it?”
“It is me.”
It was the voice of the secretary who managed Henrietta's schedule. "Please enter," she prompted. A lady in her thirties with her hair tied into a bun and glasses on her face entered the room.
“I would like to have the privilege of confirming your majesty's plans for the next two weeks...”
The secretary read out the plans one by one. The worst ones were back to back plans. Not being able to catch my breath, surely I would be like that. One of these days, my sleeping time would be scraped off as well, she muttered in her heart.
“Well then, on Freya's Day of the first week, there is a dining meeting with the ambassador of Romalia... On this occasion, please put on the Romalian formal dress. Consequently, within thirty minutes, please change your clothes.”
Henrietta heaved a sigh, restrained her feelings, and as if she was not feeling even the tiniest speck of fatigue, answered.
“For the next day, the Day of Void... what do you plan to do?”
The secretary lifted up her spectacles, displaying a worried gesture.
“What do you mean, 'What do you plan to do?'”
“Umm... The plan is to attend the Ball of Sleipnir... should we cancel it?”
“Is it okay?”
Henrietta asked, in a tone as if feeling relieved. A resting day was more valuable than gold,
“Yes. Because it is just the welcome party of the new students at the Academy of Magic. Mr Osman, who had invited your majesty to this ball, probably has confused this school activity with that of nation's activity.”
A ball in the Academy of Magic...
Moreover, the Ball of Sleipnir was not an ordinary ball. Participants would masquerade as others. Further still, it was not to disguise by means of a mask and costumes.
Henrietta lifted her face.
“I will attend. Please plan accordingly.”
“If Your Majesty could attend it, certainly everyone would be happy... but if you take the day off as rest-”
The secretary, who knew above anyone else how heavy Henrietta's work was, said in a seemingly worried expression.
“The Academy of Magic is the place where the younger generation of nobles who carry the future of the country is educated... For those freshmen, there is a need to encourage them as well.”
She said this, and the secretary did not have any disagreements after that.
"The arrangements will be made."
With those words, she withdrew.
Henrietta sat on her chair once again, lifting up her hand. She touched her reddened cheek with her hand, and bit her fingernails.
Translator's Notes and References
- The Japanese word for this is seihin 清貧 which means 'living in poverty for the sake of one's pure conduct, not for one's self-interest.'
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