The clouds extending to the sky were thin and the ones which were stirred up by the wind and swayed soundlessly harked back to white fog. Even so, they concealed the sun and it was enough to block the sunlight.
Waiting for the far spring, the ground calmly endured the cold of winter. The hills and fields were buried in snow, trees and flowers were covered with frost and the river was eroded by ice.
Capital of the Brune Kingdom: Nice. Similarly, the Luberon Mountain soaring at its center was wrapped in cold and was standing quietly.
It was said that the Founder, King Charles met a spirit which the gods sent to this Mountain and was given the sacred sword Durandal and the magic horse Bayard.
Bayard was a horse with a black mane and red skin and it did not show fatigue even if it ran through a wasteland all day long. Durandal easily cut iron armor and shields and lifted strange curses. It was said to be able to also cut the likes of dragons, spirits and ghosts.
Charles carrying Durandal on his shoulder and riding Bayard went around many battlefields. And after piling up victories as such, he founded the Brune Kingdom.
Charles, in order to offer gratitude to the gods, built a shrine on the mountain top of Luberon. Since then, the shrine had been managed by a dozen of priests and passed time peacefully.
Now, three men and women were visiting that shrine. A young girl who wore white silk clothes on her delicate body and put on a mantle, and a man and a woman accompanying her.
After greeting the head of the shrine, they left the shrine without particularly having a fun talk. The three people’s objective was not in the shrine, but outside.
“The cold of this season is quite severe. How about you warm yourselves for a little while? I also prepared wine.”
The head of the shrine offered so, but the young girl thanked him and declined. As the head of the shrine said, the air drifting at the top of this mountain was cold enough to sting the skin.
The girl was about 16 or 17 years old. Having trimmed her pale golden hair around her shoulders, and despite her neutral features, there was a feminine softness in the roundness of her cheeks. She was carefully holding a bouquet wrapped in a white cloth.
She was a beautiful girl who let one feel dignity in her casual gestures.
Her name was Regin.
More precisely Regin Ester Loire Bastien Do Charles. She was the Princess of the Brune Kingdom and she governed the Kingdom on behalf of her father, the King who died last year.
The two persons waiting behind Regin were knights serving as guards. Both young being in their mid-twenties, they each wore a silver breastplate and hung a sword to their waist. The man’s name was Claude and the girl’s Serena.
The two people’s faces being tensed was not only because of their duty as guards. This was because where they were heading now was an important place even to them.
In a place about ten steps away from the shrine, Regin stopped.
There was a grave there. It was still brand-new, and plain without an appropriate ornament. Beside the name Roland, only the short words “A knight among knights” were carved.
That alone was enough to describe the human called Roland.
The Knight Roland, who had the nickname of “Black Knight”, acted as the young knight leader of the Navarre Knight Squadron who made the soldiers of neighboring countries tremble just by showing his figure, and died in the civil war of Brune that occurred last year. It was not death in battle. He was murdered by Duke Ganelon.
Though it was wondered whether Roland’s corpse was left just as it was, the old Prime Minister Badouin secretly took it and it was buried here. This was because Roland was an abandoned child who had been picked up and raised by a shrine maiden serving in this shrine.
As she looked down at the grave, Regin spat out a white breath. When she put the bouquet in front of the grave, she joined her hands and prayed to the gods.
Roland did not leave that strong an impression on Regin. Though she had heard about his matchless bravery and loyalty, she knew that it was directed towards her father King Faron.
It was all right like that until the battle of Dinant last year. This was because in the circumstances where Faron was healthy and there was no shadow in his rule, and also where Regin herself pretended to be a Prince, she did not try to actively get involved with retainers, nobles and knights.
Even so, there were reasons why she came to offer flowers like this. One of them was that if it was her father the King, he would have certainly done so.
The other was because she was now in a position where she governed a country, and she keenly realized how reliable a person Roland was and held again a sense of respect.
The western border was especially noisy recently. The Sachstein Kingdom began to deploy 1000 to 2000 soldiers and was frequently setting skirmishes. They seemed to be probing about how the rule of a young princess was, and also about the western defense after Roland’s death.
The Princess had talked only a little with Tigrevurmud Vorn about Roland. Called Tigre by those close to him, the youth with darkish red hair talked about the Black Knight in this way.
“Strong… He was a very strong person. And also a splendid man.”
There were words full of real feelings. When he was considered a rebel due to the plot of Duke Thenardier and others, he had fought against the Navarre Knight Squadron led by Roland. He was one of the few people who fought Roland as an enemy while being a person of Brune, and learned of his fearfulness from direct experience.
For Tigre, Roland was not only a powerful foe, but also a benefactor.
At the time when the Muozinel army had invaded, the Knight Squadrons which were protecting various places of Brune gathered under Tigre. In addition to the fact that it was due to Mashas Rodant and Hugues Augres’ appeal that they rushed to him, it was because there was Roland’s appeal.
There had also times when Prime Minister Badouin and Mashas who assisted Regis now talked about the fact that if Roland were there, he would have definitely become a great help.
—I won’t say that if you were alive.
The dead could not be revived. Be it Roland or Regin’s father.
On behalf of those who were no longer in this world, they had to protect this country.
—Thank you for having protected this country.
As she deeply bowed to Roland’s grave, Regin looked back. The two guards stood at a place precisely three steps away from her and they were attentively surveying the surroundings.
“Are you all right without even praying?”
Regin knew that those two respected Roland. Therefore, she asked as such, but Serena, not moving an inch, responded in a tone so calm as to feel curtness.
“Thank you for your consideration, Your Highness. However, I think that neglecting my duty as a guard for that will rather anger the Black Knight’s soul.”
Though Claude kept silent, he seemed to be of the same opinion as her.
“I understand. Well then, I shall also pray for your part.”
When the Princess said so with a wry smile, she turned to Roland’s grave. She joined her hands together once again.
Regin who finished her prayer to the gods left the mountain top followed by her two guards. They went down the mountain path which continued to the royal palace. Claude advanced several steps ahead and Serena stood side by side with Regin. The two of them did not utter even a single word.
While swaying her light golden hair to the winter wind, Regin looked at Serena with a sidelong glance.
—Jeanne was a little easier to get close to though.
While understanding that she should not compare them, Regin just thought about such a thing.
Jeanne was one of the Princess’s guards at the time when she lied about her sex distinction and called herself Regnas. Regin learned various things from her, how to light a fire and a method to know a direction by looking at the stars shining in the night sky. Even vulgar old tales that even the teachers of the royal palace never talked about.
She died in the trip to protect Regin after the battle of Dinant.
“Your Highness, is there something on my face?”
As she noticed Regin’s look, Serena turned a puzzled look. Regin shook her head.
“I’m relying on you, Serena. But, do not overdo it too much on your duty.”
It was their duty to protect Regin even at the expense of their own lives. While understanding that, the Princess could not help saying so.
Serena had never displayed her emotions until then, but she opened her eyes wide in surprise. With a soft smile, she gave a small bow.
“I am sorry for having caused Your Highness to worry. Though I did not intend to overdo it, I shall exert myself even more so as not to trouble you in the future.”
Though she had the feeling that she was strangely misunderstood, Regin nodded with a smile.
Then before long, they returned to the royal palace. Having appeared to welcome them was Prime Minister Pierre Badouin. The old Prime Minister who wrapped his body in gray official clothes respectfully bowed his head.
“Your Highness, it is good above all that you’ve come back safely.”
If we have to speak about Badouin’s features, the expression “like that of a cat” would be appropriate. On his roundish face, his gray mustache erectly extended to the right and left. Even his eyes slanted upwards, as expected, harked back to a cat.
“I only climbed the Luberon Mountain. Besides, there were Claude and Serena, too.”
As Regin said so while laughing, the Prime Minister with a cat face turned his gaze to the two guards. Claude and Serena shook their heads. It meant that there was nothing noteworthy to report.
“Prime Minister. There is something I would like to speak about, could you come to my office?”
Regin’s words were a little abrupt, but Badouin responded without showing any signs of anxiety.
“Understood. By the way, shall I also prepare warmed wine?”
Badouin had also happened to visit the shrine at the Luberon mountain top several times. He especially knew well the piercing cold of this season.
“Thank you. But I shall pass on alcohol. Can I ask for tea?”
It meant that it wasn’t a little chat or the likes of small talk, but a serious one. While walking the corridor following Regin, Badouin called a court lady and ordered her to carry tea to the office.
They arrived at the office; only Regin and Badouin entered. The two guards stood watch outside.
Regin was the lord of this royal palace and there were many rooms for her. There was a living room and a game room for relaxation, a private room, bedroom and library. Of course, there were not only one living room and private room; there were multiple rooms with different sizes and ornaments.
But, the Princess liked an office that not too wide; decorated with only a few furnishings and a Red Horse Flag. Even when there was no work that should be dealt with immediately, she was often in her office. For Regin, it was a place where her mood settled down.
As Regin sat before the office desk, she recommended a chair to Badouin. The old Prime Minister bowed and sat down on the chair.
“What may it be? The thing you want to hear from these old bones.”
“It is about Duke Ganelon and the Sacred Caverns of the Palace (Sangroel).”
Regin directly cut to the chase.
Duke Ganelon was a noble who had governed the land of Lutetia located in the northern part of the Brune Kingdom before. The Ganelon House was a distinguished family which continued since the reign of the Founder Charles and you might say that it was one of the aristocrats representing Brune.
Last year, he conspired with Duke Thenardier and tried to assassinate Regin. Moreover, they made King Faron take a suspicious medicine which weakened him and considerably reduced his life span. Without that, Regin’s father would have still been in good health.
Even that Ganelon was no longer there.
He, who fought Duke Thenardier and was defeated, set fire to the town Artishem and his own mansion. The townscape which existed for hundreds of years was wrapped in hell fire, many charred corpses were scattered about in his burned and collapsed mansion and the distinction about which was Ganelon’s was not made in the end.
Spreading in the underground of that Artishem was the Sacred Caverns of the Palace (Sangroel).
The Sacred Caverns of the Palace (Sangroel) was conveyed as the ground where the Founder Charles received a revelation. It was a very large structural space harking back to either a palace or shrine of old times, and there was a door which could be opened by only the imperial family.
In last year’s civil war, Regin herself went to the Sacred Caverns of the Palace (Sangroel) along with Tigre and company in order to prove that she was from royalty.
However, they encountered the hindrance of Duke Thenardier when they arrived at its door, and moreover, the ceiling collapsed and the Sacred Caverns of the Palace (Sangroel) had been buried.
“Why was the Sacred Caverns of the Palace (Sangroel) in the basement of Artishem ── under Ganelon’s feet?”
As she oozed out some anxiety, Regin asked Badouin.
Until today, Regin had never deeply thought about those things. It was not as if she had forgotten, but she was not able to have time to carefully think about it as she was pressed by her duty as the ruler. She suddenly remembered it because it was Ganelon who murdered Roland.
When Badouin received Regin’s serious look straight on, he said after a short pause as he explored his memory.
“According to the myth and old documents of the founding of the country, it is said that the Founder Charles trusted the First Generation Duke Ganelon very much. That for Charles, Ganelon was an existence which he could be called his best friend. It was probably the outcome of that that he was given the land of Lutetia after getting to know the existence of the Sacred Caverns of the Palace (Sangroel).”
“Would he be left Artishem and the Sacred Caverns of the Palace (Sangroel) for just that reason?”
On the Princess’s face which showed that she could not understand, the Prime Minister answered while adjusting his erectly extended mustache with a finger.
“According to a certain document, it seems that the First Generation Lord Ganelon was a priest. And that the reason why the Founder Charles gave him Lutetia was not known.”
Regin opened her eyes wide to Badouin’s words.
“A priest, you say…? I also studied the myths of the founding of the country as royalty, but it is the first time that I heard that the First Generation Lord Ganelon was a priest.”
“Your Highness, it is not that you overlooked it. It is because it should only be written in the myths of the founding that he was Charles’s best friend and a chief vassal.”
Badouin did not deny Regin’s words and nodded in a slow movement. To his attitude, the Princess knitted her browns as she felt that she could not understand.
“Were there any circumstances?”
“Although called a priest, it is totally different from the present priests. It is said that Ganelon the was someone who visited the mountains concealed in the depths of a deep snowy forest, who spoke not only to the gods, but also to spirits and fairies; borrowing their wisdom. Also that he was also quite knowledgeable on that kind of magic (sorcery).”
“Rather than priest, isn’t it appropriate to call him a sorcerer or shaman…”
Regin unintentionally voiced out her honest impression. Badouin squinted and smiled wryly.
“Though I think the same thing as Your Highness, the people at that time were calling Ganelon a priest. Probably, even the duties requested from a priest were different from those of now.”
“That’s why it wasn’t written in the myth of the founding, huh.”
Regin finally consented. Anyone would probably think that the reputation, of the close and trusted friend of the Founder King who talked with spirits and that he also seemed very knowledgeable in magic, was bad. Badouin continued.
“Besides, it seems that it was until the third or fourth generation counting from the First that the Ganelon House was said to be a lineage of priests. Probably, while living as a noble of Brune, the things such as knowledge, custom and schooling as a priest disappeared without being inherited.”
As the Brune Kingdom adjusted its form as a country, many manners and customs were also born among nobles. The Ganelon House probably cast aside the fact that they were priests while piling up generation after generation. Badouin explained so.
“This is only what I know, but was it in any way helpful to Your Highness?”
“Yes. Thank you, Badouin.”
Regin smiled and expressed words of gratitude. It was not as if there was no longer anything she was concerned with, but anyway her doubt was dispelled. The Princess changed the topic.
“Speaking of which, how is the situation in Artishem?”
After the civil war ended, Regin who became the ruler of Brune naturally undertook the revival of Artishem, too. She sent soldiers and made them transport materials trying to rebuild the central city of the north.
“According to the report delivered last month, it has recovered to about one-third of its original state. In the first place, in the strategic position which links the center to the north, the flow of people is prosperous. It will regain its previous appearance after some time has been spent. And it seems that it is already a good time to start work on the Sacred Caverns of the Palace (Sangroel).”
When Regin decided on Artishem’s rebuilding, she issued instructions to leave the Sacred Caverns of the Palace (Sangroel) buried with rubble as it is. This was because she thought that the Sacred Caverns of the Palace (Sangroel) was something unrelated to people living in the town and that she should give priority to the reconstruction of Artishem itself.
However, Regin shook her head to Badouin’s proposal.
“It can still be delayed, right? After all, there is no need to hurry with the Sacred Caverns of the Palace (Sangroel). When spring comes, I will listen to the report again and even then…”
Suddenly, Regin removed her gaze from Badouin and cast it on the work desk. She remembered about Tigre. For Regin, the Sacred Caverns of the Palace (Sangroel) was a place which had let soldiers die idly, and also a place which had made her loved one sad.
That loved one should have been in a foreign country as a guest General, but it was said that he fell into the winter sea and went missing. It was none other than a messenger of Zhcted that told so.
With the pretext to hear the story in detail, Regin had detained that messenger in one room of the royal palace. Though it was virtual confinement, the messenger who had probably prepared to receive a treatment of such degree had spent these several days without stating even one complaint.
Meanwhile, Regin had Mashas Rodant go to Zhcted to confirm the fact of Tigre’s disappearance.
She thought that she did not mind in what kind of appearance, she just wanted him to be safe. She wanted to welcome him in the best way possible when he returned to Brune.
Regin, retaining anxiety and hope in her blue pupils, prayed to the gods in a subdued voice.
Though Badouin roughly guessed from the Princess’s expression, he kept silent and watched over her.
This Prime Minister with a cat face understood well the fact that Tigre’s existence was necessary for Regin in a lot of ways.
Badouin who left the office returned to his room which was in the royal palace.
The structure of the old Prime Minister’s room was not so different from Regin’s. Shelves which kept various documents and letters were installed on both sides of the wall, and a Red Horse Flag was hung at the center of the wall. There was a work desk and a chair looking old in front of it and a candlestick, while a mountain of documents waiting for settlement were piled up on the desk.
As Badouin lighted the candlestick with his own hands, he went around the desk and sat on the chair. After being ordered by the late King Faron, the Prime Minister had done this work almost every day.
As he was about to set his hands on the documents at once, the door was knocked on from outside. The Prime Minister with the cat face said ‘come in’ after stroking his mustache once.
Coming in was a civil official. He presented a letter to Badouin.
“It is from Nemetacum.”
Badouin narrowed his eyes at the civil official’s words. After stroking his mustache once again, he received the letter. The civil official bowed and left.
After confirming that the door was closed, Badouin looked over the letter silently.
Nemetacum was in the southern part of the Brune Kingdom. Though it was the land which Duke Thenardier had governed, after him and his son Zaian died last year, the royal family requisitioned it and a chief administrator dispatched by Regin was governing it.
He attempted to murder the King and the Princess. So, the Thenardier House should have been abolished, but due to some circumstances, it still continued.
One of the reasons was the grace period. If the Thenardier House was dissolved, a great number of people would have lost their job in one night and became homeless. In order to avoid that, Regin and Badouin made several choices and let the Thenardier House survive.
Another one was Regin’s weakness as a ruler. At the time when Faron was in good health, Regin’s shadow was thin and she had no certain accomplishments, either. Also about the reason why she had been brought up as a Prince, it was officially “because an oracle decided this”.
The civil war ended, and among the noble lords who regained their calm, there were few who turned a skeptical look towards Regin. There were even those who were wondering whether she was the Zhcted Kingdom’s puppet ── a marionette.
Although Badouin and Mashas were making some people swear allegiance to the royal family as they steadily performed negotiations and persuasion, unpredictable situations continued.
If they were to speak of the Thenardier House’s abolition in such circumstances, they would stimulate them (nobles not acknowledging Regin) more than needed. Even if there was a justifiable reason.
The territory of Duke Thenardier House was requisitioned, and with nobody succeeding it, it was destined to disappear even if left as it is. In that case, they decided to wait for a suitable time and abolished it.
It was said that there was seditious movement in the Thenardier House.
—They investigated Her Highness the Princess’s personal life…?
In the letter that Badouin received just now, such a thing was concisely written.
The name of the letter’s author was Gerard Augres. He was the son of Viscount Hugues Augres who governed Territoire in the east of Brune and a man who served as the secretary of the royal palace.
Ordered by Badouin, he was now in Nemetacum. Though he was made to go there to investigate whether the remnants of the Duke Thenardier House were moving suspiciously, Gerard splendidly seized their movement, investigated it and reported to Badouin.
According to Gerard’s letter, it was Duke Thenardier’s wife, a woman called Melisande who had made her move. She was Faron’s niece, thus Regin’s cousin.
She was in a position where she should have been charged with crimes as Thenardier’s wife, but she avoided punishment thanks to her blood lineage. As for Regin, she could not bring herself to take the life of her cousin who lost her husband and her son, and also had no territory.
However, Regin and Badouin did not just leave Melisande as such. She was entrusted to a certain shrine of Nemetacum. Though they were thinking that it would be good if she was to spend the rest of her life peacefully in the shrine, it looked like their wish didn’t come true.
When Badouin finished looking over the letter, he stared at one point in the air and lost himself in thought.
In the corner of a forest wrapped in the darkness of night, there were two youths.
It was an unusual scene. In a position where both of them were sitting on the ground, one was thrusting the point of his sword before the other. A tense atmosphere wrapped the two people and the bonfire flickering to the winter wind illuminated their faces in profile.
This place was the Lebus dukedom located in the northwest of the Zhcted Kingdom. It was within a forest which was at a distance of about one day on foot from its Imperial Palace. One koku had already passed after the day had set.
Being thrust at with the sword was a youth with darkish red hair who was around 16 to 17 years old. His clothes wore out here and there and considerable fatigue could be seen on his face.
His name was Urz. He was an attendant serving the Vanadis Elizavetta Fomina, the ruler of Lebus. Although called attendant, with no memory of (maybe) before ten days, the name Urz was a word which had finally come to his mind after he explored his memory.
Thrusting the sword at that Urz was a Muozinel youth with the characteristic brown skin. He was around 20 years old. He was tall, his nose and chin were thin, and his sharp look harked back to a wild beast. Unlike Urz, he wrapped his body in a traveling outfit.
This Muozinel person was Damad. He should be the benefactor who saved Urz from bandits, but when one thought that they were exchanging a conversation before the bonfire, Damad suddenly drew his sword and thrust it at Urz. As for Urz, it was more than incomprehensible.
—What the hell is this?
While staring at the tip of the drawn sword, Urz inwardly groaned.
“You’re Tigrevurmud Vorn, you say…?”
A voice tinged with hostility and some surprise leaked out from Damad’s mouth. After the hesitation of an instant, he tried to nudge the sword at Urz’s face. Urz suddenly threw back his body downward. Above the body of the youth facing upward, the drawn sword passed through empty space.
Not wanting to let him escape, Damad turned the point of the sword down. Although his face turned pale, Urz desperately extended his left leg. He kicked off the bonfire with all his strength.
Firewood collapsed and sparks flew. The flame swayed and burnt the leg of Damad who was near. The Muozinel youth briefly uttered a scream of pain. The sword which approached Urz’s throat strayed to the side.
Not overlooking that opening, Urz rolled on the ground horizontally and escaped from Damad’s sword. He raised his body and turned his back on Damad. Then, he jumped into the darkness lurking beyond the trees.
While being out of breath and stumbling repeatedly, he ran in the darkness delirious. One might say that it was fortunate that he didn’t hit the trunk of a tree.
His foot was caught to the root of a tree. Without even time for thinking “damn it!”, Urz flashily fell down. The little air which had accumulated into his lungs was spitted out along with a wordless scream.
He couldn’t muster strength to stand immediately. His breathing was painful. His whole body was screaming. Sandwiched between the cold air and ground, Urz vacantly stared at the darkness.
Today, only things hardly believable as reality were occurring. It felt like he was made to see nightmares one after another.
Today in midday, Urz accompanied Elizavetta and they visited a shrine of old times. That shrine seemed to be a place with some unpleasant memory for her.
When they were going to leave the shrine, Lebus Knights showed up. They complained saying that Urz was evaluated beyond his ability, and they turned their swords not only to Urz, but also to Elizavetta, their lord. The knights were clearly not sane.
In addition, a suspicious old woman calling herself Baba Yaga showed up and confusion accelerated.
Elizavetta, while having no choice but knock down the knights, escaped into the shrine with Urz. But, the floor of the shrine collapsed and both of them fell underground.
Though they suffered only minor injuries because of Valitsaif, Elizavetta’s Viralt which had protected them, the strange situation did not end there.
Underground, there was a dragon with a strange appearance possessing two heads. It was a malformed dragon called the Double Headed Dragon.
Although Elizavetta fought hard protecting Urz, she was forced into a unfavorable situation at the dragon’s strength and there was also the fact that she was fighting in darkness.
It was at that time that Urz displayed a mysterious power.
A jet black bow, and an arrow made by getting power from Elizavetta’s Thunder Swirl.
Using it, Urz killed the Double Headed Dragon.
In the brief time when they were relieved, Baba Yaga appeared once again and Urz was swallowed in darkness.
Then, when he came to himself, he was lying down all alone in a forest. The black bow had disappeared and Elizavetta was nowhere to be found.
Hardly able to move due to pain, fatigue and cold, it was Damad who introduced himself as a traveling merchant who had saved Urz who was about to be attacked by bandits.
While they were eating the rabbit that Damad had hunted around a bonfire, Urz revealed his identity. Then while they were exchanging a conversation, Damad suddenly asked.
[Do you know someone called Tigrevurmud Vorn?]
—That’s right. It’s that Tigrevurmud Vorn.
As his breathing settled down while he was thought back to what happened today, Urz finally became able to think calmly.
When he was asked by Damad, Urz answered that it was probably him.
That answer made Damad move. Even when he recalled Damad’s lines when he had thrust the sword at him, there was no doubt.
“Tigrevurmud Vorn, huh…”
When muttered so, a light headache attacked Urz. But, many scenes did not float in his head like when he killed the Double Headed Dragon with the power of the black bow.
“──Now then, what should I do?”
Putting strength into his body which grew had cold, Urz raised his body. When he looked back, the light of a small flame could be seen ahead of the darkness where trees soared. It was the bonfire. Though he had intended to run desperately, actually it looked like it was only about 30 Alsins (about 30 meters) away from there.
Removing the soil on his clothes, Urz began to think. Why didn’t Damad run after him? What should he (Urz) do?
There was no much time. This was because the situation where he had wounds all over his body whereas Damad had room to spare had not changed. Night deepened as time passed and the cold would probably make him suffer.
“Really, today is full of only incomprehensible things.”
But, he did not intend to fall in such a place. No matter what, he must return to the Imperial Palace, by Elizavetta’s side.
He took a deep breath. He stared at the distant bonfire. He checked that his hands and feet moved. It’s all right.
The light of a strong will dwelled within the youth’s black pupils.
Urz gripped a sleeve of his clothes and tore them with all his strength. Even though the youth was injured in the battle again the dragon, thus was now weakened, he still had enough strength to be able to tear it as he wanted.
Just in case, he hid behind the trunk of a tree. Urz started preparations for a counterattack.
Urz ran away, and Damad was gazing at the depths of the darkness where trees stood in a row.
“I thought he was an absentminded fellow, but he’s unexpectedly quick-witted.”
Though annoyance was contained in his voice, his anger was turned more to himself than to Urz. In a very short time, Damad had made two mistakes.
One was the fact that he drew his sword even though he still didn’t clearly know whether Urz was Tigre.
And the other was that he hesitated after having thrust his sword at Tigre.
He shouldn’t have drawn his sword at that stage. However, since he had drawn it out, he should have killed him at once.
As he wasn’t able to do it, an opportunity arose and gave Urz the opportunity of a counterattack or escape. “I failed… If this was to be known by His Highness the King’s younger brother, I wouldn’t probably get off with just a reprimand.”
Damad was not a traveling merchant. He was one of the aides of the King’s younger brother Kreshu Shaheen Baramir of the Muozinel Kingdom. The King’s younger brother highly evaluated this youth and had high expectations from him as a warrior as well as a commander.
This time, the mission he was appointed to was to confirm Tigre’s death, and kill him in case he was alive.
About ten days had passed since Damad infiltrated Zhcted pretending to be a traveling merchant. Until today, he had not obtained a decent clue concerning Tigre. While thinking whether or not he fell into the sea and died after all as the rumor said, Damad continued his trip.
“…As for the fact that I’ve frankly reacted after being told ‘it’s probably me’, even I got impatient.”
Although complaining, Damad’s black pupils didn’t drift away from the depths of the forest wrapped in darkness. A sword possessing a blade with a curve peculiar to Muozinel was grasped at his hand.
He was thinking that Urz would return.
—Just because he escaped in the forest doesn’t mean he’ll be all right. After all, there’s no way he can pass through the forest within this cold, and without light. He wouldn’t last even a quarter koku.
Even if Urz wrapped his body in an overcoat and stayed near the bonfire, the winter night cold would sneak in from a few gaps. Though Damad was a Muozinel person resistant to heat and weak to coldness, even if not him, this night air would kill Urz. Furthermore, Urz was weakened.
—If he doesn’t come back at this rate, there’s no helping if he drops dead in the forest. It’ll only means that he was an idiot. The problem is when he will return, but…
There, Damad interrupted his thinking. Something which plowed through darkness and cut the wind came flying.
It flew into the bonfire and flicked off one branch of firewood. A dry sound resounded and the flame flickered.
Sensing danger, Damad quickly lay on the ground. The cold stroke his chin.
After a short pause of about five counts, the air groaned again. A hard sound resounded near the young man’s right hand and something bounced. That something rolled on the ground after bouncing once more.
—A stone, huh!
Damad felt shivers. He did not shiver only because of the cold. Sweat damply streamed down his forehead. The Muozinel warrior was convinced that it was Urz’s doing.
— This is bad…
There was a bon-fire near him. It was a perfect mark for Urz who was lurking in the darkness.
However, Damad hesitated about putting out the fire. Here was inside a forest. There were probably beasts. If, for example, wolves were near, he would fall as easy prey to them.
Besides, putting out fire didn’t necessarily mean that he would stand advantageous. Both of them would just struggle in the darkness and while freezing from the cold, they would explore each other’s position. For Damad who assumed cold as a weakness, it was a development that he wanted to avoid.
A stone came flying again and hit the bonfire. Sparks rapidly scattered.
—That’s quite a speed. The aim is good, too. I thought that he was considerably weakened though.
In a situation where if he made one wrong move, it would hit a nearby tree and rebound to him, Urz threw the stones as if he didn’t worry about such a thing.
—It’s not thrown by hand. So he tore off the hem of his clothes and made an improvised sling (stone-throwing string), huh.
If he was throwing with his hand, it shouldn’t have flown linearly until here.
Damad spitted out a sigh of admiration.
Kick the bonfire, take Damad by surprise and escape into the forest. If it just ended with that alone, Damad would not have highly evaluated Urz.
That amnesic youth had immediately counterattacked. What’s more, he had not challenged Damad who had a sword to close-range combat, which would be advantageous to him (Damad). He had hidden himself in the darkness and thrown stones.
—At that time when I saw him surrounded by bandits, I thought that he was just a dying person on the roadside.
Fighting spirit weakened from the Muozinel youth’s black pupils.
Urz was without a doubt a warrior. And Damad did not dislike such a man.
—If it continues like this, it’ll become a battle of attrition. Though it’ll end up being my win…
Not out of difference in ability or skill. Urz was more worn out than Damad, and he also lacked equipment for the cold. By just keeping still, cold would take heat from his body.
But, Damad would probably not get off unscathed, either. It was ridiculous to get injured in such a boring (trivial?) fight. And above all, Damad would get nothing even if he was to win.
As expected, a fourth stone flew into the bonfire. As he was waiting for it, Damad quickly stood up. He advanced about ten steps with the bonfire behind him and thrust his sword between trees. He called out into the darkness.
“Urz! I want to speak with you. As proof, I’ll put my sword here. Come back!”
As he shouted in a loud voice, Damad parted from the sword which he had stabbed into the ground returned near to the bonfire. He waited for Urz to appear.
Though Damad understood that it was a selfish excuse after having pointed his sword to Urz, he thought that Urz would probably take the bait. That man should able to perform such a calculation.
After about 50 or 60 seconds passed, a figure of a person dimly emerged from within the darkness.
“Take ten … no, even five more steps away from the sword. Open your hands and raised them, too.”
The shadow emitted a voice full of strain. Damad did as he was told. “Raise your hands” meant that he was definitely careful of projectile weapons such as a stone or dagger.
Along with the sound of stepping on the ground, Urz showed up from the trees at last. He had twined a cloth smeared with soil around his right hand and was grasping a small stone in his left hand. In case Damad was to show a strange movement, he probably intended to immediately throw it at him.
While turning a look of caution to Damad, Urz pulled out the sword thrust into the ground. He fixed his breathing and said in a calm voice.
“Please tell me. Why did you suddenly attack me?”
It was the expected question. Damad spoke the lines which he had already prepared in his mind.
“It’s because you said that you might be Tigrevurmud Vorn.”
Urz gasped. He became anxious to the fact that something had probably happened between Tigre and Damad. After a short pause, the darkish red-haired youth asked.
“Did Tigrevurmud Vorn do something which incurred your enmity?”
“No. Though I can’t tell you the details, there are various circumstances. I’m to kill or capture him alive.”
Both hands still raised, the Muozinel young man stuck out his chest and answered indifferently. Urz stared at Damad with a dumbfounded face. He probably did not think that he would be so direct. However, Urz immediately pulled himself together and threw a new question.
“Then, why did you call me, even going as far as to throw away your sword? Be it killing me or capturing me alive, you should have just until I’m unable to move. Did you think that I would obediently obey if you explain?”
“Well, about that”, Damad deliberately made a skeptical expression and said.
“Are you really Tigrevurmud Vorn?”
These words seemed to surprise Urz. The amnesic youth opened his eyes wide.
“…What are you trying to say?”
“It’s just what I mean. You certainly said it. And I believed it for a moment, too. But thinking carefully, there is no evidence.”
Urz, not moving an inch, was listening to Damad’s words holding his breath. Damad vehemently spoke furthermore.
“Hey, Urz. Do you have anything proving that you’re Tigrevurmud Vorn? Will there be anything if you return to the Imperial Palace of Lebus?”
Urz revealed a difficult expression and feebly shook his head. Damad inwardly heaved a sigh of relief. If he had said that there was something, he would have had to reconsider it again.
“You may be Tigrevurmud Vorn, or maybe not. What’s more, you come with memory loss. It’s really dangerous to move by only believing your words. It’s like blindfolding a camel and setting it out to the desert.”
To that sarcastic expression, Urz seemed to be offended and glared at Damad.
“Those lines are hardly thinkable from someone who had tried to kill me until a while ago.”
“Then, I’ll ask once again. Are you really Tigrevurmud Vorn?”
When Damad asked, Urz looked downwards as he was at a loss for an answer. The young man with brown skin took a small breath and smiled at Urz.
“Did I say too much? It’s not like I’m threatening you. In the case that you aren’t Tigrevurmud Vorn, I’ll be a fool for having tried to kill a different person by jumping to a wrong conclusion. I’ll ask you to forgive me for that.”
At Damad who did not break his unabashed attitude, Urz sighed. As it became troublesome, he asked in a carefree tone.
“So, what do you intend to do with me?”
“I’ll take you to the Imperial Palace of Lebus.”
To Urz who asked while bracing himself, Damad plainly answered.
“Since there is no clear evidence, you’re Urz who serves Lebus. I’ll take it to the Imperial Palace and get 100 silver coins.”
As Urz stared at the Muozinel young man with a dumbfounded face, he shook his head to both sides as he couldn’t understand.
“For someone who tried to kill me, what make you think that you’ll get the reward? It’s obvious that I will complain to my superior and have you thrown in jail.”
“If that’s the case, I’ll leave you here. And you should just return to the Imperial Palace by yourself. If you can, that is.”
Damad scornfully laughed, and Urz gave a small groan as he hit a painful place.
Though this forest was at a distance of about one day on foot from the Imperial Palace, it was a place which he was not familiar with. He didn’t even know which direction to walk to arrive at the Imperial Palace.
In addition, with neither food nor water, he would only have an improvised stone-throwing string (sling) as a weapon. It was doubtful whether Urz could get out of this forest alone.
However, Urz still revealed a wary expression and turned a suspicious gaze to Damad.
“Didn’t you think that I may break the promise after I return to the Imperial Palace?”
“I’ll think about it again when it happens. Now, what do you say? Do you ride on my proposal?”
Wind blew. The flame of the bonfire flickered and illuminated the two men’s faces from below.
Urz did not answer immediately. However, he reached a conclusion before the time of about ten counts. Staring at Damad, he sighed for the ninth time in this night.
“Understood. I will have you guide me.”
“It’s a deal.”
As Damad laughed and said, Urz turned eyes mixed with sarcasm to the Muozinel young man.
“Which reminds me; you said that you are a traveling merchant. That’s a lie, isn’t it?”
“No matter what, as long as one can make a trade, he’s a splendid merchant.”
He was a voluble man to the utmost. Urz smiled wryly and was about to return the sword which he held in his hand to Damad. But, not only did the black-haired Muozinel young man not accept it, but he also gave its sheath to Urz.
“You may have that. Consider it as proof of trust.”
Even without a sword, Damad still had a bow, and also a dagger. It was not as if he had no confidence in hand-to-hand fighting. Even if some unexpected situation occurred, he had confidence that he could deal with it.
“Understood. Then, I’ll do so until we arrive at the Imperial Palace.”
Afterwards, when the two men gathered the firewood which flew around, they spent the night while taking watch alternatively.
You don’t know when a beast will approach in the forest at night. It was also necessary to be careful so as not to let fire go out. However the feelings towards the other party were, they should cooperate with each other in this place.
At the time when Urz and Damad decided to cooperate for the time being, in a corner of the Imperial Palace of Lebus, two men were facing each other with pale faces.
One was a knight in his prime called Naum who somewhat let hardships drift under his eyes. The other was an aged man called Lazarl who wrapped an official outfit on his slim figure and carefully fixed his pure white hair. Both of them were people whom Elizavetta deeply trusted.
“Hasn’t Vanadis-sama return yet?”
Lazarl said as his face turned pale. Naum nodded with a painful expression.
It was unusual for Elizavetta to go out for a walk. However, if she did not come back even when the moon rose highly, this was the first time that there was no communication.
Especially this time, she had taken Urz. When it came to the soldiers and court ladies working in the Imperial Palace, trivial rumors would probably spread in the Imperial Palace. Imagining such a scene, Lazarl and Naum wanted to hold their heads in their arms.
“How many people are there who know about this?”
“Those whom I can assert that they know are only you, Lazarl-dono and I. We can give careful instructions to those who don’t know yet, so…”
Naum answered with a serious face.
For example, if they explained that “Vanadis-sama came back from a different gate” to the gatekeeper, they could deceive them for the time being.
They only had to say to the court ladies who took care of her personal needs that “there was business and she took a rest in another room today”, too. As there were actually urgent matters quite often in the position of Vanadis, the court ladies were also used to it.
“The problem is how to search for Vanadis-sama…”
Elizavetta did not tell them where she went.
Since there were originally many cases when she wanted to be alone, thus she took a walk, neither Naum nor Lazarl had tried to find out where she would go by questioning her forcibly.
“If we do a large-scale search, many people will become aware of Vanadis-sama’s absence. We must avoid that no matter what.”
Lazarl nodded at Naum’s words.
“Much more, to think it’s at such time.”
The door of the castle town was closed and the moon rose highly in the sky. It was the time when many homes had already gotten it over with dinner. If they were to move soldiers at such a time, it would be more than just attracting the people’s attention.
“Say, Naum. How many soldiers can you move by your instructions without causing uproar?”
“If it’s to be quietly, I would say about fifty.”
“Then, it doesn’t matter. Could you have them move anytime soon?”
If they knew Elizavetta’s whereabouts, Naum and Lazarl would have probably moved the soldiers immediately. The fact that her whereabouts were unknown was the problem. If they were to recklessly move the soldiers at midnight, both of them understood that it would only be a wasted effort.
“How about waiting for the daybreak and moving them?”
“We would have no other choice but to ask the neighboring villages. We can make up something along the lines ‘though Vanadis-sama left for a long-term inspection, we had to have her come back to the Imperial Palace on urgent matters.”
“There doesn’t seem to be any other ways…”
Naum traced the wrinkles of his face and sighed.
“At any rate… Didn’t you think about what could possibly have happened, Lazarl-dono?”
Naum asked in a serious tone. It’s not only that he wanted to borrow the old civil official’s wisdom. There was also the need to be unified concerning this point in case of an unexpected situation. Lazarl unusually frowned, too.
“Many people will think that Urz kidnapped Vanadis-sama.”
“Which means that you have a different opinion, right Lazarl-dono?”
As Naum said as to make sure, Lazarl distorted his mouth in displeasure.
“Of course. Certainly, Vanadis-sama is fond of Urz. But, she has wisdom not suitable for her age. She knows the line that she should keep. Even if Urz is to say something, she won’t do something like straying away from the path with it.”
“I’m relieved to hear these words.”
Naum said while stroking his chest with a sigh of relief. It was his true intention. If his opinion was to oppose this old man’s gathering up (unifying) the civil officers, the confusion of Lebus would further increase.
In that way, the two men welcomed morning without a wink of sleep.
It was at the time where day broke that the Flash Princess of the Thunder Swirl who was their master came back.
She did not showed up from the main gate leading to the castle town of the rampart surrounding the Imperial Palace, but from the back gate located in a place which was not conspicuous.
Naum and Lazarl who received the report rushed to the back door and welcomed the Vanadis. But, the two men found no words to say as soon as they caught sight of Elizavetta’s figure.
Her red hair was disheveled, holes were also opened in many places on her purple dress and both the sleeves and cuffs were torn off. Her white skin was also smeared with mud and there were many wounds. There were also no shoes, she was barefoot. She tightly grasped the Thunder Swirl, her Viralt in her left hand and was dragging it.
Her Rainbow Eyes of gold and green, although stagnated by fatigue, showed a winding of violent emotions. If it was a weak person of mind, he would not even be able to look directly into her eyes.
Elizavetta had never shown such a shameful sight even after an intense battle.
The horse that she was riding was similarly dirty and its mane was disheveled like an old brush. More than ten helmets were tied with a thin rope to the saddle. The helmets were dirty and damaged as if she had just picked them up from a battlefield. There were some which were squashed as if having been struck by a hammer.
And, she was alone. There was not Urz.
Naum and Lazarl were speechless to the Flash Princess of the Thunder Swirl with too much fierce an appearance.
“──I just came back”
As Elizavetta said with a penetratingly cold voice, the two men finally came to their senses. It was not only those two. Even the gatekeepers protecting the back door, and the soldiers who saw the figure of the red-haired Vanadis equally showed the same reaction, too. No one was able to hide his surprise.
“I will call a doctor!”
As he changed his facial expression and said so, Naum went to call a doctor in a great hurry. Though he himself did not have to move and it should’ve been enough for him to send a soldier, confusion made him do so.
The voice of the old civil official who asked so to his lord was trembling. The atmosphere released from Elizavetta’s whole body was similar to that of a wounded beast and in no way something before which you could simply speak. Even so, Lazarl’s sense of responsibility as a retainer and his feeling to console the Vanadis outweighed the shiver.
But Elizavetta, not answering her retainer’s question, one-sidedly said.
“Let the horse rest. And then ── polish these helmets.”
When she turned a glance to the helmets, mixed feelings flashed across Elizavetta’s pupils. However, Lazarl was the only one who noticed it. The thin, old civil official respectfully bowed.
“As you wish.”
Lazarl changed his thoughts. Even though his mind was filled with numerous questions, pressing the lord full of bruises for an answer is not what a retainer should do.
Besides, Elizavetta did not seem to have lost her sanity. On her expression which stared at the helmets, there was a sense of grief, though small.
Lazarl issued instructions to the gatekeepers and soldiers nearby. When Elizavetta glanced at the soldiers, she stuck out her chest and proudly began to walk. Lazarl followed after her.
The red-haired Vanadis entered the Imperial Palace. Lazarl guessed that she seemed to be going to her bedroom. Then, Lazarl finally remembered about Urz.
“What about Urz?”
Why was that youth not here?
“Urz is not here.”
As she replied only that in a curt tone, Elizavetta suddenly changed the topic.
She said with her back turned on him as such. As Lazarl failed to hear, he ran up with short steps (trots) to be immediately nearby Elizavetta.
“Those helmets are those of knights who had worked in this Imperial Palace. There were fifteen, but I wasn’t able to bring back all of them.”
Lazarl looked up at Elizavetta with a befuddled face. He was not able to immediately understand what she said.
They arrived at her bedroom. When Elizavetta took the bell on the desk with her hand as soon as she entered her bedroom, she rang it with rough hands.
The court lady who appeared at a quick pace failed to bow before the opened door. To her master’s ghost-like appearance, the court lady stood stock still with a face likely to faint at any time. Although Lazarl sympathize with her from the bottom of his heart, he said on behalf of his master.
“Vanadis-sama is tired. Could you prepare a bucket of hot water, a cloth to wipe the body, a change of clothes and wine? Someone else has gone to call the doctor.”
Lazarl’s calm attitude and words somehow made the court lady pull herself together.
“I-I shall prepare them at once.”
Although her tongue got entangled, the court lady deeply bowed and disappeared in front of the bedroom.
“Thank you for your work.”
When Elizavetta returned words of gratitude to the old civil official, she draw a chair and sat.
“Lazarl. I understand that you are confused, but can you wait a little more? It would save me the trouble to talk again about it after Naum came, right?”
Then, Naum showed up with the doctor before long. The doctor was a small-sized old woman. Both of them seemed to have rushed very hastily; their faces were covered with sweat and they were heavily breathing. Slightly later than Naum and the doctor, the court lady brought a cloth and a bucket filled with hot water.
“Before I begin the treatment, she must first change your clothes. Excuse me Lazarl-sama, Naum-sama. But could you please wait outside?”
“I don’t mind.”
Elizavetta narrowed her eyes and said so. As a Vanadis, she was not embarrassed from changing her clothes in front of her retainers. Though she might have such an intention, Lazarl, not breaking his attitude as a retainer, politely bowed his head.
“Vanadis-sama. As you see, Naum is out of breath. Could you allow him to take a break while you are treating your wounds?”
Elizavetta turned her gaze to Naum who wiped sweat with his sleeve, and smiled.
“Understood. Then, wait outside.”
Lazarl winked at Naum. The two men bowed and left the Vanadis’ bedroom. They looked at each other and sighed deeply.
In reality, both of them wanted time to settle down.
Even though a half koku has not passed yet since Elizavetta came back to the Imperial Palace, they kept on being surprised. They, who spent a night without a wink of sleep, somewhat endured it. Even if they heard Elizavetta’s story from here on, they wanted to prepare mentally at least.
Lazarl looked up at the knight in his prime standing beside him.
“Naum. What on earth do you think happened to Vanadis-sama? Even if something happened, she is injured to that extent.”
Naum made a wry face and shook his head from side to side.
Even when surrounded by 100 or 200 soldiers in a battlefield, wielding Valitsaif, her Viralt and easily defeating the enemy was Elizavetta Fomina.
Naum had many times seen her standing at the vanguard of soldiers and resolutely fighting. Even in the vortex of a fierce battle, the enemy’s swords, spears, shot arrows and pebbles were not able to injure Elizavetta.
—No, only one thing…
A nightmarish scene crossed Naum’s mind.
Naum suddenly recalled the battle with a large group of pirates who lined up their ships and fought with Legnica around autumn. About the huge white monster which suddenly appeared on the pirates’ flagship.
The monster which the Vanadis of Legnica Alexandra Alshavin a.k.a Sasha and Elizavetta defeated at last. In that fight, Elizavetta who returned to an allied ship holding Sasha had unusually suffered serious injuries.
He thought that if there was someone or something able to injure a Vanadis, it was only such a monster.
Naum came to his senses at Lazarl’s words. He shook his head.
“It’s the sadness of this body  which lacks in imagination. I don’t understand at all. Besides, we have no choice but wait for Vanadis-sama’s words.”
Naum said so because he was afraid of speaking of the existence of that monster. That was not limited only to him, but it was also the feelings shared by almost all the soldiers of Legnica and Lebus who participated at that naval battle.
Though his face turned pale, Naum changed the topic.
“By the way, there were helmets tied on the saddle of Vanadis-sama’s horse… All of them belonged to the knights of our dukedom.”
“Without a doubt?”
Lazarl strongly emphasized. Naum nodded.
“Yes. For the time being, I ask to check whether there were knights whom we cannot contact. It will be difficult to know that by the end of today.”
“That’s enough for now. Vanadis-sama will probably talk about that, too.”
At that time, a voice calling the two men could be heard from within the bedroom. It looked like the treatment was over. Naum observed etiquette and knocked on the door; he then opened it after waiting for Elizavetta’s response.
Elizavetta who had changed into a new dress was sitting on a chair. A white cloth cut small was put on her cheek and bandages peeped through her shoulders and arms. Though her face was filled with fighting spirit, she wasn’t able to completely wipe away the painfulness.
The black whip which is her Viralt was roundly bundled and was hanging to the right side of her waist. Naum who noticed that suspiciously narrowed his eyes. Elizavetta was right-handed and always hung her Viralt on the left side of her waist. It was not like she couldn’t handle it even like this, but it might be difficult.
However, he could not afford to ask about it. There were a lot of other things that he must ask.
“Vanadis-sama. Though the treatment is over, it does not mean that you will be fine right away. Please, rest properly. It is important to cure an injury. ”
When the old doctor said so and respectfully bowed, she left the bedroom accompanied by the court lady.
There were now only three people Elizavetta, Naum and Lazarl left in this place.
“I cause you two to worry by coming back late. I am sorry.”
Elizavetta said. However, something like guilt (regret) could be observed neither on her expression nor in her tone. The knight and the old civil official felt rather relieved to that.
“Vanadis-sama. Could you tell us what you have done and what happened?”
To Lazarl’s words, Elizavetta explained what happened after she went for a walk with Urz yesterday.
The Vanadis of Rainbow Eyes talked about the fact that knights appeared and pointed their swords to Urz and her when they happened to pass by the front of a certain old, rotted shrine.
“They said that I unfairly evaluated Urz highly and tried to kill Urz. Urz and I tried to persuade them, it didn’t work… We first escaped into the rotted shrine. At that time, a dragon appeared.”
Lazarl opened his eyes wide. It abruptly became a story hard to believe. Although Lazarl had lived nearly three times as long as Elizavetta, he had never met a dragon until now. However, he thought that if it was not an existence like a dragon, it would be impossible to injure her this much.
“We killed the dragon, but the floor of the shrine collapsed as it could not withstand it. There was an underground passage in the shrine, and Urz and I fell there… I was able to come out from the underground passage, but I had lost sight of Urz.”
Anyway, Elizavetta who came out to the surface found her horse. It didn’t run away and it might also be said that it was fortunate that it did not fall prey to a wild beast.
Elizavetta went to a nearby village, and ordered the village chief to quickly gather people and returned to the place where there the knights’ corpses were. Although the sun went down and the area became dark, the red-haired Vanadis promised a reward and moved the villagers.
There was a reason why Elizavetta was so much in a hurry.
When they arrived near the rotted shrine, most of the corpses were eaten by beasts and birds and their horrible appearances were exposed to the meadow. Other than wolves, weasels, and foxes, crows and eagles also ate the corpses.
Elizavetta made the villagers transport the corpses; they waited till dawn, dug holes near the village and buried them altogether.
However, she collected only the helmets as mementos, tied them onto the horse’s saddle and came back. But, since there were also helmets smashed to pieces, she was not able to retrieve all of them.
Elizavetta’s story’s contents were enough to make the two experienced men be at a loss for words.
Though her voice was indifferent (serene), Naum and Lazarl could feel the Vanadis’s restrained anger. After a short pause, Elizavetta opened her mouth.
“Naum. Are there knights who have disappeared since yesterday afternoon? There should be 15.”
“We are currently investigating. I shall have it confirm by the end of today.”
Naum suppressed his surprise and answered so. Though he could only give an uncertain reply when he had talked with Lazarl, he changed it now that it had become such circumstances. It was necessary to make it clear even one koku early.
“After confirming it, what will you do …?”
Lazarl asked in a careful tone. If Elizavetta’s story was right, they would be rebellious retainers who pointed their blades to their master. Not only was it natural even if they were executed on the spot, depending on the situation they must also take some dispositions with the bereaved families.
To the old civil official’s question, the Vanadis diverted her look. She answered while staring at her right arm.
“They lost their life in the fight with the dragon. Let’s put (leave) it as such. Have solatia  and their helmets handed to the bereaved family.”
Lazarl hesitated. For measures taken by a ruler, it was on the contrary too naïve. However, the old civil official could not say any more than that. This was because the eyes of different colors sharply glared at him.
“Are you saying that anyone will be troubled with these measures?”
“It is my humble opinion that it will not do well for the future to make a precedent as to forgive those who turned their blades to their lord.”
Although Lazarl was flinching, he desperately rebutted. However, the Vanadis of Rainbow Eyes indifferently shook her head.
“What you say is quite true, Lazarl. But, think about it a little. I said that the knights were dissatisfied with Urz’s treatment, but why did they attack at the time when I was together with Urz?”
At Elizavetta’s words, Lazarl and Naum frowned and lost themselves in thought. It was certainly strange. If it was Urz alone, there should have been an opportunity to aim at him anytime.
“I think that they were not sane (conscious). And there is someone who instigated them.”
This means that there was someone who tempted the knights. It was a conclusion that they could agree with. Naum stared at Elizavetta with a serious expression.
“I will find out who that person is without fail.”
“Please, do so. Lazarl, you are also fine with that, right?”
Lazarl also nodded. The knights were manipulated by someone. The truth was that it was something that only Elizavetta could know. In that case, she would not accept any more objections. He seemed to have thought so.
After that, Elizavetta ordered to look for Urz.
“I don’t think that Urz died.”
“Understood. I will dispatch the soldiers and made them search around the rotted shrine.”
Naum answered. It was by no means compulsory. This knight in his prime also held affection for Urz.
“Well then Vanadis-sama; please rest your body for today. We will deal with things from here on.”
Saying so, Naum and Lazarl were about to leave, but Elizavetta hailed only the old civil official. Although Lazarl made a wondering face, he remained in the bedroom.
Elizavetta showed a perplexed attitude, but she immediately shook off her hesitation and stared at Lazarl.
“Lazarl. Do you know someone named Baba Yaga?”
“…Do you mean that Baba Yaga who comes out of old folklores and fairy tales?”
It was no wonder that Lazarl asked back with a dubious face. It was that sudden a question.
Baba Yaga was an existence known even before the Kingdom called Zchted was established.
It was said that she was a spirit, or even a fairy or a monster. There was also the theory that she gathered many souls and took the appearance of an old woman.
It was said that she was worshipped and enshrined like the gods in old times. It was told that she granted power to those praying to her and cursed them in return. Anyway, it was certain that she was an inhuman being.
To Lazarl’s words, Elizavetta nodded without smiling.
“Yes, that Baba Yaga. There are probably many old shrines, which enshrined Baba Yaga, in Lebus. Can I have you investigate those places? As soon as possible.”
The old civil official was more and more perplexed. This should not be time to do something like that.
“I know what you want to say.”
Elizavetta said as she read what Lazarl was thinking from his expression.
“But, it is necessary for me now. And, this isn’t something I can ask anyone.”
It was an oppressive tone, but Lazarl correctly understood that her words were not an order, but a request. It looked like irritation, impatience and regret blurred in her pair of eyes.
The old civil official felt the necessity of seriously considering this request. He changed his expression and straightened himself.
It was by no means a suggestion. It was necessary for this red-haired Vanadis.
“If Vanadis-sama goes as far as to say that, I shall investigate them at once. However, I think that there are quite many. Should I report it after having checked to some extent?”
When he stated his opinion like that, Elizavetta sighed as she felt relieved.
“Yes… Please report just tomorrow night. Then, I will decide depending on the report’s contents.”
Lazarl bowed and was going to leave. But, he suddenly changed his mind and turned to his lord.
He had a doubt. He was also irritated about her not having talked about it. However, his feelings were secondary. More than that, there was something which he had to tell her.
“Vanadis-sama. Though there is no need to state it now, I had served in this Imperial Palace since the time of the previous Vanadis-sama.”
Elizavetta frowned. Lazarl continued.
“I know that for a ruler, there are secrets that he cannot talk about to any retainer and can do nothing but hold them alone. And I do not intend to say something like confiding. However, I would like you not to forget that we are here for Vanadis-sama.”
With a face which could not hide her surprise, Elizavetta stared at the old civil official who deeply bowed his head. The red-haired Vanadis slightly loosened her expression and let a smile blur on her lips.
“Thank you, Lazarl”
This time for sure, the old civil official with gray hair bowed and left. When he came out to the corridor, fatigue weighed on his whole body. However, Lazarl straightened his back and began to walk straight looking ahead. For a master much younger than him, he could not raise complaints.
—So, the problem that I must handle at once is that after all, huh…
Something bitter filled Lazarl’s mind. About the fact of the knights having attacked Elizavetta and Urz, it was necessary to think about how to deal with it.
Fifteen humans died. Not in a war, but a private affair. Even if they could hide it for several days, it would eventually come to light. Would it be believed if they said that the knights were killed by a dragon?
What Lazarl feared the most was that they would be rumors going around that Elizavetta had so much affection for Urz that they killed the knights who bore animosity towards him.
There would be a minority who would have an interest to the truth. Many people would be satisfied with a rumor of their liking. Lazarl who worked in the Imperial Palace for a long time knew that well.
—I must at least avoid Vanadis-sama’s honor being ruined.
To that end, he should make an outline (hand out) easy to understand and quickly circulate it.
If he made it look like a personal quarrel between Urz and the knights, it would be quick, but unnatural. Even if Urz had outstanding bow skill, it would probably be impossible to fight and win head on against fifteen people.
—Besides, with that way, Urz will no longer be able to stay in Lebus…
It has only about ten days since Urz began to live in Lebus. For most people of the Imperial Palace, he was a stranger. It goes without saying for which side the people’s sympathy would gather between Urz and the knights.
He had to make up a story so that the animosity of the knights’ bereaved families and the people serving in the Imperial Palace did not turn not towards Elizavetta and Urz.
“But in the worst case scenario, we will have to cast away Urz…”
In the case that it looked like blame was concentrating on Elizavetta, he would make Urz bear the full brunt of it. Lazarl decided so.
Elizavetta would probably not be able to decide. And Naum would surely hesitate. Therefore, he must do it. Lazarl did not hate Urz, but if it is for Elizavetta, he would not hesitate to sacrifice the darkish red-haired youth.
—If possible, I don’t want such a thing to happen. But, is Urz alive? If so, where is he…?
Not revealing at all such thoughts and worry on his expression, Lazarl walked down the corridor.
When she was alone in her bedroom, Elizavetta lay down on her bed that had a canopy.
There was not the dignified expression as a Vanadis, which she showed in front of subordinates, there. It was only the face of an exhausted girl.
“──It’s really troublesome to pile up lies one after another.”
Her chest hurt as she remembered Lazarl’s words.
She had not told them about Baba Yaga’s existence because she thought that even if she explained, not only would they not believed it, but it would also only confuse them; but that was not only it.
This was because she held the determination of slaying her with her owns hands. Fighting spirit was not lost from the Rainbow Eyes which could be said to be Elizavetta’s peculiarity.
Furthermore, there was one more reason. Elizavetta slightly moved her head. Her eyes of different colors right and left were turned to her right arm. Fear, irritation and regret blurred in her pair of eyes.
She did not want anyone to know about this right hand.
When she was given it, she certainly thought that it was an unknown, fearful power.
But, if she were to say that she did not rely on this power at all, it would be a lie.
When she fought the Vanadis Eleonora Viltaria a.k.a Ellen of LeitMeritz and even when she confronted a demon like Torbalan, she relied on her right hand’s power. Especially regarding Ellen, if it was the power of a single blow, she could even hold a firm belief that she would not lose.
She had not imagined it to be such a disgusting thing, too.
She even thought that it would be preferable to cut off her right arm, but she gave up after thinking. By doing so, there was no guarantee that she would be release from this curse. If for example, the curse were to transfer to the left arm after cutting off the right arm, she would no longer be able to fight against Baba Yaga.
Elizavetta’s right hand naturally extended to the Thunder Swirl hung to her waist. The red-haired Vanadis who noticed that consciously extended her left hand and gripped the Viralt.
—Still, why doesn’t Baba Yaga make a move?
If she was to kill her (Elizavetta), wouldn’t it be a perfect opportunity now that she was injured and tired? And yet, the old demon woman hadn’t showed even once before Elizavetta since then.
Be it when she spent the night unable to sleep in the village yesterday or even when she waited for dawn and returned to the Imperial Palace, the red-haired Vanadis could not get rid of her uneasiness.
When she thought that villagers and soldiers working in the Imperial Palace might be control by Baba Yaga and attack her just like the knights, she could not relax her guard.
It was so even now. Even though she was tired to the extent that she wanted to sleep as such, her emotions were highly strung and her consciousness was clear. She was standing ready to be able to deal with it whenever her crime might be kicked in and she might be invaded.
Although so cautious of humans, she resolutely stopped by a village, and having also returned to the Imperial Palace like this was due to her awareness of being the Vanadis ruling Lebus.
Without even holding a funeral for the poor knights, she could not do something like taking action without seeing Naum and Lazarl. Moreover, even if they had been manipulated by the old woman demon, she had resolved herself that she would have to dirty her hands as their master.
But though should it be that she was fortunate, nothing had happened so far.
Or, was it because she dealt a blow to the demon in the fight of the underground passage? She was not able to save Urz, but there was a clear response in the Veda at that time. Though it was dangerous to think optimistically, Baba Yaga might also be healing her wounds now.
—I must destroy that demon with my own hands by any means.
It was for that purpose that she asked Lazarl to investigate the rotted shrine. Since she did not know where Baba Yaga was, she could do nothing but investigate the places where she might be one by one.
Not having asked Naum, but Lazarl was because she thought that the old civil official would be more suitable judging from the ability needed, but there was also the fact that it was hard for her to ask Naum.
Naum had seen the white demon Torbalan in the fight against the pirates.
Of course, he should not know what kind of conservation Elizavetta and Torbalan exchanged. It was because at that time, only she, Sasha, and Torbalan were on the flagship of the pirate ships.
Even if he has very good hearing, there was no way that their conversation would have been heard in that battlefield wrapped in the sound of weapons and roar of waves. Even so, Elizavetta hesitated about asking Naum.
Suddenly, the edge of her view vacantly shone. The black whip which her left hand was grasping was tinged with a pale light. As if cheering Elizavetta.
Vaguely realizing what her Viralt wanted to convey, the Flash Princess of the Thunder Swirl chuckled. Valitsaif appealed to her not with words, but with a modest light that she rest her body.
“Thank you. Then, I will sleep a little.”
Elizavetta quietly closed her eyes. If danger was to approach her, the Thunder Swirl would probably tell her immediately. Since there was also no enemy movement, she should sleep now rather than be thinking.
—Urz… Be safe.
Before long, she began to leak sleeper’s breathing.
It was a room rejecting all lights and diligently smearing darkness.
There were two shadows inside where dry air drifted. One was a small-sized old man who wrapped his body in a black robe. He was sitting at the center of the not so large room without moving an inch. His eyes were quietly closed. He seemed to be either absorbed in thought or sleeping.
The other was a medium-sized young man. He twined a green cloth around his short black hair, hung down his shoulders and was clad in thick clothes which treated fur at the collar and sleeves.
He held a small leather bag in his left hand and was leaning on the wall. He occasionally thrust his right hand in the leather bag, took out something and carried it to his mouth with a smile.
It was a gold coin that he gnawed. With familiarity (ease) as if eating a pastry, the young man chewed the gold coin and swallowed it.
The old man’s name was Drekavac. The young man’s was Vodyanoy. The two of them looked like humans, but it was not so. If you wondered why they took the appearance of humans, it was only because it was more convenient this way. After all, humans are prosperous on the current earth.
“Have you found him?”
As he swallowed the gold coin, Vodyanoy asked Drekavac. That something with an old man’s appearance did not answer. When Vodyanoy shrugged his shoulders, he took out a new gold coin from the leather bag.
The indoor air suddenly flowed, and unnaturally swirled even though there was no wind.
While the young man quickly threw the gold coin to within his mouth, he turned his eyes to one point of the space. The old man also opened his eyes and looked there.
The darkness which lurked ahead of the two people’s stares soundlessly split open and one shadow appeared as if pushed out from the interior. It was a small-sized old woman who wrapped her body in a black robe and held a shabby broom.
The robe was like an old rag torn off innumerably and the tip of the broom was also disheveled as if having been chewed by a beast. The breathing which could be heard from the inside of the hood was rough, too.
“──Wow, look here.”
Vodyanoy opened his eyes wide and stared at the old woman who crouched on the floor. Though Drekavac did not emit a single word, surprise could be seen in his eyes.
“You has been beaten quite flashily, eh Yaga-baasan.”
As he twisted his lips, Vodyanoy grinned at the old woman ── Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga did not answer right away and just concentrated on adjusting her breathing.
While the two men were watching, the old woman raised her body after about a count of 20. Seeing that, Vodyanoy unnaturally squared off. If it was that Baba Yaga that he knew, then she would mercilessly hit him with her broom after this.
But, the old woman stopped at only giving a sharp glance at Vodyanoy and sat down on the spot holding her broom. She said while scratching her hooked nose.
“Dear me. I have no words to rebut this time. It’s as you see after all.”
Although Vodyanoy found her reaction unexpected, he asked Baba Yaga.
“The current master of Thunder Swirl, was she that strong?”
The old woman demon turned a sharp gaze at her two comrades from the interior of the hood covering her eyes.
“──The “Bow” was there.”
Astonishment became an intangible wave and soundlessly stirred up the darkness. Vodyanoy almost dropped the leather bag and Drekavac slightly moved.
“Hasn’t he sunk in the sea?”
“I thought that he was probably alive somewhere, but… So he was in Lebus, huh.”
The young man’s voice contained surprise and a smile similar to that of admiration also surfaced on the old man’s lips. Waiting for the two men to settle down, Baba Yaga bowed her head to Drekavac.
“Sorry, Drekavac. I have let the dragon I borrowed from you die.”
The Double Headed Dragon which the old woman demon sent to Urz and Elizavetta in the shrine’s underground belonged to Drekavac. If only Urz wasn’t there, the Double Headed Dragon would have probably devoured Elizavetta.
Drekavac answered without letting any feelings show on his face.
“No. Just knowing that the “Bow” is alive and is in Lebus is a good harvest. But, I never thought that someone like Baba Yaga would suffer such serious injuries.”
“I completely hid my presence. I thought that he was just a human youngster until he defeated the Double Headed Dragon. No… Or he might have lost his memory as the “Bow”.”
“By the way, weren’t you able to bring the “Bow” along?”
When Vodyanoy asked, Baba Yaga snorted in displeasure.
“I tried to do so, but the “Whip” got in the way… He has dropped it somewhere.”
“That’s a shame.”
Vodyanoy muttered in a tone as if he didn’t think so at all. He threw a new gold coin which he took out to the air. The young man himself looked upward and greatly opened his mouth. The gold coin depicted a parabola and was going to jump inside Vodyanoy’s mouth.
Exactly just before he was about to swallow the gold coin, Vodyanoy opened his eyes wide. He quickly grasped the gold coin which fell with his right hand.
“Could you stop teasing me? Geez, I can’t be too careful.”
Spitting out such words as he was annoyed, Vodyanoy opened his right hand. What was there was not the gold coin, but an old copper coin. Baba Yaga switched the coins in an instant. The old woman demon unnaturally diverted her look and carefully stroked the tip of her broom.
Not seeming at all interested in the two’s exchanges, Drekavac asked.
“What do you intend to do from now on, Baba Yaga?”
Stopping her hand touching the broom, Baba Yaga answered.
“First, I’ll heal my wounds. Then, I’ll kill the “Whip”. I’ll get involved with the “Bow” afterwards. I said it earlier, but there is something strange about the “Bow”. I want to observe the situation for a while.”
“So you’ll kill the master of the Thunder Swirl. I thought that you’ll enjoy it a little more.”
Vodyanoy overlooked Baba Yaga with a surprised face.
“I intended to, but in case the “Bow” is near… Though I say kill, it’ll be after watching the situation for several days.”
Baba Yaga lightly tapped her broom. The tip of the broom which looked like a bunch of straw, which was stamped on, until just a while ago returned to its original shape.
As she contentedly nodded, the old woman demon looked back to the youth and the old man.
“Drekavac, Vodyanoy. What will you guys do?”
“If I find the “Bow”, I’ll assist you. After all, always having a Vanadis as an opponent is troublesome.”
Seeming to be out of gold coins, Vodyanoy answered while turning upside down the leather bag. Drekavac closed his eyes again.
“There is something I’m looking for. I can’t move now. I’ll leave it to you two.”
“Is it all right? You and I subtly harbored different thoughts regarding the “Bow”.”
In a tone as to make sure, Baba Yaga looked at Drekavac. His eyes still closed as such, the old man calmly replied.
“My thoughts hasn’t changed from the old days, Baba Yaga. Thus, you don’t need to be concerned.”
“Understood. Then, see you again.”
Baba Yaga swung her broom once. Air flowed within the darkness and the hems of Drekavac’s robe faintly rustled.
Then, before that air stopped moving, the old woman demon’s figure had disappeared.
Speaking of the Zhcted Nobles who hated Elizavetta Fomina, there was probably no one who hated her more than Orgelt Kazakov governing the land of Polus.
Though Ellen who held the nickname of “Wind Princess of the Silver Flash” was also hostile to Elizavetta due to various circumstances, there was no doubt that even her hostility was less than Kazakov’s.
Kazakov who had the title of Earl was 35 years old. His brown hair was short and he grew a rich beard from the cheeks to the chin. He had a large build, wide shoulders and a stout body. There was an intrepid force coupled with sharp piercing eyes.
Actually, he was a man who won fame as a warrior until he inherited his peerage and territory. The weapon which he was using was neither a sword nor a spear, but a mace. When Kazakov powerfully wielded the mace with his stout arm, the enemy’s armors were squashed, flesh was gouged and bones were smashed.
He, who always stood at the vanguard and wielded his mace on the battlefield, was called “Bloody Kazakov” and was feared.
There were many reasons why Kazakov hated Elizavetta, but the greatest one was her eyes of different colors. He held strong unpleasant feelings to the Rainbow Eyes. You might say that it was a superstitious fear and a physiological feeling of evasion.
When Kazakov once inspected his territory, he had happened to come across a girl with Rainbow Eyes in a certain village.
“An evil spirit applied a curse. Otherwise, there’s no way that a human would be born with such uncanny (ominous) eyes.”
The giant Earl Polus was about to cut down the girl on the spot as soon as he declared so. His attendant who was beside him stopped him using eager words and Kazakov stored his sword in the sheath with a reluctant attitude, but it was over with that.
“I won’t kill her. But, I will sell off the girl along with her family as slaves.”
He seemed to be not satisfied with just banishing her from his territory. The attendant could not do any more than it, and it was all the more a small village.
This incident caused quite the ruckus, but King Victor said nothing.
For a noble, the right of self-government was permitted in his/her territory. All which was in the territory belonged to the noble ruling there. Unless it was an act which caused harm to the Kingdom, the royal families could not intervene in their rule.
However, it was said that King Victor secretly took in that family before they went out of Zhcted and made them live in a certain noble’s territory. Since King Victor said nothing about this, it was not certain whether this was true or not.
Anyway, there were people who frowned in disapproval about this action of Kazakov, but those who showed approval were not few, either. Elizavetta’s father, Rodion Abt who was Kazakov’s friend was one of them.
When Rodion committed a crime later on, and attempted to escape and was killed by Ellen, Kazakov hated Elizavetta more than the silver-haired Vanadis.
“Rodion committed a crime, so he probably gets his just deserts by receiving retribution. But, isn’t it his daughter of Rainbow Eyes who made him commit a crime?”
As expected, there was no one who approved these words, but Earl Polus believed his own thoughts.
For Kazakov with such a temperament, the existence of Elizavetta who was the Vanadis of Rainbow Eyes was an exasperating thing. Then, Kazakov did not like the fact that Polus which he governed and Lebus were adjoined.
“I had never felt like this at the time of the previous Vanadis though.”
Moreover recently, there was something which made Kazakov furious.
Although Duke Bydgauche Ilda Krutis moved his soldiers, he was blocked by Ellen and Elizavetta.
He was a noble who had a territory in the northern part of Zhcted, and you might say that there was no one who was not on friendly terms with Ilda. Of course, Kazakov had also piled up interactions with him, but his mental state regarding Ilda was somewhat complex.
Kazakov was 35 years old. Ilda was 34 years old. They were of the same generation. Partly because each other’s territories were close, Kazakov could not help being conscious of (concerned with) Ilda since a long time ago.
However, there was a clear difference between the two of them.
Ilda was a Duke and governed the very large land of Bydgauche. Kazakov was an Earl and the size of Polus which he governed was also less than half of Bydgauche’s. Though even Polus belonged to the rich category in the northern part of Zhcted, as expected it was nothing compared to Bydgauche.
In addition, Ilda had the rights of succession to the throne. Of course, Kazakov did not have it.
This was something which could not be overturned. Therefore, Kazakov came to think that he must surpass Ilda in other fields. The reason why he came to use a mace was also because he was no match at all for Ilda with either the sword or the spear.
On the battlefield, Kazakov built many distinguished military services. To the extent of being give a dangerous nickname.
But, Ilda also did not yield to others regarding military exploits. Even more than the skillfulness of the military arts of the person in question, his soldiers had a deep trust in him and he excelled in command capability. It was always Ilda that people admired.
Of course, Kazakov also admired Ilda, but there was always a bitter feeling deep inside him.
Because he was holding such a feeling, Kazakov could not help being irritated to the story about the fact that Ilda was defeated by Elizavetta.
“According to what I heard, didn’t Lord Ilda raise an army because his attendant was poisoned? Why stop him from attacking such a cowardly fellow ? That filthy girl of Rainbow Eyes.”
At these last lines, Kazakov’s feelings intensified. It was to the extent that he seriously thought to gather soldiers and invaded Lebus.
As mentioned above, Polus ruled by Kazakov and Lebus were adjoined. It was not that difficult to make soldiers advance. Moreover, Ilda who would probably act as mediator in such a case could not move from the Capital Silesia as he was accused of crimes.
Besides Ilda, if one were to speak of a person powerful enough to act as mediator among the neighboring noble feudal lords, it would be either the Vanadis of Legnica or the Vanadis of Osterode. However, since Legnica lost Alexandra Alshavin, the state of Vanadis absence continued.
The Vanadis governing Osterode was Valentina Glinka Estes with the nickname of “Illusory Princess of the Hollow Shadow”, but she had a weak constitution and it was hard to think that she could assertively act as mediator. Besides, there was the distance, too. He only had to end it before she intervened.
However, thinking so far, Kazakov hesitated.
As the feudal lord of Polus, as expected he could not move the soldiers just because he hated the other party. What’s more, the other party was one of the only seven Vanadis of Zhcted. Moreover, he also knew that the Rainbow Eyes were accepted in Lebus.
From such circumstances, as his one-sided anger grew stronger towards Elizavetta, Kazakov went through this winter.
It was at such time that a man had visited Kazakov.
Hearing the name of the sudden visitor, Kazakov frowned. It was a name which he has never heard. The servant who informed his master of the guest’s visit presented a letter to Kazakov.
“It is from that Lord Meyer. He said that he was entrusted with it by His Excellency Duke Bydgauche.”
Although feeling doubtful, Kazakov received the letter and checked the seal. It was certainly the Duke Bydgauche House’s. Tearing off the seal with careful hands, Kazakov looked over the letter inside.
“It is certainly His Highness the Duke’s handwriting.”
If it was Ilda Krutis who introduced him (Meyer), then he had to meet him. As he told the servant to lead the guest to the drawing room, Kazakov straightened his clothes and also headed to the drawing room.
It was a short man.
Judging from his countenance, he seemed to be about 40, and his physique was about the same as a 14 or 15-year-old boy. His hands and feet extended from aristocrat-like gorgeous clothes and his head splendidly grew bald. His eyelids were unduly large and his eyes were thin to the extent that one did know whether they were opened.
While overlooking the guest, Kazakov thought that he was a man who gave a creepy feeling.
“I am Meyer Tyurina. I am honored to be able to meet you, Kazakov-sama.”
The man who named himself Meyer courteously bowed his head. Kazakov generously nodded.
A blazing flame was lighted in the fireplace of the drawing room which warmed the interior of the room.
On a small table of marble, two silver cups filled with wine were placed.
“Though it may be rude of me, today is the first time that I got to know about you. Even in the letter of introduction of His Excellency Duke Bydgauche, there were detailed things written about you. By what kind of connection did you become acquainted with His Excellency the Duke?”
It was a direct way of speaking which seemed like Kazakov. Meyer, showing no signs of being offended, twisted his lips. Seemingly, he intended to reveal a self-derisive smile.
“It is understandable that Kazakov-sama doesn’t know. If this House traced (followed) its lineage, one will see that I am a distant relative of His Excellency Duke Bydgauche; but I am an aristocrat in name only who has neither peerage nor territory, and who has never gotten a honorable government post in the royal palace.”
“Hmm. So, what kind of business do you have with me?”
Kazakov frowned. It did not look like he wanted an employment. If it was for such a purpose, Ilda should have written that in the letter of introduction. Kazakov had no idea at all of what Meyer would speak about.
“I would like to confirm something first, but…”
Meyer leaned forward and looked up at Kazakov with upturned eyes.
“In His Excellency the Duke’s letter of introduction, was there not written even a single word about what I want, or what kind of talk I intend to approach you with?”
It was a strange question. When Kazakov shook his head left and right, Meyer sighed as if relieved. As if revealing something important, he lowered his voice and said.
“I would like you to raise soldiers. If possible, about 2000.”
Kazakov could only say that on the spur of the moment.
“I have not heard about talk of battle in the neighborhood. What do you intend to make me do?”
“I would like you to save a certain man.”
As Meyer solemnly said, he took his gaze off from Kazakov and gazed at the fire of the fireplace.
“Do you know a person of Brune called Tigrevurmud Vorn?”
“I have heard about him. He is a Guest General of LeitMeritz, right?”
A young hero who saved the Princess from the hands of the evil insurgents and brought Brune’s civil war to an end. Kazakov had heard so. Meyer nodded.
“He is currently caught in Lebus.”
When summarizing the contents of what Meyer has said, it is as followed.
Tigrevurmud Vorn received a secret order from King Victor and proceeded to the Asvarre Kingdom across the sea. It was about at the end of summer.
It was said that Tigre accomplished his secret mission and safely returned to the country, but he was captured by Elizavetta who thought of being able to use him politically, and was taken to Lebus.
“The Vanadis of Lebus has an ambition. She wants to strengthen her influence in this part of the northern region. Fortunately for her, the Vanadis of Osterode has a weak constitution, so she doesn’t stand out; and a new Vanadis has not yet appeared in Legnica. She probably thought that now was her chance.”
Kazakov noosed his mouth and remained silent. As he interpreted it as he was urged, Meyer continued his words.
“The other day, the Vanadis of Lebus defeated His Excellency Duke Bydgauche’s troops, right? It was also so at that time. Of course, the Vanadis moved after receiving a royal order, but she was proactive as if she had been waiting eagerly for it. She did not even try to persuade His Excellency the Duke.”
Meyer calmly stated a falsehood. Elizavetta tried to persuade Ilda, and precisely because it was rejected, she decided to fight. However, Kazakov did not know that.
Though Kazakov was silent, his face turned red tinged with anger. As if he did not notice that change, Meyer said without changing his attitude.
“Let’s go back to the story. Those knowing that Tigrevurmud Vorn was caught by Lebus are very few. If it is made published, the relations between Brune and our country will extremely worsen. After all, we plunged their hero into a predicament. Therefore, His Majesty Victor wants to solve this matter in secrecy.”
Kazakov finally uttered his voice. Meyer nodded in a somewhat pretentious gesture.
“My having been sent here is for that purpose. Even if someone like me asks Kazakov-sama, anyone will think that it is not such a serious matter. It is at best a golden opportunity, isn’t it?”
Kazakov thought that that was persuasive. This was because none other than Kazakov thought like that about Meyer’s visit.
“His Excellency the Duke also deeply trusts Kazakov-sama. He said that if he were to rely on someone when he could not move due to some circumstances, it would be none other than Kazakov-sama, the Earl of Polus.”
Those were words which warmed one’s heart. But, Kazakov made a wary face as he doubted these words.
It was too much off the wall. He wanted a little more trustworthy information.
“But, is the fact that that Lord Vorn is captured certain? It is not easy task to move 2000 soldiers. Moreover, if our deployment was a mistake, it won’t be a funny story.”
“Rather than just believing my words, would it not be better if you investigate?”
Meyer answered so and continued.
“Whether or not there is a person newly employed in the Imperial Palace of Lebus recently. And if so, whether or not that person’s feature matches with Tigrevurmud Vorn’s.”
“The Vanadis of Lebus has done so in order to convince those around. Of course, so that they don’t let Earl Vorn escape.”
Then after a short pause, Meyer slowly said.
“If we succeed in rescuing Earl Vorn, Kazakov-sama will certainly become the leading person in this part of the northern region. After all, circumstances aside, His Excellency Duke Bydgauche has left a stain by having raised soldiers.”
Meyer’s words accurately stimulated Kazakov’s pride. The words that he would surpass Ilda and became an existence holding great influence in this northern part of Zhcted were something strong for Kazakov. There was no doubt that such an opportunity would never come again if he missed it just once.
But still, Kazakov hesitated. He could not decide immediately.
When he was about to say “let me think about it”, Meyer opened his mouth a moment earlier than that.
“If Kazakov-sama cannot move no matter what, then it can’t be helped. I shall ask another person. However, both His Majesty and His Excellency the Duke will surely be disappointed. They said that if it is the “Bloody Kazakov”, he will probably stand against that Vanadis without fear.”
At Meyer’s words, Kazakov’s eyebrows jumped up. Those were words he could not ignore.
“I will be troubled if you misunderstand, but I’m not afraid of Vanadis. Understood. I shall investigate at once whether or not Lord Vorn is in Lebus. As soon as I know that, I will march into Lebus leading 2000 soldiers.”
At that time, Kazakov did not notice that Meyer revealed a crooked smile just for an instant. Meyer respectfully bowed his head.
“When push comes to shove, you are allowed to kill the Vanadis. I was asked to tell you so. I need not speak about a Vanadis’ strength at this late hour, but please take care. Moreover, who knows what kind of calamity those Rainbow Eyes could bring.”
Meyer deliberately emphasized the word “Rainbow Eyes”. As if stirring up Kazakov’s negative feelings.
Meyer who left Kazakov’s mansion heaved a small sigh. He chimed as if saying he finished his task.
“He is a petty person. Thenardier, Faron and Badouin were more worth playing with.”
Meyer Tyurina was a false name. Even the letter of Lord Bydgauche was a counterfeit.
The man’s real name was Ganelon. Maximilian Bennusa Ganelon.
Until a few days ago, Ganelon was in Osterode. It became troublesome in the Vanadis Valentina’s mansion, and he left Osterode and came until here for a certain purpose.
“At this rate, Kazakov will move. After settling this matter, shall I return to Brune? Greast also seems to be doing various things after all.”
Looking up at the gray sky, Ganelon talked to himself. Marquis Greast was a man who could be said to be Ganelon’s trusted retainer. When Ganelon hid his figure in the civil war last year, he also let him tag along. Currently, Greast should be secretly maneuvering in the southern part of Brune.
“But, That Vanadis of Osterode is more troublesome than I thought.”
While walking, Ganelon spoke to himself.
“Should I have killed her instead?”
However, Ganelon shook his head once and abandoned the idea. Although he was not attracted to her as the opposite sex, the attitude of Valentina trying to raise a rebellion for her ambition was to his liking.
He did not intend to act together with her. Moreover, he also planned to crush her mercilessly if she were to stand in his way as an enemy. But, Ganelon evaluated her enough to think that it was all right as it is for a while.
“The debt of having allowed me to stay at your mansion for about one year, let’s say that I returned it with this matter…”
While muttering a selfish thing, Ganelon walked down the street leading to the castle town.
Translator and references notes
 as to say that he agrees with Damad on the fact that he couldn’t return by himself
 he meant him
 sing. solatium; a thing given to someone as a compensation or consolation
 he speaks about Eugene Pardu here